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Today marks the 500th Anniversary of the Birth of Queen Catherine de’ Medici, who was born on this day in 1519. The first and only child of Lorenzo de Medici, Duke of Urbino and ruler of Florence and Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne, Countess of Boulogne, a cousin of King Francis I of France, her parents were said to have been “as pleased as if it had been a boy”, but unfortunately died within less than a month after her birth. Catherine de’ Medici was by paternal relatives, primarily Pope Leo X and Pope Clement VII, and was even taken hostage during a Siege of Florence. In 1533, she married Henri, Duke of Orleans, the second son of King Francis, who became the Heir to the Thone after the death of his elder brother in 1536, and succeeded his father in 1547. The couple had seven surviving children, but the King continued a life-long Affair with Diane de Poitiers, until his death in 1559. He was succeeded by their eldest son, King Francis II, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, who died after less than a year, and was succeeded by his younger brother, King Charles IX, whose Regent was his mother. In 1572, she arranged the marriage of her daughter to the Protestant King Henry of Navarre, and during the wedding celebrations, hundreds of Protestant nobles were murdered in the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, allegedly with her involvement. Queen Catherine de’ Medici continued to play a prominent role after the accession of her favourite son, King Henry III, in whose Reign she passed away in 1580. One of the most powerful women of the 16th century, she was a noted patron of the Arts and a prominent supporter of Nostradamus, who left a significant cultural legacy.
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She was a “Killer Queen” indeed! I have read that she carried poison in a secret compartment in one of her rings. I don’t know if that’s true, but it does add to her mystique!