Catherine de’ Medici, wife of Henri II (r. 1547–1559) and mother of François II, Charles IX, and Henri III, never ruled in her own right, but she was perhaps the most influential—and controversial—figure at the center of French politics during one of the most troubled periods in French history. The combination of her lack of official authority and the difficulties created by religious civil war have shaped responses to Catherine since her lifetime. Some historians have chided her as a Catholic, others have regarded her as too Catholic, many have considered her irreligious or even Machiavellian in her politics. Despite efforts to rehabilitate Catherine for managing reasonably well under extremely difficult circumstances, the dominant view remains that she was responsible to some degree for the escalating religious violence, mounting fiscal problems, and dynastic collapse of the Valois monarchy. Among the debates in which Catherine and her influence have figured are her place in the monarchy, her relationships with her husband and sons, her response to the crisis brought on by the Protestant Reformation, her management of royal authority, her role as a political patron and power broker, and her role in the cultural life of France and the French court.
Article. 12008 words.
Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
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