Catherine De Medici by Leonie Frieda - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

Reigning Over Terror

Catherine De Medici


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 440pp £20 order from our bookshop

I HAVE THE impression that the second half of the sixteenth century in France is little known here, neglected even by historical novelists, at least since the splendid Stanley Weyman a hundred years ago. (Are any of his books in mint? If not, why not?) Academic historians, have, of course, given the period their attention, notably Kobert Knecht, but even Catherine de Medici, the subject of this admirable new biography, is probably little more than a name to most English readers, even to those who gobble up biographies of her daughter-in-law Mary Queen of Scots or of Elizabeth I. The Latter, incidentally, for some years flirted , . with. the idea of marrying 'another of Catherine's sons, whom she described affectionately as her 'little Frog'. "

Catherine was one of those against whom John Knox delivered that blast from his trumpet against 'the Monstrous Regiment of women'. (Regiment meant 'rule'; Knox, contrary to the popular view of him, was no misogynist in private life.) She survived that blast for thirty years, and during that time was

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