Catherine de Médicis (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Catherine de Médicis contributed to maintaining a strong centralized monarchy in spite of challenges from noble and religious factions. Her attempts to balance Roman Catholic and Calvinist interests in France also encouraged at least a minimum of toleration in the seventeenth century.
Catherine de Médicis’ father, Lorenzo de’ Medici, was capo dello stato in Florence, gonfalonier of the Church, and, after a victorious expedition, Duke of Urbino. His uncle, Pope Leo X, hoping to restore the Medicis to their earlier status, arranged a marriage between Lorenzo and Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne, a distant relation of Francis I, King of France. The young couple were married at Amboise in 1518, and within a year their daughter was born. Two weeks later, Madeleine was dead of puerperal fever, and five days later Lorenzo also died.
The baby Catherine was the last legitimate heir of the family. Immediately, she became a tool in the hands of her guardian, Pope Leo X, and of his half brother Giulio, later Pope Clement VII, to recoup the Medici fortune. Catherine’s childhood was spent in Rome and Florence, where she was at times ignored and at other times the center of attention. In 1527, during a Florentine revolution, she was the hostage of anti-Medici forces and handled her desperate situation with great diplomacy. At the age of ten, she returned to Rome,...
(The entire section is 2202 words.)
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Medici, Catherine De' (Encyclopedia of Food & Culture)
MEDICI, CATHERINE DE'. Orphaned soon after her birth in Florence, Catherine de' Medici (1519589) inherited the wealth and theatrical style of her grandfather, Lorenzo the Magnificent, the most notable of the Florentine family who made the name of Medici synonymous with quattrocento (Italian fifteenth-century)
The thirty-year length of her reign and the horrific religious wars of her time have given Catherine a symbolic identity that stretches historical fact. Popular myth has long named her the Italian queen mother of France's high cuisine, for she is often presumed to have imported new notions of cooking as refined as the other civilized arts reborn in the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century. But in fact Catherine's innovations were not culinary but theatric and were geared to politics rather than to gastronomy.
Regent of a weak government during the conflicts between Catholics and Huguenots that culminated in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, Catherine used spectacle to create an image of stability and order when reality denied it. In 1564 she displayed the virtual power of monarchy in a grand tour through the countryside with her son Charles IX. Throughout her regency she staged court festivals or masques that used food as the excuse for lavish theatrical happenings, which combined drama with dance, music, sculpture, and the decorative arts. In France she created a new style for royal banqueting that achieved its apotheosis in the court of Louis XIV at Versailles.
See also France; Italy.
Heritier, Jean. Catherine de Medici. Translated by Charlotte Haldane. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1963.
Wheaton, Barbara Ketcham. Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983.