• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent was Catherine de Medici obsessed with keeping power at court?

Extracts from this document...


To what extent was Catherine de Medici obsessed with keeping power at court? "An execrable woman whose memory will remain in bloody crepe until the end of time1". For nearly 400 years this assessment of Catherine de Medici held true. In the popular imagination she is a Machiavellian schemer using poison on those who hindered her in her quest to gain and maintain power at court, a view of Catherine reinforced in recent years by the film La Reine Margot, based on the book by Dumas. Most traditionalist historians take their information on Catherine from pamphlets such as Discours Merveilleuse de la Vie, Actions et Deportment de Catherine de Medicis, Royne Mere2. Claiming to be a strictly factual account of Catherine de Medici, the author accuses Catherine of 'rising from the dregs of society' (she came from a powerful Florentine family on her father's side and her mother was daughter of Jeanne de Bourbon-Vend�me, consequently a princess of royal blood). It accuses her of poisoning Francis I's eldest son (to make Henry, her husband, Dauphin and therefore herself Dauphine). The pamphlet also circulates the story most associated with Catherine, that she was the sole initiator of the infamous St Bartholomew Day's Massacre. The pamphlet is probably the most vitriolic of its kind, but its claims have been repeated by other, more reputable, historians such as JE Neale who accuses Catherine of having an 'unprincipled mind'3. ...read more.


Sutherland writes that Catherine was not responsible for some of the more reprehensible actions of the state during her tenure as regent because she was 'virtually powerless'9. In this view, therefore, Catherine is a pacifist, an appeaser influenced by her wish to preserve the kingdom for her children, not by personal ambition. The post revisionist view is primarily concerned with questioning the extent to which Catherine was as 'saintly' as made out by the revisionist historians. Its prime proponent is RJ Knecht who poses the question, "Catherine may not have been as black as her enemies made out, but was she as stainless as her defenders maintain?"10. He argues that while much of the traditional view is unjustified, relying on sources which are so exaggerated as to make them into works of fiction, the revisionist view also suffers from errors in the conclusions it reaches. For example, Catherine's letters fail to show the decision making process in the heart of the government at the time11, but it is on sources such as these letters which revisionist historians have based their opinions. As with the revisionist view, post-revisionist historians emphasise maternalism as a motive for Catherine's actions with Marc Venard12 reintroducing the 'maternal jealousy theory'13, rejected by Sutherland, to explain Catherine's influence in the murder of Coligny. When assessing the extent to which Catherine's principle aim was to keep power at court, no accusation springs to mind so easily as her alleged involvement in the St Bartholomew's Day massacre. ...read more.


The question of who was ultimately responsible for the massacre gives the same answer as the question of who was behind the attempted assassination of the Admiral Coligny a few days before. Those who stand accused of masterminding the massacre by Catherine's defenders include the duke of Guise, the Papacy and Spain. 1 Charles d'Outrepont 2 First published in 1575 by an anonymous author who wished for an anti-Valois alliance between Huguenots and Catholics. 3 Essays on the life of Catherine de Medici (1943) JE Neale pg:62 4 Sur Catherine de Medicis, Honore de Balzac 5 Lettres de Catherine de Medicis, ed. H. de La Ferri�re and G. Baguenault de Puchesse (1890-1909) 6 Catherine de Medici and the Ancien Regime, NM Sutherland (1966) pg.8 7 Catherine de Medicis Jean Heritier (1963) pp83-84 8 Catherine de' Medici, HR Williamson (1973) 9 Ancien Regime, Sutherland pg.16 10 Catherine de'medici and the Black Legend (article), RJ Knecht (1999) published in historical magazine 'The Historian'. 11 Ibid 12 Arr�tez le massacre! Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, Marc Venard (1992), pp. 645-61 13 According to Knecht pp.156 this theory is derived from Discours du roy Henri III, a work unknown before 1623 14 Seven ages of Paris, Alistair Horne (2002) pg. 76 15 The Prince, Nicolo Machiavelli (edition translated and published 1999) pg. 9. The exact quote reads, "so any injury a prince does a man should be of such a kind that there is no fear of revenge" 16 Catherine de'Medici, RJ Knecht, pp 164 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Emily Bronte section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Emily Bronte essays

  1. 'Mrs Penniman's character is to some extent a mere caricature' in Henry James' 'Washington ...

    the top, this defiantly creates a feeling of her being a caricature. To top this of Henry James uses witty and unusual metaphors that have a hint of irony in them. She chooses these ironic metaphors to make the situation between Morris and Catherine more dramatic than it really is,

  2. Compare and Assess at least two of the following approaches in feminist theory, with ...

    Bronte manipulates the Victorian view that women have innate frailty and makes a parody out if the view by portraying Catherine's illness as a strength in which she is manipulating those around her through Nelly's perception; 'I wasted no condolences on miss, nor any expostulations on my mistress, not did

  1. To what extent did governments become more enlightened in Austria and Russia during the ...

    And although she re-established the Senate, she was greatly cautious of her personal security and so divided it into 6 departments to avoid it gaining too much power, which is an autocratic rather than an enlightened move. Catherine's Great Reform was "to furnish the empire with the institutions necessary" to make Russia easier to govern.

  2. Catherine II was Russia's first ruler, who was considered as enlightened.

    Again the nobility, which had the power to initiate a constitution, also had the power to stop its implementation. The 'constitutional rights' they requested in 1730 were more restrictive on the crown than those they had asked for in 1725, which supports the idea that the nobles had increasingly gained power after the death of Peter I.

  1. The Bellis concerned primarily with the dark conflict between sex and religion. To ...

    Although he does eventually return to the Mass he simply "existed beside it". There is no longer any future for him in religion; he must concentrate on looking after Catherine. As the Abbess said, "the way is always forward, never back".

  2. Czarina Catherine

    The Great Duke, Peter, took his toy soldiering very seriously. Later in the marriage, Peter executed a large rat in the bedroom for eating two of his starch-constructed soldiers. Peter claimed that the rat was clearly guilty according to military law.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work