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Biography of Care Experienced People

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Women of Power: The Life and Times of Catherine de' Medici

Mark Strage


Catherine de' Medici was Queen of France from 1547 to 1559 by marriage to King Henry II and the mother of French Kings Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III.
She was born 13th April, 1519 in Florence, Republic of Florence, the only child of Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, and his wife, Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, the countess of Boulogne. Both parents died within the first month of her life. At first Catherine was looked after by her paternal grandmother, Alfonsina Orsini for a year but then she died too. Catherine was then raised by her aunt, Clarice de' Medici. The death of Pope Leo in 1521 briefly interrupted Medici power until Cardinal Giulio de' Medici was elected Pope Clement VII in 1523. Clement housed Catherine in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence, where she lived in state. The Florentine people called her duchessina ("the little duchess"), in deference to her unrecognised claim to the Duchy of Urbino.
In 1527, the Medici were overthrown in Florence by a faction opposed to the regime of Clement's representative, Cardinal Silvio Passerini, and Catherine was taken hostage and placed in a series of convents. The final one, the Santissima Annuziata delle Murate was her home for three years. Mark Strage in Women of Power: The Life and Times of Catherine de’ Medici (1976), described these years as "the happiest of her entire life".
In October 1529, Charles V's troops laid siege to Florence. As the siege dragged on, voices called for Catherine to be killed and exposed naked and chained to the city walls. Some even suggested that she be handed over to the troops to be used for their sexual gratification. The city finally surrendered on 12 August 1530. Clement summoned Catherine from her beloved convent to join him in Rome where he greeted her with open arms and tears in his eyes. Then he set about the business of finding her a husband.

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