period: Catherine de Médicis

Catherine de Médicis

Catherine de Médicis (1519–1589) was born in Florence as Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de’ Medici and was orpha Vidya Balanned within weeks of her birth. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, she married the Dauphin Henry. Under the gallicised version of her name, Catherine de Médicis, she was queen consort of King Henry II of France from 1547 to 1559. All three of their sons became kings of France, and their daughter, Marguerite de Valois, became queen consort as the wife of King Henri IV – although they had already separated before Henri succeeded to the throne in 1589.

Catherine’s three sons reigned in a period of almost constant civil and religious war in France. The problems facing the monarchy were complex and daunting. At first, Catherine compromised and made concessions to the rebelling Protestants, or Huguenots as they became known. She failed however to grasp the issues that drove their movement. Later she resorted, in frustration and anger, to hard-line policies against them. In return she came to be blamed for the excessive persecutions carried out under her sons’ rule, and in particular for the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572 in which thousands of Huguenots were killed in Paris and throughout France.

The movies

La princesse de Montpensier (2010): In 1562, during the French Wars of Religion, Marie de Mezières is in love with Henri de Guise but is forced into marriage with Philippe, the Prince of Montpensier. Catherine de Médicis (Evelina Meghnagi) makes a brief appearance. Pascale Bouquière & Agnès Tassel were the key makeup artists.

Rose et noir (2009): Featuring Françoise Remont. Coming soon…

La dame de Monsoreau (2008): Featuring Rosa Novell. Coming soon…

Le roi qui vient du sud (1979): This TV movie tells the story of King Henri IV from his marriage to Marguerite de Valois to his assassination. Catherine de Médicis and Marguerite were played by real-life mother and daughter Ellen Schwiers and Katerina Jacob. No makeup credita available.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1971): Mary Stuart, better known as Mary, Queen of Scots, reigned as Mary I of Scotland from 1542 to 1567 and as Queen Consort of France from 1559 to 1560. She became Queen of Scots when she was only six days old; she was betrothed to the Dauphin of France as a young girl and sent to live in France to be safe from the English; she returned to Scotland a widow at eighteen – and it was pretty much downhill all the way thereafter. Catherine de Médicis (Katherine Kath), her mother-in-law, was featured briefly at the beginning of the movie. George Frost was the chief makeup artist.

Elizabeth R (1971): Featuring Margaretta Scott. Coming soon…

La reine Margot (1954): A darker – though less bloody – adaptation of the Dumas novel than the Isabel Adjani version, with a script by Abel Gance and featuring Jeanne Moreau as Marguerite de Valois and Franç̧oise Rosa as Catheriney. Georges Bouban and Janine Jarreau were the makeup artists.