Catherine de MedicisCatherine de Midicis
by Chef Jos Wellman

[[Catherine de Medicis]], b. Florence, Apr. 13, 1519, was the mother of the last Valois kings of France and guardian of the royal authority in the Wars of Religion. Her parents died soon after her birth, and she was brought up by her MEDICI relatives during a period when their rule in Florence was marked by violence and intrigue. In 1533 she went to France as the bride of the future king HENRY II, who became heir apparent in 1536 and king in 1547. Until her husband's death in 1559 she endured the domination of his mistress, DIANE DE POITIERS. Seven of Catherine's children survived infancy, and three of her sons were successively kings of France as FRANCIS II, Charles IX, and HENRY III.

When Catherine arrived from Florence to marry Henry II of France in 1533, she imported the Italian balletto to her new home in France, where it became the ballet. She also brought with her retinue a of master chefs. She brought Italian staples: milk-fed veal, baby peas, artichokes, broccoli, and various pastas. The French court tasted, for the first time, such delicacies as quenelles (fish dumplings), zabaglione (a rich egg yolk and wine custard), and scaloppine. With her arrival, French cookery embarked on a course that produced the most complex and refined cuisine in the Western world.

As queen mother, Catherine played a major part in French government and on two occasions ruled officially as regent. She relied on an inner group of experienced bureaucrats and tried to balance the noble factions against each other to preserve the authority of the crown in the civil wars. Despite her penchant for astrology, she was a political realist who sought compromise between the Roman Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants). The ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY MASSACRE (1572) of the Huguenots was caused in part by her political miscalculation. Catherine's critics accused her of following Italian practices, especially the doctrines of Niccolo MACHIAVELLI. After the accession (1574) of Henry III, her favourite son, Catherine frequently negotiated with the Catholic League, which sought to control the crown. Appalled by the king's murder in December 1588 of the league leaders, she died at Blois 2 weeks later, on Jan. 5, 1589.

In 1573, she staged Ballet des Polonaise to music of Roland de LASSUS, the poetry of Pierre de RONSARD, and the dances of Balthazar de BEAUJOYEUX. Beaujoyeux's most famous work was Ballet Comique de la Reine, presented in 1581

Catherine de Medicis steered a Machiavellian course to maintain her children's status. However, she was barely outlived by her last son, HENRY III, who was assassinated in 1589.

Tomb:A splendid example of late-16th-century sepulchral sculpture is Germain Pilon's monumental tomb of Henry II and Catherine de Medicis (1565-72; Abbey of Saint-Denis, Paris), in which appear two pairs of classically idealised statues of the couple--one pair as living and one as dead. Throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period in Europe, important persons commonly were entombed in a sarcophagus, crypt, or shrine within a church. Frequently placed on top of the tomb was an effigy sculpture of the deceased, represented kneeling in prayer or as a gisant (a reclining figure usually shown lying in repose or in the form of a decaying corpse).

The first modern perfume : the first modern perfume, made of scented oils blended in an alcohol solution, was made in 1370 at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary and was known throughout Europe as Hungary Water. The art of perfumery prospered in Renaissance Italy, and in the 16th century, Italian refinements were taken to France by Catherine de Medicis’ personal perfumer. France quickly became the European center of perfume and COSMETIC manufacture. Cultivation of flowers for their perfume essence, which had begun in the 14th century, grew into a major industry in the south of France

Tuileries {twee'-lur-eez}: The name Tuileries designates both the gardens lying along the right bank of Paris's river Seine from the Palace of the LOUVRE to the Place de la Concorde and the palace formerly situated there. The word is derived from the tile factories or tuileries that were established there in the 13th century. Although it was subsequently modified, the garden still follows the overall plan laid out by Andre Le Notre in 1664. The Palace of the Tuileries was begun in 1564 for Catherine de Medicis by the architect Philibert DELORME; it was occupied only intermittently by French royalty until Louis XVI and his family were compelled to reside there during the French Revolution. Thereafter, several of France's rulers made it their personal headquarters. After 1792 the palace became the target of frequent popular uprisings and in 1871 was burned during the Commune of Paris

Chenonceaux, Chateau de {shen-ohn-soh'}: The Chateau de Chenonceaux is on the Cher River near the village of Chenonceaux, about 196 km (122 mi) southwest of Paris. It is an exceptionally beautiful example of both early and mature French Renaissance architecture. Begun in 1515 by Thomas Bohier, financial minister of Normandy, the chateau was confiscated by King Francis I in 1535 and thereafter remained a royal residence. Henry II gave it to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, who enlarged it (1556-59) by extending a bridge and gallery over the Cher from designs by Philibert de l'Orme. When Catherine de Medicis inherited it, she had a new wing built (1570-78), by Jean Bullant, atop de l'Orme's bridge. The building later passed to the family of Bourbon-Conde and from them into private hands. Restored in 1864, the chateau is today state-owned and a major tourist attraction known for its son et lumiere ("sound and light") performances dramatising incidents in the chateau's history

Diane de Poitiers {dyahn duh pwah-tyay'} : Diane de Poitiers, b. Sept. 3, 1499, d. Apr. 22, 1566, was the mistress of HENRY II of France. Beautiful, intelligent, and cultured, she exercised great influence over the king, who totally neglected his wife, CATHERINE DE MEDICIS. Diane was a patron of many artists and poets, including Pierre de RONSARD

Medici (family) {med'-i-chee} : The Medici, the most famous of Italian dynasties, governed FLORENCE under a veiled despotism from 1434 to 1494 and from 1512 to 1527 and as overt hereditary rulers from 1530 to 1737. Its members were among the great patrons of the Italian Renaissance.

Originally merchants and bankers, the Medici were active in Florentine politics from the late 13th century on. After the revolt of the ciompi (the wool carders, who ranked among the poorer workers) in 1378, the Medici grew in importance as advocates for the lesser artisans. In the early 15th century, Cosimo de'Medici, b. Sept. 27, 1389, d. Aug. 1, 1464, challenged the ruling oligarchy of Florence. Exiled in 1433, he returned in 1434 to rule the city until his death. Although Cosimo rarely held office in Florence's highest magistracy, the priorate, he was able to transform the government into a despotism by ensuring that only his followers were eligible for important offices. At the same time, he managed Medici interests in banking, trade, and industry. Cosimo's major diplomatic achievement was the creation of a balance of power in Italy by alliance with Milan and Naples in 1454. He patronised the arts and founded (1450) the Platonic Academy in Florence. Plain in manner and dress, Cosimo kept the affection of his subjects and soon after his death was given the title Pater Patriae (the father of his country).

Cosimo was succeeded by his son, Piero de'Medici, 1416-69, who in turn was succeeded by his son Lorenzo the Magnificent, b. Jan. 1, 1449, d. Apr. 8, 1492. Educated by the Platonic philosopher Marsilio FICINO, Lorenzo created a brilliant court culture of painters, poets, and philosophers. Lorenzo was a poet of some note, and his literary circle included, in addition to Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Luigi Pulci. He also patronised Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Filippo Lippi, Michelangelo, and Andrea del Verrocchio, among other artists. Lorenzo, however, antagonised Pope SIXTUS IV, who supported an assassination plot against the Medici by the rival Pazzi family in 1478. Lorenzo's brother, Giuliano, was killed, but Lorenzo survived his wounds and restored order by the brutal extermination of his opponents. Lorenzo ruled autocratically and used state money to recoup losses incurred through neglect of Medici business interests. Nonetheless, he was popular and maintained Florence's important role in Italian politics.

Two years after Lorenzo's death, his son and successor, Piero, 1471-1503, was expelled from Florence by King CHARLES VIII of France. Florence was then a republic until the Medici regained control in 1512 under Lorenzo the Magnificent's grandson, Lorenzo, 1492-1519, who became duke of Urbino. Lorenzo's uncle Giovanni guided the government the first year until he was elected pope as LEO X and left for Rome. One of Giuliano's illegitimate sons, Giulio, also became pope, as CLEMENT VII, in 1523. Expelled from Florence again in 1527, the family was restored by Spain in 1530 and ruled thereafter by hereditary right. The true founder of this rule was Cosimo I, b. June 12, 1519, d. Apr. 21, 1574, who succeeded his relative Alessandro de'Medici as duke of Florence in 1537 and became grand duke of TUSCANY in 1569.

The Medici dukes created a strong bureaucratic state in Tuscany and continued to be influential in the dynastic politics of early modern Europe. The daughter of Lorenzo, duke of Urbino, was CATHERINE DE MEDICIS, who married HENRY II of France. MARIE DE MEDICIS, who became the second wife of HENRY IV of France, was the daughter of Cosimo I's successor, Francesco de'Medici. The later Medici dukes were impoverished and decadent. When the last duke died without a male heir in 1737, Tuscany came under the rule of the Habsburgs.

This article is by Chef Jos Wellman (aka Tallyrand)