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Catherine de' Medici, political unrest, England


In October fo 1533, fourteen-year-old Catherine de' Medici married Henri, duc d'Orléans in a union meant to secure a favorable political alliance between Francis I, the King of France and Pope Clement VII, her uncle and legal guardian. When, however, the Pope unexpectedly died less than a year later, Catherine’s symbolic worth virtually died as well: leaving a less than enamored France to bear the burden of one whose status, as R. J. Knecht has noted, “was immediately reduced to that of a foreigner of relatively modest origins.”1 When Henri unexpectedly died following a ceremonial jousting match in 1559, Catherine became positively reviled. By the time she died in 1589, she had been thoroughly vilified by virtually all of sixteenth-century Europe. Not only was she blamed for masterminding the massacre of thousands of Huguenots at Paris in 1572, but she was held at least partially accountable for the political unrest regarding the marriage question which unsettled England during much of Elizabeth’s reign.