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About Catherine de Medici by Honoré de…

About Catherine de Medici

by Honoré de Balzac

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: La Comédie Humaine (82), Philosophical Studies (16)

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I read this just after completing Frieda's excellent biography on Catherine, and was glad to have a familiarity with her history. This, however, is not another biography or treatise on the lady.
The first (main) section is a narrative of an idealistic young Calvinist who eagerly participates in a dangerous scheme to gain access to Catherine with communications from the Prince de Conde's faction. The descriptions of 16th century Paris and of court life are entrancing although Balzac had a very different take on certain situations from Frieda; he portrays her and her daughter-in-law Mary (later Queen of Scots) as antagonistic, so much so that she refuses her eldest son a life-saving trepanning operation in order to rid herself of Mary's hated Guise relatives (Frieda argues that the two women were quite close and dismisses the idea of Catherine letting her son die as propaganda.
The second part of the book is a few years later; Catherine's second son, Charles IX, is now king- an unhappy and unwell young man, ever distrustful of his mother and her poisons. He brings in her alchemists, the Ruggieris, for questioning and here we have an explanation (went largely over my head) of their craft.
The final short section is set at an aristocratic party in 1786. One of the guests claims to have seen and spoken with Catherine, where she explained her actions. 'To leave two hostile principles at work in a government with nothing to balance them is a crime...it is sowing the seed of revolutions'... 'A revolution' said she with a look of deep meaning, which is still progressing and which you may achieve- yes, YOU, who hear me'.
Only in the last sentence do we learn that the two men are Robespierre and Marat. ( )
  starbox | Feb 3, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Balzac, Honoré deAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Saintsbury, GeorgePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Monsieur le Marquis de Pastoret, Member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts
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Few persons in these days know how artless were the dwellings of the citizens of Paris in the sixteenth century, and how simple their lives.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Balzac's La Comedie Humaine was a story cycle comprising more than 100 novels and stories. Although most of these works are set in nineteenth-century France, several hearken back to earlier periods. Catherine de' Medici centers on the life of the woman born into an aristocratic family in medieval Italy who went on to become Queen consort and, later, regent of France.… (more)

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