Catherine de Medici refused to be a quiet lady in the background but instead dictated events in France. Wikipedia.
11. Catherine de Medici broke all the rules and was the power behind several thrones in 16th century France
In the Middle Ages, women were supposed to be seen and not heard. Even wealthy women and those of elevated status were expected to defer to their husbands, brothers, even their sons, at all times. Obviously, nobody ever told Catherine de Medici this. The Italian-born French queen had a huge impact on 16th century Europe, not only influencing their reign of her husband, but also those of his three successors. Indeed, it could be argued that Catherine was the real power behind not one, but several different thrones.
Born into Florentine nobility in 1519, Catherine was married off to the Duke of Orleans, the second eldest son of the King of France, at the age of just 14. After just one year, she was humiliated when her husband took a mistress and spent most of his time with her. Only when she gave him a child, ten years later, was Catherine back in his favor. Then, in 1547, her husband became King Henry II of France. A year later, however, he was dead, killed in a jousting accident. Their eldest son, of course, became king, but he too died after a year. That meant that Catherine’s second-eldest son Charles inherited the crown. Since he was just 10-years-old, Catherine ruled as his regent.
Over the next few years, Catherine was in charge while the French Wars of Religion broke out. She tried to broker peace between the Catholics and the Huguenots by marrying her daughter off to the King of Navarre. However. On the big day, assassins killed hundreds of protestants during what became known as the Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Many historians believe Catherine was pulling the strings and gave the order for the slaughter. Eventually, Charles came of age and was crowned Charles IX. However, Catherine still remained almost in complete control. After years of having his mother control him, the new king couldn’t act independently. He died in 1574 and, sure enough, Catherine’s other son took over as Henry III. Even then, she continued to play a central role in the ruling of France.
In fact, Catherine remained highly influential right up until her death in 1589. While her husband and sons might have been king, it was she who had the greater say in how the country was run for almost three decades, even if she never managed to bring about a lasting peace to the bloody Wars of Religion.