A short life and a romance to boot.
For such a short life (sorry, spoilers!), Marie of Cleves had more adventure than most women of the 16th century. Marie’s life peaked my interest from the first when I read her Wikipedia article. When I read that she and her husband were given the choice to “convert to Catholicism or die,” and that she remained a genuine Catholic to her death, I was intrigued. Of course, I failed to notice just how long she managed to practice Catholicism.
There was little on the article about her connection to Henri III of France. I had to learn that juicy tidbit when I started researching contemporary accounts of her life. When I learned about Henri’s desire to make her his Queen, I knew I had to Lady of the Court.
More children than I had bargained for
When I started my initial sketches for Catherine, Duchess de Guise, I was really excited to have a turbulent, sexy book filled with her sexual escapades. My plans went in the crapper, however, when I looked at the birth dates of her fourteen (!) children. Not a single contemporary source gave the slightest hint that any of her children were fathered by anyone other than Henri, the Duc de Guise, her husband. Poor Catherine was pregnant during most of the time frame that I covered in her book.
I still wanted to portray her as lively and determined to be more than just a barefoot and pregnant wife. Sticking as closely as possible to the historical record, I portrayed her as active in the royal court and later taking on her own roles within the Catholic League. I did use a little artistic license in the book, which I address in the historical note. I hope Catherine will forgive me for veering off of the record just a touch.
Writing the Three Graces Trilogy was an education, both as a writer and as a historian. In some cases, the story just deepened what I knew about my protagonist. In others, it completely threw a monkey wrench into my plans. I loved writing it and hope that I did the Cleves sisters justice in the end.