Examining the strange marriage of Marie de Medici
Marie de Medici might not receive the same amount of attention as her cousin Catherine from historians, but she deserves her own turn in the spotlight. I wish that modern historians would spend more time on her, but she’s fallen out of favor in academic circles since the Nineteenth Century.
Speaking of the Nineteenth Century, few female writers have written more about the French Renaissance court than Martha Walker Freer. I’m not going to lie, in graduate school, they taught us to take Nineteenth-Century histories with a grain of salt because many of them were written without bothering to use any primary documents whatsoever. Still, I have a lot of admiration for Freer’s work. She’s written about Elizabeth Valois, Henri III, Henry IV, and Marie de Medici. From what I’ve been able to see, she did her best to consult and stay true to the resources available in the Imperial Archives.
Their decade-long marriage was full of explosive arguments, and I would have loved to see the two of them grow old together before Louis XIII took the throne. Had Henry the opportunity to teach his son personally how to be king, I think the succeeding century of French history would have gone much differently. Unfortunately, France and Marie were robbed of an extremely capable monarch and Marie was out of her depth when it came to ruling as Regent.
I loved researching how the French court reacted to Marie, another foreign queen who had no problems acting in a distinctly non-queenly manner whenever she pleased. In that sense, I admire her, but he’s famous for having very little political savvy or even common sense.
While you’re over at Archive.org, check out the memoirs left by Louise Bourgeois, midwife to Marie de’ Medici. Most diarists’ accounts are gossipy and flatter the person writing them, but it’s not often that we get a glimpse of Marie’s life from the perspective of the woman who helped deliver her children.
Marie de Medici has been fascinating to research, in part because for historians she truly has been The Second Medici Queen. Catherine de Medici ruled for longer, and when compared with Marie’s forcible removal from power by her own son, was more successful in maintaining power as Regent. Still, Marie deserves more attention than she’s traditionally gotten, overlooked as the grandmother of two great kings of their era, Charles II of England and Louis XIV of France. I’ve outlined some free resources in this post you can consult to get a good idea of who Marie was. I’ll link to other posts about paid resources about Marie in future posts. If you’ve ever tried to conduct research as an independent researcher (especially during a pandemic when your alma mater is closed for safety reasons), you know how expensive it is to create a library of reliable historical resources.
If you’re looking for free historical fiction that’s set during the Renaissance, check out this extensive list by Keira Morgan.