Transcript: Jeffery Paine on Tibetan Buddhism | Jan 08, 2005

Leonie stands in front of a podium and speaks into a microphone. Books on
shelves are displayed behind her.

Leonie is in her forties and has blonde shoulder length hair. She wears a white
collared shirt and black blazer.

A book cover appears that reads “Catherine de Medici. UofT Book Store.”

Leonie says FOR THE PAST FIVE
YEARS, I'VE BEEN WRITING AND
RESEARCHING THE LIFE OF
CATHERINE de MEDICI, DAUGHTER OF
FLORENCE, VALOIS QUEEN, THEN
REGENT OF FRANCE, AND MOTHER TO
THE LAST THREE KINGS OF THAT
DYNASTY -- FRANCIS II,
CHARLES IX AND HENRY III.

A caption reads “Leonie Frieda. Author, “Catherine de Medici. Hart House
Library, Toronto May 10, 2004.”

Leonie continues OVER THE YEARS, CATHERINE HAS
GOTTEN SOME PRETTY UNFLATTERING
(Foreign word).
MADAME LA SERPENTE,
“THE BLACK WIDOW” AND “THE MAGGOT
FROM ITALY'S TOMB” ARE BUT A
FEW. MANY HEINOUS CRIMES
HAVE BEEN LAID AT HER DOOR --
RELIGIOUS GENOCIDE, THE RUTHLESS
DISPATCH OF HER ENEMIES,
PREFERABLY BY POISON OR AN
ASSASSIN'S DAGGER, NECROMANCY
AND A LOVE OF THE BLACK ARTS,
THE FOSTERING OF CORRUPT AND
INCESTUOUS CHILDREN, AND A
LETHAL LUST FOR POWER SO GREAT
THAT AS EACH OF HER SONS BECAME
KING IN THEIR TURN, SHE RETAINED
HER GRIP ON THE LEVERS OF POWER,
REFUSING THEM THE RIGHT TO RULE.
IN FACT, THE NAME
CATHERINE de MEDICI HAS BECOME
SYNONYMOUS WITH EVIL AND
TYRANNY, THOUGH I BELIEVE
HISTORY HAS CRUELLY MISJUDGED
HER.
SHE WAS BORN IN 1519, THE
DAUGHTER OF LORENZO II de MEDICI
AND A FRENCH BLUE-BLOODED
HEIRESS, MADELEINE de la TOUR
d'AUVERGNE.
BUT WITHIN THREE WEEKS, POOR
CATHERINE HAD BEEN ORPHANED, HER
FATHER DYING OF SYPHILIS AND HER
MOTHER OF A CHILDBIRTH FEVER.
SHE WAS BROUGHT UP BY TWO MEDICI
POPES, LEO X FIRST AND THEN
CLEMENT VII.
BUT CATHERINE SPENT THE FIRST
YEARS OF HER LIFE IN FLORENCE
AND PRETTY HAPPILY.
THE FIRST YEARS OF HER CHILDHOOD
WERE SORT OF OVERSEEN BY MEDICI
MATRIARCHS, AND SHE PLAYED WITH
HER COUSINS AND SO ON AND HAD A
PRETTY HAPPY TIME UNTIL THE AGE
OF EIGHT, WHEN A REBELLION
OUSTED THE MEDICI FROM FLORENCE,
BUT THE REBELS KEPT CATHERINE
HOSTAGE IN THAT CITY.
AT THE AGE OF 11, AN ARMY CAME
TO FREE HER, BUT HOTHEADS ON THE
REBEL COUNCIL DIDN'T KNOW WHAT
TO DO WITH THEIR YOUNG HOSTAGE,
AND MANY SUGGESTIONS WERE MADE
ABOUT, YOU KNOW, WHAT THEY
SHOULD DO WITH THIS LITTLE GIRL
WHO HAD BEEN KEPT UP IN A
CONVENT FOR THREE YEARS.
AND ONE SUGGESTION WAS SHE BE
STRIPPED NAKED AND PUT IN A
BASKET AND LOWERED IN FRONT OF
THE CITY WALLS AND BLOWN TO
PIECES BY THE GUNFIRE OF HER OWN
LIBERATORS, AND ANOTHER
SUGGESTION WAS THAT THE POOR
LITTLE 11-YEAR-OLD BE PUT IN A
SOLDIERS' BROTHEL AND DESPOILED
FOREVER FOR ANY MARRIAGE PLANS
THAT CLEMENT MIGHT HAVE FOR HER.
HOWEVER, THE SENSIBLE HEADS
PREVAILED.
PEOPLE WERE VERY FEARFUL BECAUSE
CLEMENT PROBABLY WASN'T GOING TO
BE VERY CLEMENT WHEN HE GOT INTO
FLORENCE, AND THEY DECIDED TO
KEEP CATHERINE ALIVE AND
UNHARMED AND IN THE EVENT SHE
WAS FREED.
BUT I THINK SHE LEARNED AN AWFUL
LOT OF SURVIVAL TOOLS FOR WHAT
WAS TO COME LATER ON IN HER
LIFE.
AND ONCE SHE WAS FREED, SHE CAME
INTO HER OWN AS ONE OF THE MOST
ELIGIBLE HEIRESSES IN EUROPE.
CLEMENT VII AND FRANCIS I OF
FRANCE CONCEIVED A BRILLIANT
MATCH FOR CATHERINE, AND IT'S
PARTICULARLY BRILLIANT BECAUSE
SHE WAS NOT ROYAL.
SHE WAS FROM A RULING DYNASTY,
BUT THEY WERE MERCHANT PRINCES,
NOT ROYAL, AND SO IT WAS A VERY
CASTE-RIDDEN TIME, THE 1500s.
AND ANYWAY, FRANCIS AND CLEMENT
CAME UP WITH A PLAN, WHERE THEY
BOTH PROMISED EACH OTHER AN
ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF THINGS, WHICH
NEEDLESS TO SAY, THEIR PROMISES
WEREN'T KEPT.
BUT PART OF THE DEAL WAS THAT
CATHERINE WOULD MARRY HENRY,
DUKE OF ORLEANS, FRANCIS'S
SECOND SON, WHICH SHE DULY DID,
AGED 14, AT MARSEILLES IN 1533,
AND HENRY WAS ONLY THREE WEEKS
OLDER THAN HIS YOUNG BRIDE.
SO NOW CATHERINE'S A ROYAL
DUCHESS.
BUT THREE YEARS LATER, HENRY'S
ELDER BROTHER DIED, AND THIS
PROMOTED HENRY AND CATHERINE TO
BECOME DAUPHIN AND DAUPHINE OF
FRANCE.
NOW, THE PRIMARY DUTY OF A
FUTURE QUEEN IS TO BEAR CHILDREN
FOR HER DYNASTY, YET FOR THE
FIRST 10 YEARS OF HER MARRIAGE,
POOR CATHERINE REMAINED
STUBBORNLY BARREN AND CHILDLESS.
NOW, THIS INVOKED THE REAL
DANGER THAT CATHERINE MIGHT BE
REPUDIATED, AND ESPECIALLY SINCE
CLEMENT HAD DIED, LEAVING THE
PROMISES UNFULFILLED THAT HE'D
MADE AS PART OF THE MARRIAGE
CONTRACT.
AND CATHERINE COULD QUITE EASILY
HAVE BEEN SENT BACK TO FLORENCE
OR PENSIONED OFF TO A CONVENT
AND A FECUND BRIDE FOUND FOR
HENRY.
SO SHE WAS DESPERATE NOT TO LOSE
HER HUSBAND, WHO SHE LOVED, NOR
THE FAMILY AND COUNTRY WHERE SHE
HAD FOUND HAPPINESS.
SO SHE TRIED ABSOLUTELY
EVERYTHING -- PRAYERS,
PILGRIMAGES, OFFERINGS
OBVIOUSLY -- POURED OVER ANCIENT
TEXTS TO SEE IF THE OLD WORLD
HAD ANY SECRETS THAT COULD
UNLOCK HER PROBLEM.
SHE CONSULTED HER ASTROLOGERS
AND HER SEERS.AND PHYSICIANS,
FERTILITY EXPERTS OF THE DAY,
OFFERED SOME TRULY REPULSIVE
REMEDIES, SUCH AS THE DRINKING
OF MULE'S URINE, WARM, FRESH
MULE'S URINE, BUT SHE HAD TO
STAY AWAY FROM THE MULE ITSELF,
AN INTERESTING DISTINCTION --
(Laughter)
AND THE PLACING OF
STINKING POULTICES ON WHAT WAS
EUPHEMISTICALLY CALLED HER
“SOURCE OF LIFE.”
AND THESE HORRID EMBROCATIONS
WERE MADE OF COW'S DUNG, GOAT'S
MILK AND OTHER VILE-SMELLING
THINGS.
WELL, THEY WERE ASSURED THAT,
WERE REASSURED RATHER, THAT A
DASH OF CRUSHED PERIWINKLE WAS
THROWN INTO THIS MIXTURE TO TAKE
AWAY THE HORRID SMELL.
FRANKLY, I THINK IT'S SOMETHING
OF A MIRACLE THAT POOR HENRY
MANAGED TO SLEEP WITH HIS WIFE
AT ALL.

(Laughter)

Leonie continues FINALLY, THE ADVICE
OF A VERY SENSIBLE DOCTOR CALLED
JEAN
(French name)
AND SADLY,
WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS WAS --
BORE TREMENDOUS FRUIT, BECAUSE
IN JANUARY OF 1544, CATHERINE
GAVE BIRTH TO HER FIRST CHILD,
AND THANK GOD IT WAS A BOY, AND
THEY NAMED HIM FRANCIS AFTER THE
KING.
AND HE WAS LATER TO BECOME
FRANCIS II.
AND AS A TESTIMONY TO HOW GOOD
THE DOCTOR'S ADVICE WAS, OVER
THE NEXT 12 YEARS, CATHERINE
GAVE BIRTH TO 10 CHILDREN IN
ALL, AND THAT'S ALSO TESTIMONY
TO HER FANTASTIC CONSTITUTION.
NOW, CATHERINE LOVED HENRY TO
THE POINT OF WORSHIP, ALTHOUGH
HENRY WAS ONLY EVER FOND OF HER.
DIANE de POITIERS, A NOBLEWOMAN
AT COURT, HAD COMPLETELY
ENSORCELLED THE YOUNG MAN EVEN
BEFORE HIS MARRIAGE.
DIANE WAS BY COINCIDENCE A
RELATION OF CATHERINE'S ON THE
MATERNAL SIDE.
SHE WAS 19 YEARS HENRY'S SENIOR,
A WIDOW, A COOL, REMOTE, ELEGANT
WOMAN, FAMED FOR HER BEAUTY AND
HER DECORUM.
DIANE WAS QUITE SIMPLY SUPERB,
AND A PHYSICAL COMPARISON
BETWEEN DIANE, AN EARLY EXAMPLE
OF FRENCH CHIC, AND THE POOR
LITTLE DAUPHINE MAKES A
PATHOS-LADEN IMAGE.
CATHERINE WAS PLUMP AND DUMPY.
SHE HAD PROTRUDING EYES, THICK
LIPS, PENDULOUS CHEEKS AND
EVER-WIDENING HIPS, THANKS
LARGELY TO HER FANTASTIC
APPETITE.
SHE LOVED HER FOOD.
FOR ALL THAT THE MEDICI WERE
FAMED FOR THEIR LOVE OF
BEAUTIFUL THINGS, THEY
THEMSELVES WERE QUITE THE
UGLIEST FAMILY IN EUROPE.

(Laughter)

Leonie continues IN FACT, YOU KNOW
THINGS MUST HAVE BEEN PRETTY BAD
WHEN THE VENETIAN AMBASSADOR AT
THE TIME WROTE, DESCRIBING
CATHERINE, AND THIS WITHOUT A
TRACE OF IRONY, HE WROTE, “HER
FACE IS TOLERABLE WHEN IT IS
COVERED WITH A VEIL.”

(Laughter)

Leonie continues POOR DARLING!
ANYHOW, TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE,
IF CATHERINE HAD HOPED THAT
HAVING THESE CHILDREN WAS GOING
TO BRING HER CLOSER TO HENRY,
SHE WAS IN FOR A VERY SAD
DISAPPOINTMENT, BECAUSE HENRY
PROMPTLY PLACED DIANE, HIS
LOVER, IN CHARGE OF THE ROYAL
NURSERY, SO THAT MUST HAVE BEEN
THE MOST HIDEOUS BLOW FOR
CATHERINE.
BUT SHE BORE IT ALL WITH A
FANTASTIC PATIENCE.
SHE LOVED HIM SO MUCH THAT
WHATEVER IT TOOK, EVEN IF IT
MEANT PUTTING UP WITH DIANE, SHE
WOULD DO SO, AND THERE ARE ONLY
TWO OCCASIONS WHERE SHE IS KNOWN
TO HAVE REMONSTRATED WITH HIM.
I MEAN REALLY SHE LOVED HIM
PATHETICALLY ALMOST AND
PASSIONATELY.
ANYWAY, HE BECAME KING IN 1547,
AND HIS SHORT 12-YEAR REIGN WAS
NOTABLE MAINLY FOR THE SERIES OF
WARS AGAINST THE HAPSBURGS,
FIRST CHARLES V, THE HOLY ROMAN
EMPEROR, AND THEN CHARLES'S SON,
PHILIP II OF SPAIN.
NOW, THESE SERIES OF WARS
BROUGHT BOTH COUNTRIES TO
VIRTUAL BANKRUPTCY, AND THEY
FOUGHT EACH OTHER TO A
STANDSTILL UNTIL FINALLY IN
1559, THE PEACE TREATY OF
CATEAU-CAMBRESIS WAS SIGNED, AND
PART OF THE RATIFICATION OF THAT
TREATY WAS THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN
HENRY AND CATHERINE'S ELDEST
DAUGHTER, ELIZABETH, AND PHILIP
OF SPAIN.
AND IT WAS AT THESE WEDDING
CELEBRATIONS IN PARIS THAT HENRY
MET HIS UNTIMELY DEATH.
HE WAS KILLED IN A HORRIFIC
JOUSTING ACCIDENT, WHICH WAS
PART OF THE CELEBRATIONS.
FAILING TO FIX HIS VISOR DOWN,
THE KING HAD GOT HIS EYES
SKEWERED BY A BROKEN JOUSTING
LANCE AND DIED 10 DAYS AFTER THE
ACCIDENT OF SEPTICEMIA.
AND I DECIDED TO MAKE THIS
EPISODE THE OPENING SCENE OF MY
BOOK.
IT WAS THE MOMENT THAT
TRANSFORMED CATHERINE FROM A
SLIGHTED CONSORT, DESTINED FOR
THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY, TO A
PRIMARY FIGURE IN THE 16th
CENTURY.
AT HENRY'S DEATH, CATHERINE WAS
DISTRAUGHT.
HER SOOTHSAYERS, INCLUDING THE
FAMOUS SEER NOSTRADAMUS, HAD
APPARENTLY FORESEEN THE TRAGEDY,
AND THERE ARE PROPER NOTES OF
ALL OF THIS, AND ONE OF THE
MEDICI SEERS HAD ALSO FORESEEN
IT.
CATHERINE HERSELF HAD DREAMT
ABOUT IT TWO NIGHTS BEFORE, AND
THAT WAS ALSO QUITE WELL
DOCUMENTED, THAT HENRY WOULD BE
KILLED IN THIS TOURNAMENT.
BUT HE IGNORED HER
PROTESTATIONS, AND THE ACCIDENT
DULY HAPPENED.
NOW, THOUGH SHE'S BEEN WRONGLY
LABELLED VENGEFUL, CATHERINE DID
NOT WASTE HER TIME PURSUING HER
FORMER RIVAL, DIANE, WITH WHOM
SHE'D HAD TO SHARE HER HUSBAND,
HER CHILDREN AND TO SOME EXTENT
HER THRONE, FOR HER WIDOWHOOD
WAS TO BE HERS AND HERS ALONE.
IT WAS TO BECOME HER
DEFINING EMBLEM, AND HER LIFE
WOULD BE DEDICATED TO PRESERVING
HENRY'S MEMORY, PROTECTING THEIR
CHILDREN AND FRANCE.
TO UNDERSTAND CATHERINE, IT IS
IMPORTANT TO GRASP THAT TO HER,
THESE WERE ONE AND THE SAME
THING.
THEY WERE HER HOLY TRINITY.
HENCEFORTH, SHE NEVER DID
BUSINESS ON A FRIDAY, BECAUSE
THAT WAS --
OR IF SHE COULD HELP IT, SHE
NEVER DID BUSINESS ON A FRIDAY.
IT WAS AN UNLUCKY DAY BECAUSE
HENRY HAD BEEN --
THAT WAS THE DAY OF HIS
ACCIDENT.

A quick view shows the audience.

Leonie says AND SHE WORE BLACK FOR THE REST
OF HER LIFE.
NOW, THE FIRST INKLING WE HAVE
OF HER TRUE NATURE COMES IN THE
IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH OF THE
TRAGEDY.
CATHERINE WOULD NOT ALLOW HER
GENUINE AND AGONIZING GRIEF TO
OVERWHELM HER.
THE THREAT TO HER CHILDREN WAS
SIMPLY TOO TANGIBLE.
ON HENRY'S DEATH, THERE'D BEEN A
DE FACTO COUP BY THE GUISE CLAN.
NOW, THESE WERE ONE OF THE TWO
GREAT POLITICAL FACTIONS IN
FRANCE, AND THE HEAD OF THE
FAMILY, THE DUKE OF GUISE, WAS
THE UNCLE OF MARY, QUEEN OF
SCOTS, WHO'D BEEN BROUGHT UP AT
THE FRENCH COURT.
AND MARY HAD THE YEAR BEFORE
MARRIED THE DAUPHIN, SO THIS
MEANT THAT SHE WAS NOW QUEEN OF
FRANCE.
CONSEQUENTLY, MARY AND HER
FAMILY COULD EXPECT TO WIELD A
HUGE AMOUNT OF POWER.
AND THE RIVALS TO THE GUISE, THE
IMPORTANT NAME HERE IS THE
MONTMORENCY CLAN, AND THEY WERE
HEADED UP BY HENRY'S FORMER
MENTOR AND FATHER FIGURE
(BECAUSE HENRY HADN'T GOTTEN
ALONG WITH HIS FATHER AT ALL),
ANNE, DUKE THE MONTMORENCY.
HE WAS CONSIDERABLE AND
GRAND MASTER OF FRANCE, WHICH
AFTER THE KING, IS THE MOST
IMPORTANT AND POWERFUL POSITION
THAT YOU COULD HOLD.
NOW, HERE THE DUKE AND CATHERINE
HAD NAVIGATED, VERY TYPICAL OF
HER, A SHREWD AND IMPARTIAL
COURSE BETWEEN THE GUISE AND
MONTMORENCY FACTIONS, BUT AS HER
SON BECAME KING AND THE GUISE
WERE SORT OF TAKING OVER, SHE
HAD TO FALL IN WITH THEM.
OTHERWISE SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN
SIDELINED IMMEDIATELY.
IN THE EVENT, POOR FRANCIS
REIGNED FOR ONLY 16 MONTHS.
HE WAS A VERY SICKLY BOY, AS
WERE ALL CATHERINE'S CHILDREN,
BAR ONE, AND HE DIED OF AN EAR
INFECTION IN DECEMBER OF 1560,
WHEREUPON HE WAS SUCCEEDED BY
HIS BROTHER, THE 10-YEAR-OLD
CHARLES IX.
NOW, THE DEATH OF A STRONG KING
AND THE SUCCESSION OF TWO
CHILDREN WITHIN TWO YEARS,
COINCIDING WITH THE RISE OF
PROTESTANTISM IN CATHOLIC
FRANCE, CREATED SUCH RELIGIOUS,
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL INSTABILITY
THAT IN 1562, THE FIRST OF A
SERIES OF RELIGIOUS CIVIL
WARS -- A SERIES OF EIGHT
RELIGIOUS CIVIL WARS, AND THE
LAST WAS UNRESOLVED WHEN SHE
DIED, WHEN CATHERINE DIED --
BROKE OUT BETWEEN HUGUENOTS AND
CATHOLICS.
AND TO ADD TO THE CRISES
PRODUCED BY THE RELIGIOUS
TURMOIL AND THE FACTIONISM AND
THAT SORT OF THING, CHARLES
BEING LEGALLY TOO YOUNG AND
ACTUALLY LEGALLY, YEAH, I MEAN
TOO YOUNG AND ACTUALLY NOT
COMPETENT TO RULE, CATHERINE NOW
BY NECESSITY THRUST HERSELF INTO
THE FOREFRONT TO PROTECT THE
VALOIS INTERESTS, AND LITTLE DID
SHE KNOW SHE WAS TO REMAIN THERE
FOR THE REST OF HER LONG LIFE.
NOW, THE HUMAN MATERIAL WITH
WHICH CATHERINE HAD TO WORK, HER
SONS AND ONE OF HER DAUGHTERS,
MARGOT, WAS FRANKLY UNSPEAKABLE.

(Laughter)

Leonie continues TUBERCULOSIS, SEXUAL
PERVERSION, FITS OF DEMENTIA,
IDLENESS, CORRUPTION, TREACHERY
AND GREED, YOU NAME IT -- THE
VALOIS HAD IT.
HER YOUNGEST AND MOST REPELLENT
SON, A MISSHAPEN, HUNCHBACKED,
POCKMARKED DWARF, BY CRUEL FATE
BAPTIZED “HERCULES” --

(Laughter)

Leonie continues -- WAS DESCRIBED BY
AN ENGLISH PREACHER DURING HIS
ILL-FATED COURTSHIP OF
ELIZABETH I OF ENGLAND AS A
“LICENTIOUS AND DISSOLUTE YOUTH,
BY PROFESSION A PAPIST, AN
ATHEIST BY CONVERSATION, AN
INSTRUMENT IN FRANCE OF
UNCLEANNESS, A FLAY WORKER IN
ENGLAND FOR ROME, A SORCERER BY
COMMON VOICE AND FAME WHO IS NOT
FIT TO LOOK IN AT THE QUEEN'S
GREAT CHAMBER DOOR.”
NOW, THEY DIDN'T BELIEVE IN
UNDERSTATEMENT IN THOSE DAYS.

(Laughter)

Leonie continues YET DESPITE ALL THAT,
THEY WERE HENRY AND CATHERINE'S
CHILDREN, AND SO SHE FOUGHT FOR
THEM LIKE A TIGRESS, AND DURING
HER WIDOWHOOD, IN THE NAME OF
HER WORTHLESS SONS, SHE
MORTGAGED HER PROPERTIES, SHE
PAWNED HER JEWELS, SHE WALKED
WITHIN THE RANGE OF ENEMY GUNS
TO PUT HEART INTO HER SONS'
TROOPS.
SHE CRISS-CROSSED FRANCE FOR THE
WHOLE OF HER LIFE.
RIGHT UP UNTIL THE
LAST YEAR OF HER LIFE, SHE
CRISS-CROSSED FRANCE, WHICH WAS
AT THE TIME THE LARGEST LAND
MASS COUNTRY IN A SINGLE COUNTRY
IN EUROPE, TRAVELLING THOUSANDS
OF MILES TO ENFORCE LOCAL PEACE
TREATIES AND SORT OUT LOCAL
DISPUTES.
AND OFTEN THERE WEREN'T ROADS OF
ANY SORT, YOU KNOW, SO IT WAS A
VERY ROUGH AND A TOUGH ENDURANCE
TEST.
BUT CATHERINE WAS
LOOKING FOR PEACE ALMOST AT ANY
PRICE, FOR SHE WAS A TRUE
CONCILIATOR.
BUT WHEN PEACE WAS NO LONGER A
POSSIBILITY, SHE UNDERTOOK AN
ACT OF HISTORIC RUTHLESSNESS,
WHICH RESULTED IN THE MASSACRE
OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW.
NOW, SOME REVIEWERS OF MY BOOK
HAVE ARGUED THAT I'VE BEEN FAR
TOO SOFT ON CATHERINE, GIVING
HER THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT,
BUT I TRULY BELIEVE THAT WHEN
ONE EXAMINES CATHERINE'S CAREER,
THIS APPALLING TRAGEDY RUNS
ENTIRELY CONTRARY TO HER
POLITICAL TRACK RECORD AND HER
PERSONAL CREDO.
ORDERING KILLING WHEN STRICTLY
NECESSARY IS SOMETHING CATHERINE
DID WITHOUT SHRINKING FROM, BUT
UNCONTROLLABLE GENOCIDE THAT
LEFT HER GOVERNMENT WEAKENED WAS
FOREIGN TO HER SENSE OF DYNASTIC
SURVIVAL, TO PUT IT MILDLY.
AND ALTHOUGH COMMENTATORS WERE
QUICK TO POINT OUT THAT NICOLO
MACHIAVELLI'S MASTERPIECE
THE PRINCE HAD BEEN
DEDICATED TO CATHERINE'S FATHER,
HE CERTAINLY WOULD NOT HAVE
APPROVED OF THE EVENTS OF
AUGUST 24, 1572.
THE MASSACRE OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW
HAS LONG BE HELD AGAINST
CATHERINE AND USED ESPECIALLY BY
PROTESTANT PROPAGANDISTS TO
BLACKEN HER NAME THROUGHOUT
HISTORY, YET I BELIEVE, WHEN
SEEN IN ITS PROPER HISTORICAL
CONTEXT, CATHERINE HAD LITTLE
CHOICE.
BY 1572, MONTMORENCY'S NEPHEW,
ADMIRAL GASPAR de COLIGNY, THE
VETERAN SOLDIER AND DEFECTED
PROTESTANT LEADER, HAD
ESTABLISHED A POWERFUL HOLD OVER
THE HEART AND MIND OF
CHARLES IX, WHO BY NOW IS IN HIS
EARLY 20s AND EAGER TO FLEX HIS
OWN POLITICAL MUSCLES, HOWEVER
INCOMPETENTLY.
AND COLIGNY HAD MANAGED TO TALK
THE YOUNG KING INTO A WAR OR TO
TAKE TROOPS INTO THE SPANISH
NETHERLANDS TO AID AND SUCCOUR
THE PROTESTANTS THERE, WHICH
CATHERINE UNDERSTOOD QUITE
EASILY WOULD LEAD TO A WAR WITH
SPAIN, AND EVERYTHING IN HER
LIFE HAD TAUGHT HER THAT
FRANCO-SPANISH CONFLICT LED ONLY
TO DISASTER AND PENURY FOR HER
ADOPTED COUNTRY.
AND SO A COUNCIL MEETING WAS
HELD, AND THE IDEA WAS
ABSOLUTELY QUASHED, AND
CATHERINE WENT AWAY BELIEVING
THAT IN FACT, YOU KNOW, THIS WAS
NO LONGER A RISK.
NOW, WE NEED TO STEP BACK A FEW
MONTHS HERE, BECAUSE BEFORE THIS
CRISIS, CATHERINE HAD ARRANGED A
SIGNAL ACT OF POLITICAL,
RELIGIOUS AND DYNASTIC
RECONCILIATION BY ARRANGING THE
MARRIAGE OF HER YOUNGEST
DAUGHTER MARGOT, THE MOST SENIOR
FRENCH CATHOLIC PRINCESS, TO
HENRY, THE BOURBON KING OF
NAVARRE, WHO LATER BECAME
HENRY IV OF FRANCE, AND HE WAS
THE TITULAR HEAD OF THE FRENCH
PROTESTANTS.
THEIR WEDDING WAS FIXED FOR
AUGUST OF 1572, AND IT WAS ONLY
DAYS BEFORE THE CEREMONY IN
NOTRE DAME THAT THE QUEEN MOTHER
UNCOVERED COLIGNY'S PLOT WAS
STILL TO GO AHEAD, COLIGNY'S
PLOT TO ATTACK THE NETHERLANDS.
NOW, DURING THE MARRIAGE
CELEBRATIONS IN THE LATE SUMMER,
PARIS WAS HOT AND DUSTY.
THE CITY HAD BECOME A
UNDULATING MASS OF VISITORS,
PROTESTANT NOBLES AND THEIR
FOLLOWERS, WHO WERE GONNA ZOOM
OFF TO THE NETHERLANDS AS SOON
AS THE WEDDING WAS OVER, POORER
PROTESTANTS AND PEOPLE FROM THE
OUTLYING DISTRICTS WHO WERE JUST
KEEN TO COME TO A LOVELY ROYAL
WEDDING AND ENJOY THE
TRADITIONAL LARGESSE ON THESE
OCCASIONS.
WINE WOULD FLOW FROM THE
FOUNTAINS IN THE STREET.
THERE'D BE LOTS OF FREE FOOD AND
GOLD COIN THROWN IN THE AIR.
NOW, WITH THE CONNIVANCE OF THE
GUISE, CATHERINE PLANNED TO HAVE
COLIGNY ASSASSINATED IMMEDIATELY
AFTER THE FESTIVITIES WERE OVER.
UNFORTUNATELY, THE KILLING WAS
BUNGLED, AND THE SHOT FIRED FROM
THE GUISE HOUSE HIT COLIGNY'S
ELBOW AND RICOCHETED OFF THE
WALL AND LEFT ONE OF HIS FINGERS
DANGLING BY A PIECE OF SKIN.
NOW, WHILST THIS WAS HARDLY A
MORTAL WOUND, IT PLACED
CATHERINE AND THE VALOIS IN
MORTAL DANGER.
THE ACT, OF COURSE, CAUSED
OUTRAGE AND UPROAR AMONGST THE
PROTESTANTS, AND THE SENIOR
NOBLES NOW BEGAN TO MAKE VERY
LOUD THREATS, SAYING THEY MUST
BRING THE AUTHOR OF THIS HIDEOUS
CRIME TO JUSTICE, AND CHARLES IX
WAS THE LOUDEST, SAYING THAT HE
WAS GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT
WHOEVER WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS
WOULD BE --
NO PUNISHMENT WOULD BE TOO
HORRIBLE, LITTLE REALIZING IT
WAS HIS OWN MUM.

(Laughter)

Leonie continues NOW, CATHERINE WAS AT
HER PUBLIC (French word), AND
SHE GOT JOSTLED EVEN AT HER
PUBLIC (French word) AND
THREATENED, AND SHE NOW
UNDERSTOOD THAT AN OPEN
REBELLION WAS DAYS, PERHAPS
HOURS AWAY, AND THAT SHE MUST
ACT.
SO SHE DECIDED UPON A SURGICAL
OPERATION TO DECAPITATE THE
PROTESTANT LEADERSHIP.THIS WAS NO ACT OF
IMPOLITIC SAVAGERY NOR INTENDED
TO BE THE MASSACRE THAT IT
ULTIMATELY BECAME.
TO REGAIN THE
POLITICAL INITIATIVE AND TO
PROTECT FRENCH INTERESTS,
CATHERINE HAD ONLY HOURS TO FIND
A SOLUTION, AND THE CHOICE SHE
MADE HAS BEEN THE SUBJECT OF
HISTORICAL DEBATE FOR OVER
400 YEARS -- THE ELIMINATION OF
THE HUGUENOT LEADERSHIP AT A
SINGLE BLOW.
THE SIGNAL FOR THE START OF THE
SUMMARY EXECUTION OF SOME 20 OR
SO PEOPLE, STARTING WITH
COLIGNY, WAS THE (Unclear word)
OF THE TOXIN OF (French name).
THE DUKE OF GUISE OVERSAW THE
KILLING OF COLIGNY, WHO WAS THE
FIRST TO DIE.
HIS MEN BROKE INTO COLIGNY'S
LODGINGS' COURTYARD AND FOUGHT
THEIR WAY UP THE STAIRS, AND
COLIGNY, ALERTED BY THE NOISE,
HAD MANAGED TO PULL A HUGE
CUPBOARD ACROSS HIS BEDROOM
DOOR.
BUT THE GUISE'S MEN HAD LITTLE
TROUBLE GETTING IN, AND
BLUDGEONED AND STABBED THE OLD
WARLORD AND CHUCKED HIM OUT OF
THE WINDOW, THINKING THEIR JOB
WAS DONE.
AND THEN TO THEIR HORROR, THEY
SAW, IN FACT, FINGERS HOLDING ON
TO THE WINDOW LEDGE.
THEY COULDN'T BELIEVE IT.
THEY THOUGHT HE MUST BE
UNKILLABLE.
BUT EVENTUALLY, GRAVITY TOOK ITS
TOLL, AND THE OLD WARLORD WENT
CRASHING INTO THE COURTYARD
BELOW AND RATHER POETICALLY
LANDED AT THE FEET OF HIS MORTAL
ENEMY, THE DUKE OF GUISE.
AND ALTHOUGH THE PROTESTANT
HENRY OF NAVARRE, CATHERINE'S
NEW SON-IN-LAW, WAS TAKEN UNDER
CATHERINE'S PROTECTION, AND A
FEW OTHER PROTESTANTS DID MANAGE
TO ESCAPE, SENIOR PROTESTANTS,
CATHOLIC PARIS NOW ROSE UP IN A
SPONTANEOUS ACT OF VIOLENCE, AND
A WHOLE-SCALE BLOODBATH ENSUED.
MANY OF THE VICTIMS, WHETHER
THEY SLEPT IN CORRIDORS OF THE
LOUVRE OR DUSTY DEAD-END STREETS
OF PARIS, HAD THEIR THROATS CUT
WHILE THEY SLEPT.
PREGNANT WOMEN WERE EVISCERATED.
MEN WERE EMASCULATED,
DECAPITATED.
CHILDREN WERE THROWN INTO SACKS
AND SEWN UP AND CHUCKED INTO THE
RIVER SEINE TO DROWN.
AND THIS HORRIFIC VIOLENCE WENT
ON FOR FOUR DAYS OR SO IN PARIS,
THE ROYAL FAMILY BECALMED, IF
YOU LIKE, IN THE MIDST OF THIS
STORM, IN THE EYE OF THE STORM,
IN THE LOUVRE.
BUT ONCE IT LEFT PARIS, IT THEN
FANNED OUT INTO THE PROVINCES IN
WHAT IS NOW KNOWN AS THE SEASON
OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW.
SOMETHING LIKE 20,000 TO 30,000
PEOPLE MAY WELL HAVE BEEN
KILLED.
WELL, IT'S VERY HARD TO BE SURE
WHAT THE NUMBERS WERE.
NOW, MOST OF THE EUROPEAN COURTS
WERE ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIED AT THE
SLAUGHTER OF SO MANY INNOCENTS,
AND EVEN IVAN THE TERRIBLE
LAMBASTED THE FRENCH, CALLING
THEM BARBARIANS, WHICH IS PRETTY
RICH, COMING FROM THE BLOKE WHO
HAD JUST SACKED THE CITY OF
NOVGOROD AND WAS LATER TO KILL
HIS ELDEST SON WHILE IN A FIT OF
TEMPER.
CATHERINE'S ORDERS TO EXECUTE
THOSE WHO THREATENED THE
STABILITY OF FRANCE WERE NOTHING
MORE THAN A PRAGMATIC SOLUTION
WHEN EVERY OTHER AVENUE HAD BEEN
CLOSED TO HER.
THROUGHOUT HER LIFE, SHE HAD
ALWAYS FAVOURED COMPROMISE OVER
VIOLENCE.
NEVERTHELESS, SHE HAD THE
COURAGE TO DO WHATEVER IT TOOK
TO DEFEND HER SONS AND THEIR
REALM.
BESIDES HER SURNAME, LIFE DEALT
CATHERINE FEW WINNING CARDS.
ORPHANED AT BIRTH, IMPRISONED IN
CHILDHOOD, MARRIED TO A MAN WHO
LOVED AND HONOURED ANOTHER, WHO
DIED IN A SENSATIONAL AND
HORRIFIC ACCIDENT, CATHERINE
ALSO SAW THE DEATHS OF NO FEWER
THAN EIGHT OF HER 10 CHILDREN,
AND DURING HER WIDOWHOOD, HER
ADOPTED AND BELOVED COUNTRY WAS
RIVEN BY ALMOST CONSTANT
RELIGIOUS CIVIL WARS, AND AS I
SAID, ONE OF THEM UNFINISHED AS
SHE DIED.
ANY ONE OF THESE CATACLYSMS
WOULD HAVE FELLED A LESSER
PERSON, BUT CATHERINE ENDURED
THEM ALL, SHOWING COURAGE,
DETERMINATION AND ENERGY, AND
DURING THE COURSE OF MY
RESEARCHES, I COULD NOT HELP
FEELING TREMENDOUS ADMIRATION OF
THE INCOMPARABLE GUTS AND
OPTIMISM AND ENERGY THAT THIS
REMARKABLE WOMAN DISPLAYED.
NOW, DESPITE THE RECURRING
SETBACKS THAT THIS POOR WOMAN
FACED, SHE DID MANAGE A
CONSIDERABLE ARCHITECTURAL
PROGRAM.
THE TUILERIES PALACE WAS HER
IDEA, AND SHE MADE GREAT
ADDITIONS TO THE (French name),
(French name), MONCEAU, AND SHE
BUILT FROM SCRATCH A PLACE WHICH
NO LONGER EXISTS, A PALACE IN
PARIS CALLED THE
HOTEL DE LA REINE.
SHE INTRODUCED ITALIAN
RENAISSANCE INNOVATIONS TO
FRENCH SOCIETY, SUCH AS THE
SIDESADDLE.
NOW, UP UNTIL THEN, WOMEN HAD
BEEN SITTING ON A VERY
CUMBERSOME APPARATUS.
IT WAS LIKE AN
ARMCHAIR SHOVED ON THE SIDE OF A
HORSE, AND IT MEANT THE MOST
DECOROUS AMBLE OF NOT TWO MILES
AN HOUR PRACTICALLY.
NOW THE SIDESADDLE MEANT THAT
WOMEN COULD KEEP UP WITH MEN IN
THE HUNT, AND IT WAS LIKE
GETTING OFF A PENNY FARTHING
INTO A PORSCHE.
I MEAN IT WAS A
TREMENDOUS LIBERATION FOR THE
GIRLS.
SHE POPULARIZED THE USE OF
FORKS.
SHE MADE ELABORATELY HAND-HELD
FANS A HUGE STATUS SYMBOL AND
BROUGHT FANTASTICALLY
EMBROIDERED HANDKERCHIEFS WITH
HER FROM ITALY.
NOW, THESE WERE A TINY SQUARE OF
CLOTH WITH MUCH MORE EMBROIDERY
THAN ACTUAL CLOTH AND EVEN GEMS
HANGING FROM THE CORNERS.
GOD FORBID THAT YOU SHOULD EVER
BLOW YOUR NOSE IN ONE OF THOSE
HANKIES.
UNDERPANTS WERE ANOTHER ONE OF
HER IMPORTS, WHICH IS JUST AS
WELL, SINCE SHE BROUGHT THE
SIDESADDLE, AND MEN USED TO HANG
AROUND, HOPING TO SEE THE SIGHTS
OF HEAVEN.
AND CATHERINE HAD GOLD AND
SILVER KNICKERS OF HER OWN,
WHICH MUST HAVE BEEN HELL TO
WEAR.

(Laughter)

Leonie continues THIS MEDICI
IMPRESARIO BROUGHT EARLY FORMS
OF MODERN OPERA AND BALLET TO
FRANCE, AND THESE WERE KNOWN AS
HER MAGNIFICENCES, AND SHE
EMPLOYED THE GREATEST SCULPTORS,
PAINTERS AND WRITERS OF HER DAY
TO CREATE FOR A BANQUET OR A
CELEBRATION OR A BALL A
FANTASTIC DISPLAY THAT COST
MILLIONS OF POUNDS IN TODAY'S
MONEY, BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW BAD
THINGS WERE, THE RENAISSANCE
THING OF, YOU KNOW, “WE'VE GOT
TO PUT ON A GOOD SHOW,” WAS
DEFINITELY FOREMOST IN HER MIND
THERE, AND SHE DAZZLED PEOPLE
WITH HER MAGNIFICENCES.
AND, OF COURSE, NOTHING OF THESE
EXIST TODAY EXCEPT WRITTEN
REPORTS, BECAUSE THEY WERE TAKEN
DOWN AND DISMANTLED FOREVER.
BUT THEY WERE PERHAPS IN A FUNNY
WAY CATHERINE'S GREATEST
ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT.
SHE WAS HOPING, IN VAIN PERHAPS,
WITH THESE AND OTHER
SOPHISTICATIONS TO SHOW THAT HER
ITALIAN HOMELAND WAS NOT THE
ACADEMY FOR MANSLAUGHTER, THE
APOTHECARY SHOP FOR POISON, AND
THE SPORTING PLACE FOR MURDER
FOR ALL NATIONS, AS THOMAS NASH
DESCRIBED IT.
BUT HAVING READ MY BOOK, SOME
READERS MIGHT STILL FEEL THAT
MACHIAVELLI'S DICTUM WOULD MAKE
A FITTING EPITAPH FOR
CATHERINE de MEDICI, THAT TO BE
A GREAT PRINCE, ONE MUST
SOMETIMES VIOLATE THE LAWS OF
HUMANITY.
BUT I PREFER THE VERDICT OF HER
SOMETIME ENEMY AND FORMER
SON-IN-LAW, HENRY IV OF FRANCE
AND NAVARRE, PERHAPS HER
GREATEST KING.
IT WAS HE WHO SLAPPED DOWN A
COURTIER CRITICAL OF HIS LATE
MOTHER-IN-LAW, SAYING, “WHAT
COULD THE POOR WOMAN DO?
WITH FIVE CHILDREN IN HER ARMS
AFTER THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND
AND WITH TWO FAMILIES TRYING TO
ENCROACH UPON HER THRONE, OURS
AND THE GUISE, WAS SHE NOT
FORCED TO PLAY STRANGE PARTS, TO
DECEIVE ONE AND THEN THE OTHER,
AND YET AS SHE DID, TO PROTECT
HER CHILDREN, WHO REIGNED IN
SUCCESSION BY THE WISDOM OF A
WOMAN SO ABLE?
I WONDER THAT SHE DID NOT DO
WORSE.”
IT WAS A VALEDICTION AS WISE AS
IT WAS GRACIOUS.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

(Long applause)

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