Archive for March 2nd, 2011

‘When you are pushing sixties you are often left with a feeling at the end of the day that your cart is loaded with rags and bones. Of course for an investment banker it is somewhat different. He has this awful feeling he is left with some junk bonds.’


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Catherine di’ Medici (1519-1589)
Regent Queen

‘Historians are privileged liars’ as Balzac once observed and the great granddaughter of Lorenzo di Medici is a case in point. She was a foreigner transplanted into the hot-house atmosphere of the French court as the hapless Marie Antoinette after her. In her time she has been vilified as ‘the Black Queen’, Madame La Serpente.’
It was the time of great divisions. What she had anticipated of the great controversies that Reformation unleashed in her time culminated in a revolution and would cause the public disgrace in the latter. Calvinism in her time was a tool for several factions namely the Houses of Guises, the Bourbons and the Valois for furthering their ambitions. Catherine like Philip II and the Duke of Alba saw plainly the liberty of will and of conscience would spell ruin to the social order existed in France. She was a great survivor whose policy in her own words were, ‘passion, hatred and vengeance.’ With ultimate finesse she let each faction betray their hands before she took counter measures to undo their damage. The massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day on Aug. 24, 1572 began as preplanned and at the end 8000 Huguenots had perished. It was foul and horrible and yet it was a necessity and executed with her connivance. Her aim to secure the throne and the future of her children as sovereign lords of the realm never for a moment wavered. She succeeded in her aim proves in ample measure her iron will and sagacity. Her name has been for long besmirched with many crimes frivolous and serious attributed to her owe to the Calvinist press.
Orphaned in infancy, imprisoned in childhood and her marriage to Henri of Orléans the second son of Francis I of France was a political alliance. Untimely death of the dauphin opened the way for her husband who ascended the throne as Henri II. She adored him but he was besotted with Diane of Poitiers and she had to abide her time till she could settle scores with her rival. Rather than killing her she merely banished her from the court. After a decade of helplessness and infertility that made her position very precarious she produced ten children each of them either sickly, unwholesome or rotten. The sudden death of her husband brought this forty-year- old widow with no political experience to defend her dynasty and her adopted country. The fact that she succeeded in her objective- the three of her sons became kings of France was a testimony of her political acumen.


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