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Monday, August 24, 2015

Sex at the Court of Catherine de Medici

On Catherine de Medici and Marguerite de Valois:

Witch trials and feuding queens | Podcast | History Extra

Interviewer: How did the French court differ from the English court at the time? Would it have been harder to be a woman in power in France

Nancy Goldstone: I think the main way that the French court differed from the English court that revolved around sex.

I've been studying royalty for a long time, I've never seen anything like that court.

It was, I don't know how they got any sleep, really.

Catherine had around her a group of beautiful women called the Flying Squad that were nicknamed Flying Squadron. And it was their job to seduce her political opponents and get state secrets and keep them kind of in her thrall.

And then her son Henri came along and he had, he was homosexual, so he had a bunch of young, beautiful young men around him called The Minions.

And there were, there was a lot of trading sex for secrets and all that kinda thing that you didn't see anything approaching that at the English court.

So I don't think that it was harder for Catherine di Medici to stay in power in France. And it was, you have to- the hardest thing with history is not to know what you know is coming in the future.

So most people today, we think of, when we think of France we think of the French Revolution, where they chop off, the French would chop off their kings' heads. But the French Revolution is 2 centuries away at this point in the 16th century. In the 16th century the French were very very loyal to their kings.

In the 15th century you had a French king Charles VI and he was schizophrenic. He was running around the castle naked thinking he was somebody named George, and they stay completely loyal to him. They admired their kings in France, they thought that they were the most Christian kings. So Catherine had that going for her. She ruled in the name of her sons and most people didn't try to actually attack the king in themselves, they tried to get rid of the counselors...

The Hugenots never got to more than maybe 15% of the population and, but they were such an aggressive minority. They would go into Catholic churches and break, destroy the polyps (?) and anything they thought was idolatrous, kind of like ISIS does today. And then te Catholics would go hunt down the Hugenots at their prayer meetings, but you couldn't expect that the Hugenots could take over, that a 15% minority could take over all the patronage of the court and all the, and run the country. And that became clear to Henry of Navarre when he said "Paris is worth a mass" at the end and converted. Actually he said he had always been a secret Catholic in his heart...

It was more Game of Thrones than Game of Thrones. I mean it was one double cross after another, after another...

Marguerite's reputation throughout history by historians has been that of kind of a good time party girl who put her own sexual preferences ahead of her duty to her kingdom, and that could not have been less true... She was the only member of her family who did not use sex as a weapon
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