Staff Review: The Rival Queens: Catherine de’ Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal That Ignited a Kingdom

I am usually not a non-fiction reader. I generally favor genre fiction – mysteries, romance, and science fiction, but every once in a while, I’ll run across a non-fiction book that just begs me to take it home. And that’s what happened with this book. I spotted it on the New Book shelf at the Central Library. What first caught my eye was the cover, two women in period clothing who weren’t looking at each other. “How curious,” I thought. So, I picked it up.

If you like stories of political intrigue, back-biting, trickery, and betrayal, you will like this book. Catherine de Medici forced her youngest daughter, Marguerite – an extremely devout Catholic – to marry her cousin, Henry – an extremely devout Huguenot (Protestant). This was partially to prevent Henry from marrying Elizabeth I of England, partially to move the war of religion from France to the Netherlands, and partially an effort to forge a truce between the Catholics and the Protestants.

It failed.

However, this combination of opposites pretty much doomed the marriage from the beginning as Henry and Marguerite could never get past their mistrust for each other to form a true bond. It didn’t help matters that days after the wedding, Catherine plotted to have a leader of the Huguenot party assassinated; not concerning herself that her daughter might get blamed by her new husband of talking about what she might or might not have overheard.

Have I intrigued you, yet? If you want to find out what happened next to Marguerite, her siblings and their manipulative mother, read the book. You can check out this book and other historical books by Nancy Goldstone from the Chesapeake Public Library.