The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici

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Confidante of Nostradamus, scheming mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots, and architect of the bloody St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Catherine de Medici is brought to life by Jeanne Kalogridis, the bestselling author of I, Mona Lisa and The Borgia Bride.

Born into one of Florence’s most powerful families, Catherine was soon left a fabulously rich orphan. Violent conflict tore apart the city state and she found herself imprisoned before finally being released and married off to...

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The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici

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Overview

Confidante of Nostradamus, scheming mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots, and architect of the bloody St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Catherine de Medici is brought to life by Jeanne Kalogridis, the bestselling author of I, Mona Lisa and The Borgia Bride.

Born into one of Florence’s most powerful families, Catherine was soon left a fabulously rich orphan. Violent conflict tore apart the city state and she found herself imprisoned before finally being released and married off to the handsome Prince Henri of France. Overshadowed by her husband’s mistress, the gorgeous, conniving Diane de Poitiers, and unable to bear children, Catherine resorted to the dark arts of sorcery to win Henri’s love and enhance her fertility—for which she would pay a price. Against the lavish and decadent backdrop of the French court, and Catherine’s blood-soaked visions of the future, Kalogridis reveals the great love and desire Catherine bore for her husband, Henri, and her stark determination to keep her sons on the throne.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Kalogridis nails the palace intrigue and lush pageantry of the Renaissance.”—Publishers Weekly

“Kalogridis puts a human face on one of the most reviled women in history.” —Booklist

“A sweeping, dynamic novel of a woman who was both powerful and powerless in the life she lived. . . . Beautifully written and impeccably researched, The Devil’s Queen is a giant of a novel about a giant of a woman.” —Romance Reviews Today

“I enjoyed the book immensely. . . . It is very well written and well worth the time it will take to read. Be sure to have enough time to sit and actually get into it . . . it will keep you enthralled.”—NightOwlRomance.com

Publishers Weekly

In this soap opera rendition of 16th-century power and politics, the ruthless and manipulative wife of France's King Henry II, reviled for her role in the civil and religious wars that roiled France, is conned into a deal with the devil. After her arranged marriage to the future French king, Catherine de Medici dedicates her life to protecting her husband and his reign, bartering away her soul to ensure that she provides heirs. Seasoned historic novelist Kalogridis (The Borgia Bride) nails the palace intrigue and lush pageantry of the Renaissance, but can't get a grip on her heroine's slippery, troubled heart. Catherine confesses to a core of evil, and history certainly supports that view, but Kalogridis suggests that the real trade-off of Catherine's Faustian bargain was to become a royal doormat, swallowing her courage and pride to become a dutiful and ignored wife and mother. For all her passion and attention to detail, however, Kalogridis doesn't quite bring the powerful, tortured figure back from her historical purgatory. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Catherine de Medici (1519-89) was the wife of one French king and mother to three. Intensely disliked by the French and kept in the background during her husband's reign, she came into her own after the death of her eldest son. The period of her strongest influence was also one of great political and religious unrest in France; she will be forever associated with the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of French Protestants. Making her hardcover debut with this well-researched and highly readable historical novel, Kalogridis (The Borgia Bride) treats Catherine with far more sympathy than most chronicles. In this portrayal, Catherine is highly superstitious, and her dealings with the astrologer Ruggieri lead her to commit unspeakable acts for the sake of her husband and children. In the end, though, fate cannot be cheated, and Catherine must deal with the consequences of her actions. Good for most collections, especially those where historicals are in demand. There are a couple of graphic sexual scenes, but they are not gratuitous. [With a 125,000-copy first printing; library marketing.]
—Pamela O'Sullvian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312624149
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/25/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 383,145
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeanne Kalogridis lives with her partner on the West Coast, where they share a house with two dogs. She is the author of The Borgia Bride, The Scarlet Contessa, and other dark fantasy and historical novels. Born in Florida, Kalogridis has a B.A. in Russian and a master’s in linguistics, and taught English as a second language at The American University for eight years before retiring to write full-time.

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Read an Excerpt

One

The day I met the magician Cosimo Ruggieri—the eleventh of May—was an evil one.

I sensed it at daybreak, in the drum of hoofbeats on the cobblestone street in front of the house. I had already risen and dressed and was about to make my way downstairs when I heard the commotion. I stood on tiptoe and peered down through my unshuttered bedroom window.

Out on the broad Via Larga, Passerini reined in his lathered mount, accompanied by a dozen men at arms. He wore his red cardinal’s robes but had forgotten his hat—or perhaps it had fallen off during the wild ride—and his white hair stood up in wisps like a coxcomb. He shouted frantically for the stablehand to open the gate.

I hurried to the stairs, arriving at the landing at the same moment as my aunt Clarice.

She was a beautiful woman in that year before her untimely death, delicate as one of Botticelli’s Graces. That morning found her dressed in a gown of rose velvet and a diaphanous veil over her chestnut hair.

But there was nothing delicate about Aunt Clarice’s disposition. My cousin Piero often referred to his mother as "the toughest man in the family." She deferred to no one—least of all to her four sons or to her husband, Filippo Strozzi, a powerful banker. She had a sharp tongue and a swift hand, and did not hesitate to lash out with either.

And she was scowling that morning. When she caught sight of me, I ducked my head and dropped my gaze, for there was no winning with Aunt Clarice.

At the age of eight, I was an inconvenient child. My mother had died nine days after I was born, followed six days later by my father. Happily, my mother left me enormous wealth, my father, the title of Duchess and the right to rule Florence.

Those things prompted Aunt Clarice to bring me to the Palazzo Medici to groom me for my destiny, but she made it clear that I was a burden. In addition to her own sons, she was obliged to raise two other Medici orphans—my half brother Alessandro and my cousin Ippolito, the bastard of my great-uncle Giuliano de’ Medici.

As Clarice stepped alongside me on the landing, a voice drifted up from the downstairs entry: Cardinal Passerini, acting regent of Florence, was speaking to a servant. Though I could not make out his words, the timbre of his voice conveyed their message clearly: disaster. The safe and comfortable life I had shared with my cousins in our ancestors’ house was about to disappear.

As Clarice listened, fear rippled over her features, only to be replaced by her customary hardness. She narrowed her eyes at me, searching to see if I had detected her instant of weakness, threatening me in case I had.

"Straight down to the kitchen with you. No stopping, no speaking to anyone," she ordered.

I obeyed and headed downstairs, but soon realized I was too nervous to eat. I wandered instead toward the great hall, where Aunt Clarice and Cardinal Passerini were engaged in strenuous conversation. His Eminence’s voice was muffled, but I caught an impassioned word or two uttered by Aunt Clarice:

You fool.

What did Clement expect, the idiot?

Their conversation centered on the Pope—born Giulio de’ Medici—whose influence helped keep our family in power. Even as a child, I understood enough of politics to know that my distant cousin Pope Clement was at odds with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles, whose troops had invaded Italy; Rome was in especial danger.

Abruptly, the door swung open, and Passerini’s head appeared as he called for Leda, Aunt Clarice’s slave. The cardinal was grey-faced, his breath coming hard, the corners of his mouth pulled down by agitation. He waited in the doorway with an air of desolate urgency until Leda appeared, at which point he ordered her to bring Uncle Filippo, Ippolito, and Alessandro.

Within moments, Ippolito and Sandro were ushered inside. Clarice must have come to stand near the doorway, for I could hear her say, quite clearly, to someone waiting in the hall:

We need men, as many as will fight. Until we know their number, we must tread carefully. Assemble as many as you can by nightfall, then come to me. A strange hesitancy crept into her tone. And send Agostino to fetch the astrologer’s son— now.

I heard my uncle Filippo’s low assent and departure, then the door closed again. I remained a few minutes, trying vainly to interpret the sounds emanating from the chamber; defeated, I wandered toward the staircase leading to the children’s rooms.

Six-year-old Roberto, Clarice’s youngest, came running in my direction, wailing and wringing his hands. His eyes were squeezed tightly shut; I barely caught him in time to stop him from knocking me down.

I was small, but Roberto was smaller still. He smelled of heat and slightly sour sweat; his cheeks were flushed and tear-streaked, and his girlishly long hair clung to his damp neck.

At that instant the boys’ nursemaid appeared behind him. Ginevra was a simple, uneducated woman, dressed in worn cotton skirts covered by a white apron, her hair always wrapped in a scarf. On that morning, however, Ginevra’s scarf and nerves were undone; a lock of golden hair had fallen across her face.

Roberto stamped his foot at me and emitted a scream. "Let me go!" He struck out with little fists, but I averted my face and held him fast.

"What is it? Why is he frightened?" I called to Ginevra as she neared.

"They’re coming after us!" Robert howled, spewing tears and spittle. "They’re coming to hurt us!"

Ginevra, dull with fright, answered, "There are men at the gate."

"What sort of men?" I asked.

When Ginevra would not answer, I ran upstairs to the chambermaids’ quarters, which overlooked the stables and the gate that opened onto the busy Via Larga. I dragged a stool to the window, stepped onto it, and flung open the shutters.

The stables stood west of the house; to the north lay the massive iron gate that kept out trespassers. It was closed and bolted; just inside it stood three of our armed guards.

On the other side of its spiked bars, the street hosted lively traffic: a flock of Dominican monks on foot from nearby San Marco, a cardinal in his gilded carriage, merchants on horseback. And Roberto’s men—perhaps twenty in those early hours, before Passerini’s news had permeated Florence. Some stood along the edges of the Via Larga, others in front of the iron gate near the stables. They gazed on our house with hawkeyed intensity, waiting for prey to emerge.

One of them shouted exuberantly at the passing crowd. "Did you hear? The Pope has fallen! Rome lies in the Emperor’s hands!"

At the palazzo’s front entrance, a banner bore the Medici coat of arms so proudly displayed throughout the city: six red balls, six palle, arranged in rows upon a golden shield. Palle, palle! was our rallying cry, the words on our supporters’ lips as they raised their swords in our defense.

As I watched, a wool dyer, his hands and tattered tunic stained dark blue, climbed onto his fellow’s shoulders and pulled down the banner to shouts of approval. A third man touched a torch to the banner and set it ablaze. Passersby slowed and gawked.

"Abaso le palle!" the wool dyer cried, and those surrounding him picked up the chant. "Down with the balls! Death to the Medici!"

In the midst of the tumult, the iron gates opened a crack, and Agostino—Aunt Clarice’s errand boy—slipped out unobserved. But as the gate clanged shut behind him, a few of the men hurled pebbles at him. He shielded his head and dashed away, disappearing into the traffic.

I leaned farther out of the open window. Behind the thin streams of smoke rising from the burning banner, the wool dyer spied me; his face lit up with hatred. Had he been able to reach up into the window, he would have seized me—an eight-year-old girl, an innocent—and dashed my brains against the pavement.

"Abaso le palle!" he roared. At me.

I withdrew. I could not run to Clarice for comfort—she would not have provided it even had she been available. I wanted my cousin Piero; nothing cowed him, not even his formidable mother . . . and he was the one person I trusted. Since he was not in the boys’ classroom receiving his lessons, I hurried to the library.

As I suspected, Piero was there. Like me, he was an insatiable student, often demanding more of his tutors than they knew, with the result that we frequently encountered each other huddled behind book. Unlike me, he was, at a rather immature sixteen, still cherub-cheeked, with close-cropped ringlets and a sweet, ingenuous temperament. I trusted him more than anyone, and adored him as a brother.

Piero sat cross-legged on the floor, squinting down at the heavy tome open in his lap, utterly captivated and utterly calm. He glanced up at me, and just as quickly returned to his reading.

"I told you this morning about Passerini coming," I said. "The news is very bad. Pope Clement has fallen."

Piero sighed calmly and told me the story of Clement’s predicament, which he had learned from the cook. In Rome, a secret passageway leads from the Vatican to the fortress known as the Castel Sant’Angelo. Emperor Charles’s mutinous soldiers had joined with anti-Medici fighters and attacked the Papal Palace. Caught unawares, Pope Clement had run for his life—robes flapping like the wings of a startled dove—across the passage to the fortress. There he remained, trapped in his stronghold by jeering troops.

Piero was totally unfazed by it all.

"We’ve always had enemies," he said. "They want to form their own government. The Pope has always known about them, but Mother says he grew careless and missed clear signs of trouble. She warned him, but Clement didn’t listen."

"But what will happen to us?" I said, annoyed that my voice shook. "Piero, there are men outside burning our banner! They’re calling for our deaths!"

"Cat," he said softly and reached for my hand. I let him draw me down to sit beside him on the cool marble.

"We always knew the rebels would try to take advantage of something like this," Piero said soothingly, "but they aren’t that organized. It will take them a few days to react. By then, we’ll have gone to one of the country villas, and Mother and Passerini will have decided what to do."

I pulled away from him. "How will we get to the country? The crowd won’t even let us out of the house!"

"Cat," he chided gently, "they’re just troublemakers. Come nightfall, they’ll get bored and go away."

Before he could say anything further, I asked, "Who is the astrologer’s son? Your mother sent Agostino to fetch him."

He digested this with dawning surprise. "That would be Ser Benozzo’s eldest, Cosimo."

I shook my head, indicating my ignorance.

"The Ruggieri family has always served as the Medicis’ astrologers," Piero explained. "Ser Benozzo advised Lorenzo il Magnifico. They say his son Cosimo is a prodigy of sorts, and a very powerful magician. Others say such talk is nothing more than a rumor circulated by Ser Benozzo to help the family business."

I interrupted. "But Aunt Clarice doesn’t put a lot of faith in such things."

"No," he said thoughtfully. "Cosimo wrote Mother a letter well over a week ago. He offered his services; he said that serious trouble was coming, and that she would need his help."

I was intrigued. "What did she do?"

"You know Mother. She refused to reply, because she felt insulted that such a young man—a boy, she called him—should presume that she would need help from the likes of him."

"Father Domenico says it’s the work of the Devil."

Piero clicked his tongue scornfully. "Magic isn’t evil—unless you mean for it to hurt someone—and it’s not superstition, it’s science. It can be used to make medicines, not poisons. Here." He proudly lifted the large volume in his lap so that I could see its cover. "I’m reading Ficino."

"Who?"

"Marsilio Ficino. He was Lorenzo il Magnifico’s tutor. Old Cosimo hired him to translate the Corpus Hermeticum, an ancient text on magic. Ficino was brilliant, and this is one of his finest works." He pointed at the title: De Vita Coelitus Comparanda.

"Gaining Life from the Heavens," he translated. "Ficino was an excellent astrologer, and he understood that magic is a natural power." He grew animated. "Listen to this. . . ." He translated haltingly from the Latin. " ‘Using this power of the stars, the Magi were first to worship the infant Christ. Therefore, why fear the name Magus, a name which is pleasing to the Gospel?’ "

"So this astrologer’s son is coming to bring us help," I said. "Help from God’s stars."

"Yes." Piero gave a reassuring nod. "Even if he weren’t, we would still be all right. Mother might complain, but we’ll just go to the country until it’s safe again."

I let myself be convinced—temporarily. On the library floor, I nestled against my cousin and listened to him read in Latin. This continued until Aunt Clarice’s slave Leda—pale, frowning, and heavily pregnant—appeared in the doorway.

"There you are." She motioned impatiently. "Come at once, Caterina. Madonna Clarice is waiting."

The horoscopist was a tall, skinny youth of eighteen, if one estimated generously, yet he wore the grey tunic and somber attitude of a city elder. His pitted skin was sickly white, his hair so black it gleamed blue; he brushed it straight back to reveal a sharp widow’s peak. His eyes seemed even blacker and held something old and shrewd, something that fascinated and frightened me. He was ugly: His long nose was crooked, his lips uneven, his ears too large. Yet I did not want to look away. I stared, a rude, stupid child.

Aunt Clarice said, "Stand there, Caterina, in the light. No, save your little curtsy and just hold still. Leda, close the door behind you and wait in the hall until I call you. I’ll have no interruptions." Her tone was distracted and oddly soft.

After a worried glance at her mistress, Leda stole out and quietly shut the door. I stepped into a pane of sunlight and stood dutifully a few paces from Clarice, who sat beside the cold fireplace. My aunt was arguably the most influential woman in Italy and old enough to be this young man’s mother, but his presence—calm and focused as a viper’s before the strike—was the more powerful, and even Clarice, long inured to the company of pontiffs and kings, was afraid of him.

"This is the girl," she said. "She is plain, but generally obedient."

"Donna Caterina, it is an honor to meet you," the visitor said. "I am Cosimo Ruggieri, son of Ser Benozzo the astrologer."

His appearance was forbidding, but his voice was beautiful and deep. I could have closed my eyes and listened to it as if it were music.

"Think of me as a physician," Ser Cosimo said. "I wish to conduct a brief examination of your person."

"Will it hurt?" I asked.

Ser Cosimo smiled a bit more broadly, revealing crooked upper teeth.

"Not in the least. I have already completed a portion; I see that you are quite short for your age, and your aunt reports that you are rarely sick. Is that true?"

"Yes," I answered.

"She is always running in the garden," Clarice offered palely. "She rides as well as the boys do. By the time she was four, we could not keep her from the horses."

"May I . . . ?" Ser Cosimo paused delicately. "Could you lift your skirts a bit so that I can examine your legs, Caterina?"

I dropped my gaze, embarrassed and perplexed, but raised the hem of my dress first above my ankles and then—at his gentle urging—to my knee.

Ser Cosimo nodded approvingly. "Very strong legs, just as one would expect."

"And thighs," I said, dropping my skirts. "Jupiter’s influence."

Intrigued, he smiled faintly and brought his face closer to mine. "You have studied such things?"

"Only a little," I said. I did not tell him that I had just been listening to Piero reading Ficino’s attributions for Jupiter.

Aunt Clarice interrupted, her tone detached. "But her Jupiter is in detriment."

Ser Cosimo kept his penetrating gaze focused on me. "In Libra, in the Third House. But there are ways to strengthen it."

I braved a question. "You know about my stars, then, Ser Cosimo?"

"I have taken an interest in them for some time," he replied. "They present a great many challenges and a great many opportunities. May I ask what moles you have?"

"There are two on my face."

Ser Cosimo lowered himself onto his haunches, bringing us eye to eye. "Show me, Caterina."

I smoothed my dull, mousy hair away from my right cheek. "Here and here." I pointed at my temple, near the hairline, and at a spot between my jaw and ear.

He drew in a sharp breath and turned to Aunt Clarice, his manner grave.

"Is it bad?" she asked.

"Not so bad that we cannot repair it," he said. "I will return tomorrow at this very hour, with talismans and herbs for her protection. You must employ them according to my precise directions."

"For me," Clarice said swiftly, "and for my sons, not just for her."

The astrologer’s son cast a sharp glance at her. "Certainly. For everyone who has need." A threat crept into his tone. "But such things bring no benefit unless they are used exactly as prescribed—and exactly for whom they are created."

Clarice dropped her gaze, intimidated—and furious at herself for being so. "Of course, Ser Cosimo."

"Good," he said and bowed his farewell.

"God be with you, Donna Clarice," he said graciously. "And with you, Donna Caterina."

I murmured a good-bye as he walked out the door. It was odd watching a youth move like an elderly man. Many years later, he would confess to having been fifteen years old at the time. He had used the aid of a glamour, he claimed, to make himself appear older, knowing Clarice would never have listened to him otherwise.

As soon as the astrologer was out of earshot, Aunt Clarice said, "I’ve heard rumors of this one, the eldest boy. Smart, true—smart at conjuring devils and making poisons. I’ve heard that his father despairs."

"He isn’t a good man?" I asked timidly.

"He is evil. A necessary evil, now." She lowered her face into her hand and began to massage her temple. "It’s all falling apart. Rome, the papacy, Florence herself. It’s only a matter of time before the news spreads all over the city. And then . . . everything will go to Hell. I need to figure out what to do before . . ." I thought I heard tears, but she gathered herself and snapped open her eyes. "Go to your chambers and study your texts. There will be no lessons today, but you’d best comport yourself quietly. I won’t tolerate any distractions."

I left the great hall. Rather than follow my aunt’s instructions to go upstairs, I dashed out to the courtyard. The astrologer’s son was there, moving swiftly for the gardens.

I cried out, "Ser Cosimo! Wait!"

He stopped and faced me. His expression was knowing and amused, as if he had completely expected to find a breathless eight-year-old girl tearing after him.

"Caterina," he said, with odd familiarity.

"You can’t leave," I said. "There are men outside calling for our deaths. Even if you got out safely, you would never be able to come back again."

He bent forward and faced me at my level. "But I will get out safely," he said. "And I will come back again tomorrow. When I do, you must find me alone in the courtyard or the garden. There are things we must discuss, unhappy secrets. But not today. The hour is not propitious."

As he spoke, his eyes hardened, as if he was watching a distant but approaching evil. He straightened and said, "But nothing bad will happen. I will see to it. We will speak again tomorrow. God keep you, Caterina."

He turned and strode off.

I hurried after him, but he walked faster than I could run. In seconds he was at the entrance to the stables, in view of the large gate leading to the Via Larga. I hung back, afraid.

The palazzo was a fortress of thick stone; its main entry was an impenetrable brass door positioned in the building’s center. To the west lay the gardens and the stables, viewable from the street behind a north-facing iron gate that began where the citadel proper ended.

Just inside that gate were seven armed guards, warily eyeing the crowd on the other side of the thick iron bars. When I had last peered through the upstairs window, only six men had lingered by the western gate. Now more than two dozen peasants and merchants stood staring back at the guards.

A groom handed Ser Cosimo the reins to a glossy black mare. At the sight of the astrologer, a few in the mob hissed. One hurled a stone, which banked off an iron bar and struck the earth several paces from its target.

Ser Cosimo calmly led his mount to the gate. The mare stamped her feet and turned her face from the waiting men as one of them cried out: "Abaso le palle! Down with the balls!"

"What," called another, "did they bring you here to suck the cardinal’s cock?"

"And his Medici-loving balls! Abaso le palle!"

The commotion alerted others who had been standing watch across the street, who hurried to join those at the gate. The chant grew louder.

"Abaso le palle.

Abaso le palle."

Men shook their fists in the air and pushed their hands between the bars to claw at those on the other side. The mare whinnied and showed them the whites of her eyes.

Ser Cosimo’s composure never wavered. Serene and unflinching, he walked toward the metal bars amid a hail of pebbles. He was not struck, but our guards were not as fortunate; they yelped curses as they tried to shield their faces. One hurried to the bolt and slid the heavy iron bar back while the others drew their swords and formed a shoulder-to-shoulder barricade in front of Ser Cosimo.

The guard at the bolt glanced over his shoulder at the departing guest. "You’re mad, sir," he said. "They’ll tear you to pieces."

I broke out from my hiding place and ran to Ser Cosimo.

"Don’t hurt him!" I shouted at the crowd. "He’s not one of us!"

Ser Cosimo dropped the reins of his nervous mount and knelt down to catch my shoulders.

"Go inside, Catherine," he said. Catherine, my name in a foreign tongue. "I know what I am doing. I will be safe."

As he finished speaking, a pebble grazed my shoulder. I flinched; Ser Cosimo saw it strike. And his eyes—

The look of the Devil, I was going to say, but perhaps it is better called the look of God. For the Devil can trick and test, but God alone metes out death, and only He can will a man to suffer for eternity.

That was that look I saw in Cosimo’s eye. He was capable, I decided, of undying spite, of murder without the slightest regret. Yet it was not that look that unsettled me. It was the fact that I recognized it and was still drawn to him; it was the fact that I knew it and did not want to look away.

He whirled on the crowd with that infinitely evil look. At once, the rain of stones ceased. When every man had grown silent, he called out, strong and clear:

"I am Cosimo Ruggieri, the astrologer’s son. Strike her again, if you dare."

Nothing more was said. Darkly radiant, Ser Cosimo mounted his horse, and the guard pushed open the singing gate. The magician rode out, and the crowd parted for him.

The gate swung shut with a clang, and the guard slid the bolt into place. It was as though a signal had been given: The crowd came alive and again hurled pebbles and curses at the guards.

But the astrologer’s son passed unharmed, his head high, his shoulders square and sure. While the rest of the world fixed its unruly attention on the palazzo gates, he rode away, and soon disappeared from my sight.

Excerpted from The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis.
Copyright 2009 by Jeanne Kalogridis.
Published in July 2009 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher

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Confidante of Nostradamus, scheming mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots, and architect of the bloody St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Catherine de Medici is brought to life by Jeanne Kalogridis, the bestselling author of I, Mona Lisa and The Borgia Bride.

Born into one of Florence’s most powerful families, Catherine was soon left a fabulously rich orphan. Violent conflict tore apart the city state and she found herself imprisoned before finally being released and married off to the handsome Prince Henri of France.

Overshadowed by her husband’s mistress, the gorgeous, conniving Diane de Poitiers, and unable to bear children, Catherine resorted to the dark arts of sorcery to win Henri’s love and enhance her fertility—for which she would pay a price. Against the lavish and decadent backdrop of the French court, and Catherine’s blood-soaked visions of the future, Kalogridis reveals the great love and desire Catherine bore for her husband, Henri, and her stark determination to keep her sons on the throne.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 59 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 59 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    strong biographical novel

    In 1533 her powerful Florence family arranges the marriage between Catherine de Medici and heir to the French throne Henry who will become King Henry II as a political convenience; both are fourteen at the time. However, Catherine vows to make the best of her unwanted marriage by supporting her spouse and his kingdom so her heir inherits the throne. Over the years reality proves not as nice as her dream as she finds her husband is more interested in his consort, the manipulative Diane de Poitiers
    ---
    Though superstitious Catherine is a de Medici so is used to acting against enemies like the mistress, whom she arranges a marriage with a prince. She consults with the astrologer Ruggieri who persuades her to commit horrors including a major role in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre so that her children well inherit what she believes is rightfully hers and theirs as her husband simply ignores her since she gave him the heir and the spare.
    ---
    Moving from the fifteenth century Italy (see I, MONA LISA and THE BORGIA BRIDE) to sixteenth century mostly France, historical fiction writer Jeanne Kalogridis provides a strong biographical novel of the aptly titled Catherine de Medici. The lead is an intriguing character painted by most historians as a devil, but Ms. Kalogridis provdes an interesting counter-theory that claims instead Catherine was not the evil one, but lost the PR war by choosing to do what she was trained to perform as her duty as a wife and mother to the monarchy. Although well written, readers will still come away with the belief that Catherine was THE DEVIL'S QUEEN though accepting she was doing what was expected of her (doing one's job is no excuse for crimes against humanity).
    ---
    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Great!

    I am a huge historical fiction fan, but this is the first book about Catherine de Medici I've read. Some of it was a little far fetched (magic spells to encourage conception, reading the stars to tell the future, talismans to protect people) but it was overall a great read! It broke my heart, it made me smile, and it made me think. Jeanne Kalogridis created a person that was easy to relate to, sympathize with and someone that I really wanted to see happy in the end. Even though I know it is fiction and Henri's relationship with Catherine wasn't like it is portrayed in this book it was a great twist on it. I think it would be interesting to do a sequel based on Diana's point of view.
    I've researched some of Catherine de Medici since (and during) reading this book and this book piqued my curiosity about her. I will definitely be looking for more books based on her and possibly by this author.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Catherine de Medici in a very different light

    I was surprised reading this book. It shed a very different light on Catherine De Medici. She wasn't the cunning sly witch I was so used to reading. In fact, it was the opposite. The book put her as a young girl, who married and had a husband who was in love with someone else and everyone in the French court knew it. She couldn't have children which put tremendous pressure on her. This is where she meddles with magic and "witchcraft" to help her. This book definitely put Catherine in a very sympathetic light and I thought it was an interesting read.

    I actually felt myself drawn to Catherine and felt for her during her hard times - especially during her marriage and her desperation to have children. She didn't seem like the evil Queen we all know her as. Eventually when she did have children, she seemed like a very devoted mother, and despite her rocky marriage, she was also very devoted to her husband (even though he wasn't). The plot is told entirely in Catherine's point of view, which is interesting and it highlights her intelligence and her willingness to learn politics even though women didn't have a place for it. I admire her strong will and determination to hold her position in court, even though she's been shadowed by Diane de Poitiers. Her relationship with Diane is a strange one, it went from enemies to a silent agreement and respect for one another. The references to magic and astrology is the main theme in the book and it shows Catherine's hobby turn into something more serious that had a great impact on her life and for those around her. I thought that was an interesting addition

    The plot was well done and well written. The events that turned to the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre was interesting as many people were blamed (Including Catherine) for it. I liked how Catherine, eventually found out that turning things to her advantage and by avoiding events that are meant to be has serious consequences, and things still don't turn out the way she wanted it to be, she accepted it, in the end, and it just seemed that it had made her a better person and free from all the pressure, and the worries that were heaped onto her during the book. When she found out about Edouard's involvement in the Massacre, perhaps that was her breaking point. I was personally shocked about it and I could feel Catherine's emotions. It certainly did feel like a slap in the face.

    I felt the ending did drag out and could have been faster paced. It seemed to drag and slow to a snail's crawl and extremely redundant. Also, there are certain parts of the book where an execution is involved (a rather gruesome one) and a hunt gone wrong. This may not please those that are squeamish.

    Overall an interesting view on one of history's most villified Queens. Certainly sympathetic and very different from what we are all used to seeing in Catherine De Medici. I recommend this to historical fiction fans. It was a great read.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Bit Far-Fetched, But Great Reading

    If you're ready to suspend belief and buy into the idea that Henri II grew to love his wife Catherine d'Medici - contrary to all historical evidence - you'll enjoy this novel as much as I did. Several other jaw-dropping historical revisions also show up in the story, but it IS fiction, after all, and makes for lively reading. "Madame Serpent" by Jean Plaidy (not usually one of my favorite authors) tells the same sad story of the Catherine-Henri-Diane de Poitiers triangle in a more believable way and is a bit better. (It's out of print, but can still be found through used book sellers.) But "Devil's Queen" is still an excellent novel, and I recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 15, 2012

    A powerful story that moved me to think of the lengths I would g

    A powerful story that moved me to think of the lengths I would go to to protect my own family. I had a hard time putting it down.

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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Too much Dark arts

    Even if Catherine De Medici was a strong believer of the dark arts, it was not an enjoyable focus to read about. The book puts focus mostly on her beliefs and her astrology research and following. Personally, I would have liked a book more about her and her character to be more developed instead of the focus on magic. It made the book feel more fiction less historical fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2012

    Recommend

    It is more a work of fiction then a historical book. I enjoy history and I wish the auth had not made up part of the story. It was still a good read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    Enjoy

    I enjoyed the insight that I gained into Catherine Divicci. How she was humanized through all the horrible things that are known about Catherine. The story and the plot are well written.

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  • Posted August 16, 2011

    Loved this

    Its been such a long time since I have been sad that a book ended. I found myself wanting to continue in the lives of the characters. Truly fascinating.

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  • Posted June 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent and Exiting

    The book grabbed me immediatley. It is a page turner and is full of facts about Catherine D'Medici, as well as all the supporting cast; from pope to King Francis I. I will look forward to reading much more of Kalogridis' work. This is a must for anyone interested in the Renaissance in France and Italy during the 1500's.

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  • Posted November 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    an exciting novel

    i thought that this was a very exciting book. the excitement carried you from beginning to end. the characters are strong and the plot is dramatic.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2009

    Review of the "The Devil's Queen"

    If you like historical fiction then this is a book for you.

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    Posted March 11, 2011

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    Posted August 1, 2010

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    Posted August 19, 2009

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    Posted December 15, 2011

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    Posted February 22, 2010

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    Posted February 10, 2011

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    Posted May 23, 2011

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    Posted February 1, 2010

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