Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot's intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.
Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.
Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of The Sister Queens. She is a re-invented attorney. With a BA in History and a passion for reading, writing historical fiction seemed a natural second career. An active member of the Historical Novel Society, Sophie has attended all the group's North American Conferences, and served as a speaker on multiple panels. Other speaking engagements include being a presenting author at Baltimore Book Festival. When Sophie is not visiting corners of the past, she lives in Great Falls, Virginia, with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband.
Read an Excerpt
A Novel of Marguerite de Valois
By Sophie Perinot
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Sophie Perinot
All rights reserved.
Winter 1564 — Fontainebleau, France
"Dear God, the cold!"
It must be the hundredth time my gouvernante has uttered these words, or something very like, in the last three days.
"It was also cold in Amboise," I reply, trying to keep my voice cheerful while repressing an urge to kick Madame in the shins as she sits across from me in the coach. How can she think of the cold at a time like this?
"There were fires at Amboise, Your Highness, and chimneys that drew properly."
When we stopped at Nemours last evening, Madame was nearly smothered, thanks to an ill-maintained flue. Well, she can hardly blame me: I wanted to continue on to Fontainebleau, as it could not be more than another two hours' ride. Madame, however, insisted we stop. She wanted me freshly dressed and looking my best for our arrival at the château, for my arrival at Court.
Court — since word came a fortnight ago that I was summoned, I have thought of nothing else. I am going to join the Court, and the Court ensemble will depart upon the largest royal progress ever undertaken.
Drawing back a tiny corner of the heavy drapes that cover the window, so as not to seem disrespectful of Madame's comfort, I devour the landscape. The views on our trip have been dominated by rivers — first the Loire and then the Loing — but we are surrounded by woods now, the royal forest of Fontainebleau. Most of the trees are leafless in the gray winter light, but I can imagine them clothed in green, just as I can imagine a royal hunting party like those my brother Henri and I used to watch at Vincennes. I can almost see the riders in their dazzling attire moving between the trees; hear the snorts and pawings of the horses, and the barking of the dogs. I do not need to imagine the stag, for suddenly, justeàcôté the road, a magnificent animal appears.
"Look!" I cry. But Madame and the other ladies are too slow. Before their heads turn, the stag is gone. Never mind — there will be more of interest to be seen, much more. I remain eyes out the window and mute, letting the conversation of my companions flow over me like water over stone. For a time I forget the scenery and think of my younger brother. How François cried when he discovered that he would not make the progress. He was told he is too young for such exhausting travel and too imperfectly recovered from a bout of smallpox that nearly killed him just short of a year ago. He insisted he was neither. Then, late on the night before he left for Vincennes, where he will stay, he woke me to say he thought the pox was to blame for his exclusion.
"It is because I do not look right," he said, tears streaming down his scarred face. "They are afraid I will scare the horses and ruin the pageants."
I told him not to cry, that no one would be frightened of him. To lie in such a situation cannot be a sin. In truth, the damage illness did to my once comely brother is shocking. Deep pits mark his face, and his nose remains misshapen. And part of me wonders, and feels guilty for doing so: Is he right? Has Mother left him behind because he would spoil the tableau that all murmur she wishes this progress to paint — a picture of the House of Valois triumphant and firmly in command of a France at last at peace? Surely one scarred little boy would not be the ruination of all her plans. No, I must believe he was left for his own good.
My sadness over separation from François cannot dampen my excitement for long. The trees give way to a more cultivated landscape. I spot a magnificent lagoon with an island in its center, then a portion of a château of white stone piped with delicate rose brick. It is long where Amboise was tall. I feel the wheels touch stone and my excitement surges. I am not alone: curtains on both sides of our conveyance are pushed open despite the rush of frigid air. The Baronne smooths her gown and then, reaching across, pinches both my cheeks.
We pass through a magnificent gate, stopping in an oval courtyard ringed by a delicate colonnade. Everywhere my grandfather's salamander greets us — carved in stone or worked in gold. Liveried figures and lackeys of all sorts swarm toward our coaches. Among the moving bodies and jumble of faces, I spy one I have been longing to see.
Without waiting for assistance, I reach out and fling the coach door wide. "Henri!" I hear Madame's gasp — a mingling of fear and disapproval — as I spring down, but I do not care. I haven't seen my thirteen-year-old brother in nearly two years. "You've grown so tall!"
"You have forgotten to say dignified." He takes my hand and makes a show of bowing over it. Then, pinching my arm, he turns and runs. I pursue as he weaves through the crowd in the courtyard and darts into the château.
Henri has the advantage. Not just because he is older and taller, but because he knows Fontainebleau. I pass through several rooms heedless of my surroundings, intent solely on closing the gap between myself and my brother. Then, suddenly, I am in a vast space. Winter light spills through enormous windows, causing the parquet floor to shine like ice, and swimming in this glossy surface I see my father's emblem. I stop and look upward, searching for the source of the illusion. There, among elaborately carved panels of wood touched with blue paint and gilt, I spy my father's device. Now that I have stopped, Henri stops as well.
"What is this place?" I ask.
"The salle des fêtes, you goose."
Ignoring the jibe, I turn slowly, admiring the room. Just behind my brother, frescos show hunting scenes like those I imagined this morning, only the figures are clothed in the ancient garb of myth rather than the grandiose fashions of the Court. I want to dance here. It is a ballroom after all. Without another thought, I begin an almain. As I rise to balance on the ball of one foot for the fourth time, Henri joins me. Humming beneath his breath, he catches up my hands and begins to lead me in a circle. I realize that we are no longer alone. A small dark figure stands just inside the door by which we entered. Mother! I pause, arresting Henri's motion, but not before he steps on my foot.
"Why do you stop?" Mother's voice is clear despite the considerable distance. "Come, let me see how you manage a gaillarde."
My brother does not hesitate. "We will do the eleven-step pattern," he whispers, and then begins to hum the more rapid music the dance demands. My brother is a natural athlete. And I, I am the stag, prancing and full of high spirits. As we execute the cadence and come to rest, Mother applauds.
"Henri my heart, you put gentlemen twice your age to shame! So elegant! It is pleasant to see you partnered by one whose looks and grace match your own. We must have a ballet featuring you both, now that Margot has come." Mother walks forward as she speaks, stopping just before us.
"As part of the Shrove Tuesday festivities?" my brother asks eagerly.
Mother smiles indulgently, offering her hand. "Ambition too," she says, stroking Henri's hair with her free hand as he bends over her other. "You are God's most perfect gift." Then, turning in my direction, her eyes harden and her lips compress. "Your gouvernante was at a loss to explain your whereabouts when I arrived in the Cour Ovale."
I feel myself blushing.
"It is my fault." Henri's voice surprises me. "I was waiting for Margot and whisked her away."
Mother's expression softens. Putting an arm around my shoulders, she says, "The King waits to receive you."
I imagined meeting Charles in his apartments — a gathering of family. So I am awed when a door opens to reveal His Majesty seated on a dais with dozens of courtiers in attendance.
A woman and a young man stand before him. I can see neither of their faces. Charles looks away from them at the sound of our entrance. He has become a man! A slight mustache darkens his lip. His face is not as handsome as Henri's, but it is kind. Does the King smile at the sight of me? If so, the smile is fleeting. Standing beside me, Mother gives a sharp nod and Charles' eyes return to the pair before him.
Taking advantage of his attention, the lady, who is exquisitely dressed, says, "Your Majesty, I appeal to your sense of justice. Surely a woman deprived of her husband by an assassin's hand is entitled to pursue his killer."
"Duchesse de Guise, Jean de Poltrot was put to death a year ago. Is that not justice?"
Charles' voice has deepened. If it is Anne d'Este who petitions, then the sandy-haired young man at her side must be her son Henri, Duc de Guise.
"Your Majesty, Poltrot may have struck the blow, but he was merely an instrument."
Mother sweeps forward. "Your Grace knows," she says, brushing past the Dowager Duchesse and ascending the dais to stand at Charles' side, "how dear justice and your persons are to His Majesty. But you must also know, Duchesse, how dear to His Majesty, indeed to all who care for France, is the present tenuous peace. It is not a year old. Would Your Grace kill it in its infancy with this lawsuit against Gaspard de Coligny?" Mother's eyes are piercing. They seek an answer while making quite clear that only one answer will do. "His Majesty does not dismiss your suit, he merely suspends it," she presses.
"Three years is a very long time to wait for justice." The Duc speaks, drawing himself up. He is very tall for a young man Charles' age.
Mother offers him a smile — the patronizing type adults give children. But she does not answer him. Instead she speaks to the dowager. "Your son's feelings honor his fallen father, but also reveal his youth. You and I, Duchesse, have lived long enough to know how very short a time three years are when properly reckoned."
The Duchesse curtsys. "Your Majesties, we will be patient, since that is the King's will." She touches her son on his shoulder and he bows, then the two make their way down the aisle. I see a mingling of confusion and impatience in the Duc's eyes as he glances sideways at his mother. He is quite as handsome as he is tall.
My observations are arrested by the voice of a household officer. "Her Highness the Duchesse de Valois," he announces.
I look at Madame and she nods. Down the aisle I go to a general murmuring while the others of my party, announced in the same officious tone, follow. Stopping at the foot of the dais, I am aware that all eyes are upon me. I stand as straight as I can before executing my curtsy.
"Sister," Charles says, "we are pleased to have you at our Court. You will be a great ornament to it, we are certain, for we have received good report of your wit and of your dancing."
I am surprised. I supposed my education beneath Charles' notice. And if Mother is the source of Charles' information, then I am astounded to hear him praise me. There have certainly been very few words of approbation in the letters she sends Madame — or at least in those portions read out to me. Why, I wonder, if she is willing to speak well of me to my brother, can Mother not spare a word of encouragement for me? I have worked so hard this past year — applying myself to every lesson, whether with the tutor she sent for me or with my dancing master.
Turning to Her Majesty, Charles says, "Madame, the collection of beauties in your household is already the envy of every court in Europe, and here is another lovely addition."
I am to be a member of my Mother's household!
"As Your Majesty's grandfather King Francis was wont to say, 'A court without beautiful women is springtime without roses,'" Mother replies, smiling.
* * *
Late in the afternoon I get my first glimpse of the roses. Dressed in the sort of finery seldom required at Amboise, I am shepherded to Mother's apartment by the Baronne de Retz, who came with me from Amboise. The door of Her Majesty's antechamber opens to reveal at least two dozen young women. The colors of their fine silks, velvets, and brocades set against the room's brightly painted walls dazzle my eyes, and the smell of perfumes — both sweet and spicy — fills my nose. The entire scene is fantastical and made even more so by the arresting spectacle of a bright green bird flying above the gathered ladies.
"Here is the little princess!" The woman who exclaims over my arrival gives a small curtsy. Smiling, she reaches out her hand. I offer mine. "She is like a doll," she says, spinning me around. The other ladies laugh and clap in admiration.
"Something is missing." This new speaker has hair so blond, it looks like spun gold. She also has the tiniest waist I have ever seen. I simply cannot take my eyes from it. Stepping forward, she takes my chin and tips my face first this way and then that. "A little rouge, I think."
There is a ripple through the assembled ladies and someone hands a small pot to the woman before me. Opening it, she dips her finger then touches it, now covered with a vermillion substance, to my lips. "Parfaite!" she declares. "She will break many hearts."
The Baronne de Retz clears her throat softly. "Mademoiselle de Saussauy, Princess Marguerite is too young to think of such things."
The pretty blonde laughs. "One is never too young to think of such things."
I like Mademoiselle de Saussauy.
"Where is Charlotte?" the Baronne asks.
A girl with chestnut hair and carefully arched eyebrows comes forward. "Your Highness, may I present Mademoiselle Beaune Semblançay. She is the young lady nearest to your own age among the present company. Perhaps you would like to become better acquainted?"
The Mademoiselle holds out her hand. "Come," she says, "let us go where we can see the dresses better as everyone enters."
"This is not everyone?" I ask, amazed.
"No indeed, not by half," my companion replies. "Her Majesty has four score ladies, from the best and oldest houses."
My companion threads herself expertly through the crowd until we reach a spot that she adjudges satisfactory. As the door swings open to admit two ladies arm in arm, Charlotte screens her mouth with one hand and says, "The shorter is the Princesse de Porcien, the taller her sister the Duchesse de Nevers."
I can see the resemblance. Both have luxurious hair with tones of auburn. Both have milk-white skin. The Duchesse, however, has the better features, for the Princesse has a childish roundness to her cheeks.
"How old is the Princesse?"
"Fifteen." I detect envy in my companion's tone.
Wanting to make my new friend happy, I whisper, "You are far prettier than she."
Charlotte kisses me on the cheek. But her pleasure is short-lived and the look of jealousy creeps back into her dark eyes. "Ah, but the Princesse has been married already three years. I will be fourteen this year and have no husband."
For a moment I no longer see the door or the ladies who enter. I am lost in thought. At Amboise my companions did not speak of men. But here the topic seems to be on the tip of every tongue, from Mademoiselle de Saussauy, who said it was never too early to think of charming them, to the girl beside me, who worries because she does not have one.
"Her Majesty the Queen."
The pronouncement brings me back to my surroundings.
I do not immediately see Mother, but I do see a splotch of black against the colorful garb of the ladies-in-waiting. Working my way toward these somberly clad figures, I find Mother with the green bird perched upon her shoulder.
I wait to be recognized, but her eyes pass over me.
"We must not keep His Majesty waiting," she declares, clapping her hands and putting her feathered companion back in flight.
The room is so full of movement, talking, and laughter that it seems impossible anyone but those of us closest could hear. Yet the effect of Mother's declaration is immediate. The ladies part, allowing Her Majesty to precede them, then follow in her wake.
Charlotte takes my arm. "Hurry, before the best places are taken."
The best places are those with the best view of the King and the powerful men assembled about him. My brother Henri is already seated tout proche to Charles. He gestures to Charlotte and me, and we move to join him. A young man beside him rises at our approach. "François d'Espinay de Saint-Luc," Henri says, inclining his head casually in the youth's direction. Then, changing the tilt, he says, "My sister." Saint-Luc bows.
"Do not even think of asking her to dance," Henri continues, patting the seat beside him and forcing Saint-Luc to move down one by the gesture. "Now she is come, I finally have an adequate partner and I will not suffer to share her."
I may sit beside him, but as the meal progresses I notice that another lady's eyes are constantly upon Henri. She has dark, curly hair and her dress is cut very low. "Who is that?" I ask Charlotte.
"Renée de Rieux."
"Is she one of us?"
"She is one of Her Majesty's maids of honor," Charlotte sniffs diffidently. "But she is very wild and ambitious. Take care: she will use anything you tell her to her advantage."
I look back at the girl. Not far from her, the tall woman who spun me round earlier sits with her hand possessively on the sleeve of a man clad entirely in black.
Excerpted from Médicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot. Copyright © 2015 Sophie Perinot. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part One: Si jeunesse savait ... (If only youth knew ...),
Part Two: Amour de Seigneur est ombre de buisson. ... (The love of a great man is either momentary or dangerous ...),
Part Three: La mort n'a point d'ami ... (Death hath no friends ...),
About the Author,
Also by Sophie Perinot,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Medicis Daughter is a charming novel that brings French history to life in a most compelling way. Told as the first-person story of young princess Margot, daughter of Catherine de Médicis, the story explores French turbulence over religion, European dynastic concerns and the politics of the monarchy through the lens of a coming of age story. As Margo comes to terms with her relationship with her powerful mother, her burgeoning sexuality and the politics of family we are surrounded by the intrigues of France in late 1500s. The novel flows smoothly, catching the reader up in the sights and sounds of court life. Written with lavish detail and attention to historical accuracy, this book is quickly consumed – leaving the reader wanting to know more about later chapters in Margot’s life. Readers will enjoy this tale of self-knowledge, religion, love and power.
One can read any of the other posted reviews to get a synopsis of the plot. What I can contribute however is my own personal opinion. Those who love historical fiction will devour this as it is an absolutely delicious read! Those who haven't embraced historical fiction with lust will understand why the rest of us do. Sophie Perinot expertly allows the modern reader to transport into another time and place. You will become so engrossed that it will tear you up when you have to put it down! Having read previous books of the same time period I can say with assuredness that events are kept within a margin of historic accuracy. Being a lover of historical fiction is not a prerequisite for reading and loving this book. I think every female reader will find a reason to relate to Margot. Sophie Perinot has a remarkable talent in showing how modern readers can become aware of our past while reveling in a good story. Sophie I applaud you and encourage all to enjoy this marvelous novel.
Princess Marguerite/Margot is summoned to court and was to join court. When Margot arrives she is excited to see her thirteen year old brother Henri who she hasn’t seen in almost two years. Then Margot is told King Charles wants to see her- told by her mother-. Charles is Margot’s brother also. Margot’s grandfather is the King of France. Margot’s mother Catherine is the Queen of France. Margot as well as her mother has the gift of premonition though some fear it Catherine tells Margot to never fear what can be useful to you. As Margot gets older she becomes more of a participant of court and less of an observer. As this story goes over a ten year period in Margot’s life.Margot meets her cousin Henri who tells her that when he was a child he was told he would become her husband. Eventually Henri does marry Margot when he is already the King of Navarre. It is very interesting to see Margot’s inner thoughts of the drama, politics, and power struggles that she has grown up with. Margot does get unconditional love from Henri De Guise but she has to choose as her former lover took the opposite side as her husband. Also her family took the opposite side. But then things change Margot’s marriage is annulled and she even becomes imprisoned by her own family for several years. But in the end Margot does triumph. I liked this story a lot and i wasn’t sure if I would but I learned a lot through this story and that is never a loss. I am glad I was not a royal back in this time of the story. Never knowing who to trust who would stab you in the back even family. I felt for Margot when she was younger wanting her mother’s love and attention. I admired the decisions she had to make even making her family turn on her. She had to make it on her own. A very interesting story and I am glad i read it. I recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
In MEDICIS DAUGHTER, Sophie Perinot paints a vivid portrait of power struggles, personal and political, in Renaissance France. Centering on Princess Marguerite and the religious conflicts that dominated her country as she came of age, the premise - in the hands of a lesser author - could well have slid into either soap opera territory or a more dull documentary narration of the machinations of various royal houses. But Perinot makes a young woman of the French royal family from the 16th century live and breathe on the page while also drawing the reader in to the deadly and complex politics of the world in which she grew up. I would've never imagined myself connecting as much as I did with a character like Marguerite, a girl and woman whose life could scarcely be more different from my own, but Perinot pulls it off. Moreover, Perinot does a masterful job showing how Marguerite learns, grows, and matures, and how her relationships with the other key characters - her mother, her brothers, and the men who woo her - shift and evolve in surprising ways. Perinot is at her best in the second half of the book, when the tensions between characters and the factions they represent tighten so much that the reader expects one ill-advised word to spark catastrophe. The dialogue is taut, barbed, and lively, reminding me of "Dangerous Liaisons." I would've never expected to become engrossed in a story of the French royal court, but I did. Anyone who's a fan of character-driven drama laced with political intrigue - whether historical or contemporary - should check it out.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Most people would put this book solely in the historical fiction part of the library or store, but I would possibly debate that this one could really go into the romance department, this one had a lot of romance at times for me and I wished for less of the romance drama and more of the court drama (although some may debate that there was a lot of this also). If you love a book with a large cast of characters, then this one is for you. This is one of those times where I had to get a sheet of note paper to write down a family tree and a court tree to keep things straight, I would have loved something in the front of the book to see and reflect. Yes, this book is long in page count, but more than that it was long in that the story moved VERY slow and I felt as though there were big unusual pauses in action. I wanted more moments of action linked together for some reason I had a hard time keeping my attention on the book.
This is a story of love, passion, intrigue, betrayal, and cruel violence - a true representation of this turbulent time in history. Plenty has been written about Catherine de Medici, so I found it incredibly fascinating to read about her daughter and the struggles she would have had living under her mother's controlling thumb. I quite enjoyed learning some of the machinations and descriptions of the The St Bartholemew's Day Massacre. The author did an outstanding job in bringing this turbulence to life in a very realistic and easy to understand fashion. Although Margaret de Valois has been much maligned throughout history, I liked how her motivations were presented and it helped to understand some of the hard choices Margaret had to make to survive in the tumultuous French and Italian courts. Everything about this story appealed to me - the era, the political climate, and the religious difficulties facing France and the French people. This fictional account of her life was well rendered and magically delivered. Definitely recommended! Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I just finished the historical novel Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot. Medicis Daughter tells the story of Catherine de Medici’s daughter, Marguerite de Valois (aka Margot). It is told from Margot’s perspective from the time she is a young girl through the days after her marriage (when she is nineteen) to her cousin, Henri, the King of Navarre. We find out how she lived her life under her mother’s thumb (and her brother’s, King Charles who seemed to have mental issues). We find out how she felt about the Protestants (Margot is Roman Catholic) and their fight with King Charles and how this affected her life. I picked Medicis Daughter because I enjoy history, and I love the show Reign. I thought it would be interesting to learn more about Margot. Medicis Daughter is a very long, drawn out novel (I just never got into this book). I found it to be very dry and dull (flat). It did not make for enjoyable reading. The story comes across more like a young adult novel in places (especially with Margot’s infatuation with Henri, Duc de Guise). There are also French words, phrases, and sentences with no translation (which is frustrating). The author did a very good job with the history. She was pretty accurate except for a few areas (which she notes at the end of the book). There are many characters (seems we were introduced to every person at court and anyone they met while traveling) in the book which can lead to a lot of confusion. I have to confess that I gave up after a while trying to keep all of them straight. I focused on the main characters (makes it easier). I give Medicis Daughter 2.5 out of 5 stars. I received a complimentary copy of Medicis Daughter from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.