Yes, it is true, I am dipping my toe into the wonderful world of video production and Youtube channels! Some of you have already visited my channel to watch my book trailer and other items. But today I bring you the first installment of a series–Tales from the Valois Court.

Enjoy! And do take a minute to let me know what you think!

Today marks 350th Anniversary of the ignition of the Great Fire of London, which burned for days  (September 2–5, 1666). Driven by gale force winds and accompanied by a panic stoked by rumors of foreign involvement, the blaze destroyed more than 13,000 dwellings leaving upwards of 70,000 Londoners homeless. It also destroyed businesses and significant landmarks in including St. Paul’s Cathedral. Remarkably, the official death toll for the three day conflagration was only 6.  However, it should be remembered that many of the lower and lower-middle-class victims may not have been recorded.

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My countdown of the weird, wild and wonderful of the late Valois era continues. Part II of my video series of historical tidbits is now complete. Enjoy! And, as always, if you want more (much more) Valois Court intrigue, pick up a copy of Medicis Daughter.

I am constantly reminded that quite often the strangest things that are included in my books–the ones that cause readers to send me notes saying “really Sophie? really?” are NOT details that I created, but rather those that are historically verifiable. In the case of the French Valois court there were many historical tidbits that caused me to do a double-take, some of which made the finished novel, Médicis Daughter,  and some of which didn’t.

Knowing that many of my faithful readers are as likely to geek out over these dramatic goodies as I was, I am creating a two part countdown of ten of the juiciest, weirdest, historical tidbits from my research into 16th century Valois France. Below is Part I.  Enjoy!

Welcome to the world premier of the Médicis Daughter book trailer. I’d love to hear what you think . . . does it capture the essence of the novel?

Summer of History (1)

One of the best things about being a historical novelist is connecting with other writers in the genre, getting to know their work and then introducing them to you–my readers and friends.  That’s why I am in love with the event I am announcing today: THE SUMMER OF HISTORY GIVEAWAY.

Not only do you have the chance to win my novel Medicis Daughter (if it is not already in your collection), you have the opportunity to win books and prizes (including a colossal $100 gift card) from 18 other top writers of historical fiction. What could be better than new books just in time to let you kick back, put your feet up, and enjoy the warm weather with a great book. Nothing.

Entry is simple. Just follow the link and Pick five books that you’d like to win!

In mid-July of 1572 a French Huguenot nobleman, the Seigneur de Genlis, invaded Netherlands from France with 4,000 infantry and slightly less than 1,000 Calvary. It went badly. Don Frederic of Toledo routed the Seigneur and his troops at Quiévrain, and not two hundred Frenchmen survived (those who survived the battle proper where quickly slaughtered by local peasants). Gossip and fallout at the French Court was immediate.

A good number of courtiers and foreign figures (for example the Venetian ambassador) were sure Genlis had been sent by Admiral Coligny with the King’s knowledge. Others avowed, adamantly, that the Seigneur had gone without the knowledge or permission of either the King or the Admiral.Genlis

Frankly, and after years researching the Valois Court in this era, it is impossible for me to believe that the King did not at least know of Seigneur de Genlis’ plan in advance, whether or not he tacitly approved it, if for no other reason than the planned invasion was a very open secret at French Court. So much so that Spain caught wind of it making for an easy interception of the French near mons. Additionally, a letter evidencing Charles complicity found on Genlis when was taken prisoner.

Yet confronted with the invasions catastrophic failure, Charles denied that he sanctioned the expedition and congratulated Philip II on his victory. This represented more than a desperate effort to distance himself from a plan run amok.  His actions were at his mother Catherine de Médicis’ behest and she also demanded that he declare publicly that his subjects had disobeyed his orders in going to Flanders. All of this suborning of what was basically perjury was part of a larger struggle between the Queen Mother and Admiral Coligny for the role of chief-influencer over Charles. War with Spain was on the table and while Coligny pressed for it, Catherine was against it.

Less than two months later the winner and loser of this struggle would become painfully and bloodily clear.

Part of being a writer is slipping into other skins.

While the point-of-view character for my most recent novel, Médicis Daughter, is the youngest Valois Princess, Marguerite, her mother Catherine de Médicis plays a vital role in the story (often as Margot’s antagonist). That meant getting in Queen Catherine’s head and trying to understand her psyche.Interview with Catherine

Recently I was invited to go back to that sometimes dark but always interesting place, and be Catherine in a character interview for Erin of Flashlight Commentary. As we wandered through the gardens of one of Catherine’s favorite properties, Château de Montceaux, Erin asked some very thought provoking questions.  I hope everyone enjoys my answers on behalf of this powerful, crafty Queen.

Of course for more of Catherine and the entire dysfunctional Valois clan, you only need to pick up Médicis Daughter.

The first mention of a match between Marguerite de Valois and Dom Sebastian, King of Portugal, dates back to the reign of Francis II, when the French Ambassador at Lisbon sent Dom Sebastian a portrait of the young Margot.  Nothing came of those efforts though and other grooms—as readers of Médicis Daughter know—were subsequently proposed for the youngest Valois Princess.

In July of 1569, however, SERIOUS negotiations re-opened for a marriage between Margot and the young (17) king of Portugal.  Fourquevaux (the French Ambassador in Spain) received necessary powers conclude a treaty with Philip II (the King of Portugal’s Uncle) who exercised a protectorate of sorts over his nephew’s kingdom. Dom Sebastian

Unfortunately for Margot, like some of her previous prospective grooms, the Portuguese King, while undeniably handsome and powerful, appears to have been seriously flawed. In the first instance he had been reared by a pair of monks who appear to have made him into a serious misogynist. Additionally, Catherine’s ambassadors quickly informed her her that doctors seemed to believe the young man would not live long and that there is some question as to “whether he was ‘of any use to have children.”

None of this dissuaded Catherine de Médicis from pursuing the match however because . . . well . . . there was that power thing.

At first Spanish king also seemed disposed towards the marriage and Pope Pius V was very happy with the idea (as he desired to see a stronger union between the Catholic powers so they could battle the Turks AND the Protestant powers together).  The Dowager Queen of Portugal, however, had a preference for marrying her son to an Austrian Archduchess.

Ultimately Dom Sebastian didn’t live long enough to marry anyone and Margot ended up with a groom even less to her liking.

June 30th 1559 marks the anniversary of the accident that ended the life and reign of France’s King Henri II. The king was jousting in tournaments celebrating peace with Hapsburgs, the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to Philip of Spain, and the betrothal of his own sister, Marguerite, to Emmanuel-Philbert, Duc of Savoy, when a lance splintered. 5 splinters—the largest of which struck his forehead above the right eyebrow and pierced his left eye–were removed from Henri’s head without anesthetic yet he cried out only once. Henri was conscious pretty quickly after his horrific injury, and by July 1 he had rallied sufficiently to sleep, eat and drink. On July 2nd and 3rd he dictated letters, orders for his sister’s wedding etc., but late on July 4th he developed a fever and rapidly lost sight and speech.
 
Last Rites administered on July 9th, and the King died on July 10th at the age of 40 and having reigned over France for 12 years. Henri II wounded
 
Queen Catherine de Médicis chose to wear black for the rest of her life (eschewing the traditional French color of morning for queens – white).
 
At the time of Henri II’s death and the ascension of Francis II the French crown was financially unstable and heavily in debt (one source puts that debut at approximately 40 million Livres—to put that in perspective the crown’s income was nearer to 12 million Livres per annum at this time). There were difficult times to come for the Valois . . . Times you can read more about in Médicis Daughter.