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.

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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.