After the finale of CW’s Reign—which featured a cameo by the youngest Valois Princess, Marguerite—a number of the shows fans have reached out to me about who Margot was.  Of course I’ve written a whole novel on that 😉 but I thought I might do a few posts showing how Margot’s life overlapped with that of Mary Queen of Scots while that lady was in France.

Margot and Mary #1:  As a little girl Princess Margot passed significant time with Mary Queen of Scots.  In fact, the French Princess and youngest daughter of Catherine de Médicis passed her earliest years at Saint-Germain in the company of her elder sisters Elisabeth (destined to be Queen of Spain) and Claude (future Duchess of Lorraine), and her future sister-in-law Mary Stuart.

Mary Marguerite Connection 2

After Margot’s sisters married (the last married in 1559 when Margot was 6) she spent most of her time at the Château de Vincennes with her younger brothers Henri (Duc d’Anjou) and François (at that time—before the death of Francis II and before his confirmation—called Hercule. Then the Massacre of Vassy occurred (March 1562) and Catherine de Médicis kept only her son Henri with her while sending her two youngest—Margot and François—to Amboise. The Château of Amboise was chosen because it was peaceful and sufficiently removed from the theater of war to prove a safe retreat.  It is at this Château, with Margot anticipating a visit from her powerful mother, that my novel MÉDICIS DAUGHTER begins.

Mary connection July 6

Think your Mom is hard to select a Mothers’ Day gift for? Here is my humorous take on poor Marguerite de Valois—youngest daughter of Catherine de Médicis and central character in my most recent novel, Médicis Daughter—trying to pick out the perfect gift for her mother.

Oh and Mothers’ Day is just a week away readers, so mail those cards and pick up those last minute presents. And remember, books make GREAT gifts.

Share/Save

This is the four-hundred-and-second anniversary of the death of Marguerite de Valois, Princess and then Queen of France, and central character in my novel, MÉDICIS DAUGHTER. Marguerite was the 8th child of Henri II of France and his queen Catherine de Médicis. Healthy, intelligent and beautiful—Margot was, sadly, never anyone’s favorite child, and may well have been Catherine’s least favorite. As I say in the authors to my novel:

Fate was not so kind to Marguerite de Valois. Nor was history.

Margots Death DateSalic law kept her from ruling in France after the death of her last brother, with the crown passing to her cousin/husband the King of Navarre. And a single anonymous political pamphlet during her lifetime was later taken for history not slander, leaving people with the impression Margot was nothing more than a wanton sex-addict. Yet the historical record shows that Marguerite was highly intelligent, politically astute, and (in her later years) a serious force in the literary life of France. She also had a fierce conscience.

I hope that in my novel I did this Princess justice.  For those who enjoyed my book, I recommend reading Margot’s own Memoirs—which provide a vivid exposition of France during her lifetime.

MÉDICIS DAUGHTER on Amazon http://amzn.to/2nBP3bU

At Book Depository [FREE worldwide shipping] http://bit.ly/2o4yNwJ

At Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/1qk7Ztw

Ah, what a wonderful thing it is to be young and in love–unless you are a 16th century Valois Princess and your mother, Catherine de Médicis, disapproves of your entanglement.  That is precisely the situation of my heroine, Princess Marguerite, in Médicis Daughter.  Of course she should have known that marriage is not a matter of love when you are a royal. After all didn’t her dear friend and mentor, Henriette Duchess de Nevers, warn her long ago:

Fair of face’ is a fine consideration for flirting but of little import in marrying . . . .“Remember girls, marriage is a matter of politics, finance and family.  Looks are for lovers.

What to do, what to do?

Enjoy the Official Spring Trailer for 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.

On this day four-hundred-and-one years ago, Marguerite de Valois, heroine of Médicis Daughter, died.  margots death dateThe last of the Valois was initially buried at the Basilica of St Denis, traditional resting place of French Royals and the place where both her parents and her brothers lay. Unfortunately, the French Revolution showed no respect for the dead.  So the bodies of the Bourbon and Valois monarchs were removed from the Basilica to “celebrate” the October 1793 execution of Marie Antoinette, and given ignominious trench burials. The monument that marked Marguerite’s grave was destroyed. Today the location of Marguerite’s tomb is not on maps of burial places at St. Denis, although her brother Henri III and her parents Catherine de Médicis and Henri II are still listed.

Click here for more on the tragic revolutionary “Profanation at Saint Denis.”

Today is the six-week anniversary of the release of Médicis Daughter, and just look how the book has grown!  It now has more than 50 reviews on Amazon, was both a Goodreads and a Barnes & Noble fiction pick last month, and has received scads of excellent and thoughtful reviews by book bloggers.  And that’s ALL thanks to you my friends—readers, bloggers, fellow historical novelists. So it seems only fair to me that any present marking this occasion MUST go to one of your number.

Thus, I am offering a giveaway—this handy mug which has a twin right here on my very own desk. Sexier Than Tudors MugWant  Marguerite de Valois (at least as I imagine her) beside you when you enjoy your morning coffee? Then please enter.

You get one entry for leaving a comment below telling me why you think the Valois run rings around the Tudors when it comes to intrigue and/or sex appeal. Collect another entry for visiting the Médicis Daughter facebook fan page (make sure to “like” it if you haven’t already).  And you can earn a whopping TWO additional chances to win should you chose to share a tweet celebrating the novel’s 6-wk birthday!

Contest ends one week from today (January 19th)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Light is a frequent literary device. It can be an emblem of hope, a way to see what has been hidden, even a method of symbolically driving back demons.  This month a collection of historical novelists, including myself, have decided to use light in all those ways, by creating a weekly blog event (#LightOnOurLadies) to illuminate the historical women at the center of our writings. The main character in my next novel, Médicis Daughter, is profoundly in need of such illumination. 

History has not been kind to 16th century French Princess Marguerite de Valois. In fact, she has been quite viciously misremembered as a wanton and a woman without substance. Before I explain how I think that happened, please allow me to shine a little light on the real Marguerite.

Born at the Château of Saint-Germain overlooking the Seine, as her father had been before her, Marguerite (or Margot as she was affectionately called) was the eighth child of King Henri II of France and Queen Catherine de Médicis.  Described by the poet Ronsard as tall and graceful, with fine pale skin, sparkling black eyes, and chestnut hair, Margot stood out even at a Court renowned for its beauties. But she had more than looks going for her—far more. A true granddaughter of François I, Margot was highly intelligent. She loved books, and often got so swept away by them that she forgot to eat or sleep (sound familiar to anyone reading this?). As a mature woman, Margot was a serious and influential force in the literary life of France. A student of more than literature, Margot was a solid classics scholar. She spoke multiple languages fluently, and also had a genuine talent for public speaking. This she was frequently asked to do, often representing one royal brother or another. Finally Margot had a keen grasp of the fine points of statecraft. Arguably her political acumen exceeded that of her brothers, making her the most similar of all her siblings to her strong-willed, politically expert mother, Catherine de Médicis.

Why then, if Margot was as competent as she was pretty is she so little remembered? And when recalled, why is Margot depicted not as she was, but as lascivious and nearly amoral?

To put it simply, Marguerite de Valois was a victim of poor timing. She was born at the end of her dynasty.

When a royal house expires, its last years are generally recounted by people who have political and personal agendas that make it tempting to denigrate their predecessors. Such was the fate of Valois in the late 16th Century. Slander and denigration of royal family began during their lifetimes, largely fed by the tensions and rivalries of a vicious series of wars (the French Wars of Religion) that stretched from the early 1560s beyond the end of the Valois reign. No member of the Valois was exempt from the attacks of gossips, or from the writings of anonymous political pamphleteers.  Anti-Valois propagandists seeking to degrade Marguerite chose that easiest and most ancient path for destroying a woman: assertions of rabid sexual desire and wanton conduct.

Slanderous talk about Margot began early among her family’s enemies, but she owes most of the lasting defamation of her character to a single printed work, Le divorce Satyrique. This malicious pamphlet was composed in her lifetime.  It mocked and insulted Margot as it set out grounds for a proposed annulment of her marriage to Henri de Bourbon. Margot’s cousin/husband was no longer merely King of the Navarre, but King Henri IV of France—and a king in need of an heir. We all know that a King in need of an heir will do what it takes to be rid of a queen who cannot give him one.  So, grounds for an annulment were created and printed.  That such a piece of propaganda should have been taken up as fact and treated as history for so long may seem astounding to us today, but early chroniclers of the French court were often not particularly concerned with objectivity. Nor were early historians. As Robert Ja Sealy remarks in The Myth of the Reine Margot, “the documentary sources for our knowledge. . . were written during the wars of religion and, all too frequently are colored by political expediency . . .”  Objectivity as a goal rather than a veneer is a rather recent requirement for history and historians. Even some of the histories written in the 19th and early 20th centuries make no pretense at objectivity in recounting the period of the Wars of Religion. Rather, their authors unabashedly announce in their prefaces which side they are on. Margot, considered not a particularly important historical player, remained largely unexamined.  The myths about her grew and thrived in darkness.

In Médicis Daughter I’ve focused a strong and clear light on the historical Marguerite, creating a coming-of-age story that does her better justice than she received from Valois disparagers, or from those later historians who saw no reason to look more closely.  Médicis Daughter releases six weeks from today. To learn more about the book, visit the novel’s page at Amazon, or on Facebook.

 

And now,

As part of the Shining Light on Our Ladies Tour,  please meet my fellow authors Helen Hollick and Alison Morton… and their ladies

 Alison Morton is a woman after my own heart.

Raised by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to Alison Morton that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. After six years, she left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things she can’t talk about, even now…

Fascinated by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation since childhood, she wondered what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Alison lives in France and writes award-winning Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough Praetorian heroines – INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO and now

…  AURELIA:  Late in 1960s, Aurelia is sent to Berlin to investigate silver smuggling, former Praetorian Aurelia Mitela barely escapes a near-lethal trap.  Her old enemy is at the heart of all her troubles and she pursues him back home to Roma Nova but he has struck at her most vulnerable point her young daughter. Please visit Alison (and Aurelia) to read more – and a chance to win a paperback copy of Aurelia

Helen Hollick is a fierce advocate for Indie Authors.

She lives on a thirteen-acre farm in Devon, England. Born in London, Helen wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science-fiction and fantasy, and then discovered historical fiction. Published for over twenty years with her Arthurian Trilogy, and the 1066 era, she became a ‘USA Today’ bestseller with Forever Queen. She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, pirate-based fantasy adventures. As a supporter of Indie Authors she is Managing Editor for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and inaugurated the HNS Indie Award.

On her blog today Helen introduces some ladies from the Court of King Arthur, except this ‘court’ is set in 5th century Britain and her Gwenhwyfar, Morgause and Morgaine are very different from the ladies of the Medieval tales!

ENJOYING THE SHINING LIGHT ON OUR LADIES TOUR?  Then please join us again NEXT TUESDAY when we set sail with Captain Jesamiah Acorne’s ladies aboard Sea Witch, meet a lady surgeon disguised as a man aboard another ship, and are introduced to lady  blackmailed into marrying a knight….

 

 

Yesterday was Marguerite de Valois’ birthday.

Born in 1553 the protagonist of Médicis Daughter, as you will discover in my novel, was much more than history gives her credit for.   I always think of her on her birthday and wonder “what if” (what if Salic law hadn’t prevented her from ruling in France when her last brother–Henri III–died? What if she’d be able to give her husband Henri IV a son?).  I hope that in my novel I have given her a gift: a story that is worthy of her and undermines the pernicious rumors—started by political pamphleteers in her own time—that she was a wanton, a hedonist and not much more.  So maybe my book is a birthday gift, belated but nonetheless . . .

Well yesterday I got a present: A box, perched atop my mailbox, containing the bound galleys of Médicis Daughter.  They weren’t expected.  They could have come any day.  But they arrived on Marguerite’s birthday.  A sign? I sure hope so!

Voila mes amis! I am very pleased and proud to introduce you to the visually stunning cover for my next novel, Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois.  Yes, that is Marguerite in the forground and the goreous, iconic Chateau de Chenonceau in the background (a palace that is one of the settings from the book).  What’s my favorite thing about it if I can’t say everything?  The small, sinister, dark bird Margot is looking at in the sky.  Psst, readers, keep an eye out for black birds as a recurring theme in the novel.

For those of you who are super eager, as of today you can pre-order Médicis Daughter on Amazon.