The Woman in Black: The Image of Catherine de Medici from Marlowe to Queen Margot

  • Elaine Kruse
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)


The Discours Merveilleux de la Vie…de Catherine de Medicis1 [The Marvelous Discourse of the Life of Catherine de Medici], a tract published in 1574 anonymously, but attributed to Henri Estienne, was brought out in an English edition in 1693. The preface began: “no greater injury can be done to Posterity, than to bury in Oblivion the cursed Memory of those, whose Ambitious Designs for Rule and Empire have been managed with such Furious Lusts, that they have not stuck, in their pursuit of them, to commit the basest Villanies.”2 Thus, one hundred years after the death of Catherine de Medici, the Black Legend of the wicked Italian Queen surfaced again as an English tract in which John Wyat, the publisher, warned “to attain her ambitious Designs with Masculine thoughts, exchanged the imperfections of her Sex.”3 The Black Legend, the “cursed Memory” of Catherine de Medici, began as an attempt to bring down the regency of the Queen Mother, using anti-Italian and misogynist arguments about how unnatural it was to have a Queen.4 Reading the Black Legend carefully over time, we can detect the gender codes of the period in which the myth is revived.


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Copyright information

© Carole Levin, Jo Eldridge Carney, Debra Barrett-Graves 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine Kruse

There are no affiliations available

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