Bad Girl, Bad Mother, Bad Queen: Catherine de’ Medici in Contemporary Fiction, Film, and History
Historians long regarded Catherine de’ Medici (1519–89) as “the Black Queen,” an evil despot and instigator of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572. Popular culture reflected this, notably Alexandre Dumas’ La Reine Margot (1845), Jean Plaidy’s novels (1951–53), and film and television. Yet historians like Ivan Cloulas, Leonie Frieda, and R.J. Knecht present a more complex, nuanced picture of her as a loving mother who sought peace and as a major patron of arts and scholarship. This chapter examines the traditional image, describes how modern scholarship has challenged it, and suggests why popular culture has failed to catch up.