Born on 13 April 1519, in Florence, Italy, Catherine was the heiress to the estates of both her father, Lorenzo II de Medici, Duke of Urbino, and her mother Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne. They both died soon after her birth. She then became a pawn in the hands of her Papal relatives, first Leo X, then Clement VII. It was Clement that negotiated her marriage to Henry, Duke d'Orleans, second son of King Francis I of France.
"owned a book with pages of bronze on which rotating disks represented the constellations. By manipulating them, she could easily work out the conjunctions essential to the reading of horoscopes."
She was especially diligent at this in the case of her children. She also used astrologers at court, one being Regnier, but the more famous being Cosimo Ruggieri. Ruggieri was not just an astrologer, but also a Black Magician too. In her book, Catherine de Medici, Leonie Frieda talks about some of the practices used by Catherine and Ruggieri to get rid of her enemies in the Protestant camp, in particular the use of dolls and models to torture and kill at a distance. After one battle in particular, three of the top Hugenot's were found in exactly the same position as the dolls used by Ruggieri.
"all palpitating, upon the great black wafer which covered the bottom of the paten, then placed on a table where some mysterious lamps were burning...the demon was charged to pronounce an oracle, and reply by the mouth of this head..."
We do not know the question allegedly asked of this oracle, but the answer given in "a feeble voice, a strange voice, which had nothing of human character about it..." was: "Vim patior" which in Latin means "I suffer violence." It is thought that this would be the king's fate in Hell for his part in the St Bartholomeaw's Day Massacre. On hearing this, he ran from the room, and died shortly after.
"I ask you, what could a woman do, left by the death of her husband with five little children on her arms, and two families of France who were thinking of grasping the crown—our own [the Bourbons] and the Guises? Was she not compelled to play strange parts to deceive first one and then the other, in order to guard, as she did, her sons, who successively reigned through the wise conduct of that shrewd woman? I am surprised that she never did worse."
Catherine de Medici, Leonie Frieda: http://www.leoniefrieda.com/review.htm
Catherine de' Medici, R. J. Knecht: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=2778
© James Edward Hughes 14/04/2010