Set in Renaissance France at the magnificent court of the Valois kings, The Rival Queens is the history of two remarkable women, a mother and daughter driven into opposition by a terrible betrayal that threatened to destroy the realm.
Catherine de' Medici, the infamous queen mother of France, was a consummate pragmatist and powerbroker who dominated the throne for thirty years. Her youngest daughter Marguerite, the glamorous 'Queen Margot', was a passionate free spirit, the only adversary whom her mother could neither intimidate nor control. When Catherine forces the Catholic Marguerite to marry her Protestant cousin Henry of Navarre against her will, and then uses her opulent Parisian wedding as a means of luring his Huguenot followers to their deaths, she creates not only savage conflict within France but also a potent rival within her own family.
Rich in historical detail and vivid prose, Nancy Goldstone's narrative unfolds as a thrilling historical epic. Treacherous court politics, poisonings, international espionage and adultery form the background to a story whose fascinating array of characters include such celebrated figures as Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Nostradamus.
From Catherine's early struggles with her husband's exquisite mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and her exultant rise to power, through Marguerite's poignant sacrifice of love and happiness to save her husband's life, and ultimately to the political awakening that leads to a threat to her very survival, The Rival Queens is a dangerous tale of love, betrayal, ambition and the true nature of courage, the echoes of which still resonate.
Goldstone (The Lady Queen) upends conventional thought with this well-researched and well-written book, arguing that Catherine de' Medici (1519 1589), the French queen mother, was less Machiavellian in nature than generally believed and that she reacted to geopolitical situations with disastrous results for both her family and France. As a Catholic "power broker," de' Medici manipulated friends and rivals in her meticulous plan to ensure the marriage of her reluctant daughter Marguerite marriage to a French Huguenot (Protestant) prince then just as carefully had the new husband's wedding party slaughtered four days later. While this was clearly a ploy to combat the threat of a rising Protestantantism, it created an untenable political situation in France. For her part, Marguerite showed considerable intellect and negotiating skills as she maneuvered around religions, powerful French families, and constantly shifting political terrain while being sabotaged by her family and husband. Goldstone's witty comments make this historical family drama as easy to read as the best fiction, but it's all the more tragic for being true.