chancellorship Michel de l’Hôpital (q.v.), who advocated the policy of conciliation.
On the death of Francis (5th of December 1560), Catherine became regent during the minority of her second son, Charles IX., and now found before her a career worthy of the most soaring ambition. She was then forty-one years old, but, although she was the mother of nine children, she was still very vigorous and active. She retained her influence for more than twenty years in the troubled period of the wars of religion. At first she listened to the moderate counsels of l’Hôpital in so far as to avoid siding definitely with either party, but her character and the habits of policy to which she had been accustomed, rendered her incapable of any noble aim. She had only one virtue, and that was her zeal for the interests of her children, especially of her favourite third son, the duke of Anjou. Like so many of the Italians of that time, who were almost destitute of a moral sense, she looked upon statesmanship in particular as a career in which finesse, lying and assassination were the most admirable, because the most effective weapons. By habit a Catholic, but above all things fond of power, she was determined to prevent the Protestants from getting the upper hand, and almost equally resolved not to allow them to be utterly crushed, in order to use them as a counterpoise to the Guises. This trimming policy met with little success: rage and suspicion so possessed men’s minds, that she could no longer control the opposing parties, and one civil war followed another to the end of her life. In 1567, after the “Enterprise of Meaux,” she dismissed l’Hôpital and joined the Catholic party. But, having failed to crush the Protestant rebellion by arms, she resumed in 1570 the policy of peace and negotiation. She conceived the project of marrying her favourite son, the duke of Anjou, to Queen Elizabeth of England, and her daughter Margaret to Henry of Navarre. To this end she became reconciled with the Protestants, and allowed Coligny to return to court and to re-enter the council. Of this step she quickly repented. Charles IX. conceived a great affection for the admiral and showed signs of taking up an independent attitude. Catherine, thinking her influence menaced, sought to regain it, first by the murder of Coligny, and, when that had failed, by the massacre of St Bartholomew (q.v.). The whole of the responsibility for this crime, therefore, rests with Catherine; unlike the populace, she had not even the excuse of fanaticism. This responsibility, however, weighed but lightly on her; while her son was overwhelmed with remorse, she calmly enjoyed her short-lived triumph. After the death of Charles in 1574, and the succession of Anjou under the name of Henry III., Catherine pursued her old policy of compromise and concessions; but as her influence is lost in that of her son, it is unnecessary to dwell upon it. She died on the 5th of January 1589, a short time before the assassination of Henry, and the consequent extinction of the House of Valois. In her taste for art and her love of magnificence and luxury, Catherine was a true Medici; her banquets at Fontainebleau in 1564 were famous for their sumptuousness. In architecture especially she was well versed, and Philibert de l’Orme relates that she discussed with him the plan and decoration of her palace of the Tuileries. Catherine’s policy provoked a crowd of pamphlets, the most celebrated being the Discours merveilleux de la vie, actions et déportemens de la reine Catherine de Médicis, in which Henri Estienne undoubtedly collaborated.
See Lettres de Catherine de Médicis, edited by Hector de la Ferrière (Paris, 1880, seq.), in the Collection de documents inédits sur l’histoire de France; A. von Reumont, Die Jugend Caterinas de’ Medici (1854; French translation by A. Baschet, 1866); H. Bouchot, Catherine de Médicis (Paris, 1899). For a more complete bibliography see Ernest Lavisse, Histoire de France (vol. v., by H. Lemonnier, and vol. vi., by J. H. Mariéjol, 1904–1905). See also Miss E. Sichel’s books, Catherine de’ Medici and the French Reformation (1905), and The Later Years of Catherine de’ Medici (1908).
CATHERINE OF ARAGON (1485–1536), queen of Henry VIII. of England, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, was born on the 15th or 16th of December 1485. She left Spain in 1501 to marry Arthur, prince of Wales, eldest son of King Henry VII., and landed at Plymouth on the 2nd of October. The wedding took place on the 14th of November in London, and soon afterwards Catherine accompanied her youthful husband to Wales, where, in his sixteenth year, the prince died on the 2nd of April 1502. On the 25th of June 1503, she was formally betrothed to the king’s second son, Henry, now prince of Wales, and a papal dispensation for the alliance was obtained. The marriage, however, did not take place during the lifetime of Henry VII. Ferdinand endeavoured to cheat the English king of the marriage portion agreed upon, and Henry made use of the presence of the unmarried princess in England to extort new conditions, and especially to secure the marriage of his daughter Mary to the archduke Charles, grandson of Ferdinand, and afterwards Charles V. Catherine was thus from the first the unhappy victim of state politics. Writing to Ferdinand on the 11th of March 1509, she describes the state of poverty to which she was reduced, and declares the king’s unkindness impossible to be borne any longer. On the old king’s death, however, a brighter prospect opened, for Henry VIII. decided immediately on marrying her, the wedding taking place on the 11th of June and the coronation on the 24th. Catherine now enjoyed a few years of married happiness; Henry showed himself an affectionate husband, and the alliance with Ferdinand was maintained against France. She was not without some influence in state affairs. During Henry’s invasion of France in 1513 she was made regent; she showed great zeal and ardour in the preparations for the Scottish expedition, and was riding towards the north to put herself at the head of the troops when the victory of Flodden Field ended the campaign. The following year an affectionate meeting took place between the king and queen at Richmond on the return of the former. Ferdinand’s treachery, however, in making a treaty with France roused Henry’s wrath, and his angry reproaches fell upon his unfortunate wife; but she took occasion in 1520, during the visit of her nephew Charles V. to England, to urge the policy of gaining his alliance rather than that of France. Immediately on his departure, on the 31st of May 1520, she accompanied the king to France, on the celebrated visit to Francis I., called from its splendour the Field of the Cloth of Gold; but in 1522 war was declared against France and the emperor again welcomed to England. In 1521 she is represented by Shakespeare as pleading for the unfortunate duke of Buckingham.
These early years of happiness and of useful influence and activity had, however, been gradually giving way to gloom and disappointment. Between January 1510 and November 1518 Catherine gave birth to six children (including two princes), who were all stillborn or died in infancy except Mary, born in 1516, and rumour did not fail to ascribe this series of disasters to the curse pronounced in Deuteronomy on incestuous unions. In 1526 the condition of Catherine’s health made it highly improbable that she would have more children. No woman had ever reigned in England, alone and in her own right, and to avoid a fresh dispute concerning the succession, and the revival of the civil war, a male heir to the throne was a pressing necessity. The act of marriage, which depended for its validity on the decision of the ecclesiastical courts, had, on account of the numerous dissolutions and dispensations granted, not then attained the security since assured to it by the secular law. For obtaining dissolutions of royal marriages the facilities were especially great. Pope Clement VII. himself permitted such a dissolution in the case of Henry’s own sister Margaret, in 1528, proposed later as a solution of the problem that Henry should be allowed two wives, and looked not unfavourably, with the same aim, on the project for marrying the duke of Richmond to Mary, a brother to a sister. In Henry’s case also the irregularity of a union, which is still generally reprobated and forbidden in Christendom, and which it was very doubtful that the pope had the power to legalize, provided a moral justification for a dissolution which in other cases did not exist. It was not therefore the immorality of the plea which obstructed the papal decree in
- Cat. of State Pap., England and Spain, i. 469.
- Letters and Papers, iv. 6627, 6705, and app. 261.
- Ib. iv. 5072.