Rambling about books

Book review: The Rival Queens: Catherine de’Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal That Ignited a Kingdom, by Nancy Goldstone

Book cover from Goodreads

Catherine de’ Medici was a ruthless 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 followers to their deaths, she creates not only savage conflict within France but also a potent rival within her own family. Goodreads.


I have to admit that this was somewhat an ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ choose for me; I have never had any interest whatsoever with the French royalty history, seeing that they seem to be quite a bit pompous for my taste, but I was sold the moment I saw the cover. Truthfully I had a huge expectation about this book, not only for a small glimpse into the French royalty history, but about the dynamics between mother daughter. TLDR; didn’t quite get what I had expected.

Indeed the life of the French royalties were dazzling, to say the least, but apart from that I can’t see why I would be hooked with other stories. I was intrigued to learn more about how ruthless Catherine would be, seeing that her life has been a lifelong struggle to maintain her position in court, but not even halfway through the book, the author took a sharp turn in just giving more focus on Marguerite and how life has been throwing lemons (if not rotten ones) towards her.

To be perfectly fair, the opening of the book was very promising. Yes, the betrayal that was concocted by Catherine was recorded in history as St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and it did became the sharp knife that separates mother and daughter for the rest of their entire lives, but after the opening was over and so the thrill that the book had promised me was also over. Time and time again I was given phrases and paragraphs that sounded like it came out of some cheap tabloid during the sixteenth century. Every time a single chapter was about to be finished, the author seems like it needs to give a preview in the form of dramatic prose like I’m ready a synopsis for the next episodes of some b-class series.

Although I am very much annoyed by the way the story was written, but I am more concerned at how disappointed I am that in the end the book was not about the dynamics between mother and daughter but was more about Marguerite was cheated by life and how she overcame it and finally (depending on how one sees it) she won against life by outliving her vicious evil brother and mother, and was finally in a somewhat harmonious relationship with her ex-husband and his new family.

I feel cheated because I really was not signing up to read about Marguerite’s entire horrible lives, I wanted to know about the mother and daughter, but not all is bad. At the end of the book, we get to see the author concluding about the mother and daughter, how through time people’s perspective of the mother and daughter had changed. Catherine was seen as an evil woman vying for power control over France, but over time people had seen her ruthless act as a mere of survival instinct having been a foreigner to France and having been cheated by her husband over time. She was then seen as a ruthless and strong women, many might think her as a feminist herself for being able to hold down the French monarchy (she had three out of her four sons became the French kind) for as long as she did. Marguerite, on the other hand, was seen as  a victim of her mother’s ruthless act but also were loved by the people of France for her compassion and her love for arts, not the mention how she had able to keep a peace between the Catholics and the Huguenots. Now, most people had only focused on her philandering, her love affairs with various men (it needs to be noted that it was not a strange thing in that era for both male and female to have a lover outside of marriage, although maybe women must be extra discreet about the affairs), her obsession for a love that would sweep one’s feet of the floor, and her frivolous interest for arts.

That conclusion was interesting because it is true in many account when one talks about a female figure; it only revolves in whether this certain female a ruthless person or just frivolous. And when she’s ruthless, she’s either being portrayed as a power hungry person or (some very few lucky ones) seen as a strong women ahead of its time. But, when she’s frivolous, well let’s just say a frivolous women is expected of her gender (ha, such a joke).

So, to conclude this rambling, do I hate the book? Not necessarily, because I did gain some new information from it (which is how I like my book) but I would have preferred to be reading something else.


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️☆☆

Title: The Rival Queens: Catherine de’Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal That Ignited a Kingdom

Author: Nancy Goldstone

Genre: Biography/Memoir, History, Non fiction

Goodreads link

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