Wednesday, May 26, 2010

C W Gortner on Why I Love Catherine de Medici

Anyone with an interest in famous women of history will have heard of Catherine de Medici: she’s that evil queen who allegedly poisoned her enemies and orchestrated a massacre. Or so the legend says.

Initially, I was attracted to Catherine because of her legend. I figure, when someone has such a bad reputation there must be more to their story. But as I began to research my book, I realized just how little I truly knew about this extraordinary woman who dominated France in the latter half of the 16th century, a contemporary of Elizabeth I and mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Catherine has been the target of a smear campaign that began in her lifetime and culminated with Alexander Dumas’s highly entertaining yet implausible 19th century depiction of her in La Reine Margot. One of the greatest misconceptions about Catherine is the accusation that she nurtured a “passion for power.” Catherine was not raised to rule yet she became regent for two of her sons until they came of age; naturally, she was overzealous at times in her protectiveness and had a tendency to seek compromise when a hard decision might have served her better. But it is unfair to accuse her of some innate ruthless drive to retain her power at any cost. Catherine faced a unique set of circumstances that would have challenged the most skilled of monarchs: she had under-age children and a kingdom that was being torn apart by the nobility. The clash between Protestants and Catholics was particularly brutal in France; it was Catherine’s misfortune to be caught up in it. Her alleged passion for power was in truth an attempt to retain control over the destiny of her realm and to safeguard her sons’ throne—both of which may have suffered far more, had she not been there.

To this day, Catherine remains tainted by actions that in essence she did not take of her own volition. She made serious errors in judgment but she was more motivated by the urgent need to stave off or salvage a crisis than to indulge a cold-blooded urge to eliminate all those who stood in her way.

C. W. Gortner, half-Spanish by birth, holds an M.F.A. in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California and has taught university courses on women of power in the Renaissance. He was raised in Málaga, Spain, and now lives in California.

Acclaimed for his insight into his characters, he travels extensively to research his books. He has slept in a medieval Spanish castle, danced in a Tudor great hall, and explored library archives all over Europe. His debut historical novel The Last Queen gained international praise and has been translated into eight languages to date. His new novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, will be published on May 25, 2010. He is currently at work on The Princess Isabella, his third historical novel, and The Secret Lion, the first book in his Tudor thriller series,The Spymaster Chronicles. You can visit C. W. Gortner’s website at


  1. I can't wait to get to know Catherine a bit better. Most of the books I have read where she has been a character have perpetuated the witchcraft stories among others.

    Happy release day CW!

  2. What a great start to some pre-book tour buzz.

    Thanks for hosting C.W. today. We're all very excited to see this book released.

    There will be chances to win copies of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici during his virtual book tour. I hope your readers follow along by stopping in during the month of June at

    Keep up the great work on your site. It's lovely.

    Thanks again.

    Pump Up Your Book Promotion

  3. I'm definitely looking forward to reading this book.

  4. Thank you and a special thanks to Historical Tapestry for hosting me. I love visiting this site, and hope readers here will enjoy Catherine de Medici's story.

  5. Thanks so much for stopping by Christoper! I loved the book!

  6. Great interview.I've ordered it.