Profession: Queen Consort and Regent of France
Why Famous: Catherine was the only child of Lorenzo de' Medici, the ruler of Florence from 1516-19. In 1533, at fourteen, she was married to Henry, Duke of Orléans, then the second son of French king Francis I.
Catherine's early years at the French court were difficult, her husband favored royal mistresses over her, especially his favorite Diane de Poitiers, and she struggled to bear children. After her first child, Francis, was born in 1544 she bore a further eight children. Seven of her children survived to adulthood.
After her husband Henry II, King of France's death in 1559, Catherine began to exert a new authority and served as regent to her son Charles IX of France. Catherine played a important role during the French War of Religions, trying to initially make peace between French Roman Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots before increasingly turning against the Huguenots. Rumors abounded that it was she who ordered the murder that began the St Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572.
Catherine's influence declined under her son Henry III's reign and she went on the outlive all her children except for Henry who was murdered just months after her death.
- 1533-10-28 Prince Henry of France (later Henry II) (14) marries Florentine noblewoman Catherine de' Medici (14) in Marseille
- 1561-09-09 Conference of Poissy: Religious theologians gathered by Catherine de' Medici
- 1562-01-17 French regent Catherine de' Medici issues the Edict of St Germain recognizing Huguenots in France
- 1581-10-15 Commissioned by Catherine de' Medici, the 1st ballet "Ballet Comique de la Reine" is staged in Paris