chapter  7
16 Pages

Elizabeth I and Catherine de’ Medici

WithSusan Doran

An examination of the relationship between Elizabeth I and Catherine de’ Medici might seem an odd, or even inappropriate, topic for a collection of essays on AngloFrench relations inspired by the centenary of the Entente-Cordiale. An objection might be raised that Catherine cannot legitimately be treated as a representative of France as she was neither born nor acted as queen regnant there. Yet, although a native of Florence, Catherine was more French than anything else. She had moved away from Italy in 1533 when she was a young girl of 13; she wrote and spoke French fluently and was imbued with the culture of the Valois court. Furthermore, while never a queen regnant, from the time of her husband’s death in July 1559 until her own in January 1589, Catherine as la reine-mére played a significant role in French political life, influencing both French domestic affairs and international relations. Her voluminous correspondence is testimony to her close involvement in public affairs. The English State Papers, moreover, make clear that Queen Elizabeth and her ambassadors took Catherine very seriously indeed as a major political player, especially during the reigns of her younger sons, Charles IX and Henry III.