The Confessions Of Catherine De Medici: A Novel

Paperback | May 24, 2011

byC. W. Gortner

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The truth is, not one of us is innocent. We all have sins to confess. So reveals Catherine de Medici, the last legitimate descendant of her family’s illustrious line. Expelled from her native Florence, Catherine is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France. In an unfamiliar realm, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children in a kingdom torn apart by the ambitions of a treacherous nobility. Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons, unaware that if she is to save France, she may have to sacrifice her ideals, her reputation, and the secret of her embattled heart.

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From the Publisher

The truth is, not one of us is innocent. We all have sins to confess. So reveals Catherine de Medici, the last legitimate descendant of her family’s illustrious line. Expelled from her native Florence, Catherine is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France. In an unfamiliar realm, Catherine strives to create a role for herself th...

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.From the Hardcover edition.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8.1 × 5.3 × 0.9 inPublished:May 24, 2011Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:034550187X

ISBN - 13:9780345501875

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A phenomenal read.
Date published: 2013-07-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Confessions of Catherine de Medici THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, by C.W. Gortner is by far the clearest, out-of the box-take on this usually overly vilified queen of France. This in depth biography-type novel reveals a Catherine that not many people know- and that in itself is incredibly original as well as refreshing. The Catherine in Gortner’s book has been researched to the max- and although the author took the liberty of slightly altering names and events for creativity and flowing purposes (this merely avoided the encumbrance of an historical index of names appearing just for the sake of accuracy- and I appreciated that!), the history is impeccably spot-on. Bravo for a novel that stuck to its essence while bringing us so much more! How can this Catherine be so different? Well, for one, THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, portrays an all-around complete Catherine; woman, mother, queen, lover, friend , ruler, patriot, and ultimate monarch. The emotions alone, that each of these roles entail are enormous and not always easy to convey in a novel; especially when written in the first person. Magically, Gortner achieves this to perfection. Is it possible to love Catherine, when history has done everything possible to morph her into an absolute monster? When you read the how’s and why’s of Catherine’s actions, you begin to understand the person behind the story. It’s often easier to hold on to shock images that create an impact effect rather than to delve into the intricacies of the history itself. After reading Gortner’s magnificent novel, I understood the history so much better. The details in Catherine’s life, France, her children, the political situation, the religion!- all in flawless account, like layers of a collage with Catherine woven into its web, this story opens up a whole new dimension into France’s ruling family of the time. And, if after reading this novel you still can’t find it in you to love Catherine- I guarantee you’ll begin to sympathize with her in ways you’ve never imagined. So many facets to this woman: Catherine was headstrong for her nation, yet showed vulnerability in the face of love. She kept strong for her husband and endured the belittlement and embarrassment caused by his mistress and that whole awkward situation. She arranged marriages for her offspring with the nation in mind- yet had immeasurable love for them and an acceptance of their choices which was unparallel of her time (Her love for her son, Henri, poured unconditionally-beautiful!). Catherine had an uncanny foresight for great things, but sadly never had anyone to completely share her own doubts, needs, fears and- love. The enlightenment that no religion should divide a country and that France was all her people, not only Catholics-this too was grand. I have to admit that I never truly believed the Jezebel portrayal, so I was especially glad to read this fantastic novel which revealed Catherine as a woman of immense substance. I now see Catherine as a woman and ruler who sacrificed all for the ultimate good of France- a huge responsibility which she took charge of with all her might. Her focus never deviating from her purpose –no matter the cost. I happen to love this quote from the book; Catherine while on her deathbed: “...I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect on this unseen entity who guides our path and to ponder why he has seen fit to test me so. Have I not struggled as much as any other for my blood? Others live fewer years; accomplish a mere fraction of what I have; and yet they sit enthroned with halos about their brows, while I sink like a villain in my own calumny. As I wait the inevitable, I see the dead...my sometimes enemies and accomplices, each martyr to their cause. Important as they were in life, through death they have become legend. And I ask myself, What legend will history inscribe for me? Read Catherine as you’ve never read before – It’s time history got a dusting-Thank you C.W. Gortner for polishing it to a shine. EXCELLENT!
Date published: 2012-05-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from History and Fiction mix for a great tale~!! The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is an historical fictional account of one of France's most notorious Queens. Catherine is a very loyal child, she understands her role in the political aspirations of her Medici family name. Even at a young age, she realizes that her destiny is one of greatness. Having the gift of 'sight', she becomes a very superstitious person, who sees signs and portents and dabbles in magical arts. Her uncle, Pope Clement, has betrothed her to the King of France's second son, Henri d'Orleans. She has no love for this man, but her duty requires her to stand strong in faith and with much determination, she makes the best of her situation. Ingraining herself into France's culture, she emerges as a champion of the countries soil. Amidst strife, and massacres like the one of St. Bartholomew, she must find her way. After several years of unsuccessfully producing an heir, Catherine becomes afraid for her future, however, King Francois I, has a special place in his heart for her, in another time, they may have been man and wife. He assures Catherine that she will produce him many fine grandchildren and Catherine is determined to fix her place in the royal family. Prince Henri believes he has married beneath himself and for many years, successfully ignores his marriage duties. His long time mistress, Diane de Poirtiers, keeps him away from court, and no matter what Catherine does to entice her husband, she fails. Ordered by his father to perform his marital duties, he dispassionately rapes her. However, no heir was produced and the two struggle to remain faithful to their duties. When Diane realizes her only hope to remain mistress is to encourage Henri of impregnating Catherine, the two begin to successfully produce the heirs that France so desperately yearn for. Catherine turns to magics to help her produce an heir and keep her husband coming to her bed, tired of court discussing her barreness. Whether they were successful or not, after eight years of non-production, Catherine goes on to birth six children. They are her life's passion and in her mother's undying love, she fails to see the jealousy and hidden innuendos amongst her own children. Diane continues to add strife to Catherine's life by having a hand in the raising of her children, sometimes adding fuel to the fire, discouraging Catherine's children from fully loving their mother. Catherine de Medici is a woman of many mysteries and C. W. Gortner has given her a different portrayal, of the woman beneath the rumours. Beginning from when she is a child, we read her thoughts and positions as she grows into womanhood and as she ages with time we learn of another possibility behind what made Catherine motivate herself to do the things she did. I truly enjoyed the book, the flow was excellent, the characters believable in their mannerisms and dialogues. I thought the passages descriptive and easily found myself envisioning the surroundings being described. I enjoyed C. W. Gortner's portrayal of Catherine, so much in history has her painted as an evil witch who poisoned those at her fancy, who controlled and manipulated everyone to her will, even when her judgements were lacking. Seeing her being portrayed as neither victim nor heroine but as a woman who has accepted what life has offered her and making the best of what is being presented to her. I was equally impressed with the graphic nature of some scenes, the author doesn't coat the facts when it comes to histories account of situations involving the players mentioned throughout the books pages. The references to the historical data being shared was interesting to read, such as Nostradamus, the religious persecutions of the Huguenots happening in France at the time, or the hostilities between Catherine and her daughter. Catherine de Medici becomes endearing to the reader through C. W. Gortner's portrayal. We learn that even though one wishes for the best outcomes, judgement and the machinations of those around you sometimes play a hand in even the best of plans. I found the story to be gripping, filled with mystery and magic and even though we know the outcome through history, I couldn't help turning the pages to see what happened next.
Date published: 2011-06-22

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Chapter OneI was ten years old when i discovered i might be a witch. I sat sewing with my aunt Clarice, as sunlight spread across the gallery floor. Outside the window I could hear the splashing of the courtyard fountain, the cries of the vendors in the Via Larga and staccato of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets, and I thought for the hundredth time that I couldn’t stay inside another minute.“Caterina Romelo de’ Medici, can it be you’ve finished already?”I looked up. My late father’s sister Clarice de’ Medici y Strozzi regarded me from her chair. I wiped my brow with my sleeve. “It’s so hot in here,” I said. “Can’t I go outside?”She arched her eyebrow. Even before she said anything, I could have recited her words, so often had she drummed them into my head: “You are the Duchess of Urbino, daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his wife, Madeleine de la Tour, who was of noble French blood. How many times must I tell you, you must restrain your impulses in order to prepare for your future?”I didn’t care about the future. I cared that it was summer and here I was cooped up in the family palazzo forced to study and sew all day, as if I might melt in the sun.I clapped my embroidery hoop aside. “I’m bored. I want to go home.”“Florence is your home; it is your birth city,” she replied. “I took you from Rome because you were sick with fever. You’re fortunate you can sit here and argue with me at all.”“I’m not sick anymore,” I retorted. I hated it when she used my poor health as an excuse. “At least in Rome, Papa Clement let me have my own servants and a pony to ride.”She regarded me without a hint of the ire that the mention of my papal uncle always roused in her. “That may be but you are here now, in my care, and you will abide by my rules. It’s midafternoon. I’ll not hear of you going outside in this heat.”“I’ll wear a cap and stay in the shade. Please, Zia Clarice. You can come with me.”I saw her trying to repress her unwilling smile as she stood. “If your work is satisfactory, we can take a stroll on the loggia before supper.” She came to me, a thin woman in a simple gray gown, her oval face distinguished by her large liquid-black eyes—the Medici eyes, which I had inherited, along with our family’s curly auburn hair and long-fingered hands.She swiped up my embroidery. Her lips pursed when she heard me giggle. “I suppose you think it’s funny to make the Holy Mother’s face green? Honestly, Caterina; such sacrilege.” She thrust the hoop at me. “Fix it at once. Embroidery is an art, one you must master as well as your other studies. I’ll not have it said that Caterina de’ Medici sews like a peasant.”I thought it best not to laugh and began picking out the offensive color, while my aunt returned to her seat. She stared off into the distance. I wondered what new trials she planned for me. I did love her but she was forever dwelling on how our family prestige had fallen since the death of my great-grandfather, Lorenzo Il Magnifico; of how Florence had been a center of learning renowned for our Medici patronage, and now we were but illustrious guests in the city we had helped build. It was my responsibility, she said, to restore our family’s glory, as I was the last legitimate descendant of Il Magnifico’s bloodline.I wondered how she expected me to accomplish such an important task. I’d been orphaned shortly after my birth; I had no sisters or brothers and depended on my papal uncle’s goodwill. When I once mentioned this, my aunt snapped: “Clement VII was born a bastard. He bribed his way to the Holy See, to our great shame. He’s not a true Medici. He has no honor.”Given his prestige, if he couldn’t restore our family name I didn’t know how she expected me to. Yet she seemed convinced of my destiny, and every month had me dress in my uncomfortable ducal finery and pose for a new portrait, which was then copied into miniatures and dispatched to all the foreign princes who wanted to marry me. I was still too young for wedlock, but she left me no doubt she’d already selected the cathedral, the number of ladies who would attend me—All of a sudden, my stomach clenched. I dropped my hands to my belly, feeling an unexpected pain. My surroundings distorted, as if the palazzo had plunged underwater. Nausea turned my mouth sour. I came to my feet blindly, hearing my chair crash over. A terrifying darkness overcame me. I felt my mouth open in a soundless scream as the darkness widened like a vast ink stain, swallowing everything around me. I was no longer in the gallery arguing with my aunt; instead, I stood in a desolate place, powerless against a force that seemed to well up from deep inside me . . .I stand unseen, alone among strangers. They are weeping. I see tears slip down their faces, though I can’t hear their laments. Before me is a curtained bed, draped in black. I know at once something horrible lies upon it, something I should not see. I try to stay back but my feet move me toward it with the slow certainty of a nightmare, compelling me to reach out a spotted, bloated hand I do not recognize as my own, part the curtains, and reveal“Dio Mio, no!” My cry wrenched from me. I felt my aunt holding me, the frantic caress of her hand on my brow. I had a terrible stomachache and lay sprawled on the floor, my embroidery and tangled yarns strewn beside me.“Caterina, my child,” my aunt said. “Please, not the fever again . . .”As the strange sensation of having left my own body began to fade, I forced myself to sit up. “I don’t think it’s the fever,” I said. “I saw something: a man, lying dead on a bed. He was so real, Zia . . . it scared me.”She stared at me. Then she whispered, “Una visione,” as if it was something she’d long feared. She gave me a fragile smile, reaching out to help me to my feet. “Come, that’s enough for today. Let us go take that walk, si? Tomorrow we’ll visit the Maestro. He’ll know what to do.”From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

“Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory fans will devour this.”—Booklist“Engrossing . . . a dramatic, epic novel of an all-too-human woman whose strength and passion propelled her into the center of grand events.”—Sandra Gulland, author of the Josephine B. trilogy“Highly recommended . . . a compelling and fascinating view of Catherine’s life and world.”—Historical Novels Review“Remarkably thoughtful in its insight into an unapologetically ruthless queen.”—Publishers Weekly “A fresh, well-researched and powerful portrait.”—RT Book Reviews