October 2019, published
Catherine de Medici’s Grandmotherhood
The Building of Emotional and Political Intergenerational Relationships
Abstract: Catherine de Medici’s role in the French government as a queen consort, regent and political adviser has been thoroughly studied. Notwithstanding her evil reputation, which scholars have lately reassessed, Catherine was a talented and skilful politician who wrote thousands of letters to maintain her own and her sons’ authority both inside and outside of France.
This paper aims to shed new light on Catherine’s complex representations and augment the existing historiography on her life. In addition to being an influential political figure, Catherine gave birth to ten children, some of whom subsequently produced children of their own. The paper focuses on the political significance of her grandmotherhood and how she used it to exercise political agency outside the borders of her realm by reviewing the letters she sent to her Franco-Spanish granddaughters, the Spanish ambassador and other people who were intimately involved in her granddaughters’ lives, as well as other key sources. This analysis not only reveals a new image of Catherine—that of a caring grandmother rather than an evil, power-hungry mother—but also highlights her close involvement in her granddaughters’ lives and the influence she was able to exert over the next generation of women in her family.