Read The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine De Medici Online

Authors: Jeanne Kalogridis

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical

The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine De Medici

BOOK: The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine De Medici
6.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

 

 

 

The Devil’s Queen

 

 

 

 

 

ALSO BY JEANNE KALOGRIDIS

 

I, Mona Lisa

The Borgia Bride

The
Devil’s Queen

A NOVEL OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI

 

 

JEANNE KALOGRIDIS

St. Martin’s Press
New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events
portrayed in this novel are either products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

 

THE DEVIL’S QUEEN: A NOVEL OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI.

Copyright © 2009 by Jeanne Kalogridis. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press,
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

 

www.stmartins.com

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Kalogridis, Jeanne.

The devil’s queen: a novel of Catherine de Medici / Jeanne Kalogridis.—1st ed.

        p. cm.

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-36843-2

ISBN-10: 0-312-36843-7.

1. Catherine de Medicis, Queen, consort of Henry II, King of France, 1519–1589—Fiction. 2. Courts and courtiers—Fiction. 3. France—History—Francis II, 1559–1560—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3561.A41675D48 2009

813'.54—dc22

2008046318

 

 

First Edition: July 2009

 

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

 

 

 

 

 

For Russell Galen

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
 

 

 

 

My thanks go to the following hardy souls:

My amazing agents, Russell Galen and Danny Baror

My wise and patient editors, Charles Spicer of St. Martin’s Press and Emma Coode of HarperCollins UK

My friend, reader, and editor extraordinaire, Sherry Gottlieb

My best friend for life, Helen King Knight

Tom Jacobs, evolutionary astrologer

Christopher Warnock, Renaissance astrologer

Nina Toumanoff, who helped me rediscover the joy of writing

 

Those who are interested in learning more about my books and writing process can visit my web site,
www.jeannekalogridis.com
or my blog,
www.historyisabitch.com
.

PART I
 

 
Blois, France
August 1556
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue
 

 

 

 

At first glance he was an unremarkable man, short and stout with graying hair and the drab clothes of a commoner. I could not see his face from my vantage two floors above, but I watched him recoil as he emerged from the carriage and his foot first met the cobblestone; he signaled for his cane and reached for the coachman’s arm. Even with these aids, he moved gingerly, haltingly through the sultry morning, and I thought, aghast,
He is a sick, aging man—nothing more.

Behind him, clouds had gathered early over the river, promising an afternoon storm, but for now the sun was not entirely occluded. Its rays slipped through gaps and reflected blindingly off the waters of the Loire.

I receded from the window to settle in my chair. I had wanted to dazzle my summoned guest, to charm him so he would not detect my nervousness, but I had no heart in those days for pretense. I sported mourning, black and plain, and looked anything but grand. I was a thick, unlovely creature, very worn and very sad.

Thank God they are only children,
the midwife had muttered.

She had thought I was sleeping. But I had heard, and understood: A queen’s life was valued more than those of her daughters. And they had left behind siblings; the royal bloodline was safe. But had I not been drained of blood and hope, I would have slapped her. My heart was no less broken.

I had approached my final attempt at childbirth without trepidation; the process had always gone smoothly for me. I am strong and determined and have never feared pain. I had even chosen names—Victoire and Jeanne—for Ruggieri had predicted I would have girl twins. But he had not told me they would die.

The first infant was long in coming, so long that I and even the midwife grew anxious. I became too tired to sit in the birthing chair.

After a day and half a night, Victoire arrived. She was the smallest infant I had ever seen, too weak to let go a proper wail. Her birth brought me no respite; Jeanne refused to appear. Hours of agony passed, until night became day again, and morning led to afternoon. The child’s body was so stubbornly situated that she would not pass; the decision was made to break her legs so that she could be pulled out without killing me.

There followed the midwife’s hand inside me and the dreadful muffled snap of tiny bones. I cried out at the sound, not at the pain. When Jeanne emerged dead, I would not look at her.

Her sickly twin lived three weeks. On the day Victoire, too, succumbed, a cold, prickling conviction settled over me: After all these years, Ruggieri’s spell was failing; my husband and surviving children were in mortal danger.

There was, as well, the quatrain in the great tome written by the prophet, the quatrain I feared predicted my darling Henri’s fate. I am dogged in the pursuit of answers, and I would not rest until I had learned the truth from the lips of the famed seer himself.

A knock came at the door, and the guard’s low voice, both of which drew me back to the present. At my reply, the door swung open and the guard and his limping charge entered. The former’s expression grew quizzical at finding me entirely alone, without my ladies to attend me; I had busied Diane elsewhere, and had dismissed even Madame Gondi. My conversation with my visitor was to be strictly private.

“Madame la Reine.”
The seer’s accent betrayed his southern origins. He had a soft moon of a face and the gentlest of eyes. “Your Majesty.”

Madame Gondi said that he had been born a Jew, but I saw no evidence of it in his features. Unsteady even with his cane, he nonetheless managed to doff his cap and execute a passable genuflection. His hair, long and tangled and thinning at the crown, hung forward to obscure his face.

“I am honored and humbled that you would receive me,” he said. “My greatest desire is to be of service to you and to His Majesty in whatever manner most pleases you. Ask for my life, and it is yours.” His voice shook, and the hand that gripped the cap trembled. “If there is any question of impropriety, of heresy, I can only say that I am a good Catholic who has endeavored all my life to serve God. At his bidding, I wrote down the visions. They are sent by Him alone, and not some unclean spirit.”

I had heard that he had often been accused of consorting with devils, and had moved from village to village over the past several years to avoid arrest. Frail, vulnerable, he regarded me with hesitation. He had read my letter, yet he had no doubt heard of my husband the King’s hatred for the occult and for Protestants; perhaps he feared that he was walking into an inquisitional trap.

I hurried to put him at ease.

“I have no doubt of that, Monsieur de Nostredame,” I said warmly, smiling, and extended my hand. “That is why I have asked for your help. Thank you for traveling such a distance, in your discomfort, to see us. We are deeply grateful.”

His body shuddered as fear unclenched it. He tottered forward and kissed my hand; his hair fell soft against my knuckles. His breath smelled of garlic.

I looked up at the guard. “That will be all,” I said, and when he lifted a brow—why would I be so eager to forsake propriety by dismissing him?—I subtly hardened my gaze until he nodded, bowed, and departed.

I was alone with the unlikely prophet.

Monsieur de Nostredame straightened and stepped back. As he did, his gaze fell upon the window, and the scene beyond; his nervousness vanished, replaced by a calm intensity.

“Ah,” he said, as if to himself. “The children.”

I turned to see Edouard running after Margot and little Navarre on the grassy swath of courtyard, altogether ignoring the cries of the governess to slow down.

“His Highness Prince Edouard,” I said by way of explanation, “likes to chase his little sister.” At five, Edouard was already unusually tall for his age.

“The two younger ones—the little boy and girl—they appear to be twins, but I know that is not the case.”

“They are my daughter Margot and her cousin Henri of Navarre. Little Henri, we call him, or sometimes Navarre, so as not to confuse him with the King.”

“The resemblance is remarkable,” he murmured.

“They are both three years old, Monsieur; Margot was born on the thirteenth of May, Navarre on the thirteenth of December.”

“Tied by fate,” he said, thoughtlessly, then glanced back at me.

His eyes were too large for his face, like mine, but a clear, light grey. They possessed a child’s openness, and beneath their scrutiny, I felt uncharacteristic discomfort.

“I had a son,” he said wistfully, “and a daughter.”

I opened my mouth to offer sympathy and say I had already heard of this. The most talented physician in all France, he had earned fame by saving many sick with plague—only to watch helplessly as his children and wife died of it.

BOOK: The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine De Medici
6.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Lucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts
El complejo de Di by Dai Sijie
Anything But Civil by Anna Loan-Wilsey
Sweet Baklava by Debby Mayne
The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O'Brian
Mercenary by Duncan Falconer
The Rhythm of Rain by C. L. Scholey