Catherine De Medici
Born in Florence, Italy in 1519, Catherine was married aged fourteen to Henry, Duke of Orleans and second in line to the throne of France. Throughout her early married life, she was denied any political influence with her husband, who openly took mistresses (including his former governess Diane de Poitiers who was around twenty years older than him) and publicly acknowledged their offspring as his own.
Despite bearing no children for the first decade of her marriage, pressure increased when the Dauphin died leaving Henry as the heir to the throne, and she eventually gave birth to ten children, seven survived and four of whom became rulers of France, during a time of almost constant civil and religious war (mainly against the Huguenots and the Catholic League) and political machinations (she fought her whole life against the Guise’s and the Bourbon’s who were intent on seizing the throne themselves)
She was embroiled in intrigue throughout her life, especially as the Queen Mother, when she was accused of being party to the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, poisoning and plotting against her rivals, and even ordering the murders of members of her own family. However she also was a dedicated patron of the arts, spending vast sums of money on architecture, paintings and entertainments.
Catherine de Medici died in Blois in 1589 - her family was subject to scandal until her dynasty ended just eight months after her death with the murder of her son, bringing in the Bourbon dynasty and ending three hundred years of Valois rule.