The Serpent and the Moon: Two Rivals for the Love of a Renaissance King

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9780743251044: The Serpent and the Moon: Two Rivals for the Love of a Renaissance King
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An intriguing study of a royal love triangle captures the complex relationships that existed between King Henri II of France, his wife Catherine de Medici, and his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, examining the impact of the love story on the history of Renaissance France. 75,000 first printing.

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About the Author:

Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent is the author of two previous books, Crowned in a Far Country: Portraits of Eight Royal Brides and Cupid and the King: Five Royal Paramours. For more than ten years, the Princess has pursued a successful career lecturing on historical topics. She lives with her husband, Prince Michael of Kent, in Kensington Palace in London and in their seventeenth-century manor house in Gloucestershire, England.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One:The Royal Wedding

As the sun filtered through the autumn mist shrouding the harbor of Marseilles, three hundred cannons boomed from the ramparts of the château d'If and all the bells of the city rang out to announce the arrival of the papal flotilla. It was October 11, 1533. The din must have been deafening, and yet so gratifying to Pope Clement VII to be thus received by the king, François I. This journey would be the apogee of the ailing Medici pope's extraordinary career.

It had taken three years for Clement VII to negotiate the marriage of his fourteen-year-old cousin Catherine to fourteen-year-old Prince Henri d'Orléans, a son of the king of France. The pope was well aware that the Medici, no matter how rich and powerful, were considered no better than glorified merchants by Europe's reigning families. The marriage of this Florentine heiress to the second son of François I would raise his house far higher than he had ever dreamed possible.

The procession of ships was led by a galleon, the Duchessina, which carried the Holy Sacrament, while the pontiff traveled in the second great galleon, the Capitanesse. Fourteen cardinals, sixty archbishops and bishops, and countless priests followed in other vessels. The bride was not in the pope's party. To allow the pope to make his own entry into Marseilles in state, for the marriage contracts to be finalized, and the preparations completed, Catherine de' Medici had left the Capitanesse shortly before Marseilles to await her summons in the Jardin des Rois. Still, the pope's arrival signaled the beginning of the royal wedding, and dozens of small boats sailed out from the shore, carrying noblemen and musicians to greet and escort the papal flotilla into the ancient Phoenician harbor.

The pope watched the eighteen galleys in his fleet maneuver to dock, each of them draped in his signature red, gold, and purple damask, and manned by hundreds of oarsmen shining bright in crimson satin and orange silk. As Clement VII disembarked, eighty lancers and two companies of infantry stood at attention on the quay and on every bridge. It was a sight worthy of the supreme head of the Christian church.

The pope's party was received on shore by the Grand Master of France, Anne de Montmorency, the senior statesman in the kingdom charged with the court and its residences. He presented Clement VII to several French cardinals and a number of other clerics. The pope then moved into the house prepared for him outside the city to await the next day when he would make his formal entry and complete the final leg of the house of Medici's journey into the French royal family.

On the morning of October 12, the streets were lined with people who had come from every home in the city as well as the surrounding countryside. They were eager to see a pope, but even more eager to see the little bride for whom their lives had been so disrupted. Indeed, the people of Marseilles needed to be dazzled since the choice of their city for this grand event had cost them dear. An official entrance into a city by royalty, or indeed a pope, was one of the greatest public spectacles of the time. This one was no exception; the king had ordered a large swathe of the city demolished to make a wide avenue for the triumphal processions and the ceremonies surrounding this diplomatically important marriage. For the pope's temporary residence, a huge wooden building had been erected next to the old palace of the counts of Provence where the king and his party would lodge. An enclosed "bridge," so large it could be used as an extra reception room, was built to link the dwellings of the monarchs temporal and spiritual.

The pope was preceded in the procession by the Holy Sacrament displayed in a monstrance, mounted on a white palfrey caparisoned in a cloth of gold. As he made his way slowly to the cathedral, Clement VII was carried shoulder-high in his red velvet sedia, or papal litter, covered by a large square awning supported at the corners on poles carried by four noblemen. On either side of the pope strode the king's two younger sons, the bridegroom himself, Prince Henri d'Orléans, and Prince Charles d'Angoulême. They were followed by the Italian cardinals and bishops in purple and red, riding on mules. Behind them walked the chanting choir of the Sistine Chapel and a procession of noblemen, prelates, abbots, curates, and monks.

As he heard the gasps of appreciation from the crowd, Clement settled back on his silken cushions beneath the awning of red, green, and yellow damask, nodding benignly and blessing the gaping crowds. He was tired after his sea voyage, and his ten years on the throne of St. Peter had prematurely aged him. All his life he had struggled to increase the glory of his family; finally, through his intervention, the Medici ruled in Florence once again. The French marriage could not come too soon; Catherine was becoming rather attached to his illegitimate nephew, Ippolito de' Medici -- brilliant, extravagant, and very, very handsome. But Catherine was the pope's most valuable piece on the chessboard of European politics and could not be wasted for a childish attachment with no possible advantage for the family. Ippolito was promptly dispatched into the church and made a cardinal.

As he passed the royal box, Clement VII caught his first sight of his partner in the Medici-Valois union, King François I. The pope's litter stopped as he blessed the king and his company, then moved on. While the pope was in awe of the French king's power, Clement VII also knew he held the key to the king's heart's desire: Italy.

Ever since France had lost Milan to the Habsburg Emperor Charles V eight years earlier, François I's only thought had been to regain the territory. Patiently, he watched and waited until the moment was right to make his first move. That time came when Henry VIII of England needed a favor from Pope Clement VII and asked the French king for his help. The two monarchs met briefly at Boulogne, where François tactfully explained the need for his son's marriage to Catherine de' Medici, cousin of the pope and Henry's enemy. To soften the blow, François promised he would pressure the pope to annul Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Desperate to marry Anne Boleyn in church, Henry VIII posed no obstacles to the French proposal.

Pope Clement had his own road to clear to the marriage. By actively endorsing the French match, he risked offending the other great power in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and France's greatest enemy. For this reason, Clement was obliged to seek the powerful emperor's approval. When the pope asked Charles V's permission to approach the French king, the emperor shrugged and demurred, confident that the royal house of Valois would not accept a mere parvenu Medici girl into its illustrious fold. But the emperor failed to see that, to the king, Catherine represented the coveted duchy of Milan, and that the Valois-Medici marriage would ensure François I achieved his goal. The pope's path was clear, and it had led to this glorious day in Marseilles.

The day after the pope's official entry into the city, The Most Christian King of France, François I, attended by his second son, Henri d'Orléans, and his youngest, Charles d'Angoulême, and flanked by two cardinals, made his entrance into Marseilles.

The city was newly decorated with a series of triumphal arches extolling the king's great deeds, real or imaginary. Tableaux with allegorical allusions to the principal guest were staged at various stops on the route. The city's prettiest girls, scantily clad in classical fashion, scattered flower petals in front of the procession. Fresh lavender and rosemary were strewn before the excited, prancing horses, their hooves crushing the herbs to release heady aromas as they passed. The best tapestries and carpets were hung in a kaleidoscope of color from the balconies overhanging the royal route. Leaning on them were the most elegant and privileged of the citizens, who tossed flowers and ribbons on those below. The king was escorted by his twenty-seven maids of honor, dubbed by his mother Louise de Savoie his "Petite Bande," a corps of feminine aides-de-camp chosen from the best families for their beauty, vivacity, and superb horsemanship. François saw to it that they were always dressed in matching elegance -- furs, cloth of gold and silver, velvets, and scarlet satin -- all paid for by him. Their sole duty was to be in constant attendance upon their monarch. Behind these Amazons rode a vast retinue of several thousand nobles glittering in their finery, doffing feathered hats, their horses richly caparisoned with elaborate aigrettes bobbing on their foreheads. This dazzling display was accompanied by music, bell ringing, jingling of harnesses, wild cheering, and the crowd's exclamations of joy and admiration to see the king and the princes at close quarters.

Observing tradition, François I and his sons prostrated themselves at the feet of the pope and kissed each of his slippers. The French king was as much a showman as his wily guest and performed the elaborate gestures with panache. A man of exquisite manners, François had allowed the Holy Father to make the first state entrance into the city, though all judged the king's procession the next day the more brilliant.

Feasting continued during the following week, and as the bride had not yet appeared, the pope was the center of attraction. Clement VII reveled in the adulation and was himself overawed by the great honor accorded to his family, despite the surprise and shock of the entire world. "The house of Medici," he said, "has been raised by God's own hand. I know I shall die soon, but I will die happy."

Before the marriage could take place, there were still a number of outstanding negotiations between king and pope that needed to be finalized. No record of their discussions remains other than notes in Franç...

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