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Why The Serpent Queen Has Scholars Questioning Its Portrayal Of Catherine De Medici



Throughout Catherine de Medici’s reign from 1547 to 1559, the much-maligned Queen became known for her calculated, brutal style of ruling. But her characterization as an ice queen is a little off, scholars say. “A snake is someone that will stab you in the back, that will always be in the shadows trying to get you,” says Estelle Paranque, author of “Blood, Fire and Gold: The Story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici” (via Smithsonian Magazine). And that could not be further from the truth when it comes to Catherine.”

Indeed, some assert that her bloody reign, defined in part by the conflict between the Huguenots and the Guise-led Catholics, was in pursuit of peace and her family’s success as aristocrats. “She is a selfless, tireless negotiator for peace,” says “Scandal and Reputation at the Court of Catherine de Medici” author Una McIlvenna (via Smithsonian Magazine). “She is utterly dedicated to ensuring that her children’s rule is successful.”

“The Serpent Queen” showrunner Justin Haythe hoped to cast de Medici’s supposed villainy in a sympathetic, complex light. “I liked the idea of a villain from history who would address us and say, ‘Let me you tell why I did the things I did, and you’ll judge me differently,'” Haythe told Town & Country. “You have to really wonder if this is an evil person with shards of good, or it’s a good person who’s capable of evil to survive.”

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