Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reading: The Serpent and The Moon

The Serpent and The Moon

Being not all interested in history in high school, you'll probably be amazed at what I don't know/remember. Since 2011 I've dived into learning more history, French history to be exact. I started with Napoleon, went to  Louis XVI and am now in the 16th century with Henri II and his great love affair with Diane de Poitiers.

And now that I'm the one saying what I learn, I'm way more interested and retain the information a lot better!

So. This takes place during during the reign of Francois I and his son Henri II. Henri was the third son born and did not have a very affectionate childhood as his father was always out with the military or partying and his mother died with he was young. Henri was sent to Spain with his brother Francois, the Dauphin, when he was 6 for six years. He came back a changed man (boy), as imprisonment will do to you. And who was there to greet him with a loving embrace and kind words? Why, Diane de Poitiers that's who. The one constant throughout his young life. She was there when he was born (being 20 years his senior) and was in charge of his and his siblings well-being in the nursery.

This affected Henri greatly and he devoted his life to making Diane de Poitiers his "Lady" and, later on, making sure she knew how loved she was.

Henri was forced into an arranged marriage with Italian Catherine de' Medici when they were 15. Unfortunately for Catherine she fell in love at first sight. Henri had had his eye on Diane since he was 12 and so Catherine made little impact.

Diane and Henri eventually succumbed to having a physical relationship. The writer believes that Diane probably resisted at first since she had known Henri since he was a babe. But eventually even she couldn't resist this hunk of a Prince who clearly worshipped the ground she walked on.

Catherine, while not beautiful, was very street-smart and book-smart and finally came to realize what was up. Not wanting to embarrass the love of her life, she sat and waited. "Hate and Wait" became her motto. Diane, also not wanting to embarrass anyone, worked hard to keep the relationship between her and Henri on the down low. As she was Catherine's head Lady, she had to keep a poker face at all times.

The three settled into a love triangle of sorts. Henri would spend time with Diane (known as The Moon), who would then make him go up to his wife and once that "duty" was done Henri would slink back down to Diane. Everyone ended up living like this for 23 years. Catherine (known as The Serpent) gave birth to 9 children.

Henri II's reign lasted 12 years. I think he tried to be a good King but his obsession with Diane lead to his complete dependence on her and her opinions. She essentially ruled the King. I haven't quite finished yet (30 pages to go) so won't leave you with a spoiler!

Things that struck out to me:

1. Nostradamus was one of Catherine de' Medici's fortune tellers.
2. Francois I and Henry VIII died the same year.
3. The author, HRH Princess Michael of Kent is descended from both Catherine and Diane (read to find out how!).
4. I have come away with a good idea for a tattoo. "Qui me alit me extinguit" - it's a French Renaissance saying about the paradox of how love bring both pleasure and pain.
(goes with my "Secundus ut nullus" tattoo - well....haven't gotten it yet....)

As this is Thursday I'm going to participate in Reading Between Pages... Theme Thursday. This week's theme is NEW.

"During these later years, most of her creative energy was spent on the gardens of Chenonceau, importing new varieties of flowers from America."
The Serpent and The Moon - pg. 343



scribeswindow said...

This book sounds fascinating. I was lucky to study European history in high school and we did look at the Medici's. Here's my Theme Thursday

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

New varieties of flowers sounds lovely! Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

Bev Hankins said...

Always like new flowers! Visiting through theme's mine:

kavyen said...

You took the theme to a new dimension. New varieties of flowers surely is a unique twist to this theme.

Thanks for participating