Catherine de Medicis and her children, last remaining members of France’s Valois monarchy, were viewed by both Protestants and Catholics as the illegitimate offspring of weak, sickly, and mentally unbalanced rulers. Detractors saw only hesitation and evasiveness in their efforts to pacify a France torn apart by religious and political tensions.
The reputation of the Valois clan has long suffered due to the Saint-Barthelemy’s Day massacres of 1572, along with the unaccountable murders of the Duke of Guise and his brother. But, as Janine Garrisson argues here, these spectacular crimes were perpetuated only in the name of "a cruel necessity", for in each case, the Valois were acting to protect the crown of France from the ambitions of the great and covetous rulers of Spain.
In demonstrating how the Valois attempted to "restore justice by means of violence", Ms. Garrisson reveals that they were altogether unsuccessful in their attempts. In the end, however, she concedes that despite this failure, they did possess a unique vision that left an indelible mark upon the world in which they lived. Influenced by the Neoplatonism of their time, these last Valois were ultimately seekers of peace and harmony in the wake of unfortunate circumstances.