Give me a line of men with halberds *swoon*

Occasionally I read an article somewhere that I just HAVE to share with you all. Today’s treat comes from The Daily Beast of all places, and it’s topic is the Swiss mercenaries of the 14th to 16th centuries.

If you’ve been to Rome and visited Vatican City, you’ve seen the descendants of these bad boys. Because as the article says:

the Popes hired the very best, the most lethal, the most dedicated mercenaries available. Starting in the late 15th Century under Pope Sixtus IV that was…the Swiss.
I can tell you that the French kings liked to be surrounded by halberds too! “The Swiss” make multiple appearances in “Médicis Daughter”–most notably during the flight from Montceaux to Paris after a Protestant plot to kidnap King Charles IX is uncovered. Margot frightened
THIS article, When Swiss Used to Mean Badass, is a GREAT simple, dirty, accurate piece discussing the warfare style of the Swiss “phalanx” who “working together, en masse. . .could make a fighting force that would slaughter all who stood before it.” ENJOY!!! And next time you are in Vatican City do NOT laugh at my Swiss 😉

Today marks the 497th birthday of Catherine de Médicis, Queen of France and a woman with many detractors. catherine bday

Catherine did not begin her life with much to celebrate. Although she had illustrious parents—her Mother (Madeleine de La Tour d’Auvergne, Comtesse de Boulogne) was a French princess of royal blood and father was Lorenzo de’ Medici—both were dead within a MONTH of her birth (and that was incidentally only  about a year after their marriage). After they were gone, and because of her mother’s connection to the French crown, King Francis I claimed the right to raise the orphaned Catherine.  But Pope Leo told the French King to pound salt. His Holiness wasn’t all that caring—he just viewed Catherine, Lorenzo’s legitimate heiress, as a useful pawn.  Later in life, Catherine would remark that her eventual father-in-law, Francis I, was more of a father to her than His Holiness had ever been.

When in the fall of 1533, at age 14,  Catherine was shipped off to France to marry the future Henri II her new husband was not yet even Dauphin—merely a second son.  And he preferred another woman, his already established Mistress Diane de Poitier.  Catherine’s new country wasn’t impressed with Catherine either.  A report from one of the Venetian ambassadors declared that “all of France” disapproved of the marriage.  So Catherine’s early experiences of rejection continued.

Yet from these inauspicious beginnings arose one of the 16th century’s true female power-players.  A Queen who, left widowed with a large family, managed to keep her husband’s line securely on the throne during a time of nearly continual war. A woman who “managed” a series of boy kings—arguably to their detriment and France’s.  Historians may disagree strongly on both the content and efficacy of Catherine’s policies with respect to the Wars of Religion—and just about everything else—but no one would disagree that she was a key influence in the post-Henri II Valois era and as such she deserves as much credit for what went right in that period as she does blame for what went wrong.