Tag Archive: Catherine de Medicis

Charles IX of France.

In Spring 1574, there is plotting everywhere and the troubles which are shaking the kingdom demand an urgent solution for the future.  What is going to happen to the young monarch?  Will his mother, Catherine de Medicis, renounce all authority over the kingdom?

Cosme Ruggieri, the Queen Mother’s astrologist, convinces her, for whom her dynasty’s interests pass before all else, to hold the darkest of ceremonies of divination, the ceremony of the talking head…

On the night of 28 May 1574, we are at Vincennes inside one of the castle’s nine towers, the one still called today the Devil’s Tower.  The Queen Mother is there, with two of her inner circle and her son who, breathless, is shivering with fever and can barely stand.  An altar has been erected and is covered in a black cloth.  A statue, draped in a triple black veil, represents the Mother of the Shadows, the goddess of suicides and madness, the divinity for whom the Mass is to be served.

Catherine de Medicis.

Candles, also black, light this altar on which there is placed an ebony chalice, filled with coagulated blood and two communion wafers, one white, the other black.  The man who is going to say this Mass is an apostate monk, converted to magic…

Into the middle of this lugubrious meeting a little boy of ten advances.  He is a kidnapped Jewish child who has been prepared for a long time for this communion.  He has been dressed in a white gown, is as beautiful as he is innocent and is waiting to receive God.  The magician begins the service by planting on the altar a long dagger, the handle of which represents a snake, then he recites invocations to the Virgin, launches anathemae to the God of the Christians, and consecrates the wafers to Satan.  The child, who doesn’t know what is happening, joins his hands and closes his eyes to receive the white wafer on his tongue.  But he has barely taken  communion than one of the infernal priest’s assistants plunges a dagger into his neck.  Then it is the dull clang of a sword which rings on the altar stone:  the child has just been decapitated and the magician brandishes this poor, little, innocent head and places it on the black wafer in a big, silver paten…

Bewitchment seance organized before Catherine de Medicis by Cosme Ruggieri.

The young sovereign has been forewarned.  It is at this precise instant that he must lean over and ask the head a question.  The head would answer him, and reveal all the future to him.

Trembling, this unnatural Prince approaches and asks his question in an unintelligible voice.  They wait.  Appalling silence.  Finally, a sigh escapes the child’s dead lips and they think that they hear that this sigh signifies:

“I am forced to do it!…  I am forced to do it!”

That is all.  Then the sound of a body falling.  It is the King, already agonizing, who has just fainted.  Salts are applied and he is brought to his senses.  He struggles and lets out appalling screams:

“Take that thing away from me!  Take that thing away from me!… “

He is rushed back to his bedchamber.  He is now delirious, he sees blood everywhere, he is sinking into a river of blood.  He spends the next two days like this in terror and hallucinations then dies on 30 May.  He was barely twenty-five years old.  At the autopsy, it is seen that his heart was all shrivelled, as if it had been exposed for a long time to fire…


This is a true story.  The bronze bewitchment was reported by the Spanish Ambassador to France, Don Francis of Avala, who on 8 June 1569 told the story to Phillip II, with the precision that “every day, the Italian watches the nativity of the three persons and his astrolabe, then tightens and loosens  the screws”

As for the Mass of the decapitated head, it was related in detail by the great jurist Jean Bodin, the author of La Republique and founder of modern Economics.  He was also the Secretary of the Duke of Anjou, Catherine de Medicis’ last son, therefore well-placed to know about it.  Jean Bodin had only one fault:  he absolutely believed in witches and recommended that the most rigorous punishments be meted out to them…


The Saint-Barthelemy Massacre was basically only a big, ritual sacrifice.

Stories of talking heads have always been part of the florilege of magical beliefs, although we don’t know their origin.  It is also known that Gerbert, the Pope of the year 1000, was reputed to have built a talking head, which had the gift of revealing the future.  But this was, of course, only a legend founded on this pontiff’s vast knowledge in Astronomy and Mathematics.  In the XIIIth Century, Albert the Great is said to have also had such a head as well as an automaton, capable, it was believed, of human behaviour.  This belief was also part of the bewitchments of the Middle Ages and has its origin in the immense scientific knowledge of Albert, to whom Chemistry owes discoveries of the greatest importance:  gold refining, the treatment of sulphur, the action of acids on metals, etc.  Like Gerbert, he passed for a wizard and the confusion that was made at the time between science and magic also explains that were attributed to him the paternity of the Grand and the Petit Albert, the collections of popular magic, the success of which persisted , in the Occident, for half a millenium.


To conciliate evil powers, Catherine de Medicis wore permanently at her neck a big talisman made from human blood, billy-goat blood and metal which had been melted during a favorable astral conjunction.  She lived surrounded by magi, deviners and astrologists, and it is on Ruggieri’s indications that she had built in the Soissons hotel an octogonal tower orientated on the cardinal points, whence her favorite magician could observe the stars and do his horoscopes.  A column of this still exists, nearly thirty metres high, included in the walls of what is today the Bourse de Commerce in Paris…


Catherine de Medicis permanently wore this cabalistic talisman made from human and billy-goat blood.

Ruggieri would survive almost thirty years longer than Catherine de Medicis and would remain the unmoveable oracle of several great princes of the kingdom.  Charles IX’s brother, Henri III, also given to black magic, would use him to send spells to the ligueurs and their chiefs, the Guises.  Not without success, since the two most illustrious representatives of this Roman Catholic family, for a long time more powerful than the kings of France, are assassinated, at the end of numerous acts of bewitchment.  The Guises returned the favour:  every day, the faithful were ordered to Notre-Dame to pierce wax effigies representing the royal family, there…  Henri III had brought from Spain at great expense all the grimoires of magic which are in fashion at Phillip II’s Court…  to make counter-spells!

The whole of France would believe that the regicide dagger which killed him in 1589 had been placed in Jacques Clement’s hand by larvae, magically formed during hate ceremonies.


Hate ceremonies are one of the essential ingredients of black magic, the final goal of which is vengeance, the awakening of interior negative powers, with their cortege of unhealthy desires, as opposed to white magic, of which the aim is to heal and to uncover secrets which can transform life in a positive manner.


Ruggieri was to be found at the side of Concini and Marie de Medicis, after the assassination of Henri IV, who didn’t much like his magic which he called “effeminate foolishness”…  To Concini who would occultly govern France for three years, he taught magic and was even more popular at Court after he predicted Henri IV’s assassination, having already tried to bewitch him.  Implicated in a witchcraft trial, he once more survived, but was very wary from then on and would live from the sale of almanachs which were very popular with the little people, who were superstitious.  He wrote them under the name of  “Querberus”.

Finally, he died very old, and despite the insistence of his protector Concini, the Archbishop of Paris refused him a christian burial, having his body thrown into the road.  The wise man didn’t care anyway, for he believed in neither God nor the devil but only, as the good Florentine that he was, in the power of the greats, and in daggers and poison.


Ruggieri was the standard-bearer of that generation of clever adventurers who appeared in France, destabilized by the Wars of Religion.  But more than his magic, it was his intelligence and his strength of character, without counting his absolute cynicism, to which he owed his career.  More than any other, he was able to make his own these words from the frightening Leonora Galigai, Concini’s wife, who at the moment of being condemned to death, declared proudly to the judge:

“My spells were the power that strong souls have over weak souls!”…



Charles IX would take part in an appalling, bloody ceremony of black magic organized by his mother and Cosme Ruggieri, at Vincennes.

Lost in the depths of the Parisian Marais, the little Sourdis backstreet, which still today has its milestones and its stream, once sheltered the workshops of artisans and smelters in the Wars of Religion era.  At which time, one of them is occupied by a German master bell founder, who has been brought in at great expense from Mayence.  No-one has ever seen this artisan, who lives in the workshop and never goes out.  He receives his orders from a little man always dressed in black, who is of phenomenal ugliness with his little beard and his enormous nose which is even more pointed than it is wide, which denotes, apart from evil, Mediterranean origins…

Every day, a carriage leaves the little man in black at the entrance to the backstreet.  In his round Italian-style shoes, always wearing a felt hat on his head, he hurries to close the door behind him:  in fact, it has been six months now since the master founder from the other side of the Rhine has been seen outside.  Inside, his work is taking shape.  It is three statues for which he firstly made a mould from three full-length portraits of the French Huguenot chiefs Conde, Coligny and Andelot.  The previous day, he had broken the moulds after having poured the metal alloy and for hours, he has been cleaning up the bronze to make the statues smooth and shiny.  Now, they are lined up over there, deep inside the workshop, life-size and ready to be taken away.  But the founder who has worked without any assistance – it was a clause of his contract – has not yet completely finished his work…

He lays the statues on their sides on a workbench and attaches them to it.  Then, he starts to drill holes in diverse parts of the metal, the joints and the chest in particular.  Holes which have the diameter of steel screws of which he has made a certain number as well.  He verifies one more time that they fit the holes properly and then, looking infinitely tired, he gathers his tools in a bag and waits.

The little man has come back and is inspecting his work attentively.  Then he counts out thirty double ducats of gold, takes him amicably by the shoulders and leads him to the door.  There, he stands back to let the man pass.  The man has not taken three steps into the narrow lane before he falls, his back pierced by a dozen sword thrusts…

There is no flicker of emotion on the little man in black’s face.  He comes back slowly towards the statues, pulls from his pocket a book written in Hebrew characters and, looking fixedly at the effigy of Conde, begins to chant invocations, while slowly, very slowly tightening the screws…

Catherine de Medicis had “bronze bewitchments” performed against the huguenot chiefs, Conde, Coligny and Andelot.

This is what is known as a “bronze bewitchment”, and the little man who is at work is the favourite astrologer of Catherine de Medicis.  His name is Cosme Ruggieri and he is the son of Laurent the Magnificent’s doctor, one of the greatest scholars of the Italian Renaissance.  Continually up against her subjects’ religious divisions, the Lady Regent, who has just signed the precarious Saint-Germain peace treaty, esteems that Coligny’s influence on her son Charles IX is redoubtable.  The Florentine adventurer has offered to get rid of him by magic.  Already, fifteen years before these events, in 1559, he had predicted to the Queen the death of her spouse Henri II in the famous Tournelles tournament, and Catherine, who is more and more given to superstition and undertakes nothing without referring to her augures, has accepted.  It is not that she unreservedly believes in these spells and she knows that nothing is possible without that luck which has so often shone on her, assisted it is true by the typically Medicis use of poison…

Has the bronze bewitchment succeeded?  A few months later, Conde falls from his horse in the Battle of Jarnac and is killed in cowardly fashion by Montequiou, a gentleman of the Royal Guard.  Andelot, Admiral Coligny’s brother, follows a few months later, expedited by a bad herbal tea.  However, the doctors who practise the autopsy of the two bodies are adamant:  on the chest, the thighs and the joints of the arms, the two men bear very clear stigmata…

As for Coligny, he falls seriously ill but would resist another three years, until the knife of the German Besme, employed by the Guises, kills him, along with the thousands of other victims of the Saint-Barthelemy.

“The more dead there are, the fewer enemies there are!”

comments Catherine de Medicis, while deploring that the massacre had also made an unexpected victim:  her own son Charles IX.  At the age of twenty-four, he looks like an old man, whose blood-spitting increases every time that the horrible images of the massacre return to his troubled mind.  He knows that his brother, the Duke of Alencon, is waiting for his death to take over the throne.  Against Catherine and the King, he has even formed a Party, “the Discontented”, which disapproves of the Saint-Barthelemy Massacre and wants to take measures of appeasement.  Not brilliant either, is the Duke of Alencon, mainly occupied in trying to wear the crown, even at the price of the death of his brother.  But the implacable Catherine is watching.  She discovers a plot, fomented by two close friends of the Duke, the Count de La Mole, lover of Marguerite de Navarre, the witty, nymphomaniac “Queen Margot”, daughter of Catherine and future wife of Henri IV, and a Piedmont noble, Annibal Coconas.  The conspirators are arrested and a correspondence is discovered which proves that Ruggieri not only has knowledge of it all, but that he has even been involved in the affair by preparing some little, wax statuettes stuck with pins…  One of them strikingly resembles Charles IX:  it is pierced in the heart by a sharp nail.  So Ruggieri, upon whom Catherine has been showering gifts, to the point of putting the Chateau de Chaumont at his disposition, where he has been spending enormous sums of money looking for alchemical gold, has been preparing bewitchments against her and her unfortunate son!…

The Florentine magician is a crook, but not a coward…  Atrociously tortured, he confesses nothing.  And he knows that the Queen is much too superstitious to dare to have him killed.  For appearances sake, he is sent for a while to the galleys.  Ruggieri would not go farther than the house of the Admiral whence there is a magnificent view over the Marseilles  harbour.  He would live there surrounded by luxury for a few months, making a profitable trade in horoscopes to while away the time.  Coconas and La Mole would not be as lucky:  they would be drawn and quartered by four horses and the pieces of their bodies nailed to the  gates of Paris.  So the guilty were punished.  But Charles IX’s health does not get any better.  To counter the bad spell, Catherine de Medicis pardons Ruggieri and has him brought back to her side…

We are by now in Spring 1574, and it is in this year that would take place the most appalling scenes of black magic in History.

To be continued.

Parapsychologists tell us that certain states of superior consciousness are accompanied by gifts which we erroneously qualify as supernatural.  Perhaps they are, in fact, “woken” faculties.  People usually think of the great mystics where we see cases of levitation, bilocation, clairvoyancy, telepathy, telekinesis…  [However, ordinary people often have similar experiences.  I, myself, have experienced levitation (as a child), clairvoyancy (often) and telepathy (with my cousin, when she was alive, and with my dog, when she was alive).  So far, no bilocation that I’m aware of, but a bit of telekinesis (at least twice, by accident).  In fact, almost all of this was by accident.]


Cosimo Ruggieri was not a mystic.  However, he was perhaps an initiate of a few occult sciences.  Of this magic, almost as old as Humanity, which is still used today by sorcerers in black Africa, the Bambaras, the Dogons, among others, who, it seems, have taken the “subtle” path…


All throughout the Middle Ages, under the Renaissance and up until the end of the XIXth Century, people in our Western civilizations practised cristallomancy.  Between 1900 and 1914, there were even village sorcerers who claimed to predict the future in this way…  They shut people inside a dark room, lit a candle and made images appear on a mirror…


Catherine de Medicis

Catherine de Medicis was greatly involved in these sorts of practices.  She was Florentine, and like all Florentines – at least those of her epoch – she dabbled in sorcery.  She protected herself against possible assassination by a sort of talisman which she wore on her.  It was the skin of a child whose throat had been cut…

As can be seen, she was not a particularly delightful person.  So she must have used cristallomancy with a few precautions.  When you poison people by the dozen, the hundred even, and you wear on you the skin of a child whose throat has been cut, it might be amusing to see the future in a mirror, but you are probably not too keen on looking at your own reflection…

Catherine de Medicis

The following year, in 1560, Francois II dies, after one year’s reign.  Charles IX succeeds him and dies after fourteen years, haunted by the phantoms of the Saint-Barthelemy massacre.  Then Henri III mounts the throne for fifteen years and is killed by a knife wound in the abdomen, by the monk Jacques Clement.  The preceding year, he had had the Duke de Guise assassinated.  Then, young Francois having succumbed to a galloping phthisis and the Valois branch being extinct, Henri de Bourbon becomes king under the name of Henri IV and reigns twenty years and nine months…


This story is recounted by two historians from the XVIIth Century:  Simon Goulard, in his Tresor d’histoires admirables, and Andre Felibien, in his Maisons royales.


Trickery by Ruggieri has been mentioned…  It has been said that he had perhaps used a sort of magic lantern, which is not impossible, for the magic lantern existed at this epoch.  It was even used in places of ill repute to project plates of doubtful propriety.  More or less the ancestor of erotic cinema.

It has also been said that Ruggieri had hidden disguised people and made them appear by a manipulation of mirrors…  This is not impossible either.  But neither of these tricks would explain the predictions contained in the vision.  For the people who appeared in the mirror made the number of turns which correspond exactly to the number of years of their reigns…  There are also a number of troubling details.  Charles IX pushing away frightening visions…  This is exactly what happened:  at the end of his life, he was haunted by the memory of the Saint-Barthelemy massacre;  he couldn’t sleep;  he cried out at night…  Henri III who firstly sees a body stretched out at his feet:  that of the Duke de Guise assassinated by his order;  then holds his abdomen at the end of the fifteenth turn:  a gesture which corresponds to the attitude he will have when the monk Jacques Clement stabs him in the abdomen…  The apparition of Henri de Bourbon, which wasn’t at all forseeable when this scene took place in 1559.  For Catherine de Medicis then had every reason to believe that the House of Valois would reign for a long time.  There were four heirs to the throne.  No-one thought that it would be necessary to turn to the Bourbons in Saint Louis’ genealogical tree.  No-one.  And Henri de Bourbon, the future Henri IV, appears in the mirror…  So, if it was only trickery, it was accompanied by a real clairvoyancy gift…


Cristallomancy is an extremely ancient form of divination.  It is reported that Pythagorus possessed a magic mirror which he presented to the moon’s face to see images of the future appear in it.  As well as that, our popular literature, our fairy-tales, our legends, are filled with people who use mirrors, or the surface of water, to see distant events unroll.

Today, throughout the whole world, there are very serious researchers who study myths, fairy-tales and popular legends with a lot of care.  And certain think to find in them, not, as it has been believed for a long time, just stories to put children to sleep, but interpretations of real facts going back to very ancient times, to civilizations completely forgotten today.  However, mythologists are not in agreement on the nature of these civilizations.  According to some, the ancient societies, whose legends relate certain events in fairy-tale form, had come to a very high technological level.  They had engines permitting them to move in the air, on the ground, under water.  They possessed machines capable of transmitting sounds and images, terrifying weapons, extraordinary energy sources, in other words, the equivalent of our aeroplanes, cars, submarines, radio, televison, lasers, atomic bombs, without counting the techniques still to be invented, and they mastered forces which are still unknown to us.

After a planetary cataclysm – perhaps an atomic catastrophe – this civilization was annihilated.  The rare survivors then told stories about it to their descendants, which, in time, became more and more incomprehensible and finished up taking on a fabulous allure.  Incapable of conceiving that men had been able to fly, travel enormous distances in a few minutes, watch the images of a distant event, talk to each other from one town to another, light up palaces by pushing a button, record the human voice, our ancestors invented the marvellous.  Engines become monsters, machines are magic objects, and the stories, transformed into legends, are peopled with dragons, chimera, water spirits, fairies, wizards, all endowed with flying chariots, magic wands and seven league boots…

Other myth historians propose a different hypothesis.  According to them, our stories and legends are not deformed echoes of an ancient civilization of technological essence.  They more or less reflect – I quote – “the nostalgia of unused human possibilities”…

These myth specialists explain that Man, to become master of the world, had two paths at his disposal:  the coarse way and the subtle way.  [Personally, I would use the words material and spiritual.]  The coarse way is the one that we have chosen.  It led us to invent the telephone, the radio, television, railways, cars, aeroplanes, rockets, the cinema, the atomic bomb, etc.,  in other words, objects.  The subtle way is the one that only uses all the resources and all of the faculties of the human spirit:  telepathy, levitation, clairvoyancy, telekinesis, bilocation, etc.  Faculties which, these authors note, have become atrophied, through lack of use, since we have taken the “coarse” road.

This would mean that for thousands of years, men invented stories peopled with beings endowed with all of the extraordinary faculties that they unconsciously suffer to leave unused:  for example, the possibility of flying through the air, communicating by thought, influencing cosmic forces, conversing with animals, becoming invisible, strolling through time and… the faculty of capting images of the future or the past and making them appear on the surface of a mirror…

To be continued.

Catherine de Medicis

The year 1559 is ending.  A black year for France.  King Henri II died in July, from wounds inflicted by Montgomery’s lance.  Since then, a sickly, feeble-minded child of fifteen, Francois II, reigns over the kingdom.  Dominated by a woman whose habitual arms are poison, magic and sorcery:  Catherine de Medicis, his mother.  But, for some time, the Florentine, who has left Paris to lock herself up inside her castle at Chaumont-sur-Loire, has been worried.  The religious problems which are dividing France, the growing power of the Huguenots, the palace treasons, are making her nervous.  She wants to know what the future will bring.  Her own destiny, as well as that of Francois II, the weak, pitiful King of France.

So, once again, she turns to Cosme – or Cosimo – Ruggieri, the astrologist whom she brought with her from Florence, and who never leaves her.  The wise man tells her:

“Give me a few days, Madame, and I will show you the future…”

And Ruggieri goes to the tower which dominates the Loire.  Since then, cut off from the world, he has been engaged in some sort of mysterious work.  Several times, Catherine de Medicis has come to knock on the door.  Without opening, Ruggieri says:

“I told you, Madame;  when the moon is full!”

And the Queen Mother, annoyed, goes back to her chamber.

But this evening, the moon is full when Catherine de Medicis knocks on the door.  This time Ruggieri opens it, and the Queen Mother enters a room which looks like a laboratory crossed with an alchemist’s hideaway.  In the light of the great fire that burns in the grate, she distinguishes test tubes, crucibles, stills, an astrolabe and piles of grimoires.  Ruggieri shows her an immense mirror which covers a whole wall.

“It is there, Madame, that the future is going to appear to you.”

Catherine de Medicis then understands that her astrologist is going to proceed with a magical operation called catoptromancy or cristallomancy, which consists of seeing the future in a mirror.

Ruggieri dips a small stick into a cup containing the blood of a male pigeon and traces on the wall some letters from the Hebrew alphabet.  Then, having blackened the tip of a wand in the fire, he draws a double circle on the floor, a sort of zodiac, to which he adds cabalistic figures.  When he has finished, he places on it, at the four cardinal points, a human skull, a lamp, a tibia and a cat in a state of hypnotic sleep…

“Sit down, Madame, and look!”

Catherine sits in an armchair, facing the mirror.

At first, she sees nothing.  Then a form appears.  Vague at first, then more precise, and she recognizes Francois II.  He is wearing his crown, the royal mantle and carries his sceptre.  He looks morose.  His image slides, leaves the mirror, travels around the room on the whitewashed wall, comes back to its starting point and disappears.  It is immediately replaced by that of a man in whom Catherine recognizes Charles, her second son, but an older Charles, for he is then only nine years old.  He too wears a crown, a royal mantle and carries a sceptre.  He turns fourteen times around the room and is about to start a fifteenth turn when he is seen to stop suddenly and consider with horror something invisible.  Then his hands reach out as if to push away frightening images.

Catherine wants know the meaning of these turns around the room.  Ruggieri tells her that each turn represents one year of reign.

Above the fire-place, Charles has disappeared to leave room for a third king in whom the Florentine, more and more anguished, this time recognizes Henri, her third son, who is just eight years old…  In the mirror, he is adult.  He advances, dancing.  He is wearing make-up, is effeminate, covered in jewellery, including pendant earrings.  He travels fourteen times around the room and stops for a moment.  He is seen to lean over a body lying at his feet.  Then he straightens up, makes a fifteenth turn and suddenly holds his abdomen with both hands with an expression of intense pain on his face.  After which, he disappears.

Huddled in her armchair, livid, Catherine de Medicis watches in silence.  She is scarcely breathing.  She awaits now the appearance of her fourth son, Francois, Duke d’Alencon, who is only five.  What will she learn?  How many turns will this one make before disappearing?  Will he have a life of normal length?  Or are all of Henri II’s sons cursed?

She waits.  How will her little Francois look as a man?  An image forms.  And a man appears.  A man with a hooked nose and crafty eyes, wearing a little beard.  At first, he is wearing a big hat decorated with a white panache.  Then suddenly, he is wearing the crown, like the others.

Catherine looks at him in fear.  This person cannot be Francois as a man.  But who is he?  And then a resemblance imposes itself on her.  This king has Antoine de Bourbon’s features…  Then, she understands that Francois will never reign, that he will die young and that the Bourbons, whom she hates, will mount the French throne…  This one, she is sure, is little Henri de Bourbon, who is only six years old, and whom she would like to be able to have poisoned…

In the mirror, the man with the hooked nose slides slowly.  And Catherine counts the turns.  Soon they pass those of Charles and Henri:  eighteen, nineteen, twenty…  Still another half-turn and the person disappears.  This Bourbon will therefore reign for more than twenty years!…

The Florentine is annihilated.  In spite of the great wood fire, she is shivering.  Then she straightens up and, without a word for Ruggieri, with a nasty expression on her face, she leaves to lock herself up in her chamber and curl up like a big, wounded spider…

To be continued.

Another example of the impossibility of escaping one’s destiny is the following story.  In 1572, Cosimo Ruggieri, astrologist at the French Court, predicts to Catherine de Medicis that she will die near Saint-Germain,

In 1588, the Queen, enfeebled by the emphysema from which she is suffering, has to take to her bed.  After a few days, feeling worse – and remembering Ruggieri’s prediction – she asks to leave the Louvre, which is in the parish of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, refuses to go to the Saint-Germain-en-Laye palace and has herself transported to Blois.  She says:

“As long as I am here, I shall be all right…”

On 4 June, her illness worsens and a doctor comes to see her.  He tells her that he will remain at her bedside until the next day.  Catherine thanks him, then asks his name.  The doctor replies:

“My name is Julien de Saint-Germain, Madame…”

Catherine dies three hours later…


Michel de Nostre-Dame, known as Nostradamus, painted by his son Cesar.

Catherine de Medicis was drawn to astrologists and wise men and was passionate about Nostradamus’ Centuries.  However, one passage worried her.  To the point that she asked King Henri II to call the doctor-prophet to Paris.  The quatrain that worried her was the thirty-fifth of the first Centurie which translates into English as follows:

The lion young, the old will surmount

In field bellic, by singular duel,

In golden cage, the eyes will put out,

Two classes one, to die, death cruel.

This quatrain, which is just as obscure as the others, worried her because of another prediction from an astrologist named Gauric.  This Gauric, three years beforehand, had advised Henri II

“to avoid any singular combat in a closed field, and notably around the forty-first year, because at this epoch of his life, he is menaced by a wound in the head which could lead to blindness or death”.

And Nostradamus’ quatrain about a “field bellic” – that is to say a place of combat – a duel, eyes being put out and cruel death, singularly recalls Gauric’s prediction.

It does not seem likely that Nostradamus had knowledge of Gauric’s text;  this prediction was known only to the royal family and Nostradamus lived alone, almost like a hermit, in Salon-de-Provence…

Nostradamus comes to Paris.  It is not known what Catherine de Medicis asks him;  but we know that she presents her four sons to him:  Francois, who is twelve, Charles five, Henri four, and the last one, the future Duke d’Alencon, who is still a baby.  Nostradamus looks at them and says:

“All four will reign…”

Catherine de Medicis pales and says:

“All four of them?  Must they then die young?”

Nostradamus does not answer.  But it all comes true:  Francois (Francois II) becomes king three years later;  Charles (Charles IX) mounts the throne in 1560;  Henri (Henri III) in 1574;  the Duke d’Alencon dies of tuberculosis after having been the ephemeral King of Flanders.

As for Henri II, here is how it all happens:  on 30 June 1559, a tournament is organised in the Rue Saint-Antoine.  A tournament where a few lords are going to be allowed to measure themselves against the King.  And Catherine de Medicis is afraid, for Henri II has been in his forty-first year for the last three months.

At ten o’clock, under a blazing sun, the King enters the lists, carrying the black and white colours of his mistress, Diane de Poitiers.  The jousting commences.  After saluting the ladies, Henri II runs brilliantly against the Duke de Savoie, then with remarkable address, against the Duke de Guise.

All is going well.  However, as he is sponging himself off after the second combat, Catherine sends him a message:

“to run no more out of love for her”.

The King replies:

“Tell the Queen that it is precisely out of love for her that I am going to run this lance.”

And he orders the young Earl Gabriel de Montgomery, Sieur de Lorges, to run against him.  The Earl refuses at first, remembering that his father had almost killed Francois I by throwing a flaming log on his head, one drunken evening;  but on the King’s insistence, he takes up the arm and stands on guard.

Then, before a white-faced Queen and an appalled crowd, the prophecies are accomplished:  the combatants charge towards each other, and Montgomery’s lance breaks on the King’s helmet with such violence that the visor opens.  A cry rises from the tribunes and the Queen collapses, unconscious.  Henri II, his face bleeding, clings to his horse.  People rush to him:  the lance’s tip has blinded one eye and fractured his skull.  He murmurs:

“I am dead.”

The guards transport him rapidly to Les Tournelles where he dies, in fact, twelve days later.  The predictions of Gauric and Nostradamus had come true…


Nostradamus’ language is a bit obscure, so we shall have another look at the quatrain.

First line:

The lion young, the old will surmount

The lion evokes the heraldic figure of the arms of Scotland, an allusion to the Guard in which the young Montgomery was a lieutenant.  The lion was also the astrological sign of France and of her king.  The young lion, is therefore Montgomery who is twelve years younger than the old lion, Henri II, whom he will surmount, that is to say whom he will vanquish.

Second line:

In field bellic, by singular duel

This line is very clear; the field bellic where the young lion is to vanquish the old lion is the lists where the combat is to take place.  And the singular duel is the tournament where two men affront each other alone.

Third line:

In golden cage, the eyes will put out

This line too is very clear:  Henri II was wearing a golden helmet.  But here there is an error:  the King had only one eye put out.

The fourth line:

Two classes one, to die, death cruel.

This line is a little more difficult to interpret, because of the vocabulary employed by Nostradamus.  Two “classes” signify two wounds, from the Greek word for a “break”.  Of the two wounds, the blinded eye and the fractured skull, only one leads to death and the King’s suffering will be horrendous.

To resume:   Nostradamus’ quatrain contains a little error, but four surprising precisions.  The mysterious doctor-prophet from Salon-de-Provence had therefore described, twenty-four years before it happened, the death of King Henri II.


Nostradamus used his clairvoyancy gift in everyday life.  Here are two examples.  One day while he was crossing Savone, in Italy, he passed on the street a young monk and suddenly kneeled before him.  The monk told him to rise.  Nostradamus said:

“No.  A Christian must kneel before the Pope…  May I solicit your benediction?”

The monk blessed him with a smile and continued on his way.  Thirty-five years later, this monk, whose name was Felice Peretti, was better known by the name of Sixte Quint, and he was Pope…

The second example is a charming little story.  Nostradamus had a laboratory at the top of his house.  One morning, he was working near his window and, from the street, you could only see his bonnet.  A square bonnet that everyone in Salon-de-Provence knew well.  A young girl passed and saw the bonnet.  She called out:

“Good day, Monsieur de Nostre-Dame!”

And, without moving, Nostradamus replied:

“Good day, little girl!”

Now the young girl was going to a gallant rendez-vous in the neighbouring wood.  And certain things happened there.  And in the evening, when she returned, she saw the square bonnet again and called out:

“Good evening, Monsieur de Nostre-Dame!”

And Nostradamus answered:

“Good evening, little woman!…”



The Duke of Anjou and future King Henri III of France

The Paris of this XVIth Century day is not wearing its usual face.  It is a Paris draped in white and scattered with flowers.  A sunny, joyful Paris, with all its church bells ringing.

It is the 18 August 1572, and Charles IX’s capital is celebrating.  This morning, in Notre-Dame, the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medicis, has married her daughter Marguerite, the future Queen Margot, to Henri de Navarre, the future King Henri IV, and the little people, always ready to participate in the joys of the greats of this world, are celebrating the event by devouring blood sausage, emptying jugs of white wine, and dancing the gig at all the crossroads.  From the Saint-Antoine Gate to the Saint-Honore Gate, musicians, perched on upturned barrels, play flat out the slightly risque tunes that please the girls and make them laugh for no particular reason.

But there is not only dancing at the crossroads.  There is also dancing at the Louvre.  To more complicated music, it is true.  The rooms of the palace, usually so lugubrious, are filled this evening with all the young people dressed in starched ruffs and cloth of gold, leaping gracefully to the sound of lutes, violas and oboes.

The marriage of Henri de Bourbon, future Henri IV, with Marguerite de Valois.

There are King Charles IX, who is twenty-two, Queen Elizabeth, eighteen, the Duke of Anjou and future Henri III, twenty-one, his brother Francois, Duke of Alencon, eighteen, the young newly-weds who are both nineteen, and a quantity of princes, princesses, dukes and duchesses who are under twenty.

Among these guests are Henri de Conde and his wife, Marie de Cleves.  They have been married a month.  He is ugly, bilious, jealous.  She is ravishing.  There is also a very pretty blonde with saucy eyes called Renee de Rieux.  She is one of Catherine de Medicis’ ladies-in-waiting and the mistress of the Duke of Anjou and future Henri III.  Their liaison is known to the whole Court, and from the beginning of the ball, they have been dancing continuously with each other.  They are beautiful, elegant, and very much in love.

Renee de Rieux was the Duke of Anjou's mistress and one of Queen Catherine de Medicis ladies-in-waiting.

Marguerite, who has just married, by order of her mother, that Bearnais who stinks of garlic, and to whom she has decided to refuse herself this evening, in spite of a temperament for which she will later become famous, looks at them rather enviously.  The Duke of Anjou has just signalled to the musicians.  They have understood:  after the “low dances” executed in a calm, deliberate manner, they are going to pass to the “high dances” which contain leaps and bounds.  The orchestra attacks a volte.  All the couples then start to bound everywhere in a burlesque fashion.  At the centre, the Duke of Anjou and Renee de Rieux, tightly enlaced, dance, their eyes locked together, alone in the world.  The Duke declares his love once again, and assures her that he will never love another woman.  Then he demands a farandole from the musicians.

They immediately attack a popular tune and all the dancers, taking each other’s hands, dance through the salons.  But it is so hot that everyone’s face is soon bright red and shiny.

Marie de Cleves is the first to detach herself from the farandole.  She excuses herself to her husband, telling him that she must change because she is dripping with perspiration…

Marie de Cleves, Princess de Conde, with whom the Duke of Anjou suddenly fell in love.

And she goes to a nearby chamber where she undresses and wipes her whole body.  One of Catherine de Medicis’ ladies-in-waiting then says to her:

“Your undershirt is drenched, Madame.  Leave it here, I will give you another one.”

Marie de Cleves puts on the new undershirt, re-dresses and goes back to the ball.  The Duke of Anjou comes in turn to the chamber to re-do his hair and wipe his face.  Thinking that he is taking a towel, he then picks up the undershirt that Marie has just taken off, and wipes it over his face.  Immediately, something unusual takes place:  he is invaded by intense emotion, while a burning force lights up his body;  his senses are troubled and he suddenly conceives an unlimited love for the owner of this still-warm lingerie that he holds in his hand.

Staggering, as if under the empire of a drug, he re-enters the ballroom and, although no-one has told him that the undershirt belongs to Marie, his eyes immediately find her.  And this woman, whom he has known for six months without giving her more than polite interest, plunges him into an emotion that he has never before felt.  Fascinated by Marie de Cleves, who suddenly seems to him to be the most gracious, the most charming and the most desirable being in the world, he sees no-one else, and even forgets Renee de Rieux, with whom, an instant before, he had been totally in love.

Prince de Conde, the husband of Marie de Cleves

The very next day, he sends a passionate letter to the young woman, and Marie, overwhelmed to learn that she has seduced the most beautiful prince in France, falls in love too.  Faithful, however, to her ugly husband, she decides never to return to the Louvre for fear of meeting Henri…  Then, Henri writes to the Duchess of Nevers, Marie’s sister, begging her help “with tears in my eyes and my hands joined”.

And Madame de Nevers pleads the cause of the suitor so well that Marie agrees to allow the Duke to wear a little portrait of herself around his neck.  Then she accepts a rendez-vous, and they both “think that they are in Paradise”, a chronicler tells us…

From then on, they meet regularly thanks to the complicity of the Duchess of Nevers, and their chaste liaison illuminates their lives.  A separation will shatter them.  In September 1573, Catherine de Medicis having had Henri elected King of Poland, he has to leave for Cracovia.  He sets off in tears, leaving Marie inconsolable…

To be continued.

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