EXCERPT Out of The Shadows: The Ladies of Château Amboise

Catherine de Médicis, queen dowager of France, mother of three kings of France (Francis II, Charles IX and Louis III), was among the most powerful women in French history. She, in effect, ran France for twenty-five years.

When we think of Catherine de Medici we think what? Florence? Certainly. It’s where she was born. The Pope? Yes. She was closely related to two popes. Great wealth? Undoubtedly. The Saint Bartholomew Day Massacre? Yes. Diane de Poitiers? Yes. Their names will be forever linked. As Princess Diana so famously said there were three of them in Catherine’s marriage.

Catherine was plain, short, stout and spoke French with a strong Italian accent. She was looked down on by the French Court. For over twenty-five years she took second place to Diane de Poitiers, her husband’s adored mistress.

Catherine’s parents were married at Château Amboise 5 May 1518. Her Italian father was Lorenzo II de Medici, duke of Urbino. Madeleine de La Tour of Auvergne, her French mother, was related to Francis I.

The wedding was a double celebration. Queen Claude had just given birth to the Dauphin Francis. The extravaganza organised by Leonardo da Vinci, the King’s Master of Ceremonies, went on for weeks. Francis I even re-enacted his astonishing 1515 victory at the Battle of Marignano in Italy.

By the time she left Amboise, Catherine’s mother might have been pregnant. Catherine was born 13 April 1519. Her mother, 21, died 28 April 1519. Two weeks later her father a notorious womaniser, died of syphilis ‘worn out by disease and excess’. He was twenty-seven. Rumour had it, he infected his young wife.

Orphaned at birth, Catherine was passed around her father’s relatives and could call nowhere home. Francis I wanted to raise her at his Court in Château Amboise with his own children but instead she was cared for in Florence by the Medici family.

About the Author – Pamela Shields

I was born in England but grew up in Wales where I qualified as an art teacher. I lived in London for twenty years where I trained as a magazine journalist. Age fifty sold my house and travelled alone for two unforgettable years in Australia, Belgium and America. I wrote a book about my experiences but can’t get an agent or publisher. Commissioned to write five non-fiction books moved to the countryside where I met my husband Mark, a photographer. We have self-published eight books together on various subjects. We moved to Amboise in the Loire Valley France to launch a photography business.

Here is her interview

Out of The Shadows: The Ladies of Château Amboise by Pamela Shields

1 What is your book about?

The women who lived in Château Amboise France

Why did you want to write this book?

There are plenty of books about the men who lived in the Château but I couldn’t find any about the women.

3 What do you hope other people will take away from reading your book?

Wealth does not prevent heartbreak. Queens of France suffered from the same bad experiences as other women. Unfaithful husbands. Cold children. Loneliness. Illness. Broken hearts. Miscarriages. Stillbirths.

Who are your favorite authors (and why)?

Read all of Graham Green, Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter, Anne Tyler et al. All for the same reason. Excellent writing.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing journey?

That the bug would enter my bloodstream and last forever. There is no escape. George Orwell said a day spent without writing was a wasted day. That’s exactly what it feels like. A compulsion.

What do you do when you are not writing?

My other obsessions. Reading. Crosswords. TV series/documentaries. Films on TV. Watching my lovely husband in the garden lost in his own world photographing and categorising every bug, insect and wild flowers everyone else calls weeds.

7 What’s next for you?

Having written about the women who lived in Château Amboise I am writing a book about their children who grew up there.

8 How can our readers get a copy of your book?

It is available on Amazon

9 What is the best way for our readers to connect with you? www.pamela-shields.com