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THE SERPENT AND THE ROSE by Catherine Butterfield


Marguerite de Valois and Catherine de Medici: A Mother-Daughter Battle for the Ages

by Catherine Butterfield

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 2024
ISBN: 9798350928013
Publisher: BookBaby

Butterfield presents a historical novel set during the infrequently portrayed French Wars of Religion.

Readers learn about the era’s tense political situation through diary entries written by Marguerite, Princess of France, beginning in 1581. Her mother, Catherine de Medici, is in a rage, beating Marguerite for a perceived attempt to flirt with a man from what Catherine sees as an unsuitable family. This results in Marguerite grudgingly entering into an arranged marriage with Prince Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot, to bring religious peace to France, where Protestants and Catholics have been warring. She’s prepared to fulfill her familial obligation on behalf of France, and even finds herself enamored with the prince. However, after the queen of Navarre voices her expectation that Marguerite convert to Protestantism, and a violent anti-Huguenot uprising occurs in Paris, the impending nuptials become more complicated. Soon, the couple are separated by violence; Henri flees and Marguerite is detained in Paris as a political prisoner before she seeks refuge with Flemish nobility. Things are going well until she receives a letter from her brother Alençon informing her that their sibling, Charles, the king, sees her attempted peacekeeping as sympathy for the Huguenots—a traitorous act he considers worthy of death. Over the course of this novel, Butterfield employs a diarylike style from Marguerite’s perspective that makes for a brisk read, and Marguerite, despite her royal background, comes off as approachable and very human throughout; for example, late in the novel, she has a powerful experience that brings her a sense of fulfillment that she’d never encountered in her strictly proscribed life. The author, for the most part, sticks closely to the events of the historical timeline, but takes some creative liberties, as when she notes in an afterword that the idea that one key character “was Marguerite’s One Great Love is cause for speculation; and so, I did.”

A sweeping but intimate story that highlights the author’s clear attention to detail.