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Reviews

Catherine de Medici - a biography‘Leonie Frieda does this remarkable woman full justice. Refusing to play judge, she reveals her to us through the best of means, which is narrative. The skill with which Frieda finds her way through the maze of this confusing period is exemplary. You read on eagerly. An enthralling book.’
Allan Massie, Literary Review

'This masterful and compelling biography delivers a beautifully written portrait of a ruthless, subtle and fearless woman fighting for survival and power in a world of gangsterish brutality, routine assassination and religious mania. I quickly found I could not stop reading. This is narrative history at its best, both scholarly and as captivating as a thriller. Leonie Frieda has brought a largely forgotten heroine-villainess and a whole sumptuously vicious era back to life again. She is equally at home in the royal court as she is in the blood-reeking gutters of Paris: this is The Godfather meets Elizabeth.’
Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Mail on Sunday

'A stunning biography, which brings to life a heroic woman and the tumultuous, cruel and gaudy times in which she lived.'
Paul Johnson

‘As Leonie Frieda shows in this absorbing biography, Catherine was a well-intentioned woman who resorted to extreme measures only under pressure. With its engaging style and deft handling of complex events, this accomplished account of Catherine’s career is an engrossing tale, compellingly narrated.’
Anne Somerset, The Spectator

'Gorgeous detail and remarkable anecdotes....There is no mistaking the abiding pleasure of this smart and stylish book.'
Carol Herman, Washington Times

‘As Leonie Frieda relates in this well-researched and immensely readable first biography, from her turbulent home in Florence Catherine found herself presiding over perhaps the nastiest period in all French history. Frieda is much to be praised for painting a wonderfully rich canvas.’
Sir Alistair Horne, The Times

‘Leonie Frieda has produced an absorbing, entertaining study of a time when the luxury and depravity of princes went hand-in-hand with power-plotting, assassination and bloody vengeance.’
Peter Lewis, Daily Mail

‘Frieda’s confidence in her mission permeates the book, raising what is in any case a fascinating narrative to the level of cogent and powerful argument. … This intelligent and well-researched biography is a worthy testament to Catherine’s formidable strength. Catherine de Medici reveals Frieda, a first-time biographer, to be a writer of tremendous skill and talent.’
Dr Amanda Foreman, The Observer

‘Leonie Frieda has handled the history of this complex period with skill. Without skimping on the drama and debauchery of the court of the Valois, she has defended, but not whitewashed, Catherine and produced a fascinating picture of a remarkable woman.’
Sarah Bradford, Evening Standard

‘Leonie Frieda’s enjoyable and skilfully written biography … conveys, vividly at times, the outsize style of Renaissance rule: the Loire châteaux, the feasts and balls and masques, the exotic costumes, the elaborate needlework, the pioneering attempts at ballet and opera, the bizarre collection of stuffed objects that ranged from stuffed crocodiles to priceless manuscripts. Catherine’s supreme command of the political display is adroitly brought out.’
Prof. Blair Worden, The Sunday Telegraph

'This is a masterly biography and a fascinating one.'
John Jolliffe, The Independent

‘In Frieda’s scholarly tome, Catherine de Medici is painted not in the dark hues of her critics but using a more colourful palate. Through a prodigious amount of research, that was assisted by the author’s versatility in five European languages, all the colour and splendour of Catherine’s court is recreated.’
Stephen McGinty, The Scotsman

‘Frieda is passionate about her subject, and her prose is lyrical and exacting. Like a polished stone, it reveals the character depths beneath mere historical detail as she brings to brilliant life one of the most fascinating women of the 16th century. What raises this biography into a tour de force is Frieda’s ability to reframe completely our views about Catherine de Medici. This book is a remarkable achievement for Frieda, who has given us a marvellously compelling glimpse into a life led passionately.’
Julie Enfield, Toronto Globe and Mail

'Leonie Frieda has produced a formidable book. Meticulously researched and extremely well-written, this surely will be the definitive biography of Catherine de Medici for many years to come.'
Andrew Smith, Medieval History Magazine

'In this splendid, detailed and gripping biography, Frieda does Catherine ample justice.'
Munro Price, BBC History Magazine

‘Leonie Frieda is clearly already a very professional writer, but this is her first major work of history. It is a most excellent book that should be read by everybody who believes that education for its own sake has value, and that history in particular has cautionary tales to offer. Leonie Frieda, happily for us, manifests an Actonian sense of humour in her writing. The author paints a brilliant picture of the French court and of her subject’s private life.’
Claus von Bülow, Catholic Herald

‘Mrs Frieda’s book is a well-written and colourful journey through 16th century France, entertaining to read as well as frequently illuminating.’
Simon Heffer, Country Life

‘Frieda succeeds in making her subject interesting and coherent, and shows her operating in a political context that left no room for squeamishness or scruple.’
Charles Nicholl, The Sunday Times

‘Leonie Frieda’s richly detailed account … paints a most fascinating picture of French court life. The political complexities are kept mercifully clear, the main lines of rivalry sharp, the characters vivid.’
Ann Wroe, Daily Telegraph

‘Leonie Frieda’s description of events leading up to the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre are dramatic and fascinating – a real page-turner. Thoroughly recommended.’
Tim Newark, Military Illustrated

‘Frieda’s biography of Catherine is a triumph of which she should be rightly proud. Better still, she succeeds where some historical biographers fail: she takes an interesting story and makes it live with her writing where the bland prose of others would kill our interest stone dead.’
Caroline Foulkes, Birmingham Post

'In this sympathetic and gloriously detailed biography, Leonie Frieda tries to rehabilitate France's 'Black Queen'.'
Caroline Murphy, New Statesman

'This is an interesting and well-written book that enlightens the reader about a turbulent and fascinating period which still arouses debate and disagreement.'
David McLaurin, The Tablet

‘An assured and genuinely gripping tale of a woman – ‘the Black Queen’ – who ruthlessly conspired in 16th-century France and battled against more adversities in a day than most of us have had in a lifetime.’
Paul Palmer, ES Magazine

‘Leonie Frieda is the latest addition to Weidenfeld & Nicolson’s stable of authors, intelligent, well-educated, photogenic.’
Simon Adams, Times Literary Supplement

'Leonie Frieda has written a biography of scrupulous detail.'
Ethna Viney, Irish Times

'A rich and insightful piece of biographical and historical writing, which not only brings to life the famed Machiavellian queen but also the dramatic events and colourful courtiers (and courtesans) who shaped French history during her reign. Leonie Frieda has written one of the first must-reads of the year.'
Richard Foreman, Waterstone's, Leadenhall Market

‘Poison, scheming and relatives dropping dead in their hordes – Catherine de Medici’s life is remembered for its almost unimaginable melodrama. The woman herself – half-French, half-Italian and hugely rich and powerful – has often been portrayed as the devil incarnate, but this gripping biography argues that she was actually a skilful politician who brokered peace in France during turbulent times. A real historical treat.’
Jo Berry, Sainsbury’s Magazine

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