Having had a long interest in the life of Catherine de Medici, I was looking forward to a new perspective in this book.
I was appalled--it is chock full of historical detail that make it a very entertaining read. But that entertainment is like reading Cosmopolitan magazine: Princess Michael of Kent has done a commendable job of her research and detail, but the blatant bias in favor of Diane de Poitiers, and the contempt for Catherine de Medici make the book, to put it plainly, rather creepy. And as objective history, it is mud.
Princess Michael makes no secret of her bias, as she refers to Diane in the introduction as her 'heroine.' Everything Diane does is applauded, and held up as graceful, ladylike, classy, mature, selfless, motherly, etc--the adjectives go on and on, becoming increasingly less plausible. Catherine is referred to in such catty terms that it sounds like the book was written by a nasty high-school girl. Catherine is ridiculed for her physical lack of charms, but also for being two-faced, a liar, duplicitous, etc. But when Diane does the same things, she is excused as being 'a woman of her time.'
Princess Michael doesn't trouble herself with historical fact: Diane de Poitiers was a major figure in French Renaissance history, but her avariciousness, greed and manipulation of Henri II are glossed over in this book. Catherine de Medici ruled France as regent for 3 of her sons, and managed to survive and secure the throne in a dangerous and ruthless age by being a highly skillful monarch. She was no more or less ruthless than any other successful ruler of that age, but Princess Michael portrays her as alternately sneaky and petty. She goes into great detail over Catherine's supposed 'vengeance' on Diane after the death of Henri II, but in fact, Catherine was remarkably generous, allowing Diane to retire to her estate at Anet undisturbed when she could easily have hounded her unmercifully.
Read this once for the juicy and entertaining historical details of French Renaissance court life, but don't think for a moment that this is a book of history.