Medici, Catherine de’. A Signed letter to Imbert de La Platière, Sieur de Bourdillon;
AN UNPUBLISHED LETTER OF
CATHERINE DE’ MEDICI, THE SCHEMING QUEEN
Medici, Catherine de’. Signed letter to Imbert de La Platière, Sieur de Bourdillon;
counter-signed by (Sébastien de) l’Aubespine. St. Germain-en-Laye, 28 August 1561.
Bifolium (sheet: 16 7/8” x 12 5/8”, 427mm x 320mm; framed: 26 1/16” x 21 7/8”).
Text of the letter on two pages (1r-v), 2r blank, direction and docketing on 2v.
With a slit and a papered wax seal.
Folded in half vertically and twice horizontally, making 8 compartments. Some tanning at the edges, with fragments of wax, some ink burns and one book-matched worm-track. Framed with UVIII plexiglass recto and verso.
Catherine de’ Medici (de Médicis, 1519–1589) was Queen consort of Henry II of France, Queen Regent for her son Charles IX and Queen Mother to him and to three other sons, Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III. Born to Lorenzo II de’ Medici, ruler of Florence and Duke of Urbino, Catherine was held in a convent while Charles V laid siege to Florence, in return for which Pope Clement VII made him Holy Roman Emperor. Thereafter, Catherine’s wedding to Henry II was arranged by Clement (her cousin Giulio de’ Medici), bringing concord between two great Catholic powers.
Catherine was deeply embedded in the workings of XVIc Europe, whether by relation or by direct involvement. This letter, apparently unpublished, shows her in the time of her Regency playing a direct role in espionage. Writing to Imbert de La Platière, Sieur de Bourdillon, Catherine instructs him (she would make him Maréchal de France the following year) to make a public denial that she had a role in the detention of courier of the papal envoy at Turin. The King of Spain — to whom l’Aubespine was ambassador — complained about the violation.
Catherine had, in fact, instructed Bourdillon to intercept the courier and to copy the material that concerned her, while simultaneously instructing the French ambassador to Rome to tell the pope that Bourdillon acted on his own, and that the king (her son, Francis II, then 11) was outraged.
Le Comte de La Ferrière’s Lettres de Catherine de Médicis (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1880) I.230n. points to the absence of our letter from the corpus of known correspondence between Catherine and Bourdillon.