The “truth” of Catherine de Medici in The Serpent Queen

In the past, truth was a conclusion – in a neutral thesis – that brought together several versions of the same fact and highlighted those that effectively appeared to be “facts”. Nowadays, with the control of social media, people have taken possession of the truth – replacing the word “version” with a possessive noum- and with that whoever is most persuasive can change the narrative.

The rule applies with historical reviews, especially of prominent women in a millennial and universally sexist society. In general, those who excelled in men’s camps were seen as unscrupulous, manipulative and just plain cruel. Catherine de Medici was one such case.

Catarina was not “nice”, but her choices and attitudes have to do with her survival in a violent universe of which she was the fruit and object at different times. The Serpent Queen series brings Catarina sharing her conclusions and inviting us to reflect after listening to her, if it could have been different. She doesn’t want pity, not even sympathy, just knowledge of how things have turned out to be where they have gone. And it has been a fascinating journey.

The maid Nahima represents us, as she is identified by Catarina as a potential ally and at the same time she teaches her how to survive, she humanizes her own story. As we have seen, Catherine’s youth was a nightmare and her arrival in France did not fare any better. With a husband who isn’t attracted to her, the challenge of having children puts her in a vulnerable position of being “returned” (except no one wants her).

To make matters worse, even accompanied by a group that should help her, the future queen is always alone and at risk of her life. Her enemy, the clever Diane de Poitiers, temporarily becomes an ally as the two are in danger of being replaced.

If the drama of not getting pregnant is still central to young Catarina (she took indeed many years without conceiving), the story has advanced in density. She is forced to work with Diane, deal with her brother-in-law and sacrifice some loved ones to stay alive. All within a context in which she makes it clear that no one could judge her or do otherwise.

The series is sensational in many ways, and yes, the costumes and sets continue to take our breath away. The Catarina who narrates her life in a practical and cold way is completely different from the firm and smart young woman, but constantly terrified. Partnering with Diane for the time being gives us another look at the woman who actually knew how to survive. She’s not exactly jealous of the Italian, but she’s also survived abuse to put herself at anyone’s mercy. She is now as mentor to Catarina as to Henry, separately.

The double timeline doesn’t confuse us, bravo to the writers. Catarina’s internal war as a young woman was more painful, but the adult remains attentive. Your next enemy? The daughter-in-law, Mary Stuart. Wonderful!

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