Catherine de Medici was born in Florence, Italy, on April 13, 1519. Although she was the daughter of a duke and a princess, she was quickly orphaned. She was educated by nuns in both Rome and Florence.
In 1533, Catherine's life changed. She married duc d'Orleans, Henry, who became King Henry II of France in April 1547. Catherine bore him ten children and seven of them lived, three girls and four boys. She was appointed regent in 1552 in the absense of Henry, who was at the seige of Metz, and got to experience a bit of what it was like to rule a country.
In July 1559, Catherine's husband died and her son, Francis II, assumed the throne. Together with her son, Catherine stood up against those who opposed the crown. In March 1560, Catherine demonstrated her influence in the Conspiracy of Ambroise. She created the Edict of Ambroise and then the Romorantin, which showed the difference between sedition and heresy and separated faith and allegiance. Although this didn't fully solve the problem of the conspiracy, these actions made actions against the throne less probable.
On December 5, 1560, her son Francis II died and she appointed another of her sons, Charles IX, regent. She also appointed Antoine de Bourbon lieutenant general.
Between 1560 and 1570 was a hard time for Catherine because of the many civil wars that occurred. In 1561, she tried to win the favor of both factions' leaders that were fighting, but didn't succeed. She formed the Colloquy of Poissy, which was supposed to force reconciliation between the factions, but it didn't work. She also passed the Edict of January in 1552, stating the law of Calvinist coexistence in society. However, this didn't stop the war, but started another outbreak. In 1563, she stopped the first civil war with her Edict of Ambroise, and in March 1568, she ended the second with her Peace of Longjumeau. The Treaty of Saint-Germain ended the third civil war, but she had no hand in that treaty.
The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre happened on August 23 and 24 in 1572 in Paris, and Catherine was blamed for it. This was because of two reasons. One, she was thought to be the head of France and therefore, she was responsible for what occurred in France. Two, she appeared to be one who person who actually allowed the massacre to occur. However, her part in the massacre is, in truth, unconfirmed.
In March 1574, Catherine's son in power, Charles IX, died, and she became regent until Henry III returned from Poland. Throughout the rest of her life, she made her greatest achievement: she saved France long enough for Henry IV of the Bourbons to assume the throne.
Catherine died in Blois, France, on January 5, 1589, having accomplished much, including the creation of chateaus that she had designed and built in her spare time.