Catherine de Medici (1519-1589)

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Catherine de Medici was born to the powerful Medici family of Italy in 1519. However, her parents died when she was still a baby. She was raised in various covenants and received the best education a female could in that period.

When Catherine was 14-years-old, Pope Clement arranged her marriage to King Francis I of France’s younger son, Henry of Orleans. However, after the death of both Francis and Henry’s older brother, Catherine and Henry II became King and Queen of France.

Catherine was very unpopular with the French people despite her intelligence and political awareness. After her husband died in a jousting tournament, Catherine gained a more involved role in ruling with her sons.

Catherine was very involved in the conflict between the French Huguenots and Catholics. This political disparity would continue to highlight the reigns of her sons, and would be a constant cause of concern until her death.

Catherine’s intelligence allowed her to become a vital player in the religious conflicts. She was a valuable advisor and peacemaker for her time.

 

Source: http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ma-Mo/Medici-Catherine-de.html

Photo source: http://www.s9.com/Biography/Catherine-De-Medicis

Eleanor of Aquitaine: Duchess and Queen of Two Countries (1124-1204)

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Eleanor of Aquitaine became the most powerful woman in all of France very quickly and at a very young age. Her wealth, association with powerful figureheads and adventurous spirit all contributed to her powerful influence.

At the death of her father and uncle, Eleanor married King Louis VII of France. For a while, it was a very happy and advantageous marriage. Eleanor brought the wealth, culture and arts from Aquitaine, her home, to Paris, France. She contributed much advancement to the city.

Eleanor also travelled to the Crusades with her husband, Louis. However, this adventure would prove to be the defining end of her marriage. She and Louis disagreed on a plan of action in the Crusades. Once they were home, the marriage was annulled.

Soon after, Eleanor wed King Henry II of England and became his Queen. She had a much more political role in England and was able to assert her intelligence and ideas.

However, her marriage to Henry soon began to decline after she gave birth to five sons and three daughters. She moved to a personal residence where she planned a revolt against her estranged husband. Eleanor was imprisoned for a very long time until her sons pleaded for her release.

Richard the Lionheart, one of Eleanor’s sons, eventually became King of England and secured her complete freedom.

Eleanor was a duchess and a queen of two countries. Even in her old age, she continued to battle for what she believed was right and would never back down from a confrontation. She was fiercely loyal to her children and dedicated to bringing culture and prosperity to her kingdoms.

Source: http://ehistory.osu.edu/world/PeopleView.cfm?PID=394

Photo Source: http://www.nndb.com/people/423/000093144/

Anne of Austria, Queen of France (1601-1666)

1622-1625 Anne of Austria (1601–1666)  by Peter Paul Rubens

Anne of Austria was a very influential Queen of France. She was the daughter of King Phillip III of Austria and grew up in Spain. Christina married King Louis XIII when she was just 14-years-old.

Her marriage to Louis was an unhappy one because of her inability to produce an heir until later in life, and her split loyalties. France declared war on Spain, of which her brother, King Phillip IV ruled. Her correspondence brought into question her loyalties to France, which was later pardoned.

When Louis died, Anne was named Queen Regent of France until her son was old enough to rule. During this time, she made peace with Spain and was able to reunite with her brother and an alliance was created between the marriage of her son and Phillip’s daughter.

Anne was a very able politician and learned how to maneuver through court intrigue through her husband’s court. Her inclination toward peace improved France’s foreign relations, and her loyalty to her family was a very important aspect of her life.

Source: http://www.biography.com/people/anne-of-austria-9185816?page=2

Photo source: http://bjws.blogspot.com/2013/01/1600s-gossip-queen-anne-of-austria.html

Christina, Queen of Sweden (1626-1689)

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Christina Wasa, Queen of Sweden, was one of the most intelligent women of her time. Christina was the daughter of King Gustav II Adolf, who died when she was six. She was the only heir to the throne and named queen-elect at Gustav’s death. From that time on, Christina was educated as a price. She was very well read and competent in all political matters.

Her opinion was valued in council meetings as early as the age of 14. Christina was a very efficient politician, and was able to suppress civil war and class difficulties after the Thirty Years War.

Christina brought culture and many of the arts to Sweden. Her reign produced the first Swedish newspaper, as well as educational and social reforms.

However, smart and witty Christina was, she abdicated her throne after a rule of 10 years. Christina was a savvy and sharp politician during her reign of Sweden, and contributed a flourishing culture of arts and literature to Sweden as Queen.

Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/115660/Christina

Photo Source: http://www.s9.com/Biography/Christina

 

 

Empress Catherine II of Imperial Russia, Catherine the Great (1729-1796)

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Empress Catherine II of Imperial Russia was one of the fieriest rulers of her time. Catherine ruled Russia, the largest country in the world, and she ruled it ruthlessly.

She married Peter III, heir to the Russian throne when she was 15-years-old and she had mastered the Russian language. However, the marriage was an unhappy one, and she wasn’t impressed with his leadership skills. After staging a coup with the Imperial Guard, Catherine had her unpopular husband abdicate the throne and imprisoned, and she took over becoming the sole ruler.

Catherine was very intelligent and dedicated to her Russian subjects. She read widely and brought the Enlightenment to Russia. Catherine created a period of stability so that she could reform the Russian government, legal system and better social conditions with Enlightenment ideas.

In addition to modernizing Russia, Catherine transformed St. Petersburg into an attractive capital to promote Russia as a “center of civilization.”

Catherine the Great was an all around superstar politician. She knew what she had to do to accomplish her goals, and her creativity stimulated Russian growth on all levels.

 

Source: http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ca-Ch/Catherine-the-Great.html

Photo Source: http://www.arlindo-correia.com/160406.html

Isabella I, Queen of Spain (1451-1504)

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Isabella I, Queen of Spain, was one of the most influential powers in Spain’s history. Isabella was dedicated first and foremost to her Catholic faith that is evident in her all of her accomplishments.

Isabella grew up in the corrupt Castilian court under her half-brother, King Henry IV. Isabella was very popular and had many supporters who were willing to overthrow her brother and place her on the thrown when she was still very young. Isabella however, refused to instigate a civil war that would have destroyed the country. However, Isabella agreed to a secret marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon that united Spain for the first time.

Isabella and Ferdinand succeeded Henry’s death and ruled Spain together. Under Isabella and Ferdinand, the controversial Spanish Inquistion was initiated and they successfully completed the Reconquista.

Isabella is most recognized for supporting Christopher Colombus and his exploration of the New World. Her attention to expansion allowed Spain to become a world power.

Isabella’s loyalty to her country and dedication to its development allowed Spain to flourish under her reign. It takes a very forward and open-minded person to be able to accomplish all that.

 

Source: http://www.heritagehistory.com/www/heritage.php?Dir=characters&FileName=isabel1s.php

Photo source: http://www.historyandwomen.com/2012/06/queens-vow-by-cw-gortner.html

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was a fashionista, a gambler, a political activist, a writer and a figurehead of England’s Georgian age.

Georgiana married the Duke of Devonshire when she was 17-years-old. Her marriage to the duke was unconventional because of his many affairs, especially with her best friend, Bess, who eventually lived with the Cavendishes in their home.

Her unhappy marriage did not deter Georgiana for making a fabulous name for herself in London society. She was a close friend with Marie Antoinette and England’s royal family.

Georgiana was a celebrity in eighteenth-century England. She not only dictated fashion, but she became a political activist for the Whig party. Her notoriety and popularity among commoners and politicians were large factors in the elections that the Whigs were able to win.

Georgiana lived a glamorous lifestyle, and she unfortunately had much debt from frequent gambling.

Because of her unhappy marriage, Georgiana fell in love and had an affair with a lord. When the duke, Georgiana’s husband, discovered the affair he would not allow her to see their three children. Georgiana was a devoted mother and eventually renounced the affair to be with her them.

Despite the unhappiness of her marriage, Georgiana cared for her husband in his later years and committed herself to her children, writing and scientific ventures.

Georgiana was a celebrity of her day, however she is an example of how selflessness and devotion to those closest to you is the most important thing.

Source: http://www.cherylbolen.com/georgiana.htm

Photo source: http://www.historyhome.co.uk/people/georgia.htm