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.
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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.
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