“The Serpent Queen” is a tale of a woman destined to rule a country she was not even born. On the lookout for power, she managed to do unspeakable things, or maybe those were just rumors that she did pay any heed to. It is a tale of a queen who managed to rule the country with all her might despite opposition. This is the story of every other Queen in history. How is her life different? “The Serpent Queen” is a period black comedy-drama created by Justin Haythe and is based on the book Catherine de’ Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda.
Story Of Catherine de’ Medici
Just like the story of any other Queen, “the Serpent Queen” begins with It/Rahima being told to serve Queen Catherine her breakfast. The Queen, meanwhile, is looking for a perfect maidservant as her son’s coronation is approaching. Rahima, on reaching Queen’s room, feels a little uncomfortable, but Catherine makes her comfortable and finds Rahima easy to converse with. Queen Catherine starts recollecting her life in court and her life before that. Catherine was a daughter of a rich merchant. When her parents died, she was sent to a convent but was constantly haunted by her father’s enemies. She is finally captured, but her uncle, the Pope, rescues her only to be told that she will be marrying the second son of the King of France, Prince Henri. Her marriage to Prince Henri comes with an agreement to provide a hefty dowry to the King for the treasury and assure that she will produce heirs. Catherine, from a young age, proves to be a survivor. She survived the convent; she worked smartly to survive the convent and her uncle, the Pope. So that she isn’t treated like a commodity by the Pope, she draws intelligent plans to make sure Prince Henri doesn’t have any second thoughts about her. Pope is impressed with her maneuvering skills. Catherine, parentless since her birth, wants to make sure her life in the palace is stable, if not peaceful. She would want shelter over her head, ample clothes to wear, food to eat, and allies who would do anything for her.
On meeting Prince Henri, she falls in love with him, for he considers her to be beautiful and smart. Enamored by his attention, Catherine is elated to be married to him. The wedding night ceremony scars Henri which makes Catherine go back to him to make their night special, only to discover Henri having an affair with a woman who is Catherine’s cousin and her supposed ally in court, Lady Diane de Poitiers. Catherine is shocked to see Henri snuggling up on Lady Diane. Catherine realizes her love for her husband is not enough to sustain in the court. Her struggles with influencing Henri and the constant tussle with Lady Diane are how Catherine spent her life as a young girl. Catherine makes sure, if not through charm, she would get Henri’s attention through her political scheming, which impresses Henri’s father, the King. He makes sure to keep Catherine by Henri’s side so that he can make sound decisions in the future. Even though her uncle never paid the dowry, Catherine makes sure she stays relevant in the court by keeping a check on the political moves, providing her suggestions which turn out to be successful. Catherine is a woman who has seen no means of fortune but only bad treatment since her convent days and is not shaken by events at court that might change the course of the tide against her. Catherine manages to steer the boat and finally makes an agreement with Lady Diane, who manipulates Henri to impregnate Catherine to carry forward his family’s legacy. Catherine and Henri sadly are not in love, and having intercourse is a mechanical work more than an act of love, for they find it is their duty towards each other to produce children. Catherine also, however, does not understand the need for love in marriage because the only pressure she is under is to produce an heir. The lack of love between Catherine and Henri in the beginning, is the reason why Catherine is not able to get a grip on her husband, which will determine her survival.
As Queen Catherine retells her tale of survival to Rahima, the maidservant figures queen is not to be messed with. Catherine would go miles to make sure she did not become obsolete and powerless. Catherine eventually gives birth to nine kids, and Henri is still under the influence of Lady Diane. Catherine and Henri’s father is worried about the amount of influence Lady Diane has over Henri, and she tries her level best to separate them, only for the plan to backfire royally. Catherine, being someone who knows to show resistance and patience, does not lose hope at any point, for she knows her place remains in the palace, and she loves the power she gets from exercising her strategies. She is dark, conniving, and someone who would throw her people under the bus so that she gets to live.
‘The Serpent Queen’ Ending Explained: Does Catherine de’ Medici Finally Become The Regent?
Catherine feels she needs more power in her hand than she has and starts considering Lady Diane as her threat. Catherine tries every trick in the book to bring Henri on her side, but Lady Diane makes sure all her plans are thwarted. Henri’s father, the King, makes sure Catherine sits on the privy council once Henri is made the King, now that his elder brother is gone. Catherine exercises her control by convincing Henri to mobilize his army as the Holy Roman Emperor would start a war he did not finish with Henri’s father. Henri ignores her initially but soon realizes she is right. During Henri’s coronation, Lady Diane takes center stage, sidelining Catherine to show who has more influence over Henri. Henri goes to war, not before making Catherine the Kingdom’s Regent before he leaves. Catherine takes this opportunity to gain more allies, which initially works in her favor, but her plans fall through. Catherine and Lady Diane’s tussle reaches a stage when there is a discussion about when will Francis, the eldest son of Catherine and Henri, marry Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary and Francis have been betrothed since they were kids. Mary being a staunch catholic, her being in power would allow the catholic church to influence her decision-making. Catherine and Henri are not in favor of early marriage, but on Diane’s insistence, the wedding plans are back on the table.
Diane, the most influential and the only mistress of Henri, goes miles to make sure Henri stays loyal only to her and makes decisions as per her likes and dislikes. Lady Diane is much older and a seductress; through her wise charm, she keeps Henri in her pocket. Henri falls for all her trickery in a jiffy, which makes Catherine furious every single time. Lady Diane, to keep herself young, starts consuming a concoction made of gold but unfortunately gets addicted to it. She starts bathing in a gold concoction so that her real skin hides, and she can remain beautiful for Henri. Diane came to the court of Henri’s father long before Catherine did, and she realizes the only way to stay relevant and influential is to keep Henri on her side by constantly seducing him. Her beauty always remains her strength, and for her to survive in the court, she has to make sure her power over Henri remains strong. Diane cannot be considered a person with evil intentions. Survival techniques were the only way for smart, beautiful women to sustain themselves in that era. The constant tussle between Diane and Catherine sometimes brings Diane on the backfoot, but most of the time, she is always three steps ahead.
Catherine realizes Henri wants to make his marriage work, but Diane’s influence clouds that thought, making Catherine realize it is not Diane that is the problem, but it was Henri who was unable to get himself out of a nauseous relationship, being aware of how toxic it is to his marriage and his Kingdom. Catherine decides to take things into her hand. On her son’s wedding day, Catherine manipulates Henri to take part in the joust. The jousting severely injures Henri and eventually kills him. Catherine knows that Henri’s death would mean getting rid of Diane once and for all. Catherine is elated to see her out of the picture, only to come across another obstacle. Mary, Queen of Scots, wife of her son, who is now King Francis.
Queen dowager Catherine finds it difficult to manipulate her son, for Francis worships Mary. Catherine, in her endless quest for power, cannot seem to get a grip on the fact that she is again lost to a woman who is a religious zealot. Catherine tries her level best to restore normalcy through religious tolerance, which is overthrown by Mary and Francis, to Catherine’s horror, who now understands have gone a bit too far. Catherine wants to churn the wheel in the court but can’t get any control over her son. In the bid to control Mary, Catherine’s plan to kidnap her son fails as Francis falls sick. Catherine loses control of her senses but realizes she can still retain power if she is made Queen Regent instead of Mary. Catherine manages to manipulate Mary, but her privy council threatens Catherine to give up regency. The Privy council’s biggest supporter, Montmorency, switches his allegiance towards Catherine, for he knows she is the only one who can keep the Kingdom intact. Mary decides to gather support from her uncles and her sister Queen Elizabeth of England. Catherine, meanwhile, thinks ten steps ahead this time and forges Elizabeth’s letter to Mary, making her believe she will be helped. The irony of Mary, a Catholic fanatic asking for help from her Protestant sister, the Queen of England, is the amount protestants Mary killed in France to restore Catholicism as the only faith. Mary is a control freak, paranoid, and a zealot, manipulated by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, that bestowed too much power on her, which led to her uncles despising giving her so much power in the first place.
Catherine becomes the Regent as her son Charles IX is made the new King of France. Catherine finally becomes the winner here, for she knows she is the only one who can bring about stability in the country and take center stage as someone who can challenge the advances of the bully, the Holy Roman Emperor. She finally has the reins in her hand, with Mary and Diane out of the picture. She loves the power given to her, for which she fought tooth and nail, and now that she has tasted the high that power brings, she is in no mood to give it up.
What To Expect From ‘The Serpent Queen’ Season 2?
“The Serpent Queen” season will further expand on Catherine’s reign of France via her son Charles IX. The Protestants and the Catholics will come together to throw her out of power, and Mary will try her level best to restore herself as the dowager Queen, hopefully with the help of the Protestant Queen, Elizabeth of England. The privy council will try their level best to depose her, for most of the royals never considered Catherine as their own. There will be more politics, changes of allegiances, wars, and manipulation to look forward to in the next season of “The Serpent Queen.”
These days OTT space is filled with historical dramas, but one must make sure it stands out so that it attracts enough attention from the audience. “The Serpent Queen” does that by adding a layer of humor in it, along with Catherine breaking the fourth wall and telling us what she feels, “The Serpent Queen” is one of the best historical dramas that trudges around black comedy in the most bizarre yet interesting way. The show is packed with self-aware humor, where the powerful do things and get away with them. They say they will do things, but they don’t. The screenplay by Justin Haythe is shaky at parts but works for 80% of the show. The show again throws light on whether nobody is entirely good or bad. All of them have reasons to do something for their survival in court. “The Serpent Queen” should be on your must-watch list, for it takes us down a dark path that is unexpected yet thrilling.
“The Serpent Queen,” a Starz Original, is now streaming on Amazon Prime with subtitles.