Catherine de' Medici - Last Years
For twenty years, Catherine de' Medici had one goal, to obtain the peace at any price, as only peace could guarantee that her family stays in power. In 1578 she started the journeys of pacification, and, until 1581, she travelled across France, trying to prevent war and to pacify the South, being accompanied by gentlemen of both faiths. Her efforts won the praise of the people.
The death of Alençon in June 1584 was a turning point in French politics, affecting the balance of power between parties. The accession of Henry of Navarre, a Protestant, as heir to the throne, radicalized the position of the Catholic Guises.
The war of the Three Henrys
In the autumn of 1587 the war of the Three Henrys (Henry III, Henry de Guise, and Henry de Navarre) began. The successes of Guise enabled him to march towards Paris. The concessions that the Duke demanded on behalf of the Catholic Ligue as outlined in the Articles of Nancy were insults to the King. The Duke of Guise was the King of Paris, and he did not intend to stop till he got at least the position of Lieutenant General. Catherine de' Medici was in despair. The Valois dynasty, the object of her sacrifices, was threatened before her eyes, and she could do nothing, as the Ligue was dictating the terms.
Henry took matters in his own hands, and decided that the Duke must die, otherwise his own life is in danger. It was a matter of who strikes first. On December 23 1588, the personal guard of Henry, "The Forty-Five", killed the Duke. After the murder, Henry told his mother what has been done. It is believed that what her son did, together with reproaches from others, like Cardinal de Bourbon, that she did nothing to stop the murder, shortened her life.
Catherine de' Medici died on January 5, 1589, "the Eve of the Feast of the Three Kings", a date, the Legend says, which was always fatal to the Medici family.