This story that I wrote is about the wedding of our then Catherine de Medici, Duchess of Urbino and Prince Henry, Duke or Orleans which took place on October 28, 1533 when both were 14 years old.
This story is told from Catherine's point of view.
October 29, 1533 Dear Diary
It’s quite late into the night, and as I write this my new husband is sleeping soundly; I still can’t believe that I’m newly married and a Princess. Yesterday was my wedding day and I, Catherine married Henry, Prince of France and Duke of Orleans in a grand ceremony at the church of St. Augustine in Paris, France.
I must confess that while I am excited about being a wife, I am also nervous about fitting in here at French Court; the reason being is that the French don’t take too kindly to Italians which I happen to be. However, though I am only 14 years old, I am smart, and intelligent and I have a keenness to please so hopefully that will earn me some points with the Nobles here.
Now back to my wedding day: It was a most glorious day. I awoke at dawn in the magnificent palace of Henry’s father King Francis I, then after a scented bath, and pinning up my curly strawberry blonde hair with jeweled pins, the maids brought in my wedding gown which my family in Italy had made especially for me and I was stunned at its beauty: It was cloth of white satin with a lace overlay, and from top to bottom it was embellished with silver embroidery along with thousands of diamonds and pearls. The veil which belonged to my mother was made of the finest Italian lace, and embroidered with silver and thousands of diamonds, and I also wore a stunning diamond tiara to hold it in place. Even my shoes were beautiful: white satin and covered in diamonds.
As the maids dressed me I had a million thoughts running through my mind, and one of the main ones was if Henry and I would love each other and have a happy marriage. I stood in front of my full-length mirror to see the finished product, and I was pleasantly surprised with how I looked; you see I never considered myself to be a great beauty; however, I did inherit some attractive features from my mother: big beautiful hazel eyes with long eyelashes, hands with long slender fingers, and a beautiful figure.
My ladies in waiting assured me that I looked beautiful and that Henry would feel the same way when he saw me coming down the aisle. Finally, it was time to head to the church and as the carriage and escorts processed through the streets there were crowds of people some cheering and some jeering at the thought of an Italian becoming a Princess of France.
When the carriage pulled up in front of the church, my ladies got out first and then a guard helped me down while the ladies gathered my gown and as they spread out the train and veil on the red carpet I glittered in the sunlight with intense brilliance. As I waited outside the doors of the church holding my bouquet of lavender flowers, I was so nervous that my stomach was in knots, my hands were cold and my heart was racing; finally, the music began, the doors opened, and as I began walking with my ladies behind me I saw hundreds of people standing dressed in their glittering finery. As I continued down the aisle I saw Henry waiting for me at the altar with his father and step mother, he looked so handsome in his suit which was white cloth with gold embroidery; he had short brown hair, brown eyes and a kind smile.
Henry’s eyes grew wide, and a smile came across his face as I walked up the stairs and approached the altar, this made me feel better and I began to breathe a little easier. I did a curtsied to King Francis and his wife, as Henry came forward, took my hand and we knelt before the priest; then a page came and handed us our marriage agreement for us to sign, we exchanged vows, Henry put a diamond ring on my finger, we were declared husband and wife, Henry kissed me, and we bowed to the King and Queen. Henry then offered me his arm and we walked down the aisle, out of the church and into the glittering sunlight where Henry kissed me again as the crowd cheered loudly; we then got into the waiting carriage which took us back to the palace for the reception and festivities.
When we arrived at the palace, I retreated to my chambers long enough for my ladies to remove the train and veil, then I walked to meet Henry outside the ballroom where he was waiting for me. We smiled at each other and kissed, as the guards opened the doors and we saw all of the guests had assembled in the immense ballroom. They began to cheer as red rose petals fell from the golden ceiling. Henry, and I walked to the center of the crowd as they spread out to give us room; my prince snapped his fingers and a guard brought a chair for me. We bowed to each other, as I sat down; I then watched as the musicians played a lively dance number and my new husband began to dance for me. I was enchanted at once, then he gave me his hand, and we began to dance to the lively tune together; at the end of the number Henry kissed me again as the guests cheered and clapped.
Later that afternoon after the fabulous wedding feast, we soon journeyed out to the courtyard where a jousting match was set up. As I sat down next to King Francis and his wife, a rider came up to me and when he lifted his shield I was astonished to see Henry; he held out his lance and I tied a scarf embroidered with my personal standard around it then he went on to win the match. I was thrilled, Henry hopped down off his horse, picked me up, and kissed me; and he carried me back to the palace.
Soon the sun began to set, and it was time for our wedding night. When I arrived at our beautifully furnished chambers with my ladies, the room was illuminated with candles, and there was a huge four poster bed covered by a large canopy, that was set up so that the only way on or off was at the end and only our shadows would be seen. With the help of my ladies, I changed out of my splendid gown into a frilly lace night gown with a matching robe; as I waited for Henry to arrive I was filled with nervousness and excitement about finally being intimate with my husband.
A few minutes later, Henry arrived wearing a long sleeping gown followed by his father and several priests who blessed the bed. Henry then approached me and calmed my nerves by taking my face in his hands and telling me that the only ones who mattered at that moment were me and him. Henry and I began to kiss as my back turned to the bed, and we began to climb in until we hit the pillows; we got under the sheet as he looked into my eyes, and we began kissing again. He then pulled up my nightgown and for the next several hours we were engulfed in a heated pool of passion and pleasure.
After we were both spent, Henry looked in my eyes and vowed to make me a happy Princess; I in turn vowed to be a good and faithful wife, and give him children.
I am so happy to be embarking on this new journey in my life, I know it won’t be easy; however, I am excited to see what the future holds for us. Sincerely
Princess Catherine, Duchess of Orleans