The story of Catherine de Medici’s rise to power at the French court is told in The Serpent Queen, which will air on Starz. The show begins with the catastrophic downfall of her family and tells her story up to the point where she is married to the King of France’s youngest son. Catherine has many factors working against her, but despite all these obstacles, she manages to improve her standing to the point that she is the most powerful person in France. What happened to turn a young girl into a queen who is both clever and fearsome? The show continues to unveil new details about Catherine’s past, bringing us closer to the answer with each new episode. The events in the second installment take it a little further by presenting her as a force to be reckoned with. The implication for Catherine is as follows. SPOILERS AHEAD
A synopsis of the second episode of “The Serpent Queen”
After learning that Henry was having an affair with Diane, Catherine made it her mission to convince Henry to pay her a visit and spend more time with her. Catherine needs to get pregnant as soon as possible because her uncle, Pope Clemens VII, has passed away and there is currently no one who can pay for her dowry. Catherine’s chances of conceiving decrease in proportion to the time he spends without her. At the same time that the king is considering finding Henry a new bride, Diane is working to sway the king’s opinion in her favour. She makes several attempts to get Henry to marry her, but Catherine’s quick thinking thwarts all of these plans. Still, Catherine’s biggest challenge is dealing with Diane.
Catherine experiences constant resistance from Diane, who has now also brought a spy into her inner circle. This happens while Henry is warming up to Catherine. Because she knows Catherine in all her facets, she makes it more difficult for the young Medici to win her husband’s affection. Catherine and Diane are both concerned about the imminent arrival of the Prussian princesses, as they are considered potential suitors for Henry and his older brother. Catherine realizes that Diaane is a significant influence on Henry when a pleasant picnic with the princesses unexpectedly turns into a bloody affair. She ends up devising her own plan to improve her position in the situation so that it is more advantageous to her.
The conclusion of The Serpent Queen Episode 2 asks: What does it mean to Catherine that Henry is going to war?
Catherine’s uncle had negotiated a deal for her to come to France as part of a compromise before she got there. Since her dowry was the only thing keeping her in France, Catherine must employ a variety of strategies if she is to maintain her lost position at the French court. She faces the enormous challenge of convincing everyone, especially the king, why someone who is a more attractive option for Henry shouldn’t just take her place. She has the upper hand in this situation as the king is already showing signs of weakness for her and by the end of the episode she makes it clear that no one should underestimate her abilities.
Catherine’s problems can be solved most efficiently and risk-free when she is about to become pregnant. Despite Diane’s dogged efforts to keep the two separate, she managed to convince Henry to take on the responsibilities that come with being a husband. Even so, the prospect of Henry marrying another woman hangs over her head until she actually gives birth to one of his children. As this plan is put into action, Catherine looks for other strategies to win Henry’s affections and convince the king to put off his search for a new daughter-in-law for the time being.
Considering that her dowry was the cause of all these problems for her, she devises a strategy to avoid it. All the things that Pope Clement VII promised to give to France in exchange for Catherine’s marriage to Henry still remain in Italy, with which France is already in a not particularly friendly position. As well as politics within the court, there is also much unrest between France and Italy outside. For France to turn the tide in their favor, they need an ally, someone who can help them win the war, whether it’s brought to their doorstep or they choose to take it to the Italians. Catherine discovers the solution to her problem in the Ottoman Empire.
She arranges a covert meeting with the Ottomans and negotiates a treaty with them that paves the way for France to form an alliance. It is unknown what she is willing to give in exchange for the help, but whatever it is, she doesn’t think the cost is prohibitive to improve her situation. With the agreement finalized, Catherine persuades Henry to take up arms against Italy and take what was owed to him rather than wait for it to come to him. That’s because she thinks waiting for it to come to him would be a waste of time. This act will show his father that he is not a weak or shy person and will no doubt improve his image in the eyes of the judge and the rest of the court. Henry’s weakness is that he wants to make his father feel better, and Catherine skillfully exploits this weakness in Henry’s. If this guidance proves successful for Henry, it will show him that Catherine is capable of much more than just bearing his children for him, which will convince him that Catherine is an asset. She can’t afford to lose Henry’s favor, especially when she wants to overthrow Diane as the one who holds a special place in his heart.
Despite the fact that it seems like Catherine went to all this trouble just for Henry’s sake, the truth is that she is driven by the need to protect her own life. She is under incredible pressure to achieve her goal of conceiving. No one will criticize her for the time it took to conceive a child when her husband is not around. Instead, everyone will feel sorry for her because her spouse is currently doing military service and is at war. Therefore, Catherine is not in danger while Henry is away, especially as the king has assured her that she would look after her in his absence. In the event that Henry is successful in his return, it will be a huge boost for Catherine as well. Even if he were to perish in the conflict, we would emerge victorious. She will be a young widow, free from the burden of having children and free from the fear of being auctioned off or transported back to Italy. She will have a greater degree of freedom than ever before, as Diane had previously explained to her. The Medici girl is in a position where she can only benefit from this circumstance.
In February 2021, Starz greenlit an eight-episode series based on the book Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France, written by Leonie Frieda. Justin Haythe would serve as both writer and executive producer of the show, and Francis Lawrence and Erwin Stoff would also serve in those roles. Stacie Passon will direct various episodes of the series over the course of the series, including the pilot. The television production companies set to participate in the series were Lionsgate Television and 3 Arts Entertainment.
Samantha Morton made her debut as Catherine de’ Medici in April 2021 after being cast in the role.
Amrita Acharia, Enzo Cilenti, Barry Atsma, Nicholas Burns and Danny Kirrane joined the May 2021 cast in lead roles. Charles Dance, Ludivine Sagnier, Liv Hill, Kiruna Stamell and Colm Meaney were added to the cast in recurring roles around the same time. Ray Panthaki made his debut in a series regular role in June 2021. In August 2021, it was announced that Raza Jaffrey, Sennia Nanua, Beth Goddard, and Alex Heath had joined the cast of the series in undisclosed roles, lead roles, and recurring roles, respectively.