Catharine de Medici - Lover of Pearls

Name the Queen Elizabeth I pearl rival queen. Yes, it was Catharine de Medici --two lovers of pearls.

Two great women of the sixteenth century are noted for their passion for pearls. Catherine de Medici (1519-89) and Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603).

<Portrait of Catherine De' Medici Wife of King Henri II of France

Portrait of Catherine De' Medici Wife of King Henri II of France
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It requires but a glance at almost any of their portraits, wherein they are represented wearing elaborate pearl ornaments, to see to what an extent they carried this fondness.

And many other women were not far behind them, among whom were Mary Stuart, Marie de'Medici, and Henrietta Maria.

Portrait of Catherine De Medici, Facsimile of a 16th Century Drawing

Portrait of Catherine De Medici, Facsimile of a 16th Century Drawing
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And not only by the women, but by the men also, pearls were worn to what now seems an extravagant extent. Nearly all the portraits of Francis I (1550-74), and Henry III (1551-89) of France; of James I (1566-1625), and of Charles I (1600-49), of England, and likewise of other celebrities, show a great pear-shaped pearl in one ear. Many portraits also show pearls on the hats, cloaks, gloves, etc.

<Miniature of Catherine De Medici

Miniature of Catherine De Medici
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Catharine de'Medici wore two rows of pearls on her bonnet, and a quaint necklace in sections of two rows of four pearls, with a large pearls between; a pear-shaped pendant on a Renaissance jewel; a row of pearls around her low-cut bodice, and a girdle of jewels alternating with pearls, which extended to the lower end of her gown.

<Catherine De Medici (1519-89)

Catherine De Medici (1519-89)
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In addition to all this, she wore a bracelet of jewels with a pearl set between each ornament.

After the downfall of Queen Mary Stuart, most of her jewels were sold, pawned, or lost to theft. Some of these were described in a letter May 8,1568, and addressed to Catharine de'Medici by Bodutel de la Forest, the French ambassador at the English court, as "six cordons of large pearls, strung as paternosters; but there are about twenty-five separate from the others much larger and more beautiful than those which are strung.

<Henri II King of France

Henri II King of France
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Look carefully and you can see the pearl earring.

Catharine de Medici, who was a mother-in-law of Mary Stuart, was very anxious to obtain these pearls; but the ambassador wrote on May 15, 1568, that he had found it impossible to purchase them; for, as he had told her form the first, they were intended for the gratification of the Queen of England, who had purchased them at her own price, and was even then in possession of them.

See a modern day princess in a pearl dress after Catharine de Medici

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