by Peter Mowbray
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The wedding between the Princess Marguerite de Valois and Henri King of Navarre was intended to be a celebration that would at last bring peace to the warring Catholics and Huguenots in France.
Instead, it was a precursor for the infamous Massacre of Saint Bartholomew.
By the time the bloodshed had abated, none was seen as guiltier of creating the horrors of that night than the Queen Mother - Catherine de Medici.
Seventeen years later, as Catherine's life hangs in the balance, the mob threatens to drag her body through the streets.
To them she is no longer Queen Mother, merely the second Jezebel in history to be thrown to the dogs.
It did not take many hands to hold her down, as the woman was old and frail, her muscles weak against the strong arms of her assailants.
Someone pulled roughly at the black skullcap on her head, exposing the thinning auburn streaks. Some spat at her, the warm phlegm trickled towards her eye, but she had no free hand to wipe it away. All around her noise, shouting and screaming and a red haze of fire. She looked through the smoke and her eyes focussed on the frightful images in front of her.
People everywhere were running around, their swords and daggers seemed to appear from nowhere, but their swift work created so much blood; it was splattered onto cobbled streets, streams of it clung to her shabby gown, her hands dripped with it as though it was pouring from her own body.
All around her, corpses began to pile up, slowly at first and then so many that they fell closer and closer to her but she could not move to pull away. All manner of severed limbs and headless cadavers reeked of the foul stench of death and seemed ready to swallow her up.
Then, suddenly she was staring at a figure clad in a long dark cowl, without image save for bony, white hands that gripped a dagger, the tip of which was pressed lightly against her throat, its point just piercing her skin. The figure spoke in a deep, hateful snarl “Welcome lady to your own Saint Bartholomew’s night.”
The last thing she heard was the crackling noise as the dagger was pushed straight into her throat…