Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), Queen of France, wife of Henri d’Orleans, betrayed by Diane de Poitiers, she was a ruthless monarch, rumored to have poisoned and assassinated people she didn’t like, disposing of their bodies through secret trap doors, and responsible in part for the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572 when thousands of Hugenots (French protestants) were killed in Paris and throughout France. She was the inspiration for haute cuisine in the French court (inspired by Florentine culinary secrets), instigator of the still surviving protocol of separating savory from sweet dishes at a meal, mother of high-heeled shoes, and brought ballet to the French court. Her unfaithful husband insulted her further by giving the chateau that she wanted — Chenonceau — to her rival Diane de Poitiers. Chenonceau is one of my favorite French chateaux. It’s no wonder she was grumpy.

On top of it all this formidable woman influenced fashion for the next 350 years by banning thick waists at court. Beauty and tyranny often go hand in hand. If a woman were so severe as to make people wait to eat dessert until after their savory meal, then it’s no wonder she was offended by women’s natural waists. Since then waists were diminished by whale bones and steel cages.

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