Madame Catherine

SHORT REVIEWS: BOOKS

by Irene Mahoney. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. $12.95.
Thanks to the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and lesser aberrations, the reputation of Catherine de Medici has rivaled that of the black widow spider. Her present biographer argues that the lady was not willfully mean, but rather an opportunist who took whatever course seemed, at the moment, most likely to support her single unwavering ambition. 1 hat was to keep her sons (a wretched crew, but their deficiencies cannot have been Catherine’s choice) on the throne of France despite civil disorder, ambitious royal cousins, Spanish greed, and the irresponsible house of Lorraine. Ms. Mahoney’s defense is that if Catherine was vacillating and cruel on occasion, her enemies were treacherous and consistently cruder. It is not a bad case.