Catherine de’ Medici inspired disdain in many of her subjects and even in some of her children. Leonie Frieda, the author of a biography of the Queen, notes: “To many, she is the very embodiment of evil.” Of course, portraying evil meant doing things a little differently than other royal ladies. Instead of docile activities like sewing, singing, or poetry, Medici indulged in poisons. At the height of this hobby, she had a veritable “cabinet of horrors” at the Château de Blois, according to Dark Atlas.
Court intrigue was next level in Renaissance France, requiring a steady hand, a sharp intellect, icy determination and, seemingly, untraceable homicide. In a world where naive and weak women perished, Medici perfected the art of intimidation. If that didn’t work, some say the poison came next.
As for the queen’s so-called “cabinet of horrors”, it’s a sight to behold. Containing exactly 237 miniature cabinets, people have long tried to explain the functionality of these compartments. Those who give Medici the benefit of the doubt say that she stored papers and letters or handicrafts in the small hidden compartments. That said, the cabinets also seem remarkably handy for storing vials of toxic substances. Nevertheless, the verdict still fell on this one. Atlas Obscura’s final evaluation says it best: “Catherine definitely ordered the murders of a handful of people. But she may be innocent of the poisoning, specifically.”