Civilization VI: Catherine de’ Medici Leads France

Born an Italian noblewoman, Catherine de’ Medici was wed to King Henry II of France and served as Queen from 1547 until her husband’s death in 1559. Her influence would extend beyond this brief period as Queen, however, as she went on to bear three sons who would each become King of France during her lifetime.

Her offspring each ruled France during a period of continuous civil and religious war. Despite the constant threat of complex and seemingly insurmountable conflict, Catherine kept the French monarchy intact as she championed both policies of compromise with the rebellious Protestant class and later more hardline stances against them. She was one of the most powerful women in Europe during her lifetime and was known to be a ruthless individual whose efforts inarguably kept the French monarchy in power during one of France’s most tumultuous periods.

Unique Unit: Garde Imperiale

A group of elite veteran soldiers formed by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799, the Garde Imperiale often received better compensation, equipment, living quarters and rations during war, much to the dismay of the other soldiers in service. The Garde Imperiale were divided into three different groups - the Old, the Middle and the Young - and served Napoleon in all of his wars until their end at the Battle of Waterloo, where the Middle Guard retreated (for the first and only time) during the battle and left the Old and Young Guards to defend Napoleon’s withdrawal while simultaneously succumbing to the punishing cannons of the combined British and Prussian opposition.

Unique Improvement: Château

The term chateau has historically applied to large country homes with adjoining lands. In the 1600s, wealthy French lords marked the countryside with these elegant and luxurious mansions, though many were later burned during the myriad peasant and populist revolutions that swept through the nation. Numerous chateaus remain to this day as tourist attractions, including Catherine’s favorite, the Chateau de Chenonceau, site of many of her spectacular nighttime parties and the first fireworks display seen in France.

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