Catherine de Medici (Josephine Crowell) is the main antagonist of the French Story: The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre" of the 1916 epic film Intolerance.
Role in story Edit
The French segment of the film takes place in 1572, and presents Catherine de Medici and her son, Charles IX, King of France.
The scene opens with a long shot of a medieval French cobble-stoned street. Charles IX receives his younger brother, Monsieur La France, Duc d'Anjou. In the splendid court scene, with a great crowd of courtiers, lords and ladies in the background with a backdrop of a giant lavish unicorn tapestry and chandeliers, the courtier Duc d'Anjou bowed and kissed the hand of the bon-bon-eating king seated on the throne. His tyrannical, crafty queen-mother Catherine de Medici is the real power behind the king. A title card described Catherine de Medici as a "queen-mother who covers her political intolerance of the Huguenots beneath the cloak of the great Catholic Religion." Catherine briefly whispered to her son: "What a wonderful man, the Admiral Coligny, if he only thought as we do.", and the Admiral Coligny said something similar to one of his friends. When the King embraces Coligny, "the King's favor to Coligny increases the hatred of the opposite party" and the enmity of Duc d'Anjou.
The people of France were are unaware of the intolerance and suffering being perpetuated around them by the powerful elite. An instance of this is shown for Brown Eyes' family. When Prosper was saying goodbye to Brown Eyes, The Mercenary, who has watched Brown Eyes from afar on the street, advances and grabs her but she spurns him and fights him off.
Later that day, horsemen were riding through a Paris street scene in a cloud of dust. In a French palace room where the earlier court scene had been staged, Catherine, the Priest, and Monsieur La France hear commotion outside. A messenger brings Catherine news of a riot: "The threatening, subversive attitude of the Huguenots throughout France is reported to Catherine." [Catherine's machinations to destroy the Protestants resemble the manipulations of the reformers to clean up society in the Modern Story.] Monsieur La France looks out the window with others. "The 'old serpent' used the incident to inflame the minds of the Catholics against the Protestants."
Catherine than said, "Remember, gentlemen, the Michelade at Nimes when hundreds of our faith perished at the hands of the Huguenots!". A flashback is then shown depicting a montage of battle scenes showing the atrocious savagery of Huguenots - they break a statue of the Virgin Mary, kill a man by stabbing him with a spear, and hurl men with their hands tied behind their back off a wall. One man stands on a ladder with hammer in hand and smashes another statue of the Virgin Mary (with child). The Huguenots look heavenward and give thanks for the victory.] (narrows her eyes) "And so, our very lives depend upon their extermination."
Catherine conspires to maneuver King Charles IX to order the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre against the Huguenots. Title card: "Catherine's audience with the King to secure his signature to the order for the massacre of St. Bartholomew. [Note: Councillors present: Nevers, Tavannes, Retz and Birague.]" After the King reads the document that has been handed to him by Catherine, he vehemently refuses to authorize their slaughter: "I will not consent to this intolerant measure to destroy any of my people." She points at him and finally persuades him to sign, along with other persuasive councillors. "After a long session, the Intolerants sway the King's opinion." - "We must destroy or be destroyed."
The King rises like a raving-mad lunatic having an insane fit - he pounds the table, knocks an advisor down, holds his hands to his head, and foams at the mouth. With a soothing manner, the Queen-mother calms him down and presents the King with the document and a quill pen. After he reluctantly signs the order to destroy the Huguenots, the King points at them and shouts that he has saved the monarchical structure of medieval France: "By God's death, since you wish it, kill them all! Kill them all! Let not one escape to upbraid me." Monsieur La France has a non-chalant reaction to the signing - he plays with a wooden toy in his hand - trying to catch a ball on a string in a hole. The order to authorize the extermination of the Huguenots by the power structure and the villainous Catherine [a parallel figure with Miss Jenkins in the Modern Story] will have personal consequences for a young, innocent couple: Prosper and Brown Eyes
In the next transition, Brown Eyes' family was kneeling in prayer on the eve of the wedding. On a Paris street, Prosper is "puzzled by the ominous activities" as troops of soldiers are gathered together. "St. Bartholomew's eve. Upon the doorways of the Huguenots- the chalk of doom." Every doomed Huguenot or Protestant house is ominously marked by the door with two white crosses drawn in chalk/paint - one of the marked homes is Brown Eyes'. At "Prosper's lodgings across the town," he wonders more about what is to transpire. The Mercenary, at the head of a group of soldiers, sees the marks on Brown Eyes' house, but leads his soldiers on.
In a room in the French castle on the morn of the massacre, Catherine gestures with her hands to the sides and momentarily cries out - no, no, no. A bell rings in a gothic bell tower, signalling the start of the new day. With their hands clapsed together, she is calmed by Monsieur La France. In another room, the King remains distressed. The father of Brown Eyes hears soldiers marching forward for "the beginning of the massacre of St. Bartholomew." In the streets, unsuspecting Huguenots are beginning to be massacred. "For Brown Eyes, a terrible awakening." She awakens with her sister to the sounds of frightened Protestants seeking shelter and fleeing for their lives. Her father bars the door of their house to the street.
Soldiers sweep through the city and slaughter the French Protestants. A sword stabs the torso of a fallen man. People are dragged from the doorways of their homes. A young girl falls at the feet of a priest, and pleads for her life - he hides her under his cloak.
The streets of Paris witness the massacre of St. Bartholomew. A friend (who has a badge of safety on his arm) informs an alarmed Prosper of Queen Catherine's evil slaughter: "Medici, the old cat, is scratching out the lives of all your people." "At the house of Brown Eyes. The mercenary's opportunity." French soldiers pour through the streets and chase across rooftops, killing and wounding Protestants. The Mercenary stops at the Brown Eyes' house where the soldiers use a battering ram to knock down the door. "Prosper, with the badges of safety, goes to rescue his loved ones." The pretty heroine, Brown Eyes, loads a musket with a ramrod. Her father fires at soldiers who have broken down and forced open their front door. The family barricades itself in an inner room. One barbaric soldier holds a small baby girl up by her feet - infanticide. The Mercenary and other soldiers knock down the inner door and attack Brown Eyes' family.
"Even with the password, Prosper's way beset with danger." Prosper is held back and detained by two soldiers - he pleads with them. Brown Eyes defends herself - she breaks a vase over a soldier's head. As her mother (with a baby in her arms) flees, she is grabbed and thrown to the floor to be stabbed. Brown Eyes' ittle sister is picked up and thrown out the front door to the side.
The Mercenary corners Brown Eyes with his sword. Instead of killing her, he pulls her toward himself and embraces her. Prosper is again stopped by soldiers in the streets in his desperate attempt to rescue his fiancee before it's too late. The Mercenary bars the door to the inner room, and turns toward his victim with savage lust: "Brown eyes - ah me, ah me!" She cowers before him with her hands on her throat. She screams as he advances toward her. Prosper breaks away. The Mercenary grabs Brown Eyes, unties her nightgown, and as she faints and sinks down, he carries her to the bed in the room.
The Mercenary soldier holds the resistant Brown Eyes' hands out in front of her, and runs her through with his sword. She collapses onto the floor. Dead bodies litter the streets, as Prosper dashes forward, and Catherine surveys the scene with an evil smile behind her fan. Prosper finds his loved one dead on the floor - he sees her mortal wound and tenderly embraces her. He carries her out into the street in his arms and orders royalist soldiers to kill him, so that he can join her in death. A volley of rifle shots are fired from a group of soldiers - Prosper is shot and falls dead beside his betrothed. Revelers in the streets rush by - one carries a pole with a decapitated head on top.