THE BLACK QUEEN tells the intriguing story of the Renaissance woman who never expected to be a queen, yet who went on to be the power behind the throne through the reigns of three of her sons. During her early years in her new country, Catherine was despised and discounted as "the Italian woman." When she became Queen Regent, however, she proved how skilled a leader she was - even during the Protestant Huguenot Rebellion. History has not always treated Catherine kindly, casting her as a villain, a poisoner and a necromancer. But her greatest "crime" may have been one she shared with her contemporary, Queen Elizabeth I of England - that of being an intelligent and powerful woman far ahead of her time.