"given to an ancestor by Catherine de Medici"

 Catherine de Medici (1519 – 1589) was the Italian born Queen Consort of France through her marriage to King Henry II.  Upon his death, the crown passed first to their eldest son, Francis II, who quickly died.  The next king, Charles IX, was only ten years old, meaning Catherine became regent on his behalf.  Having had no political influence during her marriage, she now presided over a country about to collapse into civil war.  When Charles died in 1574, Catherine continued to influence the next king, her son Henry III.  The turmoil in the country was constant, much of it due to religious differences.  Catherine’s decisions have been viewed as ruthless, such as in the case of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572.  Some have since viewed her with more circumspect, and as Henry IV was to later say, “Was she not compelled to play strange parts...in order to guard as she did, her sons...I am surprised that she never did worse.”  It is always worth remembering that the actions of Kings are rarely judged as harshly as Queens...

Catherine died at the age of 69, probably from pleurisy.  Having been reburied once, in 1793 her remains (and those of other monarchs) were thrown into a mass grave by a mob during the French Revolution.  The Valois dynasty, which she had tried so hard to protect, fell eight months after she died, when Henry III was stabbed to death.