It is set in Paris in August 1572 during the reign of Charles IX (a member of the Valois dynasty) and the French Wars of Religion. The novel's protagonist is Marguerite de Valois, better known as Margot, daughter of the deceased Henry II and the infamous scheming Catholic power player Catherine de Medici.Although Margot herself is excluded from the throne by the Salic Law, her marriage to a Protestant prince offers a chance for domestic reconciliation during the late 16th century reign of the neurotic, hypochondriac King Charles IX, a time when Catholics are vying for political control of France with the French Protestants, the Huguenots. Catherine decides to make an overture of goodwill by offering up Margot in marriage to prominent Huguenot and King of Navarre, Henri de Bourbon, a marriage that was supposed to cement the hard-fought Peace of Saint-Germain. At the same time, Catherine schemes to bring about the notorious St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, assassinating many of the most wealthy and prominent Huguenots who were in the largely-Catholic city of Paris to escort the Protestant prince to his wedding. The Massacre begins four days after the wedding ceremony, and thousands of Protestants are slaughtered. The marriage goes ahead but Margot, who does not love Henri, begins a passionate affair with the soldier La MÃ´le, also a Protestant from a well-to-do family. Murders by poisoning follow, as court intrigues multiply and Queen Catherine's villainous plotting to place her son, the future Henry III on the throne threatens the lives of La MÃ´le, Margot and Henri.