Marguerite de Valois

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Marguerite de Valois

Marguerite de Valois (May 14, 1553May 27, 1615), "Queen Margot" was Queen of France and Navarre. She should not be confused with the famous author of the same name who was also of the Valois family.

Born Marguerite de Valois at the Royal Chⴥau in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and nicknamed Margot by her brothers, she was the daughter of Henri II and Catherine de' Medici. Three of her brothers became kings of France: Fran篩s II, Charles IX and Henri III.

Her sister, Elisabeth de Valois, became the third wife of King Philip II of Spain. Although Marguerite loved Henri, Duc de Guise, her ambitious mother would never allow the House of Guise any chance of controlling France. Instead, she offered to marry Marguerite to Philip II's son Don Carlos but that did not work out. Serious negotiations for Marguerite's marriage to Dom Sebastian of Portugual were also considered but abandoned. Marguerite was made to marry Henri de Bourbon (later Henri de Navarre and eventually Henri IV), the son of the Protestant Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, a marriage that was designed to reunite family ties and create harmony between the Catholics and Huguenots. Although Henri's mother, Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, opposed the marriage, many of her nobles supported it, and the marriage was arranged. Jeanne d'Albret died before the marriage was concluded.

On August 18, 1572, Marguerite married Henri de Bourbon, who had become King of Navarre on the death of his mother. The groom, a Huguenot, remained outside the church for much of the wedding. It was reported that during the ceremony, the bride and groom stared straight ahead, never looking at each other. When the Cardinal asked Marguerite if she willingly took Henri to be her husband, she did not answer; so King Charles IX, placed a hand on his sister's head, compelling her to nod in agreement.

Just six days after the wedding, on St Bartholomew's Day, Catherine de' Medici orchestrated the slaughter by French Catholics of thousands of Huguenots, a massacre of such brutality that even Russia's Ivan the Terrible condemned it.

After the marriage and turmoil, Henri escaped Paris back to Navarre, leaving his wife behind. Under the control of her brother, King Henri III, Queen Marguerite became a virtual prisoner in her own home. Finally granted permission to return to her husband, for the next three and a half years Queen Marguerite and her husband lived a scandalous life in Pau. Both openly kept lovers and quarrelled frequently. After an illness in 1582, Queen Marguerite returned to her brother's court in France. But Henri III soon scandalized her reputation and forced her to leave the court. After long negotiations, she was allowed to return to her husband's court in Navarre, but she received an icy reception. Determined to overcome her difficulties, Queen Marguerite master-minded a coup d'etat and seized power over Agen, one of her appenages. After several months of fortifying the city, the citizens of Agen revolted and Queen Marguerite fled to the castle of Carlat. In 1586, she was imprisoned by Henri III in the castle of Usson, in Auvergne, where she spent eighteen years. In 1592 negotiations began to dissolve her marriage to Henri IV. It would take seven years, but they were concluded in 1599 with an agreement that allowed her to maintain the title of queen. Her ex-husband would become one of France's most beloved monarchs.

During this time Queen Marguerite wrote her memoirs, which were published in 1658, years after her death. These writings consisted of a succession of stories relating to the reigns of brothers Charles IX, Henri III and her former husband, Henri IV that scandalized the population. The beautiful and strong-minded Marguerite took many lovers, notably [[Joseph Boniface de La M?], Jacques de Harlay, Seigneur de Chanvallon and Bussy d'Amboise.

In the end, her beauty fading, Queen Marguerite lived in near poverty hounded by creditors to the point of selling all of her jewels. Reconciled to her former husband and his second wife, Marie de' Medici, Queen Marguerite returned to Paris and established herself as a mentor of the arts and benefactor of the poor. She often helped plan events at court and nurtured Henri IV and Marie's children. Marguerite died in Paris on May 27, 1615, and is buried in the Chapel of the Valois. Thousands mourned the death of this beloved Queen and the last of the Valois dynasty.

Marguerite de Valois in fiction

Alexandre Dumas's novel Queen Margot ("La Reine Margot" in French) is a fictionalized account of the events surrounding Marguerite's marriage to Henri of Navarre. The novel was famously adapted into a 1994 French film, La Reine Margot.


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