Saturday, 12 September 2015

Marguerite de Valois, Queen of Navarre and France

Marguerite de Valois, also known as Margaret of France and in literature and film usually as La Reine Margot, was the youngest surviving child of Catherine de Medicis and Henri II of France. She was born, like a number of other French royal babies, in the Chateau of Saint Germain en Laye, near Paris, in 1553. She would be the last member of the Valois family and the end of a royal line.

Daughter of a king, married to another, with three of her brothers becoming King of France and a sister Queen of Spain her life seems impossibly glamorous. It was certainly high profile, but she was more interested in parties than politics. Growing up in the notoriously licentious French court of the second half of the 16th century, she was a fashionista known for her sense of style. She was also known for her many lovers, from all levels of society. As far as her family and spouse were concerned she was a loose cannon. Her mother lectured her endlessly in an attempt to get her to behave appropriately, her brother imprisoned her to keep her from causing him trouble and her husband did the same.

 Portrait of Marguerite in the Chateau of Blois,
 after a sketch by François Clouet of her at the age of 20.
Whilst languishing under house arrest in the Chateau of Usson in the wilds of the Auvergne she kept herself busy by writing a highly personal and candid account of her life. It's available here, translated into English. Her memoir is a jolly good read if you have the time. It was published about ten years after her death and scandalised the nation.

Although Marguerite's personal choice at the time would have been the handsome and charismatic Henri, Duc de Guise, leader of the Catholic faction in the Wars of Religion, she was married off to Henri de Navarre, the handsome and charismatic leader of the Protestant faction. Henri de Navarre came from the Bourbon branch of the extensive royal family and it was hoped that the marriage would both unite the two sides of the family, as well as bring Catholic and Protestant unity.

The wedding certainly brought Catholics and Protestants together, but not in the way her mother Catherine had hoped. Instead, just days after the wedding, with dozens of leading Protestants in Paris for the event, Marguerite's brother Charles IX engineered a massacre on Saint Bartholomew's Day. Marguerite showed her independent spirit by sheltering a number of prominent Protestants, including her new husband, in her chambers, and refusing to allow Catholic assassins entry, thereby saving their lives.

Despite the viscissitudes of their situation Marguerite and Henri de Navarre remained on surprisingly good terms all their lives, but their marriage was not a success. They quarrelled openly and often, and both took lovers, also openly and often. Henri ultimately became king, after Marguerite's last surviving brother was assassinated in 1589. Marguerite was queen, but still kept under house arrest. Henri converted to Catholicism four years into his reign in a pragmatic move to calm the kingdom down, and several years later divorced Marguerite on the grounds that she was barren. She was allowed to keep the title of Queen, and moved back to Paris, becoming a patron of the arts and involving herself in good works.

One of the few of Catherine de Medicis and Henri II's children to have a robust constitution, she died in Paris, a few weeks before her 62nd birthday in 1615.

For more portraits of Marguerite de Valois see the wonderful blog Les Derniers Valois
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Loire Valley Nature: The entry for Identify Your Orchid has been updated with some photos of orchid rosettes in the winter.
An entry has been added for the tricky to identify dragonfly the Moustached Darter Sypetrum vulgatum.
A photo has been added to the entry for Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis. This orchid can form large and impressive colonies in quite unlikely places, such as motorway banks and roundabouts.
A photo has been added to the Monkey Orchid Orchis simia entry. Check out the caterpillar!
A photo of a male European Orchard Bee Osmia cornuta staking out a nest hole in the hopes of meeting a newly emerging female has been added to the entry on Megachilidae bees.
A section for Arable has been added to the entry for Agricultural Land.
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A la cuisine hier: A small batch of stewed greengages (Fr. reines-claudes) and a medium batch each of stewed peaches (of the sort known in French as pêches de vigne) and apples. Each batch is about 20 fruits. The greengages came from the market, the peaches from the Aged Orchard Neighbour and the apples are our own, several different varieties. I sweetened the greengages and the peaches, but not the apples.
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Au jardin hier: The autumn mowing programme has begun. I've done the potager and about a sixth of the orchard. It's fairly rough, but you can mostly see where I've been. I also picked up a big bucket of pine cones, which will be added to the kindling material for the wood stove over winter. On my return home I was careful to follow Ken and Sheila's advice about how to deal with harvest mites.

6 comments:

  1. The womanizing of Henry IV landed him with the nickname le Vert Galant

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    Replies
    1. He does seem to have been the sort of man who couldn't resist the laydees.

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  2. The match might have had more success had someone persuaded her husband of the virtues of soap and water.

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    Replies
    1. I thought it was the garlic breath that she objected to most.

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  3. Replies
    1. ...and a chicken in every pot on Sundays.

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