Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), known as the queen margot, Queen of France and Navarre, was the daughter of King Henry II and Catherine de Medici and sister of Charles IX and Henry III. Immortalized in cinema by actress Isabelle Adjani, the queen margot was not the "sassy girl" the novelists described to us. Too often used as a "pawn" by her mother in full swing religious wars 16th century, she received many funeral tributes upon her death in 1615: “ the Queen of greatness, the greatness of spirits, the noble of flowers, the Marguerite of France ».
The youth of Queen Margot
Marguerite de Valois was born in May 1553 at the Château de Saint Germain, puny and thin. Of her five brothers and two sisters, the future Charles IX, nicknamed her Margot. Speaking early, she received a princess education in Amboise: literature, dance and music. Raised in fear of her mother, she was only six years old when her father Henry II died, but with her temper, she resisted and refused to change her religion.
We talk to her about alliances… Jeanne d'Albret wishes Marguerite for her son, the King of Portugal for her young Sebastian, the King of Spain for Don Carlos, Philip II of Spain for himself after the death of Elisabeth … Little Marguerite plays with Henri de Guise! Falling in love with him, she is watched and denounced, despite the existing friendship with her brother Henri d 'Anjou, whom she serves as a "spy". Henri de Guise declares his love for him, a plot is mounted against him, he leaves the Court and sees himself married to Catherine de Clèves.
Marriage for reasons of state
The proceedings in favor of the Prince of Navarre resumed in August 1571, but Jeanne d'Albret "drags her feet" ... For her, the French court is nothing but make-up, various corruption and looks like Hell. Finally, she meets Charles IX and Catherine de Médicis, who soften her (the king wants revenge on his enemies, he therefore grants his sister's hand to a Huguenot). The contract was signed on April 11, 1572, despite the absence of letters of dispensation from the pope and the sudden death of Joan of Albret in June. On July 20, the King of Navarre and future Henry IV arrived in Paris, with 800 gentlemen, the marriage was celebrated in August 1572.
More than 120 ladies flaunt their finery in gold and silver velvet. The 2 "separate" processions are surprising: on the one hand the king, the queen mother, the blood princes, the house of Lorraine; on the other, the King of Navarre, the Prince of Condé, Admiral de Coligny, the Count of La Rochefoucauld… While Marguerite listens to mass, the King of Navarre and his friends walk through the cloister. We come to pick him up at the end of mass for the "Yes". Marguerite is silent, not forgetting Guise's love and Charles IX, very angry, pushes her head forward: it will be the "Yes". The meal and the festivities last 3 days, with delicious food and pompous shows.
Only the people do not like it, a marriage with Protestants is an insult. The latter prefer to leave the place, Coligny is attacked, La Rochefoucauld is killed!
The role of Queen Margot
After the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacres, Marguerite pleaded the cause of her allied husband to François d’Alençon. Already neglected by Navarre, they live in perfect harmony. For the reception of the Polish embassy, she holds her rank perfectly, makes an applauded speech "which all called her a second Minerva or goddess of eloquence" and triumphs at the festivities. Like a good girl from France, she stops the attempted flight of her brother Alençon and her husband; a year later, she defeated the conspiracy of Politics mounted by Montmorency, Turenne and Cossé, by becoming the mistress of Joseph de Boniface, lord of La Mole (belonging to Alençon).
But after the death of Charles IX, the position of Marguerite becomes difficult. Without her knowing it, her brother was protecting her. When her husband and Alençon are in prison in Vincennes, like a good wife, she thinks of making them escape… but as they argue over who will get out first, she gives up.
She plays her role during the festivities in Lyon, despite the backbiting about her affair with Bussy d´Amboise. Navarre had his only confidante, Mme de Thorigny, driven out: there, the tension between the spouses was at its height. Alençon left court in September, Henri de Navarre slipped away in February 1576 ... and Marguerite was arrested in her room with a ban on leaving the kingdom. We turn our backs on him, despite protests from Alençon, Crillon and even Navarre who sends an emissary to the king. Trying to take the waters in Spa, his escape is unmasked; she joined D'Alençon to await peace there until September 1577.
Thanks to d'Alençon who fled from the Louvre in February 1578 and who formed an army to go to Flanders (Flanders are Spanish!), The queen mother lets her daughter go but will travel, with her Flying Squadron, to check the Reformed troops. On August 2, Marguerite sets out with the whole house that Henri III has deigned to constitute for her.
At the Court of Nérac
In Bordeaux, Marguerite is welcomed with open arms, to serve as a reconciler between her husband and Marshal de Biron. In Nérac, she is happy to regain her rank, her castle, her husband and we rub shoulders with each other pleasantly. She is courted by the Vicomte de Turenne, while Henri takes care of La Rebours (Marguerite's maid of honor) and decides to manage her husband's mistresses by establishing the Neoplatonist theory of love! "We lily of the valley, we tale little, but it is forbidden to deflower! ". Everything works until Navarre finds out about the relationship between Turenne and Marguerite. Not letting this happen, the "lovers' war" was declared at the end of the year 1579: it was a question of taking the towns belonging to one or the other, but without either one or the other. others do not know: this is the case for Cahors!
We speak of a rupture, even if Marguerite is present during the 17 days of the king's illness and when she helps Belle Fosseuse (king's mistress) to give birth to a born dead girl.
Marguerite was bored in this Court, which cannot be compared to that of the Louvre, despite plots and rumors, until the arrival of Jacques du Harlay, Lord of Champvallon, friend of Alençon. Of great beauty, literate, he has everything to please, he speaks to her of love, she quickly forgets Bussy, oust Pibrac, loves Champvallon, whom she finds in Paris at the beginning of 1582 when Henri III calls her back to put an end to the rebellion. . The whole Louvre knows about the child of Navarre and the Belle Fosseuse: she is fired. Navarre is furious, Marguerite remonstrates with him, helped for once by his mother.
Too beautiful and too intelligent, Henri III could no longer support his sister and hunt her in the middle of a ball on August 7, 1583. Without money, without support, she left for Nérac, but in Cognac Navarre stopped her, too busy with Corisande until April 1584 where he consents to take it back. The reception is freezing, she is sidelined and humiliated. As queen, however, she receives from Epernon who must convert the king to Catholicism. But Navarre makes life difficult for him: he has his secretary removed, threatens him with torture, yet he is only a courier between Catherine de Medici and her daughter.
In March 1585, not feeling safe, Marguerite went to Agen for her devotions, shut herself up in the castle, creating almost an entire army at her command. Civil war is on. She asks Henri de Guise for help in repelling the heretics. Unfortunately Marshal de Matignon takes Agen back and scares Marguerite away.
Marguerite Reine d'Usson
Having only a part of her escort left, she walks towards Carlat, who is hostile to her. Harassed from all sides, she tries to raise troops in Gascony. Abandoned by Henri III and Henri de Navarre, she turned to her mother who offered her an asylum in the castle at Ybois, near Issoire, in the fall of 1586. But it was a plot: Canillac, obeying the king , seizes Marguerite, taken prisoner in the castle of Usson. There is already a rumor “the Queen of Navarre is very ill. She feels the general pains and is in such a state that one can only expect a sad result. " Marguerite understands that the Valois have removed her from their family! She writes to her mother asking her to take care of her guards and ladies of the companies, to pay them and relocate them, should she ever disappear. At the end of the year, his mother and brother calm down and force Navarre to take care of his wife.
Reassured about her life, Marguerite thinks only of revenge. Master in her castle, she organized resistance to royal power, Usson having become the headquarters of the league leaders. She began writing her memoirs, which she dedicated to Brantôme and met Saint Vidal (chief of Velay), the count of Randan (commander of Auvergne), Urfé (the famous author of Astrée).
The shock caused by the death of her brother brings her closer to her husband. Urged on by Gabrielle d´Estrées, Navarre asks her to annul their marriage. Marguerite agrees, if she keeps all the acquired benefits as well as the money to pay her debts. The negotiations last more than 5 years. In return for her help in the trial against Henriette of Entragues, she asks for her share of the inheritance and dedicates it to Dauphin Louis. Gabrielle disappearing, Marguerite appears on October 21, 1599, ready to do anything to facilitate and accelerate the dissolution of the marriage, having only one goal: to leave Usson.
Everything went very quickly: on November 10 the marriage was declared void, she retained her title of Queen and Duchess of Valois, her estates and received 200,000 ecus payable in 4 years. Henri IV and Marie de Médicis married in December 1600 and on September 27, 1601, Louis XIII was born.
Return to Paris
Finally, having received permission to return on July 18, 1605, she crossed Paris escorted by the little Duke of Vendôme. On the 26th, Henry IV visited him at the castle of Madrid and the next day, it was Marie de Medici. Marguerite is welcomed at the Louvre and given a standing ovation by the people. On August 6, the Dauphin awaits him on the road to Saint Germain. In love with this little boy, Marguerite bequeaths him all her possessions and offers him a Cupid studded with diamonds, seated on a dolphin with an emerald and a small scimitar studded with stones.
Often afflicted with discomfort and dysentery, she has lost her beauty, is horribly fat, dresses like an old woman, wearing toweling blond hair (borrowed from servants to make wigs). In April 1606, she lost her young and dear squire Dat de Saint Julien whom she loved passionately and moved to Pré aux Clercs, the plague arriving in Paris. In September, she bought in Issy, the house of Jean de la Haye, the king's goldsmith, and began to embellish it, doing work in the park with statues and frescoes on the walls. It regularly welcomes the Dauphin there, who in 1609 received a bead of jewels of 3000 crowns.
Returning to Paris in October, she found with immense pleasure her squire Bajaumont, who had become a philosopher and valiant soldier, whom she lost at the end of 1609, attacked in the middle of the church. Its salons are filled with diplomats, soldiers, poets, it organizes receptions welcoming the king and queen, we discuss everything there, we do everything: Henri IV himself says he has come back from "bordeau". On the death of the king, she had a solemn service and 2 funeral orations sung. Staying on good terms with the queen, she played a role in the Franco-English alliance for Henriette's marriage, but lived away from the court.
End of Marguerite de Valois' life
Towards the end of 1614, she fell ill with an engorged liver, complicated by gravel. His chaplain, judging the condition to be very serious, warns him. On March 7, 1615, she had the first stone of the tomb laid. She passed away on March 28, 1615 at age 62, leaving 100,000 pounds to the poor, 200,000 crowns of debts settled by Marie de Medici. A year later, her body was transported from the Convent of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart to Saint Denis.
We cannot forget the end of the funeral speech of 1615: "dead, Marguerite of France!" Farewell to the delights of France, the paradise of court pleasures! The shine of our days, the day of beauties, the beauty of virtues, the cuteness of lilies, the lily of princesses, the princess of the great, the queen of grandeur, the greatness of minds, the spirit of wisdom, the prudence of nobles, the noble of flowers, the flower of the Marguerite, the Marguerite of France ”. Something quite different from what the black legend of the queen will leave to posterity.
- Marguerite de Valois: Queen Margot - Eliane Viennot. Tempus 2005.
- Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois - La Reine Margot. Mercure de France, 2004.
- La Reine Margot, by Alexandre Dumas. Pocket 2012.
- Queen Margot, a film by Patrice Chéreau.