Margaret de Valois was born May 14, 1553 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, and died March 27, 1615 in Paris. She was the youngest daughter of King Henry II of France and of Catherine de Medici. She was more commonly known as Queen Margot, because Margot was the name her family used and close friends used to address her. Margot was involved in many extramarital love affairs, both in her brother Henry III's courts in Paris, and her husband's in Nerac. Margaret didn't play a main role during the French Religious Wars from 1562 to 1598, but she was part of them when she took her place at court in 1569. Her relationship with her two older brothers Charles IX and Henry Duc d'Anjou, later known as Henry III were often strained and filled with tension. She also had an early affair with Henri, Duc de Guise which she ended when she married Henry de Navarre. Henri de Lorraine, 3rd Duc de Guise was the leader of the powerful Catholic extremists party at that time. She also possessed a charm and talent for the literary arts that were much admired by leading writers of her time. The memoirs that she had written were published in 1892 and the following is a famous quote by her on the subject of courage:

"In love, as in war, a fortress that parleys is half taken."

In 1572 she was married to Henry de Bourbon, King of Navarre, a Protestant, thus she became the Queen of Navarre. Later her husband would be known as Henry IV of France and she would be Queen of France. The marriage was arranged by her mother, who, earlier on had Henry de Navarre's mother assassinated. Margot was forced to marry Henry and was even noted to have refused to say yes to the wedding vows until her brother King Charles IX of France physically forced her to. The marriage was supposed to be the beginning of peace between the Roman Catholics and Protestants, but instead it was the prelude to what is known as St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. The Massacre occurred five days after the marriage, and Henry de Navarre had been able to barely escape death by means of an expedient abjuration into Catholicism.

Margaret de Valois was not a weak queen, but she wasn't as powerful as her mother either. She took part in the business of Henry de Navarre, her husband, and her brother Francis, Duc d'Alençon and Anjou. The title of Duc d'Anjou formerly belonged to her older brother Henry III before he became king. Margaret refused to be parted with her husband, even though she continued in her other liasons. She tried using her influence to gain an understanding between Francis her brother who was the leader of the moderate Catholics, and Henry de Navarre. Her role in the conspiracies cost the life of her lover in 1574, the seigneur de La Môle, known as Joseph de Boniface, whose father was a loyal captain of Coligny's, and died by taking a shot that was intended for the Admiral. In 1583 she was exiled from Paris by Henry III because of her licentious conduct, and political manueverings. Margaret returned to her husband Henry de Navarre after she was expelled from the royal court. She later took arms against her husband and her brother, and she seized Agen. In 1586 though she was captured by royal troops and banished to the castle of Usson in Auvergne, but with the Duc de Guise's help she was soon the mistress of the castle.

In 1589 Henry de Navarre ascended the French Throne and became Henry IV. Henry's rise in power and his childless marriage to Margaret raised the possibility of an annulment between the two. Henry demanded an annulment so that he could marry his mistress Gabrielle d'Estrées, but she adamantly refused and only consent in 1599 after Gabrielle's death. Henry IV married Marie de Medici in 1600, although Margaret got to keep her royal title. Five years later she was allowed to return to Paris where she lived in style and wrote her poetry and memoirs.


Encyclopedia Britannica, World Book Encyclopedia, French Religous Wars

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