Who Was Marguerite de Rohan?

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Marguerite de Rohan, Countess d’Angoulême was the grandmother of King François I of France on his father’s side. I care about her because, in my new novel The Importance of Sons, (Release date, April 2022) she plays an important role since she’s the mother-in-law of Louise de Savoie, François’s mother. She was Breton, daughter of Viscount Alain IX de Rohan and Marguerite de Bretagne, herself daughter of Duke Jean V of Brittany. The de Rohan family were the great rivals of the Dukes of Brittany.

Marguerite de Rohan, Duchess d'Angoulême, Marguerite de Rohan, Duchess d'Angoulême

When did Marguerite de Rohan live?

As far as we know, Marguerite de Rohan was born in Brittany somewhere between 1420 and 1428. This was during the One Hundred  Years War between England and France probably in the early years of Charles VII’s reign. When she was about 20 or so, on 31 August 1449, she married Count Jean d’Angoulême. He was 49. She died a widow, at the Angoulême castle of Cognac where she was living with her daughter-in-law, in 1496. She was buried beside her late husband. The lack of specific information about her reflects the view of the time that women’s lives were not important enough to record.

Who were Marguerite’s brothers and sisters?

Marguerite was a member of the de Rohan family, the second most powerful family in the independent duchy of Brittany. Her father Viscount Alain IX had seven children: five daughters and two sons. They were: the 1st died young, Beatrix, Jeanne, Marguerite, Catherine, Alain and Jean. Three of her sisters married into the other three most important noble Breton families: the de Laval, de Rieux, and de Dinan. Marguerite married a royal prince. Her elder brother Alain X died in the catastrophic (for Brittany) Battle of St Aubin de Cormier. Her younger brother, Jean II, married the daughter of Duke François I of Brittany. He succeeded his brother in 1487.

Who was her husband, Count Jean d’Angoulême?

Count Jean was a member of the cadet branch of the d’Orléans line of the Valois ruling house. After the Battle of Agincourt, he lived as a prisoner in England did his older brother Charles. Jean was a prisoner for 33 years. During his captivity he became a scholar, a lover of learning and a pious man. His piety was so well known that the Council of Basel invite him to become Pope, but he refused.

Although the English released Charles in1440, they did not release Jean until 1444. Jean’s ransom (100,00 gold écus) was so large and the occupations of their lands by English lords so devastating that their debts impoverished their branch of the family. Count Jean spent the five years after his return fighting the English in Guyenne before he married. As royal prince, Jean married Marguerite de Rohan despite her lower rank, because she was a wealthy heiress and he was poor.

Who were Marguerite and Jean’s children?

The couple had three children:

Their first son, Louis d’Orléans (b. 1450), was born at the Château de Bouteville. He died young (1453).

Their second child and son, Charles d’Orléans, born in 1459, became Count d’Angoulême in 1467 upon the death of his father. He married 12-year-old, impoverished but high-ranking, Louise de Savoie on 16 February 1488, with whom he had two children, Marguerite d’Angoulême and François I. He died before his mother, on 1 January 1496. Prior to his marriage Charles had several mistresses. Two of them, Antoinette de Polignac and Jeanne Conte, gave him three illegitimate daughters, Madeleine, Jeanne and Souvereine who were brought up at Cognac.

A daughter, Jeanne (b. 1462) married Charles-François de Coëtivy, Count of Taillebourg and Baron of Craon,nephew of King Louis XI.

Where Marguerite and Jean have their lands?

The Angoulême lands lay in the former province of Angoumois below Poitou. The lands that Count Jean inherited from his father included the counties Angoulême with its Château of Angouleme, Périgord, Jarnac and the Châteaux of Bouteville and Cognac. He had to sell Périgord for 16,000 gold écus as an initial payment on his ransom. When Jean married Marguerite, she brought a dowry of 60,000 gold écus and the manor of Beauvais.

After she was widowed, Marguerite used her dower to acquire the seigneuries of Salles and Genté and the barony of Montbron. Its Château had been razed during the One Hundred Years War so she had it rebuilt. Nonetheless, she continued to live in with her son, Charles, and his family for the rest of her life.

Some sources for information about Marguerite de Rohan

The Wikipedia article on Marguerite de Rohan is always the first and easiest source although it isn’t complete. Following various of the links in the article such as those for Jean d’Orléans and her daughter Jeanne also lead to useful additional information.  Wikidata also contains a helpful listing.

Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France, des pairs, grands officiers de la couronne & de la maison du Roy, & des anciens barons du royaume is a vast and useful resource available as a free ebook on Google Books Eusèbe Castaigne, éditeur, 

La vie de Jean d’Orléans, dit le Bon, comte d’Angoulême, aïeul de François Ier : par Jean du Port, sieur des Rosiers, Angoulême, 1852, XXXII-112 p citation from open library

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