Why did three royal princesses bear the name Marguerite de Valois between 1495 and 1615? It makes it so complicated to separate them. Their contemporaries must have muttered over the same problem.
Each made a name for herself during her lifetime. Since each is an important French Renaissance women, they each merit a separate article. But in this post, I’ll explain their relationships and answer the most pressing questions. Why did they have the same name? And how do we tell them apart?
Sources of Information
The literature on the Marguerites is vast and varied. The selections after each brief bio represent only a fragment. I’ve chosen the most accessible. They include both popular, and primary and secondary sources. But I’ve not included fiction. In another blog, I will share a more extensive list.
Three Marguerites—Great Aunt, Niece, Grand Niece
The chart below shows the relationships among the three generations of Marguerites de Valois. I shall use their titles when writing about them. I hope their deeds will speak for them. Their personalities were as different as chalk and cheese.
Marguerite d’Angoulême, Queen of Navarre
The first, Marguerite d’Angoulême (1492-1549), was named for her grandmother, Marguerite de Rohan. She was the sister of King François I. First married to Charles, Duke d’Alençon, she later married Henri II, King of Navarre. She was also a famous poetess and writer. Her book The Heptameron [https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/navarre/heptameron/heptameron.html] made her an enduring name in French letters. There are many free translations available, such as the link above.
Of the three, Queen Marguerite, Pearl of Pearls, receives most scholarly attention. An early woman author, as queen ensured everyone read her writing. It also helped her work to survive. Her role in the early reform movement has made her a heroine. And her influence with her brother and mother gave her an important political role.
L’Heptameron: textes etabli sur les manuscrits avec une introduction des notes et un index des noms propres, by Marguerite De Navarre, Jan 1, 1950
Théâtre profane: Nouvelle édition revue (Textes Litterai) (French Edition), by Marguerite de Navarre and Verdun-Léon Saulnier, Jan 1, 1965
The Mirror of the Sinful Soul: A Prose Translation from the French of a Poem by Queen Margaret of Navarre, by Marguerite, Queen Consort of Henry II, et al., Oct 16, 2018
Oeuvres complètes: Le triomphe de l’Agneau (III) (Oeuvres complètes / Marguerite de Navarre. (3)), by Marguerite d’Angoulême, Nicole Cazauran, et al., Jan 1, 2001
The Coach and The Triumph of the Lamb: Two poems by Marguerite de Navarre, by Hilda Dale, Feb 1, 1999
Joie, by Marguerite De Navarre, Jan 1, 1961
Les Prisons (Textes Littéraires Français t. 260) (French Edition), by Marguerite de Navarre and Simone Glasson | Jan 1, 1978
Lettres de Marguerite d’Angoulême, Soeur de François 1
Nouvelles Lettres De La Reine De Navarre: Adressées Au Roi François Ier, Son Frère… (French Edition), by consort of Henry II Marguerite (Queen | Mar 16, 2012
Lettres Inedites de Marguerite de Valois: Bibliotheque Imperiale de Saint-Petersbourg (Ed.1886) (Histoire) (French Edition), by Marguerite d’Angoulême, Mar 26, 2012e
Marguerite de Navarre
Marguerite de Navarre, Mother of the Renaissance
The Pearl of Princesses
Reformation Women—Marguerite de Navarre
Marguerite de Navarre: Selected Full-Text Books and Articles
Dernier Voyage De La Reine De Navarre Marguerite D’Angouleme, Soeur De Francois I Avec Sa Fille Jeanne D’Albret Aux Bains De Cauterets, 1549 (1897) (French Edition), by Felix Frank, Sep 10, 2010
Marguerite de Navarre, Queen of the Renaissance ,
Margaret, The Pearl Of Navarre: A Narrative Compiled From Authentic Sources (1867), by Sarah Towne Martyn | Sep 10, 2010
Marguerite d’Angouleme, duchesse d’Alencon, reine de Navarre, 1492-1549. Etude biographique et litt, by Jourda Pierre | Jan 1, 1978
The Life of Marguerite D’angoulême, Queen of Navarre, Duchess D’alençon and De Berry, Sister of Francis I., King of France Vol. I, by Martha Walker Freer | Aug 21, 2015
Marguerite de Navarre with annotated bibliography
Marguerite de Valois Et La Cour de Francois 1er… (French Edition), by Victor Durand | Jan 26, 2012
Marguerite de Valois, Duchess de Berry
The second, Marguerite de Valois (1523-1574), Duchess of Berry and Savoie, was a linguist, patron of the arts and able diplomat. She supported such writers as Du Bellay, Ronsard and the Savoyard poet Claude de Buttet. Liberal in thought, the Church accused her of reformist sympathies.
Her mother, Claude, named her for her aunt, Marguerite d’Angoulême. Her aunt and grandmother brought her up after her mother died. The only sturdy daughter of Claude and François, she waited until 36 to marry, rare among royal women. She had her own household in the Louvre Palace. In 1550, when her aunt, Queen Marguerite died, Henri II named her Duchess de Berry. She made Michel de l’Hôpital her chancellor. As duchess, she proved an able and compassionate administrator.
Marguerite de Valois—Duchess de Savoie
In July 1559 she finally married Duke Emmanuel-Philibert de Savoie. They had one child, Charles Emmanuel, born in 1562. A gentle and soft-spoken woman, she had the ability to reconcile opponents. Her new subjects believed she healed the rankling wounds between Savoie and France over contested borders.
Marguerite Duchess of Savoy and Berry
Marguerite of France, Duchess of Savoy
Peyre R. une princesse de la Renaissance, Marguerite de France duchesse de Savoie, Paris, 1902
Marguerite de Savoie, Une princesse de la renaissance
Rouget F. François, Marguerite de Berry et sa cour en Savoie d’après un album de vers manuscrit. Revue d’histoire littéraire de la France , vol.106 (2006-1)
Marguerite de Savoie duchesse de Savoie no 573
Marguerite de France, Queen of Navarre
Our last Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), was the third daughter of Queen Catherine de Medici and King Henri II. Catherine named her for her close friend, Marguerite, Duchess de Berry. She grew up at court during the years of political turmoil that followed her father’s untimely death. There, she developed a taste for intrigue and politics.
From Marguerite de Valois to La Reine Margot
A devout Catholic, she opposed her marriage to Henri III de Navarre, leader of the Huguenot party. The marriage itself became the occasion of one of the most shameful events in French history—the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre. They had no children from this disastrous union. Unhappily married, she shuffled between the courts of Navarre and France as the fortunes of war shifted. In 1585, she threw her support to the Catholic League. Her disgruntled brother, King Henri III, imprisoned her in Auvergne.
La Reine Margot’s Memoirs
While she lived in confinement for 19 years at the Château d’Usson, Marguerite wrote her memoirs. She was the first Frenchwoman to do so. Evidence suggests that her notorious reputation is exaggerated. It was probably the work of enemies of the Valois. Understandably enough, she negotiated a generous settlement before agreeing to divorce King Henri IV. It was not her doing that the Pope delayed the divorce for several years.
Selected sources. (Check Amazon.com.)
Many are the books written about Marguerite and her notorious mother Catherine de Medici — possibly the two most stories queens in France. The works below do not include fiction.
Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois, Queen of Navarre
Correspondance (1569-1614) (Textes De La Renaissance), by Marguerite de Valois, Jun 5, 2018
Lettres Inédites de Marguerite de Valois À Pomponne de Bellièvre (Histoire) (French Edition), by Marguerite de Valois | Feb 28, 2018
Itineraire Raisonne de Marguerite de Valois En Gascogne D’Apres Ses Livres de Comptes (1578-1586)… (French Edition), by Phillippe Lauzun Jan 20, 2012
Marguerite de Valois, Queen of Navarre by Dominic Pierce
Marguerite de Valois (Biographies Historiques) (French Edition), by Janine Garrisson, Apr 1, 2014
The Rival Queens: Catherine de’ Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal that Ignited a Kingdom by Nancy Goldstone, Jun 23, 2015
De Marguerite de Valois à la reine Margot: Autrice, mécène, inspiratrice (Interférences) (French Edition) by Catherine Magnien and Eliane Viennot | Mar 28, 2019
L’exil auvergnat de Marguerite de Valois (la reine Margot) : Carlat-Usson, 1585-1605 (French Edition), by Michel Moisan Jan 1, 1999
Histoire De La Reine Marguerite De Valois Premiere Femme Du Roi Henri IV, by M. A. Mongez, Jan 1, 1777
Marguerite de Valois by Evelyne Morin-Rotureau , Feb 20, 2003
Margot, reine d’Usson: La relégation de Marguerite de Valois en Auvergne (Essais et documents) (French Edition) by Alain Mourgue | Jan 22, 2008
La Vraie Reine Margot (Illustré, Annoté) (French Edition), by Albert Savine and Danielle Boulois Jun 8, 2015
The Myth of the Reine Margot: Toward the Elimination of a Legend (Studies in the Humanities), by Robert Sealy | Feb 1, 1995
Marguerite de valois (Grande bibliothèque payot) (French Edition), by Eliane Viennot Jan 3, 1995
Marguerite de Valois: Histoire d’une femme, histoire d’un mythe (Histoire Payot) (French Edition) by Eliane Viennot Jan 1, 1993
Queen Margot: Wife of Henry of Navarre, by H. Noel Williams and Linda Ellis | Jun 11, 2015
Marguerite and its diminutives
The limited number of royal names in use is trying. I have often wondered how they dealt with it. Nicknames or diminutives? Is that why there are so many for one name? For Marguerite here are some of the most common. Margot (Margaux), Maggi, Gutte, Marina, Pernette, Grette, Marinete, Megane, and Magali. These I found easily. I discovered several Breton variants, too. Several probably existed in the langue d’oc. Other local languages existed then, spoken by small enclaves. I suspect they had their own versions.
This multiplication of people with the same name, is one of the small, irritating challenges that historical novelists face. Using variants is one solution. How do others solve it? Reply in the comments with your thoughts.