period: Marguerite de Valois

Marguerite de Valois

Marguerite de Valois (1553–1615) was Queen Consort of France and of Navarre during the late sixteenth century. She lived a tumultuous life: daughter of Catherine de’ Medici and sister to three kings of France; forced into an arranged marriage to the Huguenot Henri of Navarre (who could not enter the church for his own wedding, followed six days later by the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre; imprisoned by her brother – albeit at a castle – for eighteen years, including her entire reign as Queen; infamous for her scandalous behaviour and numerous lovers. She was divorced by Henri in 1599 with an agreement that allowed her to maintain the title of Queen. She returned to Paris afterwards and, reconciled to her former husband and his second wife Marie de’ Medici, Margaret returned to Paris and established herself as a mentor of the arts and benefactress of the poor.

Her memoirs were published posthumously in 1628 ensuring – along with Alexandre Dumas, père’s later novel La Reine Margot – her enduring fame with a succession of stories relating to the affairs of her brothers Charles IX and Henry III with her former husband Henry IV as well as her own.

The movies

La reine Margot (1954): A darker – though less bloody – adaptation of the Dumas novel than the Isabel Adjani version, with a script by Abel Gance and featuring Jeanne Moreau as Marguerite de Valois. Georges Bouban and Janine Jarreau were the makeup artists.