The Amours of Henri de Navarre and of Marguerite de Valois

The Amours of Henri de Navarre and of Marguerite de Valois

by Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew C. P. Haggard

The lives of Henri, King of Navarre and later of France, and his wife Marguerite de Valois, youngest daughter of Henri II and Catherine de' Medici were a gossip-lover's delight.

Henri had been brought up by his grandfather to a Spartan lifestyle. Hardened in warfare, he was careless of his person, and heedless of luxury. Marguerite lived for praise and admiration; beautiful and clever, gorgeously arrayed, she was a fashion-setter and a flirt. They both had charm and a strong sensuality, falling in love easily and frequently. Scandals and intrigues, narrow escapes and bedroom farces, romantic interludes and callous rejection blighted more than their own lives.

The opening few chapters provide background on the two young people and their ways of life before their marriage. There is a good deal about Catherine and the corruption that spread through her influence. In fact it was Catherine and her son, Charles IX who instigated the marriage between the unlikely couple, possibly with different motives inmind. Jeanne D'Albret, Henri's mother and Queen of Navarre strongly opposed the marriage.

Catherine ... jealous of the Admiral's [Coligny's] growing influence over the King, and in all probability in league from the beginning with the young Duc Henri of Guise, who had sworn Coligny's death, deliberately sought to make of her daughter the bait for the trap in which she would catch all of the leading Huguenots at one fell swoop. This would be an easy matter should those of "the religion" follow Henri de Navarre and his cousin, the Prince de Condé, to Paris for the wedding.

Jeanne d'Albret, having come to Paris to bargain over the terms of the proposed marriage, wrote to her son, Henri de Navarre, concerning Marguerite. Full of alarms for the future, with a prophetic instinct Jeanne begged her son, once he should be married, to hurry off at once with his bride to his ancestral home in Béarn . . . She said of Marguerite, "She is beautiful and well-informed, and of goodly learning, but has been nourished in the most accursed and corrupted society that ever existed. For I do not see one that is not tainted by it. I would not, for anything in the world, have you come here to remain in it . . . Great as I believed the corruption to be, I find it still worse."

Chapter 7 describes, from Marguerite's point of view, the notorious slaughter of Huguenots that has come to be known as the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre.

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