The Life of Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre

The Life of Jeanne D'Albret, Queen of Navarre: From numerous unpublished sources including MS. documents in the Bibliotheque Imperiale and the Archives Espagnoles de Simancas

by Martha Walker Freer

Jeanne d'Albret was a precocious and strong-willed child who, when uncle Francis — the King of France — commanded that the 12 year old should be contracted in marriage to the German duke of Cleves, wrote a lengthy document protesting against it, and had it witnessed by the officers of her household.

Jeanne's life was rarely peaceful. Her first two children died through the mistakes and follies of others, but her father blamed her, and forced her to agree that he would take and bring up her next child (this would be the future Henry IV of France). Her husband proved not only unfaithful, but a political and religious weathercock, easily manipulated by those around him, and so incapable of logical thought that when he threatened to have their marriage annulled (on the grounds of a previous contract), she had to point out to him that he would be making his own children illegitimate.

There were endless political pressures, too. Jeanne declared for the Protestant faith, and had to withstand the enmity of her mighty neighbours, Spain and France, who also had territorial interests in subsuming little Navarre into their respective kingdoms.

It is a powerful and moving story.

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