Protest by a 12-year-old Princess

Jeanne de Navarre, daughter of Henry II of Navarre and Marguerite d'Angoulême was commanded by the King of France (her mother's brother) to be contracted in marriage to the duke of Cleves. Politics! Uncle Francis was worried that Henry would give his daughter in marriage to Philip of Spain who would then stand heir to Navarre and to certain dominions in the south of France.

In protest, Jeanne wrote the following (and had it witnessed by three officers of her household):

"I, Jeanne de Navarre, persisting in the protestations I have already made, do hereby again affirm and protest, by these present, that the marriage which it is desired to contract between the duke of Cleves and myself, is against my will; that I have never consented to it, nor will consent; and that all I may say and do hereafter, by which it may be attempted to prove that I have given my consent, will be forcibly extorted against my wish and desire, from my dread of the king, of the king my father, and of the queen my mother, who has threatened to have me whipped by the baillive of Caen, my governess. By command of the queen my mother, my said governess has also several times declared, that if I do not all in regard to this marriage which the king wishes, and if I do not give my consent, I shall be punished so severely as to occasion my death; and that by refusing I may be the cause of the ruin and destruction of my father, my mother, and of their house; the which threat has inspired me with such fear and dread, even to be the cause of the ruin of my said father and mother, that I know not to whom to have recourse, excepting to God, seeing that my father and my mother abandon me, who both well know what I have said to them — that never can I love the duke of Cleves, and that I will not have him. Therefore, I protest beforehand, if it happens that I am affianced, or married to the said duke of Cleves in any way or manner, it will be against my heart, and in defiance of my will; and that he shall never become my husband, nor will I ever hold and regard him as such, and that any marriage shall be reputed null and void; in testimony of which I appeal to God and yourselves as witnesses of this my declaration that you are about to sign with me; admonishing each of you to remember the compulsion, violence, and constraint employed against me, upon the matter of this said marriage.

(Signed)     "JEANNE DE NAVARRE"

From: The Life of Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre