Margaret of Valois

Margaret of Valois välwäˈ [key], 1553–1615, queen of France and Navarre, daughter of King Henry II of France and of Catherine de' Medici. She was known as Queen Margot. Her wedding (1572) with Henry, Protestant king of Navarre (later Henry IV of France), which was intended to mark the peace between Roman Catholics and Protestants, instead was a prelude to the massacre of Protestants on Saint Bartholomew's Day. The marriage was one of mutual toleration. Margaret took part in the intrigues of her husband and her brother Francis, duke of Alençon and Anjou. In 1583 her brother King Henry III exiled her from Paris because of her promiscuous conduct. Estranged from both her husband and her brother, she took up arms against them and seized Agen. She was taken prisoner by royal troops (1586) and confined at the castle of Usson, but she soon became mistress of the castle. Although sympathetic with the Catholic League, she took little part in the succeeding troubles. She refused to agree to Henry IV's demand for the annulment of their marriage so he could marry his mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées, although she finally consented (1599) to the annulment after Gabrielle's death. In her retirement at Usson (1587–1605), she maintained a small court, in which men of letters were prominent. Her own memoirs (tr. 1892), correspondence, and other writings show considerable literary ability. She spent her last years in Paris. Margaret plays a conspicuous role in literature and legend.

See biographies by H. N. Williams (1907), J. H. Mariéjol (1928, tr. 1929), and C. Haldane (1968).

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