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Margaret of Angoulême

Margaret of AngoulêmeAKA Marguerite d'Angoulême

Born: 11-Apr-1492
Birthplace: Angoulême, France
Died: 21-Dec-1549
Location of death: Odos-Bigorre, France
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Female
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Royalty

Nationality: France
Executive summary: Consort of Henry II of Navarre

Margaret of Angoulême, consort of Henry II of Navarre. This, the most celebrated of the Marguerites, bore no less than four surnames. By family she was entitled to the name of Marguerite de Valois; as the daughter of Charles d'Orleans, count d'Angoulême, she is more properly, and by careful writers almost invariably, called Marguerite d'Angoulême. From her first husband she took, during no small part of her life, the appellation Marguerite d'Alençon, and from her second, Henri d'Albret, King of Navarre, that of Marguerite de Navarre. She was born at Angoulême on the 11th of April 1492, and was two years older than her brother Francis I. She was betrothed early to Charles, Duke d'Alençon, and married him in 1509. She was not very fortunate in this first marriage, but her brother's accession to the throne made her, next to their mother Louise of Savoy, the most powerful woman of the kingdom. She became a widow in 1525, and was sought in marriage by many persons of distinction, including, it is said, Emperor Charles V and King Henry VIII. In 1527 she married Henri d'Albret, titular King of Navarre, who was considerably younger than herself, and whose character was not faultless, but who seems on the whole, despite slander, to have both loved and valued his wife. Navarre was not reconquered for the couple as Francis had promised, but ample apanages were assigned to Marguerite, and at Nérac and Pau miniature courts were kept up, which yielded to none in Europe in the intellectual brilliancy of their frequenters. Marguerite was at once one of the chief patronesses of letters that France possessed, and the chief refuge and defender of advocates of the Reformed doctrines. Round her gathered C. Marot, Bonaventure des Périers, N. Denisot, J. Peletier, V. Brodeau, and many other men of letters, while she protected Rabelais, E. Dolet, etc. For a time her influence with her brother, to whom she was entirely devoted, and whom she visited when he was imprisoned in Spain, was effectual, but latterly political rather than religious considerations made him discourage Lutheranism, and a fierce persecution was begun against both Protestants and freethinkers, a persecution which drove Des Périers to suicide and brought Dolet to the stake. Marguerite herself, however, was protected by her brother, and her personal inclinations seem to have been rather towards a mystical pietism than towards dogmatic Protestant sentiments. Nevertheless bigotry and the desire to tarnish the reputation of women of letters have led to the bringing of odious accusations against her character, for which there is not the smallest foundation. Marguerite died at Odot-en-Bigorre on the 21st of September 1549. By her first husband she had no children, by her second a son who died in infancy, and a daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, who became the mother of Henry IV. Although the poets of the time are unwearied in celebrating her charms, she does not, from the portraits which exist, appear to have been regularly beautiful, but as to her sweetness of disposition and strength of mind there is universal consent.

Her literary work consists of the Heptameron, of poems entitled Les Marguerites de la marguerite des princesses, and of Letters. The Heptameron, constructed, as its name indicates, on the lines of the Decameron of Boccaccio, consists of seventy-two short stories told to each other by a company of ladies and gentlemen who are stopped in the journey homewards from Cauterets by the swelling of a river. It was not printed until 1558, ten years after the author's death, and then under the title of Les Amants fortunés. Internal evidence is strongly in favor of its having been a joint work, in which more than one of the men of letters who composed Marguerite's household took part. It is a delightful book, and strongly characteristic of the French Renaissance. The sensuality which characterized the period appears in it, but in a less coarse form than in the great work of Rabelais; and there is a poetical spirit which, except in rare instances, is absent from Pantagruel. The Letters are interesting and good. The Marguerites consist of a very miscellaneous collection of poems, mysteries, farces, devotional poems of considerable length, spiritual and miscellaneous songs, etc. The Dernières poésies, not printed until 1896, are interesting and characteristic, consisting of verse-epistles, comedies (pieces in dramatic form on the death of Francis I, etc.), Les Prisons, a long allegorical poem of amorous, religious, and historical tenor; some miscellaneous verse chiefly in dizains, and a later and remarkable piece, Le Navire, expressing her despair at her brother's death.

Father: Charles d'Orléns, Count d'Angoulême
Brother: Francis I (King of France)
Husband: Charles, duc d'Alençon, (d. 1525)
Husband: Henri D'Albret (Henry II, King of Navarre)

Author of books:
Le Miroir de l'âme pécheresse (1531)
Marguerites (1547)
Histoires des amans fortunez (1558)
Heptaméron (1559)


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