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Marguerite of Navarre (1492–1549)

Marguerite of Navarre (14921549)

A French author, religious reformer, and noble, the sister of King Francis I (Francois I) who played a major role in the cultural flowering and religious conflicts of Renaissance France. The daughter of Charles, Count of Angouleme, and Louise of Savoy, she was raised in Angouleme and Cognac and was offered an education in Latin and letters. Through her marriage to King Henry II of Navarre, she became the queen of Navarre, a realm lying just beyond the borders of France and Spain. She held a salon that attracted the most renowned writers and poets of France, including Francois Rabelais, Pierre de Ronsard, and Desiderius Erasmus. An able diplomat, in 1525 she negotiated with Emperor Charles V for the release of her brother after his capture at the Battle of Pavia. The king allowed her to sit on his council of ministers and negotiate treaties with England.

The queen took a strong interest in reform of the Catholic Church, in order to counter the radical Protestant movement that was sweeping away traditional church institutions in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. She defended French Evangelicals, or reformers, including Gerard Roussel, from charges of heresy, and allowed many of them to take refuge in Navarre. In 1534, she helped John Calvin to escape France under threat of persecution for heresy. She also established charities and a system of public education for the needy, a unique institution in Renaissance Europe.

Marguerite authored poetry and stories. On the death of her infant son in 1530 she wrote Miroir de l'Ame Pecheresse, which Catholic theologians labeled a heretical work. After her death, her stories were collected in a volume known as the Heptameron. These tales took as their model the Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio but took the woman's side in the conflicts and misunderstandings between the sexes.

See Also: Calvin, John; Francis I; Rabelais, Francois

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Margaret of Navarre

Margaret of Navarre (nəvär´) or Margaret of Angoulême (äNgōōlām´), 1492–1549, queen consort of Navarre; sister of King Francis I of France. After the death of her first husband she married (1527) Henri d'Albret, king of Navarre; their daughter was Jeanne d'Albret. Margaret was an ardent supporter of religious liberty and mild church reform. Her brilliant court at Navarre was frequented by literary men, among them Étienne Dolet, Clément Marot, and François Rabelais. A writer herself, she is best known for the Heptaméron (1558), an original collection of 72 stories in the manner of Boccaccio. She also wrote plays and poems.

See studies of the Heptameron by J. Gelernt (1966) and M. Tetel (1973); biography by E. R. Chamberlin (1974).

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Angoulême, Margaret of

Margaret of Angoulême: see Margaret of Navarre.

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Margaret of Angoulême

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