Catherine of Bourbon (c. 1555–1604)

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Catherine of Bourbon (c. 1555–1604)

French Huguenot reformer and princess of Navarre. Name variations: Catherine, princess de Navarre; Catherine of Navarre; Catherine de Bourbon; duchesse de Bar; duchess of Bar. Born around 1555; died in 1604; daughter of Jeanne d'Albret (1528–1572) and Antoine, duke of Bourbon; sister of Henry of Navarre (1553–1610), the future Henry VI, king of France (r. 1589–1610); married the duc de Bar.

The highly educated, some say brilliant, Catherine of Bourbon spent much of her life in Navarre where she acted as regent for her absent brother Henry from 1585 to 1593. In 1593, she journeyed to France, fell in love with the country, and remained there until her death. Catherine was intent on marrying her distant cousin, the Comte de Soisson, but Henry questioned his loyalty. Instead, he contracted a marriage for her to the duc de Bar.

Though a staunch Huguenot reformer who was against her brother's conversion to Catholicism, Catherine became a good friend of her brother's mistress, the Catholic Gabrielle d'Estrées , and surprisingly championed their marriage. It was chiefly through the efforts of Catherine and Gabrielle that the Edict of Nantes came to be written, providing religious freedom and restoring order to France. Berger de Xivrey wrote the biography Catherine of Navarre, Duchesse de Bar.