Coligny, Louise de (1555–1620)

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Coligny, Louise de (1555–1620)

Princess of Orange and countess of Nassau. Name variations: Luise of Bourbon-Montpensier. Born in 1555 (some sources cite 1546); died at the Château de Fontainebleau on November 15, 1620; daughter of Gaspard II de Coligny, Maréchal de Châtillon (1519–1572, an admiral and leader of the Huguenots), and Charlotte de Laval (d. 1568); granddaughter ofLouise de Montmorency , Madame de Châtillon (fl. 1498–1525); sister of François de Coligny (1557–1591, a follower of Henry IV) and aunt of Gaspard III (1584–1646, a marshal of France under Louis XIII and father of Henriette de Coligny ); married Charles de Téligny (who died in the Massacre of St. Bartholmew); became fourth wife of William I the Silent (1533–1584), prince of Orange, count of Nassau (r. 1544–1584), stadholder of Holland, Zealand, and Utrecht (r. 1572–1584), on April 12, 1583 (assassinated in 1584); children: Frederick Henry (1584–1647), prince of Orange (r. 1625–1647, who married Amelia of Solms ); and others.

Louise de Coligny was born into an important and influential French family. Her father Gaspard II de Coligny, maréchal de Châtillon (1519–1572), an admiral of France, had served honorably and courageously until he was defeated and imprisoned in Spain. While a captive, he converted to Protestantism and became a joint leader of the Huguenots with Louis I, prince of Condé, in 1560. Gaspard's influence over Charles IX, king of France, earned him the enmity of Catholics and the dukes of Guise.

As queen regent for Charles IX, Catherine de Medici hoped to improve the volatile relations with the Huguenots by offering her daughter Margaret of Valois in marriage to Calvinist Henry of Navarre (the future Henry IV). The wedding festivities were marked by a general uneasiness, until an assassination attempt against a Calvinist leader sparked the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenots in Paris in 1572. That day, 3,000 Huguenots were killed in Paris alone, including Louise de Coligny's father and her first husband Charles de Téligny.

Louise fled France and took refuge in Switzerland. While spending a life in exile away from her children, she wrote over 200 letters to her family and influential Protestants asking for their help, letters that reflected her profound suffering. In 1583, she married William I the Silent, prince of Orange; he was assassinated the following year. From afar, Louise and her brother François were devoted followers of Henry IV, king of France, in establishing the Protestant faith. Following Henry's assassination in 1610, Louise returned to France, but was soon back at The Hague. Ten years later, she died in France at the Château de Fontainebleau.

suggested reading:

Marchegay, P., ed. Correspondence de Louise de Coligny. 1887.

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Coligny, Louise de (1555–1620)

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