Nicole of Lorraine (c. 1608–1657)

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Nicole of Lorraine (c. 1608–1657)

Duchess of Lorraine. Name variations: Nicola of Lorraine. Reigned from 1624 to 1625; born around 1608; died in 1657 in Lorraine; daughter of Henry II, duke of Lorraine (r. 1608–1624), and Margherita Gonzaga (1591–1632); married Charles III also seen as Charles IV (d. 1675), duke of Lorraine (r. 1625–1675), in 1624; no children.

Nicole of Lorraine was born around 1608 into the ruling family of the duchy of Lorraine, a large province on the border of France and modern Germany. She was her father's only surviving child on his death in 1624 and succeeded him as ruler, but she had little chance to establish a regime. Her paternal uncle, Francis of Vaudémont, wished to rule in her place, and so he arranged with her mother Margherita Gonzaga for Nicole to marry his eldest son Charles immediately following her accession. In the 17th century, it was difficult for a woman to rule in her own name once she married, since by law she was then subject to her husband, and popular opinion saw a woman's reign as a time of weakness. Francis of Vaudémont used the opposition by the nobility and the citizenry to Nicole's reign to pass a law in 1625 prohibiting female succession in Lorraine, thereby deposing Nicole in less than one year.

Francis then was acclaimed the new duke, but he abdicated in favor of his son, Nicole's husband, who then succeeded as Charles IV, duke of Lorraine. Nicole thus retained her position as duchess but lost her authority. Charles' wavering foreign policies against France would cause him to lose the duchy several times before his death. He spent much of his time away from Lorraine fighting in the Thirty Years' War, abdicating temporarily in 1634. Nicole, who had no children, would remain in Lorraine throughout her life. Duke Charles was imprisoned in Spain at the time of Nicole's death in 1657.


Jackson-Laufer, Guida. Women Who Ruled. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1990.

Putnam, Ruth. Alsace and Lorraine, from Caesar to Kaiser. NY: Putnam, 1915.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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Nicole of Lorraine (c. 1608–1657)

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