Biography of Marguerite of Navarre: Renaissance Woman, Writer, Queen

Helped Negotiate the Treaty of Cambrai (Paix Des Dames)

Marguerite of Navarre
Marguerite of Navarre. Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Queen Marguerite of Navarre (April 11, 1491 - December 21, 1549) was known for helping negotiate the Treaty of Cambrai, known as The Ladies Peace. She was a Renaissance humanist, and educated her daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, according to Renaissance standards. She was the grandmother of King Henry IV of France. She was also known as Marguerite of Angoulême, Margaret of Navarre, Margaret of Angouleme, Marguerite De Navarre, Margarita De Angulema, Margarita De Navarra.

Fast Facts: Marguerite of Navarre

Known For: Princess of France, Queen of Navarre, and Duchess of Alençon and Berry; helping negotiate the Treaty of Cambrai, (Paix des Dames); and esteemed Renaissance writer.

Born: April 11, 1491

Died: December 21, 1549

Spouse(s): Charles IV, Duke of Alençon, Henry II of Navarre

Children: Jeanne III of Navarre, Jean

Published WorksThe Heptameron, Miroir de l'âme pécheresse (Mirror of the Sinful Soul)

Early Years

Marguerite of Navarre was the daughter of Louise of Savoy and Charles de Valois-Orléans, Comte d'Angoulême. She was well educated in languages (including Latin), philosophy, history, and theology, taught by her mother and by tutors. Marguerite's father proposed when she was 10 that she marry the Prince of Wales, who later became Henry VIII.

Personal and Family Life

Marguerite of Navarre married the Duke of Alencon in 1509 when she was 17 years old and he was 20. He was far less educated than she, described by one contemporary as a "laggard and a dolt," but the marriage was advantageous to her brother, the presumed heir to the crown of France.

When her brother, Francis I, succeeded Louis XII, Marguerite served as his hostess. Marguerite patronized scholars and explored religious reform. In 1524, Claude, the queen consort of Francis I, died, leaving two young daughters, Madeleine and Margaret, to the care of Marguerite. Marguerite raised them until Francis married Eleanor of Austria in 1530. Madeleine, born in 1520, later married James V of Scotland and died at age 16 of tuberculosis; Margaret, born in 1523, later married Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, with whom she had a son.

The Duke was injured in the Battle of Pavia, 1525, in which Marguerite's brother, Francis I, was captured. With Francis held captive in Spain, Marguerite stepped up and helped her mother, Louise of Savoy, negotiate the release of Francis and the Treaty of Cambrai, known as The Ladies Peace (Paix des Dames). Part of the stipulation of this treaty was that Francis marry Eleanor of Austria, which he did in 1530.

Marguerite's husband, the Duke, died of his battle injuries after Francis was captured. Marguerite had no children by her marriage to the Duke of Alencon.

In 1527, Marguerite married Henry d'Albret, King of Navarre, ten years younger than she. Under her influence, Henry initiated legal and economic reforms, and the court became a haven for religious reformers. They had one daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, and a son who died as an infant. While Marguerite retained influence at her brother's court, she and her husband were soon estranged, or perhaps never were all that close. Her salon, known as "The New Parnassas," gathered influential scholars and others.

Marguerite of Navarre took charge of the education of her daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, who became a Huguenot leader and whose son became France's King Henry IV. Marguerite did not go so far as to become a Calvinist and was estranged from her daughter Jeanne over religion. Yet Francis came to oppose many of the reformers with whom Marguerite was in contact, and that led to some estrangement between Marguerite and Francis.

Writing Career

Marguerite of Navarre wrote religious verse and short stories. Her verse reflected her religious non-orthodoxy, as she was influenced by humanists and tended towards mysticism. She published her first poem, "Miroir de l'âme pécheresse," after her son's death in 1530.

England's Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I of England) translated Marguerite's "Miroir de l'âme pécheresse" (1531) as "A Godly Meditation of the Soul" (1548). Marguerite published "Les Marguerites de la Marguerite des princesses tresillustre royne de Navarre" and "Suyte des Marguerites de la Marguerite des princesses tresillustre royne de Navarre" in 1548 after Francis died


Marguerite of Navarre died at age 57 in Odos. Marguerite's collection of 72 stories — many of women — was published after her death under the title "L'Hemptameron des Nouvelles", also called "The Heptameron".

Though it is not certain, it is speculated that Marguerite had some influence on Anne Boleyn when Anne was in France as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude, Marguerite's sister-in-law.

The bulk of Marguerite's verse was not collected and published until 1896 when it was published as "Les Dernières poésies".

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Biography of Marguerite of Navarre: Renaissance Woman, Writer, Queen." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 27). Biography of Marguerite of Navarre: Renaissance Woman, Writer, Queen. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Biography of Marguerite of Navarre: Renaissance Woman, Writer, Queen." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).