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Jeanne d'Albret was Queen Regnant of Navarre from 1555 to 1572. She was the wife of Antoine of Navarre.
Early Life Edit
Jeanne was born in the palace of the royal court at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France at five o'clock in the afternoon on November 16, 1528, the daughter of Marguerite of Angoulême and King Henry II of Navarre. The birth was officially announced the following January 7, 1529 when King Francis gave his permission for the addition of a new master in all cities where there were incorporated guilds "in honor of the birth of Jeanne de Navarre, the king's niece"
From the age of two, as was the will of her uncle King Francis who took over her education, Jeanne was raised in the Château de Plessis-lèz-Tours in the Loire Valley and lived apart from her parents. She eventually received an excellent education under the tutelage of humanist Nicolas Bourbon.
As a child Jeanne was described as a frivolous Princess, high spirited with the tendency to be stubborn and unyielding.
Physical Description Edit
Jeanne was described as "small of stature, frail but erect", her face was narrow, her light-colored eyes, cold and unmoving, and her lips thin. She was highly intelligent, but austere and self-righteous. Her speech was sharply sarcastic and vehement. Agrippa d' Aubigné, the Huguenot chronicler, described Jeanne as having "a mind powerful enough to guide the highest affairs".
Marriage Negotiations Edit
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor considered her to be a bride for his son and heir, Phillip II of Spain. This match would have settled the Kingdom of Navarre which had just been conquered unjustly by the Emperor's grandfather Ferdinand the Catholic; however this marriage was not to happen since Spain was the enemy of France at the time, and the monarchs of Navarre were under the protection of the French Kings. It was impossible for Navarre to go against the French King despite the match with Spain being much desired.
First Marriage Edit
In 1541, King Francis I of France forced his 12 year old niece Jeanne to marry William "the Rich", Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg; who was the brother of Anne of Cleves who for 6 months was the 4th Queen of Henry VIII of England.
This political marriage was annulled four years later on the grounds that it had not been consummated. Jeanne remained at the royal court.
Second Marriage Edit
Jeanne married Antoine de Bourbon, "first prince of the blood", at Moulins in the Bourbonnais on October 20, 1548; following the death of Francis I and the ascension of his son Henry II. The marriage was intended to consolidate territorial possessions in the north and south of France. Jeanne was very much in love with Antoine, and it was said that in her love for her husband she had "no pleasure or occupation except in talking about or writing to her husband. She does it in company and in private . . . the waters cannot quench the flame of her love."
The death of King Henry II of Navarre on May 28, 1555, Jeanne and Antoine became Queen and King of Navarre. When she came to the throne the new Queen inherited conflicts over Navarre and an independent territorial hold on Lower Navarre, Soule, as well as other dependencies to the Crown of France.
Jeanne and Antoine were crowned On August 18, 1555 at Pau, in a joint ceremony according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. The previous month, a coronation coin commemorating the new reign had been minted. It was inscribed in Latin with the following words: Antonius et Johanna Dei gratia reges Navarrae Domini Bearni.
Reign as Queen Edit
As a brand new Queen, Jeanne was influenced by her mother, with leanings toward religious reform, humanist thinking, and individual liberty. This legacy was influential in her decision to convert to Calvinism. In the first year of her reign, Queen Jeanne III called a conference of beleaguered Protestant Huguenot ministers. She later declared Calvinism the official religion of her kingdom after publicly embracing the teachings of John Calvin on Christmas Day 1560. This conversion made her the highest-ranking Protestant in France. She became designated as an enemy of the Counter Reformation mounted by the Catholic Church.
Following the forced conversion of Calvinism in her kingdom, priests and nuns were banished, Catholic churches destroyed, and Catholic ritual prohibited. The Queen also commissioned the translation of the New Testament into Basque and Béarnese for the benefit of her subjects.
In addition to her religious reforms, Jeanne worked on reorganizing her kingdom; making long-lasting reforms to the economic and judicial systems of her domains.
In 1561, Catherine de' Medici, in her role as regent for her son King Charles IX, appointed Antoine Lieutenant General of France. Jeanne and Catherine had encountered each other at Court in the latter years of Francis I's reign and shortly after King Henry II's ascension to the French throne, when Catherine attained the rank of Queen Consort. The historian Mark Strage suggested that Jeanne was one of Catherine's main detractors, contemptuously referring to her as the "Florentine grocer's daughter".
Religious Wars Edit
The power struggle between Catholics and Huguenots for control of the French court and France as a whole, led to the outbreak of the French Wars of Religion in 1562. Jeanne and Antoine were at court, when the latter made the decision to support the Catholic faction, which was headed by the House of Guise; and in consequence, threatened to repudiate Jeanne when she refused to attend Mass.
Queen Catherine de' Medici, in an attempt to steer a middle course between the two warring factions, also pleaded with Jeanne to obey her husband for the sake of peace but to no avail. Queen Jeanne stood her ground and staunchly refused to abandon the Calvinist religion, and continued to have Protestant services conducted in her apartments. When many of the other nobles also joined the Catholic camp, Catherine had no choice but to support the Catholic faction. Jeanne feared both her husband's and Catherine's anger, and left Paris in March 1562 and made her way south to seek refuge in Béarn.
Jeanne had stopped for a brief sojourn at her husband's ancestral chateau in Vendôme on May 14 to break her lengthy homeward journey. A 400-strong Huguenot force from invading the town. The soldiers marauded through the streets of Vendôme, ransacked all the churches, maltreated the inhabitants, and pillaged the ducal chapel, which housed the tombs of Antoine's ancestors. The Queen was unable to prevent this from happening.
In consequence, her husband adopted a belligerent stance with her. He issued orders to Blaise de Lasseran-Massencôme, seigneur de Montluc to have her arrested and returned to Paris where she would subsequently be sent to a Catholic convent. She resumed her journey after leaving Vendôme and managed to elude her captors, safely passing over the frontier into Béarn before she could be intercepted by the seigneur de Montluc and his troops.
Queen Regnant Edit
King Antoine was fatally wounded at the siege of Rouen at the end of the year and died before Jeanne could obtain the necessary permission to cross over enemy lines, in order to be at his bedside where she had wished to nurse him. His mistress instead was summoned to his deathbed.
Following the death of her husband, Jeanne henceforth ruled Navarre as the sole Queen Regnant; her sex being no impediment to her sovereignty. Her son Henry subsequently became "first prince of the blood". Jeanne often brought him along on her many progresses through her domains to oversee administrative affairs.
Jeanne's position in the conflicts remained relatively neutral in the beginning, being mainly preoccupied with military defenses, given Navarre's geographic location beside Catholic Spain. Papal envoys arrived and tried to coerce and threaten her into returning to Catholicism and abolishing heresy within her kingdom. Her response was to coldly reply that "the authority of the Pope's legate is not recognized in Béarn". At one stage there was a papal plot led by Pope Pius IV to have her kidnapped and turned over to the Spanish Inquisition. Jeanne was summoned to Rome to be examined for heresy under the triple penalty of excommunication, the confiscation of her property, and a declaration that her kingdom was available to any ruler who wished to invade it. This last threat alarmed King Philip, and the blatant interference by the Papacy in French affairs also enraged Catherine de' Medici who, on behalf of Charles IX, sent angry letters of protest to the Pope. The papal threats never materialized. During the French Court's royal progress between January 1564 and May 1565, Jeanne met and held talks with Catherine de' Medici at Mâcon and Nérac.
The Peace of Saint-Germaine-en-Laye Edit
Jeanne was the principal mover in negotiating the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye which ended this "third war" in August 1570 after the Catholic army ran out of money. That same year, as part of the conditions set out in the peace treaty, a marriage of convenience Jeanne reluctantly agreed to was arranged between her son and King Charles IX's sister Margaret. This marriage however, was in exchange for the right of Huguenots to hold public office in France, a privilege which they had previously been denied. Jeanne, despite her mistrust of Catherine de' Medici, accepted the invitation for a personal meeting to negotiate the marriage settlement.
Taking her daughter Catherine along, Jeanne went to Chenonceaux on February 14, 1572 where the two powerful women from opposing factions met. Jeanne found the atmosphere at Chenonceaux corrupt and vicious, and wrote letters to her son advising him about the promiscuity of the young women at Catherine's court, whose behavior with the courtiers scandalized Jeanne's puritanical nature. In one of her letters to Henry, she issued the following warning: "Not for anything on earth would I have you come to live here. Although I knew it was bad, I find it even worse than I feared. Here it is the women who make advances to the men, rather than the other way around. If you were here you would never escape without special intervention from God".
Jeanne did concede that his future wife Margaret was beautiful; However the Queen also complained to her son that the Queen Mother Catherine mistreated and mocked her as they negotiated terms of the settlement, writing on March 8, "she treats me so shamefully that you might say that the patience I manage to maintain surpasses that of Griselda herself".
Jeanne took leave of Catherine de' Medici, after the two powerful Queens reached an agreement and signed the marriage contract between Henry and Marguerite on April 11. She set up residence in Paris where she went on daily shopping trips to prepare for the upcoming wedding.
On June 4, 1572, two months before the wedding was due to take place, Jeanne returned home from one of her shopping excursions feeling ill. The next morning she woke up with a fever and complained of an ache in the upper right-hand side of her body. Five days later on June 9, 1572 she was dead. A popular rumor which circulated shortly afterward, maintained that Jeanne had been poisoned by Catherine de Medici; however an autopsy, however, proved that Jeanne died of natural causes.
After her funeral, a cortege bearing her body traveled through the streets of Vendôme. She was buried beside her husband at Ducal Church of collégiale Saint-Georges. The tombs were destroyed when the church was sacked in 1793 during the French Revolution. Her son Henry succeeded her, becoming King Henry III of Navarre. In 1589, he ascended the French throne as Henry IV; founding the Bourbon line of kings.
Family Life Edit
Jeanne III, Queen of Navarre, was married twice, and had 5 children by her 2nd husband.
1) In 1541, at the tender age of 12 Jeanne was forced by her uncle Francis I to marry William "the Rich", Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg. Jeanne was less than thrilled about this impending match and was eventually whipped into obedience she continued to protest and had to be carried bodily to the altar by the Constable of France.
Jeanne's wedding attire revealed that she was sumptuously dressed, wearing a golden crown, a silver and gold skirt encrusted with precious stones, and a crimson satin cloak richly trimmed with ermine. This marriage was annulled 4 years later when it was determined that the marriage had never been consummated. Jeanne then 16 remained at French Court.
2) On October 20, 1548 at Moulins, Jeanne married Antoine of Navarre, who was the son of Charles de Bourbon, Duke of Vendome & his wife Françoise d'Alençon. While Jeanne was very much in love with her husband, Antoine was not very loyal to his wife and took a mistress by whom he had a son.
The couple became King and Queen of Navarre, and had 5 children:
- Henry (1551–1553), Duke of Beaumont
- Henry IV of France (1553–1610), who was married to Margaret of Valois; daughter of Catherine de Medici, and Henry II. Henry later married Marie de Medici by whom he had children
- Louis-Charles (1555–1557), Count of Marle
- Madeleine de Bourbon (1556)
- Catherine of Navarre (1559–1604), who became Duchess Consort of Lorraine, when she married Henry II, Duke of Lorraine in 1599