Catherine de Médici, Duke Charles Emmanuel of Savoy, Duke Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, Emperor Charles V, Francis I of France, Henry II of France, Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain, Marguerite de Valois, Philip II of Spain
Marguerite de Valois, Duchess of Berry, Duchess of Savoy (June 5, 1523 – September 15, 1574)
Marguerite de Valois was born at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye on June 5, 1523 the youngest daughter and child of King Francis I of France and Claude, Duchess of Brittany, the eldest daughter of King Louis XII of France and Duchess Anne of Brittany.
Marguerite was very close to her paternal aunt, Marguerite de Angoulême, the eldest child of Louise of Savoy and Charles, Count of Angoulême. Her father was a descendant of King Charles V of France, and was thus in the succession line to the French crown by male primogeniture, if both Charles VIII and the presumptive heir, Louis, Duke of Orléans, would die without producing male offspring.
Marguerite de Angoulême took care of Marguerite de Valois and her sister Madeleine during their childhood, along wih her sister-in-law Catherine de’ Medici.
Near the end of 1538, her father, King François I and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, agreed that Marguerite should marry Charles’ son, the future King Felipe II of Spain. However, the agreement between François and Charles was short-lived and the marriage never took place.
King François I died at the Château de Rambouillet on March 13, 1547, on his son (Henri, the Dauphin) and successor’s 28th birthday. It is said that “he died complaining about the weight of a crown that he had first perceived as a gift from God”. He was interred with his first wife, Claude, Duchess of Brittany, in Saint Denis Basilica. He was succeeded by his son as King Henri II of France.
In 1557 Marguerite de Valois was appointed as lady in waiting Jacqueline d’Entremont, to whom she would remain close with later in life.
On April 29, 1550, at the age of 26, she was created suo jure Duchess of Berry by her brother.
Duchess of Savoy
Shortly before her 36th birthday, a marriage was finally arranged for her by her brother King Henri II of France and her former suitor Felipe II of Spain as part of the terms stipulated in the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis which was signed by the ambassadors representing the two monarchs on April 3, 1559.
The husband selected for her was Felipe’s ally and his first cousin once removed, Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont, (1528 – 1580) only child of Charles III, Duke of Savoy, and Beatrice of Portugal to reach adulthood. His mother was sister-in-law to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and the future duke served in Charles’s army during the war against François I of France, the father of his future bride.
At the time, Marguerite was described as having been a “spinster lady of excellent breeding and lively intellect”. She was five years older than her husband.
The wedding took place in tragic circumstances. On June 30 just three days after her marriage contract had been signed, King Henri II was gravely injured during a tournament celebrating the wedding of his eldest daughter Elisabeth to the recently widowed King Felipe II. King Felipe II’s wife, Queen Mary I of England and Ireland died the previous November.
A lance wielded by his opponent the Count of Montgomery accidentally struck King Henri II’s helmet at a point beneath the visor and shattered. The wooden splinters deeply penetrated his right eye and entered his brain. Close to death, but still conscious, the king ordered that his sister’s marriage should take place immediately, for fear that the Duke of Savoy might profit from his death and renege on the alliance.
The ceremony did not take place in Notre Dame Cathedral as had been planned. Instead it was a solemn, subdued event conducted at midnight on July 9, in Saint Paul’s, a small church not far from the Tournelles Palace where Margurite’s dying brother was ensconced. Among the few guests was the French Queen Consort Catherine de’ Medici who sat by herself, weeping.
King Henri II died the following day and was succeeded by his sickly fifteen-year-old son as King François II of France. King François II was married to sixteen-year-old Mary I, Queen of Scots, who had been his childhood friend and fiancée since her arrival at the French court when she was five.
Marguerite and her husband had only one surviving child: Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy who was born in January 1562, when Margaret was 38 years of age. Charles Emmanuel later married his closely related cousin, Infanta Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain, the daughter of King Felipe II by his marriage to Marguerite’s niece, Elisabeth of Valois, the eldest daughter of King Henri II of France and Catherine de’ Medici.
Marguerite died on September 14, 1574 at the age of 51. She was buried in Turin at the Cathedral of Saint Giovanni Battista.