Margaret of France, Duchess of Berry

Margaret of France, Duchess of Berry (French: Marguerite de Valois) (5 June 1523 – 15 September 1574) was the daughter of King Francis I of France and Claude, Duchess of Brittany.

Margaret of Valois
Duchess of Berry
Duchess consort of Savoy
Tenure1550–1574 (Duchess of Berry)
1559–1574 (Duchess of Savoy)
Born5 June 1523
Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died15 September 1574(1574-09-15) (aged 51)
SpouseEmmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy
IssueCharles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy
FatherFrancis I of France
MotherClaude, Duchess of Brittany
French Monarchy
Capetian Dynasty, House of Valois
(Valois-Angoulême branch)
Francis I
Francis, Dauphin of Viennois
Henry II
Magdalene, Queen of Scots
Charles of Valois
Margaret, Duchess of Savoy
Henry II
Francis II
Elizabeth, Queen of Spain
Claude, Duchess of Lorraine
Louis, Duke of Orléans
Charles IX
Henry III
Margaret, Queen of Navarre
Francis, Duke of Anjou
Joan of Valois
Victoria of Valois
Francis II
Charles IX
Marie Elisabeth of Valois
Henry III


Early life

Margaret was born at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 5 June 1523 the youngest daughter and child of King Francis I of France and Claude, Duchess of Brittany. Margaret was very close to her paternal aunt, Marguerite de Navarre, who took care of her and her sister Madeleine during her childhood,[1] and her sister-in-law Catherine de' Medici.

Near the end of 1538, her father and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, agreed that Margaret should marry Charles' son, the future Philip II of Spain. However, the agreement between Francis and Charles was short-lived and the marriage never took place.

On 29 April 1550 at the age of 26 she was created suo jure Duchess of Berry.[2]


Shortly before her 36th birthday, a marriage was finally arranged for her by her brother King Henry II of France and her former suitor Philip II as part of the terms stipulated in the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis which was signed by the ambassadors representing the two monarchs on 3 April 1559.[3] The husband selected for her was Philip's ally, Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont. At the time, Margaret was described as having been a "spinster lady of excellent breeding and lively intellect".[3]

The wedding took place in tragic circumstances. On 30 June just three days after her marriage contract had been signed, King Henry was gravely injured during a tournament celebrating the wedding of his eldest daughter Elisabeth to the recently widowed King Philip. A lance wielded by his opponent the Count of Montgomery accidentally struck his helmet at a point beneath the visor and shattered. The wooden splinters deeply penetrated his right eye and entered his brain.[4] 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 9 July in Saint Paul's, a small church not far from the Tournelles Palace where Margaret's dying brother was ensconced. Among the few guests was the French queen consort Catherine de' Medici who sat by herself, weeping.[4] King Henry died the following day.


Margaret 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. He later married Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain, the daughter of King Philip by his marriage to Margaret's niece, Elisabeth of Valois.


Margaret died on 14 September 1574 at the age of 51. She was buried in Turin at the Cathedral of Saint Giovanni Battista.



  1. Marshall, Rosalind K. (2003). Scottish Queens, 1034-1714. Tuckwell Press. p. 10o.
  2. Seong-Hak Kim, Michel de L'Hôpital: The Vision of a Reformist Chancellor During the French Religious Wars, (Truman State University Press, 1997), 26.
  3. Strage, Mark (1976). Women of Power: The Life and Times of Catherine de' Medici. New York and London: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich. pp.95-96
  4. Strage, p.98
  5. Adams, Tracy (2010). The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 255.
  6. Knecht, R.J. (1984). Francis I. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–2.
  7. Gicquel, Yvonig (1986). Alain IX de Rohan, 1382-1462: un grand seigneur de l'âge d'or de la Bretagne (in French). Éditions Jean Picollec. p. 480. ISBN 9782864770718. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  8. Palluel-Guillard, André. "La Maison de Savoie" (in French). Conseil Savoie Mont Blanc. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  9. Jackson-Laufer, Guida Myrl (1999). Women Rulers Throughout the Ages: An Illustrated Guide. ABC-CLIO. p. 231.
  10. Leguai, André (2005). "Agnès de Bourgogne, duchesse de Bourbon (1405?-1476)". Les ducs de Bourbon, le Bourbonnais et le royaume de France à la fin du Moyen Age [The dukes of Bourbon, the Bourbonnais and the kingdom of France at the end of the Middle Ages] (in French). Yzeure: Société bourbonnaise des études locales. pp. 145–160.
  11. Wilson, Katharina M. (1991). An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers. Taylor & Francis. p. 258. ISBN 9780824085476. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  12. Anselme de Sainte-Marie, Père (1726). Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France [Genealogical and chronological history of the royal house of France] (in French). 1 (3rd ed.). Paris: La compagnie des libraires. pp. 134–136.
  13. Anselme 1726, p. 207
  14. Robin, Diana Maury; Larsen, Anne R.; Levin, Carole (2007). Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. ABC-CLIO. p. 20. ISBN 978-1851097722.
  15. Desbois, François Alexandre Aubert de la Chenaye (1773). Dictionnaire de la noblesse (in French). 6 (2nd ed.). p. 452. Retrieved 28 June 2018.

See also

French nobility
Preceded by
Beatrice of Portugal
Duchess consort of Savoy
Succeeded by
Catherine Michelle of Spain
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