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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Jeanne D’Albret

b. 1528, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France; d. 1572, Paris

Jeanne d’Albret was a central figure in the French Wars of Religion, on the Huguenot side. Daughter of Henry II and Margaret of Navarre, she was educated by a humanist scholar with unorthodox religious ideas, which no doubt predisposed her to Calvinism. At the age of twelve, she became a pawn in the game of international diplomacy: her uncle, Francis I, king of France, arranged a marriage to which Jeanne strenuously objected; when the king’s foreign policy aims shifted, she was granted an annulment. In 1548, she married a suitor of her own choosing, Antoine de Bourbon. Their early years of rule in Navarre coincided with the emergence of the Reformation in France. Jeanne publicly declared her conversion to Protestantism in 1560, imposed the same on her son, Henry (later king of France), and founded a Calvinist community at Béarn. Meanwhile, the Third War of Religion (1569–70) ended in a favorable settlement for the Huguenots in the Peace of Saint-Germain. Jeanne became a political leader of La Rochelle, a Huguenot stronghold. She died of tuberculosis at the age of forty-four, just days before the peace was reversed in the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, in which thousands of Huguenots were killed.