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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Margaret of Navarre

b. 1492, Angoulême, France; d. 1549, Odos-Bigorre, France

Margaret of Navarre, an exemplar of French Renaissance sensibility, gained her title through a second marriage, to Henry of Navarre, in 1525. She was already a powerful woman in France, however, as sister to the king, Francis I. A humanist, an advocate of church reform, and a litterateur herself, Margaret patronized innovative writers and protected victims of religious persecution. Among them was François Rabelais, author of the comic-satiric, often scatalogical Gargantua and Pantagruel, condemned by the Sorbonne and the Parlement of Paris as heretical; the third book of this masterwork is dedicated to Margaret. Despite her sympathy to religious tolerance, she was not a Calvinist, and relations with her daughter, Jeanne d’Albret—“Queen of the Huguenots”—became strained. Margaret’s literary production included poems and plays addressing religious and moral issues. Her most significant contribution, the Heptameron, modeled on Boccaccio’s