Valois, Marguerite de (popularly known as "La Reine Margot" ( 1553- ] 1615). Queen of Navarre and memorialist. Her Mémoires, composed in Usson prior to 1600, and perhaps as early as 1594, is the first full-length autobiographical text written by a woman in the French language. It was also the first to apply the Plutarchan model of life-writing to a woman's story. Written in response to Brantôme's biographical portrait of her in Les Dames illustres, her memoirs* were hailed at the time of publication in 1628 as the French equivalent of Caesar Gallic Commentaries. Unfortunately, the original manuscript was lost, and the published text breaks off abruptly in the middle of 1582. Frequently republished in the seventeenth century, they inspired another famous woman memorialist, Mademoiselle de Montpensier*.
Valois was the daughter of Henri II and Catherine de Medici*, and the sister of the last Valois kings--François II, Charles IX, and Henri III. In August 1572 she was married to Henri de Navarre, the grandson of her great-aunt, Marguerite de Navarre* who wrote the Heptaméron. This alliance between an avowedly Catholic daughter of the royal family and a Protestant leader set off the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Although the couple were sometimes on amicable terms, they had no children. They separated for political and personal reasons around 1585. Following this, she was consigned to the fortress-castle of Usson, where she was forced to live as a virtual prisoner until she was permitted to return to Paris in 1605. In 1599, after her husband's accession to the throne as Henri IV, she agreed to a divorce* so that he could remarry and produce an heir. During her final years, she became a generous patron of the arts, inviting such renowned literary figures as Gournay*, Malherbe, Racan, Maynard, and Urfé to her grandiose receptions. Although novels*, like Dumas La Reine Margot ( 1845), as well as a host of popular biographies, have sensationalized Valois's story, Eliane Viennot has reestablished the historical facts of her life and shown that many of the anecdotes attached to her name are fictitious.