Jeanne d'Albret

Orfeas Katsoulis | Dec 14, 2022

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Joan III of Navarre (in French: Jeanne d'Albret), born 16 November 1528, died 9 June 1572, was reigning queen of Navarre from 1555 to 1572. She was married to Prince Antony of Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme, and mother of King Henry IV of France. Joan III played a central role during the Huguenot Wars as leader of France's Huguenots.

Johanna was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in Yvelines, France, the daughter of King Henry II of Navarre and Queen Margaret of Navarre. She was the niece of Francis I of France, who was responsible for her upbringing when she was two years old, while she became the heir to her father's throne after the death of her younger brother.

At the request of her uncle, the king, she was educated at the Château de Plessis-lèz-Tours in the Loire in Touraine, where she received an advanced education from the humanist Nicolas Bourbon. Her mother, who lived at the French court, was a famous intellectual who influenced her with ideas of individual freedom, humanism and reform of religion. Joan was described as a "frivolous and lively princess", but also as stubborn and relentless.

Charles V (Holy Roman Emperor) proposed a marriage between Joan and his own heir Philip II of Spain to settle the dispute over the Kingdom of Navarre, most of which had been conquered by Spain in 1512. This marriage was not realised.

On 13 June 1541, at the age of twelve, she married Wilhelm "the Rich", Duke of Jülich-Kleve-Berg, who at that time was allied with the French king. The marriage had been arranged for political reasons by her uncle the king, and took place against her will. Before the wedding, Johanna signed two documents declaring that she had entered into the marriage against her will, and had two court officials sign it. She was then forcibly carried to the ceremony by Anne de Montmorency. The marriage was not consummated, and Johanna remained at the French court. In 1545 William signed an agreement with the Emperor breaking his alliance with France. This allowed Joan, at the age of seventeen, to have her marriage annulled on the grounds that it had taken place against her will and was not consummated.

Her uncle Francis I died in 1547 and was succeeded by her cousin Henry II. On 28 October 1548, Joan married Antony of Bourbon at Moulins in Bourbonnaise. Antony of Bourbon was related to the French royal family and was in line to inherit the French throne if the Valois dynasty died out. The marriage was considered appropriate by the French king, but it was also a love match on Johanna's part. Contemporary witnesses describe Johanna as passionately in love with her husband, and it was said that she had "no other pleasure or activity but to speak of or write to . She does so in company and in private... Water cannot quench the flames of her love." Anton, however, was frequently unfaithful on his part, and had a child with Louise de La Béraudière. Johanna and Anton had five children, only two of whom grew up. During this time she became acquainted with France's Queen Catherine de Medici, and is said to have mockingly called her "the Florentine merchant's daughter".

On 24 May 1555, Johanna's father King Henry II of Navarre died, and Johanna inherited the throne of the Kingdom of Navarre. In keeping with the norm for female monarchs at the time, she made her husband her co-regent. The Kingdom of Navarre at this time consisted only of Lower Navarre, which was a small area in the south of France, and a few French provinces (mainly the principality of Béarn), while Upper Navarre, which made up the bulk of the kingdom, had been occupied by Spain for forty years.

The couple were crowned together in a Catholic ceremony in Pau on 18 August 1555. They issued a coronation coin with the inscription Antonius et Johanna Dei gratia reges Navarrae Domini Bearni in Latin. Antony was often absent, especially during his frequent visits to the French court, and Johanna effectively ruled alone in Navarre, where she is described as an efficient and strict regent.

She reorganised Navarre and reformed both the economic and legal systems in her domains, reforms that were considered much needed.

Joan III had received a humanistic upbringing and education, and was in favour of religious reform. At this time, Protestantism was spreading in France and Navarre. In the first year of her reign, she convened a conference of representatives of the clergy of the kingdom's Huguenots to hear their views. Her sympathies ran towards reform. Navarre, however, was under the protection of France, where Henry III was at this time persecuting Huguenots. Henry III died in 1559. On Christmas Day 1560, Joan III officially converted to Calvinism, after which she carried out the Reformation in Navarre. She had the New Testament of the Bible translated into Basque and Béarnaise, banned Catholic rituals, destroyed Catholic churches and chapels, closed monasteries and banished monks and nuns. Her conversion formally applied only to the small kingdom of Navarre, but in practice she came to be seen as a leading figure for the Huguenots of the whole of France, greatly expanding her power and making her a major political player on the European stage. Her Reformation led the Catholic Church to declare her an enemy of the Counter-Reformation.

She is described as: "small in stature, brittle but straight"; her face is said to have been narrow, her eyes light, cold and unmoving, her lips thin. She is described as highly intelligent, but also as stern and self-righteous. Her speech is said to have been sharply sarcastic and passionate. The chronicler Agrippa d'Aubigné said of her that she had "a mind powerful enough to conduct the highest affairs".

The Huguenot War

Together with her husband, Johanna often stayed at the French court. In 1561, the French regent Catherine de Medici appointed her husband Anton as France's Lieutenant General. In March 1562, the Huguenot Wars broke out between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots) in France. Both Johanna and Anton were at the French court at the time. Antony of Bourbon chose to ally himself with the Catholics under the Duke of Guise and demanded that Joan do the same, threatening to disown her otherwise, and Catherine also tried to persuade her to join the Catholics. Johanna refused and continued to hold Calvinist services in her rooms. When more and more of the court's leading figures chose to ally themselves with the Catholic side, and Catherine herself finally sided with the Catholics, Johanna fled the court in Paris in March 1562 for Béarn in her own kingdom.

On the way, she spent the night in her husband's duchy of Vendôme, just before it was attacked and plundered by the Huguenots. She had nothing to do with it, but her husband ordered a force under Blaise de Lasseran-Massencôme to capture and arrest her, declaring that he intended to imprison her in a convent. She managed to escape her pursuers and escape to the safety of her own kingdom in Béarn.

Anton died in November 1562 during the siege of Rouen. Joan III was then sole regent of Navarre. She refused a proposal to marry the heir to the Spanish throne (which would have required her to convert to Catholicism). Joan's son Henry now became the "first prince by blood" and was now not only the heir to the throne of Navarre, whom she carried with her as her crown prince on her travels around her kingdom, but also succeeded to the French throne by the sons of Catherine de Medici.

She initially kept Navarre out of the Huguenot wars, devoting herself instead to strengthening the kingdom's military defences against its powerful Catholic neighbours, Spain and France. At this time, she eventually came into direct conflict with the Pope and the Catholic Church over her implementation of the Reformation in Navarre. When the Pope's emissary asked her to return to Catholicism and abolish "heresy" in her kingdom, she replied that the papal legates lacked authority in Béarn. The Pope then responded by summoning her to stand trial for heresy in Rome with the threat of excommunication and loss of property, and a public declaration that her kingdom was free to be conquered by anyone who wished it. The Pope also planned a kidnapping of Joan, who was to be handed over to the Spanish Inquisition, and offered Philip III of Spain and France's regent Catherine de Medici to attack and conquer Navarre. However, this threat was averted by the reluctance of the Spanish and French monarchs, both of whom disapproved of Joan but at the same time found the Pope's interference in worldly affairs unacceptable. She then met with Catherine de Medici during the French court's 1564-1565 journey of progression.

In 1568, the third Huguenot War broke out in France, and this time Johanna openly stood up for France's Huguenots. When French and Spanish Catholic troops approached Navarre, she fled with her son to the Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle. As leader of the Huguenots of the South of France, she envisioned the province of Guyenne as a future homeland for France's Protestants. In La Rochelle, she joined France's leading Huguenots such as Gaspard de Coligny and Louis I of Bourbon, who led the military resistance against the Catholics, while Joan took political responsibility. She took control of finances, fortifications, intelligence, civilians and refugees. She established contacts with foreign rulers to seek support, and obtained a loan from Elizabeth I of England by pledging her jewels. She established a Protestant seminary in La Rochelle, and appeared at battlefields and fortifications at the front boosting the morale of the troops.

In August 1570, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye made peace after the Catholic forces ran out of money. The treaty arranged a marriage between Joan's son Henry of Navarre and the French princess Margaret of Valois in exchange for the right of Huguenots to hold office in France. Joan III met Catherine de Medici at the French court in the castle of Chenonceaux on 14 February 1572. The meeting was not a success, as Joan considered the French court to be sinful and Catherine patronised her. On 11 April the marriage contract was signed, and Joan rented a house in Paris to prepare for the wedding. She died suddenly and unexpectedly when she returned home on 4 June after making purchases and fell ill, after which she died five days later. A contemporary rumour states that she was murdered by Catherine de Medici through a pair of perfumed gloves poisoned by René Bianchi, but after an autopsy the cause of death was declared to be natural. She was buried at her husband's side in the Vendôme. In August, the wedding of her son to Margaret of Valois was held, resulting in the Night of Bartholomew.

As regent

Johanna III married Wilhelm, Duke of Jülich-Berg-Ravensberg-Kleve-Mark in 1541, annulled in 1545, no children were born to the marriage.

On 20 October 1548 she married Antony of Bourbon. They had the following children:


  1. Jeanne d'Albret
  2. Johanna III av Navarra
  3. ^ Departing on 23 August (Roelker 1968, p. 297) and arriving on 28 September. (Roelker 1968, p. 301).
  4. ^ Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana, Grup Enciclopèdia Catalana, Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana-ID: 00346200030866, omnämnd som: Joana Iii de Navarra.[källa från Wikidata]
  5. Cazaux 1973, p. 22.
  6. Cazaux 1973, p. 33.
  7. a b Aunque reclamaba y se consideraba reina de toda Navarra (la Baja y la Alta), sólo controló la parte transpirenaica (Baja Navarra).
  8. Canseco, Vicente Díez (2011-07). Diccionario Biográfico Universal de Mujeres Célebres. BiblioBazaar. p. 74. ISBN 9781173613198. Consultado el 27 de marzo de 2019.

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