Catherine de Bourbon

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Catherine de Bourbon
Regent of Béarn
Born 7 February 1559
Paris, France
Died 13 February 1604(1604-02-13) (aged 45)
Ducal Palace of Nancy, Lorraine
Spouse Henri de Lorraine
House Bourbon
Father Antoine de Bourbon
Mother Jeanne d'Albret
Religion Calvinism

Catherine de Bourbon (7 February 1559 – 13 February 1604), was a Princess of Navarre and Duchess consort of Lorraine. She was the daughter of Queen Jeanne III d'Albret and Antoine of Bourbon, Duke of Vêndome. She served as regent of Béarn for more than two decades.

Early life[edit]

Catherine was born on 7 February 1559 to Antoine de Bourbon and his wife, Jeanne d'Albret, the reigning queen of Navarre. She was named after her godmother, Catherine de' Medici.

Catherine's mother, Jeanne d'Albret, converted to Calvinism a year after Catherine's birth and declared it the official religion of Navarre. Antoine de Bourbon remained a Catholic and turned against Jeanne and threatened to divorce her. He died fighting for the Catholic cause on 17 November 1562. Catherine was with her mother and elder brother, the future Henry III and IV, as they fought for the Protestant cause. Jeanne died on 9 June 1572, and Catherine's custody was assigned to Catherine de' Medici and Charles IX. During the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, Catherine and her elder brother were forced to convert to Catholicism. After the death of Charles IX in 1574, the new king, Henry III, considered marrying Catherine. She almost married James VI of Scotland.

Political service[edit]

Her brother, who became ruler of the principality of Béarn in 1572, Henry IV of France and Navarre was generally absent in other parts of France. After his escape from captivity in 1576, he entrusted Catherine with the government of Béarn. She served almost continuously as regent until 1596, where among her other responsibilities, she, a staunch Protestant, hosted Antonio Perez, a famous Spanish Catholic refugee from King Philip II. After the accession of her brother, Henry of Navarre, to the French throne, in 1589, she was created Duchess of Albret and Countess of Armagnac. Appointed by her brother to sit on his Council as a representative of French Protestant interests in 1598, she set about persuading the Huguenots to agree to the Edict of Nantes.

Duchess of Lorraine[edit]

As part of the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye between Henry IV and Charles III, Duke of Lorraine, it was agreed that Catherine should marry Charles' elder son, Henry (1563–1624). The marriage agreement was signed on 13 July 1598. However, Catherine was a confirmed Calvinist, who refused to convert to Roman Catholicism, whilst her husband was a devout Catholic, and a former member of the Holy League.

Thus, the Pope was required to make a dispensation to allow the two to marry. On 29 December 1598 Pope Clement VIII declared himself opposed to the marriage. Dissatisfied, Henry IV intimidated the Archbishop of Reims into granting an authorisation of marriage. This was made at Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 31 January 1599. Henry eventually secured Papal agreement. Until the birth of her nephew on 27 September 1601, she was heir presumptive to the Navarrese crown. However, Catherine was not married long before she died, childless. Her husband remarried to Margerita Gonzaga, a niece of Marie de Medici (Henry IV's second wife).


Catherine de Bourbon was also a writer. Her works consist principally of sonnets and correspondence.[1][2]



  1. ^ Wilson, Katharina M. (1991). An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers. Taylor & Francis. pp. 569–. ISBN 978-0-8240-8547-6. 
  2. ^ "Catherine de Bourbon (1558-1604)". Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Knecht, R. J. (2001). The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France, 1483–1610. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-22729-6.  geologies
  4. ^ Baumgartner, Frederic J. (1995). France in the Sixteenth Century. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-62088-7.  genealogical tables

Further reading[edit]

  • Grintchenko, Marie-Hélène. (2009). Catherine de Bourbon (1559-1604): Influence politique, religieuse et culturelle d’une princesse calviniste. Paris: Honoré Champion. ISBN 978-2-7453-1866-4.