On This Day 18th August 1572
On 18th August 1572 the Huguenot Henri, King of Navarre, married nineteen year old Marguerite of Valois, sister of King Charles IX of France, in Paris. The alliance was an attempt by the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, to unite the warring factions of Catholic and Huguenot. Marguerite had previously had an affair with Henri, Duke of Guise, for which she had been severely punished. The wedding was overshadowed by the Massacre of St Bartholomew, after which Henri was held captive in Paris for three years before escaping back to his own kingdom.
Eventually, Marguerite joined him in Navarre, where they were both notoriously unfaithful to each other. In a life of complex personal and political upheavals, Marguerite was imprisoned, first by her brother, then by Henri. In due course, Henri became King of France, but Marguerite was not released. Their marriage was annulled in 1599, after which they were on better terms.
Marguerite became a celebrated patron of the arts, although after her death she was more notorious for the scandalous memories that were then published. She is famous in literature as Dumas’ 'La Reine Margot'. Read more about Marguerite's unique career here
On This Day 17th August 1560
On 17th August 1560, the Three Estates of Scotland – Lords, Commons and Clergy – set out a Protestant confession of faith, to be adopted by the whole country as its religion. This came at the end of a long and bitter struggle for control of the country between England and France but was also the result of the conversion of a number of the senior nobles to Protestantism, many of them strongly influenced by the charismatic preacher, John Knox. With the death of the Regent, Marie of Guise, and the accession in England of the Protestant Elizabeth I, whom they believed would help defend them against Catholic France (as 15 years before, Catholic France had protected Scotland against England), the Scottish Lords felt able to proclaim and institutionalise their faith. The mass was banned, and a third offence of hearing it could be punished by death. John Knox’s First Book of Discipline was the basis for a new ecclesiastical structure and discipline within the kirk.
On This Day 16th August 1513
On 16th August 1513 Henry VIII won a victory over the French that became known as the Battle of the Spurs. In alliance with Ferdinand of Aragon, his father-in-law, and the Emperor Maximilian, Henry invaded France. This was his second French war. The first, in 1512, in which he had not been involved personally, had ended in ignominy.
Throughout the early part of the year, Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Wolsey, had been preparing huge quantities of supplies of all sorts to support the campaign. Henry embarked for France and met his ally the Emperor, who was subsidised by England to the tune of 100,000 crowns, and, in a flattering gesture to Henry, proclaimed that he would fight as one of Henry’s men, rather than leading his own.
The Battle of the Spurs itself was fought outside Therouanne, and was thus named because the French cavalry spurred their horses in retreat. The English captured the Duke de Longueville who was sent back to England as a captive until he was ransomed.
For more on the campaign see here
Heather Darsie, author of the new biography, ‘Anna, Duchess of Cleves: the King’s Beloved Sister’, has written a Guest Article for us about the German princess’ upbringing at the court of Cleves, which includes an informative description of the Frauenzimmer.Read article