I am a compulsive buyer of books, both new and second hand and one day was browsing along my shelves when I spotted one I’d bought years ago in Hay-on-Wye. It was called Queen of Hearts, written back in the 60s by Charlotte Haldane. It proved to be an autobiography of Marguerite de Valois and as I began to read I was immediately intrigued. Margot, as she was familiarly known, was no average woman, rather one born before her time, and I wanted to know more about her. So I began on a journey of twelve months research and discovery which led me to write a stirring tale of her adventures, her intrigues and passions, and the dangers she faced in the sixteenth century French Court.
Margot had long been in love with Henri de Guise, but as with all royal princesses, was expected to bring political benefit through marriage. Various unlikely suitors were considered and rejected.
Here is the Duke of Guise, can you blame her for loving him?
In the end the Queen Mother, who had never showed much affection for this rebellious daughter, decided Margot should marry Henry of Navarre, a Huguenot, in order to bring to an end years of religious wars.
Margot wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect. Navarre was a third cousin whom she’d known from an early age, and she considered him something of a country bumpkin with garlic-tainted breath and grubby feet from climbing mountains barefoot.
There was also some resistance from his own mother, Jeanne d'Albret, but after she died, in somewhat suspicious circumstances, the wedding went ahead.
Navarre was a likeable enough fellow but not the faithful sort. Once Margot realised this, she thought what was sauce for goose… She embarked upon a string of love affairs, not least with Guise, a dangerous undertaking, and intrigue and scandal surrounded her at every turn. Both her brothers, first the half mad Charles IX, and then the bi-sexual Henri Trois with his mignons, pet dogs and monkeys, made furious attempts to control her, though with very little success. Henri frequently accused his sister of licentious behaviour, despite being far more guilty of that charge himself. He behaved like a rejected lover, jealous of the least attention she paid to any other man. He was even jealous of her love for their younger brother, Alençon, accusing the pair of plotting against him. He kept her a virtual prisoner in the Louvre for four years, and throughout that time Margot lived in fear of her life while recklessly flouting convention as far as she dare. Somehow she had to save her husband's life, help him to escape, and then follow him to safety. A task fraught with danger…
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Born in Lancashire, Freda Lightfoot has been a teacher, bookseller and in a mad moment, a smallholder on the freezing fells of the Lake District where she tried her hand at the ‘good life’, kept sheep and hens, various orphaned cats and dogs, built drystone walls, planted a small wood and even learned how to make jam. She has now given up her thermals to build a house in an olive grove in Spain, where she produces her own olive oil and sits in the sun. She has published 45 novels including many bestselling family sagas and historical novels.