Date of Award


Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Modern Languages & Classics


Cathleen M. Bauschatz

Second Committee Member

Raymond J. Pelletier

Third Committee Member

Sue Huseman


Marguerite de Valois reveals a self-portrait through the references found in her writings. Whether the references are in the third person, the second person (the addressee), or the first person (the “self’), Marguerite always chooses references which reflect several of her own personnality traits. By studying the precise references found in each of these categories, it is possible to develop a self-portrait of this sixteenth-century queen. An analysis of the references found in all of Marguerite de Valois’s writings is the focus of this study. Her writings include the Mémoire iustificatif pour Henri de Bourbon, the Discours docte et subtil dicte promptement par la Reyne Marguerite et envoyé a l’autheur des Secretz Moraux, the Mémoires (the most well-known of her writings), and particularly the Correspondance: 1569- 1615. Eliane Viennot has recently published a complete edition of Marguerite de Valois’s letters in the Correspondance, which had been largely unavailable to the public, and this edition presents a unique opportunity to study Marguerite de Valois and to create a far richer and more accurate portrait than that which would be found without the letters. In order to understand certain aspects of Marguerite’s writing style, and to begin a study of her identity, one must first study the precise references on an individual basis. In the third and second persons, the references are studied individually, and based upon the specific referent. These referents, or people, often those closest to Marguerite, are separated to make a distinct study of the references more feasible. References made to her mother, Catherine de Médicis; her friend, the Duchess of Uzès; her brother, Henri III; her husband, Henri IV; her lover, Champvallon; her younger brother, Frangçois de Valois; her nephew, Charles de Valois; and her friend, Brantôme are all studied apart from and in comparison to the others. By studying these distinct references, it becomes clear that they differ according to Marguerite’s relationship with the specific referent, as well as with the passage of time. For example, Marguerite uses direct references, especially when making a reference about or to her mother, whereas she chooses metaphorical references at other times, in particular, when writing about or to her lover. Apart from this, the study reveals rather quickly that each reference belongs in the context of the specific letter or story in which it is found and that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to study a reference completely separated from its context. Each example’s third, second and first persons work together to present Marguerite de Valois’s identity. In addition, the portrait depicted by this analysis changes throughout time. The development of this changing portrait is important in the study of sixteenth-century female writers and of French literature. It is also important in the study of Renaissance noble-women, not only in a literary context, but in an historic context. The portrait developed in this study reveals a woman in the process of resolving an internal conflict between her roles as a sovereign, born of an illustrious and powerful house, and as a female subject, always ruled by men and by the limits society imposed upon women. Marguerite de Valois continued to evolve during the course of her life, and she learned to appreciate, and in fact to take advantage of, the limits imposed upon women. She reveals all of these things through the various references found in her writings.