[The interview with Queen Margot was conducted at the home of her friend, the Duchess de Nevers]
Q: You’ve never made a secret of your feelings towards your husband, particularly just before your marriage. Has your relationship warmed since then?
Oh, I hated Henry when he was a boy. He was always covered in mud and his breath smelled like the garlic he ate all the time. God, he still eats garlic all the time! We called him our Country Bumpkin Cousin.
Henry and I are both political animals, and each of us have a firm understanding of our roles as royals. We may not be a love match, but I feel as if we have a certain amount of respect that has built up between us during the early months of our marriage.
Q: That’s due in part to your heroism in saving several prominent Protestants during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre
[Rolling eyes] Oh, please—I’m so sick of people calling that heroism. I was acting like a human being. No one could stand in their chamber and hear the piteous screams for mercy without opening the door to them. I would have done it for anyone, Catholic or Protestant.
Q: Yet your life was in danger?
[Waving her hand] Only for a few moments. Once my brother’s Captain of the Guard appeared, I was perfectly safe. No one in their right mind would raise their arms against a Valois princess.
Q: You have such an excellent grasp of languages—how many do you speak?
Let me see: French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, some German with my sister in law…Greek. I can speak a little bit of Hebrew. For a while, I was learning Portuguese because I was to wed the prince of Portugal. Thank God that did not occur and I am at least we to a fellow Frenchman
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
I’m sure that this would come as a shock, but I most enjoy Greek plays. I love the raw emotion and the romance that they Ancients expressed in their work. I am working on my own plays, and I hope to follow their example in my work.
Q: Once you make it to Navarre, what are your plans for setting up a royal court there?
The country is quite small, and the Protestants have quite a different idea of what constitutes a “court.” I learned that much for my late mother in law. I am glad that they spend their days debating theology, but I don’t know that we will have that much agreement when I get to Bearn.
In Paris, I spend most of my time going to salons, run by fellow ladies. We continue the love of culture and intellect that I inherited from my grandfather, Francis I of France.
Q: Are you taking any French ladies with you?
No, please don’t remind me of all that I will have to leave behind when I leave Paris! I will take my maids and servants, but like a foreign bride, my ladies will mostly be composed of ladies of Navarre. I will most miss my closest friend, Henriette [the Duchess of Nevers]. We spend virtually every waking hour together, and I don’t know what I will do without her presence.
I plan to take my childhood governess with me to Navarre, and have been granted the use of my personal priest. So I can take some of France with me, I suppose.
Q: The question of your converting to Protestantism continues. Do you think that you will eventually convert?
Ah, that is such a difficult subject. Catholicism is as much a part of me as my Italian blood. I don’t think that I can ever cast off either and remain true to myself. My mother in law desperately wanted me to convert, but at the same time she respected that I was as devoted to my faith as she was to hers.
In the future, my children will have to be raised Protestant. No, I don’t want to be a different faith from my children. That does weigh heavily on my mind, I will be honest with you. But right now, I stridently believe that I was born a Catholic princess and I will die a Catholic princess.
Q: I know you’re also sick of being asked about your fashion sense, but I can’t conclude an interview without at least asking you something about it. How do you feel fashion helps express who you are?
I think that every form of outside expression is art; we Frenchmen know that more than the rest of Europe. That’s one thing that I fully plan to bring to the Navarrese court. Have you noticed the advances we’ve made in portraiture since my grandfather brought Da Vinci to France? Ah, the faces—they’re becoming so lifelike! And the colors are so true to life. Monsieur Clouet has painted my portrait several times since I was a child, and I learned from watching how I was prepared for those portraits from a young age.
The colors of my dress, the feathers in my hat, what jewels I wear—all of those present a strong idea of who I am I want the people I interact with to know how strong and capable I am. I refuse to sit back and be some man’s decoration. No, I am conscious of my image every time I step out of my toilette. You’ve seen my mother use her ballets and pageants to portray France exactly the way she wants it to be for foreigners. It is my intention to do the same thing.
Q: Your relationship with your brothers Charles and Henri is stormy to say the least. Are you hopeful that as you all marry and have children that your relationships will improve?
Actually, Charles and I get along rather well. Out of all of my brothers, he is the closest to me. I feel that he truly respects my feelings. Edouarde Alexandre, excuse me- Henri, is another matter. From the moment he was born, my mother spoiled him shamelessly. As a result, he’s never had to work for a thing in his entire life. If it wasn’t handed to him, he wouldn’t have it.
No, I can’t stand my brother, Henri. I guess you can tell that. He’s been particularly cruel to me over the years, and I can’t really forgive him for that. But thank God for my sake and for France he will never become king. That would be a disaster that would make St. Bartholomew’s Day seem like a fistfight.