Catherine of Navarre

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Catherine I of Navarre.jpg
Queen Catherine of Navarre (1468-1517)
Queen of Navarre
with John III
Reign 7 January 1483 – 12 February 1517
Predecessor Francis Phoebus
Successor Henry II
Spouse John III of Navarre
Henry II of Navarre
Isabella, Viscountess of Rohan
House House of Foix
Father Gaston of Foix, Prince of Viana
Mother Magdalena of France
Born 1468
Died 12 February 1517

Catherine (in Spanish, Catalina de Foix) (1468 – 12 February 1517) was Queen of Navarre (1483–1517), duchess of Gandia, Montblanc, and Peñafiel, countess of Foix, Bigorre, and Ribagorza, and viscountess of Béarn.[1]


Catherine was the younger daughter of Gaston of Foix, Prince of Viana, and Magdalena of Valois, the sister of Louis XI. She was thus granddaughter of Eleanor of Navarre.

Queen of Navarre and marriage to John de Albret[edit]

In 1483 the death of her brother Francis Phoebus made her queen under the regency of her mother. Her uncle John of Foix, appealing to the Salic Law alien to the Kingdom of Navarre, claimed the throne and ignited a civil war (1483–1492) that reignited the old conflict of the Beaumont-Agramont parties. In 1484, hard pressed by ambitions over the throne of Navarre, Magdalena of Valois decided to marry 15-year-old Catherine to John of Albret, hailing from a noble family in western Gascony.

The wedlock took place at the Notre Dâme Cathedral of Lescar in 1486,[2]:75 but the coronation of the young couple in Pamplona was deferred until 1494, after a fleeting peace treaty with Louis of Beaumont, count of Lerin, and Ferdinand II of Aragon was signed. However, the marriage did not garner the sympathy of the Navarrese Beaumont party, and even the Agramont party split. Catherine's mother Magdalena died in 1495.

In 1504, she made her will, naming her son Henry II successor to the throne of Navarre and expressing her wish to be buried at the Cathedral of Pamplona—ultimately both her and her John III were interred in Lescar. The political alliance between the houses of Valois and Foix ahead of an impending Spanish invasion led to marriage negotiations between Catherine and Louis XII in 1512. It was suggested that Henry, prince of Viana, first son and heir presumptive of Catherine, marry a daughter of the French king.

1512 Castilian-Aragonese invasion[edit]

Ferdinand the Catholic, who had allied with the Roman Church against France, presented a set of claims to the legitimate royal family of Navarre. Catherine didn´t accept the demands, and Ferdinand sent Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba over to Pamplona, who occupied Pamplona on 25 July 1512. The Castilians went on to conquer St-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Donibane Garazi in Basque) after setting fire to Roncevaux, and wrought havoc across the merindad of Ultrapuertos (Lower Navarre). The Spanish troops would retain the southern half of that region intermittently for the next years. Catherine and king John III, overwhelmed by the Castilian push, fled to Bearn, constituent part of their kingdom. They set their base in Pau, Orthez and Tarbes, where they alternately resided most of the time until their death.[2]:75

On 23 March 1513, the Cortes of Navarre reunited in Pamplona (Iruñea in Basque), greatly reduced to the pro-Spanish Beaumont party, and pledged allegiance to Ferdinand in exchange for his loyalty to the Navarrese laws. Since 1515, Upper Navarre was annexed to Castile as a different kingdom (aeque principalis), and it would be one constituent part of the Kingdom of the Spains, as later Spain came to be known during the following period.

Later days[edit]

In 1516 two columns led by John III crossed the Pyrenees south and attempted to reconquer Navarre but they failed to progress into the heartland of the kingdom. Devastated by the defeats undergone, king John III retreated to Monein, and died on 17 June 1516. Catherine did not outlive his husband much longer, and passed away in her domain of Mont-de-Marsan on 12 February 1517, just a few months later. By then, she had given birth to 13 children (other sources point to 14).

From 1512 to her death in 1517, Catherine was actual queen only in some areas of Basse-Navarre, or Lower Navarre, north of the Pyrenees, but her domains extended to the contiguous Bearn and other lands.


Seal of Catherine of Navarre

She and John III of Navarre were parents to thirteen children:

  • Anne of Navarre (19 May 1492 – 15 August 1532).
  • Magdalena of Navarre (29 March 1494 – May 1504).
  • Catherine of Navarre (1495 – November 1532). Abbess of the Trinity at Caen.
  • Joan of Navarre (15 June 1496 – last mentioned in November, 1496).
  • Quiteria of Navarre (1499 – September/October 1536). Abbess at Montivilliers.
  • A stillborn son in 1500.
  • Andrew Phoebus of Navarre (14 October 1501 – 17 April 1503).
  • Henry II of Navarre (18 April 1503 – 25 May 1555).[3]
  • Buenaventura of Navarre (14 July 1505 – 1510/1511).
  • Martin of Navarre (c. 1506 – last mentioned in 1512).
  • Francis of Navarre (1508 – last mentioned in 1512).
  • Charles of Navarre (12 December 1510 – September 1528). Took part in the Siege of Naples during the War of the League of Cognac but was captured. Died while still held as a prisoner of war.
  • Isabella of Navarre (1513/1514 – last mentioned in 1555). Married Rene I, Viscount of Rohan.


Catherine's ancestors in three generations
Catherine of Navarre Father:
Gaston of Foix, Prince of Viana
Paternal Grandfather:
Gaston IV of Foix
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John I, Count of Foix
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Joan of Albret
Paternal Grandmother:
Eleanor of Navarre
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John II of Aragon
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Blanche I of Navarre
Magdalena of Valois
Maternal Grandfather:
Charles VII of France
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Charles VI of France
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Isabeau of Bavaria
Maternal Grandmother:
Marie of Anjou
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Louis II of Naples
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Yolande of Aragon


  1. ^ An annotated index of medieval women. Markus Wiener Publishers. 1992. ISBN 978-0-910129-27-5. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  2. ^ a b Bustillo Kastrexana, Joxerra (2012). Guía de la conquista de Navarra en 12 escenarios. Donostia: Txertoa Argitaletxea. ISBN 978-84-71484819. 
  3. ^ The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol.13, (New York:1910), 293.

External links[edit]

Catherine of Navarre
Born: 1468 Died: 1518
Preceded by
Francis I
Queen of Navarre
with John III
Succeeded by
Henry II
Countess of Foix
with John II
Preceded by
Francis I
Co-Princess of Andorra
1517 – 25 May 1555
Succeeded by
Henry II