Catherine de Bourbon
|Catherine de Bourbon|
|Regent of Béarn|
|Born||7 February 1559
|Died||13 February 1604
Ducal Palace of Nancy, Lorraine
|Spouse||Henry of Lorraine|
|Father||Anthony, King of Navarre|
|Mother||Joan III, Queen of Navarre|
Catherine de Bourbon (7 February 1559 – 13 February 1604) was the daughter of Queen Joan III and King Anthony of Navarre. She ruled the principality of Béarn in the name of her brother, King Henry IV of France (III of Navarre), for more than two decades.
Catherine's mother converted to Calvinism a year after Catherine's birth and declared it the official religion of the Kingdom of Navarre. Her father remained a Catholic and turned against his wife and threatened to divorce her. He died fighting for the Catholic cause on 17 November 1562. Catherine was with her mother and elder brother, Henry, as they fought for the Protestant cause. The Queen died on 9 June 1572, and Catherine's custody was assigned to Catherine de' Medici and Charles IX. During the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, Catherine and her brother were forced to convert to Catholicism. After the death of Charles IX in 1574, the new king, Henry III, considered marrying Catherine. She almost married James VI of Scotland.
Catherine's brother, successor of Queen Joan III, was generally absent in France. After his escape from captivity in 1576, he entrusted Catherine with the government of Béarn. She served almost continuously as regent until 1596, where among her other responsibilities, she, a staunch Protestant, hosted Antonio Perez, a famous Spanish Catholic refugee from King Philip II. After the accession of her brother to the French throne, in 1589, she was created Duchess of Albret and Countess of Armagnac. Appointed by her brother to sit on his Council as a representative of French Protestant interests in 1598, she set about persuading the Huguenots to agree to the Edict of Nantes.
As part of the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye between Henry IV and Charles III, Duke of Lorraine, it was agreed that Catherine should marry Charles' elder son, Henry (1563–1624). The marriage agreement was signed on 13 July 1598. However, Catherine was a confirmed Calvinist, who refused to convert to Roman Catholicism, whilst her husband was a devout Catholic, and a former member of the Holy League.
Thus, the Pope was required to make a dispensation to allow the two to marry. On 29 December 1598 Pope Clement VIII declared himself opposed to the marriage. Dissatisfied, Henry IV intimidated the Archbishop of Reims into granting an authorisation of marriage. This was made at Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 31 January 1599. Henry eventually secured Papal agreement. Until the birth of her nephew on 27 September 1601, she was heir presumptive to the Navarrese crown. However, Catherine was not married long before she died, childless. Her husband remarried to Margerita Gonzaga, a niece of Marie de Medici (Henry IV's second wife).
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- "Catherine de Bourbon (1558-1604)". Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
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