WCW: Marguerite de Valois


I finished filling out our WCW’s on English/British queens, now it’s time to get to all the French queens we haven’t covered! Marguerite de Valois (aka Margot or Margaret, 1553-1615) was the daughter of King Henri II and Queen Catherine de’ Medici; she married the king of Navarre, who ended up inheriting the French throne as Henri IV. She’s the famous “Queen Margot” from the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), in which thousands of Protestants were assassinated/killed by mobs a few days after her wedding.

Marguerite de Valois by François Clouet, c. 1560, Condé Museum

Marguerite de Valois by François Clouet, c. 1560, Condé Museum.

Marguerite and Henri had a famously fractious marriage, and Marguerite took sides against him in political infighting, which led to her being exiled for 20 years. Eventually the two divorced, and Henri went on to marry Marie de’ Medici; they had never had children. Marguerite was very involved in the cultural life of the court, was a fashion leader, and wrote her own memoirs during her exile. After her divorce, she eventually was allowed to return to Paris, where she supported the theater and philosophers, poets, and scholars. She’s known for her scandalous reputation, supposedly having many lovers, but modern historians argue this comes from anti-Valois propaganda.

Marguerite of Valois, Queen of Navarre by Nicholas Hilliard, 1577, Denver Art Museum

Marguerite of Valois, Queen of Navarre by Nicholas Hilliard, 1577, Denver Art Museum.

Let’s look at Marguerite de Valois on screen!


Léontine Massart in La Reine Margot (1914)

There were a LOT of silent films about Marguerite; this is one of the few I can find images of. This is also one of the first of many adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’s novel about her, Queen Margot.

1914 La Reine Margot
1914 La Reine Margot

I have no idea why they’re wearing modern fashion! But this is really from the film!


Constance Talmadge in Intolerance (1916)

A major silent epic that showed human intolerance across the ages via four stories, one of which is the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

1916 Intolerance

She looks like she’s in a Robin Hood movie. Don’t ask me.


Jeanne Moreau in La Reine Margot (1954)

Another adaptation of the Dumas story.

1954 La Reine Margot

At least we’re trying for Renaissance costume here!

1954 La Reine Margot

The asymmetrical scalloped skirt is weird! Photo © AGIP.


Nelly Benedetti in La Caméra explore le temps (“Qui a tué Henri IV?”) (1960)

One episode of this French TV show that dramatized various events in French history.

1960 Qui a tué Henri IV

How is this not Endora from Bewitched?


Françoise Prévost in La Reine Margot (1961)

A French TV adaptation of, you guessed it, the Dumas novel.

1961 La Reine Margot

THE HAIR!! I can’t even focus on the bad bust silhouettes. Are we going for postmodern verisimilitude here?

1961 La Reine Margot

Marguerite was known for wearing wigs, but they were blonde, so I’m confused.


Magali Noël in Les Trois Henry (1962)

Another French TV movie, but that’s all I know! I presume it’s about Henri III and Henri IV, since they’re in the cast list, but I’m not sure who the third Henry is. Aha! It’s Henri, duc de Guise.

1962 Les Trois Henry

I think one of these blondes is Marguerite, but I’m not positive.


Katerina Jacob in Le Roi qui vient du Sud (1979)

Aka “The King who came from the South” – a French TV miniseries about Henri IV.

1979 Le Roi qui vient du Sud

Paisleys?? In the 16th century???


Marianne Basler in Dames Galantes (1990)

A film about the life of Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme, French historian, soldier, and biographer. I can’t figure out the connection with Marguerite, but Brantôme was at the French court and his memoirs are filled with juicy court gossip about sexual “immorality,” so.

1990 Dames Galantes

Her dress is pretty! Her hair is questionable.

1990 Dames Galantes

I like it! I just feel like there was a lot of AquaNet used.


Isabelle Adjani in Queen Margot (1994)

Probably the film that most of us know her from! This is yet another adaptation of the Dumas novel.

1994 queen margot

There’s some cold shoulder

1994 Queen Margot

But Adjani is gorgeous in this.

No chemises were harmed in the making of this film, however.

1994 Queen Margot

STUNNING…. even if/because she lost her hairpins.

1994 Queen Margot

It’s VERY sexxx-ay.

Queen Margot (1994)

And while the costumes are more impressionistic than historically accurate, they’re by and large beautiful and regal.


Yevgeniya Dobrovolskaya in Koroleva Margo (1996)

A Russian TV miniseries that yet again adapts the Dumas novel.

1996 Koroleva Margo

Pretty braid? Seems very Russian?


Catherine Conet in La Reine Margot (2001)

I think this is actually a stage play adaptation of (you guessed it) Dumas’s novel.

2001 La Reine Margot

That’s an (ahem) interesting bodice treatment.


Armelle Deutsch in Henri 4 (2010)

A biopic about King Henri IV.

2010 Henri 4

There’s a lot of costume issues in this.

Henri IV (2010)

Most things look ripped off from the 1994 Queen Margot.

2010 Henri IV

The makeup is downright tragic.

2010 Henri IV

And the wigs are deeply shitty.


? in Secrets d’Histoire (“La légende noire de la reine Margot”) (2017)

A French TV docu-drama series that looks at various episodes in French history.

2017 La légende noire de la reine Margot

This is the best I could do, sorry!


Who’s your favorite Marguerite de Valois on screen?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

14 Responses

  1. Diana924

    The third Henry is Henry de Guise, Henry III’s childooh friend and Margot’s first lover who was killed in 1589 by Henry III’s order

  2. Vesta

    “Paisleys?? In the 16th century???”

    honestly, I heard that in the same voice and phrasing as “But, Debbie, really… Pastels?”

  3. Roxana

    Margot seems to have been a bit of a wild child but considering her severely dysfunctional family and the violent age she lived in she’s got some excuse.
    What struck me on reading her memoir was while she and Henry didn’t want to be married or agree on much there was a certain basic loyalty. Each acted to protect the other when they were in actual danger of their life. Both this and the lack of sexual attraction makes perfect sense when you remember Henry IV and Marguerite were brought up together.

    • Coco

      You can dislike a man. You can find him irritating, think he smells bad, one billion percent not want to have sex with him, and even believe his immortal soul is damned. You can hold all these opinions yet still feel his life has value and risk your own safety to prevent his murder. This is the lesson I take from Marguerite de Valois.

      • Roxana

        As I said they grew up together. That created a bond independent of sexual attraction, romantic love and even religious convictions.
        I don’t want to see the boy I played tag with hideously murdered by fanatics even if he’s a heretc. I don’t want the girl whose pigtails I used to pull assassinated even it she has become my unfaithful and inconvenient wife.

  4. Carrie

    La Reine Margot is one of my favorite movies of all time. Adjani is gorgeous and Virna Lisi- a screen beauty in her own time- is suitably sinister and terrifying as Catherine dei Medici. Also, the soundtrack by Goran Bregovic is truly haunting. The plot and costumes both go off the rails- people rip off their clothes, murder each other, and die for the haziest of reasons- but still! Hugely influential on young, 20-something me.

  5. Saraquill

    That black dress from the 1994 movie is a prime example of the “Tits Out” adage.

  6. hsc

    Silent “historical” movies frequently combined modern scenes with period scenes– often with the period scene serving as a “moral lesson” for the characters in the modern scene.

    IMDB has another shot from the 1914 LA REINE MARGOT that shows period costuming– assuming that this still is correctly placed on IMDb (which frequently gets shit wrong):


    This still is also on IMDb as showing star Leontine Massart, FWIW:


    Also, D.W. Griffith’s INTOLERANCE was one of those silent films that contrasted a modern story with period stories, with some actors appearing in multiple stories.

    Constance Talmadge played Queen Margot in the section dealing with the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, but she also appeared as “The Mountain Girl” in the Babylonian-set section– which is what your still shows.

    I haven’t been able to locate a shot of Constance Talmadge specifically, but she may be in this shot of a large group of nobles– and at least this indicates what the costuming in that sequence was actually like:


    • hsc

      One reason it may be impossible to find a still of Constance Talmadge as “Marguerite of Valois” in INTOLERANCE is because she’s barely in it as this character, even though she features heavily in the Babylonian story.
      I found a good print on YouTube and checked it out, and she only has a single quick– about three seconds– closeup seated in a closed carriage, riding through the crowds celebrating her betrothal to “Henry of Navarre.”
      All you can see is from the waist up; she’s wearing an ermine cape with full tails over something with a large lace-edged ruff, which is all that shows. She’s got her hair covered by a sort of netted pearl strand cap, mostly in a large square openwork with side panels in a round crossed shape.
      She’s holding a black domino decorated with pearls, and almost immediately ducks her head away from the camera and covers her face with it. 
      And that’s it. Just a “cameo” shot.
      The rest of the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre sequence features Catherine de Medici, played by Jane Crowell and coming across as a blend of Margaret Dumont and Emeril LaGasse. She’s shown with “evil” bushy brows and is called “The Old Serpent” in one title card.
      The court costumes aren’t really all that bad– actually no worse than some of the others in this overview– though there are some real WhatTheFrock touches here and there. 
      Unfortunately, most of the sequence focuses on a doomed Huguenot couple, where “Brown Eyes” (yeah, that’s all they ever call her) is saddled with The Mother of All Derpy Bonnets (it’s huge, white, and has matching hip-length veils hanging down).
      There is, however, a great fop early in this sequence– Monsieur La France, Duc d’Anjou– who’s toting tiny dogs (PUPPEHS!) in an open pouch he’s wearing slung at upper crotch level. (I actually thought they were stashed in an open codpiece for a second.) And they even get a closeup! All this can be seen starting at 10:00 and going to about 14:20 in this YouTube print:

  7. Monabel

    That still from “Intolerance” may not be the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre portion. The label indicates the Babylon section, which would make more sense of that bizarre costume. (It’s too long since I saw the movie, but I vaguely remember the renaissance costumes being both rich and covered up.)

  8. ED

    Is it just me or is there more than a hint of Showtime’s THE TUDORS to the Adjani QUEEN MARGOT?

    • Boxermom

      Perhaps Michael Hirst was watching QM and got the idea for a sexed-up version of the Tudor story. :)

  9. Damnitz

    It’s easy: Isabelle Adjani. I love her outstanding performance. Although I even more loved John Hugues Anglade in his role as the king.


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