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 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.
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.
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.
Jeanne Moreau in La Reine Margot (1954)
Another adaptation of the Dumas story.
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.
Françoise Prévost in La Reine Margot (1961)
A French TV adaptation of, you guessed it, the Dumas novel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yevgeniya Dobrovolskaya in Koroleva Margo (1996)
A Russian TV miniseries that yet again adapts the Dumas novel.
Catherine Conet in La Reine Margot (2001)
I think this is actually a stage play adaptation of (you guessed it) Dumas’s novel.
Armelle Deutsch in Henri 4 (2010)
A biopic about King Henri IV.
? 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.
Who’s your favorite Marguerite de Valois on screen?
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
“Paisleys?? In the 16th century???”
honestly, I heard that in the same voice and phrasing as “But, Debbie, really… Pastels?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
That black dress from the 1994 movie is a prime example of the “Tits Out” adage.
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:
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:
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.)
Is it just me or is there more than a hint of Showtime’s THE TUDORS to the Adjani QUEEN MARGOT?
Perhaps Michael Hirst was watching QM and got the idea for a sexed-up version of the Tudor story. :)
It’s easy: Isabelle Adjani. I love her outstanding performance. Although I even more loved John Hugues Anglade in his role as the king.