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Marguerite de Valois in Auvergne
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Involved in the swirl strapping of the wars of religion, rejected by her husband Henri de Navarre and hated by her brother King de France under the name of Henri III, Marguerite de Valois, more known under the nickname of “Reine Margot”, was threatened, arrested, imprisoned and forced to live in exile during nearly 20 years to the castle of Usson in Auvergne. Her assent with the divorce which wanted to obtain from it her unsteady husband become King de France in 1589 after the assassination of Henri III, was the price to pay to enable him to return to Paris and to live there in peace the ten last years of her life. Forced to flee the town of Agen in September 1585, Marguerite takes refuge initially in the castle of Carlat, in Haute Auvergne, where she remains there during one year before being obliged to take the road of Basse Auvergne. She hopes to find refuge in the castle of Ybois close to Issoire but she falls into a trap. The King ordered her arrest.
Her tour from Agen to Ybois then her long relegation in Usson reported himself in my book entitled “Margot, Reine d’Usson” published by "Le Manuscrit", Paris, and whose some extracts illustrate this page.

After her arrest at Ybois, Marguerite is initially led to the castle of Saint Amand (currently Saint-Amand Tallende), on the edges of Monne river, close to Clermont. After a halt at Mirefleurs, surrounded men-at-arms, she crosses the narrow bridge which spans the easily flooded river and banks, very close to the mill leaned with the walls of the borough and passes the southernmost door. One leads it to the castle of Murol which dominates the ramparts. The troop borrows the narrow lane which runs along the fortifications. Close to the La Barge castle, located higher in the borough, Murol Castle (not to be confused with the medieval fortress of the same name built several miles more in the west near Chambon Lake) is one of the forts which protect the city.

Murol Castle in Saint-Amand Tallende and the bridge over Monne river
(Puy-de-Dôme, France)

On November 6, 1586, she is transferred to Saint Saturnin, near Saint Amand. Supported on the ramparts which protect part of the borough, the fortress, models of medieval military architecture with its triple enclosure and its ramparts, is the stronghold of the family La Tour d’Auvergne of which is resulting Catherine de Médicis. The mother of the queen, Marguerite de La Tour d’Auvergne, had married Laurent de Médicis in 1518. The couple had then settled in Florence. Marguerite recognizes the places. She spent there twenty years earlier with her brother Charles IX.

The castle of Saint Saturnin

On Thursday November 13, 1586, Canillac receives the order to transfer his prisoner to Usson where he will be supervised there by about fifty Swiss guards. Henri III sends his Secretary, Nicolas de Neufville lord of Villeroy, to on the spot regulate the methods concerning the captivity of Marguerite who will last 19 years. The Queen of Navarre leaves Saint Saturnin which preserves in remembering her passage only one high altar out of wooden gilded, struck the her initial ones and those of Henri IV in the parish church.

Saint Saturnin church (détails)

The fortress of Usson was built by the Count of Auvergne. It belongs to the Crown and was given to Marguerite in 1572 by her brother Charles IX to compensate for his dowry of 72.000 pounds which had not been paid. The ruins of the fortress are drawn up at the top of a volcanic piton which culminates with more than 600 meters of altitude to the side of the mounts of Livradois, dominating the plain of Limagne d'Issoire.


Reinforced by the duke of Berry two centuries before, Usson had become a frightening fortified town very coveted by the English troops during the One hundred Year old war. Du Guesclin tested enormous difficulties of driving out a band of brigands which had been cut off there. Later, Louis XI made use of it of prison. The building comprises at the time of Marguerite three enclosures. In the center of the first draws up the quadrangular keep. The second enclosure reinforces the protection of the castle then the third locks up the village whose several houses themselves are strengthened.

The village of Usson

The surroundings of Usson are the theatre of ceaseless combat between the factions which are opposed. The fires, plunderings and massacres do not amount any more. The strengthened city of Issoire represents a major strategic stake for the protagonists. The ousting of Canillac avenged Marguerite for a humiliation but did not improve its conditions of existence. Deprived of a big part of her resources, she will be obliged, of 1586 to 1593, living with credit.


On July 25, 1593, Henri IV abjures the calvinist religion and converts to Catholicism. The royal sacring will take place in February 1594 but as of now, he became incontestably King of France and at the same time Marguerite becomes, in fact, Queen of France! (...) A new period will open. Henri needs to persuade his wife who, in spite of her state of exiled, is in position of force. The negotiation begins. Henri agree to grant financial means the important ones to him to allow him to pay her debts and to improve her conditions of existence.

Henri de Navarre becomes Henri IV King of France

Marguerite makes profitable her “release on probation” and from the more substantial incomes to express her local authority (...) Sometimes, during her walks, Marguerite, removes temporarily a child with his mother and takes along him to the castle. The child is certainly impressed by this lady in litter carried by two mules, capped with an elegant bonnet, the face dissimulated behind a velvet mask, glaze of jewels, the hands protected by fringed and scented gloves agitating a range from feathers, the fitted feet of rich shoes made in Venice.

Lady in litter

Marguerite was the girl of Catherine de Médicis and this filiation fed from hatred and accredited much legends. During her stay auvergnat, for example, she could’nt escape the rumours relating to alleged occult capacities. Isn't Usson a place registered in a “magic” triangulation?

Regularly, Catherine who died in 1589, consulted her astrologer,
the mysterious Cosimo Ruggieri.

Henri IV wanted to divorce in order to be able to marry his mistress, Gabrielle d' Estrée. Gabrielle died abruptly. Rumours showed Marguerite to have ordered the poisoning of her rival.

Gabrielle d'Estrée

Marie de Médicis marries by procuration Henri IV in Florence on October 5, 1600 then goes to France. She unloads in Marseilles and joined Henri in Lyon. The ceremony of marriage takes place downtown this on December 17.

Marie de Médicis

Marguerite makes her entry in Paris on August 2, 1605. She settles shortly after with the Madrid Castle in the village of Boulogne close to Paris. The king and Marie de Médicis receive her in Louvre Castle then she meets the future Louis XIII at the castle of Saint Germain on August 6.

Madrid Castle in "bois de Boulogne" Home page