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Henri IV - An unfinished reign


Catherine de Bourbon


Catherine de Bourbon, daughter of Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne d’Albret and younger sister of Henri IV, was born on 7 February 1559 in Paris.

She had a lifelong love and affection for her brother, who called her his "little sister". She inherited her grandmother Marguerite de Navarre's love of the arts, and her mother's stubbornness and unwavering Calvinism. On three separate occasions, Henri named her regent of Béarn, where she displayed great skill in matters of defence and administration. As infante de Navarre, duchesse d’Albret and comtesse d’Armagnac, Catherine was the potential heir to her brother's estates. The list of suitors was a long one, and she favoured Charles de Bourbon, comte de Soissons. Henri, aware of the strategic importance of the marriage, intervened and married her instead in 1559 to the very Catholic Henri, duc de Bar and future duc de Lorraine (1608). Catherine died on 13 February 1604 at the age of forty-four, never having renounced her mother's faith.

Portrait of Catherine de Bourbon, sister of Henri IV
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Portrait of Catherine de Bourbon, duchesse d'Albret et de Bar (1571-1603), painting, copy after Amélie de la Noue Cordelier, 19th c.

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