Webinar - Administration, Poetry, Theology: Marguerite de Navarre’s Unusual Trinity

Marguerite de Navarre (1492-1549) was a woman of many talents. By marriage she became Duchess of Alençon, then queen of Navarre; by birth she was sister of the French King François I. Her status and intersecting official positions enabled her to build a vast network of ambassadors, magistrates, clergy, poets, and administrators. As early as 1521, an ecclesiastical correspondent, Bishop Guillaume Briçonnet, urged Marguerite to remain united to her brother and mother – the ‘trinity’ that would determine the course of French politics and diplomacy throughout the 1520s. In this paper, I will argue that Marguerite’s role within this trinity is superseded by her wider engagement in another trinity: administration, poetry, and theological reflection. This makes Marguerite not a ‘bureaucratic’ author, but one whose correspondence suggests a nuanced administrative habitus. Marguerite’s practice of diplomacy is oriented towards Christ the ‘Heavenly Administrator of the soul’, and it relies on earthly proxies of feeling: the letter bearer, and sometimes the very letter, or poem, itself.

Jonathan Patterson is a Departmental Lecturer at Oxford’s Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, and a Tutor in French at St Edmund Hall. His research currently focuses on early modern French literature and its intersection with law and bureaucracy. He is the author of Villainy in France (1463-1610): A Transcultural Study of Law and Literature (OUP, 2021), and Representing Avarice in Late Renaissance France (OUP, 2015).