Princess of Angouleme, Queen of Navarre, and sister to King Francis I, Marguerite Navarre was in a unique position to contribute to the intellectual and political life of the French Renaissance. She participated actively in state affairs and was celebrated as a patron of the arts, drawing to her court theologians, poets, and scholars who were interested in the new ideas that would forge the Renaissance and Reformation in France. Navarre produced religious dramas and mystical poetry, but her masterpiece is the Heptameron (1558), a collection of 72 posthumously published tales, loosely based on Boccaccio's Decameron. These lively stories of love and adventure frequently focus on the social roles of the sexes and recall the contemporary querelle des femmes, the late medieval debate on the status of women. They offer a vivid image of court life during the French Renaissance and a lasting contribution to the literature of feminism.
Paul Chilton is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Lancaster University.