Marguerite d’Angoulême was known as Marguerite of Alencon, Berry, Angouleme, the Queen of Navarre and the Countess of Foix. An outstanding figure during the French Renaissance, she was one of the most remarkable women of her age. Marguerite was an extraordinary revolutionary pioneer of Religious and Literary Reform, renowned for her patronage of humanism and feminism. Her court was the most intellectual in Europe. Marguerite had a profound role in the establishment of the Protestant Reformation. Alongside her mother Louise of Savoy , Queen Claude of France and several other noble women she traveled to Marseilles on a devotional pilgrimage to honour Saint Mary Magdalene. Authors Ferguson and McKinley state, ‘they traveled to Saint-Maxim, east of Marseille said to house the relics of Mary Magdalene.’ The Royal Party was also thought to have made, ‘very generous donations to support’ Mary Magdalene’s shrine’ in this area.
Miroir de l’âme Pécheresse
Marguerite was the author of a mystical narrative called Miroir de l’âme pécheresse (Mirror of the Sinful Soul). This was condemned and labeled by the Faculty of Theology as ‘tainted with heresy.’ King Francois intervened on more than one occasion and its condemnation was removed. Miroir de l’âme pécheresse was translated by the young Queen Elizabeth; a gift for her stepmother, Queen Catherine Parr. One of her most celebrated works was the ‘Heptameron’, a collection of stories on the theme of love. Mary Queen of Scots owned several works by Marguerite including a copy of the ‘Mirror of the Sinful Soul.’ Authors Ferguson and McKinley in their book ‘A Companion to Marguritte de Navarre’ state, ‘several stories in the Heptameron…portray Marguerite intervening on behalf of victims of corruption in monasteries and convents.’
La Langue des Oiseaux
A portrait of Marguerite d’Angoulême by Jean Clouet (1530) provides highly significant insights about Marguerite’s true hidden spiritual convictions, when interpreted through the field of ‘sacred symbolism.’ Marguerite carries a green parrot in her right hand, her left hand rests on a green table cover. This suggests a reference to the ‘green language of the birds’ otherwise known as the ‘green language’, ‘language of the Gods’ or the ‘language of initiation’.
The Language of the Birds (La Langue des Oiseaux) otherwise known as the ‘green language’, ‘language of the Gods’ or the ‘language of initiation’, was a mystical, symbolic language used to convey and preserve hidden sacred knowledge. It arose during the medieval period from the demands placed upon heretics and initiates to communicate hidden knowledge without putting their lives in danger from the clergy. The Troubadours of medieval France used it as a secret language to communicate their hidden spiritual traditions. Marguerite’s brother King Francis I is also portrayed in a portrait with the inclusion of this Sacred Symbol of the Green Bird.
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A Companion to Marguerite de Navarre by Gary Ferguson and Mary McKinley. BRILL (22 Mar. 2013)