Renée de France

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Renée de France
Renée de France, Duchess of Ferrara

Renée de France (born October 25, 1510 in Blois , † June 12, 1574 in Montargis ), also known as Renata of Ferrara , a royal princess of France who was married to Ercole II. D'Este on October 31, 1534 was Duchess of Ferrara , Modena and Reggio nell'Emilia and promoter of the Reformation in Lombardy and France until October 3, 1559 .


Childhood in Blois

Renée was the second daughter of the French King Louis XII. and his wife Anne de Bretagne born in Blois Castle . One of her playmates during her childhood was Anne Boleyn , the future Queen of England , whom she always remembered with love.

Renée's mother, who had always campaigned for the independence of Brittany , tried to use Renée as the heir, but her father prevented this, as he could lose control of the duchy by marrying Renée. Henry VIII is said to have toyed with the idea of ​​marrying Renée for this reason. Louis XII. finally handed over the Duchy of Brittany to Franz from the Valois-Angoulême line , whom he had married to his older daughter Claude in 1514 shortly before his death . As compensation, Renée received the Duchy of Chartres from Franz . However, at the age of 5 she became an orphan. She was of small and rather feeble stature and had a slightly crooked spine, so that she did not correspond to the ideal of beauty. In addition, she did not behave according to the female court life. So despite a large dowry, it was not a good match.

Marriage in Ferrara

Mainly for political reasons, Renée was splendidly married to Ercole II. D'Este , the son of Lucrezia Borgia , in 1528 in the church of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris in front of the papal legate Cardinal Giovanni Salviati . Since the plague raged in Ferrara at the time, the newlyweds stayed in Paris for a few months. Then they moved to Ferrara and lived in his impressive Renaissance palace built in 1475. She brought her courtiers and even friends with her like her cousin Michelle de Saubonne , the Baroness of Soubise. For them, it was still a social descent, for him a political move and profit, he also became Duke of Ferrara in 1534, one of the Papal States dependent Duchy.

Between 1531 and 1538 Renée gave birth to five children; the eldest daughter Anna let them teach from 1538 to 1546 together with Olympia Morata (1526–1555) by their father, the evangelical teacher Fulvio Pellegrino Morato . During the Wars of Religion in the 16th century, Renée saved the lives of several Calvinists and the ducal court of Ferrara became a refuge for Protestant scholars. These included Clément Marot (1535; who temporarily served her as private secretary), Johannes Calvin (first 1536), Vittoria Colonna (1537), Bernardino Ochino (1537 and 1550), Celio Secondo Curione , Camillo Renato (1540) and Aonio Paleario . It is unclear whether she was also a Calvinist at the time, whether she later converted or remained a Catholic. Formally, she was probably forced to remain in the Catholic Church all her life. In any case, her sympathy for Protestantism led to the break with her husband, who had carried out the Inquisition in Ferrera since 1545 as part of the Counter-Reformation . Renée was charged with heresy . In 1554 she was placed under house arrest and her Calvinist books burned. Her daughters were taken away from her and put in a monastery. Under the influence of Ignatius von Loyola and Mathieu Ory , she returned to Catholicism and demonstratively took part in the Catholic Eucharist on September 23, 1554 , which in turn criticized Calvin sharply.

Widowhood in Montargis

In 1559 the duke died and Renée became a widow. When she fell out with her son Alfonso , she returned to France in 1560, where her eldest daughter Anna was married to François de Guise , leader of the Catholic party in the First Huguenot War. Renée settled in Montargis , where, under the government of the benevolent Caterina de 'Medici, she could freely support Protestants and correspond with Calvin. Because she wanted to participate in the leadership and organization of the new Reformed Church, which Calvin displeased. Still, one of his last letters was addressed to her. She entrusted the evangelical architect Androuët Du Cerceau with the renovation of her castle. There it housed between 300 and 460 religious refugees, some of them were Catholics.

In 1561 she campaigned for denominational peace in France and took part in the Religious Discussion of Poissy . In 1562 she was even besieged by her son, but without success. In 1564 she was charged again by the Inquisition and sentenced to life imprisonment. But she was able to present the papal breve that she had received in Ferrara in 1554 and be released.

She also managed to save human lives on St. Bartholomew's Night on August 24, 1572, while she was still in Paris. She then continued to take in Protestants who fled to the countryside and to Orléans .

Remembrance day

July 11th in the Evangelical Name Calendar .


  1. Anna d'Este (1531–1607) ⚭ 1) December 4, 1548 François de Lorraine, duc de Guise (1519–1563); ⚭ 2) April 29, 1566 Jacob of Savoy , Duke of Nemours (1531–1585)
  2. Alfonso II. D'Este (1533–1597), Duke 1559, ⚭ 1) 1558 Lucrezia de 'Medici (1545–1562) daughter of Grand Duke Cosimo I of Tuscany ; ⚭ 2) 1565 Barbara of Austria (1539–1572), daughter of Emperor Ferdinand I ; ⚭ 3) 1579 Eleonora Gonzaga , daughter of Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga of Mantua
  3. Lucrezia d'Este (1535–1598) ⚭ January 18, 1570 Francesco Maria II. Della Rovere (1549–1631), Duke of Urbino
  4. Eleonora d'Este (1537–1581), nun
  5. Luigi d'Este (1538–1586), cardinal 1561


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Renata von Ferrara, French name: Reneé de France in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints.
  2. a b c Martina Mangels: Renée de France. “Humanity between the fronts”: the king's daughter who wanted to save the baker. In: 500 Years of the Reformation - designed by women (website Women and Reformation).
  3. ^ Palace of Renata di Francia on, accessed on July 22, 2019.
  4. Renée de France (1510-1575). In: Musée Virtuel du Protestantisme (French), accessed on July 22, 2019.