Gabrielle d'Estrées

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Gabrielle d'Estrées, Duchess of Beaufort and Verneuil, Marchioness of Monceaux[1] (French pronunciation: [ɡabʁiɛl dɛstʁe]; 1573[2][3] – 10 April 1599) was a French mistress of King Henry IV of France, born at either the Château de la Bourdaisière in Montlouis-sur-Loire, in Touraine, or at the château de Cœuvres, in Picardy.[4]

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Mistress to a King

Gabrielle d'Estrées became Henry's mistress in 1591[citation needed], in the middle of his bitter struggle with the Catholic League. Although he was married to Marguerite de Valois, Henri and Gabrielle were openly affectionate with each other in public. Fiercely loyal, Gabrielle accompanied Henri during his campaigns. Even when heavily pregnant, she insisted on living inside his tent near the battlefield, making sure his clothing was clean and that he ate well after a battle, handling the day to day correspondence while he fought. As she was an intelligent and practical woman, Henri confided his secrets to her and followed her advice. When the two were apart, they wrote each other frequent letters.[citation needed]

Born a Catholic, Gabrielle knew that the best way to conclude the religious wars was for Henri himself to become a Catholic. Recognizing the wisdom in her argument, on 25 July 1593 Henri declared that "Paris is well worth a Mass" and permanently renounced Protestantism. This enabled him to be crowned King of France on 27 February 1594. Henri also arranged for Gabrielle's marriage to Liancourt to be annulled.

On 7 June 1594, their first child was born, a son, César de Bourbon, future Duke of Vendôme. On 4 January 1595, Henri IV officially recognized and legitimized his son in a text validated by the Parlement de Paris.[5] In that text, he also recognized Gabrielle d'Estrées as the mother of his son and as "the subject the most worthy of our friendship"; in other words, Henri IV had the Parlement de Paris officially ratify Gabrielle's position as his mistress. In 1596, he made her marquise de Monceaux and, the following year, duchesse de Beaufort.[6]

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