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Literature / La Reine Margot

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A Queen, a King, and her cabinet.

La Reine Margot (A.K.A "Queen Margot", "Marguerite de Valois") is the first novel of The Last Valois series written in 1845 by Alexandre Dumas, père. The series next books are La Dame de Monsoreau and Les Quarante-Cinq.

During the reign of Charles IX and the French Wars of Religion, the throne of France had several suitors and every one try their hardest to keep it. Marguerite de Valois, better known as Margot, marries Henry de Navarre to bring peace to this chaotic country. Margot, who does not love Henri, begins a passionate affair with La Môle, a noble Huguenot, who was saved by her during the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

Beside the famous Huguenot decimation, the plot contains murders by poisoning, court intrigues and several attempts of murder.

It has been adapted to a movie in 1994 with Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Virna Lisi and Vincent Perez.


  • Alas, Poor Yorick: Margot kept a rather grisly souvenir of her lover La Môle.
  • Apothecary Alligator: René's laboratory had an assortment of odd tools, that include a yawning alligator.
  • Artistic License – History: It's Dumas, so it's par for the course:
    • Far from being allies, Charles IX, Anjou, and Catherine de' Medici actually loathed the duc de Guise (and he fully returned their hatred).
    • On the other hand, Alençon and Henri de Navarre actually were allies, not enemies.
  • Balcony Escape: The way La Môle saved Henri's life, when the royal siblings meant to off him. La Môle would later flee the same way, shortly before his would-be killers stormed into Marguerite's room.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Coconnas was nice to the executioner, and so avoided torture. La Môle disdained the man, and had his legs broken.
  • "Begone" Bribe: Charles IX got the Duke of Anjou the crown of Poland in exchange for some peace. Although in this case it's more of a Reassigned to Antarctica, Poland being viewed as a Barbarian Tribe by the refined d'Anjou.
  • Beneath the Mask: Charles IX forges onward, even when he knew he was dying.
  • Beta Couple: The duchesse de Nevers and Coconnas fill the spot, but they are less peaceful than Margot and La Môle.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: The original book just hints on such accusations against the real Valois, but the film likes to show it for the sake of creating a frightening and decadent atmosphere.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Charles IX visits a grieving Marguerite after the execution of her lover and urges her to attend a ball, following his example as a Stepford Smiler because they are kings and queens, and therefore have duties.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A Voodoo Doll used for a Love Spell was presented as evidence of a crime.
    • René gives the queen a rare book on hunting instead of a grimoire because they have the same binding. The book is later used in a murder attempt.
  • Closet Shuffle: A cabinet in Margot's room is repeatedly used to shove in whatever gentleman caller must not be seen by an incoming visitor. Margot once hid her husband and her lover in the same cabinet, at the same time (although they're perfectly fine with the other's relationship with Margot).
    • At one point during the king's interruption of a dinner between the lovers, she grabs someone's hand in the dark, thinking him to be La Môle.
    "We are saved!" murmured Marguerite, seizing a hand which she took for that of La Mole. "The King thinks my husband is one of our guests."
    "And I shall let him think so, madame, you may be sure," said Henry, answering the queen in the same tone.
  • Decadent Court: The French court.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Coconnas and La Môle need to fight twice before they achieve friendship.
  • Downer Ending: Almost all the main male characters are exhausted and die, only Henri de Bourbon manages to escape from Paris, while Queen Catherine triumphs and Henri the Third ascends to the throne in order to plunge Valois into the abyss in the following books.
  • Edible Ammunition: The characters hiding in Rue Cloche Percée defended themselves with the rest of their dinner.
  • Evil Matriarch: Dowager Queen Catherine, practically the Trope Maker for this.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: A poisoned book is used in attempt on King Henri de Navarre's life, but the plan backfires with disastrous results.
  • Flower-Pot Drop: During the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, Coconnas had a flower-pot thrown at him by an old Huguenot woman. It hit him above the knee.
  • Foreign Cuss Word:
    • Mordi! It's introduced into the narrative by Coconnas, and the duchess of Nevers picks it up.
    • There's also Sang-dioux!, used by Henri of Navarre.
    • In at least one English translation, all the swearing is left in French.
  • Funetik Aksent: Monsieur de Pesme - ahem, Besme -, in the service of the duke of Guise. He's German.
  • Gambit Pileup: Henri de Navarre is the center of all plans of the French royal court: the King trying to destroy their religion, the queen mother trying to ruin his marriage, and the Duke d'Alençon trying to take his kingdom.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Catherine. Schemer, poisoner, murderer; she will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: They don't call the Duke of Guise "Le Balafré" (Scarface) for nothing.
  • Kiss of Death: The even more devious plan to poison Henry via his paramour's lipstick is employed but thwarted by the would-be poisoner who couldn't murder said paramour in cold blood.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Henriette, duchess of Nevers, is as kind-hearted as she is blonde.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: While in real life Charlotte of Sauve was indeed one of Catherine of Medici's circle of beautiful courtly spies, she is considerably more heroic here. The real Marguerite wrote that Charlotte exerted incredible sway over Henri and alienated the King and Queen of Navarre.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Possibly Dumas was influenced too much by the propaganda against Catherine of Medici. In the book she didn't stop short of murder to help her son Henri, and even ended up accidentally murdering her own son.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Charles IX is poisoned by a book that Catherine meant for Henri of Navarre.
  • Hope Spot: La Môle and Coconnas escaped disaster so many times that one would think the plot for them to escape their execution would succeed. It failed because the latter was too honorable to leave La Môle to die.
  • Hunting "Accident": Charles IX would have died in such an accident, if it wasn't for Henry of Navarre. Charles IX also voices his suspicions that his father went out this way, too.
  • Master Poisoner:
    • Réné the Florentine.
    • Queen Catherine, to some degree.
  • The Mistress:
    • Charlotte de Sauve was one for Henri de Bourbon.
    • Marie Touchet was a real nice one.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Coconnas left Maître la Hurière bleeding out in the gutter. The innkeeper would outlive both him and La Môle.
  • Nice to the Waiter: And Maître Caboche remembers it. This benefits Coconnas because it spares him torture, but backfires when Coconnas refuses to flee and leave La Môle, whose legs had been broken by the same torture.
  • Off with His Head!: The last favor of M. de Coconnas' friend.
  • One-Steve Limit: Henri of Navarre (the future Henri IV) is referred to as Henri, while the future Henri III is always referred to as the duke d'Alençon. There's also Henri, duke of Guise, and Henriette, duchess of Nevers.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Charles claims Coligny is like a father to him.
    • Charles's Huguenot nurse was the mother Catherine would never be to him.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Henri of Navarre and Marguerite of Valois. They become allies, with her saving him repeatedly from her family's machinations.
  • Perfect Poison: Ghastly subverted in the poisoned book mentioned above.
  • Professional Killer: Maurevel started his career killing De Mouy's father and from that point, he get some other jobs, until De Mouy stopped him.
  • Public Secret Message: Delivered by Margot, in Latin, in a formal ceremony to announce to her husband's allies that the escape was impossible.
  • Puppet King: Charles was this until recently, while his mother wielded the true power in France. He credits Coligny with freeing him from Catherine's control.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Coconnas to La Môle, and Henriette to Marguerite, are respectively the red and the blue.
  • Royal Blood: Why Henri de Bourbon is so dangerous to Queen Catherine.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Valois is a pretty vivid example, considering that because of the dictatorship of Catherine, her children grew incapable of governing the country. Moreover, her most adequate son is a clear Manchild and is deadly sick, and her last daughter is barren despite a dissolute life.
  • The Scapegoat: Coconnas and La Môle took the fall for Queen Catherine.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: Henri de Bourbon, to avoid death during the massacre, was forced to choose between convert or being locked into the Bastille.
  • Succession Crisis: The whole point of the novel. Charles IX had a marked preference for Henri de Bourbon, over his brothers of Anjou and Alençon. Queen Catherine works to ensure Henri de Bourbon doesn't get the crown of France.
  • Together in Death: Coconnas and La Môle. The executioner placed them side by side and hand in hand.
  • Torture Always Works: Played with when Coconnas gave them a good amount of information (against his former employer d'Alençon) under false torture. Averted when La Môle never speaks under real torture.
  • Torture Technician: Maître Caboche is the chief executioner of the provostry of Paris and had some apprentices, but he does the whole work for folks of quality.
  • What Could Have Been: In-Universe; a footnote winders how France would have turned out if Charles' son with Marie Touchet had survived into adulthood.
  • Trope Maker: For Evil Matriarch, Royally Screwed Up and at least one of the classic Trope Codifiers for Star-Crossed Lovers.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: It's amazing how far a cherry-colored cloak can take you.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Catherine leads Henri's young servant Orthon to fall into an oubliette.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Catherine is enraged at seeing all her attempts at killing Henri, seeing it as fate. Rene, having seen the king's horoscope, defects to his side because of this.