Shaping the Legacy of Louise de Savoie: A New Reading of the Heptaméron

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Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptaméron has attracted attention in recent years for its analysis of sexual violence, its narrative structure, and the insights it may offer into its author’s theology and her views on empire. This essay argues that Marguerite de Navarre also uses the stories in this collection to shape the legacy of her mother, Louise de Savoie, as regent of France, embedding in them reminders of Louise de Savoie’s legitimacy in this role and illustrating her effective administration of domestic and foreign affairs, her skill as a negotiator, and her dedication to peace and reconciliation. With her portrayal of Louise de Savoie as an exemplary regent in the Heptaméron, Marguerite de Navarre preempts and defuses misogynist critiques of powerful women as emotionally volatile and manipulative, and she thus contributes to the legitimization of women’s political authority in France, where a spurious Salic Law was used to forbid female succession to the throne. The lively and memorable tales in the Heptaméron offer subtle but firm advocacy of women’s authority and ability to rule, and they bear witness to the power of storytelling to redraw the contours of the worlds in which we live.