Born on 22 July in 1615, Marguerite was a daughter of François de Lorraine and his wife Christine de Salm. At the time of her birth, her father was known as the Comte de Vaudémont. He was a son of Charles III, Duc de Lorraine, and Claude de France, daughter of Henri II, and upon Charles’ death in 1608, François’ older brother Henri became Duc de Lorraine. Henri died in 1624 and François became the new Duc de Lorraine, but only very briefly. He abdicated in favour of his son Charles, who had married Henri’s daughter Nicole.
Marguerite, who was born in Lorraine’s capital Nancy, lost her mother in 1627 and was given into the care of her aunt Catherine de Lorraine, Abbesse de Remiremont. Two years later, she met a dashing young man, who fell head over heels for her.
It was Gaston de France, the brother of Louis XIII, and he sought refuge in Lorraine after some intrigue gone wrong. Gaston was the heir of the throne at this point and widowed for two years. He was married to Marie de Bourbon, but was not too fond of her. Marie died shortly after giving birth to a daughter, who became famous as la Grande Mademoiselle and inherited all of her mother’s vast wealth.
Gaston was enjoying life and did not plan to marry again soon… but then he saw Marguerite and fell in love with her pretty much at once. He nicknamed her la petite angelique and l’ange. There was a small problem however… France and Lorraine were not on friendly terms.
After six months in Lorraine, Gaston left for France again. His brother, Louis XIII, had forgiven him for his past trespasses and welcomed him back on French soil. His stay in France did not last for long, Gaston mingled in intrigues once more and was forced to leave the Kingdom. He fled once more to Lorraine and Marguerite. The latter was rather smitten with him as well and agreed to marry him, as he asked for her hand… and that’s when the chaos started.
Gaston, as brother of the King and therefore his first subject and also as his heir, could not marry without the permission of Louis XIII. And since Lorraine and France were on opposite sides of a conflict, permission was not granted. Gaston did it anyway. His brother was not in the know, but their mother, Marie de Médicis, was as Gaston sneaked back into Lorraine and took Marguerite, the sister of the sovereign Duc de Lorraine, as his wife. The ceremony was held in presence of her family on the night of 2–3 January in 1632.
It was quite a big deal, since Marguerite might become Queen of France this way, and since no permission was granted, the whole thing had to be kept a secret for now. Thus Gaston was sent to safety the next day and joined his exiled mother in Brussels. They did not manage to keep it a secret for long.
In November 1632, Henri II de Montmorency, who was a former associate of Gaston, was sentenced to death for plotting against the Crown. He felt betrayed that Gaston abandoned him and spilled the beans on the secret marriage. Not good. Louis XIII turned to the Parlement of Paris in order to have the marriage declared invalid and they did so in 1634. The Pope protested, in vain, for also the assembly of the French clergy declared it not valid the following year. In the meanwhile, Marguerite went into hiding. She dressed up as a soldier and rode all the way to Luxembourg and joined Marie de Médicis. Gaston and Marguerite married again, this time before the Archbishop of Malines, but this renewal of vows was not declared valid either.
It was argued that a Prince de France could not marry without permission of the King…. and on top of that, pamphlets were published which declared the members of the House of Lorraine to be unworthy to marry the Blood of France. Marguerite and her family were shocked. Especially since her grandmother, Claude de France, was very much Blood of France as daughter of Henri II and Catherine de Médicis. And Henri II’s son Henri III had married Louise de Lorraine, who became Queen of France. And what about Marie de Guise? She was a Lorraine and Queen of Scots. Marguerite was outraged and wrote letter after letter to the Pope.
It changed nothing. Gaston and his brother returned to friendlier terms, but still the marriage was not declared valid. Marguerite was not wanted. She was married without being married. Could not see her husband, could not appear anywhere with him and was not allowed to use the title of Duchesse d’Orléans. It took until 1643, eleven years after they married, for Louis XIII to change his mind. With the birth of a healthy Dauphin, the future Louis XIV, Gaston was no longer heir to the Crown and as Louis XIII was on his deathbed he felt inclined to forgive everything Gaston had done and finally gave his permission regarding the marriage issue. Louis died a couple of days later.
Marguerite and Gaston married again in July 1643 in front of the Archbishop of Paris at Meudon and were finally allowed to lawfully be husband and wife. Marguerite was now allowed to use her husband’s title and join him at court as the second-highest-ranking-woman of France. She was finally the legitimate wife of a Son of France.
She received a very warm welcome at court, but was not too eager to spent much time there. Too many people. Marguerite suffered from agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder which can lead to panic attacks if a person considers their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to get away quickly. So, her now stepdaughter la Grande Mademoiselle took over most of her duties.
The Duc and Duchesse settled at the Parisian Palais du Luxembourg, which was thus renamed Palais d’Orléans and which Gaston had inherited from his mother. They also spent plenty of time at the chateau de Blois, far away from court.
Marguerite and Gaston had five children: Their first-born child was a daughter, born on 1645, and received the name Marguerite-Louise. Another daughter, Élisabeth, was born in 1646 and joined by Françoise-Madeleine in 1648. A son, Jean-Gaston, was born in 1650, but died aged only two. Their last born child was another daughter, Marie-Anne, who was born in 1652 and died in infancy.
While Marguerite was quite laid-back and played no prominent figure at court, Gaston mingled in intrigues again. He involved himself in the Fronde and got exiled to Blois for it. Marguerite, who had supported him, went with him. He died there in 1660 and the title Duc d’Orléans went to Louis XIV’s younger brother Philippe.
Marguerite moved back to Paris with her children and took up residence in the Palais d’Orléans again. She still did not visit court often and also her relationship with her stepdaughter went a bit downhill. They got along quite well at the start, but la Grande Mademoiselle was rather full of herself while Marguerite was more on the pious side of things. La Grande Mademoiselle was not always exactly kind to her either. Marguerite’s life was pretty quiet during her widowhood. She saw her daughters married, some unhappy others more happy, but the only time she really got involved in things was to protest an invasion of Lorraine by Louis XIV and to state her disapproval regarding la Grande Mademoiselle’s planned marriage to the Marquis de Puyguilhem. Louis XIV did not care much for her opinion on the first matter, but agreed in case of the second. Fearing that such a marriage might belittle the royal family a lot.
Marguerite de Lorraine died on 13 April in 1672 at the Palais d’Orléans and was buried at Saint-Denis.