Catherine Henriette de Bourbon

Catherine Henriette de Bourbon
Légitimée de France
Duchess of Elbeuf

Catherine in 1659 as a widow, by P Vary
Born (1596-11-11)11 November 1596
Rouen, France
Died 20 June 1663(1663-06-20) (aged 67)
Hôtel d'Elboeuf, Paris, France
Spouse Charles II, Duke of Elbeuf
Charles III, Duke of Elbeuf
François Louis, Count of Harcourt
François Marie, Prince of Lillebonne
Full name
Catherine Henriette de Bourbon, Légitimée de France
House Bourbon
Father Henry IV of France
Mother Gabrielle d'Estrées

Catherine Henriette de Bourbon (11 November 1596 – 20 June 1663) was an illegitimate daughter of King Henry IV of France and his long-term maîtresse en titre Gabrielle d'Estrées. She was declared legitimate on 17 November 1596 at the Abbey of St. Ouen in Rouen and married into the Princely House of Guise.

Early years

Born on 11 November 1596 in Rouen, France, she was baptised on 17 November 1596. At her birth, Queen Elizabeth I of England sent a special ambassador who also proposed a new treaty between the two nations. Then, surprising everyone, Spain attacked Amiens. One of the first things Catherine Henriette's mother Gabrielle did was to ask the people of France to contribute financially to the war effort while she herself pawned her jewellery; in doing so she raised a substantial fortune.

In her youth, she was known as Mademoiselle de Vendôme, derived from the Duchy of Vendôme which had been in possession of the House of Bourbon since 1393. Her older brother, César, was legitimised in 1595 and given the title of Duke of Vendôme. César would later scheme against the crown against Cardinal Richelieu in the Fronde with their younger half-brother Gaston. Her youngest full sibling, Alexandre, was born in 1598 and died in 1629.

When she was just three, her 26yearold mother died of an attack of eclampsia after giving birth to a stillborn child. As a result of her mother's death, Catherine Henriette inherited her wealth in her own right. Her mother's duchy, Beaufort, was given to her older brother, César.

In 1610, her father was assassinated outside the Louvre Palace on 19 May. This left her eight-year-old half-brother Louis XIII the new king, with a regency under the power of his mother Marie de' Medici, who hated the royal bastards.


It was discussed that she should marry Henry, Prince of Condé, but the idea was dropped.

Her husband would be the Duke of Elbeuf, born Charles de Lorraine and a member of the House of Guise. The House of Guise was a cadet branch of the Dukes of Lorraine which were one of the most powerful families in France. The 25yearold Mademoiselle de Vendôme married Charles in at the Palais du Louvre in Paris on 20 June 1619. The groom was seven months younger than the bride. Her younger half-sister Christine Marie of France had married there also in February the same year to Prince Victor Amadeus of Savoy, future Duke of Savoy.

The dowry given to the House of Guise was the large sum of 1.3 million livres and included pensions as well. Most of this money was spent and re-mortgaged for various reasons including a failed lawsuit against her brother César.[1]

As Catherine Henriette was marrying into the House of Guise, she took on the style of Highness, the Guises being foreign princes at court. After her marriage, she was known as the Légitimée-duchesse. She used to sign documents as C H. L de France – Catherine Henriette. Légitimée de France.

Her marriage produced six children, three of whom would have issue. Her husband died in Paris at the Hôtel d'Elboeuf, the family town house. Catherine Henriette remained a widow for six years until her own death in 1663.


References and notes

  1. Spangler. Jonathan, The Society of Princes; the Lorraine-Guise and the conservation of power and wealth in the Seventeenth Century, Ashgate, London, 2009, p.154

See also

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