Catherine of Navarre

Queen of Navarre
with John III
Reign 7 January 1483 – 12 February 1517
Predecessor Francis Phoebus
Successor Henry II
Born 1468
Died 12 February 1517
Spouse John III, King of Navarre
Issue Henry II, King of Navarre
Isabella, Viscountess of Rohan
House Foix
Father Gaston, Prince of Viana
Mother Magdalena of France

Catherine (Basque: Katalina) (1468 – 12 February 1517), Queen of Navarre, reigned from 1483 until 1517. She was also Duchess of Gandia, Montblanc, and Peñafiel, Countess of Foix, Bigorre, and Ribagorza, and Viscountess of Béarn.[1]


Catherine was the younger daughter of Gaston of Foix, Prince of Viana, and Magdalena of Valois, the sister of Louis XI of France. She was born and raised during the reign of her paternal great-grandfather, King John II, who was succeeded by her grandmother Eleanor in 1479. Their father having already died, the crown of Navarre devolved upon Catherine's brother Francis Phoebus upon their grandmother's death the same year.


In 1483 the death of Francis made Catherine queen under the regency of their mother. Her uncle John of Foix, appealing to the Salic Law alien to the Kingdom of Navarre, claimed the throne and ignited a civil war (1483–1492) that reignited the old conflict of the Beaumont-Agramont parties. In 1484, hard pressed by ambitions over the throne of Navarre, Magdalena of Valois decided to marry 15-year-old Catherine to John of Albret, hailing from a noble family in western Gascony. This marriage was favored by many of Catherine's Iberian subjects and would have given Catherine much needed support in her fight against her uncle's claim.[2]

The wedlock took place at the Notre Dâme Cathedral of Lescar in 1486,[3]:75 but the coronation of the young couple in Pamplona was deferred until 1494, after a fleeting peace treaty with Louis of Beaumont, Count of Lerín, and Catherine's granduncle, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, was signed. However, the marriage did not garner the sympathy of the Navarrese Beaumont party, always preferring Isabella I of Castile's and Ferdinand II of Aragon's offer to marry Catherine to their son John, Prince of Asturias, and even the Agramont party split. Catherine's mother Magdalena died in 1495.

In 1504, she made her will, confirming her son Henry's right to succeed her and expressing her wish to be buried at the Cathedral of Pamplonaultimately both she and John were interred in Lescar. The political alliance between the houses of Valois and Foix ahead of an impending Spanish invasion led to marriage negotiations between Catherine and Louis XII in 1512. It was suggested that Henry should marry a daughter of the French king.

1512 Castilian-Aragonese invasion

Orthez, a town where the Navarrese monarchs took shelter after 1512

Ferdinand, who had allied with the Pope against France, presented a set of claims to the legitimate royal family of Navarre. Catherine didn´t accept the demands, and Ferdinand sent Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba, over to Pamplona, who occupied Pamplona on 25 July 1512. The Castilians went on to conquer St-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Donibane Garazi in Basque) after setting fire to Roncevaux, and wrought havoc across the merindad of Ultrapuertos (Lower Navarre). The Spanish troops would retain the southern half of that region intermittently for the next years. Catherine and John III, overwhelmed by the Castilian push, fled to Bearn, constituent part of their kingdom. They set their base in Pau, Orthez and Tarbes, where they alternately resided most of the time until their deaths.[3]:75

On 23 March 1513, the Cortes of Navarre reunited in Pamplona (Iruñea in Basque), greatly reduced to the pro-Spanish Beaumont party, and pledged allegiance to Ferdinand in exchange for his loyalty to the Navarrese laws. In 1515, Upper Navarre was annexed to the Crown of Castile as a different kingdom (aeque principalis), and it would be one constituent part of the Kingdom of the Spains, as Spain came to be known during the following period.

Later years

In 1516, two columns led by King John III and Pedro, Marshal of Navarre, crossed the Pyrenees south and attempted to reconquer Navarre but they failed to progress into the heartland of the kingdom. Devastated by the defeats undergone, John retreated to Monein, and died on 17 June 1516. Queen Catherine did not outlive her husband much longer, and died in her domain of Mont-de-Marsan on 12 February 1517, just a few months later. By then, she had given birth to 13 children (other sources point to 14).

From 1512 to her death in 1517, Catherine was actual queen only in some areas of Basse-Navarre, or Lower Navarre, north of the Pyrenees, but her domains extended to the contiguous Principality of Bearn and other lands.


Seal of Catherine of Navarre

She and John III of Navarre were parents to thirteen children:


Catherine's ancestors in three generations
Catherine of Navarre Father:
Gaston of Foix, Prince of Viana
Paternal Grandfather:
Gaston IV of Foix
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John I, Count of Foix
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Joan of Albret
Paternal Grandmother:
Eleanor of Navarre
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John II of Aragon
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Blanche I of Navarre
Magdalena of Valois
Maternal Grandfather:
Charles VII of France
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Charles VI of France
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Isabeau of Bavaria
Maternal Grandmother:
Marie of Anjou
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Louis II of Naples
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Yolande of Aragon


  1. An annotated index of medieval women. Markus Wiener Publishers. 1992. ISBN 978-0-910129-27-5. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
  2. Woodacre, Elena (2013). The Queens Regnant of Navarre; Succession, Politics and Partnership. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. 1 2 Bustillo Kastrexana, Joxerra (2012). Guía de la conquista de Navarra en 12 escenarios. Donostia: Txertoa Argitaletxea. ISBN 978-84-71484819.
  4. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol.13, (New York:1910), 293.

External links

Catherine of Navarre
Born: 1468 Died: 1518
Preceded by
Francis I
Queen of Navarre
Countess of Foix

with John III (1484-1516)
Succeeded by
Henry II
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