Director:     Patrice Chereau

Starring:     Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Vincent Perez, Virna Lisi, Jean-Claude Brialy, Dominique Blanc, Pascal Greggory, Claudio Amendola, Miguel Bose, Asia Argento, Barbet Schroeder

Countries: French-German-Italian


The Movie

warning: don't read all of this because it gives away the ending.  

Here is a fascinating series of political intrigues involving the Religious Wars in France, 1562 - 1629.

Catherine the Queen Mother of Charles IX, Catholic, marries her daughter Margot (played by the lovely Isabel Adjani) off to Henri of Navarre, a Protestant, as a pretext to draw the leaders of the Protestant movement to the king's castle in order to eliminate them. Queen Margot is a victim of incest from her two brothers, one of course now the king of France. An early sexualization leads to Margot using sex somewhat as an addictive release of tension and she has sex from someone she meets on the street, this time with Mole, a Protestant. She falls in love with this man. The year is 1572 and Charles IX sanctions the St. Bartholomew massacre of Huguenots in Paris, some 6,000 falling; other towns followed the example of the capital, and altogether nearly 20,000 victims fell. In the destruction of Protestant leaders, the main Protestant leader Coligny is killed, but Henri of Navarre, narrowly escapes being murdered, partly by the protection of Margot and partly is has a convenient conversion to Catholicism. Margot also protects Mole from being killed. The Fourth War of Religion begins.

Catherine is not happy that Henri of Navarre is still alive and she plots to kill him by poisoning. The leaves of a book on hunting are poisoned, but instead of Henri of Navarre reading the book, Catherine's own son, the king, reads it and is poisoned slowly by arsenic.

Catherine sent her son away. Henry, Duke of Anjou, is elected King of Poland.

Catherine then has Mole beheaded. Henri of Navarre escapes back to the protection of Navarre. When the King Charles IX dies of poisoning, the Duke of Anjou returns to France to succeed his brother. This is the beginning of the Fifth War of Religion that lasts to 1576. Henri later divorces Margot, but Queen Margot is left in the capital without lover or husband. But she did manage to outlive her brother.


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


The French Huguenots were French Protestants in predominantly Catholic France.

1559-1560  --  reign of King Francis II

1560 --  King Francis II dies and is succeeded by Charles IX with Catherine de' Medici, his mother, as regent. (He rules to 1574.) 

1562 --  Charles IX (at 13) is declared of age.

1564 --  Catherine de' Medici presents her son Charles IX to his subjects on a three month tour.

1568 --  the Treaty of Longjumeau ends second War of Religion Peace of St. Germain- en-Laye ends third civil war; Huguenots gain amnesty.

1570 --  Charles IX marries Elizabeth, a daughter of Maximilian II. The following year there is a reconciliation between Charles IX of France & Huguenots. But this does not please Catherine.

1574-1589  --  reign of King Henri III

1577  --  Henry Navarre is recognized head of Huguenot party, that is, the Protestant party. The Sixth War of Religion begins.

1580  --  a Seventh War of Religion opens.

1589 --  Catherine de ‘Medici, Queen Mother, dies. Henry III last of the house of Valois assassinated; on his deathbed he recognizes Henry, King of Navarre, as his successor, who, as Henry IV (1589-1610), is the first BOURBON king.

1591 --  Henry IV excommunicated by Pope Gregory XIV but two years later Henry IV becomes a Roman Catholic, hearing Mass at St. Denis.

1594 --  Henry IV, having been crowned King of France at Chartres, enters Paris. The Edict of St. Germain-en-Laye grants Huguenots freedom of worship.

1598  --  the Edict of Nantes ends the French religious wars, even though full religious freedom was not achieved.

1610-1643  --  reign of King Louis XIII. 


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