My latest novel, The French Queen’s Curse: In Queen Margot’s Gardens, was borne of my romance with Paris and her history —a passion for the City of Light and Love. Marguerite de Valois was my spirited and insistent muse.
Having lived for many years in Paris, in 1993 I found myself living in the 17th century gardens of La Reine Margot’s one-time Rive-Gauche palace. Much like my alter ego, Kikki Trieste, I was literally haunted by the spirit of Queen Margot who compelled me to share her untold story. She put her quill in my hand. She came up time and again through the old tunnels under the 17th century building where I lived and insisted that I listen and give her voice.
She spurred me to do intense research. A student of history, thanks to my father, I read all I could about her life, France, Europe, Paris and the Valois Court in the tumultuous 16th century.
I studied Margot’s Memoires, written while she was imprisoned. Not only was she a female author in a man’s world, she was one of the inventors of the genre of memoir.
She haunted and inspired me to re-envision a story that has not been told about the complex, iconic woman that was Marguerite de Valois.
She was with me, haunting, yet somehow comforting, when wandering Saint-Germain along storied streets—rue de Seine, rue de Buci, rue Jacob, rue Bonaparte, the Institut de France, the Pont des Arts, Pont Neuf and the Palais des Beaux-Arts. There, where were once her palace with its extensive gardens and inside, the Chapelle des Louanges.
While I was sipping a glass of wine in the quartier at the Voltaire, Bar Bac or Les Antiquaires, she whispered in my ear. Walking along the Seine near the Pont Royal, at the bottom of rue de Beaune, rue du Bac and Quai Voltaire, she accompanied me, as I gazed at the ever-changing river, the Louvre and Pavillon de Flore. I felt her tap me on the shoulder, whispering urgently. Her scent enveloped me – a peculiarly strong musky rose.
Ever the flâneuse, when I wandered the Jardin des Tuileries or the Jardin du Palais Royal, she took my hand. As I strolled the courtyards of the Louvre, her ephemeral presence was often visible to me in the Cour Carrée, as I gazed at the Salle des Caryatides and Venus de Milos through tall windows in the crepuscule of dusk—the magical liminal time. The Salle des Caryatides where a 16 year old Marguerite de Valois had her debut ball.
Her spirit accompanied me when I strolled through the Jardin du Luxembourg to pay homage to the queens, Les Reines et Femmes Illustrées, behind the Luxembourg Palace.
And she demanded, “Why am I not among these queens of France at Marie de Medici’s palace? I was a Queen of France. And godmother to her son, King Louis XIII.”
Even when I was swimming in the silky waters of the caldera with the Sea Priestesses in the Aegean, Santorini, she followed me, urging me not to stop writing until I had told her story.
And so finally I did—so that her voice might be heard anew in our pivotal time when women seek agency, as she did 400 years ago—as did her contemporary, Elizabeth I, a queen who fought to rule without a husband or a male heir, defying patriarchal boundaries of the High Renaissance.