Margaret of Béarn

Margaret of Béarn
Margaret of Montcada.jpg
Early tribute to Margaret
Born c. 1245–1250
Died c. 1319
Nationality French
Other names Margaret of Montcada, Marguerite of Montcada
Occupation Viscountess, Countess
Spouse(s) Roger-Bernard III of Foix (1240 – 1303)
Children Gaston I, Constance, Mathe, Marguerite, Brunissende

Margaret of Béarn[1][2] – also known as Margaret or Marguerite of Montcada[1] – was born in c. 1245–1250 and died in c. 1319. A noblewoman, she ruled (with her husband or for her son's) lands near the Pyrenees mountains and in the southwestern part of present-day France. When her father died in 1290, she inherited the lands, assets and title, Viscountess of Béarn. In 1310 following the death of her sister, she inherited the assets and title of Countess of Bigorre.[1]

Brief heritage

Margaret was descended from a noble line. According to the Chroniques romanes des comtes de Foix, and to the writing of Pierre de Guibours (called Père Anselme de Sainte-Marie or more briefly Père Anselme), she was the second-born daughter of Gaston VII, Viscount of Béarn (1225 – 1290), and the Countess of Bigorre, Martha, Viscountess of Marsan, who, in turn, was a daughter of Boson of Marsan, Count of Bigorre, and his wife Petronilla, Countess of Bigorre. Her father, Gaston VII of Béarn, was the son of William II, Viscount of Béarn, and his wife, Garsenda, daughter of Alfonso II of Provence and Garsenda of Forcalquier.[1]

In addition to Margaret, her parents had three other daughters.[1]


Margaret's wedding contract was arranged when she was only about seven years old. It was signed in Layrac, France in October 1252, and said she was intended to marry the count Roger-Bernard III of Foix (1240 – 1303) but the marriage didn't take place until fifteen years later, in 1267.[2]

Roger-Bernard's new Foix-Béarn coat of arms that showed the houses that were joined with Margaret's marriage to him. The bars represent the House of Foix, the cows are for the House of Béarn.

The union was politically advantageous as it created a strong alliance between the House of Béarn and the House of Foix.[3] From this marriage, Margaret bore five children.[1]

Viscountess and Countess

In 1290 when her father died, Margaret inherited substantial assets and was named the ruler and Viscountess of Béarn (a responsibility she shared with her husband), and she held that post until 1310 when she succeeded her sister Constance (who had, in turn, succeeded their mother) as Countess of Bigorre. She held that title until her death.[1]

Béarn was not a straightforward succession. In his will, Margaret's father Gaston VII, first declared that Margaret was to be his heir, which was generally accepted, though not by her sister Mathe and her husband Gerard VI of Armagnac.[1] Later, before he died, her father declared a different daughter Guillemette should be the new heir, but when Margaret's father died in 1290, her husband Roger-Bernard immediately, in her name, took possession of the lands. Then, in a show of dominance, Roger-Bernard changed the family's coat of arms to be a combination of designs from both Foix and Béarn. Roger-Bernard would continue to be an aggressive supporter of his wife's property claims for as long as he lived.

In 1293, after three years of peace, Margaret's brother-in-law (Mathe's husband) Gerard VI finally contested the property of Béarn and began a long war with Roger-Bernard over the rights of the sisters who were their wives. With the death of Roger-Bernard in 1303, Margaret became Foix's regent for his successor, her 13-year-old son, Gaston I, Count of Foix, until he reached the age of majority.[3]

Béarn after Margaret

Coins used in Béarn (c. 1200)

During Margaret's time in Béarn, it was a sovereign principality using its own coinage and language, which was a local vernacular Bearnès dialect of the Old Occitan language.[4] The principality at times was expanded to include Andorra and parts of Basque Country, now located in northern Spain and southern France.

Because Béarn was an independent state, it was the subject of attempted takeovers over the centuries until it was annexed by France in 1620 when King Louis XIII marched into the area with a large army, seized the nobles' estates and, sitting on his new Béarnese throne, declared that the lands were now part of France, thereby ending the principality's sovereignty.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "GASCONY - BEARN, BIGORRE". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  2. ^ a b Esquerrier, Arnaud (14-1461) Auteur du texte (1895). Chroniques romanes des comtes de Foix / composées au XVe siècle par Arnaud Esquerrier et Miégeville ; et publiées pour la première fois, par Félix Pasquier,... Henri Courteault,... (in French). p. 35.
  3. ^ a b c "Histoire des Comte de Foix". (in French). Archived from the original on 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  4. ^ a b A. D. Lublinskaya, French Absolutism: The Crucial Phase, 1620–1629 (Cambridge University Press, 1968), pp. 170–73.