The Folger Library’s copy of The Memorialls of Margaret of Valois is a late edition of this popular book. First printed in 1641 in a translation by Robert Codrington, an Oxford scholar, the book was published thirteen times until 1664, sometimes under different titles which highlighted “the civill war” in France and the St. Bartholomew massacre. Marguerite was the daughter of one French king, the sister of three, and the wife of yet another, Henri de Navarre who became Henri IV. She wrote her Memoires in the 1590s but they were “not printed until 1628 after her death” (Bauschatz 29).
The Folger’s copy (shelfmark 140- 172q) was owned by Ann Rediatt, who wrote her name and the date 1706 in large calligraphic flourishes on the front flyleaf.
Ann appears to have read her book with pen in hand, witnessed by what appears to be a large inkblot on the front cover and a few extensive notes in the text.
In the first of the notes, Ann takes issue with Marguerite de Valois’ reference to a story from “the Infancy of Themistocles, and Alexander” in which Themistocles is alleged to have lain down “in the middle of a Street” daring a carter’s horses to ride over him. Ann corrects her: “The Queen thus committed an oversight, it was not Themistocles but Alcibiades who threw himself upon the Street in Athens where he and some of his companions were playing at Dice. . . ” (5).
Ann continues her long note on the following page, saying “the other boys broke away but Alcibiades threw himself directly upon his face before the Wagon, and stretching himself out, bad the fellow drive on if he pleased.”
Ann gives her source as Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades, which she may have read in Latin as she gives the reference as “Vide Plutarch in Vit. Alcib.”
At the very end of the book, Ann delivers her opinion on the moral to be learned from reading about the queen’s rather colorful life: “Valois! This book is better than all the Systems of all the Philosopher’s for the great purpose of undeceiving the most part of Mankind who have foolishly taken it into their heads, ‘That to be great and rich is to be happy!’”
We have not identified Ann Rediatt, but we do have the testimony of her well-known predecessor, Dorothy Osborne. Writing to her longtime fiancee, Sir William Temple, in 1653, Dorothy said: “I have read your Reine Marguerite, and will return it you when you please. If you will have my opinion of her, I think she had a good deal of wit, and a great deal of patience for a woman of so high a spirit. She speaks of too much indifference of her husband’s several amours . . . I think her a better sister than a wife, and believe she might have made a better wife to a better husband” (60).
Source: Folger Library, shelfmark 140- 172q. Photographs of book by Georgianna Ziegler. Reproduced with permission.
Cathleen M. Bauschatz, “‘Plaisir et Proffict’ in the Reading and Writing of Marguerite de Valois,” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 7.1 (1988): 27–48.
Dorothy Osborne, Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple: 1652–54, ed. Edward Abbott Parry. London, 1903. Archive.org.