Marguerite de Valois, written with Auguste Maquet, is the first novel of Dumas’s Valois trilogy, which ranks among the author’s best works. The characters have their counterparts in the actual history of the sixteenth century. The novel is not a romance; no laws of nature are suspended, and the characters are not endowed with any magical powers. They are, however, somewhat larger than life in their actions and passions. This quality is fitting, however, for the powerful, willful royalty that the novel is about.
Dumas allows himself the liberty of compressing and altering the facts of history in order to construct a compelling story. The novel takes place during a time of religious wars that were as much political as they were religious. The rival factions represented by Marguerite and her mother were Catholic on one hand and Protestant on the other. Upon the death of Charles IX, his brother takes over the throne, becoming Henri III. Henri de Navarre flees for his life, to await the time (1589) when he may obtain the throne.
De Navarre is the protagonist of the novel, despite its title. His enemy is Catherine de Médicis, who wants her son (or, failing that, her grandson) to rule France. Dumas paints de Navarre as a brave and level-headed soldier and politician who is shrewd and capable in dealing with his enemies. He is also capable, as he needed to be to survive, of shifting his religious affiliation. This serves to bring a...
(The entire section is 420 words.)