Royal House (1)

Bells rang. Banners flew. People shouted for joy. A royal house—the castle in the city of Pau—saw a crown placed upon the head of a new queen. Her name was Jeanne. She was only twenty-seven years old. The year was 1555. The month was August. As the season promised another time of harvest, the people of Pau and the kingdom of Navarre looked with expectation on the promise that this new queen would bring.
Her father, Henry II of Navarre, had died in May. Now his daughter, Jeanne d’Albret, had to take the rule of Navarre, along with her husband, Antoine de Bourbon. Jeanne’s mother, Marguerite of Navarre, had died some years earlier.
The people of Navarre had reason to wait with expectation on their new queen. The times were dangerous. All of Europe was in a state of change. Navarre was a smaller kingdom sandwiched between the larger kingdoms of France and Spain. Both of those countries were Catholic. Many people in Navarre were not. Many had embraced the Reformed faith. Luther had nailed his theses on the door of the Wittenberg church some thirty-eight years earlier, and the truth had spread—including to Navarre.
Including to Jeanne’s mother, Marguerite. Marguerite had already done much for the cause of the Reformed faith. She had welcomed persecuted Huguenots into her land. Marguerite’s brother was Francis I, the king of France. Francis was Catholic and he was behind much of the persecution of Protestants there. Yet he loved his sister dearly. She was able to set many an imprisoned Protestant free by requesting the mercy of Francis for them. She had written letters to John Calvin, and he to her. She had been interested in all things doctrinal. But times were dangerous, even for her. She had had to be careful.
And now, so did her daughter, Jeanne. Marguerite had seen to it that Jeanne had been taught well in the new doctrines of the Reformation. And Jeanne believed those doctrines. But she was cautious. She had the crown of Navarre now, but she could lose it. Was the truth worth the price of a kingdom?
Though of changeable character, her husband was more bold than she. He refused to have anything to do with the idolatrous mass. But that was one reason why she had been happy to marry him, for he was a Protestant as she was. Yet Jeanne planned to attend both kinds of worship, just to be safe. Spain and France were watching. She felt the weight of the crown on her head.
Jeanne and Antoine had had three sons so far, but the first two had died in infancy. Henry alone survived, and he toddled with his nurses on this occasion, dressed in his fine, small royal robes. Jeanne glanced at the little boy. His eyes were wide as he wondered at all the finery around him. Jeanne took a moment to soak in the scene herself. The true knowledge of the Lord had begun to fill her kingdom, and her subjects looked for the freedom to be able to be filled with more and more of that knowledge. They looked to her. She could not disappoint.
But it was such a small, difficult, and treacherous beginning.