Henriette of Cleves

Henriette de La Marck (31 October 1542 – 24 June 1601), also known as Henriette of Cleves, was a French noblewoman and courtier. She was the 4th Duchess of Nevers, suo jure Countess of Rethel, and Princess of Mantua by her marriage with Louis I of Gonzaga-Nevers. A very talented landowner, she was one of France's chief creditors until her death.

Henriette of Cleves
suo jure Duchess of Nevers
suo jure Duchess of Rethel
suo jure Countess of Rethel
Princess of Mantua
Henriette de Nevers.jpg
Portrait of Henriette of Cleves painted by François Clouet on an unknown date
Born31 October 1542
La Chapelle-d'Angillon, Cher, France
Died24 June 1601(1601-06-24) (aged 58)
Hôtel de Nevers, Paris, France
BuriedNevers Cathedral
Noble familyLa Marck
Spouse(s)Louis I of Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers
IssueCatherine, Duchess of Longueville
Marie Henriette, Duchess of Mayenne
Frederic Gonzaga
Francois Gonzaga
Charles I, Duke of Mantua
FatherFrancis I of Cleves, 1st Duke of Nevers, Count of Rethel
MotherMarguerite of Bourbon-La Marche

Early lifeEdit

Henriette and her husband, Louis I Gonzaga.

Henriette was born in La Chapelle-d'Angillon, in the department of Cher, France, on 31 October, 1542. She was the eldest daughter and second child of Francis I of Cleves, 1st Duke of Nevers, Count of Rethel, and Marguerite of Bourbon-La Marche.[1] Dauphin Henry (future King Henry II of France) acted as her godfather at her baptism. She had many siblings, including her brothers Francis and James, her father's heirs as rulers of Nevers and Rethel, Henri (who died young), Catherine, and Marie.

Henriette soon obtained an office at court as the lady-in-waiting of Queen Catherine de' Medici.[2] She became the intimate personal friend and confidant of Princess Marguerite. On 4 March 1565, 22-years old Henriette married Louis I Gonzaga, Prince of Mantua in Moulins, Bourbonnais.[1]

Duchess of Nevers and RethelEdit

Nevers, one of the Duchies Henriette had control over.

After her eldest brother Francis had died in 1562 and brother James in 1564 without leaving heirs, Henriette became the suo jure 4th Duchess of Nevers and Countess of Rethel. She had been left with enormous debts from her late father and brothers, but managed well her lands and brought the financial situation back in order. Her profits were such that she eventually became one of the chief creditors of France[3]'s unstable state during the Wars of Religion.

Henriette died at the Hôtel de Nevers in Paris, on 24 June 1601 at the age of 58. She was buried in Nevers Cathedral at the side of her husband, who had preceded her in death in 1595.



It was rumoured that Henriette became lovers with Annibal de Coconas [fr], a Piedmontese adventurer who was beheaded in 1574, along with Joseph Boniface de La Môle, for participating in a conspiracy against King Charles IX which was supported by the Duke of Alençon.[2] It was alleged that she and Marguerite (now Queen of Navarre) woke up the middle of the night, removed the heads which had been placed on public display, embalmed them, and buried them in consecrated ground.[4]

In fictionEdit



  1. ^ a b c d e Boltanski 2006, p. 501.
  2. ^ a b Elliott 2012, p. 169.
  3. ^ Commire & Klezmer 2000, p. 223.
  4. ^ Strage 1976, p. 187-188.


  • Boltanski, Ariane (2006). Les ducs de Nevers et l'État royal: genèse d'un compromis (ca 1550 - ca 1600) (in French). Librairie Droz.
  • Commire, Anne; Klezmer, Deborah, eds. (2000). Women in World History: Harr-I. Yorkin Publications.
  • Elliott, Lisa Keane (2012). "Charitable Intent in Late Sixteenth Century France: The Nevers Foundation and Single Poor Catholic Girls". In Scott, Anne M. (ed.). Experiences of Poverty in Late Medieval and Early Modern England and France. Routledge.
  • Strage, Mark (1976). Women of Power: The Life and Times of Catherine de' Medici. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

French nobility
Preceded by
James of Cleves
Duchess of Nevers
Succeeded by
Preceded by
James of Cleves
Countess of Rethel
Succeeded by
Title was elevated to duchy in 1565
Preceded by
Title was elevated from countship
Duchess of Rethel
Succeeded by