John III of Navarre

John III (French: Jean d'Albret; 1469 – 14 June 1516) was jure uxoris King of Navarre from 1484 until his death, as husband and co-ruler with Queen Catherine.

John III
Portret van Johan III van Navarra Iohannes dei Gratia Navarrae. etc. Rex (titel op object), RP-P-1910-2303.jpg
King of Navarre (Jure uxoris)
Reign14 June 1484 – 17 June 1516
Coronation12 January 1494
Died17 June 1516 (aged 46–47)
SpouseCatherine, Queen of Navarre
IssueHenry II of Navarre
Isabella, Viscountess of Rohan
FatherAlain I, Lord of Albret
MotherFrances, Countess of Périgord
Act by which John III and Catherine swore to uphold the fueros of Navarre after their coronation. John's name (Don Johan) is in boldface in the middle of the ninth line.

He was a son of Alain I, Lord of Albret and his wife Frances, Countess of Périgord.[1]

King of NavarreEdit

Marriage to Queen Catherine and accession to the throneEdit

He became King of Navarre and Count of Foix by virtue of his 1484 marriage to Queen Catherine (1470–1517), successor of her brother Francis Phoebus in 1483. He shared with Catherine tasks related to the government of the kingdom, but his rule was marked by the guardianship of Catherine's mother Magdalena de Valois up to 1494—she died in 1495—and persistent diplomatic and military pressure of Ferdinand II of Aragon over the Crown of Navarre, supported on the ground by the Beaumont party of Navarre.

He and Catherine were crowned as monarchs in Pamplona on 10 January 1494. In the run-up to the ceremony, Louis of Beaumont—count of Lerín—had taken over and ransacked the stronghold. On Christmas 1493, the count blocked the access of the king and queen to the capital city, but after a fleeting peace agreement was reached, the ceremony was held. In the week-long festival following the crowning ceremony, John III and his father are referred to in Basque language verses as Labrit, their usual naming in Navarre—also at Olite in 1493, document written in Romanic language.

The kingdom invadedEdit

In 1512, Navarre was invaded by a combined Castilian-Aragonese army sent by Ferdinand II of Aragon, whose second wife was Germaine de Foix (1490–1538), a cousin of Queen Catherine. The Castilian troops commanded by the duke of Alba crossed the Pyrénées onto Lower Navarre capturing St-Jean-Pied-de-Port on 10 September 1512 and wreaking havoc across much of the merindad. There the Castilians were doggedly opposed by lords loyal to John III and Catherine of Navarre, but the Castilians retained St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and its hinterland. Following the invasion, Navarre south of the Pyrenees was annexed to Castile nominally as an autonomous kingdom (aeque principalis) by the victorious Ferdinand after taking an oath to respect the Navarrese laws and institutions (1515).

The royal family took shelter in Béarn, a royal Pyrenean domain and principality contiguous to Lower Navarre. The Parliament of Navarre and the States-General of Béarn had passed in 1510 a bill to create a confederation with a view to ensuring a better defence against external aggression. The capital city of Béarn was Pau, which John III and Catherine took as their main base along with Orthez and Tarbes in their last period.

Reconquest attempt and deathEdit

After the Aragonese king Ferdinand's death in January 1516, the king John III mustered an army in Sauveterre-de-Béarn made up of Navarrese exiles and men from all over his domains, especially from Béarn, but the total figure of combatants amounted to no more than several hundreds.[2]: 59  The advance of the two columns led by Pedro, Marshal of Navarre was stopped by the Castilians right on the Pyrénées due to spies informing Cardinal Cisneros. The reconquest attempt was flawed.

Depressed by the defeats and adverse diplomatic results, John III died at the castle of Esgouarrabaque in Monein, Béarn, on 14 June 1516 after lying gripped by fatal fevers.[2]: 60  Up to the last moment he struggled to get Navarre back from the Spanish, urging his wife, Queen Catherine, to send a representative to the Cortes of Castile to demand the restoration of the kingdom of Navarre.[2]: 60  Despite his wish to be buried at the Santa Maria Cathedral of Pamplona, the permanent Spanish occupation prevented that. His corpse rests instead at the Cathedral of Lescar along with Queen Catherine, who outlived him only a few months.


John and Catherine of Navarre had:

  • Anne (19 May 1492 – 15 August 1532)[3]
  • Magdalena (29 March 1494 – May 1504)[3]
  • Catherine (1495 – November 1532), abbess of the Trinity at Caen[3]
  • Jean (15 June 1496 – last mentioned in November 1496)[3]
  • Quiteria (1499 – September/October 1536), abbess at Montivilliers[3]
  • a stillborn son in 1500[3]
  • Andrew Phoebus (14 October 1501 – 17 April 1503)[3]
  • Henry II (18 April 1503 – 25 May 1555), King of Navarre[4]
  • Buenaventura (14 July 1505 – 1510/1511)[3]
  • Martin (c. 1506 – last mentioned in 1512)[3]
  • Francis (1508 – last mentioned in 1512)[3]
  • Charles (12 December 1510 – September 1528), captured during the Siege of Naples and died as a prisoner of war[3]
  • Isabella (1513/1514 – last mentioned in 1555), married to Rene I, Viscount of Rohan[5]


  1. ^ Harris 1994, p. 189.
  2. ^ a b c Bustillo Kastrexana, Joxerra (2012). Guía de la conquista de Navarra en 12 escenarios. Donostia: Txertoa Argitaletxea. ISBN 978-84-71484819.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Anthony 1931, p. 11.
  4. ^ Vernier 2008, p. 4.
  5. ^ Woodacre 2013, p. 163.


  • Anthony, R. (1931). Identification et Étude des Ossements des Rois de Navarre inhumés dans la Cathédrale de Lescar [Identification and Study of the Bones of the Kings of Navarre buried in the Cathedral of Lescar] (PDF). Archives du Muséum, 6e series (in French). Vol. VII. Masson et Cie.
  • Harris, Robin (1994). Valois Guyenne: A Study of Politics, Government, and Society in Late Medieval France. The Boydell Press.
  • Vernier, Richard (2008). Lord of the Pyrenees: Gaston Fébus, Count of Foix (1331-1391). The Boydell Press.
  • Woodacre, Elena (2013). The Queens Regnant of Navarre. Palgrave Macmillan.

External linksEdit

John III of Navarre
Born: 1469 Died: June 14 1516
Preceded byas sole queen King of Navarre
Count of Foix

1484 – 14 June 1516
with Catherine
Succeeded byas sole queen
Preceded by Count of Périgord
Viscount of Limoges

1481 – 1516
Succeeded by