Christine Marie of France (10 February 1606 – 27 December 1663) was the sister of Louis XIII and the Duchess of Savoy by marriage. At the death of her husband Victor Amadeus I in 1637, she acted as regent of Savoy between 1637 and 1648.
Christine was born in the Palais du Louvre in Paris, she was the third child and second daughter of King Henry IV of France and his second wife, the Italian Marie de’ Medici. As a daughter of the king, she was a Fille de France. She was a younger sister of Louis XIII of France and Elisabeth of France. She was also an older sister of Nicholas Henri, Duke of Orléans, Gaston, Duke of Orléans and Henrietta Maria of France. Christine was a sister-in-law of Philip IV of Spain through Élisabeth and of Charles I of England through Henrietta Maria.
After the marriage of her older sister Elisabeth in 1615 to the future Philip IV of Spain, Christine took on the honorary title of Madame Royale indicating her status as the eldest and most senior unmarried daughter at the court of her father. After her marriage, the style went to her younger sister Henrietta Maria of France.
She married Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy, on 10 February 1619 at the Louvre in the capital. From 1619 till her husband’s accession, she was known as the Princess of Piedmont. He was a son of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy and Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain. Caterina Micaela was in turn a daughter of Philip II of Spain and Elisabeth of Valois. Elisabeth was a daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. She was said to be volatile and frivolous. Educated at the French court, she introduced French culture to the court of Savoy; she later lived at the Palazzo Madama which she had rebuilt. She was also the driving force for the reconstruction of the Castello del Valentino as well as the additions to the Royal Palace of Turin. She would also later own Vigna di Madama Reale, old residence of her brother in law Maurice of Savoy.
She did as much as she could to ensure that her court rivalled in splendour that of her sister Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I of England. The sisters would have somewhat of a rivalry. Christine encouraged her husband to claim his right to the rather empty title of King of Cyprus and Jerusalem, a ‘kingdom’ which led to him being tagged as ‘a king without a crown’. She did not keep it a secret that she would be a queen than a duchess; she also wanted to transform the minor Duchy of Savoy into a little France.
Victor Amadeus became Duke after the death of his father on 26 July 1630. When her husband died in 1637, she was created regent in the name of her son Francis Hyacinth. At the death of Francis Hyacinth in 1638, her second son Charles Emmanuel II succeeded and Christine retained the regency. Both Prince Maurice and his younger brother Prince Thomas of Savoy disputed the power of their sister-in-law and her French entourage. When the first heir Francis Hyacinth died in 1638, both brothers started the Piedmontese Civil War, with Spanish support. The two parties were called “principisti” (supporters of the Princes) and “madamisti” (supporters of Madama Reale). Christine was notorious as much for her capricious rule as for her many lovers, a trait from her father Henry IV who was famed for his many lovers also.
After four years of fighting, Christine was victorious, thanks to French military support. Not only did she keep the Duchy for her son, she also prevented France getting too much power in the Duchy. When peace was concluded in 1642, Maurice married his fourteen-year-old niece Louise Christine, abandoning the title of cardinal and asking dispensation from Pope Paul V. Maurice became governor of Nice. Christine of France stayed in firm control of the Duchy of Savoy, until her son could follow in her footsteps; her formal regency ended in 1648, but she remained in charge at his invitation until her death.
She lived an uninhibited private life and had relationships with the French Ambassador, Marini, her brother-in-law, Maurizio, and Count Filippo d’Aglié, a handsome learned and courageous man who remained faithful to her all her life. She encouraged her son Charles Emmanuel to marry her niece Françoise Madeleine d’Orléans. She was the youngest surviving daughter of Gaston, Duke of Orléans, her youngest brother. They married 3 Apr 1663.
Christine died at the Palazzo Madama, Turin on 27 Dec 1663 at the age of 57 and was buried at the Basilica of Sant’Andrea. She had outlived 4 of her seven children.
Françoise Madeleine died in January 1664 and her son later married another cousin, Marie Jeanne of Savoy. Marie Jeanne would give birth to Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia who would later marry another French Princess (and member of the House of Orléans) Anne Marie d’Orléans. 17 years after her death, in 1680, her granddaughter Victoria of Bavaria via her third daughter Princess Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, would marry her older brother’s grandson Louis de France known as ‘the Fat’ and Monseigneur. Christine thus became a direct ancestress of the Spanish branch of the House of Bourbon via Victoria’s second son Philip V of Spain.
It was revealed on NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? that one of her descendants is model/actress Brooke Shields. Princess Michael of Kent, born Baroness Marie Christine, is also a descendant by Christine’s son, Charles Emmanuel