There are a lot of very strange things happening in Bulgakov’s book, but at the moment, I find the connection between Margarita and Margerite de Valois/Henry IV to be the most interesting, at least for taking in the whole range of Margarita’s role in the narrative.
Exhibit A: While flying over Moscow, Natasha calls Margarita ‘Queen Margarita’, she’s also referred to as a queen at the midnight ball very many times.
Exhibit B: The goat-legged man on the banks of the Yenisei calls Margarita ‘Queen Margot’ (‘Forgive me, I didn’t see you, your majesty. Queen Margot. It’s the fault of the brandy.’). Queen Margot was Marguerite de Valois, famous for her beauty, literary talent and numerous affairs. Her wedding with Henry III of Navarre (later Henry IV of France) occasioned the St Bartholomew Massacre and I think there’s a reference to the massacre in the same paragraph (the goat-man ‘in a mixture of Russian and French jabbered some nonsense about having just come from a wedding in Paris’). This would further fit with Margarita’s story because Queen Margot was trapped in a loveless marriage and couldn’t have children.
(HOWEVER, the goat-man first calls Margarita, ‘Claudine, the merry widow!’ – my guess is that this was Claudine Françoise Mignot 1624-1711, who was a very merry widow indeed – she was married three times, every time to very rich men who were much older than she and who died a few months/years after their marriage.)
Exhibit C: ‘I rather think that a certain king of France of the 16th century would be most astonished if somebody told him that after all these years I should have the pleasure of walking arm in arm round a ballroom in Moscow with his great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter.’
‘A certain king of France of the 16th century’ is, I think, Henry IV of France who was a famous womaniser and had lots of mistresses and illegitimate children. Now, you know Berlioz’s disappearing head? Henry IV’s head disappeared too! When revolutionaries ransacked his tomb in 1793, they took his head. An embalmed head that was supposedly his was passed around by collectors for some while then dropped off the radar. It was only rediscovered last year in the attic of a retired tax collector and the French state recuperated it and gave it a national mass then buried it with the rest of Henry IV’s body.