Madeleine (back right) with her mother and sisters, from the Book of Hours of Catherine de'Medici
Madeleine was born at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, the fifth child and third daughter of King Francis I of France and Claude, Duchess of Brittany (daughter of King Louis XII of France and Anne, Duchess of Brittany). Very frail from birth, she grew up in the warm and temperate Loire Valley region of France, rather than at Paris, as her father feared that the cold would destroy her delicate health. Together with her sister Margaret, she was raised by her aunt, Marguerite de Navarre. This lasted until her father remarried and his new wife, Eleanor of Austria, took them into her own household. By her sixteenth birthday, she had contracted tuberculosis.