Louis XII’s cousin and son-in-law François I was born on September 12, 1494 and became King of France on January 1, 1515, inheriting a debt of 1,400,000 livres. In May he mobilized 8,000 Basque and Gascon troops, 23,000 German landsknechts, and 2,500 lances. On July 15 François appointed his mother Louise of Savoy as regent but took Chancellor Antoine Duprat and the Great Seal to Italy. Duke Charles III of Bourbon led the vanguard on August 10, and three days later François led the invasion of Italy. On September 13-14 at Marignano they defeated about 22,000 Swiss soldiers in the territories of Milan. Gravediggers reported that they buried 16,500 bodies. Then the French offered Duke Massimiliano Sforza 94,000 écus and an annual pension of 36,000 for life, and he surrendered the citadel of Milan on October 4. The people of Milan were punished for their rebellion from earlier French rule by the taking of hostages and heavy fines. Ten of the Swiss cantons made peace with France on November 7 while the others served Emperor Charles V.
In August 1516 King François I formed the Concordat at Bologna with Pope Leo X which gave François authority over the French clergy; but the Parlement resisted registering the new law until March 1518, and for decades they disputed the clause that allowed the Pope to replace prelates who had died in Rome. On August 13 in a treaty at Noyon François promised to marry his infant daughter Louise to the Hapsburg Charles, who had become King of Spain, but she died in 1517. In the Treaty of Freiburg on November 29, 1516 he bought off the Swiss cantons with 150,000 écus and a promise of one million more. The entire campaign for Milan cost France about 7.5 million livres (3,750,000 écus), putting François heavily in debt to bankers in Lyon.
On March 11, 1517 François, Charles, and Emperor Maximilian I signed the Treaty of Cambrai and agreed to go on a crusade against the Turks. To finance this François was permitted to levy a tenth on the French clergy. Secret clauses took territory away from Venice; but François nullified these when he renewed his alliance with Venice on October 8. Charlotte, the second daughter of François, was also engaged to Charles as an infant in 1518, but she died in 1524. In October 1518 England’s Cardinal Wolsey brought together twenty states, and the infant Dauphin François was betrothed to 4-year-old Princess Mary. Tournai was sold back to France for 600,000 gold écus, and Wolsey received 12,000 livres in compensation for the loss of his see. In 1517 Chancellor Duprat created many financial and administrative offices to sell to raise money, and judicial tribunals were saddled with new magistrates. The Parlement of Paris was criticized.
After the death of Emperor Maximilian on January 12, 1519, François spent about 400,000 écus on bribes; but German towns forbade the transfer of money from France to Germany, and he was outspent by the Hapsburg King of Spain who was elected Emperor Charles V. François complained that in these times the only way to obtain one’s goals was by force or corruption. In June 1520 François and Henry VIII met on the Field of Cloth and Gold for banquets, dancing, and contests that cost François 200,000 livres. In February 1521 Robert de La Marck of Sedan and King Henri d’Albret of Navarre agreed to serve François and attacked the imperialists in Luxembourg and Navarre. In April the Count Heinrich III of Nassau-Breda drove La Marck out of Luxembourg and invaded Sedan while in the south a brief invasion of Castile during the Comuneros revolt was quickly driven back.
On April 15, 1521 the faculty of the Sorbonne at the University of Paris published its Determinatio condemning 104 propositions extracted from the works of Martin Luther. Reformers and humanists held annual synods at Meaux. Their licensed preacher Martial Masurier explained that the Church’s concept of Mary Magdalene may actually have been a combination of three women: Mary of Bethany, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary Magdala who had devils expelled by Jesus and who anointed his feet and hair. On August 14 the Sorbonne scholars condemned this idea.
Thomas de Foix of Lescun was governing Milan, and in June 1521 he pursued some rebels into the Papal States. On June 28 lightning exploded an ammunition dump in Milan, killing 300 French soldiers. Pope Leo X called it an act of God and announced his treaty with Charles V. On July 13 François banned the export of Church revenues to Rome and began fining Florentine merchants in France. Castile controlled Navarre, and England’s Henry VIII offered to sponsor a conference at Calais where Cardinal Wolsey would mediate. François wanted peace, but the Imperial Chancellor Mercurino di Gattinara aimed to form an alliance with England against France. The Imperial army led by Nassau invaded northern France on August 20, but on September 26 he ended their siege of Mézieres and withdrew into Hainault destroying on their way. The French led by Odet de Foix of Lautrec reinforced Parma, and on October 19 Admiral Gouffier Guillaume of Bonnivet took over Fuenterrabia on the border of Spain. After these victories François rejected a truce, but the French failed to relieve besieged Tournai which capitulated in November. On the 19th the Imperial league drove the French out of Milan. On November 24 Wolsey in the treaty at Bruges allied England with the Empire in the war.
In 1521 three councilors were convicted of paying for their positions, and on January 31, 1522 an edict created a fourth chamber in the Parlement for eighteen councilors and two presidents. François suffered financial difficulties, and in February he filled new offices and alienated crown lands to raise funds for the war. In March 16,000 Swiss reinforced Lautrec, and they besieged Milan. Their forces attacked the camp of the Imperial army at La Bicocca on April 27. About 3,000 Swiss were killed, and the rest went home. Lautrec went back to France, and his brother Lescun surrendered Cremona. Genoa capitulated on May 30. François learned that England had declared war, and he seized church treasures worth 240,000 livres. In June he banned the export of money from France to Rome, and on August 3 Pope Adrian VI joined the Imperial league defending Italy. On September 22 François got a loan of 200,000 livres from the municipal revenues of Paris by offering annuities at eight-percent interest. By 1523 France’s debt had reached nearly four million livres.
Meanwhile France’s Constable, Duke Charles of Bourbon, was plotting treason. After the death of Bourbon’s wife Suzanne on April 28, 1521, he and François had quarreled over the inheritance. On August 6, 1523 the Parlement ordered Bourbon’s extensive lands sequestered. On September 5 three of his conspirators were arrested, and three days later Bourbon fled across the Rhone River to Imperial territory. On September 19 an English army led by the Duke Charles Brandon of Suffolk marched on Paris, but they withdrew in December and returned to Calais. Bourbon’s accomplices were sentenced to prison while those who had fled with him were threatened with harsher sentences.
In September 1523 Admiral Bonnivet forced the Imperial army led by Prospero Colonna to retreat to Milan, but the French could not storm Milan and retreated in April, saying goodbye to the Swiss in the Alps. Only about 350 French soldiers returned to France out of 1,500. Henry VIII and Charles V signed a new treaty in May 1524, and they put Bourbon in command of the invasion of Provence from Italy that began on July 1. He took Antibes, Grasse, Fréjus, and Aix by August 9 and ten days later besieged Marseilles. By July 1524 François had a new fiscal system working in France. He appointed his mother Louise regent again on August 12, and four days later he learned of Bourbon’s treasonous attack. François brought his army to Avignon. On September 29 Bourbon lifted the siege of Marseilles and retreated as François regained Aix.
In 1518 Bishop Guillaume Briçonnet had invited the Christian humanist Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples to come to Meaux to help him reform the church there. Lefevre published French translations of the New Testament in 1523 and of the Old Testament in 1530. The King’s sister Marguerite studied his ideas and corresponded with Bishop Briçonnet from June 1521 to October 1524. Louis de Berquin had translated many of Luther’s writings and satirized theologians, but he was imprisoned by Parlement on August 1, 1523. Martial Mazurier and Pierre Caroli were accused of heresy and appealed to Parlement and recanted in early 1524. François banned discussion of Lefevre’s works in April, but he stopped the faculty of Paris from condemning Erasmus and other humanists. On June 26 Berquin’s works were condemned; but a royal command released him from prison, though his books were burned outside Notre-Dame.
François led his army of 30,000 infantry across the Alps again in October 1524. The imperialists abandoned Milan and retreated to Lodi. The French decided to besiege Pavia and began bombarding it on November 6. Their assault was repulsed, and the siege became a blockade. François sent Duke John Stuart of Albany with 6,000 men to attack Naples, and on January 5, 1525 Pope Clement VII allowed them passage through the Papal States. These men were replaced by Swiss reinforcements as the French suffered the winter outdoors. François sent the 6,000 Swiss home on February 20 as 2,000 Germans deserted. Each side now had about 23,000 men. The camps of the French and the Imperialists faced each other near Pavia, and on the night of February 23 Charles de Lannoy, Viceroy of Naples, and Bourbon attacked the French camp. The French had more cannons; but they stopped when King François led a cavalry charge. The Spanish had more arquebusiers, and they devastated the French nobles. Soldiers surrounded the King, hoping to capture him for ransom, until he surrendered to Lannoy. The French suffered about 8,000 casualties compared to 500 killed or wounded imperialists. All the prominent French nobles were killed or captured except the King’s brother Charles d’Alençon who died, some say of shame, on April 13. About 4,000 French prisoners not worth being ransomed were released on parole. Parlement bought grain for the unpaid troops threatening the capital. The war from 1521 to the defeat of Pavia in 1525 cost France about 20 million livres.
François was taken to a castle near Cremona and was well treated there for three months. Charles V wanted to send him to Naples, but François persuaded him to send him to Spain where they conversed often at Madrid. François was a popular prisoner, and people came to him for traditional royal healing.
Regent Louise ruled with the help of Chancellor Duprat and others while the Parlement went after religious dissenters. On March 25, 1525 the Bishop of Paris urged the Parlement to appoint a commission to try cases of heresy, and Louise got Pope Clement VII to approve them on May 17. Three days later the Pope appointed four delegates to try those suspected of heresy. The same day the theology faculty at Paris censured various writings by Erasmus that had been translated and distributed by Berquin. On August 27 Parlement ordered religious books in French to be turned in within a week. In October the new juges-délégués prosecuted five men, but François sent an order for Parlement to suspend the charges against Lefevre, Caroli, and Gérard Roussel. Berquin was arrested again on January 24, 1526. Noel Béda sent to Erasmus more than 200 propositions from his writings they suspected, and the famous humanist responded with a letter that was read before the Parlement on July 5. The Parlement considered Béda wrong and prohibited booksellers from offering his libels against Erasmus, and they required previous authorization for all books printed by the rectors of the Sorbonne.
Louise appointed Duprat to be archbishop of Sens and abbot of Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire, but the local chapters elected their own superiors. Duprat appealed to Pope Clement VII who nullified the elections. The chapters appealed to the Parlement, and a legal case ensued. Charles V, who was from Burgundy, wanted the French portion back, but François secretly declared he would not give it up freely. Louise managed to renew a truce with her cousin Marguerite of Austria on the border between Franche-Comté and Dijon in July, and she formed an alliance with England in the treaty of the More on August 30, 1525. François promised Henry VIII two million écus in annual payments of 100,000. Henry had wanted to dismember France. Charles V faced a peasant revolution in Germany, and he insisted on Burgundy and the two oldest sons of François as hostages to release him.
After the signing of the treaty of Madrid by Gattinara for the Empire and Jean de Selve, first President of the Parlement, François on January 14, 1526 agreed to give up Burgundy and Tournai; relinquish his claims in Italy; reinstate Bourbon, end his alliances with the Pope, Venice, La Marck, and d’Albret of Navarre; supply an army and navy for an imperial crusade against the Turks; and marry the Emperor’s sister Eleanor. François I was exchanged for his sons François and Henri on March 17. That month the King met young Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly, and she became his favorite mistress even after she married Jean IV de Brosse. François gave them the county of Étampes on June 23, 1534 and later made him a duke. Burgundy refused to be transferred to the Empire, and François argued that his promise under duress was not valid. On April 30 he and Henry VIII agreed to send a joint embassy to Charles to negotiate the release of the hostages, and on May 23, 1526 François formed the League of Cognac with Venice, Pope Clement VII, Florence, and Milan. He got Berquin released from prison. François created a lieutenant of the police to arrest vagabonds and others without identification in Paris because they were considered most likely to be violent. His sister Marguerite was a widow and married Henri d’Albret of Navarre on January 30, 1527. Louis de Berquin was tried for heresy and was sentenced to life in prison on April 16, 1529. He appealed to the Parlement, and two days later they had him burned to death. This was a deadly blow to the Lutheran cause in France.
After Bourbon was killed in May during the sacking of Rome, François annexed his fiefs and confiscated his property. He began acting as supreme judge from an impressive throne in the Grand’ Chambre on July 24 as his predecessors had done. All of Regent Louise’s decisions were confirmed, and contradictory ones by the Parlement were revoked. By November the Commission de la Tour Carrée was established with the power to detain and punish equal to that of the Parlement. After four years as Superintendent of Finance in the royal administration, Jacques de Beaune, Baron de Semblançay, was arrested and tried for corruption and then was hanged on August 12. Over the next nine years several others were also tried and punished for corruption.
François met with Cardinal Wolsey at Amiens, and on August 18 they signed a treaty. Mary Tudor was promised to the Duke of Orléans, and Henry VIII withdrew his objection to François marrying Eleanor of Portugal. That month Marshall Lautrec led the French invasion of Lombardy while their ally Andrea Doria seized Genoa. By the fall Lautrec had occupied Parma. Duke Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara also joined the French league and promised to pay Lautrec 36,000 ducats over six months. On December 16 the faculty at Paris condemned the works of Erasmus. On the same day François convened an Assembly of Notables at Paris, and he persuaded each estate to contribute to the ransom for his two sons. The French portion of Burgundy was assigned the largest amount, 400,000 livres.
Charles V refused to release the boys unless Lautrec’s army withdrew from Italy; so on January 22, 1528 France and England declared war on Charles. Lautrec with an army of 29,000 overran the Romagna, invaded Naples on February 9, and was welcomed at Abruzzi and Apulia. By the end of April his army on land and Andrea Doria’s nephew Filippino with ships had Naples surrounded; but when Andrea defected to the imperialists in June, Filippino removed the fleet. A plague ravaged the French camp, and Lautrec died on August 27. On September 12 Andrea Doria helped Genoa become independent. The French garrison in Savona capitulated on October 21. An attempt to retake Genoa led by the Comte de Saint-Pol with 10,000 men failed at Landriano on June 21, 1529 as he was captured. Martin du Bellay noted that the French infantry had been reduced from 25,000 soldiers to 4,000 and the cavalry from 800 to 100.
Charles V and François wanted to resolve their quarrel, and in December 1528 they asked his mother Louise of Savoy and her sister-in-law Marguerite of Austria to mediate. The “Ladies’ Peace” was signed at Cambrai on August 3, 1529. Charles accepted two million gold écus in place of French Burgundy while François surrendered his claims to Hesdin, Arras, Lille, and Tournai in Italy as well as Flanders and Artois. He promised to loan twelve galleys to Charles for six months and agreed to guarantee the rights of Bourbon’s heirs. Charles would send his sister Eleanor to France and return the French princes. François ratified the treaty and assigned wealthy Duke Anne de Montmorency (who had married into the royal family in January 1527) and François de Tournon to collect the ransom. To raise money King François imposed a duty on wine on September 25, 1529. Finally on July 1, 1530 the Dauphin and Henri were exchanged, and François wed Eleanor of Portugal a few days later. François preferred his mistress Anne, and Eleanor bore him no children. Marshal Blaise de Monluc estimated that the war between François and Charles V took 200,000 lives and ruined a million families. By 1530 France had seven Parlements, and Paris often disputed jurisdiction with provincial courts.
Food prices had been increasing since 1520, and a poor harvest in 1528 greatly increased grain prices. In April 1529 in Lyon the Grande Rebeyne used posters to blame the speculators for the high price of bread. An angry mob of poor people plundered a Franciscan monastery and the homes of nobles. The Consulat government promised concessions but punished the rebel leaders with whipping and hanging. They were also protesting the recent taxes on imported wine and grain. Lyon had many Germans who were being influenced by Lutheran ideas.
Guillaume de Budé persuaded François to create four lectureships in classical languages, and in March 1530 he appointed two professors of Greek and two of Hebrew. In 1531 the Aumon Générale was publicly financed to provide relief of the poor in Lyon. In July 1533 François met at Le Puy with an envoy from Khair ad-Din Barbarossa, and for good will the Sultan released some French prisoners who had been captured by the Turks.
Prince Henri, Duke of Orléans, and Caterina de’ Medici, who brought a dowry of 100,000 écus, were both 14 years old when they married on October 28, 1533, helping to form an alliance between France and her uncle Pope Clement VII who promised France a state that would include Pisa, Livorno, Reggio, Modena, Parma, and Piacenza. On November 7 he created four French cardinals and permitted François to levy another tenth from the church. François promised to eliminate heresy, and on November 10 Clement issued a bull against French Lutherans.
The theology faculty at Paris had accused Roussel of preaching heresy at the Louvre during Lent in 1531 in the presence of Marguerite of Navarre, and on May 13, 1533 theologians accused Roussel of heretical doctrines. King François was offended that they also accused his brother-in-law, the King of Navarre, and four days later he banished from the capital the faculty’s syndic Noel Béda and others who had attacked Roussel. In October the University of Paris banned Marguerite’s anonymous poem “Mirror of the Sinful Soul.” On November 1 Nicholas Cop gave a Protestant sermon, and he and his friend Jean Calvin had to flee. By the end of November the Parlement had made several arrests.
On Sunday October 18, 1534 Protestant placards were posted in Paris criticizing the mass and transubstantiation according to the Sacramentarian position of the Zwinglians. Parlement ordered arrests, and in November several people were burned. On December 21 François set up a commission to try suspects. On January 13, 1535 copies of Antoine Marcourt’s Small treatise were distributed in Paris, and the next day François reacted by banning printing and ordering a procession on the 21st that culminated with the burning of six more heretics. The 73 Lutherans who had gone into hiding were ordered to turn themselves in, and on January 29 those harboring heretics were made liable for the same penalties. François tried to defend his tarnished reputation with a manifesto on February 1, and on the 26th he repealed the ban on printing. From November 10, 1534 to May 3, 1535 in Paris 24 people were burned for heresy. After a warning from Pope Paul III, on July 16 François issued his Edict of Coucy ordering the release of all religious prisoners and asking Parlement to offer conditions for exiled Protestants to return. However, Sacramentarians who followed Zwingli, Bucer, and others were excluded, and those who did not abjure within six months could be hanged. On May 31, 1536 François extended this amnesty to all heretics. On June 1, 1540 the Edict of Fontainebleau gave parlements jurisdiction over heresy.
On July 13, 1534 an ordinance required seven regions in France to each raise one legion of 6,000 men. The total number of arquebusiers was to be 12,000. The legion in Brittany never formed, and the others were used mostly to guard fortresses and border towns. Montmorency had been advising peaceful policies, but in 1535 Philippe Chabot, Antoine du Bourg, and Cardinal du Bellay urged war. Duke Francesco Sforza was the last of a line who ruled Milan, but he died on October 24. In February 1536 François invaded Savoy to secure territories inherited by his mother Louise, and they were conquered by March. This offended Charles V, and François accepted his challenge to a duel and offered to submit to papal arbitration his claim to the duchy. On July 14 Montmorency was put in command of the army on the other side of the mountains. Emperor Charles had declared war on June 2 and invaded Provence on July 25 while Heinrich of Nassau came from the north and besieged Péronne on August 12. Local French forces defended themselves, and Nassau withdrew to Flanders. Charles stopped after capturing Aix.
In the spring of 1534 Jacques Cartier was the first European known to have explored Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence which he claimed for France on July 24. A year later on his second voyage he sailed into the St. Lawrence River upstream as far as Hochelaga. In January 1541 Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval was put in command of an expedition with Cartier as his navigator with five ships. He planted a settlement called Charlesbourg-Royal at what is now Cap-Rouge, but it was abandoned in 1543 because of disease, bad weather, and hostile natives.
The Dauphin François died on August 10, 1536, and poison was suspected. Henri became the Dauphin and was considered unacceptable to rule Milan, but his younger brother, the Duke of Angouleme, was suggested. On September 11 Charles V began leading the imperialists along the coast of Provence back toward Italy. François returned to Paris and gave his daughter Madeleine to marry James V of Scotland on January 1, 1537, but she died six months later. On January 15 at a lit de justice François announced that France was reclaiming Flanders, Artois, and Charolais. France raised 17,000 landsknechts (German mercenaries). Skirmishes broke out in the north until the Imperial Regent Mary of the Netherlands arranged a truce at Bomy on July 30. François used this opportunity to occupy all of Piedmont with 40,000 infantry and 4,200 cavalry. The wars from 1536 to 1538 cost France about 15 million livres.
On February 10, 1538 François appointed Anne de Montmorency the Constable of France, and they began working for peace. Marie of Guise married James V of Scotland on May 18. Between May 15 and June 20 Pope Paul III met with Charles V four times and with François twice at Nice, and they agreed to a ten-year truce. Then Charles met with François at Aigues-Mortes in Languedoc on July 14, and they embraced. François met his sister-in-law Mary of Hungary, the Regent of the Netherlands, and they signed the treaty of Compiegne on October 23. Charles V traveled through France from November 17, 1539 to January 20, 1540, and he received lavish gifts and freed prisoners as people celebrated “Peace” and “Concord.” However, negotiations eventually broke down in June over who would rule Milan. After Charles V invested his son Felipe with the duchy of Milan on October 11, Montmorency’s influence at the French court ended. The last time he appeared at the court of François was on June 14, 1541 for the wedding of Duke Wilhelm of Jülich-Cleves-Berg and Jeanne d’Albret, daughter of Marguerite of Navarre.
On August 10, 1539 the Ordinance of Villers-Cotteréts reformed the French judiciary with 192 clauses. Legal documents were to be in French instead of Latin. Births and deaths were to be recorded by parish priests. To “shorten proceedings” the accused in criminal cases were denied legal counsel, and torture was allowed. Because of a controversial strike by journeyman printers in Lyon in April 1539, all confraternities were abolished. However, Latin continued to be the legal language used in rural areas for the remainder of the century. Magistrates in Rouen were known for dissolute living, and in August 1540 they registered the ordinance without sixteen of its clauses. Chancellor Guillaume Poyet persuaded them to register all of it, and they did so; but on September 10 François closed their parlement and cancelled some recent decrees. In January 1541 he allowed the Parlement of Rouen to resume after he excluded nine of its members. On February 8 Philippe Chabot was punished for corruption, but he regained his offices in March. On June 1 François imposed a new tax on salt, and resistance in La Rochelle was compounded after the King imposed a mayor and removed some aldermen. François judged the rebels there on January 1, 1542, but he pardoned the contrite to show he was not as cruel as Charles V had been to Ghent.
On July 4, 1542 the French envoys Antonio Rincon and Cesare Fregoso were murdered by imperial troops while on their way to meet with the Sultan in Istanbul, and on July 12 François declared war on Charles V. Chancellor Guillaume Poyet was arrested for fraud and corruption on August 2. Duke Charles of Orléans led an invasion of Luxembourg while his rival, the Dauphin Henri, and Claude d’Annebault with a larger army besieged Perpignan. After a failed assault on the town, the siege was lifted while the imperialists regained Luxembourg. François sent reinforcements to Piedmont and suppressed a revolt in La Rochelle. To keep money away from their enemies in January 1543 a sumptuary law imposed taxes on the purchase of luxury clothes. Finally on April 23, 1544 Poyet was sentenced before Parlement to pay a fine of 100,000 livres, and he was released from prison on July 11, 1545. François allowed Paris to supervise the relief of the poor in 1544.
In May 1543 Henry VIII and Charles V sent an ultimatum to François, and on June 22 they declared war. An English army invaded the Boulonnais while the Emperor attacked Wilhelm of Cleves. François attacked on the borders of Artois and Hainault. Cleves capitulated, and the French recaptured Luxembourg. The French relieved the imperial siege of Landrecies, and Charles retreated and captured Cambrai. The English army returned to Calais. The Sultan sent Barbarossa’s fleet with 110 galleys to help the French, and on August 6 their navies attacked Nice which surrendered on the 22nd. Barbarossa threatened to leave unless he was given the port of Toulon which he occupied with 30,000 Turks for eight months.
Sicily’s imperial Viceroy Ferrante Gonzaga recaptured Luxembourg on May 25, 1544, and on July 8 Charles V joined him in a siege of Saint-Dizier. A large English army invaded Picardy. The dukes Thomas Howard of Norfolk besieged Montreuil while Charles Brandon of Suffolk attacked Boulogne. King Henry remained in Picardy while Charles stayed at Saint-Dizier. François protected Paris, and Charles V retreated on September 11. Two days later Henry VIII captured Boulogne. Charles V was out of money and agreed to peace with France at Crépy on the 18th. Charles of Orléans was to marry a daughter or niece of Charles V, and François gave up his claims to Savoy and Piedmont. Dauphin Henri protested the treaty on December 12 secretly before notaries and later at Fontainebleau. The Parlement of Toulouse also objected to it on January 22, 1545. When Pope Paul III convoked a council in the Imperial city of Trent, François would not let French bishops attend.
Jeanne d’Albret was freed from her marriage by the Pope’s annulment in April 1545, and Wilhelm of Cleves married a niece of Charles V. In July the French fleet led by Admiral d’Annebault had encountered English ships, and on the 21st they landed on the Isle of Wight and burned villages. After a month of negotiation on June 7 François at Ardres agreed to pay Henry VIII the annual installments on the two million écus to get Boulogne back in 1554, though Henry was to retain it until then. Duke Charles of Orléans died of a plague on September 9, 1545, ending the rivalry between the princes. The war from 1542 to 1546 cost François 30 million livres including 2 million spent on his navy to fight the English. Many taxes were increased, and indirect taxation rose to 9 million livres by 1546. King François had to borrow from bankers in Lyon at 16% interest, and by 1546 he owed them 6,860,844 livres.
Meanwhile the French government continued to fight heresy. On July 1, 1542 Parisians were ordered to surrender to Parlement copies of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and other banned books. In July 1543 the secular and ecclesiastical courts combined their powers of searching and arresting. The Paris faculty published an Index with 65 banned titles that included works by Calvin, Luther, Melanchthon, Dolet, and the poet Clément Marot. The theology professors ordered all students and teachers to subscribe to 25 articles of Catholic dogma. The Institutes and fourteen other books published by Etienne Dolet were burned outside Notre Dame on January 13, 1544. On August 3, 1546 Dolet was burned as a relapsed heretic. Nicole Sanguin had 62 people arrested at Meaux in September, and fourteen of them were tortured and burned. Provence had sixty people arrested and punished over fifteen months.
In May 1540 François had authorized the Parlement of Aix to prosecute the Vaudois (Waldenses) of Provence. These radicals objected to doctrines that included purgatory, swearing oaths, cults of the saints, religious images, and some prayers. Guillaume Farel, who had initiated the Circle of Meaux, persuaded many Vaudois to accept Calvinism. A French translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek by Pierre Robert (Olivétan) had been published in Neuchatel in June 1535. On November 18, 1540 the Parlement of Aix sentenced 19 Vaudois to be burned for not obeying their summons. François pardoned them in February 1541 if they abjured within three months. The Vaudois accused the persecutors of wanting to seize their goods. In December 1543 Jean Maynier, the Baron d’Oppede, became the First President of the Aix Parlement. Pope Paul III urged punishment of the Vaudois, and d’Oppede sent troops to Mérindel on April 11, 1545. As residents fled, the soldiers burned their houses and killed those remaining. Then they sacked Cabrieres and slaughtered all but twelve of them, four of whom were executed at Avignon. More atrocities occurred at Murs and in Provence. An estimated 2,700 people were killed in the slaughter. Afterward quick trials resulted in 255 executions, and 600 were sent to the galleys as slaves, some to reduce the overcrowded prisons of Aix. On April 24 the Parlement of Aix and the vice legate of Avignon prohibited anyone from giving asylum or helping any Vaudian or heretic on pain of death. François thanked the papal nuncio for the forces, and on August 18 he approved d’Oppede becoming a papal count.
Before he died on January 28, 1547, Henry VIII sent a message to François reminding him of his mortality. While on his way to a memorial service at Paris for the English king, François became too ill to move. On March 20 he began preparing for his own death. He confided in his son that he had harmed his subjects by going to war without good reasons. His declining health had been treated for syphilis since 1540, and gonorrhea may have contributed to the urinary infection that killed him. François I died on March 31, 1547. The famous historian, Jules Michelet, in the 19th century criticized François for his wars to please women. François had beautiful palaces built, but he also supported some humanists and collected works of art at the Louvre and books in the Bibliotheque Nationale.
Henri II began cleaning up the court by removing his late father’s “fair band” of ladies. The influence of Madame Anne d’Etampes was suddenly ended, though her enemy, Henri’s 48-year-old mistress Diane de Poitiers, became dominant at the court. Henri confirmed Anne de Montmorency as Constable and Grand Master and then made him the president of the royal council; he regained his governorship of Languedoc. Also new to the King’s Council were two sons of Claude, the Duke of Guise, who were also nephews of Cardinal Jean of Lorraine: Count François de Aumale and Archbishop Charles of Reims. Their older sister Marie had married King James V of Scotland on May 18, 1538, and on December 8, 1542 she gave birth to Mary Stuart, the future Queen of Scots. Henri II indicted and punished those who had surrendered Boulogne to Henry VIII in 1544, and the seigneur de Vervins was executed.
Henri II arranged for the Dauphin François to marry Mary Stuart and then sent an army to Scotland. They captured St. Andrews castle with its garrison and the Protestant reformer John Knox, who was sent to serve in the galleys. The Scottish Parliament ratified the treaty with Henri II, and French troops garrisoned several fortresses in Scotland. François de Aumale with 6,000 men reached Scotland in June 1548. A French fleet picked up Mary Stuart at Dumbarton and took her to France for safety, Henri welcoming her on August 13. Jeanne d’Albret married Antoine de Bourbon on October 20.
Pope Paul III’s son Orazio Farnese had been brought up at the French court, and he was betrothed to Henri II’s natural daughter Diane on June 30, 1547. Pope Paul welcomed seven French cardinals led by Jean du Bellay to Rome. Emperor Charles V was upset that Paul in August 1545 had given his son Pier Luigi Farnese the duchies of Parma and Piacenza. On September 10, 1547 imperial agents assassinated Pier Luigi at Piacenza and gave that city to Ferrante Gonzaga, the imperial governor of Milan. Charles de Lorraine went to Rome to become a cardinal and persuaded the Pope to sign a defensive alliance with France. In April 1548 Henri II appointed his wife Catherine de’ Medici regent as he led the army into Italy. They reached Turin in August, and Duke Ercole d’Este of Ferrara promised to marry his daughter Anne to François de Guise.
In 1548 Henri II implemented new salt taxes (gabelles), and in May peasants began rising up in Angoumais. Governor Henri d’Albret sent troops to restore order, but they were routed by 4,000 rebels led by Bois-Menier. The noble Puymoreau led the rebellion in Saintonge as rebels pillaged the houses of the rich while looking for tax officials. Their numbers increased to 20,000, and they captured Saintes on August 12. The revolt seized Cognac and moved into Bordeaux where people wanted an infantry tax repealed. On August 21 Albret’s lieutenant, Tristan de Moneins, was lynched as twenty gabeleurs were killed and covered with salt. On October 20 Montmorency arrived at Bordeaux with 20,000 troops who disarmed the city. He replaced the parlement with magistrates from elsewhere in France and began prosecuting Bordeaux’s administrators. On November 6 Bordeaux lost its privileges and was forced to pay for the military expedition and a fine of 120,000 livres. About 150 people were executed. Villages were fined, and church bells used to call the rebels to arms were destroyed. Soldiers in Angoumais and Saintonge lived off the land. In September 1549 Henri II decided to replace the salt tax with the previous quart tax. Arrears of the tax were to be paid in 1556, and the annual amount was set at 80,000 livres. Henri granted amnesty in November 1549 to all except the leaders of the revolt and the murderers of Moneins, and punitive measures against Bordeaux were rescinded.
On August 8, 1549 Henri II declared war on England and led the invasion of the Boulounnais as Montmorency and the army surrounded Boulogne. Artillery could not dislodge the garrison, and Henri ordered a blockade and returned to Paris for the winter. On November 20 Henri doubled the pay of soldiers but prohibited them from taking things without paying for them on pain of death. The English agreed to peace on March 24, 1550 and for 400,000 crowns they gave back Boulogne on April 25 and promised to pay an equal amount later. Until then Montmorency and five nobles went to England as hostages. Henri II became friends with young King Edward VI, and on July 19, 1551 they signed a marriage alliance at Angers between Edward and Henri’s daughter Elizabeth with a dowry of 200,000 crowns. Edward also became godfather to Henri’s son Edouard-Alexandre (later Henri III).
Henri II had issued an edict against blasphemy on April 5, 1547, and on October 8 he established a tribunal in the Paris Parlement for heresy cases that came to be known as the Chambre Ardente (Burning Chamber). By March 1550 they executed 37; 21 had their property confiscated and were banished; two were sent to the galleys; 41 were whipped in public; 67 had to do public penance; 31 were admonished to live a Christian life; and 39 were acquitted. On June 27, 1551 the Edict of Chateaubriant decreed that only the Parlement and the presidial courts had jurisdiction over laymen accused of heresy without appeal. To be appointed to a judiciary or municipal position one needed a certificate of Catholicity. Literary censorship was detailed. Informing was required, and informers received one third of the property of those convicted. Every Sunday the articles of faith were read in church, and attendance was obligatory. No one was allowed to correspond with exiles in Geneva or elsewhere. In the next decade about 10,000 people took refuge in Geneva. In January 1552 Henri created the siege presidial court for appeals, allowing him to sell more than 500 new offices.
In April 1551 Pope Julius III ordered Ottavio Farnese to surrender Parma to Charles V, but Ottavio had formed an alliance with Henri II. The Pope declared his lands forfeit and urged the Emperor to invade. On September 3 Henri banned the sending of money to Rome for benefices, and he withdrew all his diplomats and prelates from Rome except for one secretary. He supported the Protestants who were fighting Charles V, and they signed a treaty in October. Henri promised the princes 240,000 écus, and they let him administer Cambrai, Metz, Toul, and Verdun. Catholics became worried, but in May 1552 Henri II was reconciled with Pope Julius. Yet Henri also prohibited French prelates from attending the Council of Trent. Also in 1552 the avocat general of the Paris Parlement reported to Henri II that Paris had more than 8,000 poor people with no means of support. They had about 70 physicians.
Henri II resented Charles V because of the years he was held hostage by him in Spain, and on February 12, 1551 he declared war against him. In early April forces led by Montmorency crossed the Meuse and occupied Toul and Metz. They arrived at Nancy on April 14 in neutral Lorraine. Henri promised to respect the city’s privileges but left a garrison there. As Henri marched on the Rhine on April 20, he compensated widows and families of Germans who had been executed by the Emperor for having served France. At Strassburg only Henri and forty nobles were allowed in the city. Germans warned him not to go on, and after watering his horses in the Rhine he went to Verdun on June 12. Then Henri went home and discharged half his army on July 26, sending the rest to Antoine de Bourbon who was investing Hesdin. Also in 1551 Henri allowed Paris to collect a tax for the poor. Charles V with an army of 55,000 besieged Metz on November 10 and bombarded it for 45 days. The French held out while their garrisons in Lorraine attacked the imperial supply lines. On January 2, 1553 Charles began retreating.
Meanwhile the French were also fighting in Italy. On July 27, 1552 their allies in Siena threw out the Spanish garrison. Lansac brought money, and on August 11 Paul de Termes took command of Siena. Henri II appointed Cardinal Ippolito d’Este governor, but Cosimo de’ Medici, Duke of Tuscany, allied with Charles V to defeat the republic of Siena. Henri II wrote to Sultan Suleiman II in November requesting his fleet come to Italy. Baron de La Garde went to Istanbul to coordinate the French and Turkish alliance. Emperor Charles V besieged Siena in January 1553 but withdrew in June when the Turks arrived. In early July the Turkish fleet joined French galleys off the Tuscan coast. Henri II ordered them to attack Corsica, but their allied Genoese joined the imperialists.
In April 1553 Charles V invaded Picardy and besieged Thérouanne which capitulated in June. Constable
Anne Montmorency’s son François was one of the prisoners taken. After Hesdin surrendered on July 18, Constable Montmorency went to save Doullens, and the imperial troops withdrew. Then he pillaged the countryside as far as Bapaume. After Cambrai refused to provide supplies, they bombarded it for six days. In bad weather on September 17 King Henri II canceled the campaign. He appointed the Florentine exile Pietro Strozzi his general in Tuscany, and he arrived in Siena in January 1554. Blaise du Monluc brought reinforcements. Imperial forces led by the Marquis of Marignano besieged rebellious Siena for more than a year. Finally on April 17, 1555 the starving French troops were allowed to leave with military honors.
Henri sent three armies to invade the southern Netherlands in June 1554. On the 28th they captured Mariemburg, and it was renamed Henriembourg. On July 12 the King and Montmorency captured Bouvignes and put to death the 800 Spaniards in the garrison. While marching on Brussels with 40,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry the French ravaged the land and captured and looted Dinant. On August 10 they attacked the fort at Renty, but the imperial forces managed to hold the fort despite losses. Henri called off this campaign on August 15.
In March 1555 Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon with two ships and a royal subsidy of 10,000 livres sailed to Portuguese Brazil and tried to start a colony with 500 French on an island in Guanabara Bay, and they built Fort Coligny. The Portuguese claimed this territory by the Treaty of Tordesillas and defeated the French in March 1558.
Also in 1555 the French captured Ivrea and Casale in northern Italy, and Marshal Brissac took over Montferrat to control the valley of the Po River. French reinforcements helped him besiege Volpiano which capitulated on September 24, followed by Moncalvo on October 7. Meanwhile in May peace talks had begun at Marcq near Calais, but Charles V demanded a return to the pre-war situation. The Cardinal of Lorraine negotiated an alliance with Pope Paul IV that was signed on December 15. In exchange for Siena the Pope granted the kingdom of Naples to one of Henri’s sons and Milan to the other. In 1556 Henri II issued an edict outlawing marriages made without parental consent.
Charles abdicated in favor of his son Felipe II in October 1555, and the latter agreed to a five-year truce at Vaucelles on February 5, 1556. On May 11 Cardinal Carafa departed for France to urge Henri II to fight in Italy. On September 1 Felipe II sent the Duke of Alba to invade the Roman Campagna, and they captured Anagni on the way to Rome. Henri responded by appointing the Duke of Guise as his general in Italy. He left Turin on January 9, 1557 with 11,000 infantry and 1,800 cavalry. That month Admiral Gaspard de Coligny led forces that attacked Douai. Henri learned in March that only two of the new cardinals were French. Getting little support from their Italian allies, the King ordered Guise to abandon the march on Naples and stay in the Papal States.
Henri II rescheduled the French debt of more than two million écus, got a new loan of over half a million écus, and consolidated his debts at 16% interest. By January 1557 he was not paying the interest, and in April he could no longer get credit. Felipe II persuaded his wife Mary Tudor, the Queen of England, to declare war on France on June 7. That summer Felipe broke the truce of Vaucelles by invading northern France with an army led by Duke Emmanuel-Philibert of Savoy. On August 10 Montmorency’s large army met them in the battle of Saint-Quentin, which was a devastating defeat for France. About 3,000 were killed; 4,500 were wounded; and 6,000 including Montmorency were captured. Henri replaced him with Charles de Guise, the Cardinal of Lorraine, and he ordered his brother the Duke de Guise to bring his army home from Italy.
Henri II summoned the presidents of all eight Parlements and the magistrates of the Paris Parlement for a meeting of the “Fourth Estate of Justice.” On January 5, 1558 the King asked for three million crowns for the war. The clergy promised to provide one million while the towns tried to make up the rest with loans at 8.3% interest. Two days later the Duke de Guise captured Calais. On January 15 Henri asked the Parlement to register the edicts against heresy, and then he left for Calais. The Dauphin François wed Mary Stuart in the cathedral of Notre Dame on April 24.
Paul de Termes governed Calais, and in June he and Villebon sacked Dunkirk, Nieupoort, and Bergues; but at Gravelines they suffered a heavy defeat as de Termes was taken prisoner. Montmorency was released in October on parole as peace negotiations began. The Scottish Parliament granted the Dauphin a matrimonial crown in November. In the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis on April 3, 1559 France made two treaties. With England they agreed to return Calais after eight years or pay an indemnity of 500,000 crowns. French fortresses on the border of Scotland and England were to be dismantled. France exchanged many territories with Spain, and the French Marshals Brissac and Monluc complained that France lost nearly 200 fortresses and nearly a third of its kingdom. Duke Emmanuel-Philibert of Savoy was to marry Henri’s sister Marguerite, and Felipe II promised to wed Henri’s daughter Elisabeth.
By 1555 Calvinism had become a threat to France as 120 nobles had fled to Geneva. There missionaries were taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and in the next seven years the Geneva Company of Pastors sent 88 missionaries to France. The Genevan Academy set up in 1559 under Théodore de Beze had 1,500 students by 1564. Calvinists went mostly to Guyenne, Gascony, Normandy, Dauphiné, Languedoc, and Paris where the Protestant church was founded in 1555. Jeanne d’Albret supported Calvin and corresponded with him. She was crowned Queen of Navarre on August 18, 1555.
In February 1557 Henri II asked Pope Paul IV to establish the Inquisition in France, and he appointed the cardinals of Bourbon, Chatillon, and Lorraine inquisitors of faith. However, the Parlement of Paris refused to register the edict, and the Inquisition did not function in France. Montmorency’s nephew Chatillon was sympathetic to the Protestants. On July 24 Henri issued the Edict of Compiegne to increase the penalties the secular courts could impose for heresy with death for relapsed sacramentarians (Calvinists). The missionaries from Geneva held secret meetings, but one was broken up by a mob on September 4 in Paris. About 132 people were imprisoned, and a week later Philippa de Luns and two other nobles were burned. Calvin sent a letter to the Parisian church advising them to respond only with prayer, but he asked Protestant princes in Germany to intercede on their behalf. They sent an embassy to ask Henri II for clemency, and eventually the remaining prisoners were released.
In May 1558 a crowd of 4,000 people gathered in Paris to sing psalms, and the banned demonstration lasted several days and was attended by King Antoine of Navarre. Jean Macar and Antoine de la Roche-Chandieu worked to convert prominent nobles, and in September the well known Macar was replaced with François de Morel. Protestants began influencing the Parlement of Paris by delaying edicts and reducing sentences of heretics. Anne du Bourg argued that all heresy trials should be suspended because their only crime was to call on Christ’s name while adulterers, blasphemers, and murders were not punished. Henri II, who had extra-marital affairs, took offense and had him and six others arrested. Du Bourg wrote a defense that was smuggled out of prison and published as a pamphlet. Henri had recently survived an attempted assassination by the chancery clerk Caboche who was secretly killed before he could be questioned.
By 1558 Calvin claimed there were 300,000 Calvinists in France. They held their first National Synod secretly in Paris in May 1559, and they drafted the Confession of Faith and Ecclesiastical Discipline based on a Confession that Calvin had written to present to the King Henri II in 1557. About two-thirds of French bishops did not live or spend time in their dioceses. Felipe II married Elisabeth de Valois using the Duke of Alba as a proxy in Notre-Dame cathedral on June 22, and Duke Emmanuel-Philibert of Savoy was to wed Marguerite on July 4. In their honor Henri ordered a tournament, and on June 30 the King was mortally wounded while jousting. Henri II died on July 10.
François Rabelais was born near Chinon about 1494 (though it could have been 1483). His father was the son of a prominent lawyer. By 1510 François had joined the order of the Observantine Franciscans and was learning Greek and Latin. Rabelais was ordained a priest in 1520. On March 4, 1521 he wrote a long letter to the humanist Guillaume Budé displaying his knowledge of Greek and Latin. About 1523 he was in danger of losing his access to Greek books and transferred to the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Pierre de Maillezais. In the late 1520s Rabelais went to Paris to study medicine. As a priest he was not allowed to marry but fathered two sons who were declared legitimate by Pope Paul III in 1535. Rabelais went to the University of Montpellier and earned a bachelor’s degree in medicine on November 1, 1530. He lived with the faculty there for seven years. On January 6, 1532 he acted in the farce, The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife, and that year his notes on the writings of Hippocrates and Galen were published. He worked as a physician at the hospital Hotel-Dieu in Lyon for two years.
The Great and Inestimable Chronicles of the Great and Enormous Giant Gargantua had been published anonymously in 1532, and the book was very popular. Rabelais wrote his sequel about the son as Pantagrueline Prognostications by the end of 1532 and then The Very Horrific Life of the Great Gargantua Father of Pantagruel (Book 1 of Gargantua and Pantagruel) about 1534 when he moved to Rome where he worked as a physician to Jean du Bellay, the Bishop of Paris. On February 11, 1536 Cardinal du Bellay gave Rabelais a position in his Benedictine abbey of Saint-Maur-les-Fossés which was soon secularized.
Rabelais taught at Montpellier and earned another degree. In the early 1540s he served the French governor of Turin, Jean du Bellay’s brother Guillaume of Langey, until he died on January 9, 1543. That year the Sorbonne faculty persuaded the Parlement of Paris to censor Rabelais. On January 8, 1545 Du Bellay’s secretary Jean Bribart was burned at the stake, but on September 19 King François granted Rabelais a six-year royal privilege to publish. In early 1546 he dedicated Book 3 of his Gargantua and Pantagruel to Queen Margarite of Navarre as it was published in Paris under his own name. He worked as a physician in the imperial city of Metz for more than a year but still needed to ask Du Bellay for money on February 6, 1547. Rabelais went to Rome with Du Bellay on July 27, and the first printing of Book 4 was at Lyon in 1548. Du Bellay persuaded King Henri II to protect Rabelais, and on January 28 the completed Book 4 was published. Rabelais died in Paris on April 9, 1553. Someone may have assisted Rabelais in completing Book 5 which was published in 1564.
In Book 1 Gargantua is carried in the womb of his mother Gargamelle for eleven months. His father Grandgousier hires the sophist Thubal Holofernes, and he teaches Gargantua for thirteen years. Gargantua goes to Paris and steals the bells from Notre-Dame cathedral for his horse, but he is persuaded to give them back. His tutor Ponocrates urges him to exercise before eating breakfast. Gargantua plays numerous games and makes good use of his time. A dispute over eating cakes is escalated into a war by King Picrochole of Lerné. The monk Seuillé manages to protect the abbey. Grandgousier is reluctant to go to war, and he writes a letter to his son urging him to avoid bloodshed. Grandgousier has the cakes returned. Picrochole’s counselors give him bad advice, and Gargantua leaves Paris to help his country. After a battle the giant combs cannon balls out of his hair. He eats six pilgrims in a salad but spits them out. The monk Frere Jean kills Captain Tiravant, and Picrochole’s scouting party is defeated. Grandgousier notes that much money is needed to wage war, and he sends for his legions. Gargantua defeats Picrochole’s army, and he lets his prisoners go. After the war he builds the abbey of Théleme for the monk. They decree that the convent must house both men and women who are young and good-looking. Their only rule is “Do what you wish.” They can leave whenever they want, and honorable marriages and wealth are permitted.
In Book 2 Gargantua is 524 years old when his son Pantagruel is born. His name means “all thirsty,” and indicates his desire for experiences. He is so huge that his mother Badebec dies while giving birth. Pantagruel also requires hundreds of cattle to nourish and clothe him. Pantagruel goes to Paris where the library of Saint-Victor has many books. His father Gargantua sends him a long letter advising him to learn Greek first, then Latin, Hebrew, Chaldean, and Arabic. In addition to learning history, he should study the liberal arts, geometry, arithmetic, and music. Gargantua also gives his son this advice:
Hold suspect the abuses of the world;
set not your heart on vanity, for this life is transitory,
but the word of God abides eternally.
Be helpful to all your neighbors, and love them as yourself.
Revere your tutors.
Shun the company of those you don’t want to resemble;
and as for the graces that God has granted you,
these do not receive in vain.1
Pantagruel and Panurge become friends for life. During a controversy Kissass and Sniffshit plead before Pantagruel who renders his decision that both accept. Panurge tells how he escaped from the Turks and discovers a new way of building the walls of Paris. Panurge helps older women find husbands, and he defeats the English scholar Thaumaste in a debate using signs instead of words. After falling in love with a Parisian lady, Panurge leaves Paris to fight the Dipsodes who have invaded his country of the Amaurotes in Utopia. Pantagruel’s companions defeat 660 knights, and Pantagruel overcomes 300 giants and their captain Werewolf. Panurge manages to replace the head of the decapitated Epistémon.
Book 3 is mostly taken up with advice to Panurge on whether he should marry or not. First Pantagruel transfers a colony of Utopians to Dipsody, and Panurge is made a lord there. Panurge commends debtors and creditors, but Pantagruel disagrees and refuses to borrow. Pantagruel counsels Panurge on marrying, and they decide to consult fortune-tellers. Pantagruel suggests that dreams can foresee what will happen to us, and he contemplates “that infinite sphere whose center is in every place and the circumference nowhere” which Hermes Trismegistus gave as a definition of God.2 After interpreting Panurge’s dream, Pantagruel suggests he consult a sibyl of Panzoust. Then they communicate with mutes by signs. Panurge also gets advice from the poet Raminagrobis, their friend Epistémon, Her Trippa, and Frere Jean. The monk also tries to comfort Panurge because of predictions he will be a cuckold. Aristotle held that women’s nature is insatiable, but Panurge is confident he can satisfy a wife. Next Pantagruel gathers a theologian, a doctor, a jurist, and a philosopher to advise Panurge. They even consult the fool Triboullet. At a trial Pantagruel sees Judge Bridoye decide lawsuits by rolling dice. Finally they decide to go to the oracle of the Divine Bottle, and Pantagruel explains how he uses his herb Pantagruelion.
In the Prologue to Book 4 Rabelais emphasizes the value of health, for life without it is not livable. Jupiter complains that he is always having to settle human wars and violent conflicts. On their journey they first consult the oracle of the divine Bacbuc, and they visit many islands with differing customs. During a severe tempest Frere Jean swears and taunts Panurge for his cowardice while Pantagruel prays that God’s will be done. Pantagruel assures them they are all immortal. They encounter the Chitterlings. Bishop Grosbeak of the Papimaniacs, who worship the Pope, shows them heavenly Decretals and notes the Greek mottos “Know yourself” and “You are.” They visit Messer Gaster, but Pantagruel dislikes those who worship their own stomachs and notes, “A famished stomach has no ears. It doesn’t hear a thing.”3
They visit more islands in Book 5. Ringing Island has an unusual race of birds. At Wicket corrupt lawyers are described as Furred Cats. Panurge explains Clutchpuss’s riddle so they can depart. They survive passing Beyond and reach Entelechy in the kingdom of Quint Essence where those who are ill are cured by songs. They stay with the Queen in the estate of Abstractors. In the land of Satin they find Hearsay operating a school for witnesses. Finally they reach the oracle of the Bottle, and they enter the temple underground. Inscribed they see Seneca’s verse which is translated “Fate leads the willing, drags those who resist,” and on the other side it says, “All things move to their end.”4 A marvelous lamp lights the temple. Bacbuc interprets the meaning of the Bottle for Panurge, and they rhyme in poetic frenzy. The oracle gives the word for drink, and Panurge accepts that as approval for his marrying.
As a physician Rabelais delights in describing various bodily functions in his ribald style. Yet his knowledge of the classics enables him to bring in many references to Greek culture. His energy is indefatigable. His humanistic theme seems to be that all experience benefits the soul, and life’s pleasures are to be enjoyed. He believes in guidance from God and companionship with people. With his wide knowledge of law, religion, medicine, literature, and pleasures Rabelais expresses the universality of a Renaissance man.
Marguerite of Angouleme was born on April 11, 1492. She married Duke Charles of Alençon in 1508. She had been educated with her brother François and learned Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, and some Hebrew. When he became King of France in 1515, he invited her to court. She assisted her mother Louise on diplomatic missions, especially the Ladies’ Peace in 1529. After Queen Claude died in 1524, Marguerite supervised the education of her nieces and nephews. François gave her a pension and made her Duchess of Berry, one of the twelve peers of France. She liked the preaching of Bishop Guillaume Briçonnet of Meaux and corresponded with him on theology. She advocated religious reforms and had improved monasteries on her lands by 1520. She organized public assistance for hospitals in Alençon and Paris. Her husband Charles died soon after the disastrous battle of Pavia in 1525. Marguerite visited François while he was held hostage, negotiated with Emperor Charles V, and took care of her brother during a 23-day fever. She promoted her brother’s marriage to the Emperor’s daughter Eleanor in order to gain his release. She saved the life of the humanist Louis de Berquin who was accused of heresy; but later he was executed before the royal family could intervene.
In 1527 Marguerite married 24-year-old Henri d’Albret, King of Navarre, for love, and their daughter Jeanne was born in 1528. François took Jeanne to the chateau of Plessis-les-Tours to prevent her father from marrying her into the Emperor’s family so that he could regain Navarre’s lost territory from Spain. Marguerite’s only son died after six months, and she had several miscarriages. Her husband had love affairs, but her brother made sure she was respected. After her mother Louise died in 1531, Marguerite inherited many of her functions at court. In 1540 Venice’s ambassador Matteo Dandolo considered her the wisest person in the French court. She called herself the “prime minister of the poor” and educated poor students. She patronized writers such as Marot, Rabelais, Bonaventure Desperiers, Lefevre d’Etaples, Calvin, and others. She wrote The Prisons in 6,000 verses.
When the faculty of the Sorbonne summoned Marguerite in 1533, she declined to go. After François became more concerned with religious dissent in 1535, Marguerite’s influence for reforms at court waned. She moved to Navarre where she supported humanists and met with Jean Calvin and other reformers. She gave Lefevre refuge in her chateau at Nérac at the end of his life. François appointed her military governor of Guyenne in the war against Charles V. François allied with Germans and forced Jeanne d’Albret to wed the Duke of Cleves against her will in 1541. After the alliance with Cleves ended, Jeanne’s marriage was annulled. Marguerite had protected the printer Etienne Dolet in 1544, but he was executed on August 3, 1546. After the death of François on March 31, 1547, King Henri II let Jeanne marry Anthony of Bourbon on October 20, 1548. Marguerite opposed this and returned to Navarre. She died on December 21, 1549.
Marguerite of Navarre hosted a brilliant literary circle and wrote the religious poems, The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, in 1531. She published two farces in 1538. Marguerite was interested in various kinds of love including the Platonic ideals of love and beauty. Her close friend Antoine Héroet wrote The Perfect Friend in 1542.
Marguerite wrote 72 tales in the Heptameron in the manner of Boccaccio in the 1540s, but it was not printed until 1558. While waiting for a bridge to be repaired after a flood, ten people each tell one story each day. Oisile represents Marguerite’s mother Louise, Hircan her husband Henri, and Parlemente herself. On the first day the ten stories are about how women do bad turns to men and men to women. The second day the theme is the first conceit that rises in the brain. The third day the tales describe ladies who aim only for honor and the hypocrisy of monks. The fourth day has stories on the patience and long suffering of women winning their husbands and on the prudence men use toward their wives to preserve the honor of their families. The tales of the fifth day illustrate the virtue of women who prefer honor to pleasure and the opposite. The stories on the sixth day relate the deceptions between men and women through coveting, vengeance, and being crafty. On the seventh day the tales relate to people doing what they least desire. The last two stories on the eighth day are about lechery.
Young Clément Marot (1496-1544) began serving Marguerite d’Alençon in 1519, and he translated some of Petrarch, Virgil, and Ovid. In 1521 Marot exposed the cruelty of war in the camp at Flanders. He was with King François on his failed Italian campaign. As the Aufklarung movement that combined humanism with reform fell apart following the defeat at Pavia, Marot was accused of heresy in February 1526. While in prison he wrote the poem “Enfer” (Hell) and translated the famous Roman de la Rose. He returned to the court by 1528, and his collected works were published as Adolescence Clémentine by 1532. In 1534 the affair of the placards caused him to go into exile. He lived in Ferrara and Venice and then abjured his heresy in Lyon. In 1539 François I gave him a house in the Paris suburbs. Marot debated reactionary theologians of the Sorbonne and edited the works of François Villon. The King sponsored his French translation of the Psalms until 1543 when Marot fled to Geneva. He died at Turin. In addition to his poetry and humanistic theology, Marot was known for his witty epigrams. He wrote this one of Marguerite of Navarre:
When, midst her other graces, heaven-sent,
Milady, with her gentle grandeur plies
Her pen, I stand in such bewilderment
That my awe any greater awe defies.
But when I hear her speak—sage, worldly wise
The thoughts her pen and tongue so well express—
I turn about, more awed at my surprise,
Bewildered at my blind foolhardiness.5
Michel de Nostradamus was born in St. Rémy-de-Provence on December 14, 1503 by the Julian calendar which would be December 23 in the corrected Gregorian calendar. His family was of Jewish origin, but his grandfather had converted to Christianity in 1455. All Jews had to convert by the end of 1501 or leave Provence. Nostradamus was educated by his two grandfathers in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. He also learned astrology. In 1519 he was sent to the University of Avignon, but a year later it closed because of a plague. Nostradamus studied herbal remedies and became an apothecary. He was apparently influenced by Ficino’s translation of De Mysterius Aegyptorium which affected his method of prediction. In 1522 he went to the University of Montpellier and earned his baccalauréat in three years, receiving his license to practice medicine in 1525. He went to help victims of a plague in southern France. He recommended running water and fresh air and refused to bleed patients. He lived in Toulouse and Bordeaux before returning to Montpellier in 1529 to work for his doctor of philosophy degree; but he was expelled in 1530 for being an apothecary and for criticizing the doctors.
Nostradamus returned to Bordeaux and Toulouse and also lived in La Rochelle. He knew the humanist scholar Jules César Scaliger at Agen and married. Nostradamus often went to treat people during epidemics, and his first wife and children died of infectious disease. In 1538 he was summoned by the Inquisition in Toulouse for a comment he made to a sculptor making a statue of the Virgin. In the next six years he traveled to Lorraine, Venice, and Sicily. At Ancona in Italy he knelt before the holiness of the swineherd Felix Peretti who became Pope Sixtus V in 1585. Nostradamus helped the physician Louis Serre during a plague in Marseille in 1545. He was summoned to Aix-en-Provence in 1546 during an epidemic that lasted 270 days. After visiting Lyon, he married Anne Ponsarde Gemelle on November 11, 1547, and he made his home in Salon-de-Provence for the rest of his life, practicing medicine and writing. Adam de Craponne organized the building of a canal to connect the Rhone to the Durrance, and Nostradamus and his wife invested with one-thirteenth share. It was built from 1554 to 1559 and was a successful business venture.
Nostradamus began writing monthly Almanachs and Prognostications and published the first one in 1550. His Traité des Fardemens came out in 1555, and it contained recipes for making cosmetics and preserves. That year he also published the first edition of Les Prophéties de M. Nostradamus. Each century (centaine) included one hundred quatrains or four lines of verse except the 7th which has only 42 quatrains. In the summer of 1556 he visited Paris and consulted with Catherine de’ Medici who was concerned about his prophecy and one by the Italian astrologer Luc Gauric that her husband Henri II would be killed in single combat. In Prophéties 1:35 Nostradamus had written,
The young lion will overcome the old one,
On the field of battle in single combat.
He will put out his eyes in a cage of gold:
Two wounds in one, then to die a cruel death.6
Both the King and Montgomery had a lion on their coat of arms. Nostradamus was not paid and had to borrow money from a friend. However, Catherine and her son Charles IX visited Nostradamus at Salon on October 17, 1564, and she gave him 200 crowns and the title Physician in Ordinary.
His secretary Jean de Chavigny described Nostradamus and noted that he slept only four or five hours. Nostradamus suffered from gout and died on July 2, 1566, leaving behind the substantial sum of 3,444 crowns in coins. Chavigny helped his widow publish the first complete edition of Les Prophéties, and the book has been kept in print almost continuously since then. This edition added Centuries 8-10.
Generally the prophecies of Nostradamus go at least up to the year 2000, and many people have been surprised at how many of his verses described events so far into the future. In 1:25 he mentioned that Pasteur would be honored as a demigod while being dishonored by rumors, and the great discoveries of Louis Pasteur were controversial at first. In 1:63 he noted that after pestilences passed, the world would become smaller as lands were inhabited peacefully. Then people would cross through the skies safely over land and sea before wars started again. This describes a period when Europeans extended civilization around the globe without a major war for several decades before the invention of airplanes and the beginning of the world wars. Many of his predictions had to do with fighting in his native France which suffered many devastating wars through 1945. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are described in 2:6 which refers to two port cities suffering from “two scourges the like of which have never been seen.”
Some of the prophecies may apply to the 21st century when the world faces a series of mega-crises because of more than seven billion people, global warming, weapons of mass destruction, environmental pollution, and controlling technology. For example, 2:10 predicts, “Before long everything will be controlled; we await an evil century,” though 2:13 suggests spiritual liberation.
The body without soul no longer to be sacrificed:
Day of death put for birthday:
The divine spirit will make the soul happy,
Seeing the word in its eternity.7
Quatrain 2:19 could describe the effects of climate change with people moving into new lands previously too cold while the hotter arable lands suffer famine, plague, and war.
Quatrain 2:89 predicts that “two great masters yoked” by the Cold War with increased power “will be friends.” Then “the new land (America) will be at its peak.” Gorbachev with the patch of blood on his head fits the description of the “bloody one,” and for him the “number is recounted.”
In 3:7 “fugitives from weapons with fire from heaven” find that the “next conflict” will be of “flying crows.” From “land they cry for help and heavenly relief” because the combatants are near their walls. This describes the American use of drones with Hellfire missiles attacking Al-Qaida fugitives who pray for relief.
Most of the prophecies have to do with war and other disasters, mostly in Europe. Nostradamus may have believed that these predictions provide warnings urging humans to improve their behavior so that such catastrophes would not have to occur. Many of his 942 quatrains are difficult to correlate with any historical events. Interpreters have identified the first antichrist as Napoleon Bonaparte and the second as Adolf Hitler with a third yet undetermined. Yet Quatrains 9:66 and 9:89 offer hope for peace.
1. Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais tr. Donald M. Frame, Book 2, Chapter 8, p. 162.
2. Ibid., Book 3, Chapter 13, p. 293.
3. Ibid., Book 4, Chapter 63, p. 580.
4. Ibid., Book 5, Chapter 36, p. 692.
5. “Of the Queen of Navarre” in Epigrammes, II, iv tr. Norman R. Shapiro in Lyrics of the French Renaissance: Marot, Du Bellay, Ronsard, p. 109.
6. Nostradamus and His Prophecies 1:35 tr. Edgar Leoni, p. 141.
7. Ibid., 2:13, p. 165.