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Pierre de Brantôme

Pierre de BrantômeAKA Pierre de Bourdeille

Born: c. 1540
Birthplace: Périgord, France
Died: 15-Jul-1614
Location of death: France
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Historian

Nationality: France
Executive summary: French historical writer, biographer

Pierre de Bourdeille, Abbé et Seigneur de Brantôme, French historian and biographer, was born in Périgord about 1540. He was the third son of the baron de Bourdeille. His mother and his maternal grandmother were both attached to the court of Marguerite of Valois, and at her death in 1549 he went to Paris, and later (1555) to Poitiers, to finish his education. He was given several benefices, the most important of which was the abbey of Brantôme, but he had no inclination for an ecclesiastical career. At an early age he entered the profession of arms. He showed himself a brave soldier, and was brought into contact with most of the great leaders who were seeking fame or fortune in the wars that distracted the continent. He travelled much in Italy; in Scotland, where he accompanied Mary, Queen of Scots (then the widow of Francis II); in England, where he saw Queen Elizabeth (1561, 1579); in Morocco (1564); and in Spain and Portugal. He fought on the galleys of the order of Malta, and accompanied his great friend, the French commander Philippe Strozzi (grandson of Filippo Strozzi, the Italian general, and nephew of Piero), in his expedition against Terceira, in which Strozzi was killed (1582). During the wars of religion under Charles IX he fought in the ranks of the Catholics, but he allowed himself to be won over temporarily by the ideas of the reformers, and though he publicly separated himself from Protestantism it had a marked effect on his mind. A fall from his horse compelled him to retire into private life about 1589, and he spent his last years in writing his Memoirs of the illustrious men and women whom he had known. He died on the 15th of July 1614.

Brantôme left distinct orders that his manuscript should be printed; a first edition appeared, however, late (1665-66) and not very complete. Of the later editions the most valuable are: one in 15 volumes (1740); another by Louis Jean Nicolas Monmerqué (1780-1860) in 8 volumes (1821-24), reproduced in Buchan's Panthéon littéraire, and Lalanne's edition for the Societé de l'Histoire de France (12 vols., 1864-96). Brantôme can hardly be regarded as a historian proper, and his Memoirs cannot be accepted as a very trustworthy source of information. But he writes in a quaint conversational way, pouring forth his thoughts, observations or facts without order or system, and with the greatest frankness and naïveté. His works certainly gave an admirable picture of the general court-life of the time, with its unblushing and undisguised profligacy. There is not a homme illustre or a dame galante in all his gallery of portraits who is not stained with vice; and yet the whole is narrated with the most complete unconsciousness that there is anything objectionable in their conduct.

The edition of L. Lalanne has great merit, being the first to indicate the Spanish, Italian and French sources on which Brantôme drew, but it did not utilize all the existing manuscripts. It was only after Lalanne's death that the earliest were obtained for the Bibliothèque Nationale. At Paris and at Chantilly (Musée Condé) all Brantôme's original manuscripts, as revised by him several times, are now collected (see the Bibliothèque de l'École des Charles, 1904), and a new and definitive edition has therefore become possible. Brantôme's poems (which amount to more than 2200 verses) were first published in 1881; see Lalanne's edition.

Father: Baron de Bourdeille

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