Adultery Montauban Protestantism

Bad behaviour in Protestant Montauban

Calvinist consistory records offer fascinating insights into Protestant Renaissance society. They were instituted to educate, guide and, when necessary, punish the members of a church. Formed by local elders and deacons, they were responsible for maintaining religious discipline.1 This led them to record and grapple with a wide variety of issues that ranged from the use of bad language to domestic violence or participating in Catholic rituals.2

Many of these registers have been analysed by historians and some have been published – not least the earliest records relating to the decisions of the consistory of Geneva during Calvin’s lifetime.3 However, despite their interesting content, many are still only accessible in manuscript form and require palaeographical skills to be fully appreciated. This is notably the case of one of the most significant French Protestant churches of south-western France: Montauban.

The city of Montauban during the siege of 1621. Engraving by the workshop of Frans Hogenberg and printed in Cologne. Copy digitised by the Rijksmuseum, RP-P-OB-78.785-379.

Situated on the Tarn river, Montauban gradually rose in prominence during the Middle Ages, becoming an important economic centre and an episcopal see in the fourteenth century. However, with the rise of religious discord in the the 1530s and 1540s, the city became one of the early centres of the French Reformation in the South West.4 With the start of the Wars of Religion, the Calvinist church tightened its grip on the city and sought to regulate the lives of its 12,000 inhabitants through the creation of a consistory.

The earliest registers of the consistory seem to have been lost, but their deliberations for the final years of the sixteenth century survive and have been preserved in the local archives. They depict many mundane aspects of city life, with the inevitable group of blasphemers, drunkards, and less-than-committed Calvinists – all of whom are suitably reprimanded. Meeting a least once a week, the consistory took its role seriously, as befitted a city which was also known for publishing serious works of religious controversy.5

An example of late 16th-century Protestant controversy: Michel Bérauld, Brieve et claire defense de la vocation des ministres de l’Evangile contre la replique de Messire Jacques Davy, Evesque d’Evreux (Montauban, Denis Haultin, 1598), USTC 16802, copy digitised by Gallica.

Among the many cases described in the register, one stands out. It seems to have all the makings of the sort of truculent tale that the more facetious sixteenth-century French authors enjoyed retelling in their books. It involved an inhabitant of the city called Jean del Peyrou, – someone of whom we know little, but who seems to have been a somewhat disreputable figure – and his wife, Anne de Feutrie.

The case was first mentionned on 9 December 1598, when the consistory noted that Jean had accused his wife of committing adultery. He initially did so without attending in person: he owed so much money that it was said that he dared not leave his house for fear of being confronted by his creditors. So the elders decided to send two from their midst to determine the truth of the matter – and in the meantime, as a precaution, not to give Anne the ‘méreau’, the token that would have allowed her to go to church.6

The communion token of the Reformed Church of Montauban, preserved in the Musée du Désert.

The following week, they returned and told a fuller tale. Jean del Peyrou had left the city on 2 August, presumably to avoid his creditors and had not returned to Montauban. But when he visited his mother-in-law at her farm, she informed him that his wife was pregnant. Stunned, he responded that the child could not be the result of his own work and so he resolved to go home. There he found that his wife was indeed with child and had taken in a lodger, a student named Le Saige.

Jean put two and two together and presumed that (despite his name that can be translated as “The Well-Behaved”) Le Saige was to blame. So to test out his theory – and the conduct and actions of his wife – he decided to hide in the house, behind one of the beds. There, he saw the student and his wife lunch together and, being alone, they kissed. But this was not proof enough for the unhappy husband who remained in his hiding place until the evening.

Hiding behind the bed to catch out your wife – though in this case it is the philanderer who is the fool… Detail of an engraving by Heinrich Wirrich, late sixteenth century, copy digitised by the British Museum, 1868,0612.1556.

Le Saige went to his college to follow the afternoon’s lectures, but in the evening he dined once more with Anne. This time, they twice sent away the servant girl to fetch more oysters and, in her absence, after having ‘thrown out some water’, things heated up. The student dropped his trousers and Anne rested against the bed, lifting up the front of her dress. Le Saige pressed up against her.

Things had gone far enough. The husband emerged from his hiding place behind the bed, seizing their heads. Brandishing a piece of wood, he yelled at the student: “Are these the commandments that you normally read from the pulpit? You are depraved!” – or at least that is what he admitted to saying when he was questionned. He also asserted that he did them no other harm. The commotion brought two neighbours to the house and Le Saige fled the scene…

Wearing the horns of a cuckold, engraving by Crispijn van de Passe following Jacques Bellange, ca 1600, digitised by the Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1986-62.

The response of the consistory to this tale of adultery suggests that such events were not that uncommon. They carefully checked the deposition of Del Peyrou’s mother-in-law, confirmed that Le Saige had left clandestinely and simply concluded that in such circumstances Anne de Feutrie would not be allowed to take part in holy communion until further notice… A mild end to such a dramatic story.

The account is preserved in the register of tacts and deliberations of he consistory of Montauban for the years 1595-1598 in the departemental archives of Tarn-et-Garonne at pressmark I 1. Here is a full transcription of the entry:

« Messieurs Peyreille et Barrau rendant raison de la charge à eulx donnée de parler avec Jean del Peyrou touchant l’adultere dont y a subcon avoir esté comis par Anne de Feutrie, sa famme, avec Le Saige, escolier.

Ont dict ledit Peyrou leur avoir dict et affirmé qu’il s’en alla de ceste ville le second d’aoust dernier et estant revenu despuis peu de jours en sa, treuva sa belle mere à la metherie de la Cardayre, laquelle luy dict que sa famme estoict enseinte.

De quoy estant estonné, il respondict que ce n’estoict pas de ses œuvres et estant entré en ceste ville et ayant veu sadite famme ensaincte et que Le Saige, escolier, estoict logé en la maison de sa mere, voleust eprover les deportementz et actions tant de sadite femme que dudit Le Saige et se cacha au derriere d’ung lict de ladite maison.

Ou estans, veid que sadite famme et ledit Le Saige dejeunerent eux seulz ensemble et pendant leur dejeuner, veid que ledit Le Saige la baisa et apres ce, ledit Le Saige s’en seroict sorty de la maison disant qu’il alloict au college et renvinct seur l’heure de digner et tant luy que sadite famme dignerent ensemble pendant lequel digner envoyerent querir des huistres par deux fois par une fille qui estoict dans ladite maison.

À l’absence de laquelle apres avoir disné, sadite famme alla jetter de l’eau et apres ledit Le Saige avalla ses chausses et sa famme se mit contre le lict et ayant levé le devant de sa robbe l’ung estant contre l’autre. Il sortit du dernier dudit lict et les princt tous deux par la teste et dict audict Saige tenant lors ledit Peyrou ung tracquet en main « sont se les commandementz de Dieu que tu lis ordinairement en chaire ? Tu es un paillard ! » Et ne luy fict poinct autre mal.

S’en estant sa famme sortie de la maison en laquelle survint la famme de Boigion et sa fille apres l’arrivée desquelles, ledict Saige s’en alla. Arresté attendu le dire dudit Del Peyrou et les conjectures qu’on en peult receuillir, joinct la deposition de la mere dudit Del Peyrou et l’absence clandestine dudit Le Saige, que ladite Anne de Feutrie, famme dudit Del Peyrou, ne sera poinct receue à la participation de la saincte Cene du seigneur. »

  1. On their creation and development see Glenn S. Sunshine, Reforming French Protestantism. The Development of Huguenot Ecclesiastical Institutions, 1557-1572 (Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2003), p. 120-142. []
  2. See in particular the work of Raymond A. Mentzer, notably his Sin and the Calvinists. Morals Control and the Consistory in the Reformed Tradition (Kirksville: Sixteenth century journal, 1994) and his inventory of surviving records: Les registres des consistoires des Eglises réformées de France, XVIe-XVIIe siècles : un inventaire (Geneva: Droz, 2014). []
  3. Robert M. Kingdon, Thomas A. Lambert, and Isabella M. Watt (eds), Registers of the Consistory of Geneva in the Time of Calvin. Volume 1: 1542-1544 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000). []
  4. See Philip Conner, Huguenot Heartland. Montauban and Southern French Calvinism during the Wars of Religion (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002). []
  5. The city’s desire to develop its Protestant publishing activity was not always successful, see the case of Louis Rabier: Malcolm Walsby, ‘Printer Mobility in Sixteenth-Century France’ in Benito Rial Costas (ed.) Print Culture and Provincial Cities in Early Modern Europe : A Contribution to the History of Printing and the Book Trade in Small European and Spanish Cities (Leiden: Brill, 2012) 249-268, at p. 257-260. []
  6. On the Protestant méreau see Henri Gelin, Le méreau dans les églises réformées de Francen et plus particulièrement dans celles du Poitou (Saint-Maixent: C. Reversé, 1891), which reproduces the Montauban token. []
Books Chaumont Education Langres Letter Paris

Rebuking a lazy student in Renaissance Paris

Sixteenth-century private letters rarely survive. They were read, sometimes shared, and often discarded. This is particularly true for letters written by ordinary people. Contemporaries might have thought it interesting to keep missives sent by well-known correspondants such as Erasmus, but everyday letters by relatives or friends have generally not survived. If this is true of the final version of the texts that were sent, it is even more the case of drafts that were, by their very nature, meant to be ephemeral.

When such documents have survived, it is often in unexpected places. This is the case for one such draft, preserved at the end of a printed book. The text looks to have been directly written on the final flyleaf of a volume containing two works printed in Paris in 1543. The draft owes its survival to the miserely nature of its author: Renaissance paper, made from rags, was an expensive commodity in the sixteenth century. In printed editions, the cost of the paper outweighed all of the other necessary investments, including the salaries of those who were employed in the workshop.

Draft letter on the final stuck down flyleaf of volume FA 8-D1-5 o, Bibliothèque municipale de Chaumont.

Beyond the fact of its survival, what makes this draft interesting is the content of the text. Hastily written in a rather poor hand, there is no indication of either the author or the person to whom it was sent. But the story it tells makes it very clear that it was sent by someone living in provincial France to a friend who was studying in one of the most prestigious centres of learning in sixteenth-century Europe: Paris.

The letter starts by telling us that it belongs to a wider correspondance and Paris is at the heart of the exchange. The author thanks his correspondant for his letters in which he is invited to join him in Paris. Clearly, the Parisian student knows how to sell the city he is living in. The author exclaims: “I was almost convinced to take a horse and immediately come to Paris. And, to tell you the truth, ever since then I have spent my time thinking of that city”.

The student quarter on the left bank of the Seine in the middle of the sixteenth century, as depicted Olivier Truchet and Gemain Hoyau, Universitätsbibliothek Basel, UBH Kartenslg AA 124, digitised by E-rara.

Paris is described in the most laudatory terms, but not just because of the buildings… it is an extraordinary centre of learning. He has “so much desire to come not only for the beauty of the said city (that is, nevertheless, no small thing), but also because of the abundance of all types of books that are to be found there, and the numerous scholars, that are two great helps for those who study and wish to attain knowledge”.

Despite all this, the author turns down the offer. He is preoccupied with “his affairs” though he wishes that they were at the “bottom of the sea” so that he would be free to also enjoy his friends company – so much so that he resorts to Latin to emphasise his feelings: “ut tecum vivere possum non dubitarem quantumuis magnum mare travicere” – to live with you, I would not hesitate to cross any great sea. Perhaps, this is a clever reference to the arms of Paris that feature a ship and the motto “Fluctuat nec mergitur” – rocked [by the waves], but unsunk.

The symbol of Paris, as used by the company of publishers known as La compagnie de la grand’ navire and used from 1582.

But the tone sours as the letter enters its second half. It seems that, in between, the author has received news from other quarters and it does not paint his correspondant in best of lights. He says that he has heard that the latter was not studying all too seriously. With perhaps some dramatic exageration, he claims that, as he sees himself as his brother, “this infuriated me so that I could no longer move from my bed”. He continues in much same vein: “I almost die of fury”.

Such laziness is all the more frustrating because his correspondant is gifted. “Nature has given you as good a mind as is possible”, “fortune has given you sufficient riches as well as friends” and “you have time enough”. The message is clear: “it is but your laziness that prevents you from succeeding”. The end of the document is damaged, but enough remains to understand that he even invokes the student’s father and mother in order to jolt his friend out of complacency.

Not the most assiduous students.. A detail of a school scene by Pieter Bruegel, engraved by Pieter van den Heyden and printed in Antwerp in 1557 by Hieronymus Cock, Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1883-A-7221.

Was the letter ever sent? It is impossible to know. We can, however, hasard a good guess at the author’s identity and understand perhaps why he was so furious. Though the draft does not name the author, the book has two ex-libris indications. One is by François Defrittes, a canon of Chaumont between 1599-1621.1 This is clearly not his hand. It ressembles far more that of a previous owner, a certain “Jacobus de Courtet”. This sixteenth-century possessor can be identified as Jacques Courtet, a priest and canon of Langres active in the 1570s.2

Courtet must have owned the book shortly after its publication in the 1540s and annotated the first flyleaves with short aphorisms taken from well-known classical authors. He thus copied out of one of Propertius’s elegies “Omnes humanos sanat medicina dolores, Solus amor morbi non amat artificem.” – Medicine cures all human pain; love alone wants no healer. Propertius was widely used by schools as a way of learning Latin – and was also published in Paris in the same year as the two other editions in the volume.3 The two lines were often emphasised by contemporary readers.

Copy of Catullus. Tibullus. Propertius printed in Paris by Simon de Colines in 1543, USTC 140793, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 93.

Courtet was undoubtedly at this time himself a student. The two editions in the volume were works by Cicero generally also used when studying. Their in-quarto format was employed by publishers in order to leave significant space for annotation during lessons. They are themselves of great interest: printed by François Gryphius, they are what bibliographers call unica – the sole surviving copies of otherwise lost editions.4

He probably studied in Langres, where he was later a canon, as this was an important ecclesiastical centre and the seat of a bishopric situated some 35 km to the south of Chaumont. The town housed a well-known college,5 and one of the first rectors was proud to publish a panegyric in 1531 that emphasised the splendour and learning of the city.6 But though Langres was no cultural backwater, this context undoubtedly explains Courtet’s ire. Unable to go himself to study in Paris, to hear that his friend was idle must have been galling, especially as his letter shows just how much he enjoyed books and acquiring knowledge.

Detail of a fresco by Vincenzo Foopa known as The Young Cicero Reading,c. 1464, today in the Wallace Collection, London, P538.

The draft letter is preserved in a volume kept in the ‘Silos’, the Municipal Library of Chaumont at the pressmark FA 8-D1-5 o. Here is a transcription of the surviving text – I have provided a rapid translation into modern English underneath.

« J’ay recu tes lettres par lesquelles tu me conceille que je vienne à Paris pour estudier, vraydieu qu’elle sont elegantes et playnes de doulceur et condition o que tu me descrips au vif an icelles la ville de Paris est emplement tu refere les grandes commodités d’icelle.

Certes, incontinent que je les eu leues, il ne s’en falloit guere que je ne pringnes ung cheval et m’en viens incontinent à Paris et pour te dire la verite depuis ce temps là je n’ay fayict que y penser de celle ville là et m’est tourjours advis que je y suys et tant ay desir de y venir non seulement pour la beaulté d’icelle ville (ce que toutefoys ne est pas petite chouse) mays aussy pour la abundance de toutes sortes de livres qui sont là et pour la multitude des gens scavans qui sont deuls grands aydes à ceuls qui estudient pour parvenir à scavoyr.

Je vouldroys que les affayres que j’ay qui me empechent de aller à Paris et de recevoyr ung sy grand fruict fussent au fond de la mer. Car non seulement il me privent d’ung sy grand fruict mays aussy de la compagnie sy delectable et de laquelle il me fache grandement de estre privé. Car ut tecum vivere possum non dubitarem quantumuis magnum mare travicere.

Dernierement que je ouy dire que tu feroys mal ton debvoyr de estudier, je prings si grand facherie an mon esperit que depuis je n’ay bojay du lict car j’ay esté tourjours celuy qui a aultant aymé ton profit de ton avencement auls estudes que ton propre frere maintenant que je ouy dire que tu es si lache et si remis je meurs quasi de facherie comment est cela de toy estre la l’expectation de tes parens et amys qui de brief te pansoint avoir de pardescu bien doctriné.

Et m’erigeray si tu estoys d’ung tel esperit que tu refusse [d’ecouter ?] de je n’auroys cause de me fascher mays plustout te conseilleroys que tu te [libères ?] de icelles mays je scay bien que ta nature t’a ballé aussi bon esperit que il est poussible de fortune t’a ballé richesse à suffisance et amys.

Tu as du temps asses mays il n’y a que ta paresse qui te en garde de parvenir, se que je te dictz, je le te dictz amyeblement. Use des dons que tu as de nature affin que ont ne [accuse] point ta paresse que tu ne soys parvenu à scavoyr et sy [ceci] ne te esmeu point je considere que tu mettras ton pere et ta mere … que il en pourriont mourir si tant t’entetes a estre[ainsi et] recompanser le temps que tu as peu [prendre]. »

« I have received your letters in which you suggest that I come to Paris to study. By god, they are elegant and full of gentleness and what you tell me so vividly of Paris tells of the great commodities to be found there. Certainly, as soon as I had read them, I was almost convinced to take a horse and immediately come to Paris. And, to tell you the truth, ever since then I have spent my time thinking of that city.

And I believe that I am there, and have so much desire to come not only for the beauty of the said city (that is, nevertheless, no small thing), but also because of the abundance of all types of books that are to be found there, and the numerous scholars, that are two great helps for those who study and wish to attain knowledge.

I would that my affairs that prevent me from going to Paris and from receiving such great profits, should lie at the bottom of the sea. For not only do they deprive me of those great profits, but also of such delightful company that I am very angry to thus deprived. For to live with you, I would not hesitate to cross a great sea.

Recently, I have heard that you neglect to study properly and this infuriated me so that I could no longer move from my bed, for I have ever been one who loved the benefits of the advancement of your study as much as if I were your brother.

Now that I hear that you are so cowardly and remiss that I almost die of fury. How can you be thus when your kin and friends think that you are well educated and I would oppose you if you were of a state of mind to refuse [to listen] I would not have cause to get angry but would counsel you that you [stop], but I know that nature has given you as good a mind as is possible, that fortune has given you sufficient riches as well as friends. You have time enough.

It is but your laziness that prevents you from succeeding. And I say this amiably: use the gifts that nature has bestowed on you so that your laziness does not prevent you from reaching knowledge. And if this does not move you, then think of your father and your mother and that they [should] be rewarded for the time that you have [spent].

  1. Léon Godard, Histoire et tableau de l’église St-Jean-Baptiste de Chaumont (Chaumont: Charles Cavaniol, 1848), p. 194. []
  2. See the register compiled between 1571 and 1575 in the Archives départementales de Haute-Marne, 2 G 14. []
  3. Catullus. Tibullus. Propertius (Paris, Simon de Colines, 1543), USTC 140793. []
  4. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Rhetoricorum ad C. Herennium libri quatuor and De inventione et arte rhetorica lib. II, both printed in Paris by François Gryphius in 1543. []
  5. Louis-Emmanuel Marcel, Le cardinal de Givry, évêque de Langres (1529-1561) ([S.l.], published by the author, 1926) I, 266-270. []
  6. Jean Thomassin, Panegyricus de civitate Lingonum, Paris: Chrestien Wechel, 1531, USTC 203472. []
Clocks Clothes Music Rennes

Clothing the city trumpeter in Renaissance Rennes

One of the most high profile roles in French towns during the Renaissance was that of town trumpeter. Most early modern cities had their own official trumpeter, paid for by the local authorities whose job it was to sound his trumpet before the town crier shared the latest news and laws. In sixteenth-century Rennes, this meant going to all the main crossroads in turn. An ordinance of 1598 explained that the text should be read out:

at the crossroads of the great end of Cohuë, la Cherbonnerie, la Cisne, les Carmes, Toussaincts and other places and locations accustomed to make proclamations, about the hour of midday of the said day, in great congregation of people to see and hear it done, after the sound of the trumpet sounded by Michel Coquart, ordinary trumpeter in the said Rennes. 1

It was an important duty: many people relied on oral transmission of information and would listen out for the sound of the trumpet. In many ways, trumpeters represented secular authority and most of them were proud to be associated with their instrument. Michel Coquart, mentionned in the above document, went so far as to sketch his trumpet under his signature on official documents.

Coquart’s signature in the archives of the Estates of Brittany in 1597
(Archives départementales d’Ille-et-Vilaine, C 2902).

This representative role was also taken very seriously by the towns who took care to furnish their trumpeters with decent garb. For instance, in Amiens, it was stipulated that he was to receive no less than five ells of cloth (around five metres’ worth).2 In Rennes, in order to lend extra weight to the trumpeter, the local municipality went one step further. The city accounts for 1528 enable to reconstruct how one of Coquart’s predecessors, Jean Hoyart, was dressed and performed his duty.

The archives describe how he was to be given a long-skirted jacket (a saie) made of cloth with an escutcheon emblasoned with the arms of the town of Rennes on one of the sleeves. The coat of arms of Rennes seems to be the same in 1528 as when it was officialised in the seventeenth century: pally of six argent and sable on a chief argent five ermine-spots sable, as is shown (with only 4 ermine-spots) on the accounts register of that year:

Title page of the accounts held by Pierre Cohier and Pierre Boullanger for the town of Rennes in 1528 (Archives municipales de Rennes, CC 140).

His coat was meant to mirror the argent and sable of the coat of arms: the main cloth chosen was black, but is was adorned white bands that reproduced the paly of the lower part of the blason. The trumpet was decorated in similar fashion. A hanging banner – that also replicated the arms of the city – was added to the instrument itself. The accounts stipulated that this was made of ‘taffeta’, defined by Palsgrave in 1530 as being ‘a maner of sylke’.3 The cloth of the banner was surrounded by a fringe of silk and the blason encased in a knotted cord, the emblem of the ducal house of Montfort4

The impression of splendour was further enhanced by the work of embroiderers who added to the escutcheon extra needlework of silver and gold – something that was also added to the jacket’s collar. The work was costly and the municipality paid out over 45 livres for the coat and the banner. The result must have been impressive. Jacques Cellier’s drawing gives us some idea of what this might have looked like:

A trumpeter on horseback, drawn by Jacques Cellier, ca 1583, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds Français 9152, digitised by Gallica.

The 45 livres that the local authorities spent on his jacket meant that the trumpeter wore clothes that were worth as much as his annual basic salary. This is particularly striking when one considers that his wages covered other roles he had agreed to undertake. He was also officially in charge of ensuring that the town walls were kept clean of filth (‘immondicitez’), and of keeping the main clock in working order.5

This role of clock warden was of some importance, and generally carried out by a trained clockmaker. Hoyart was paid on various occasions for ringing the clock bell – often on joyous occasions. Thus, in 1530, he received 30 sous for having rung the bell for a whole hour to celebrate the return of the sons of Francis I, Henry (the future king Henry II) and his elder brother Francis, duke of Brittany, who had been held in captivity in Spain for four years whilst the French king sought to avoid his obligations…6

The clock’s importance to the city is shown in the representation of Rennes in 1543. The tower stands prominently and it is possible to make out both the clock face and the bell in the open belfry above:

Rennes’s clock, as painted in 1543 in the Course of the Vilaine from Redon to Rennes (Bibliothèque nationale de France, GE EE 146 Rés, digitised by Gallica).

The investment made by the municipal authorities in a jacket emblasoned with the town’s coat of arms was thus doubly justified!

The section of the accounts of the city for 1528 that refers to the trumpetters clothes is kept in Rennes’s Municipal Archives at the pressmark CC 139 f. 37r. Here is a transcription of the relevant passage:

« Aultres mises faictes par lesdits miseurs susdits par vertu d’un garent et commandement de messieurs de ladite ville dabté le lundi unziesme jour de may mil v c xxviij pour acoustrez Jehan Lalleman sergent et trompecte de ladite ville d’un soye de drap avecq ung escuczon armoyé des armes de ladite ville sur l’une des manches dudit soye et racoustrez et regarniz sa trompecte de tafetas de parreille qu’estoit la vieille :

  • A esté payé à Jehan Debrays marchant de draps pour troys aulnes de drap noir de Paris, pour le scoye dudit Lalleman, l’aulne apreciée à la somme de xlij s. vj d. pour ce vj L. vij s. vj d. 
  • Item pour une aulne ung quart de tafetas blanc à bandez ledit soye tout à l’entour à xxvij s. vj d. l’aulne, pource xxxiiij s. iiij d. ob.
  • Item dempuis ung quart pour ce que n’y en eut pas assez, pource vj s. x d. ob.
  • Item pour une aulne ung tiers de tafetas blanc et noir pour meptre à ladite trompecte et yrins de la frange de soye, prinse à la maison de la ville, pource xxxvi s viij d.
  • Item fut poyé à ung brodeurs qui feist ledit escuczon d’or fin et argent avecq une cordeliere tout allentour dudit escuzon et au collet dudit soye par marché faict avecq le brodeurs à la somme de C s. monnoie.
  • Item fut payé au cousturier qui feist ledit soye et acoustra ladite trompecte, pource x s. monnoie.

Somme dudit accoustrement declarée ou present feillet, xv L. xv s. 5 d. monnoie ».

  1. “Aux carrefours du grand bout de Cohuë, la Cherbonnerie, la Cisne, les Carmes, Toussaincts et autres lieux et endroits accoustumez à faire bannies, environ l’heure de midy dudict jour, en grande congregation de peuple à ce voir et ouyr faire, apres le son de trompette faict par Michel Coquart, Trompette ordinaire audict Rennes.”, Arrest de la court de Parlement, portant defenses à tous Seigneurs, Gentils-hommes et autres, de fortifier maisons, et tenir en icelles soldats et gens de Guerre, n’y contraindre les paysans et laboureurs à aucunes impositions (Angers: Antoine Hernault, 1598) USTC 67804, cried in Rennes on 30 March 1598. []
  2. See Lauren Kim, French Royal Acts Printed Before 1601. A Bibliographical Study (University of St Andrews thesis, 2008), I, p. 44. []
  3. John Palsgrave, L’esclarcissement de la langue francoyse, ([London], John Haukyns and Richard Pynson, 1530) USTC 55807, f. 69. []
  4. On this emblem and its use, see Laurent Hablot, ‘Pour en finir – ou pour commencer ! – avec l’ordre de la Cordelière’ in Dominique Le Page (ed.), Pour en finir avec Anne de Bretagne ? (Nantes: Archives départementales de Loire-Atlantique, 2004), pp. 47–70. []
  5. Accounts for 1529, Archives municipales de Rennes, CC 140 f. 5r. []
  6. The sons arrived in France on 22 March 1530, having been released following the signing of the peace of Cambrai the previous year, a ‘hollow peace’, see Robert Knecht, Francis I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 221. []
Germany Low Countries Rouen Shipping

Flotsam not jetsam. Recovering stolen goods during the Wars of the religion

Rouen’s status not just as a seafaring port but also as a city in which merchants haggled and struck commercial agreements is a recurrent feature of many of the documents we have analysed. But maritime trade was not without risks. We have already seen the frustration of a merchant who watched on helplessly as his ship sunk with most of its cargo whilst ‘helpers’ pilfered some of its contents… If it was so easy to steal right in front of the owners, what chance was there of recouping goods lost many miles away? Well, that was exactly the task that Nicolas de Flammare faced in 1592.

Barrels and bales floating free as a ship sinks. Woodcut from Marcus Tulius Cicero, Officia. Ein Buch, So Marcus Tullius Cicero der Römer, zu seynem Sune Marco (Augsburg: Heinrich Steiner, 1531), USTC 679342, Digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Sixteenth-century Rouen was full of foreign visitors. From exiles to mercenaries and seafarers from all over Europe and beyond, the city welcomed people from many different countries. But one of the most numerous communities was formed by traders from the Low Countries and the Hanseatic world. The early modern period was marked by the economic power and activity of the Hanseatic League, an organisation of towns and merchants mainly located in the Netherlands, in the north of the Holy Roman Empire and along the shores of the Baltic Sea.1 The merchants developed an extensive commercial network and Rouen, on the western confines of their normal areas of exchange, was an outpost for ships sailing towards southern Europe and beyond.

The archives of the city stand testament to their presence. And it is there, in the leaves of the notary records, that we find Nicolas de Flammare, described as a merchant of Lübeck, acting for Matthias Tileke (“Mathieu Tilque”) of Hamburg. These were two of the wealthiest Hanseatic cities, powerhouses of the northern European economy.

Lübeck (above) and Hamburg in 1572 as engraved by Georg Braun, printed in his Civitates orbis terrarum – this copy digitised by Gallica.

Though identified as a resident of Lübeck, Flammare’s name is one that is to be found elsewhere in Normandy. A namesake, perhaps his son, was buried in Trouville in 1688 at the ripe old age of 88. A member of the protestant community, Nicolas’s residence aboard was perhaps a result of the religious strife and the persecution of Protestants. However, he seems to have stayed in Normandy during the difficult years of civil conflict known as the Wars of the Catholic League (1588-1598). Indeed, our story starts in 1592 at the height of the conflict in the province when a ship of goods transported by Matthias Tileke ran aground in the Normand coast.

Tileke seems to have specialised in the trade between the Mediterranean and northern Europe. He is notably known for having ferried merchandise between Venice and Lübeck .2 But in 1592, aboard a ship named the Black bear, he ran into trouble just off Granville in western Normandy. The Cotentin coast was treacherous with rocks and sand banks often concealed by high tides and shipwrecks were common throughout the early modern period.3 The ship hit a rock identified as the “Isle de Mainquere”. The “island” of Minquaire can be identified a little to the north of Granville on the ‘Cassini’ map of the area – though the name disappeared in later depictions and seems to be completely forgotten today.

Location of Minquaire on the Cassini map of 1757 digitised by Gallica.

That the ship was so close to the shore suggests that it was using coastal navigation, which consisted of employing landmarks in order to calculate position and course – as did many sixteenth-century vessels. Certainly, the Black bear was stranded close enough to the shore for locals to have relatively easy access. The document denounced the way it had been ‘plundered and depredated by a number of burghers from Granville and the surrounding area’.

Flammare thus directly accused them of acting as wreckers, unlawfully seizing flotsam that should have been given back to the goods’ rightful owners. There is no indication of what happened to the crew or any mention of attempts to fight off the plunderers. Tileke himself survived and moved on fairly quickly. By the following year, he was already master of another ship named the Saint James (‘Sankt Jakob’).4

Allegorical depiction of a shipwreck by Cornelis Cort, ca 1595. Digitised by the Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1908-2352

Though we do not know what the ship was carrying, the cargo must have been of great value. Flammare set about trying to recover the goods at significant cost and started judicial proceedings against locals in the law courts. In this he was aided not by Tileke, but by a third figure: Sebastien Pittavin. Described as a merchant presently residing in the town of Honfleur, a sea port situated on the southern bank of the mouth of the Seine, Pittavin was mostly connected with a key city in Low Countries: Middelburg.5

Located on the westernmost tip of the newly independent United Provinces, it was a strategic Dutch port that had traditionally been an active (though peripheral) member of the Hanseatic League. By the end of the sixteenth century, it was turning towards trade further afield, and notably towards the Indies. Pittavin, who had previously been described as a burgher and merchant of Middelburg,6 was probably already involved in such transoceanic exchanges.7 This perhaps gives us an idea of why the cargo was so valuable.

Plan of Middelburg – note the way the city is built around the port and the protection of ships within the city walls. Engraving from Lodovico Guicciardini, Description de touts les Pays-Bas, autrement appellez la Germanie Inférieure ou Basse Allemagne (Amsterdam: Cornelis Claesz, 1609), digitised by the Rijksmuseum.

Pittavin provided Flammare with considerable sums of money. Over the years that followed Pittavin advanced no less that 1,957 gold écus – a huge amount. Such a loan suggests that not only were the goods valuable, but that the Dutch connection was important. The ship’s name, the Black bear, was also typical of ships from the Low Countries – it was cited amongst the traditional names that made the country’s fleet resemble a ‘menagerie’.8

The loan despite the great “inconvenience, risks and dangers” it represented for Pittavin, paid off. After six years of lawsuits, Flammare’s persistence was rewarded: the burghers of Granville were forced to pay compensation and he made sure Pittavin was the first to get his money back. The whole sum was paid back in April 1598. In the context of the Wars of the Catholic League during which trade suffered and Protestant possessions were targeted, Flammare’s perseverance was remarkable. It is perhaps telling that he began at last to get compensation in the very month that the Edict of Nantes was signed by Henry IV, signalling the end of civil conflict.

Court proceedings in sixteenth-century France, from Jean Milles de Souvigny, Praxis criminis persequendi (Paris, Simon Colines, 1541), USTC 140268.

The story shows how maritime trade involved a complex network of merchants from northern cities stretching from Honfleur to Lübeck. It also highlights how vulnerable the system was to such simple things as protruding rocks or the opportunistic designs of others. But it also emphasises that persistence could pay off, even during bitter conflicts like the French Wars of religion.

The original document is to be found in the registers of the notaries of Rouen at the Archives Départementales of the Seine-Maritime under pressmark 2E1/636. Here is a transcription of the main part of the agreement:

« Fut present Nicollas de Flamare marchand demeurant à Lubec pais d’Allemagne lequel de son bon gré et vollunté confessa avoir eu et receu comptant plusieurs et diverses fois tant ce jour d’huy que precedent audit jour d’huy de honnorable homme Sebastien Pittavin, marchand demeurant à present à Honnefleur, la somme de mil six cens cinquante sept escus sol laquelle susdite somme ledit de Flamare disoit avoir receue à son contentement dudit Pittavin et emploier depuis l’an mil v c iiij xx douze jusques aujourd’huy pour subvenir aux frais à la poursuicte en procez intenté par ung maistre de navire de la ville de Hambourg nommé Mathieu Tilque dont ledit Flammare disoit avoir charge et luy procureur par procuration que leur dit avoir esté à ce passée par ledit Tilque devant Le Forestier et Cuillot, tabellions en la ville de Caen, le xvj e fevrier mil v c quatre vingtz traize concernant le deperdement dudit navire de Tilque nommé l’ours noir pillée et depredé par nombre de bourgeois de Granville et des environs estant eschoué prez de l’Isle de Mainquere.

Allencontre desquelz bourgeois ledit Flamare disoit tant par charge à presse que vertu de procuration il a mené et soustenu devers par plusieurs proces depuis ladite année iiij xx xij jusques à ce jour sans avoir eu en tout ledit temps aucune aide, assistance, argent ny moiens dudit Tilque ny autres personnes synon dudit Pottavin.

A raison de quoy ledit Flamare a promis et promect assister ledit Pittavin et ce qu’il luy sera possible que des premieres et plus clere deniers qui proviendroit desdits procez au proffict dudit Tilque en faire et toucher et recepvoir audict Pittavin ladite somme de mil ix cens cinquante sept escus sol par ledit Pittavin loiallement et avec sa tres grande incommodité, perilz et dangers baillée et prestée audit Flamare pour subvenir à la s.. que dessus à quoi cession de prest et deboursement icelluy Flamare a dict, juré et confermé qu’il n’eust et ne pourroit satisfaire par et au moien de la presente recognoissance, prest et obligation ledit Pittavin a tenu et tient quicte ledit Flammare de certain brevet montant la somme de neuf cens quarante trois escus sol enquoy ledit Flamare s’estoit vers luy obligé pour la cause et condition audit brevet ».

  1. This went from the present day Netherlands to Germany through Poland and up to Estonia. See the definitions and maps in the introduction to Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz and Stuart Jenks, The Hanse in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Leiden: Brill, 2013), pp. 1-35. []
  2. Pierre Jeannin, ‘Die Rolle Lübecks in der hansischen Spanien- und Portugalfahrt des 16. Jahrhunderts’, Zeitschrift des Vereins für Lübeckische Geschichte und Altertumskunde, LV (1975), 5-40 at p. 23. []
  3. See the mini-series of articles devoted by Charles de La Morandière to the ‘Naufrages granvillais’ in Le Pays de Granville between 1937 and 1939 []
  4. Pierre Jeannin, op. cit., p. 23. []
  5. Pittavin spent some time in Honfleur and was still there in 1610, see Charles and Paul Bréard (eds), Documents relatifs à la marine normande et à ses armements aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles pour le Canada, l’Afrique, les Antilles, le Brésil et les Indes (Rouen, A. Lestringant, 1889) p. 170 []
  6. See Drost (M. A.) (ed.). Documents pour servir à l’histoire du commerce des Pays-Bas avec la France jusqu’à 1585 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984), I, pp. 520 and 529. []
  7. In 1608, he was involved in trade with Canada: Charles and Paul Bréard (eds), op. cit., p. 110-112. []
  8. See John Lothrop Motley, History of the United Netherlands (London: John Murray, 1867), IV, 322. []
Brittany Food Ireland Shipping Travel

Irish merchants, Breton seafarers and the salt trade at the end of the 16th century

The vast majority of surviving archival records refer to transactions between people of which we know little or nothing at all. They are, nevertheless, frequently very interesting in their own right as they offer a glimpse of practices and life during the Renaissance. One such case illustrates the vitality of international trade and tells us how Irish merchants employed seafarers from Brittany in order to import and export goods between Ireland and the continent.

The document that emphasises these exchanges was drawn up in Rouen, a city not only vital for trade into and out of Normandy and Paris, but also as a place in which people involved in international commerce could meet and set up future enterprises. When deals were struck, the simplest thing was to record the agreements in the local notarial registers, which is were they are still preserved today.

In April 1597, an Irish merchant, whose name was transcribed as Jean Kenuycke but who signed John Kenwicke, signed a contract with the Breton seafarer Jean Sallaun. Kenwicke is described as coming from ‘Trodal’, undoubtedly the important port of Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland and, indeed, a ‘Johannes Kenwick de Droghda’ is mentioned in the Latin records of the Manor of Saint Sepulchre in Dublin a decade earlier.1

View of Drogheda in 1690 engraved by Jan Luyken and printed in Lambert van den Bosch, Yerlant verlost en hersteld, door den onvermoeide victorieuzen William de IIIde, Amsterdam: Jan Claesz ten Hoorn, 1690. Rijksmuseum RP-P-1896-A-19368-848.

Sallaun was from ‘Penart du bourg d’Embon’, in other words Penerf, near Ambon in present day Morbihan, on the south coast of Brittany. He was captain of a ship named ‘la Marguerite’ of decent size, as it was described as having a capacity of around 50 tons. This was small compared to the large ships that were being used in long distance intercontinental exchanges at the time, but still could carry a considerable quantity of goods – certainly sufficient for cross-channel trade.

A glimpse of the comparative size of the boat – and an idea of what it might have looked like – is provided by a mid-sixteenth-century manuscript illustration that showed the three ships that Vasco de Gama took on his first voyage to India. The smallest, the Bérrio, represented in the bottom left corner of the drawing, was thought to be of around 50 tons – like Sallaun’s ship.

Detail from the Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu, circa 1565, Pierpont Morgan Library, Ms M 525.

The contract stipulated that Kenwicke wished to charter Sallaun’s ship and his crew to take goods from Brittany to Ireland, though some of the details were somewhat vague. The ship was to sail within the following six days to either the port of Le Croisic or Pouliguen in southern Brittany, just to the north of the mouth of the Loire. There it was to be laden with unspecified goods of Kenwicke’s choice before departing directly for either the port of Drogheda or Dublin. In both the port of departure and arrival, the boat and its crew were to wait for up to fifteen days.

Sallaun was to maintain the ship’s watertightness, ensuring that it was duly caulked, with a crew of ten good sailors. He not only had to face the ‘perils and fortunes of the sea and of war’, but also the possibility of having to repel pirates and so, as well as having two poles, presumably to fend off boats, each member of crew needed to have his own harquebus.

A German sixteenth-century harquebus typical of those used throughout Europe, Royal Armouries, XII.8.

The contents of the shipment are made clear when the question of costs and payment were broached. The document explains that Sallaun was to be paid 52 s. 6 d. for each barrel of salt. Salt was a precious commodity and easy to export. One of the important areas of production was the marais salant of Guérande in southeastern Brittany. There a network of salt evaporation ponds furnished considerable quantities of salt and, at the time the contract was drawn up, the salterns were reaching the zenith of their importance.

For a long time, historians thought that most of the Guérande production was used locally but more recent work has shown that it was exported throughout Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – and this text shows that the trade was already well in place by the end of the sixteenth century.2 The ports of Le Croisic and Pouliguen were ideally situated and, by naming both ports, the ship could choose the one that suited the tide and conditions.

Map of the ports named in the document and Guérande where the salt was produced.

The terms and conditions of the payment are also interesting: they demonstrate that ship captains were not simply offering to transport goods, they were also actively participating in trades as merchants in their own right. Kenwicke promised to pay half of the price in money, but the other half was to be paid in kind. Specifically, the contract states that Sallaun was to be remunerated with Irish salted leathers worth one écu per hide. Sallaun could then return to the continent not only with part of his boat already filled with goods, but could also sell on the leather where he deemed it propitious.

The payment also hints at the wider engagement of Kenwicke in the leather trade. In this context, importing large quantities of salt makes perfect sense. Leathers were salted with sea salt and alum to prevent them from deteriorating. This was a method employed specifically for hides that were to be kept in cellars or that were to be transported it to distant tanneries.3 Most of the leather was then to be exported out of Ireland towards the rest of Europe in what was considered as a flourishing trade.4

Map of the probable trajectory of Sallaun’s ship to pick up the salt (in red) and to take it to Ireland (in blue).

The final part of the payment was a large cape of Irish design which was the inevitable ‘pot de vin’, sign of ‘a bargaine well driven’ as indicated by Cotgrave’s Dictionarieas we have already seen. The auspicious nature of the contract was emphasised by two further details included in an addendum to the document. Firstly, Sallaun accepted to take Kenwicke with him to the salt ports of Brittany at no extra cost and, secondly, they agreed that should the occasion arise, Kenwicke could fill the ship with his own goods to be carried back across the seas to the continent at a slightly discounted rate. The document was the first stage of a sustained commercial relationship!

The original document is to be found in the registers of the notaries of Rouen at the Archives Départementales of the Seine-Maritime under pressmark 2E1/627. Here is a transcription of the main part of the agreement:

« Fut present Jean Sallaun demeurant à Penart du bourg d’Embon, pais de Bretaigne, maistre apres Dieu d’un navire nommé la Marguerite de Penert de port de cinquante tonneaulx ou environ de present estant devant les quais de ceste ville de Rouen, lequel de son bon gré confessa avoir fretté sondict navire à Jean Kenuycke, marchand yrlandois, demeurant en la ville de Trodal audict pais d’Irlande, present, et qui confessa avoir affrecté ledict navire dudict maistre en la maniere qui ensuilt :

C’est assavoir que ledict maistre sera tenu et a promis et s’est submis et obligé par ces presentes partir avec sondict navire et equippage de devant lesdicts quais de ceste ville de Rouen dans six jours de ce jour d’huy le temps estant commode pour ce faire et aller et singler de droicte roulte audict pais de Bretaigne soit à Croisy ou Poulgain, ou la baie au choix et obtenir dudict marchand dont il sera tenu advertir ledict maistre au premier de l’un desdicts lieux ou il arrivera et le lieu ou ledict maistre devera faire sa charge pour audict lieu prendre et recepvoir par ledict maistre dans le bord de sondict navire toutes et telles sortes de marchandises qu’il plaira audict marchand, ses facteurs ou commis, luy bailler et delivrer jusques à la pleine et entiere charge d’icelluy et ladite charge faicte desdictes marchandises partir par ledict maistre avecq sondit navire et equippage oudict lieu où il sera sadicte charge de premier bon temps convenable qu’il plaira à Dieu envoer, et aller et singler de droicte roulte, Dieu aidant, moiennant le peril et fortune de la mer et de la guerre à Dulin ou à Drodal audict pais d’Irlande au choix dudict marchand dont ledict marchand sera tenu advertir ledict maistre à la veue de terre dudict pais d’Irlande.

Pour faire laquelle charge audict lieu de Bretagne et descharge à l’un desdicts lieux d’Irlande, cy dessus declarés ainsi que dict ledict maistre sera tenu sejourner pour faire audict charge quinze jours entiers et pour audict descharge audict lieu semblable sejour de quinze jours entiers le tout à compter jour apres autre sans en ce comprendre les jours de partement et arrivement auquel lieu d’Irlande dont ledict maistre sera adverty d’aller icelluy maistre sera tenu y faire la descharge desdites marchandises bien et deuement condictionnés pour toutes rester mesmes sera tenu ledict maistre de tenir sondict navire bien estanche, calfesté et equippé de dix hommes bons et suffisans navicateurs la personne dudict maistre compris, se avec deux perches et chaque homme son harquebouse.

Ce frectement et afrectement ainsi faictz moyennant la somme de cinquante deux solz six deniers tournois pour chacune baricque de sel enfrect à la mesure et ordonnance du lieu où se fera audict descharge et d’autant que ledict maistre en deschargera saulvement lequel frect ledict marchant sera tenu et a promis paier ou faire paier audit maistre assavoir : moictié en argent et l’aultre moictié en marchandise de cuirs sallez dudict lieu d’Irlande, bons, loyaux et marchand au prix d’un escu chacun cuir et en douze jours apres ladicte descharge bien et deuement faicte desdictes marchandises dudict navire avec aussi une mante à la mode dudict pais d’Irlande pour le pot de vin dudict maistre # et à ce tenir et obliger, etc ».

« # en faveur de laquelle presente charge partie ledict maistre à promis audict marchand de luy porter dans sondict navire audict lieu du Croisi en Bretaigne estant ladite descharge faicte audict lieu d’Irlande jusques à la moictié et port de sondict navire en toutes et telle sorte de marchandise qu’il paie audict navaleur sans pour raison en avoir en paier autre chose audict maistre fors et resolve deux escus sol pour le pot de vin dudict maistre et outre aussi a esté accordé par ledit maistre ou cas qu’il voulust frecter sondict navire aiant faict sa descharge audict lieu d’Irlande en ce cas que ledict marchand pouvoit frecter ledict navire dudict maistre avant autres marchands et deux realles à meilleur marché pour frectement que autre qui voudroit frecter ledict navire »

  1. See Herbert Wood, Court book of the Liberty of Saint Sepulchre within the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Dublin, 1586-1590 (Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1930), pp. 4, 36, 57, 67, 68. []
  2. Gildas Buron, ‘Le commerce des sels de Guérande (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles)’ in Le sel de la Baie: Histoire, archéologie, ethnologie des sels atlantiques (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2006), p. 273-291. []
  3. Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (eds), Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton and Faulche, 1751-1765), IV, p. 535, digitised by the ENCCRE project. []
  4. See the sections devoted to the trade in Susan Marie Flavin, ‘The development of Anglo-Irish trade in the sixteenth century’, MA Thesis, University of Bristol, 2004 – available online. []
England Jewellery Rouen

Renaissance jewellery in the archives

Though it is nowadays often forgotten, jewellery was an important part of Renaissance art. If Benvenuto Cellini’s entertaining memoirs give us a vivid insight into goldsmith’s work in the sixteenth century, much of the Renaissance production has been lost over time – indeed much of Cellini’s work no longer survives and is only known through his own descriptions. Though Cellini documented his own production (and frequently proclaimed his own genius) in his writings, it is mainly in the notarial archives that we can glimpse the everyday work of jewellers and smiths all over Europe.

Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), salt cellar, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

As their work was well-paid and the materials they used were expensive, they seem to have called upon notaries more than most other trades. This allowed both the artisans and the clients to have contracts formally witnessed and records kept in case of later disagreements. Their descriptions offer valuable glimpses of lost artefacts and the documents emphasise the international context of their creation and ownership.

In December 1588, an English gentleman named Thomas Monfelt (he signed ‘Thomas de Monffelt’) who resided in Rouen, named a compatriot, Robert Tempest, as proxy in order to retrieve two pieces of jewellery in Paris. Robert Tempest was a Catholic priest who went into exile on the Continent were he had been received in the English College of Douay before going on to Paris.1 The presence of a network of exiles suggests that the jewels may of been intended to serve the cause – not least as many Catholic refugees found living in France an expensive business that they had difficulty funding.2

The document stipulated that the jewels comprised of two items: a salt cellar made of silver but gilded in ancient fashion and weighing just under a kilo, as well as a gold ring with a faceted-cut emerald. It was noted that the hallmark of the salt cellar was of foreign design and that the objects were in the hands of the Parisian master stone-cutter Nicolas Templeur3 who had himself received them from a Parisian seller named as ‘Jehan Le Bouteiller’, perhaps the goldsmith Jean Le Bourrelier,4 as is explained in the document:5

« Fut present Thomas Monfelt, gentilhomme angloys demeurant à present en ceste ville de Rouen, parroisse Saint Eloy, lequel de son bon gré a fait et constitué son procureur general et especial, c’est assavoir discrete personne Maistre Robert Tempast prebstre angloys estant de present en la ville de Paris, auquel porteur des presentes ledit sieur constituant a donné et donne plain pouvoir, puissance et auctorité de, pour luy et en son nom, prendre et retirer des mains du sieur Nicollas Templeur, marchand lappidaire, demeurant audit lieu de Paris, une salliere couverte d’argent de poinson estrange à l’antique vermeil doré poisant trois marcz six onces deux gros avec ung anneau d’or garny d’une esmeraulde taillée en facette le tout qui auroit esté remis es mains dudit Tampleur par Jehan Le Bouteiller vendeur à Paris ».

What did the salt cellar look like? Undoubtedly, it was more modest than the stunning Cellini creation shown above, and one can perhaps surmise from the description of the hallmark that, along with the ring also mentioned in the document, the cellar originally came from England. Few examples survive today – indeed even for the seventeenth century, historians have commented on the ‘cruel’ absence of such objects that were made in many shapes and in great quantities.6 An example of an English hallmarked salt cellar of this period, also made of silver gilt, can be found in the Victoria and Albert museum:

‘The Mostyn Salt’ with its lid removed, 1586-1587, Victoria and Albert Museum, 146:1, 2-1886.

The instability and lawlessness that resulted from the wars of religion meant that private property was often targeted by those who saw the civil conflict as a means of becoming rich. In such a context, valuable artefacts were particularly coveted. In 1589, at the outbreak of the wars of the Catholic league, a Flemish merchant had entrusted a particularly valuable necklace to the wife of a local innkeeper. Made of gold, it boasted no fewer than 108 diamonds and 61 pearls, some round, some pear-shaped, and featured a gold rose as pendant. The necklace had been placed in a green velvet case with a silver lining and, when its owner had requested its restitution, the case was returned… but without the necklace! The merchant immediately began legal procedures:7

« pour et au nom dudit constituant et recevoir la restitution d’un carquen d’or garny de cent huit dyamans et soixante et ung perles tant rondes que facon de poires avec une roze d’or pendant audit carquen que ledit constituant disoit avoir baillé en garde à la femme de [blanc], maistre de la Chievre,8 paroisse de Saint Estienne des Tonneliers ou estoit logé ledit constituant, ledit carquen estans dans ung estuy couvert de velours verte bordé d’argent duquel estuy ledit constituant disoit avoir esté restitué et non dudit carquant faire prendre et aprehender les detempteurs dudit carquen ou ceulx qui en pourroit estre soubçonnez suspitionnez et contre eulx procedder ainsy qu’il apartiendra ».

In order to imagine such an ostentatious necklace we can ask Artificial Intelligence to provide us with a possible representation, as shown below, but I fear that its crude modelling does not really show us what it would really have looked like. Undoubtedly contemporary portraits give us a better indication of the likeness of Renaissance jewellery – though nothing I have been able to see seems to fit our description.

A gold renaissance necklace with 108 diamonds and 61 pearls, some round, some pear-shaped, and a gold rose as a pendant – as imagined by Bing’s artificial intelligence model creator.

It was possible to use so many pearls in such a piece of jewellery because of the changes brought about during the sixteenth century by the increasing intercontinental trade that followed the numerous voyages undertaken by European navigators. The new interconnections between merchants and cultures resulted in increased exchanges and made hitherto unobtainable stones available to Renaissance jewellers. In another act, a Parisian stone-cutter obtained a woman’s belt described as made of black silk with pearls and twenty-one gold studs each of which featured a green emerald from “Peru”:9

« luy a esté baillé, delivré et mis en ses mains une ceinture à usage de femme faicte de passement de soye noire garnye de perles et de boutons d’or à chacun desquelz y a une esmeraulde verte enchassée au nombre de vingt et une esmerauldes du Perou ».

Perhaps the portrait of Mary I of England can give us a good indication of what this could have been made to ressemble. Though the painting was done a few decades earlier, the belt has both pearls and gold studded with precious stones:

Queen Mary I, by Master John, 1544, National Portrait Gallery, NPG 428.

Whatever, the true likeness of the different jewels, the number of contracts involving stone-cutters and goldsmiths in the Rouen archives shows that the desire to devise and possess such items was strong in time of war – and, indeed, that conflict could be a propitious moment for theft or for moving and selling jewels.

  1. Thomas Francis Knox, The First and Second Diaries of the English College, Douay and an Appendix of the Unpublished Documents (London: David Nutt, 1878) p. 227. []
  2. See Malcolm Walsby, “A Scottish Catholic family in exile,” in Renaissances: archives and discoveries, 30 November 2022, []
  3. Nicolas Templeur died in 1610, at which point he was a burgher of Paris – his wife, Claude Chasteau, requested that a probate inventory be drawn up on 22 March 1610: Archives nationales, Minutier Central, étude XXIV carton 145. He was the father of Nicolas II Templeur, who became a goldsmith in the same city: Michèle Bimbenet-Privat, Les orfèvres parisiens de la Renaissance : 1506-1620 (Paris Commission des travaux historiques, 1992) p. 598. []
  4. Jean II Le Bourrelier was active at that point in Paris: Michèle Bimbenet-Privat, op. cit. p. 524. []
  5. Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime, 2E1/584, f. 121r (7 December 1588). []
  6. Michèle Bimbenet-Privat, Les orfèvres et l’orfèvrerie de Paris au XVIIe siècle (Paris: Musées de la Ville de Paris, 2002) p. 171. []
  7. Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime, 2E1/587, f. 33v (29 April 1589). []
  8. This was the name of the inn, see Ernest de Fréville, Mémoire sur le commerce maritime de Rouen depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à la fin du XVIe siècle, Rouen : Le Brument, 1857, I, 232 []
  9. Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime, 2E1/615, f. 32r (25 January 1594). []
Bordeaux Food Rouen Wine

Wine from Bordeaux for the Louvre

In 1596, the kingdom of France was gradually making its way towards peace and many regions were slowly recovering from the devastating wars of the Catholic League. Goods were circulating once more with ease – a lifeline for areas that depended on specialised trade. The region around the city of Bordeaux was a case in point with wine traditionally exported along the Atlantic coast and beyond.

A notarial record preserved in the Rouen archives emphasises the large quantities that were transported north from the vineyards of Guyenne. A contract signed by a local carrier involved no fewer than 36 and half barrels of wine that needed to ferried onwards from Rouen to Paris along the Seine. Such contracts were common for goods that came to Rouen by the sea: they were transferred from large ships to vessels with shallow draughts that could then sail up the river.

Boats on the Seine in Rouen. Engraving by Israel Silvestre, ca 1657

What makes this document remarkable is that it was not drawn up by a merchant but by one of the agents of an aristocrat, Jacques II Goyon, lord of Matignon. He was undertaking this at some considerable expense: he was willing to pay almost 300 livres for the wine to be shipped as quickly as was possible – or at least as swiftly as ‘the perils and fortunes of the river’ permitted.

Matignon was a figure of considerable importance. By 1596, he had a long military career behind him and served successive French kings loyally in a time when rebellion and dissension were common. Henry IV trusted Matignon who served as both mayor of Bordeaux and governor of the province of Guyenne. He was also much appreciated by no less a figure than Michel de Montaigne with whom he had a correspondence.

Jacques II Goyon, lord of Matignon, and his wife, as portrayed on their tomb (now unfortunately destroyed), late 16th century, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms Clairambault 1113, digitised by Gallica.

Serving as the king’s main representative in south-western France, he was ideally placed to organise the dispatch of a large consignment of wine – not least as he was born and owned lands in Normandy. The contract stipulates where the wine was to be delivered in Paris: on the quayside next to the Louvre palace, the king’s residence in the city.

Was this a present for Henry IV to remind him of Matignon loyal service? The aristocrat had already been well rewarded for his steadfastness. He was a marshal of France and had even fulfilled the role of constable, the kingdom’s highest military rank, during Henry’s coronation in Chartres three years earlier. In fact, it seems that there was a special reason for sending the wine at that precise moment…

Jacques de Caillière’s seventeenth-century biography of Matignon tells us that his son, Charles Goyon, married Éléonore d’Orléans-Longueville in Rouen that very year.1 The daughter of the duke of Longueville and of Marie of Bourbon, it was a prestigious match for the Goyon that led Charles to modify his coat of arms to include the royal fleur-de-lys… and it was a match made by the king himself who intervened to ask for Éléonore’s hand for Charles.2

Arms of the house of Goyon after 1596.

Caillière wrote that the match led to a happy mariage, but it has also been suggested that the Longueville family felt aggrieved. They resented the union and felt that they had been unable to refuse Henry IV’s request.3 Without the king’s help, it is clear that the mariage would never had taken place. Surely, this was reason enough to send 36 barrels of wine in thanks for such an advantageous match.

Finally, it is worth noting that giving wine was considered to be a normal way of facilitating exchanges in sixteenth-century France. Cotgrave’s 1611 Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, explains in an entry on the expression ‘pot de vin’ that it denoted ‘a reward given for good newes brought, lost goods restored, a bargaine well driven, or in respect of any other acceptable service; also, a portion bestowed with a maid in marriage’ – though today it has taken on the rather darker connotation of corruption… However, in its contemporary context, the gift seems most appropriate!4

Detail of François-André Vincent’s 18th-century depiction of Henry IV enjoying a glass of wine, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Inv. 8459.

Addendum: A second document (in register 2E1/625) throws more light on how the barrels were brought to Rouen. A few days earlier, on 25 June 1596, one of Matignon’s sommeliers, Martin Douillet, signed a document that acknowledged the receipt of wine sent from Gascogne on a ship named “Le Jacquet” owned by Jean Lavoyne of Cherbourg to be immediately transferred onto the boat bound for Paris.

The original document is to be found in the registers of the notaries of Rouen at the Archives Départementales of the Seine-Maritime under pressmark 2E1/623. Here is a transcription of the main part of the agreement:

« Fut present Thoussans Dieppedalle, voiturier par la riviere de Seyne, demeurant en la parroisse Saint Estienne des Tonneliers, lequel de son bon gré confesse avoir eu et receu dans son basteau de Guillaume du Bosc, l’un des agentz de Monseigneur le mareschal de Matignon, present, le nombre et quantité de trente-six tonneaux et demy de vin de Bordeaulx apartenans à mon dit seigneur pour porter, mener et conduire en la ville de Paris ce que ledit Dieppedalle s’est submis et obligé faire et icelluy vin delivrer devant les quaiz du Louvre audit Paris au sieur du Jardin, secretaire de monseigneur le mareschal dedans le plus bref temps que faire ce pourra sauvf les perilz et fortunes de la riviere moyennant la somme de deux escus sol deux tiers pour chacun tonneau dudit vin ».

  1. Jacques de Callières, Histoire du mareschal de Matignon, Gouverneur et Lieutenant General pour le Roy en Guyenne (Paris: Augustin Courbé, 1661), p. 358 []
  2. Ibidem, pp. 358-9. []
  3. Duc de la Force, ‘Le grand Conti’, part three, Revue des Deux Mondes, LXIII (1921), 864-895 at p. 888. []
  4. Randle Cotgrave, A Dictionarie of the French and English tongues (London: Adam Islip, 1611) STC 5830, Rrr3v. []
Art Aubusson Rouen Tapestry

Love and tapestries in the Renaissance: from Aubusson to Vernon

Documents in the archives can sometimes seem quite dry. Typically, they are legal documents that only make sense if they are contextualised. Their interest often resides in the details, as is the case with this sale concluded in 1595 between a legal clerk and a merchant of the city of Rouen. The text that was drawn up between Nicolas Le Provost, clerk of the bailiff of Gisors, and Robert Le Blanc, a burgher and merchant, does not start off very promisingly, but gets interesting when the object of the sale is mentioned: a series of tapestries.

A weaver at work, after Tobias Stimmer, 1558, from the collection of the British Museum.

Widespread in the mediaeval era, tapestries were still considered to be an important commodity and they adorned many of the walls of the houses of the wealthiest members of Renaissance society. The document explains that the tapestries being sold were originally in the possession of two tapestry merchants from Aubusson, Jacques Vallenet and Jean Magnan. By the end of the sixteenth century, Aubusson, the capital of the Haute-Marche in central France, was already famous for its tapestry production. The industry developed still further over the following centuries, so much so that it was inscribed in 2009 on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Certainly, it was a profitable business: Jacques Vallenet, who was described as a master tapestry maker a few years earlier,1 went on to become a trustee of the local hospital, a position of some distinction in local society.2 He was undoubtedly a member of the family that erected the impressive house that still stands today in the centre of Aubusson:

‘Maison des Vallenet’ in Aubusson originally built in the fifteenth century – see the file on

The document, however, tell us that it was not all plain sailing. The transaction was the result of the an unpaid debt. The Rouen merchant had lent money to the two tapestry makers, but they defaulted leaving the tapestries that had been pledged as a security. Le Blanc clearly did not wish to keep the tapestries and sought a buyer… and this is where Le Provost came in – not in his role as a clerk, but in his secondary role as the accountant and financial manager of the priory of the Hôtel-Dieu of Vernon, a town located some 50km to the south of Rouen.

The Hôtel-Dieu of Vernon as depicted in the ‘Plan geometral de la ville de Vernon sur Seyne’ in 1593, Bibliothèque nationale de France, EST VA-27 (7), digitised by Gallica.

The priory of Hôtel-Dieu was an important institution. Founded in 1256 by the king of France, Saint Louis, it profited greatly from numerous donations during the mediaeval era. The convent was headed by a prioress, who by 1595 was clearly looking to renew the priory’s internal decoration. With the Wars of the Catholic League drawing to a close, it must have seemed like an auspicious moment to do so and the pledged tapestries presented her with the perfect opportunity. Furthermore, the Aubusson weavers were renowned, amongst other things, for the quality of their religious iconography – ideal for such an ecclesiastical setting…

In this context, the subject matter of the tapestries (that is mentioned in the contract drawn up for the transaction) comes as something of a surprise. The series of tapestries consisted of eight scenes taken from… the Homeric story of Paris of Troy and the abduction of Helen.

Detail of a seventeenth-century tapestry of the judgement of Paris, sold in 2022 by Drouot.

This was a classic subject for many tapestries and its enduring appeal is shown by the survival of numerous examples in tapestries woven between the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. But the depiction of such a love story, and the dubious theme of male power and female abduction, would hardly be deemed appropriate to adorn the walls of a provincial priory full of nuns.

The key to answering the riddle of the subject matter lies hidden behind the identity of the anonymous prioress who ordered the acquisition. In 1590, a nun from the royal abbey of Longchamps, near Paris, was suddenly named as the new prioress by the king. Henry IV was, at that point, still a Protestant, but he retained all the ecclesiastical patronage power of previous French monarchs, as did the rest of the Reformed French aristocracy. But, even in the context of civil war against the ultra-Catholic League, this was not the most controversial part of his nomination.

Indeed, the nun he named was Catherine de Verdun, known mainly for having been the king’s mistress for a short while before Henry IV’s attempts to woo Gabrielle d’Estrées were finally successful.

Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters (circa 1594), Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Little is known of Catherine beyond what may be gleaned from rare remarks made in contemporary sources. Suffice to say that she was not particularly well-regarded. She was even accused in one of Marshal Bassompierre’s works to have left the king with what was delicately called a “souvenez vous de moi”, which he had difficulty shaking off.3

Perhaps, in the context of her standing as a nun and her later rejection by the king the theme of Helen and Paris is not so surprising. Catherine could have seen some clear parallels with her own story. A prince came to take a woman away, but in a context of war the relationship is doomed to fail and she is left, dishonoured in the eyes of her contemporaries, to return to the world from which she came.

As for the tapestries themselves, they unfortunately do not seem to have survived. And though it is therefore impossible to guess what they resembled, it is perhaps worth mentioning that the Aubusson tapestries often copied designs and compositions that were circulating throughout France thanks to the lively market for engravings. So, if we want to imagine what they could have looked like, we could do worse than to cast an eye on surviving prints of the story of Helen and Paris.

Detail of an engraving representing Helen being carried off by Paris, published in Paris by François Desprez in the second half of the sixteenth century, in the collection of the British Museum.

The original document is to be found in the registers of the notaries of Rouen at the Archives Départementales of the Seine-Maritime under pressmark 2E1/617. Here is a transcription of the main part of the agreement:

« Fut present Nicollas Le Provost greffier de monsieur le bailly de Gisors au siege de Vernon et receveur de la dame prieure de l’hostel dieu de Vernon lequel de receveur a recongeu et confesse que par honorable homme Robert Le Blanc, bourgeoys marchand demeurant en la parroisse Saint Jehan de Rouen, present, luy a esté baillé et dellivré une chambrée de tapisserie comptant huit pieces à personnages de l’histoire de Paris et d’Helene qui avoit esté baillé audit Le Blanc en nantissement de la somme de quatre vingtz deux escus sol dont il auroit faict prest à Jacques Vallenet et Jehan Magnan marchandz tapissiers demeurant en la ville d’Aubession dans la Marche au dioceze de Lymoges par brevet passé devant les tabellions de Rouen le penultime de septembre dernier passé an present ».

  1. See ‘Liste des maîtres tapissiers et maîtres peintres de l’ancienne manufacture d’Aubusson‘, Mémoires de la société des sciences naturelles et archéologiques de la Creuse, V (1882) p. 93. []
  2. See the entry in the register of Aubusson’s Hôtel-Dieu 1586-1602 for 24 May 1599, Archives départementales de la Creuse, H suppl. 1 B1. []
  3. Nouveaux Mémoires du Maréchal de Bassompierre, recueillis par le président Hénault (Paris: Locard fils, 1802), p. 178. []
Death Funeral Laval

The funeral procession of an aristocrat, Guy XVII of Laval

It has been suggested that, paradoxically, the death of an aristocrat was one of the highlights of his life. The event led to mourning, the composition of epitaphs celebrating the dead person’s life, and pomp in the form of a large scale funeral procession. Certainly, this was true for the count of Laval Guy XVII who died in 1547 when he was still in his twenties.

Guy XVII, count of Laval, painted by François Clouet circa 1545, Timken Museum of Art, San Diego.

Guy XVII was from a prominent noble line of western France and one of the main aristocratic figures of his time. Contemporaries recognised his importance, with one English observer commenting that he was “oon of the greatist inhereters in all France”.1 Having married Claude de Foix, the heiress to the house of Lautrec, he was not just count of Laval, but also of Montfort-sur-Meu, Quintin, Rethelois and Beaufort-en-Champagne, viscount of Rennes, Fronsac and Saint-Florentin, as well as baron of Vitré, La Roche-Bernard, Lohéac, La Roche-en-Nort, Donzy, Donval, and Lescun – lands in areas as diverse as Brittany, Maine, Champagne and South-western France.2

His death was an unfortunate affair and was said to have followed a game of real tennis played at court. There was even a rumour that suggested that it resulted from a stab wound inflicted by King Henry II during the game – something completely unsubstantiated but still often repeated – not least by the later historian Charles Maucourt de Bourjolly and those who took his word as gospel truth.3 This was denied by one of Guy XVII’s entourage, the well-informed Jean Legay, who wrote that he died of pleurisy after having been convinced by the King to play tennis at Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris despite having been bled that very morning…

The tennis court at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, from the plan drawn by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau from Le premier volume des plus excellents bastiments de France (Paris, Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, 1576), USTC 45358, digitised by Gallica.

His funeral was divided in different stages. He was first of all laid to rest in the parish church of Saint-André-des-Arts in Paris, close to his residence in the city before the body was returned to Laval where it was buried in the Dominican convent in 1548. However, three years later, he was reburied in the collegiate church of Saint-Tugal alongside his ancestors.

The church was unfortunately destroyed during the French revolution, but the beautiful Hours of Louis de Laval-Châtillon painted some decades earlier offer us a tantalising glimpse of its interior: an illuminated page shows Louis kneeling beside his tomb in a romanesque church with the family arms on the pillars and altar.

Horae ad usum Romanum, BnF, Latin 920, digitised by Gallica.

The translation of Guy XVII’s body to Saint-Tugal was the occasion for the funeral procession, described in a contemporary document and copied out again at the start of the seventeenth century when a similar procession needed to be organised for the last count, Guy XX.

It tells of how the clergy gathered to accompany the body amidst the ringing of bells. The thurible and the coat of arms were polished, and five copes of black velvet were carried forth. The assembled congregation sung the Subvenite sancti Dei, then a service for the dead began containing three lessons and nineteen psalms. The body was then placed in the church of the Dominicans surrounded by candles for a night-long vigil.

The Dominican church of Laval before the Revolution, from G. Rohault de Fleury, Les Couvents de St Dominique au moyen âge (Paris: Lethielleux, 1903).

The next day, the body was taken to the collegiate church, with the bells tolling. The funeral service was conducted by Jean de la Massonaye, auxiliary bishop of Mâcon, titular bishop of Hippos, but described here as the suffragan of the archbishop of Rouen, Georges d’Amboise – presumably because this was a particularly important rôle. But what is most interesting is the procession that followed.

Behind the clergy and the noblemen, there followed his standards and a whole host of personal items, carried with reverence. First came trumpets, then his spurs, his gauntlets, his coat of mail, his armet (a combat helmet), a banner of simple taffeta half white half red, an escutcheon, followed by a standard of the arms of Laval surrounded by the collar of the order of Saint Michel. Next in line were Guy XVII’s hat and arms with a mule covered with black velvet and his war horse bringing up the rear. All of which must have been preserved for three years in order to be able to be part of the procession.

Detail from La magnifique et sumptueuse pompe funebre faite aus obseques et funerailles du tresgrand et tresvictorieux empereur Charles cinquiéme, celebrées en la vile de Bruxelles, (Antwerp: Christophe Plantin, 1559), USTC 41636, digitsed by the Plantin-Moretus Museum.

The procession may seem quite bizarre to us today. The objects all evoked his military and political role, but were also intensely personal items, recreating his physical being, piece by piece. It would also have made for a very colourful procession, contrasting with the dour black robes of the clergy and the mourners in a way typical of royal Renaissance funerals in France.4 Or, indeed, in the funeral procession of Emperor Charles V that took place a few years later.

The original document describing the funeral procession is still in private hands. It was part of the collection of Louis-Julien Morin de La Beauluère (1798-1861) – a local historian who edited and wrote a number of texts on Laval and the surrounding area. A significant part of his cabinet is still preserved at the Château du Tertre in Nuillé-sur-Vicoin in Mayenne by his heirs.

Postcard of the Château du Tertre in Nuillé-sur-Vicoin

However, it was microfilmed by the Archives Départementales and kept at pressmark 1 Mi 144 (R 69) Here is a transcription I did many years ago (and have not been able to check) of the main part of the description:

Description of Guy XVII of Laval’s funeral procession:

« Item tout ce clerge ainsi assemblé allerent jusques au cimetiere dieu à la rencontre dudict corps et sonnerent les deux grosses cloches à la partie
Item à la reception du dict corps on recommenca à sonner les dictes cloches
Item fut frottés les encenciers et des armoiries pour la croix et chandeliers
Item furent portées cinq chappes de velours noir
Item apres le subvenite fut commencé vigilles des mors à trois lecons dont furent dix neuf pseaulmes devant lesdictes lecons
Item fut posé ledict corps aux Jacobins en une chapelle ardente couverte de cierges blancs
Item le lendemain ledict college acompagné des cordeliers et jacobins au son de la grosse cloche partirent processionelle entrer huict et neuf du matin pour aller aux Jacobins et sonnerent les grosses cloches
Item ettoient messieurs les cordeliers revetus de tous ornemens et chappes de velours noir pour dire la grande messe laquelle fut dite en grande solemnité et quand fut environ l’evangile de la messe sonnerent les deux grosses cloches bien longuement
S’ensuit ce qui fut fait a l’enterrement du corps de deffunct mondit seigneur le conte de Laval lequel fut inhumé en l’eglise collegiale de monsieur Saint Tugal de Laval le dix-huictieme jour d’aoust mil cinq cent cinquante et un
Et premier fit l’enterrement le suffragent de monseigneur l’archeveque de Rouen nommé Massonaye natif de Vitre
Ordre de marcher et premier
Les cordeliers
Les jacobins
La paroisse de Grenouz
La paroisse d’Avesnieres
Les paroisses de Ste Melanie et St Venerand
La paroisse de Ste Trinite
les religieux de Ste Catherine
En huictieme et dernier lieu marchent la croix et chanoines du cimetiere dieu et St Tugal ensemble les chanoines du dict cimetiere dieu presider par les chanoines du St Tugal
Item apres marcherent cent pouvres vestuz de dueil portant chacun une torche flambante
Item apres marchent messires les gentilhommes
Item apres marche l’enseigne de feu monseigneur
Item apres marchent les deux trompetes
Item apres marchent les deux ettandardes
Item apres marchent les esprons
Item apres marchent les gantelets
Item apres marche la cotte d’armes
Item apres marche l’armet
Item apres marche l’enseigne de taffetas simple mi partie de blanc mi partie de rouge
Item apres marche l’escu
Item apres marche l’enseigne des armes de Laval circuits du collier de l’ordre
Item apres marche le chapeau du comte
Item chacun a son endroit ont rendu les armes
Item apres marche un mulet couvert de velours noir
Item apres marche le cheval d’armes
Ce qui fut fait a la messe de requiem pour venir a l’offrande
Item marchent a l’offrende messires qui portent le dueil l’un a pres l’autre conduits par le maistre des ceremonies
Nota le lendemain qui estoit le dix neufiesme fut fait un grand anniversaire solomnel pour le dit seigneur en la dite eglise
Nota que le xxe jour d’aoust fut fait deux sermons solomnels pour le dit seigneur ».

For those who prefer, here is a pdf of the article:

  1. Lisle to Paget, 26 July 1546, State Papers, published under the Authority of His Majesty’s Commission: King Henry the Eighth (London: 1830-52) X, p. 250. []
  2. On Guy XVII and the Lavals, see my The Counts of Laval. Culture, Patronage and Religion in Fifteenth and Sixteenth-Century France (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007). []
  3. See A. Bertrand de Broussillon’s edition of the Mémoire chronologique de Maucourt de Bourjolly sur la ville de Laval (Laval: L. Moreau, 1886. []
  4. See Jennifer Woodward, ‘Funeral rituals in the French Renaissance’, Renaissance Studies, IX (1995), pp. 385-394. []
Food Low Countries Rouen

Sugar and Spice. Disaster on the Seine in the 16th century

The movement of goods during the Renaissance depended heavily on boats. Waterways were essential to trade both within countries and internationally, but this was not without risk, especially for items that needed to be kept dry.

For northern France, Rouen was a vital port. It was not only an important city in its own right, it also served as a gateway for Paris. It was here that goods were transferred from seafaring ships onto smaller crafts that made their way further inland. But Rouen was already some way from the open seas and boats had to snake their way up the Seine to the city, navigating twists and turns and treacherous sandbanks.

Rouen in 1525 with sea ships and river boats either side of the main bridge, digitised by Rotomagus

Two documents centring on the same event in the late sixteenth century show us the difficulties faced by merchants – especially those with expensive cargos who faced multiple different threats…

In 1595, a ship known as the Gold Falcon left Rotterdam for Rouen with some luxury goods aboard. The captain was ‘Girard Jeusse Clost’, or perhaps more accurately Geeraerd Joos Clost (the French notaries having undoubtedly gallicised his name), an inhabitant of the Dutch city. He had accepted to ferry a consignment that had been given to him by a local merchant named ‘Peters Leonart Suais’ for David de Smith in Rouen. Exchanges with Rotterdam were common by the end of the sixteenth century. The city was expanding rapidly thanks to its role as one of the major sea ports of Holland. Its population almost quadrupled between 1514 and 1622 when it reached nearly 20,0000 inhabitants.1

Rotterdam in 1612, engraving by Willem Janszoon Blaeu and Johannes Janssonius, digitised by the Rijksmuseum

The first part of the voyage seemingly went well, but as the ship began to make its way up the Seine disaster struck. As the boat passed Quillebeuf, near the mouth of the river, it hit a sand bank that had been moved by the flow of water, leaving the Gold Falcon stranded. Worse still, the impact had caused a hole to form and the ship was in danger of sinking. Water gushed in and damaged the cargo, in some cases beyond repair.

The notaries of Rouen took down the statement of two Flemish merchants living in the city: Francoys Henry and David de Smith – the very man to whom the consignment was sent. They were clearly on the look out for the ship and its precious holdings as they testified that they were in Quillebeuf on the day the ship hit the sand. They confirmed what had happened and indicated that many goods were soaked. But their deposition concerned one thing in particular: a barrel of sugar.

Quillebeuf in 1638 from a drawing by Christophe Tassin engraved by Michel van Lochom and digitised by the Rijksmuseum.

Sugar was a precious commodity during the Renaissance. It was not new to Europe, where it had been used for centuries, but it was imported from warmer climes, such as India or the Middle-East, before being later planted in the Americas. The cost of such travel ensured that it remained expensive – sugar was taxed twice as much as olive oil, for instance, when it was imported into Paris.2

Before being shipped, it was transformed into sugar loaves that were then put into bales or barrels for the sea journey. The Gold Falcon had one such barrel, described as a ‘boucault’, a very light white wooden barrel. With hindsight, using a relatively flimsy contraption may have been a mistake. The sugar was described as having “completely melted away, with nothing left but pieces of woods, cords, straw and paper” that had been used to wrap it.

The making of sugar loaves, ca 1580, drawing by Jan van der Straet engraved by Philips Galle – digitised by the British Museum.

The complete disappearance of the sugar was particularly problematic: it was impossible to prove that the consignment had genuinely been damaged rather than stolen. Thankfully, Smith and Henry had been on hand to witness the breaking open of the barrel and the complete absence of sugar – and later declare the loss formally to the notaries.

Sugar was not the only item to be declared missing after the ship had run into the sand bank. A second document mentions the loss of another expensive commodity: pepper.

Pepper from the wreck of another the Dutch ship, before 1613, preserved in the Rijksmuseum.

Pepper was far more water resistant and unlikely to simply dissolve as had the sugar. The presence in the Rijksmuseum of around 700g of peppercorns retrieved from the wreck of the ‘Witte Leeuw’ or White Lion, that sunk before 1613, stands testament to its ability to survive water damage.

With the cargo safely taken ashore, they checked on the spices that had been uploaded in Rotterdam, namely two bales of round pepper and two barrels of cloves. Once more, some of the original consignment was missing, though this time the water was not to blame. They noted that there was a hole in one of the bales of pepper and another in one of the barrels of cloves… The contents had mysteriously disappeared.

Speaking through an interpreter – the courtier of the Flemish merchants in Rouen – the captain of the ship had no doubt who was to blame. The locals who had helped ‘save’ the goods had clearly taken it upon themselves to ensure that their pains were rewarded… in pepper and cloves!

The mark of the captain of the ship in the archives of Rouen

The documents on the missing sugar and spices are preserved one after the other in the Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime in Rouen and bear the same date: 24 April 1595. They are kept at pressmark 2E1/614 f. 161v to 162v. Here are transcriptions of the main part of the originals:

On the loss of sugar:

« Furent presens Francoys Henry et David de Smith, marchands flamens demeurans en la parroisse St Eloy de ceste ville de Rouen, lesquelz de leur bon gré ont dict, attesté, certiffié et tesmoigné pour verité par les foy et sermens de leurs corps que environ le cinq ou sixiesme jour de ce present mois d’avril eulx estans à Quillebeuf pour les affers de leurs marchandises ilz verrent comme le navire nommé le Faulcon d’or dont est maistre Girard Jeusse Clost de la ville de Rosterdam pais de Hollande estant eschoué devant ledit lieu de Quillebeuf à l’occasion de l’eau qui avoit miné le sable lequel navire faisée son retour dudit lieu de Rosterdam pour venir descharger en ceste ville de Rouen et que de quoy les marchandises qui estoient dedant furent en la pluspart mouillées et gastées et entre aultres ung boucault de sucre lequel a esté tout fondu n’y restant rien que la fustaille, cordons, paille et pappiers qui y estoient et le disoient savoir lesdits attestans pour avoir esté presens à veoir deffoncée ledit boucault de laquelle presente attestation ledit maistre dessus nommé a requis ».

On the pepper and the cloves:

« Fut presens Girard Jeusse Clost, demeurant en la ville de Rosterdam pais de Hollande, maistre du navire nommé le Faulcon d’or, lequel n’entendant pas le langage francoys à me parlant par Jehan Pasquier, son interprette courtier pour les Flamens en ceste ville de Rouen, present, disant bien parler et entendre les langaiges francois et flamen, de son bon gré et volonté a dict, attesté, notifié, recongnu et declaré que venant dudit lieu de Rosterdam avec sondit navire chargé entre aultres choses ung pacquer dans lequel estoient enveloppées deux balles de poivre rond et deux barilz dans lequel y avoit du clos de giroffle avec des rompes, le tout adressant au sieur David de Smith par Peters Lenart Suais marchant dudit lieu de Rosterdam qui l’avoit chargé et dans ledit navire audit lieu de Rosterdam que ledit navire estans eschoué à Quillebeuf à l’occasion de l’eau qui avoir miné le sable, iceluy navire creva et les marchandises qui y estoient chargées mouillées et gastées en pluspart mesmes celles appartenantes audit Smith et le disoit savoir ledit maistre par la quand estant lesdites marchandises deschargées en terre, il a veu qu’il y avoit un trou au fonds de l’un desdits boucaulx et ung trou dans l’une desdites balles de poivre à raison de quoy ledit maistre a oppinion qu’il y a eu de ladite marchandise prinse et desrobée par aucuns dudit lieu de Quillebeuf qui ont aidé à saulver icelle marchandise ».

For those who prefer, here is a pdf of the article:

  1. Marjolein ‘T Hart, ‘Cities and Statemaking in the Dutch Republic, 1580-1680’, Theory and Society, XVIII (1989), pp. 663-687 at page 665. []
  2. Tableau contenant la moderation des prix que le Roy entend estre levez sur les bleds, grains, vins, bestails, et marchandises passans et entrans dans laville et fauxbourgs de Paris (Paris: Fédéric Morel, 1594), USTC 35226, p. 6 – the brochure has been digitised by Gallica. []
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search