This website is about the Heptameron written by Marguerite de Navarre. It is widely regarded as a major literary work, which has influenced the development of the short story genre. The Heptameron is also valued for its lively portrayal of 16th century Renaissance society, particularly social attitudes about marriage and the relationship between men and women. The Heptameron consists of 72 short stories united by a several different framing devices. The overarching narrative framework is that of stories within stories, told by different narrators who are themselves characters in the story.
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The elder of the two was Margaret, the principal subject of this memoir, born on the 11th of April, ; the younger, born on the 12th of September, , was the prince who succeeded Louis XII.
Married when she was little more than eleven years old, Louise of Savoy was left a widow before she had completed her eighteenth year, and thenceforth devoted herself with exemplary assiduity to the care of her children, who repaid her solicitude by the warm affection they always felt for their mother and for each other. She was a woman of remarkable beauty and capacity, and her character and conduct were deserving, in many respects, of the eulogies which her daughter never wearied of lavishing upon them; but less partial writers have convicted her of criminal acts, which brought disasters upon her son and her country.
In the first year of his reign, Francis I. He was absent but a few months; nevertheless, this first regency enabled Louise of Savoy to fill the most important offices with men entirely devoted to her interests, and even to her caprices and to gratify by any and every means the insatiable thirst for money with which she was cursed.
He returned to Paris with only two attendants, and sought an audience of the king, who refused at first to receive him. Finally, at the intercession of the Constable of Bourbon, Francis allowed Lautrec to appear before him, and after loading him with reproaches, demanded what excuse he could offer for himself. Lautrec calmly replied, "The troops I commanded not having been paid, refused to follow me, and I was left alone.
He persisted in his first statement, and the duchess was forced to confess that she had received the greater part of the sum in question, but she alleged that the money was due to her by the superintendent, and she did not see why her private income should be applied to the Italian expedition.
Francis most bitterly upbraided his mother for thus embezzling the money of the state, but his wrath fell more heavily on the minister, whom he found to have been guilty of culpable complaisance towards her. Louise of Savoy was deeply implicated in a still fouler transaction, which was attended with the most terrible consequences: this was the iniquitous lawsuit brought against the Constable of Bourbon, which was followed by his desertion and treason.
The object of the suit was to wrest from the constable the lordships bequeathed to him by Suzanne de Beaujeu, one of the richest heiresses in Europe, and to which Louise of Savoy laid claim as next of kin to the deceased. She did so at the instigation of the Chancellor Duprat, whose reasonings on the subject we are enabled to give in his own words, as follows: "The marriage of M.
Charles de Bourbon with Madame Suzanne was nothing else than a mere shift to stop the action at law which the said lord was ready to move against Madame de Bourbon and her daughter, on account of the estates of appanage and others entailed on the marriage of Jean de Bourbon and Maria of Berry. The mere apprehension of this contest made the said Madame de Bourbon condescend thereto, and to that end she dissolved the contract passed between M.
Hence there is a likelihood that a similar apprehension of a suit to be promoted for the whole inheritance of the house by two stronger parties than was then the said Lord of Bourbon, who was neither old enough nor strong enough to prosecute it, as the king and his mother will be, may cause some overtures to be made on the one side or the other to compromise and allay this difference.
Should the said Lord of Bourbon agree to this marriage, why there she is at the point she desires, Duchess of Bourbonnais and Auvergne, and lady of that great heritage. If, on the contrary, he refuses, it will be necessary to bring this action, prosecute it vigorously, employ in it the authority of the king and my lady his mother, and spare nought to further it.
This will make him bethink himself, however intractable he may be, and he will be very glad to return into favor by this means. If not, as he is a courageous prince, when he finds himself threatened with the loss of all his possessions, titles, and dignities, he will do something extraordinary, and will choose rather to abandon his country as M. He will withdraw out of the realm; and by so doing he will confiscate all.
So that he cannot fail to do what is desired, be it how it may. But the pleasure brought her by this triumph over her haughty adversary was not of long duration. A few months after he was despoiled of all his estates, Charles of Bourbon quitted France, and entered the service of Charles V.
In the following year, , he drove the French out of Italy, and on the 24th of February, , he defeated them in the famous battle of Pavia, in which Francis I. Margaret wrote respecting it to her brother, "Your letter has had such an effect on Madame, and of all those who love you, that it has been to us a Holy Ghost after the sorrow of the Passion.
Madame has felt her strength so greatly redoubled, that all day and evening not a minute is lost for your affairs, so that you need not have any pain or care about your realm and your children.
There they learned that Charles V. Francis I. Sacrificing, therefore, her feelings as a mother to the requirements of the state, she sent her daughter Margaret instead of herself to Madrid.
She had repaired, as far as it was possible for her, the misfortunes earned by her conduct with regard to the constable. In September, , she was at Fontainebleau with her daughter and all the other ladies of her court; the plague was raging in the neighborhood, and Louise, who had a great dread of death, was incessantly occupied with medicine and new receipts against disorders of all kinds. Her spirits were very low, and her countenance so changed as scarcely to be recognized by her daughter.
The late Queen of Navarre, her daughter, liked no more than her mother these repetitions and preachings concerning death. The Count of Flanders was much struck by her appearance and her accomplishments, and eagerly sought her in marriage. But Louis XII. He had the misfortune to escape unwounded from the fatal battle of Pavia, while endeavoring to save the remains of the routed army; and it has been alleged that, on his arrival at Lyon, where he found his wife and mother-in-law, he was received by them both with the most contumelious reproaches, and that, unable to endure his shame and remorse, he died a few days after.
That is not true. So that I have heard there was an emulation between the two sisters, who should serve her brother best; the one—the Queen of Hungary—her brother the emperor, the other, her brother King Francis; but the former by war and force, the latter by the activity of her fine wit and complaisance. In spite of the apparent cordiality with which she was universally treated at the imperial court, and the very favorable disposition Charles V.
If I had to do with good men, who understood what honor is, I should not care; but it is the reverse. She tried in the beginning to win over some great personages of the imperial court, but afterwards perceiving that the men always avoided talking with her upon any serious topic, she took care to address herself to their mothers, wives, or daughters.
In a letter to Marshal de Montmorency she says of the Duke de Infantado, who had invited her to his castle of Guadalaxara, "You will tell the king that the duke has been warned from the court that as he desires to please the emperor, neither he nor his son is to speak to me; but the ladies are not forbidden me, and I shall speak to them doubly.
These words, pronounced so bravely, and with so much passion, made the emperor bethink himself, so that he moderated his behavior, and visited the king, and promised him many fine things, which he did not, however, perform for that time. But if this queen spoke so well to the emperor, she did still more so to those of his council, where she had audience, and where she triumphed with her fine speaking and graceful manner, of which she had no lack.
Though the royal widow had been promised to the Constable of Bourbon, the emperor did not hesitate to sacrifice his engagement with the illustrious deserter to the interests of his policy. The story of an amour between these two persons, which is told by Varillas in his Histoire de Francois I.
It was Marshal de Montmorency who carried the act of abdication to France, and in designing to seize the person of the princess, Charles V. She left Madrid in the beginning of December, and traveled at first by easy stages, until world was sent her by her brother that she should hasten, for the emperor, hoping that on the 25th of the month, on which day her safe-conduct was to expire, she would be still in Spain, had given orders for her arrest.
There upon she quitted her litter, got on horseback, and making as much way in one day as she had previously done in four, she arrived at Salses, where some French lords awaited her, one hour before the expiry of her safe-conduct.
There was at the court of France a young king—one, indeed, who was without a kingdom, but not without eminent advantages both of mind and person. Henri had been taken prisoner at the battle of Pavia, and had made his escape after a captivity of about two months, by letting himself down from the window by means of a rope.
Having lived some time at the court of France, he was well known to Margaret, and there is every reason to believe that the marriage was one of inclination, on her side at least. It was celebrated, therefore, notwithstanding, a considerable disparity of age, at Saint Germain en Laye, in January, He also pledged himself in the marriage contract to force the emperor immediately to restore Navarre to his brother-in-law.
Margaret repeatedly urged him to fulfil this promise, and she speaks of it in many of her letters; but political exigencies always prevailed against her, and there was even a clause inserted in a protocol relative to the deliverance of the children of France, which ran thus: "Item, the same king promises not to assist or favor the King of Navarre to reconquer his kingdom, albeit he has married his most beloved and only sister.
They invited husbandmen out of all the provinces of France, who occupied, improved, and fertilized the lands; they caused the towns to be adorned and fortified; houses and castles to be built, that of Pau among others, with the finest gardens which were then in Europe. By their conversation and court they greatly civilized the people.
And to guard themselves against a new usurpation from Spain, they covered themselves with Navarrins, a town upon one of the Gaves, which they fortified with strong ramparts, bastions, and half-moons, according to the art then in use. She always watched over that principality with great solicitude. As she never could reside in it except for very brief intervals, she was careful to commit its government to able men, whose conduct fully justified her choice.
The question whether or not Margaret ever seriously entertained the thought of abjuring the Church of Rome has been much debated by historians, but that she very much inclined to the opinions of the Reformers is not disputed either by Protestant or Catholic writers; both sides confess the fact.
Florimond de Remond says, in his History of the Birth and Progress of Heresy, "It is particularly observed by all the historians of both parties that this princess was the sole cause, without designing any ill, of the preservation of the French Lutherans, and that the Church, which afterwards took the name of Reformed, was not stifled in its cradle; for besides that she lent an ear to their discourses, which at first were specious, and not so bold as afterwards, she with a good intention maintained a great many of them in schools at her own expense, not only in France but also in Germany.
She took a wonderful care to preserve and secure those that were in danger for the Protestant religion, and to succor the refugees at Strasburg and Geneva. Thither she sent to the learned at one time a benefaction of four thousand livres. In short, this good-natured princess had nothing more at heart for those nine or ten years than to procure the escape of such as the king exposed to the rigor of justice.
She frequently talked to him of it, and by little touches endeavored to impress on his soul some pity for the Lutherans. She was obliged, from that time, to act with great caution, and to conduct herself in such a manner as the Calvinists have highly condemned, and which gave occasion to the Papists to say that she perfectly renounced her errors. Bayle comments on the remarks of this writer in a singularly earnest and noble passage. But granting her protestation to be sincere, I maintain that there was something more heroic in her compassion and generosity than there would have been had she been persuaded that the fugitives she protected were orthodox.
For a princess or any other woman to do good to those whom she takes to be of the household of the faith, is no extraordinary thing, but the common effect of a moderate piety. Such was the judicious distinction the Queen of Navarre was able to make. It is difficult for all sorts of persons to arrive at this science; but more especially difficult for a princess like her, who had been educated in the communion of Rome, where nothing had been talked of for many ages but fagots and gibbets for those who err.
Family prejudices strongly fortified all the obstacles which education had laid in the way of this princess; for she entirely loved the king her brother, an implacable persecutor of those they called heretics, a people whom he caused to be burned without mercy wherever the indefatigable vigilance of informers discovered them. I cannot conceive by what method this Queen of Navarre raised herself to so high a pitch of equity, reason, and good sense: it was not through an indifference as to religion, since it is certain she had a great degree of piety, and studied the Scriptures with singular application.
It must therefore have been the excellence of her genius, and the greatness of her soul, that discovered a path to her which scarcely any one knows. It will be said, perhaps, that she needed only to consult the primitive and general ideas of order, which most clearly show that involuntary errors hinder not a man who entirely loves God, as he has been able to discover him after all possible inquiries, from being reckoned a servant of the true God, and that we ought to respect in him the rights of the true God.
But I might immediately answer, that this maxim is of itself subject to great disputes; so far is it from being clear and evident; besides, that these primitive ideas hardly ever appear to our understanding without limitations and modifications which obscure them a hundred ways, according to the different prejudices contracted by education. The spirit of party, attachment to a sect, and even zeal for orthodoxy, produce a kind of ferment in the humors of our body; and hence the medium through which reason ought to behold those primitive ideas is clouded and obscured.
These are infirmities which will attend our reason as long as it shall depend on the ministry of organs. It is the same thing to it as the low and middle region of the air, the seat of vapors and meteors. There are but very few persons who can rise above these clouds, and place themselves in a true serenity. If any one could do it, we must say of him what Virgil said of Daphnis: Candidus insuetum miratur lumen Olympi, Sub pedibusque videt nubes et sidera Daphnis.
Margaret heard of this, and resented it the more strongly, as she had always behaved to Montmorency as a friend, and especially she had espoused his interests in opposition to those of his rival, Admiral Brion.
Her eyes, nose, and mouth were large. She retained no marks of the smallpox with which she was attacked before middle age, and she preserved the freshness of her complexion to a late period. Like her brother, to whom she bore a strong likeness, she was tall and stately; but her imposing air was tempered by extreme affability and a merry humor.
Her enthusiastic panegyrist, Sainte Marthe, says of her, "Seeing her humanely receive everybody, refuse none, and patiently listen to each, thou wouldst have promised thyself an easy access to her; but if she cast her eyes on thee, there was in her face I know not what divinity, that would have so confounded thee, that thou wouldst have been unable, I do not say to walk one step, but even to stir one foot to approach her. She dressed plainly, and after the loss of her infant son, almost always in black.
The supposition that her means were inadequate to her rank is manifestly erroneous; for at the very time when they are said to have been lowest, we find her declining to receive from Henry II. Distinguished as Margaret was by her mental powers and graces, she was still more admirable for the warmth and tenderness of her affections. These, it is to be feared, were but inadequately requited, and would have been a source of unhappiness to her, were it not for that precious prerogative which loving natures enjoy, to find pleasure in self-sacrifice and suffering.
It is even said that he treated her at times with a roughness unworthy of a preux chevalier. On hearing that his daughter was pregnant, he recalled her from Picardy, where she was residing with her husband. The princess arrived in Pau on the 4th of December, after a journey of twenty days, and nine days afterward her child was born. Her father had promised that he would put his will into her hands as soon as she should be delivered, but on condition that in her labor she should sing a song; "to the end," said he, "that you may not bring me a crying and ill-humored child.
The intense affection which Margaret bestowed on her brother he returned as fully as it was in his nature to do. His conduct towards her was marked by that imperious egotism of which he gave so many unfortunate proofs in the most important circumstances of his life. He always called her ma mignonne, but he exacted unsparingly from "his darling" the surrender of her opinions, inclinations and feelings to the claims of his policy or his caprice.
Louise was considered one of the most brilliant feminine minds in France and she named their first-born, "Marguerite", after her own mother. She had several half-siblings, from illegitimate relationships of her father, who were raised alongside Marguerite and her brother. Her father died when she was nearly four; her one-year-old brother became heir presumptive to the throne of France. Thanks to her mother, who was only nineteen when widowed, Marguerite was carefully tutored from her earliest childhood and given a classical education that included Latin. With this decree, Marguerite was forced to marry a generally kind, but practically-illiterate man for political expediency—"the radiant young princess of the violet-blue eyes
A devout Christian , the lady suggests that they read the Bible. However, Hircan says that they are young enough to need other diversions as well. Parlamente suggests that those who want to write stories after the manner of Boccaccio , do so, sharing them with the others in the afternoon, after Scriptures are read in the morning. It will take 10 days to complete the bridge, and, each day, in a shady grove in a meadow, the writers will share 10 tales, telling a total of stories. The stories will be published, if the audience likes them, and be presented to the listeners as presents.
Recipe for a Happy Life Heptameron Summary The Heptameron consists of 72 short stories or tales told by different narrators. In the book, the fictional narrators are also the audience in that each of the main characters takes turns telling stories and listening to the others stories. As such The Heptameron employs a narrative device common at the time, that of stories within stories. It has much in common with the Decameron after which it is directly modeled and other works such as The Canterbury Tales and even the Arabian Nights. In the Heptameron, a group of travelers have gone to the baths in the Pyrenees Mountains. A severe rainstorm and resulting flood washes away the roads and bridges and the travelers are stranded. After some misadventures with bandits, a man eating bear, and the drowning of many of their servants and horses, the group of well to do travelers settle in near The Abbey of Our Lady of Serrance, in the valley of Aspe.