Born in Charente-Maritime in 1552 of a Calvinist family, he received a classical education in Paris, Orleans, Geneva and Lyon. At the age of sixteen, he enrolled in the army of Prince De Conde and became Henri de Navarre’s friend and companion. He took part in the wars of religion both as a soldier and as a writer, earning a reputation as a staunch advocate of the Protestant cause.He escaped the Saint Barthelemy massacre.
He never forgave Henri IV his conversion to Catholicism and remained hostile to various attempts to reconciliation between Protestantism and Catholicism.
Published in 1616, his Universal History (Histoire Universelle) deals with the times of the wars of religion. However much the author tried to be unbiased, his book was condemned (Chatelet court decision of 1620) and burnt.
The poet : «Les Tragiques»
Agrippa d’Aubigné is especially known for Les Tragiques. A heroic poem of over 9 000 lines, it was inspired by the persecutions undergone by his fellow believers. He reshuffled it several times between 1577 and 1623, when an expanded version was published in Geneva.
Les Tragiques is the work of a whole life, the epic of the war, of persecution, and of faith. Using an unusually violent language, d’Aubigné depicts the hardships endured at those times of religious wars, about which he felt he had the duty to testify. In fact, the poem is a prophetic vision inspired by the Bible, a journey of initiation beginning with the portrayal of present sufferings and leading to the ecstasy of the last verses, the triumph and glory of God.
Les Tragiques did not in fact become known until the XIXth century.
Agrippa d’Aubigné was the grandfather of Madame de Maintenon, born Françoise d’Aubigné, whom Louis XIV married in 1683. She was said to have influenced the king against Protestantism and to have instigated the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
- AUBIGNÉ Agrippa (d'), Histoire universelle, Droz, Genève, 1981-2000, Volume 11
- AUBIGNÉ Agrippa (d'), Les Tragiques, éd. établie par F. Lestringant, Gallimard, Paris, 1995
- DESCHODT Éric, Agrippa d’Aubigné, le guerrier inspiré, Laffont, Paris, 1995
- FANLO Jean-Raymond, Tracés, ruptures, la composition instable des «Tragiques”,, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1990
- FRAGONARD Marie-Madeleine, La pensée religieuse d’Agrippa d’Aubigné et son expression, Didier, Paris, 1986
- SCHRENK Gilbert, La réception d’Agrippa d’Aubigné, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1995
St. Bartholomew's Day (24th August 1572)
Charles IX had tried to reconcile the two religious parties, but when this failed, he was driven by the Guise family to authorize the Catholics to assassinate the Protestant leaders; the situation degenerated into a massive massacre.
The eight wars of religion (1562-1598)
In the 16th Century, France was to know a religious split : the great majority of the country remained faithful to Catholicism, whilst an important majority joined the Reformation. Coexistence of the two confessions throughout the Kingdom showed itself to be inapplicable. War could no longer be avoided and civil tolerance had failed.
Eight wars of religion were to succeed each other throughout 36 years, with periodic interruptions of fragile peace. The wars will cease with the Edict of Nantes (30th of April 1598), an edict that established a limited civil tolerance. The confessional duality established throughout France in 1598 was to wear away little by little until the revocation of the edict in 1685.
Clément Marot (1496-1544)
The famous 16th century French poet put into verse the biblical Psalms that were to be sung all over France and become the well-known Huguenot Psalter.
Jean Crespin (1520-1572)
Jean Crespin was a lawyer before becoming a well-known printer in Geneva, where he settled in 1548.