Théophraste Renaudot (1584-1653)

Théophraste Renaudot was the king’s doctor, but he is now chiefly remembered as the first journalist to have existed in France, founding the Gazette de France in 1631.

A doctor and a philanthropist

  • Théophraste Renaudot © S.H.P.F.

Théophraste Renaudot was born in Loudun in 1584, his family was of the reformed faith. He studied medicine in Montpellier and in 1612, while practising in the Poitou, the Queen Mother, Marie de Médecis, called him to Paris and appointed him doctor to the king.

He was deeply touched by the great number of poor people he saw in Paris and in 1618 he was awarded the title of “general commissioner of the poor throughout the kingdom”. He managed to persuade the king to set up an establishment to look after them, the “Address Office”, which opened in 1630. It was founded in order to care for the deprived help them find work.

In 1640, however, it became a dispensary and a clinic where Renaudot organised free medical care, which was not at all popular with the other doctors.

He was also interested in the preparation of medicine and often used chemical ingredients when making up prescriptions.

The “Address office” in rue Calandre in Paris, known as the house of the “Big Cock” – was so successful that it had to be enlarged and other branches were started up.

Théophraste Renaudot as a journalist

  • "Address office for the onlookers", Théophraste Renaudot ©  S.H.P.F.
  • Catolicon François by Théophraste Renaudot (1584-1653) © S.H.P.F.

Renaudot founded the first French newspaper, the “Gazette de France” (1631). From the beginning it received the patronage of the government ; even Louis XIII and Richelieu were known to have taken an active part in it.

The Gazette was a weekly paper and contained political information about the whole of Europe. It lasted until 1792, running into 162 volumes.

In 1635, Renaudot became the editor of the “French Mercury”, which came out in 1605, printed by Jean Richer, who was a printer and a bookseller.

He was of Protestant origin, but later converted to Catholicism, probably around the time when Richelieu rewarded him for founding the “Gazette de France”.

Théophraste Renaudot died in Paris in 1653.

Bibliography

  • Articles
    • "La vie de Théophraste Renaudot", Collection « Vie des hommes illustres », NRF, Gallimard, Paris, 1929, Numéro 42

Associated notes