Théodore Agrippa d'Aubigné

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Théodore Agrippa, chevalier d'Aubigné

Théodore Agrippa, chevalier d'Aubigné (born February 8, 1552 in the little castle of Saint-Maury near Pons , today in the Charente-Maritime department ; † May 9, 1630 in Jussy near Geneva ), was a French aristocrat and Protestant military. With his epic Les Tragiques he was undoubtedly the most linguistically powerful French author of his epoch, the early Baroque .

Life and work

Childhood and youth

D'Aubigné was the first child of his parents, both of whom belonged to the first generation who had already been raised in a Calvinist way. His father was Jean d'Aubigné seigneur de Brie en Xaintonge. The mother, Damoiselle Catherine de l'Estang, died giving birth.

Armes de la famille d'Aubigné the coat of arms of the family

He had two brothers and a sister Emmanuel, Noël and Esther d'Aubigné.

One of his most formative experiences is said to have been a trip to Paris with his father for ten-year-old d'Aubigné. When they stopped at Amboise , he saw the impaled heads of executed Protestant leaders of the so-called Amboise Conspiracy (1560). It was the prelude to the long-standing Huguenot Wars, some of which were cruel on both sides .

Since he had received lessons in the ancient languages ​​at an early age and had shown talent for this, he was given précepteur to the Protestant Parisian humanist Mathieu Béroalde († 1576) at the age of ten . A little later, when the first Huguenot War broke out , which lasted from 1562 to 1563, he fled with his school to Orléans , which was held by Protestant troops and where his father was deputy commander. After the fall of the city, in which his father was killed, relatives sent d'Aubigné to Geneva , where he continued his school days with the humanist and reformer Théodore de Bèze . At the age of fourteen he fled Geneva and met Loys d'Arza in Lyon who made him familiar with astrology and magic. Afterwards he lived with a guardian in the Saintonge .

Beginning as a military man, meeting the later Henry IV, first poems

At sixteen and a half he fled again, this time to join the Protestant troops in the now third Huguenot War, which lasted from 1568 to 1570. Here he met Henry of Navarre, who was a year his junior, the leader of the Protestant camp and later King Henry IV.

After the Peace Treaty of Saint-Germain (1570) , d'Aubigné was accepted into the Beauce by his mother's family . There he met Diane Salviati (1550-1575), a niece of Cassandre Salviati, who had been sung about by Pierre de Ronsard around 1550, in a neighboring castle . He fell in love and dedicated the following two years to her sonnets , odes and stanzas in the style of Ronsard and the Pléiade school , La Pléiade - but in vain, because she remained repellent and was also promised. D'Aubigné later combined the poems under the title Printemps (French: Spring) in an anthology, but left it unprinted (did not appear until 1874).

The years after Bartholomew's Night, the first plans for an epic

On August 18, 1572, at the wedding of Henry of Navarre with Margaret of Valois (the sister of King Charles IX ), d'Aubigné was also in Paris, but fled a few days later because he had injured a soldier of the city guard in a scuffle. He thus escaped the massacre on the night of August 23rd to 24th, 1572, ( Bartholomew's Night ), during which the Catholic party wanted to deprive the Calvinist camp of its influence. Shortly afterwards, as the massacre also spread to the provinces, he was seriously injured in an attack on his life. He was able to save himself to Diane Salviati's little castle nearby, only to die in her arms, as he imagined.

While on the sickbed, under the impression of recent bloody events, he claims to have had a vision that inspired him to plan an epic. From his Calvinist point of view, it should deal with the tragic fate of the French Protestants and their cruel persecution by the Catholic party and the state power instrumentalized by it.

In 1573, in view of the approaching marriage of Diana, d'Aubigné went to Paris and entered the service of Henry IV as a squire , écuyer , also of Henry of Navarre, who had been under arrest at court since Bartholomew's Night.

E took part in court life and also sought contact with writers in Paris, because in 1574 he published a poem on the death of the playwright Étienne Jodelle , a member of La Pléiade .

At the beginning of 1576 he was able to help his master to escape from Paris. He stayed at Heinrich's side when the latter, reconverted, resumed the Protestant struggle under his leadership in the now Sixth Huguenot War from 1576 to 1577. In 1577, d'Aubigné was seriously injured. On the sickbed he supposedly dictated the first passages of the epic, Les Tragiques, conceived four years earlier .

After his recovery, he fell out with Henry IV, who thought too politically, i.e. not radically enough, and retired to an estate in western France. Here he married on June 6, 1583, born Suzanne de Lezay de Lusignan, Dame de Surimeau et Mursay (1562-1595). His first wife had two daughters and a son in quick succession. He experienced the seventh Huguenot war from 1579 to 1580 and the beginning of the long eighth from 1585 to the end of the war in 1598 in a self-chosen sideline.

The high military and administrative officials

In 1587 he was no longer there and he returned to the service of Heinrich IV. In 1584, after the death of the younger brother, the childless King Heinrich III. , promoted to the throne, but faced the powerful alliance of the Catholic League , which wanted to push back Calvinism with the help of Spain and Savoy-Piedmont and sought to prevent a possible Protestant king. Henry of Navarre had thoughts of marriage around the year 1586. He wanted to marry Diane d'Andouins - like many of his other mistresses, by the way. The king asked his close confidante d'Aubigné for his opinion on the marriage plans. The latter advised against it, and Heinrich then promised to put his project on hold for the time being. Due to d'Aubigné's intervention, Diane d'Andouins became his bitter enemy for the rest of her life. Diane d'Andouins had such a great influence on Heinrich that d'Aubigné wrote in his pamphlet Confession catholique du sieur de Sancy that she could “turn and turn this prince as she pleased” (French: “[…] tourne et remuë ce Prince comme elle veut […] ").

D'Aubigné took part in the battles against the Catholic League, at first the main aim was to maintain the military strength of the Protestant camp, after 1589, the assassination of Henry III, but increasingly to assert the claims to the throne of Henry of Navarre . During these years, d'Aubigné was not only a high military man, but also held high administrative posts in the western French provinces that were controlled by the Protestants.

In 1593 he tried in vain to prevent Heinrich from a new conversion, with which he intended to buy the tolerance of parts of the Catholic camp and to secure the throne. Disappointed about Henri's “betrayal” of the Reformation, d'Aubigné again withdrew to his estate.

Retreat into private life and work as an author

Bust of Théodore Agrippa d'Aubigné in Pons

Here he saw the early death of his wife in 1595, who left him with their three children. But above all, he was now writing. So he finally completed Les Tragiques , whose “songs” one to three show the plight of the people, the depravity of the court and the arbitrariness of the Catholic jurisdiction, four and five the suffering of the Protestants, especially on St. Bartholomew's, six the vengeance of God of the unrighteous from Cain to the present and seven a vision of the Last Judgment. For the time being, however, he did not give the epic composed in paired rhyming Alexandrians for printing .

In 1597 he began the novel-like satire La Confession catholique du Sieur de Sancy , in which he, the upright Protestant, castigated the opportunism with which many ambitious people had converted following the example of their king in order to make a better career. In 1600 he entered into a relationship with Jacqueline Chayer (1559-1636), his second wife.

From 1601 he worked on the work that was his most important to himself: the Histoire universelle , an extensive history of the wars of religion including their European ramifications from the point of view of one directly involved.

However, he did not remain completely withdrawn. In 1600 he seems to have taken part in fruitless Catholic-Protestant religious discussions in Paris, and in 1607, as spokesman for the uncompromising, the “fermes”, he prevented a rapprochement between the two denominations. Because it would have meant that the Protestants would have had to forgive their tormentors, with which they might have been withdrawn from God's revenge that Les Tragiques had announced to them. D'Aubigné also used pamphlets to fight the compromisers among the Protestants, the "prudents".

Also in 1607 he completed the Confession catholique , again without publishing the work (which did not appear in Cologne until 1660).

The time after the death of Henry IV and the last few years in Geneva

After the murder of King Henry IV and the assumption of government by the regent Maria de Medici (1610), he was unable to return permanently to the court. Rather, he took part in attempts by the revived Protestant camp to secure his positions in the country. In 1611 he took part in a meeting of elected representatives of Protestant communities in Saumur ; In 1615 he fought as a high officer in a Protestant army against royal troops.

It was published in 1616 in the small town of Maillé-sur-Sèvre in western France and under a pseudonym , Les Tragiques , which, however, more than thirty years after its first conception, had to seem obsolete here and there, even if the subject was still topical.

In the meantime d'Aubigné had begun another satirical novel-like work, Les aventures du baron de Faeneste . In a loosely structured plot, it contrasts the title hero, a ridiculous but self-confident Catholic courtier, with an educated Protestant country gentleman, behind whom the author himself can be recognized. Part I and II appeared in 1617, part III in 1619, all also in Maillé-sur-Sèvre.

At about the same time, again in Maillé-sur-Sèvre, the Histoire universelle went to press: Volume I was published in 1618, Volume II in 1619.

D'Aubigné experienced a great disappointment in 1618 when his son (like his fictional character Sancy) converted. He disinherited him in anger and caused his descendants in the male line to become impoverished, including his granddaughter Françoise d'Aubigné , who, however, after an interlude as the bourgeois Madame Scarron , mistress of Louis XIV. And finally as Madame de Maintenon his wife "left Hand ”.

In 1620, d'Aubigné took part in a conspiracy against Charles d'Albert, duc de Luynes , a favorite of the young Louis XIII. After their failure, he was banished from France. Accordingly, the three-volume edition of the Histoire universelle , which came out in the same year, was condemned in the Paris Parliament and burned by the executioner .

D'Aubigné found asylum in Geneva, the intellectual center of Francophone Protestantism, where he restored a dilapidated castle near the city and remarried in 1623.

When in 1621 the French royal army led another campaign against the troops of the Protestants, he was commissioned as an experienced military man to prepare the defense of Geneva against a possible attack.

He filled his last years with writing again. So he wrote smaller writings on the theory of the state and pamphlets against de Luynes. He revised his epic Les Tragiques and published it, now under his name, in Geneva (1523 or 1525). He continued the Faeneste , the fourth part of which did not appear until 1630, the year he died in Geneva.

On April 23, 1623 D'Aubigné married a third time, his last wife was Renée Burlamacchi (1568–1641).

In 1627 he began a fourth volume of his Histoire , which should represent the time after 1610, but remained unfinished. In addition, wrote the autobiography Sa vie à ses enfants (French: his life, his children [dedicated]; printed only 1729). Under the title L'Hiver (French: Winter) he put together a volume of mainly religious poems from his middle years (printed in 1630).


There is hardly a French author where the dates of origin and the dates of publication of the works are so often and so far apart as with d'Aubigné, with the effect that he mostly no longer reached the originally targeted readership and that his work remained almost ineffective with his contemporaries . In addition, he was rather careless in choosing his most important printing location, the peripheral town of Maillé. Obviously he saw himself more as a literarily dilettante nobleman than as an author. It owes its due place in literary history to its discovery by the romantics who admired him, especially Victor Hugo . In the classical and Catholic cultural memory of the French, he is still only a marginal figure.

Works (selection)

  • Les Tragiques , Maillé 1616, 2nd edition Geneva 1623 or 1625.
  • Histoire universelle 1550–1601 , Maillé 1616–20 (burned by the executioner's hand in 1620 by order of the judge in Paris).
  • Les Aventures du baron de Faeneste , Maillé 1617–19, vol. IV Geneva 1630.
  • La Confession catholique du sieur de Sancy , Cologne 1660, Paris 1693.
  • Sa vie à ses enfants , printed as Histoire secrète, écrite par lui-même , Cologne 1729 to 1731.


  • Jeanne Galzy: Agrippa d'Aubigné . Gallimard, 1965.
  • Armand Garnier: Agrippa d'Aubigné et le parti protestant, contribution à l'histoire de la Réforme en France . 3 volumes. Fischbacher, 1928.
  • Henning Mehnert: Agrippa d'Aubigné and the Petrarkist tradition. In: Hempfer / Straub (Hrsg.): Italy and the Romania in Humanism and Renaissance. Wiesbaden 1983

Web links

Wikisource: Théodore Agrippa d'Aubigné  - sources and full texts (French)
Commons : Théodore Agrippa d'Aubigné  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Association des Amis d'Agrippa d'Aubigné.
  2. Biographical data on Diane Saviati at
  3. ^ Jean Chrétien Ferdinand Hoefer : Nouvelle biography générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu'à nos jours . Volume 22. Firmin Didot, Paris 1843, column 533 ( online ).
  4. J.-F. Dreux du Radier: Mémoires historiques, critiques, et anecdotes des reines et régentes de France , p. 317.