BRANTÔME (Pierre de Bourdeille)

(c. 1540-1614)
Pierre de Bourdeille, better known as Brantome, was a career courtier and soldier whose salacious and detailed accounts of life at court provide a portrait of aristocratic France during the reigns of Francois I* and Henri II. Born around 1540 to a noble family, Pierre de Bourdeille was raised at the court of Margue­rite de Navarre* with his grandmother, Louise de Vivonne, who figures as one of the characters in Marguerite's famous work The Heptameron. In 1556 Henri II granted de Bourdeille the abbey at Brantome as a benefice, by which name he was known thereafter. Although he received three additional such benefices, he never took ecclesiastical orders and remained an active courtier and soldier for the first forty years of his life. He fought in several military campaigns, including a religious crusade to Malta. Brantome may have flirted with Protes­tant ideas, although it is certain that he fought on the Catholic side of the civil war of 1569 and remained Catholic for the rest of his life, if indeed he had ever converted. Brantome was an active courtier; however, in 1582 his eldest brother, Andre, the governor of Perigord, died, and Brantome quarreled with Henri III over the succession. As a result, he broke with Henri, went into a self-imposed exile, and determined to enter the service of the king of Spain. He began writing his book Les dames galantes, an account of life at court, in an effort to raise money to carry out these intentions. Unfortunately, in 1584 a riding accident caused him serious injury, leaving him a semi-invalid for the rest of his life and isolating him from court.
After the accident, Brantome continued his writing as his only link to the courtly exploits of his past. First published posthumously in 1665, the works reflect his disappointment in his lack of advancement while still at court. How­ever, they are a rich recounting of that life, especially the numerous scandals and gossip of the various courts to which he was attached. The biographies contained therein are of varying accuracy, and many of the stories are borrowed from other sources; nonetheless, the works overall grant a vivid picture of a Renaissance court.
Bibliography
R. Cottrell, Brantome: The Writer as Portraitist of His Age, 1970.
Erin Sadlack

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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