ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Heptameron of Marguerite de Navarre

Updated on April 23, 2016
quotations profile image

Robert writes eclectic and informative articles about weird historical incidents and speculative science.

Queen Marguerite de Navarre, Author of the Heptameron
Queen Marguerite de Navarre, Author of the Heptameron

This is the story of the Heptameron, an influential book that most people have probably never heard of, and the woman who wrote it.

Marguerite de Navarre, Queen and Author

Marguerite, Queen of the small state of Navarre near the Pyranees Mountains and the sister of the King of France was a fascinating figure of the French Renaissance. In an era when most women could not read or write and whose education consisted primarily of learning household arts such as weaving and sewing, the future Queen received a classical education that rivalled the best of that time. She could read and write Latin, French and Italian in an age when most people could not even read or write at all. She became a central figure in the rebirth of intellectual life following the dark ages and she played a leading role in the revival of learning and art.

Her court was a mecca for intellectuals and artists from around Europe, including Leonardo da Vinci who spent many years at the court of Marguerite and her brother until his death. She was also surprisingly open minded and tolerant in an age when religious dissent often led to being burned at the stake, advocating tolerance and moderation towards Protestants, despite being a devout Catholic herself.

The Story Tellers of the Heptameron: Oisille, Parlamente, Hircan and the others.
The Story Tellers of the Heptameron: Oisille, Parlamente, Hircan and the others.

Marguerite de Navarre's Early Life

Although she was a devout Catholic, Marguerite de Navarre believed that it was her religious duty to shelter religious dissidents including Protestants, and she exerted a moderating influence on her brother to prevent the military suppression of protestant sects that were spreading to France as a result of the Reformation.

Early in her life, Marguerite wrote poetry, mostly religious in nature, including a tract called "The Mirror of the Sinful Soul" in which she talked about her own religious struggles, including coming to terms with the loss of an infant child. Some of her religious writings got her in trouble with the leaders of the Church in France and she was in danger of being branded a heretic, despite the fact she identified closely with Catholicism and attended mass daily, but fortunately her political position saved her.

Marguerite was a favorite of her people who spoke of her charity and kindness, She often wandered the streets of the small capital city of Navarre without an escort or any body guards.

The critic and translator Samuel Putnam called her "The First Modern Woman" .

An Illustration from the Heptameron
An Illustration from the Heptameron

The Heptameron Copied the Decameron, but Achieved Originality

In the Decameron, a group of people have taken shelter at a villa in order to escape the Black Death, the horrible plague that was ravaging Europe. To pass the times, they tell each other stories -- one hundred in all -- told over a period of ten days.

In Marguerite's Heptameron, a group of ten travelers are stranded rains after they attending a health resort in the Pyranees Mountains. While they wait for the rains to end and for a bridge to be repaired, the stranded travelers tell each other stories. They plan on telling one story each over the course of the next ten days, for a total of 100, with each day or group of ten stories being on a chosen subject, such as infidelity, or the wickedness of the monks, etc. In all, only 72 stories were written because Marguerite died before she could finish her book.

The book was left unpublished for many years, but was eventually released in the late 1500s under the name the "Les Histoires des Amants Fortun├ęs" (The Fortunate Lovers, in Old Medieval French). Later the title was changed to its more familiar form "The Heptameron". The name was given by later translators and not Marguerite herself as an homage to the Decameron. The Decameron is a compound of the Greek words for "ten" and "days". By analogy, the Marguerite's work was given the title of Heptameron, a compound of the Greek words for "seven" and "day", in reference to the fact that most of the stories take place during the first seven day period.

A Queen With Many Sides to Her Personality

Her life was an odd combination of religious passion, ruthless Renaissance politics, and licentious writing.


Despite being a gentle Queen beloved by her people she could hold her own in the wicked statescaft of the time, acting essentially as co-ruler of France with her brother, Francis I, who valued his sister's counsel. When her brother the King was captured in battle during a military expedition to Italy against the rival Holy Roman Empire, she left France and personally negotiated her brother's release in direct talks with the enemy Emperor. A Venetian ambassador to her court praised Marguerite as knowing all of the secrets of diplomacy, high praise from a representative of a Republic known for its cunning and subtle diplomatic maneuvers.


The Heptameron

Queen Marguerite de Navarre's contributions would probably have been remembered mainly as a footnote to history if she had also not written the Heptameron, a collection of often erotic and irreverent stories that ridicule the life and institutions of the times, including the Catholic Church, especially the monks.

Written mainly for the entertainment of herself and her courtiers, Marguerite envisioned a book that would pay homage to Boccaccio's Decameron, which was then a "best seller" in Renaissance Europe but which would be distinguished from Boccaccio by being based on real people and events. The Heptameron's stories cover every range of human behavior: they are stories of love, betrayal, infidelity, loyalty, and piety and irreverence have fascinated readers for centuries and led to many guesses as to the true identity of the characters in these stories.he Heptameron depicts a world in transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era. The critic George Sainstbury commented that the stories in the Heptameron are infused with "the fear of God, the sense of death, the voluptuous longing and voluptuous regret for the good things of life and love that pass away."

The Heptameron had a significant influence on the shaping of French literature and is considered a classic to this day.

The End

Her daughter, as independent and strong willed as her mother, defied her mother's wishes and married for love rather than through an arranged political marriage. Marguerite's daughter Jeanne III of Navarre married Antoine de Bourbon and with him founded the great Bourbon dynasty that would rule France for centuries. Her marriage to Antoine was actually Jeanne's first marriage; she had first been married off, quite unwillingly, to a duke who was the brother of England's King Hentry VII's fourth wife, but Jeanne resisted the marriage and had to be whipped in order to get her to take the oath of marriage at the altar. Four years later her first marriage was annulled because it was never consummated. It was a story that would have made a great addition to the Heptameron, and in many ways it was truly the final chapter.

,

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • quotations profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert P 

      6 years ago from Canada

      @Aley Martin - nice to meet someone else who loves this book!

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      Heptameron is one of my choices in World Lit 1 classes. Love the story of Florida and Amadon!

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      7 years ago

      Dearest Quotations,

      I am embarrassed to admit I had never heard of this story! Thank you so much for sharing!

      I look forward to following many more of your enlightening tales! Earth Angel!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, what an amazing woman! and very brave considering the time she lived in! To not only write a book, but then go on to write another risque type, was really very modern, fascinating history, thanks

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)