French Renaissance Paleography


Poitiers,[1] 28 November 1575/27 December 1575
Harangue faicte à la Royne mere du Roy à Poictiers par le seigneur de Salevert presidial de ladicte ville le lendemain de son arrivée qui fut le vingt huictiesme novembre 1575
Washington, D.C., Folger Shakespeare Library, MS V.b.49


These two speeches appear in a collection of manuscript documents of many different types, but all dating from about 1575 to 1585, copied in contemporary hands, and probably compiled in France by someone associated with royal circles. (On folio 34v we see the first paragraph of the next text in the compilation: Remonstrances treshumbles de la ville de Paris au Roy son souverain seigneur faicte au mois de decembre 1579.)
The organization of the compilation is somewhat chronological: treatises (on substance dualism, heretics, and good government), speeches (to the Queen Mother, the King, the Paris Parlement; pleas and remonstrances), letters (by Queen Elizabeth I of England; by Henri, King of Navarre, cousin to the French royal family), poems (sonnets and acrostic poems), various decrees from the Parlement, and so on.

The French Civil Wars were raging at the time these speeches were made – specifically, the fifth war, sparked by the death of King Charles IX (May 30, 1574). Next in line for the throne was Charles’s brother Henri, who was in Poland at the time because he had been crowned king of Poland the year before. During the first months of Henri III’s reign, before he returned to France, his younger brother, François, duke of Anjou, plotted to claim the crown for himself, and Calvinist factions in France benefited from the lapse in government to plunder the country. Henri, upon his return, forced François to flee the court. So on September 15, 1575, François headed south and joined forces with the prince of Condé and other Protestant rebels in southern France. Their troops pillaged villages and towns and even threatened the city of Poitiers. On October 31, Henri III wrote to Guy de Daillon, count of Lude, lieutenant general of Poitou, to press him to secure Poitiers.

Meanwhile, the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, traveled to southern France to negotiate with her son François. They reached a peace agreement on November 22, but insecurity and severe tensions remained. Catherine then spent a whole month in Poitiers, beginning on November 27, to appease the fears of its inhabitants and regain control over the region for the Catholic Crown.

Our document contains a veiled allusion to a proposed marriage between Queen Elizabeth I and François, duke of Alençon and Anjou(folio 33r). During the years 1572-1583 the English and French both used this proposed match as a diplomatic tool to maintain good relations. Catherine wrote to Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s secretary, from Poitiers in early December 1575, and had also discussed the match with her son while in southern France, in an attempt to divert him from creating more trouble and to lure him on a journey to England. See the “Alençon match.”
The two speeches reproduced here were delivered by Pierre Rat, seigneur of Salvert (1539-1593), president of the présidial (royal court of appeal) of Poitiers at the time of the Queen Mother’s visit. To hear the second speech read aloud, click here.