1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aubigné, Théodore Agrippa d'
AUBIGNÉ, THÉODORE AGRIPPA D’ (1552-1630), French poet and historian, was born at St Maury, near Pons, in Saintonge, on the 8th of February 1552. His name Agrippa (aegre partus) was given him through his mother dying in childbirth. In his childhood he showed a great aptitude for languages; according to his own account he knew Latin, Greek and Hebrew at six years of age; and he had translated the Crito of Plato before he was eleven. His father, a Huguenot who had been one of the conspirators of Amboise, strengthened his Protestant sympathies by showing him, while they were passing through that town on their way to Paris, the heads of the conspirators exposed upon the scaffold, and adjuring him not to spare his own head in order to avenge their death. After a brief residence he was obliged to flee from Paris to avoid persecution, but was captured and threatened with death. Escaping through the intervention of a friend, he went to Montargis. In his fourteenth year he was present at the siege of Orléans, at which his father was killed. His guardian sent him to Geneva, where he studied for a considerable time under the direction of Beza. In 1567 he made his escape from tutelage, and attached himself to the Huguenot army under the prince of Condé. Subsequently he joined Henry of Navarre, whom he succeeded in withdrawing from the corrupting influence of the house of Valois (1576), and to whom he rendered valuable service, both as a soldier and as a counsellor, in the wars that issued in his elevation to the throne as Henry IV. After a furious battle at Casteljaloux, and suffering from fever from his wounds, he wrote his Tragiques (1571). He was in the battle of Coutras (1587), and at the siege of Paris (1590). His career at camp and court, however, was a somewhat chequered one, owing to the roughness of his manner and the keenness of his criticisms, which made him many enemies and severely tried the king’s patience. In his tragédie-ballet Circe (1576) he did not hesitate to indulge in the most outspoken sarcasm against the king and other members of the royal family. Though he more than once found it expedient to retire into private life he never entirely lost the favour of Henry, who made him governor of Maillezais. After the conversion of the king to Roman Catholicism, d’Aubigné remained true to the Huguenot cause, and a fearless advocate of the Huguenot interests. The first two volumes of the work by which he is best known, his Histoire universelle depuis 1550 jusqu’à l’an 1601, appeared in 1616 and 1618 respectively. The third volume was published in 1619, but, being still more free and personal in its satire than those which had preceded it, it was immediately ordered to be burned by the common hangman. The work is a lively chronicle of the incidents of camp and court life, and forms a very valuable source for the history of France during the period it embraces. In September 1620 its author was compelled to take refuge in Geneva, where he found a secure retreat for the last ten years of his life, though the hatred of the French court showed itself in procuring a sentence of death to be recorded against him more than once. He devoted the period of his exile to study, and the superintendence of works for the fortifications of Bern and Basel which were designed as a material defence of the cause of Protestantism. He died at Geneva on the 29th of April 1630.