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Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme

Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur (and abbé) de Brantôme (c. 1540 - July 15, 1614) was a French historian and biographer.

He was born in Perigord, the third son of the baron de Bourdeille. His mother and maternal grandmother were both attached to the court of Marguerite de Valois, on whose death in 1549 he went to Paris, and later (1555) to Poitiers, to finish his education. He was given several benefices, the most important of which was the abbey of Brantôme, but had no inclination for an ecclesiastical career. He became a soldier, and came into contact with many great leaders in the continental wars. He travelled in Italy; in Scotland, where he accompanied Mary Stuart (then the widow of Francis II of France); in England, where he saw Elizabeth I (1561, 1579); in Morocco (1564); and in Spain and Portugal. He fought on the galleys of the order of Malta, and accompanied his great friend, the French commander Philippe Strozzi (grandson of Filippo Strozzi, the Italian general), in his expedition against Terceira, in which Strozzi was killed (1582).

During the wars of religion under Charles IX of France, he fought for the Catholics, but he allowed himself to be won over temporarily by the ideas of the reformers, and though he publicly separated himself from Protestantism, it had a marked effect on his mind. A fall from his horse compelled him to retire into private life about 1589, and he spent his last years in writing his Memoirs of the illustrious men and women whom he had known. Brantôme left distinct orders that his manuscript should be printed; a first edition appeared late (1665-1666) and not very complete. Later editions include:

Brantôme can hardly be regarded as a historian proper, and his Memoirs cannot be accepted as a very trustworthy source of information. But he writes in a quaint conversational way, pouring forth his thoughts, observations or facts without order or system, and with the greatest frankness and naiveté. His works certainly gave an admirable picture of the general court-life of the time, with its unblushing and undisguised profligacy. There is not a homme illustre or a dame galante in all his gallery of portraits who is not stained with vice; and yet the whole is narrated with the most complete unconsciousness that there is anything objectionable in their conduct.

The edition of L Lalanne was the first to indicate the Spanish, Italian and French sources on which Brantôme drew, but it did not utilize all the existing manuscripts. It was only after Lalanne's death that the earliest were obtained for the Bibliotèque Nationale. At Paris and at Chantilly (Musée Conde) all Brantôme's original manuscripts, as revised by him several times, are now collected (see the Bibliotheque de I'ecole des Charles, 1904),and a new and definitive edition has therefore become possible. Brantôme's poems (which amount to more than 2200 verses) were first published in 1881; see Lalanne's edition.