Catherine d'Amboise

From SiefarWikiEn

Jump to: navigation, search

Entry by Evelyne Berriot-Salvadore, 2003

Posthumous daughter of Charles I d'Amboise and Catherine de Chauvigny, Catherine d'Amboise was born into one of the foremost families of Touraine, which produced many patrons of the arts in the reign of Louis XII. Catherine was married extremely young to Christophe de Tournon, sieur de Beauchastel, Charles VIII's chamberlain. She bore him a child who died shortly after birth, and was widowed by the age of seventeen. In 1501, she married Philibert de Beaujeu, seigneur de Lignières, who died in 1541. She was over sixty when she married her third husband, Louis de Clèves, comte d'Auxerre, who left her a widow again in 1545. The deaths of her brother Charles Chaumont d'Amboise in 1511 and her nephew Georges II d'Amboise in Pavia in 1525 meant that she inherited the domain of Chaumont and part of the library of the great humanist prelate Georges d'Amboise. She took under her protection the illegitimate son of Chaumont d'Amboise, the poet Michel d'Amboise, who later dedicated his La penthaire de l'Esclave fortuné to her (1530).

Like Anne de Graville, her brother Charles's sister-in-law, Catherine d'Amboise left handwritten works that reflect the important cultural role played by women in the upper echelons of the aristocracy at the dawn of the Renaissance. It was in the Berry region, in the Château de Lignières, where Jeanne de France grew up, that Catherine wrote her didactic treatises and religious poems. The early loss of her husband and child and the reversals of fortune of her family at the very heart of the kingdom prompted her, in 1509, to write her first literary essay entitled Le Livre des prudens et imprudens des siècles passés. Like Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, this long prose treatise examined the fortunes of men and women, from Adam to Charlemagne, who were examples of the danger of vice and the power of Prudence. Each of the twelve books contains six stories, taken from, among other sources, the Old Testament, Boccaccio, Vincent de Beauvais, the Mer des Histoires by Orosius, and the Roman Histories. Catherine acknowledged her debt to the literature of exempla as well as to the Chronicles, which transmitted the ideals of the aristocracy. The collection, while proposing a mirror of virtues in the tradition of the great historical and didactic compilations, also echoed the tradition of aristocratic humanism as embodied by Cardinal d'Amboise. Alongside great figures of both sacred and secular history, the work included Cicero, Virgil, and Boethius who "spread science by translating Aristotle".

The decline in the influence of the House of Amboise after the deaths of the cardinal in 1510 then Charles Chaumont d'Amboise and his son Georges, heightened Catherine's special affinity for Boethius. In La Complaincte de la dame pasmée contre Fortune, a prose allegory, the author-who in this work remains nameless-is both narrator and character. Afflicted once again by misfortune, she is visited by Reason, who persuades her to meditate on the hardships of this mortal world, before setting her on the path to "the garden of Divine Love" where Dame Patience resides. Reflections on the fickleness of Fortune, inspired by Seneca and Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, give rise to a religious meditation that finally allows her to bring Fortune down from the false throne set up by idolaters. The hardships of the world are but a brief, difficult passage on the path to eternal happiness. This mystical pilgrimage, which finishes with a vision of Christ on the cross, adumbrates Catherine d'Amboise's last known work, Les devotes epistres. These poems, composed in the Château de Lignières, include an Epistle to Jesus Christ and an Epistle to the Virgin, followed by a Royal Song and Epistle from Jesus Christ. The influence of the tradition of penitential literature does not entirely exclude references to antiquity: for instance, to praise the Virgin, Catherine calls on not only the angels, Judith, Esther, and Rachel, but also the Muses, Amphion, Orpheus, and Apollo.

Catherine d'Amboise has largely been ignored by literary history. In the late XVIth century, La Croix du Maine and Du Verdier left her out of Les Bibliothèques. In the XVIIIth century, Abbé Goujet mentioned her only as the aunt of Michel d'Amboise. The publication of her Epistres in the XIXth century brought her a few brief paragraphs in studies on Christian poets, such as those by La Maynardière and A. Müller. Only in recent years has her entire production begun to attract critical interest.

(translated by Susan Pickford)


- 1509 : Le livre des prudens et imprudens des siecles passés, inédit.
- 1525-30? : La complaincte de la dame pasmée contre fortune, inédit.
- 1545? : Les devotes epistres. Les devotes epistres de Katherine d'Amboise. Éd. Abbé J.-J. Bourassé, Tours, Imprimerie A. Mame,1861 -- Les devotes epistres. Éd. Yves Giraud, Fribourg (Suisse), Éditions Universitaires, 2002.

Selected bibliography

- Anselme P., continué par M. du Fourny. Histoire généalogique, et chronologique de la maison royale de France, t. VII. Paris, 1733, p.119-129.
- Balteau, J. et M. Barroux (dir.). Dictionnaire de biographie française, t 2. Paris, 1933, p.486.
- Berriot-Salvadore, E. Les femmes dans la société française de la Renaissance. Genève, Droz, 1990, p.417-420.
- Orth, Myra Dickman. «Dedicating Women: Manuscript Culture in the French Renaissance, and the Cases of Catherine d'Amboise and Anne de Graville». Journal of the Early Book Society, Éd. Martha W. Driver, vol.I, 1, 1997, p.17-39.
- Souchal, Geneviève. «Le mécénat de la famille d'Amboise». Bulletin de la Société des Antiquaires de l'Ouest. 3e trimestre de 1976, 4e série, t.XIII, p.485-526; 4e trimestre de 1976, 4e série, t.XIII, p.567-612.


- «...une qui na seconde
En rhetoricque ny aussi en faconde
Une sans pere : de bonte et de grace
Qui toutes dames de doulceur et lotz passe
Qui est pudicque plus que ne fut Lucresse
Plus que Judith remplye de gentillesse
Une qui na au monde sa semblable/ Qui est piteuse, debonnaire, amiable
Qui ayme dieu et liberalite
Celle qui a beaucoup plus de science
Que neut jadis lytavienne hortense...»
(Michel d'Amboise, Les complainctes de lesclave fortune, Paris, Jehan Sainct Denis, 1529, fol.XXV).

Catherine d'Amboise
Spouses Christophe de Tournon, seigneur de Beauchastel
Philibert de Beaujeu, seigneur de Lignières
Louis de Clèves, comte d'Auxerre
Birth date 1482
Death 1550
Biographical entries in old dictionaries
Personal tools
In other languages