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Putting Order To Disorder: Illegitimate Children, Their Parents, And The Consistory In Reformation Geneva

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Chapter Summary

The Genevan consistory went to great lengths to discover the identities of the parents of illegitimate children at the height of the Reformation, in order to ensure both that the parents publicly repented their act of paillardise and that the child was financially cared for. This chapter discusses three case studies involving accusations of paillardise and illegitimate children in order to illuminate the consistory's main concerns; the challenges facing the consistory in enforcing Reformed morals; and some of the ways that personal relationships, particularly between masters and servants, could serve to obscure the truth of a case despite the consistory's best efforts. The discussion demonstrates that, despite their limitations, the Genevan consistory records provide an as-yet unmined wealth of information to help us better understand how the Reformed community dealt with illegitimate children and their parents at a variety of levels.

Keywords: Genevan consistory; illegitimate children; paillardise; reformed community



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