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Word versus Honor: The Case of Françoise de Rohan vs. Jacques de Savoie

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Abstract This paper examines one of the most notorious scandals of sixteenth-century France. In 1557, Françoise de Rohan, a lady-in-waiting to Catherine de Medici, launched a legal battle to get the duke of Nemours, Jacques de Savoie, to recognize their orally-agreed marriage contract and formally recognize the child whom he had fathered with her. Central to Rohan’s case were not only the love-letters Nemours had written to her but also the eye-witness testimonies of her servants, who had overheard their marriage vows and had witnessed their love-making. Nemours’s only defense was his word of honor as a gentleman that no marriage had taken place. This paper situates the case of Rohan vs. Nemours within a transitory period in French society as oral and literate cultures competed for precedence, and asks what happens to the concept of honor when the spoken word is no longer to be trusted.

Affiliations: 1: University of Sydney


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