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three pairs of lovers with space



Pierre de l’Estoile (1546-1611) was a Parisian official in the French royal chancery. His Mémoires-journaux, an important primary source for the years 1576-1611 (roughly encompassing the reigns of the French Kings Henry III and Henry IV), were not intended for publication, but extracts were published from 1621 onwards. Presented here is everything of Greek love interest.

Several references to sodomy by l’Estoile are omitted from these extracts because nothing at all was said about who was sodomised; animals, men and women could be sodomised as well as boys.

Hunt Chris. Mignon
Mignon (1987), one of the best Greek love novels brings the mignons to convincing life with a boy protagonist who had been loved by Henry III.

Most of the references to homosexuality in de l’Estoile’s Memoirs concern the mignons (minions) of Henry III, courtiers of the King who were strongly suspected of sodomy, principally on account of their flamboyantly effeminate dress. The character of their sexual relations with one another or the King is unsurprisingly unknown. Were they men or boys? Those who were named were mostly young noblemen. Only two of the mignons were specifically stated in l’Estoile’s Memoirs to have been the King’s lovers: François d’Épinay, Lord of Saint Luc in Normandy and Jean-Louis de Nogaret de la Vallette, Duke of Épernon.[1] Both born in 1554, they were 25 and 27 when described as lovers of the 27- to 30-year-old King. On the other hand, the mignons in general were so called from their being soft and tender, several passages suggest that those the King sodomised were boys or youths (as will be seen) and pederasty is far more often encountered in 16th century Europe than androphilia. Some of the older mignons could have been former lovers turned procurers (a common historical phenomenon) or simply friends of the King who sought to please him by following the fashion for effeminate dress that he set. Most of those named married and some are known to have been otherwise romantically involved with women.

Given the uncertainty as to whether Henry III or his mignons practised Greek love, all references to the latter are here omitted except for l’Estoile’s evocative introductory description of them and the passages about them that are at least suggestive of Greek love. Also omitted are the many references to the King himself as a bugger that say nothing about whom he buggered.

The passages extracted are from the fullest version of l’Estoile, edited by Gustave Brunet et al., and published in twelve volumes in Paris, 1875-96.[2] The translations are by J. M. Thian for this website except for those indicated as being by Jeffrey Merrick and Bryant T. Ragan in their Homosexuality in Early Modern France (Oxford University Press, New York, 2001) pp. 98-103.


July 1576  [Brunet I 142-7]

The name of minions began, at this time, to make the rounds through the mouths of people, to whom they were very odious, as much for their ways of acting, which were silly and haughty, as for their effeminate and immodest makeup and attire, but especially for the immense gifts and bounties that the king gave them, which the people thought were the cause of their ruination. Yet the truth was that such bounties, unable to remain in the minions' savings for a single moment, were passed on to the people as fast as water is by a conduit.

Estoile Pierre de l. Journal de Henri III

These fine minions wore their hair longish, curled, and recurled through artifice, raising their little velvet caps on top, as whores from the brothel do, and the ruffs of theirs linen shirts starched and half a foot long, so that to see their heads above their ruffs, it looked like it was the head of Saint John on a platter.[3] The rest of their apparel was designed in the same way. Their activities were gambling. blaspheming. playing bowls, dancing. tumbling, brawling, lechering, and following the king everywhere and in all societies, doing and saying nothing but to please him, caring little, in effect, about God und virtue, contenting themselves with being in the good graces of their master, whom they feared and honored more than God. This gave birth to the following poem, which was sown at the time in Paris and spread everywhere under this title:



I dare not say that make-up
Is more common to them than to women;
I would be afraid of being blamed for it.
And that between them they practise the art
Of the impudent Ganymede.
As for their dress, it exceeds
All their property and all their treasure:
For the Mignon, who consumes all,
No longer dresses like a gentleman,
But like a Prince, with cloth made of gold.


And yet, this limp flock
Of Ganymedian faces
And epicurean souls.
Who are but a heavy and useless
Burden for France,
Consumes all the substance
Of the Clergy and the Nobility as well.
And the Third Estate, in misery,
Moans because of the unbearable deeds
Performed by these careless prodigals.

Henry III. 1577 
                                                                    Franc of Henry III, 1577

September 1579  [Brunet I 345]

which, being for the most part impious and vile
all the more so that the paper blushes,
and as such are only worthy, along
with their authors, of being burned, in a
century other than this one,
which seems to be the last
and the sewer of all
the preceding ones.


Why do you sleep, my King, so long enchanted,
In the lascivious terms of a mad youth,
Who is only at his best when his Words sound vain,
His judgement Doubtful and his spirit hollow;

Castiglione del Lago Della Corgna palace. Fresco ca. 1582. dtl
Zeus's abduction of Ganymede by Castiglione del Lago, ca. 1582 (fresco in the , Della Corgna palace). Ganymede was a very common synonym for a boy loved by a man


Unruly Ganymede, Shameless Scoundrel,
Ambitious brain, filled with ignorance,
It is the result of time on you, and ill-zealous people,
That make you prosper under a King made of Straw.

It is not by assault, nor by great Battle,
That you were favoured, but because you were the ally
Of a corrupt spirit, entwined together,[6]
Guided by your leader who grants you honours,

Who like your made-up Young Men; Your all-adorned wigs
As much as Coins, and Spears, and Swords:
Since the great States, which make you infamous,

Are vicious income of money for impudent youths
Keep them all the time, because the Valiant men
Do no hold any grudge against you, who are less than Women!



This Heliogabal, Emperor of the Romans,[7]
Was not satisfied with Mother Nature
Who feeds every creature from her breast,
But exposed his body to inhuman barbers,

In order to be changed, by the work of their hands,
Into a Female. Thus, by the curliness
Of blond and golden hair, by blush and dye,
Our worldly damsels want to resemble him,

Who take the clothes of foolish damsels:
And yet will deliver, for the men and for the women,
The discourse that we make of them, so that we only know

Effeminate people in this poor France,
Who in the past was adorned with prudence,
And not with makeup and curly hair.



That is to say, dirty, naughty and lascivious, which ran at the court in this year
1579 and was all common there.

When you put it[8] in her so deeply.
I believe it was from the front,
It was not from behind
Although this is the way,
Of our Court, as they say.
Helen has lost her credit
Against this beautiful boy of Troy,[9]
For one no longer puts it in the slit,
But in this hole which is all round.[10]


December 1581   [Brunet II 38 and 48]

By the end of this year 1581, the next Pasquil was distributed at the Court, as badly written and rhymed as it was ugly, scandalous and mean, for even though vice and disorder are shown to the full; if is there not any corruption, however great, which can dispense a Christian from vilifying his Prince and his superiors still so vilely and impudently as does the vile and foolish author of these rhymed Pasquils.

Henry III King of France 2
Henry III, King of France 1574-89

                                          COURTESAN PASQUIL

Gods, Nymphs, Dryads,
Satyrs, Tritons and Naiads
Visited our King,
Who with his Ganymedes
Received them in fine array.
What fine companions
The King and all his sweethearts are!
Their faces are a little pale,
But are they female or male?
For they all serve a trade,
La Valette[11] is well entrenched,
And the most loved, it is said;
He is a bit of a bugger and a coward:
Are these not fine qualities
To be among the deities?


April 1583  [Brunet II 113-117; translated by Merrick and Ragan]

On Holy Thursday, 7 April, around nine o’clock in the evening, the procession of the penitents, in which was the king with all his minions, went all night through the streets and to the churches, with great magnificence of candles and excellent music, with bagpipes.[12] And there were some (even some minions, according to what people said) who scourged themselves in this procession, whose poor backs were seen to be all red from the blows they gave themselves.

About which the following stanza was circulated:

Minions, who carry the royal blood of France
Tractably in their rumps,
Don’t beat only your back,
But also your arse that committed the offense….

Which was imitated in Latin in this way:

Qui vehitis regem postica parte salacem,
Et quos obscoeni poenitet obsequii,
Non dorsum flagris, culum at lacerate vocarem
Qui regem, populi sed mage sugit opes.

Several other such lampoons, mockeries, and slanders about this new scourging and penitence of the king and his minion were composed and spread, among which those that follow (although they deserve, for the most part, to be burned with their authors) were nevertheless known at court and in Paris, sure signs of a great storm ready to befall a state.

Henry III King of France Ball at the court of 1581 Louvre
                                             A ball at the court of Henry III, 1581 (Musée du Louvre)

You who have humbled yourself
To serve God with a human heart,
New penitents, don’t forget
To have your scourge [or penis] always in hand.

They are paired off, two by two,
In a devout enough manner,
But I find them wicked
When they go single file [or copulate from behind].

They are discreet and quite wise
To cover their faces in this way,
For one would see, among the good ones,
The buggers and buggerers.

The flagellants are clad with cloth
Just like their church,
But the truth will be such
That their leader will be seen in a smock [worn by criminals on the way to execution].

13 953 d dtl

The king became a penitent
Because he has no children,
But hear why that is:
It’s because he hardly tries [or gets hard].

There he is, now and then almost a priest,
But so much vice surrounds him
That I believe he’ll change his state
And that he’ll lose his crown.

You want people everywhere to believe
That your life is devout?
Beware the wrath of God,
Who punishes the wicked soul.

He has chosen Our Lady
For the patron of his vows,
But he prefers, on my soul,
A young lad with blond hair.

You should not marvel that the great king of the Gauls
Has adopted his minions as his sons.
There’s a good reason for it, since they have carried this father
On their backs and shoulders [during sexual relations], as Aeneas did his.[13]

They are like Judas
And want to do as the Jews did,
For their company and crew
Is only intended to overthrow Jesus Christ,
And these foolish hypocrites seek them
In plain daylight with lanterns [or rascals].

The female penitents have only
Opened their c[unts],
But they say that this male penitent [the king]
Commits the sin against nature.

If the f[uckers], f[ucked] in the buttocks,
Don’t want to be f[ucked] any more,
But very well scourged [or aroused] and beaten [or banged],
Do you see any deceit in it?

They are sorry, it is said,
About their incestuous lewdness.
Let’s couple them with the repentant prostitutes
Who, as whores, made their c[unts] available.


February 1586  [Brunet II 326; translated by Merrick and Ragan]

The first day of February, Master Jean Dadon, a learned man renowned in the University of Paris, recently regent and at the time teacher at the collège du Cardinal Lemoine, not long before rector of said university, was hanged by judgment of the court in the Grève, and his body was then burned and reduced to ashes, for having committed sodomy with a child in his service. He defiled him so much that the child, feeling quite ill from it, was forced by the pain to complain about it to his friends and relatives, who pursued the matter so earnestly that it was not possible for said Dadon to escape such an ignominious death, although he had many friends and much support, even on the side of the League[14], to which he belonged and which did for him what it could, considering him a good enough man (although he was a bugger) because he belonged to the League.


Estoile Pierre de l. Journal de Henri IV 

November 1596  [Brunet VII 75]

On Tuesday the 12th were burned at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, two sodomites, who had outraged and corrupted two pages of M. the Prince.[15]


January 1599  [Brunet VII 169]

On a Capuchin in disguise who was apprehended in Paris on the 11th, having come there from Lorraine to kill the King:

He, who was named Langlet, also known as Le Poirier, fearing being sought after for sodomy and having corrupted a child of the good house of Lorraine, had been to his prior and had told him that he was possessed by the Devil and that he had had the intention of killing the King. And from there he had left to go to Paris. Wherefore his prior, warned, had told M. de Lorraine, who had sent at once to give the King warning of it.[16]


December 1601  [Brunet VII 324]

In this month, the public prosecutor went to the Carmelite monastery in Paris to take prisoner a Carmelite named father Camus, accused of sodomy with a young novice fifteen to sixteen years old, accused of the same crime. This father Camus had the reputation at the said convent of a good friar, pious and devout, who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and had brought back from it all sorts of little peculiarities: a man already mature, fifty-five to sixty years old.


January 1602  [Brunet VIII 11-12; translated by Merrick and Ragan]

Estoile Pierre de l. by M.A. Thabard City Hall Paris
Pierre de l'Estoile by M. A. Thabard (Hôtel de ville, Paris)

Toward the end of this month, the two Carmelite friars accused of sodomy, having been sent back before the official, from whom they had received a judgment of absolution, were set free and returned to their Carmelite monastery, where, out of curiosity, I went to see them and spoke at length with father Camus. And if innocence could be proved by words, there would be no more saintly and innocent men in the world than these. He told me that they had been examined completely naked at the Châtelet and that, by the grace of God, their virginity had been revealed and recognized, which one would not have judged from the physiognomy of the handsome father. And likewise La Noue, surgeon, who examined the children, does not say so, as one of my friends, to whom La Noue (who is nevertheless neither a heretic nor a Huguenot, but a bigoted Catholic) related it in particular, assured me. Camus complained strongly to me about the lieutenant criminal and told me (which was not tnıe) that he had treated him as badly as he could have, was very pleased with president de Villiers, to whom he had had their trial records shown, and told me that as soon as he had seen them he had the judgment handed down by the official.[17]

The honor of religion, which they wanted to defend, and the respect they had for the outward garb that they wear, more than for that of innocence, saved their honor and lives, according to the report of the least passionate. For the people of Paris themselves considered them so guilty of the deed that many of them still cannot be persuaded that they were not punished secretly as they deserved, and the people believe that the friars were thrown into the water in a sack.


February 1602  [Brunet VIII 14-15; translated by Merrick and Ragan]

On Saturday, the ninth of this month, a binder of church books (which he went out looking for in the villages) named Charles Auvré and, by a nickname that people had given him, Monbagage, was burned in the place Maubert in Paris, as the abominable sodomite that he was, tied to a stake, on which he was strangled after having felt the fire. They wanted to make the people believe that he was a Huguenot and that the Carmelite friar who had been given to him to console him had converted him, which was false. For he even boasted about having left his wife in Reims on this occasion, which was nevertheless not true, but he alleged it to conceal his vileness, her relatives having taken her back because she had complained to them that he wanted to have relations with her as he since did with children.


[1] The passages where this is stated are as follows in Brunet’s edition: I 342 (written in 1579) where Saint Luc is called “the mignon of the King and his joy, as I believe”; II 39 (written in 1581): “The King having repudiated Saint-Luc, his first husband, Seeking a new quest Allies himself with La Valette.”; and II 48 (written in 1581): “La Valette is well entrenched, And the most loved, it is said.”

[2] A few passages were omitted by Brunet, but as regards the reign of Henry III, a complete edition of l’Estoile by Madeleine Lazard and Gilbert Schrenck was published as the Registre-journal du règne de Henri III by Droz in Geneva in six volumes (1992-2003). [Website footnote]

[3] On the decapitation of John the Baptist, see Matthew 14: 3-12 or Mark 6: 17-29. His head was brought to the Jewish princess Salome on a platter, she having requested it of the King. [Website footnote]

[4] Sonnet by Pasquier already reproduced by L'Estoile in April 1578 (with a few variants). [Footnote by Lazard and Schrenck in their Registre-journal du règne de Henri III, Geneva: Droz, 6 volumes, 1992-2003.

[5] Also reproduced in Cinq Cents Colbert, 488, fol. 504 and in the Oeuvres d’Et. Pasquier. author; see D. Thickett, Bibliographie des Oeuvres d’Et. Pasquier, pp. 63 and 110. [Footnote by Lazard and Schrenck in their Registre-journal du règne de Henri III, Geneva: Droz, 6 volumes, 1992-2003].

[6] “Enfiler”, translated here as “entwined”, also means to “pedicate” or to “fuck” (Website footnote].

[7] Marcus Antoninus Elagabalus, Roman Emperor 218-22 when he was aged 14 to 18, sometimes dressed as a woman and played the passive sexual role with men, including men selected from the public baths by his guards for being well-endowed. [Website footnote]

[8] “It” refers back to the “engin”, meaning in its context “tool” or “cock”. [Website footnote]

[9] Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world in Greek mythology. Ganymede was a beautiful boy and son of the King of Troy who was kidnapped by Zeus King of the gods to be cup-bearer and beloved. Helen and Ganymede often appeared in mediaeval and early modern French literature as rivals and symbols of woman-love versus boy-love. See, for example, The Debate of Ganymede and Helen. [Website footnote]

[10] In other words, it has become the fashion at court to put one’s cock in a boy’s bum-hole rather than in a woman’s cunt. [Website footnote]

[11] Jean-Louis de Nogaret de la Vallette (May 1554 – 13 January 1642), created Duke of Épernon that year. [Website footnote]

[12] Henry III founded two penitential orders in March and August 1583. [Note 17 by Jeffrey Merrick and Bryant T. Ragan in their Homosexuality in Early Modern France (Oxford University Press, New York, 2001), p. 238.

[13] The Trojan leader Aeneas carried his elderly father on his back while they escaped from Troy following its fall to the Greeks. (See Virgil, Aeneid, Book II.) [Website footnote].

[14] The Holy League was a powerful Catholic organisation and major participant in the ongoing wars of religion which aimed to eradicate Protestantism in France. [Website footnote]

[15] M. the Prince was the eight-year-old Prince of Condé, cousin and heir-presumptive of the King (by now, Henry IV). [Website footnote]

[16] Caumon-Laforce, Mémoires, Vol. I, p. 120: “On 10 February were arrested the assassin whom Monsieur de Lorraine had given warning of and two of his accomplices who were tortured with pincers and burned.” They were burned alive at the Place de Grève on 3 April 1599 (Lettre d’Aerssen, 21 January 1593. (Bulletin historique et littéraire (Société de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Français), Vol. II (1853)). [Website footnote]

[17] Antoine Séguier (1552-1624), sieur de Villiers, magistrate in the parlement of Paris. [Note by Merrick and Ragan]