The Gentleman of Renaissance France

The Gentleman of Renaissance France

The Gentleman of Renaissance France

The Gentleman of Renaissance France

Excerpt

The Renaissance gentleman of France, the gentilhomme of the sixteenth century, existed in a segment of time that can be pretty well marked. The golden age of his life on this earth was not much more than fifty years, and it fitted rather naturally into the political and social history of his nation. In a general way, he first began to show a personality of his own with the buddings of the Renaissance in France early in the first half of the sixteenth century, and he died both in body and spirit during the Wars of Religion of the second half. In order to get a complete picture of the forces that created him and destroyed him, it may be necessary to break these temporal limits and occasionally to look both backward and forward. However, the Renaissance gentleman really came into being in the few years leading up to the coronation of Francis I in 1515, and he expired in the civil strife that broke out in the 1560's during the reign of Charles IX.

The French gentilhomme was affected strongly by many phases of the Italian Renaissance that had preceded the French. He adopted a number of the refinements and courtesies of the Italian gentlemen who lived in such cultivated places as Florence or Venice. The Italian manuals of correct conduct, too, had a great influence on French manners of the sixteenth century, though the French gentleman was not quite like his model, the Italian gentiluomo: he may have lacked some of the elegances of his Italian counterpart, but he probably had a keener sense of honor.

The Renaissance gentleman was different, also, from the feudal baron of an earlier era, a man of more power but less refinement; and he was different from the painted and ornately coiffured dandies, the mignons, who bedecked the court of . . .

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