The Heptameron, by Marguerite de Navarre

Table of Contents


Margaret of Angoulême, Queen of Navarre.


Louise of Savoy; her marriage with the Count of Angouleme — Birth of her children Margaret and Francis — Their father’s early death — Louise and her children at Amboise — Margaret’s studies and her brother’s pastimes — Marriage of Margaret with the Duke of Alençon — Her estrangement from her husband — Accession of Francis I. — The Duke of Alençon at Marignano — Margaret’s Court at Alençon — Her personal appearance — Her interest in the Reformation and her connection with Clement Marot — Lawsuit between Louise of Savoy and the Constable de Bourbon.


The Regency of Louise of Savoy — Margaret and the royal children — The defeat of Pavia and the death of the Duke of Alençon — The Royal Trinity — “All is lost save honour” — Margaret’s journey to Spain and her negotiations with Charles V. — Her departure from Madrid — The scheme to arrest her, and her flight on horseback — Liberation of Francis I. — Clever escape of Henry of Navarre from prison — Margaret’s secret fancy for him — Her personal appearance at this period — Marriage of Henry and Margaret at St. Germain.


The retirement of King Henry to Beam — Margaret’s intercourse with her brother — The inscription at Chambord — Margaret’s adventure with Bonnivet — Margaret’s relations with her husband — Her opinions upon love and conjugal fidelity — Her confinements and her children — The Court in Beam and the refugee Reformers — Margaret’s first poems — Her devices, pastorals, and mysteries — The embellishment of Pau — Margaret at table and in her study — Reforms and improvements in Beam — Works of defence at Navarreinx — Scheme of refortifying Sauveterre.


Margaret’s attachment to her daughter — Refusal of Jane to marry the Duke of Clevés — Intervention of Margaret — The wedding at Châtelherault and the fall of the Constable de Montmorency — Margaret and her husband at Caulerets — The “Heptameron” — Illness and death of Francis I. — Margaret’s anxiety and grief — Her “Marguerites de la Marguerite” — Jane d’Albret’s second marriage — Death of Margaret at Odos or Audaux —— Her funeral at Lescar — Destruction of her tomb.

On the Heptameron, With Some Notice of Precedent Collections of Tales in France, of the Author, and of Her Other Works.

Dedications and Preface,

Prefixed to the First Two Editions of the Tales of the Queen of Navarre.

To the most Illustrious, most Humble, and most Excellent Princess,
Peter Boaistuau, surnamed Launay, To the Reader.
To the most Illustrious and Virtuous Princess, Madame Jane de Foix,

First Day.

Tale I.

The wife of a Proctor, having been pressingly solicited by the Bishop of Sees, took him for her profit, and, being as little satisfied with him as with her husband, found a means to have the son of the Lieutenant-General of Alençon for her pleasure. Some time afterwards she caused the latter to be miserably murdered by her husband, who, although he obtained pardon for the murder, was afterwards sent to the galleys with a sorcerer named Gallery; and all this was brought about by the wickedness of his wife.

Tale II.

The wife of a muleteer of Amboise chose rather to die cruelly at the hands of her servant than to fall in with his wicked purpose.

Tale III.

The Queen of Naples, being wronged by King Alfonso, her husband, revenged herself with a gentleman whose wife was the King’s mistress; and this intercourse lasted all their lives without the King at any time having suspicion of it.

Tale IV.

A young gentleman sought to discover whether the offer of an honour-able love would be displeasing to his master’s sister, a lady of the most illustrious lineage in Flanders, who had been twice widowed, and was a woman of muck spirit. Meeting with a reply contrary to his desires, he attempted to possess her by force; but she resisted him successfully, and by the advice of her lady of honour, without seeming to take notice of his designs and efforts, gradually ceased to regard him with the favour with which she had been wont to treat him. Thus, by his foolhardy presumption, he lost the honourable and habitual companionship which, more than others, he had had with her.

Tale V.

Two Grey Friars, when crossing the river at the haven of Coulon, sought to ravish the boatwoman who was taking them over. She, however, being virtuous and Clever, so beguiled them with words that, whilst promising to grant their request, she deceived them and handed them over to justice. They were then delivered up to their warden to receive such punishment as they deserved.

Tale VI.

An old one-eyed valet in the service of the Duke of Alençon being advised that his wife was in love with a young man, desired to know the truth, and feigned to go away into the country for a few days. He returned, however, so suddenly that his wife, on whom he was keeping watch, perceived how matters stood, and whilst thinking to deceive her, he was himself deceived.

Tale VII.

By the craft and subtlety of a merchant an old woman was deceived and the honour of her daughter saved.

Tale VIII.

A certain Bornet, less loyal to his wife than she to him, desired to lie with his maidservant, and made his enterprise known to a friend, who, hoping to share in the spoil, so aided and abetted him, that whilst the husband thought to lie with his servant he in truth lay with his wife. Unknown to the latter, he then caused his friend to participate in the pleasure which rightly belonged to himself alone, and thus made himself a cuckold without there being any guilt on the part of his wife.

Tale IX.
Tale X.

Second Day.

Tale XI. (A).

Madame de Roncex, while at the monastery of the Grey Friars at Thouars, was constrained to go in great haste to a certain place, and, not looking to see whether the seats were clean, sat down in a filthy spot and befouled both her person and clothes; whereupon crying out for assistance, in the hope that some woman would come and cleanse her, she was waited on by men, who beheld her in the worst plight in which a woman could be found.

Tale XI. (B).

Of the jests made by a Grey Friar in his sermons.

Tale XII.

The Duke of Florence, having continually failed to make known to a certain lady the love he bore her, confided in her brother, and begged his assistance that he might attain his ends. This, after many remonstrances, the brother agreed to give, but it was a lip-promise only, for at the moment when the Duke was expecting to vanquish her whom he had deemed invincible, the gentleman slew him in his bed, in this fashion freeing his country from a tyrant, and saving both his own life and the honour of his house.

Tale XIII.
Tale XIV.

The Lord of Bonnivet, desiring to revenge himself upon a Milanese lady for her cruelty, made the acquaintance of an Italian gentleman whom she loved, but to whom she had never granted anything save fair words and assurances of affection. To accomplish his purpose he gave this gentleman such good advice that the lady granted him what he had so long sought, and this the gentleman made known to Bonnivet, who, having cut both hair and beard, and dressed himself in clothes like those of the other, went at midnight and put his vengeance into execution. Then the lady, having learnt from him the plan that he had devised to win her, promised to desist from loving those of her own nation, and to hold fast to him.

Tale XV.

Through the favour of King Francis, a simple gentleman of the Court married a very rich woman, of whom, however, as much by reason of her extreme youth as of the bestowal of his own heart elsewhere, he made but little account; whereat, after trying every plan to please him, she was so moved with resentment and overcome by despair, that she resolved to console herself with another for the indignities which she endured from her husband.

Tale XVI.

A lady of Milan, widow of an Italian Count, had resolved never again to marry or to love. But for three years she was so earnestly wooed by a French gentleman, that after repeated proof of the steadfastness of his love, she granted him what he had so greatly desired, and they vowed to each other everlasting affection. (l)

Tale XVII.

King Francis, being urged to banish Count William, who was said to have received money to bring about his death, did not suffer it to appear that he had any inkling of the scheme, but played the Count so shrewd a trick that he himself took leave of the King and went into banishment.


A young student of noble birth, being smitten with love for a very beautiful lady, subdued both love and himself in order to achieve his end, and this in spite of many such temptations as might have sufficed to make him break his promise. And so all his woes were turned to joy by a reward suitable to his constant, patient, loyal and perfect love.

Tale XIX.

Pauline, being in love with a gentleman no less than he was with her, and finding that he, because forbidden ever again to speak with her, had entered the monastery of the Observance, gained admittance for her own part into the convent of St. Clara, where she took the veil; thus fulfilling the desire she had conceived to bring the gentleman’s love and her own to a like ending in respect of raiment, condition and manner of life.

Tale XX.

The Lord of Riant, being greatly in love with a widow lady and finding her the contrary of what he had desired and of what she had often declared herself to be, was so affected thereby that in a moment resentment had power to extinguish the flame which neither length of time nor lack of opportunity had been able to quench.

Third Day.

On the Third Day are recounted Tales of the Ladies who have only sought what was honourable in Love, and of the hypocrisy and wickedness of the Monks.

Tale XXI.

Having remained unmarried until she was thirty years of age, Rolandine, recognising her father’s neglect and her mistress’s disfavour, fell so deeply in love with a bastard gentleman that she promised him marriage; and this being told to her father he treated her with all the harshness imaginable, in order to make her consent to the dissolving of the marriage; but she continued steadfast in her love until she had received certain tidings of the Bastard’s death, when she was wedded to a gentleman who bore the same name and arms as did her own family.

Tale XXII.

Sister Marie Heroet, being unchastely solicited by a Prior of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, was by the grace of God enabled to overcome his great temptations, to the Prior’s exceeding confusion and her own glory.


The excessive reverence shown by a gentleman of Périgord to the Order of St. Francis, brought about the miserable death of his wife, his little child and himself.

Tale XXIV.

Elisor, having unwisely ventured to discover his love to the Queen of Castile, was by her put to the test in so cruel a fashion that he suffered sorely, yet did he reap advantage therefrom.

Tale XXV.

A young Prince, whilst pretending to visit his lawyer and talk with him of his affairs, conversed so freely with the lawyer’s wife, that he obtained from her what he desired.

Tale XXVI.

By the counsel and sisterly affection of a virtuous lady, the Lord of Avannes was drawn from the wanton love that he entertained for a gentlewoman dwelling at Pampeluna.


A secretary sought the wife of his host and comrade in dishonourable and unlawful love, and as she made show of willingly giving ear to him, he was persuaded that he had won her. But she was virtuous, and, while dissembling towards him, deceived his hopes and made known his viciousness to her husband.


A secretary, thinking to deceive Bernard du Ha, was by him cunningly deceived.

Tale XXIX.

A parson, surprised by the sudden return of a husbandman with whose wife he was making good cheer, quickly devised a means for saving himself at the expense of the worthy man, who was never any the wiser.

Tale XXX.

A young gentleman, of from fourteen to fifteen years of age, thought to lie with one of his mother’s maids, but lay with his mother herself; and she, in consequence thereof, was, nine months afterwards, brought to bed of a daughter, who, twelve or thirteen years later, was wedded by the son; he being ignorant that she was his daughter and sister, and she, that he was her father and brother.

Fourth Day.

On the Fourth Day are chiefly told Tales of the virtuous patience and long suffering of Ladies to win over their husbands; and of the prudence that Men have used towards Women to save the honour of their families and lineage.

Tale XXXI.

A monastery of Grey Friars was burned down, with the monks that were in it, as a perpetual memorial of the cruelty practised by one among them that was in love with a lady.


Bernage, learning in what patience and humility a German lady submitted to the strange penance laid upon her for her unchastity by her husband, so persuaded the latter that he forgot the past, showed pity to his wife, and, taking her back again, afterwards had by her some very handsome children.


The hypocrisy of a priest who, under the cloak of sanctity, had got his sister with child, was discovered by the wisdom of the Count of Angoulême, by whose command they both were visited with punishment by law.


Two Grey Friars, while listening to secrets that did not concern them, misunderstood the language of a butcher and endangered their lives.

Tale XXXV.

The affection of a lady of Pampeluna — who, thinking that there was no danger in spiritual love, had striven to insinuate herself into the good graces of a Grey Friar — was subdued by her husband’s prudence in such wise that, without telling her that he knew aught of the matter, he brought her mortally to hate that which she had most dearly loved, and wholly to devote herself to him.


By means of a salad a President of Grenoble avenged himself upon one of his clerks with whom his wife was smitten, and so saved the honour of his house.


The Lady of Loué so influenced her husband by her great patience and longsuffering, that she drew him from his evil ways, and they lived afterwards in greater love than before.


A towns-woman of Tours returned so much good for all the evil treatment she had received from her husband, that the latter forsook the mistress whom he was quietly maintaining, and returned to his wife.


The Lord of Grignaulx freed his house from a ghost which had so tormented his wife that for the space of two years she had dwelt elsewhere.

Tale XL.

The sister of the Count of Jossebelin, after marrying unknown to her brother a gentleman whom he caused to be put to death (albeit except for his lowlier rank he had often desired him for his brother-in-law) did, with great patience and austerity of life, spend the remainder of her days in a hermitage.

Fifth Day.

On the Fifth Day Tales are told of the virtue of those maids and matrons who held their honour in more consideration than their pleasure, also of those who did the contrary, and of the simplicity of certain others.

Tale XLI.

A Grey Friar to whom a maiden had presented herself on Christmas night that he might confess her, laid upon her so strange a penance that she would not submit to it, but rose from before him without having received absolution; but her mistress, hearing of the matter, caused the Grey Friar to be flogged in her kitchen, and then sent him back, bound and gagged, to his Warden.

Tale XLII.

A young Prince set his affections upon a young girl, and although she was of low and poor parentage, he could not, in spite of all his efforts, obtain from her what he had hoped to have. Accordingly, recognising her virtue and honour, the Prince desisted from his attempt, esteemed her highly all his life, and, marrying her to a follower of his own, bestowed great benefits upon her.


Jambicque, preferring the praise of the world to a good conscience, strove to appear before men other than site really was; but her friend and lover discovered her hypocrisy by means of a little chalk-mark, and made known to everybody the wickedness that she was at such pains to hide.

Tale XLIV.(A).

In reward for not having concealed the truth, the Lord of Sedan doubled the alms of a Grey Friar, who thus received two pigs instead of one.

Tale XLIV. (B).

Concerning the subtlety of two lovers in the enjoyment of their love, and the happy issue of the latter.

Tale XLV.

At his wife’s request, an upholsterer of Tours gave the Innocents to his serving-maid, with whom he was in love; but he did so after such a fashion as to let her have what belonged by right only to his wife, who, for her part, was such a simpleton that she could never believe her husband had so wronged her, albeit she had abundant warning thereof from a neighbour.

Tale XLVI. (A).

A Grey Friar named De Vale, being bidden to dinner at the house of the Judge of the Exempts in Angoulême, perceived that the Judge’s wife (with whom he was in love) went up into the garret alone; thinking to surprise her, he followed her thither; but she dealt him such a kick in the stomach that he fell from the top of the stairs to the bottom, and fled out of the town to the house of a lady that had such great liking for those of his Order (foolishly believing them possessed of greater virtues than belong to them), that she entrusted him with the correction of her daughter, whom he lay with by force instead of chastising her for the sin of sloth-fulness, as he had promised her mother he would do.

Tale XLVI.(B).

Concerning a Grey Friar who made it a great crime on the part of husbands to beat their wives.


Two gentlemen lined in such perfect friendship that for a great while they had everything excepting a wife in common, until one was married, when without cause he began to suspect his companion, who, in vexation at being wrongfully suspected, withdrew his friendship, and did not rest till he had made the other a cuckold.


The older and wickeder of two Grey Friars, who were lodged in an inn where the marriage of the host’s daughter was being celebrated, perceived the bride being led away, whereupon he went and took the place of the bridegroom whilst the latter was still dancing with the company.

Tale XLIX.

Same French gentlemen, perceiving that the King their master was exceedingly well treated by a foreign Countess whom he loved, ventured to speak to her, and sought her with such success, that one after another they had from her what they desired, each, however, believing that he alone possessed the happiness in which all the others shared. And this being discovered by one of their number, they all plotted together to be revenged on her; but, as she showed a fair countenance and treated them no worse than before, they brought away in their own bosoms the shame which they had thought to bring upon her.

Tale L.

Messire John Peter for a long time wooed in vain a neighbour of his by whom he was sorely smitten, and to divert his humour withdrew for a few days from the sight of her; but this brought so deep a melancholy upon him that the doctors ordered him to be bled. The lady, who knew whence his distemper proceeded, then thought to save his life, but did indeed hasten his death, by granting him that which she had always refused. Then, reflecting that she was herself the cause of the loss of so perfect a lover, she dealt herself a sword-thrust that made her a partner in his fate.

Sixth Day.

On the Sixth Day are related the deceits practised by Man on Woman, Woman on Man, or Woman on Woman, through greed, revenge, and wickedness.

Tale LI.

Because he would not have his son make a poor marriage, the Duke of Urbino, contrary to the promise given to his wife, hanged a young maiden by whom his son was wont to inform his sweetheart of the love he bore her.

Tale LII.

An apothecary s man, espying behind him an advocate who was to plague him, and on whom he desired to be revenged, dropped from his sleeve a lump of frozen ordure, wrapped in paper like a sugar-loaf, which a gentleman who was with the advocate picked up and hid in his bosom, and then went to breakfast at a tavern, whence he came forth with all the cost and shame that he had thought to bring upon the poor varlet.

Tale LIII.

By her dissimulation the Lady of Neufchastel caused the Prince of Belhoste to put her to such proof that it turned to her dishonour.

Tale LIV.

Thogas’s wife, believing that her husband loved none but herself, was pleased that her serving-woman should amuse him, and laughed when in her presence he kissed the girl before her eyes, and with her knowledge.

Tale LV.

A merchant’s widow, whilst carrying out her husband’s will, interpreted its purport to the advantage of herself and her children.

Tale LVI.

A pious lady had recourse to a Grey Friar for his advice in providing her daughter with a good husband, for whom she proposed making it so profitable a match that the worthy father, hoping to get the money she intended for her son-in- law, married her daughter to a young comrade of his own. The latter came every evening to sup and lie with his wife, and in the morning returned in the garb of a scholar to his convent. But one day while he was chanting mass, his wife perceived him and pointed him out to her mother; who, however, could not believe that it was he until she had pulled off his coif while he was in bed, and from his tonsure learned the whole truth, and the deceit used by her father confessor.

Tale LVII.

An English lord for seven years loved a lady without ever venturing to let her know of it, until one day, when observing her in a meadow, he lost all colour and control of feature through a sudden throbbing of the heart that came upon him. Then she, showing her compassion, at his request placed her gloved hand upon his heart, whereupon he pressed it so closely, whilst declaring to her the love he had so long borne her, that she withdrew it, leaving in its place her glove. And this glove he afterwards enriched with gems and fastened upon his doublet above his heart, and showed himself so graceful and virtuous a lover that he never sought any more intimate favour of her.


A gentleman, through putting too much trust in the truthfulness of a lady whom he had offended by forsaking her for others just when she was most in love with him, was, by a false tryst, deceived by her, and bemocked by the whole Court.

Tale LIX.

This same lady, finding that her husband took it ill that she should have lovers with whom she amused herself without hurt to her honour, kept close watch upon him, and so discovered how pleasantly he addressed himself to one of her waiting-women. This woman she gained upon, made her consent to what her husband solicited, and then surprised him in such error that to atone for it, he was forced to confess that he deserved greater punishment than herself; by which means she was afterwards able to live as her fancy listed.

Tale LX.

A man of Paris, through not making good inquiry concerning his wife, whom he believed dead, though she was indeed making good cheer with a chanter to the King, married a second wife, whom, after having several children by her and consorting with her for fourteen or fifteen years, he was constrained to leave, in order to take his first wife back again.

Seventh Day.

On the Seventh Day relation is made of such as have done quite contrary to their duty or desire.

Tale LXI.

A husband is reconciled with his wife after she had lived during fourteen or fifteen years with a Canon of Autun.

Tale LXII.

A lady’s tongue tripped so awkwardly whilst she was telling a story, as if of another, to a dame of high degree, that her honour thenceforward bore a stain which she could never remove.


A gentleman’s refusal of an amour that was sought after by all his comrades, was imputed to him as great virtue, and his wife loved him and esteemed him in consequence far more than before.

Tale LXIV.

After a lady had for the space of five or six years made trial of the love that a certain gentleman bore her, she desired to have a still stronger proof of it, and reduced him to such despair that he turned monk, on which account she was not able to win him back again when she would fain have done so.

Tale LXV.

Though the priests of St. John of Lyons would fain have concealed it, the falsity of a miracle was brought to light through an old woman’s folly becoming known.

Tale LXVI.

The Duke of Vendôme and the Princess of Navarre, whilst resting together one afternoon, were surprised by an old serving-woman, who took them for a prothonotary and a damsel between whom she suspected some affection; and, through this fine justicement, a matter, of which intimates were ignorant, was made known to strangers.


A poor woman risked her own life to save that of her husband, whom she forsook not until death.


An apothecary’s wife, finding that her husband made no great account of her, and wishing to be better loved by him, followed the advice that he had given to a “commère” of his, whose sickness was of the same kind as her own; but she prospered not so well as the other, and instead of love reaped hate.

Tale LXIX.

On finding her husband bolting meal in the garb of her serving-woman, whom he was awaiting in the hope that he would obtain from her what he desired, a certain lady showed such good sense that she was content to laugh and make merry at his folly.

Tale LXX.

The Duchess of Burgundy, not content with the love that her husband bore her, conceived so great an affection for a young gentleman that, when looks and glances were not sufficient to inform him of her passion, she declared it to him in words which led to an evil ending.

Eighth Day.

On the Eighth Day relation is made of the greatest yet truest folliesthat each can remember.

Tale LXXI.

A saddler’s wife, who was grievously sick, was made whole and recovered the power of speech, which for the space of two days site had lost, on seeing her husband holding his serving-maid too familiarly on the bed whilst she herself was drawing to her end.


Whilst engaged in the last deed of charity, the shrouding of a dead body, a monk did also engage with a nun in the deeds of the flesh, and made her big with child.

Appendix. The Supposed Narrators of the Heptameron Tales.


Margaret, Queen of Navarre, from a crayon drawing by Clouet, preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57