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.
This article explores the pan-European phenomenon of the execution ballad, songs that told the news of true crimes and their punishment by public execution. Looking at examples across nine languages, from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, this comparison reveals that these ballads share multiple features in textual content and format: a recognisable, formulaic narrative; sensationalist and emotive language; and a conservative perspective that confirms that the condemned is guilty and that ‘justice’ is being served. We also note key regional differences, such as in the use (or not) of contrafactum, the setting of new lyrics to familiar melodies, in the use of the first versus third person voice, and in the depiction of graphic violence, both of the crime committed and the execution. Ultimately, we argue for the existence of an almost universal tradition in Europe of how to sing the news of punishment.
As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the CHE, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotion (initially focusing on Europe 1100–1800 and with the late Professor Philippa Maddern as its founding Director) and the fifth anniversary of the launch of the journal Emotions: History, Culture, Society (founding Editors: Katie Barclay, Andrew Lynch, Giovanni Tarantino), it is only pertinent that we look back and assess our efforts by hearing from some prominent emotions scholars who contributed in different ways and capacities to this pathbreaking intellectual journey.