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François de Civille

Portrait of Elizabeth I of England said to have been a gift to François de Civille in 1588.

François de Civille, seigneur de Saint-Mards (1537–1610), was a French soldier and diplomat. The Civille family of Rouen was of Spanish origin.[1]

Buried Alive[]

François de Civille was a soldier in the French Wars of Religion. He wrote a memoir describing being found dead, buried, and resuscitated at the siege of Rouen in 1562. He was shot in the head and fell from the ramparts into the ditch, where workers buried him on 12 October 1562. Civille's groom went to collect the body to bury it properly and found he was still alive. During his recovery, soldiers looking for his younger brother discovered him in bed and threw him out of the window. He landed in a dung heap in the courtyard where he remained senseless in his night clothes for three days until he was found by his cousin. His injuries left him unable to close his mouth without pain. Subsequently, Civille would write "Dead, Buried, Resuscitated" under his signature. Civille wrote a memoir of his 1562 experience and had it printed in 1606. Pierre de L'Estoile noted its publication in July 1606. In a later addition to the story, it was said that Civille died after falling a third time, falling ill on an icy night while peeping into a neighbour's window.[2]

Diplomat and Refugee[]

As a diplomat he worked for Françoise de Bourbon, Duchess of Bouillon and was an informant for Francis Walsingham, reporting on English visitors at Rouen, and declared that he was as sure and constant in Walsingham's service 'as a diamond is hard'.[3] He sent gifts of dried fruit, apples and pears, to Ursula St Barbe and Lettice Knollys, the wives of Walsingham and Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. He came to London and met Elizabeth I in 1584 and 1588.[4] He and his wife, Jehanne du Mouchet, and family came to Rye in July 1585 and were listed as Protestant refugees in London in January 1586.[5]

In 1588, Elizabeth gave him a jewel and her portrait, according to an inscription on a painting belonging to his descendants.[6] Leaving his wife in London, he travelled to Edinburgh in March 1589 to raise an army of 3000 soldiers for Henri of Navarre and work on the unsuccessful negotiations for the marriage of James VI of Scotland to Catherine de Bourbon sister of Henri of Navarre. James was advised of Civille's mission by Henri's letter of 23 December 1588. Civille arrived in Edinburgh on 10 March 1589 and had his first audience on 15 March. However, James married Anne of Denmark instead.[7] Civille mentioned in a letter from Wemyss that the Earl of Huntingdon was his 'old and gracious master'. Civille was given 1,200 merks on 11 September 1589 and left Scotland accompanied by James Colville of Easter Wemyss and 1,500 Scottish troops.[8] According to David Moysie the 1,500 soldiers had left Scotland in June 1589 [9]

In January 1598 Henri IV ordered Civille as "Commissaire Ordinaire des Guerres" to take command of troops at Saumur.[10]



See also François de Civille

  1. Gayle K. Brunelle, 'Immigration, Assimilation and Success: Three Families of Spanish Origin in Sixteenth Century Rouen', The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 20, no. 2 (Summer, 1989), pp. 203–220, 214–5.
  2. A. Varillas, Histoire de Charles IX, vol. 1 (Paris, 1684), pp. 256–7: Ernest Poret Bénigne, Marquis de Blosseville, Discours des causes pour lesquelles le Sieur de Civille se dit avoir été mort, enterré et ressuscité (Rouen, 1863), pp. XIX, 13–14, 21.
  3. A. Aubry, La Normandie à l'étranger: documents inédits relatifs à l'histoire de Normandie (Paris, 1873), 243.
  4. E.J.B. Allen, Post and Courier Service in the Diplomacy of Early Modern Europe (Hague, 1972), 34–5, 56: Calendar State Papers Foreign Elizabeth, vol. 19, p.524
  5. Calendar State Papers London Foreign Elizabeth, vol. 20 (London, 1921), p. 293.
  6. Ernest Poret Blosseville, Discours des causes pour lesquelles le sieur de Civille (Rouen, 1863), p.XII: Details of the portrait of Elizabeth, Christie's London 2 July 2013, no. 23.
  7. Annie Isabella Cameron, Warrender Papers, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, 1932), pp. 91–2, 107–8: Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 10 (Edinburgh, 1936), pp. 7, 8: Calendar State Papers Foreign Elizabeth vol. 23 (London, 1950), 10: Ernest Poret Blosseville, (Rouen, 1863), p.XIII.
  8. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 10 (Edinburgh, 1936), pp. 137, 141, 154: National Library of Scotland Adv. MS. 29.2.5 f196.
  9. David Moysie, Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1830), pp. 73, 78: Robert Chambers, Domestic Annals of Scotland, vol. 1 (Edinburgh, 1848), p. 191.
  10. Jules Berger de Xivray, Recueil des lettres missives de Henri IV vol. 4 (Paris, 1848), pp. 895-6.

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