Philippe de Mornay, Sieur du Plessis-Marly

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Philippe de Mornay, Sieur du Plessis-Marly

Birthplace: Buhy, Val-d'Oise, Île-de-France, France
Death: Died in La Forêt-sur-Sèvre, Deux-Sevres, Poitou-Charentes, France
Immediate Family:

Son of Jacques de Mornay, Chevalier, Seigneur de Buhy and Françoise Crespin du Bec, Dame de Buhy et du Grand-Plessis-Marly
Husband of Charlotte d'Arbaleste, Dame de La Borde
Father of Marthe du Mornay; Elizabeth du Mornay; Philippe de Mornay, seigneur de Boves; Maurice du Mornay; Anne de Mornay and 3 others
Brother of Pierre de Mornay, Seigneur de Buhy; Charles de Mornay; Anne de Mornay; Francoise de Mornay and Guy de Mornay

Occupation: Diplomat and publicist for the French Protestants, or Huguenots , during the French Wars of Religion (1562-98). Governor of Saumur
Managed by: Sharon Doubell
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About Philippe de Mornay, Sieur du Plessis-Marly

Philippe de Mornay, Seigneur du Plessis-Marly

(aka Duplessis-Mornay) Philippe de Mornay was born in Buhy, Normandy, on November 5, 1549. His mother had Protestant leanings, but his father tried to counteract her influence by sending him to the College de Lisieux in Paris. After the death of his father in 1559, however, his family formally adopted Protestantism and he was allowed to return home. He studied law and jurisprudence at Heidelberg in 1565, and Hebrew and German at Padua in 1566.

Mornay joined the army of Conde upon outbreak of the second French War of Religion in 1567, but a fall from his horse prevented him from taking an active part in the campaign. In 1572, he offered his services to the Protestant Reformers in France, and collaborated with Gaspard de Coligny in plans for war against Spain. He managed to escape the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day of 1572 and took refuge in England.

Returning to France in 1573, Mornay joined the army of Henry of Navarre and soon became one of Henry's most respected councillors, serving as Henry's diplomatic agent in England (1577-1578 and again in 1580) and in the Low Countries (1581-1582).

About 1588, Mornay became leader of the Protestant movement in France, and soon became known as "the Huguenot Pope." He sought to unite all Frenchmen under a religious system that would give free reign to the Reformed Churches or establish a national church on the Anglican model, and sought to turn royal policy against the Catholic League and against Spain.

Following the assassination of King Henry III in 1589, Mornay again joined Henry of Navarre's army and participated in all the major campaigns that ultimately led to Henry being crowned King Henry IV. For his service Mornay was made Governor of the Huguenot stronghold of Saumur, where he built the greatest of the Huguenot academies. He remained a part of King Henry's circle of advisors until 1593, when the king renounced Protestantism and converted to Catholicism.

In 1598, Mornay was a key contributor in the negotiations which led to the Edict of Nantes. Signed by King Henry on April 13, 1598, the Edict gave French Protestants (Huguenots) complete freedom of worship in about 75 towns, as well as equal rights with Catholics as citizens.

Also in 1598, Mornay published De l'institution, usage et doctrine du sainct sacrement de Veucharistie en l'église ancienne, which contained about 5,000 citations from Scripture. In 1600, Jacques Davy Duperron, bishop of Evreux, accused him of misquotation in this work. A public disputation was conducted at Fontainebleau, which resulted in his discomfiture, with Henry IV putting finals touches to it.

Mornay opposed Louis XIII's policy of rapprochement with the papacy and with Spain, a position which put him at definite odds with the king. In 1618, he was chosen a deputy to represent the French Protestants at the Synod of Dort, but was prohibited from attending by Louis XIII. He was removed from his position at Saumur in 1621.

Philippe de Mornay died at his estate of La Foret-sur-Sevre on November 11, 1623.

Some of His Writings

Discours au roi Charles (1572) Remonstrances aux estats pour la paix (1576) Excellent discours de la vie et de la mort (1577) Traité de l'église [Treatise on the Church] (1578) De la vérité de la religion chrestienne (1581) Remonstrances à la France (1585) De l'institution, usage et doctrine du sainct sacrement de Veucharistie en l'église ancienne [Concerning the institution, the usage and the doctrine of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist in the early Church] (1598) Le Mystère d'iniquité (1611) Mémoires et corresponance (2 vols. 1624-1625)

See Also

Le Plessis- Marly was the estate of the Duplessis-Mornays,

the family which gave the statesman Philippe de Mornay to the Protestant cause in the troubled days of Henri IV. Le Plessis-Marly came into Philippe’s possession through his mother Francoise, daughter of Charles du Bec-Crespin, vice- admiral of France. Formerly owned by her maternal aunt Jeanne de Deauvilliers, the property was acquired by Francoise in June 1561.7

The church was chosen in 1601 by the royal commissioners Francois d’Angennes and Pierre Jeannin to serve the Calvinists of the Montfort- l’Amaury bailiwick, replacing an earlier place of worship at Garan- cieres-en-Beauce to the south-west.8 The Mornays made personal provision in 1606 for the salary of a minister and for the support of the poor. The church was included in the Beauce colloquy of the synodal province for the north-east of France and had close connections with the seigneurial church of La Norville in the Hurepoix, sharing the same pastor, Maurice de Lauberon de Montigny, for a number of years after 1626. The Paris temple had been sited in the Hurepoix before 1606, first at Grigny and later, in 1599, at Ablon-sur-Seine. both south of the capital, but with the removal to Charenton, Le Plessis-Marly and La Norville alone served the region.9

It was for Jansenism, rather than Calvinism, that the Hurepoix was noted in the seventeenth century. The Calvinist reform movement had made little headway there and was very much a minority cult. Jean Jacquart has put forward some tentative reasons: the ease with which repressive measures could be introduced to counter heresy in towns and villages close to the capital; few complaints of a material kind against the Catholic church and close family ties between many of the clergy and their parishioners; social stability in a region which remained relatively strong economically during the wars of religion. Here then was no fertile field for religious innovation and proximity to Paris strengthened the efforts of Catholic reform: mission priests, following in the footsteps of Vincent de Paul, were active; eucharistic devotions, a counterpoise to Calvinism, were encouraged. A number of landowners returned to the Catholic faith and those who remained members of the reformed church do not appear to have strongly influenced their tenants.10

The anti-Calvinist drive mounted by Louis XIV drove the pastor Jacques Rondeau of Le Plessis-Marly to England,11 while Charles Marais, his wife Catherine Taboureux and their children Claude, Charles, Isaac and Marie-Madeleine made their way to the United Provinces. Like so many other refugees of the period they had been compelled to accept Catholicism at the revocation, but returned to the reformed faith in their first country of refuge. Charles, his wife and the older children rejected their forced conversion at the Walloon church in The Hague on September 14, 1687.12

(M.Boucher. (1981). French speakers at the Cape: The European Background. Pretoria, UNISA p 105-7)


  • 7. On the Mornay background see HAAG and HAAG, France protestante, VII, pp. 512-542. Le Plessis-Marly is discussed in M. BOUCHER. ‘Cape and company in the early eighteenth century’, Kleio, IX, 1 and 2, June 1977, pp. 67-68.
  • 8. 5642, Collection Auziere, Ile-de-France, Eglises, L-Z: Le Plessis-Marly, Pays chartrain, p. 23 (Bibl. Prot., SHPF).
  • 9. JACQUART, Crise rurale, p. 582 and n.; J. PANNIER. ‘Notes sur l’eglise reformee de La Norville; les origines; un registre de 1671; la disparition’, BSHPF, L, April 15, 1901, p. 175.
  • 10. Crise rurale, pp. 168-169; 583.
  • 11. MOURS, 'Pasteurs’, BSHPF, CXIV, Jan.-March 1968, p. 81.
  • 12. AB ZH Gra dtb, ’s-Gravenhage, Lidmaatschap, ens., 1621-1893 (copy): 1225-1227, p. 78, where the names are given as Marets and Taboureur (CBG).


A Note on Medieval French Naming Traditions

"It will strike the modern reader as strange that the lady was styled Mademoiselle after as before her marriage, and the use of the title needs a word in passing. The general use of Madame to designate a married woman dates only from the 17th century and even then it came slowly into use. In earlier days the title was reserved for ladies of a certain rank somewhat as ' Lady ' is used in England. These favoured few were the wives of ' les grands ', of the princes of the blood, semi-sovereign princes, Marshals of France, certain of the highest nobility, and of the chevaliers des ordres ; also the King's daughters and abbesses and prioresses ; all these could claim the title of Madame. For other women, whether noble or bour- geoise, wed or single, Mademoiselle was the only title in use.

But whereas in the case of a bourgeoise the husband's or the father's family name followed the title the noble- woman would almost certainly have made use of a territorial name. Montaigne protested against the habit.

" It is a vile habit and one fraught with evil for France for people to be called after their estates, and one that occasions more confusion of families than any other thing. A cadet of good family, who receives as his portion an estate, whose name he bears with credit, cannot abandon it with honour. Ten years after his death the land passes to a stranger, who in his turn bears the title."

Montaigne felt the loss of the hereditary honour which could cling round a name handed down from generation to generation, but he also felt the confusion which arose from the habit he condemns. Every child, girls as well as boys, might bear a different name and much of the significance of events in history may be lost by those who fail to realize relationships through the maze of names.

In England the eldest son of a peer may bear, by courtesy, some secondary title belonging to his father ; his brothers will use the family surname. In France not only great noblemen, like the Constable Montmorenci, whose five sons were known as Montmorenci, Damville, Montberan, Meru and de Thore, but the sons of every little squire with a small property or two to divide was known by a different name Thus in the Mornay family the eldest son was de Buhy, the second du Plessis Marly the third de Beaunes ; their uncle was d'Aubleville and his son Villarceaux, and so on throughout the whole nobility of France. And furthermore, as Montaigne complains, should the property pass into other hands the name went with it and the nobles saw springing up a new class of rich bourgeois proprietors ' roturiers ' who bought the right to use the name along with the territory to which it belonged . One other point is worth calling attention to. On marriage an Englishwoman loses her maiden name and henceforth in legal signatures as in common parlance uses only her husband's surname. An old traveller in England noticed this as one of the peculiarities of the subjection of a woman to her husband.

" Wives," he says, " are entirely in the power of their husbands, their lives only excepted. Therefore when they marry they give up the surname of their father and take the surnames of their husbands."

In France this is not so. A woman never loses her father's surname and signs with it, at least in all legal documents, after as before marriage. Mile, de Buhy was Madeleine de Bee Crespin till her death, just as du Plessis' wife was Charlotte d'Arbaleste when- ever she signed a letter, in spite of her first marriage to de Feuqueres and her second to du Plessis.

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Philippe de Mornay, Sieur du Plessis-Marly's Timeline

November 5, 1549
Buhy, Val-d'Oise, Île-de-France, France
December 17, 1576
Age 27
June 1, 1578
Age 28
July 20, 1579
Age 29
Antwerp, Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium
Age 30
Age 32
Age 33
Age 34
Age 35