Open main menu

DU BELLAY, JEAN (c. 1493-1560), French cardinal and diplomat, younger brother of Guillaume du Bellay, appears as bishop of Bayonne in 1526, member of the privy council in 1530, and bishop of Paris in 1532. Supple and clever, he was well fitted for a diplomatic career, and carried out several missions in England (1527-1534) and Rome (1534-1536). In 1535 he received his cardinal’s hat; in 1536-1537 he was nominated “lieutenant-general” to the king at Paris and in the Île de France, and was entrusted with the organization of the defence against the imperialists. When Guillaume du Bellay went to Piedmont, Jean was put in charge of the negotiations with the German Protestants, principally through the humanist Johann Sturm and the historian Johann Sleidan. In the last years of the reign of Francis I., cardinal du Bellay was in favour with the duchesse d’Étampes, and received a number of benefices—the bishopric of Limoges (1541), archbishopric of Bordeaux (1544), bishopric of Le Mans (1546); but his influence in the council was supplanted by that of Cardinal de Tournon. Under Henry II., being involved in the disgrace of all the servants of Francis I., he was sent to Rome (1547), and he obtained eight votes in the conclave which followed the death of Pope Paul III. After three quiet years passed in retirement in France (1550-1553), he was charged with a new mission to Pope Julius III. and took with him to Rome his young cousin the poet Joachim du Bellay (q.v.). He lived in Rome thenceforth in great state. In 1555 he was nominated bishop of Ostia and dean of the Sacred College, an appointment which was disapproved of by Henry II. and brought him into fresh disgrace, lasting till his death in Rome on the 16th of February 1560. Less resolute and reliable than his brother Guillaume, the cardinal had brilliant qualities, and an open and free mind. He was on the side of toleration and protected the reformers. Budaeus was his friend, Rabelais his faithful secretary and doctor; men of letters, like Étienne Dolet, and the poet Salmon Macrin, were indebted to him for assistance. An orator and writer of Latin verse, he left three books of graceful Latin poems (printed with Salmon Macrin’s Odes, 1546, by R. Estienne), and some other compositions, including Francisci Francorum regis epistola apologetica (1542). His voluminous correspondence, mostly in MS., is remarkable for its verve and picturesque quality.

Bibliography.—The Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris has numerous unpublished letters of Jean du Bellay. See also Ribier, Lettres et mémoires d’estat (Paris, 1666); V. L. Bourrilly and P. de Vaissière, Ambassade de Jean du Bellay en Angleterre, vol. i. (Paris, 1905); marquis de la Jonquière, Le Cardinal du Bellay (Alençon, 1887); Heulhard, Rabelais, ses voyages en Italie (Paris, 1891); Chamard, Joachim du Bellay (Lille, 1900); V. L. Bourrilly, Guillaume du Bellay (Paris, 1905); “Jean du Bellay, les protestants et la Sorbonne” in the Bulletin du Protestantisme français (1903, 1904); and “Jean Sleidan et le Cardinal du Bellay,” in the Bulletin, &c. (1901, 1906).

 (J. I.)