November 25, 2020
Longarine tells the tale of a prince—generally understood to be King François I, brother of Marguerite de Navarre—who falls in love with a beautiful young woman who is married to an elderly lawyer in Paris. She reciprocates the prince’s love, and he proceeds to visit her in secret, night after night, stopping by a nearby monastery after each visit to hear matins and impressing the monks with his piety.
The prince’s sister—who loves her brother “above all other creatures in the world”—is astonished by his behavior, and she manages to get the truth from her brother, who finds it hilarious that the monks think so highly of him.
Our storytellers treat the prince with indulgence, considering his sin a small one and praising him for maintaining secrecy so as to preserve his lover’s honor. Even Oisille expresses the wish “that all young lords would follow his example,” adding that “often the scandal is worse than the sin itself.” Parlamente urges the others not to judge him, noting that “it’s possible that afterwards his repentance was such that his sin was forgiven.”
In the ensuing discussion of sin and repentance, Hircan offers one of his most memorable lines in the Heptameron, observing, “I don’t approve of sin, and I’m always very sorry if I offend God—but I still enjoy it!”
Hircan is often associated with Henri d’Albret, King of Navarre from 1516 to 1555, the second husband of Marguerite de Navarre. Here’s a portrait of him, by an unknown artist, at the Musée Condé in Chantilly.