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Thou, Nicolas and Jacques Auguste de


Nicolas, Bishop of Chartres; b. Paris, 1528; d. Villebon, Nov. 5, 1598. Nicolas was the brother of Christophe de Thou, first president of the Parlement of Paris. He became canon of the Cathedral of Paris in 1547 and was designated bishop of Chartres in 1573. He shared the anti-League, pro-Gallican, politique sentiment of his family that caused trouble when the people of Chartres gave their support to the Duke of Mayenne in 1589. After 1591 Nicolas openly supported the candidacy of Henry IV for the French throne. He was appointed the representative of the archbishop of Reims at the coronation of Henry IV in 1594.

Jacques Auguste (Thuanus), French historian and government official; b. Paris, Oct. 8, 1553; d. Paris, May 7, 1617. Jacques was the son of Christophe de Thou. He studied law at Orleans, Bourges, and Valence and succeeded his uncle Nicolas as canon of Notre Dame, although he never received clerical orders. From 1572 to 1576 he accompanied Paul de Foix, Archbishop of Toulouse, to Rome. In 1578 he entered Parlement, and in 1581 he began a series of travels in southern France where he met Montaigne and the future Henry IV. Upon his return he was appointed président à mortier of the Parlement of Paris in 1586 and a councilor of state in 1588. Beginning in 1589 he actively supported Henry IV and in 1598 played an important role in drawing up the Edict of Nantes. During the regency of Marie de' Médicis, he was still active in the government, but was less effective because of the influence of the ultra-Montanists who opposed his historical writings and his stand against the acceptance of the decrees of the Council of Trent.

Thou had been horrified by the massacre of st. bartholomew's day, and this played a part in forming his desire to understand how the Europe of his time had come to be. He began to build a collection of books in the 1570s, and in 1587 he opened a private library. From the resources of this library and through correspondence with foreign scholars, he acquired the material for his Historia sui temporis. He began this work in 1593, and the first part, covering the years 1545 to 1560, was published in 1604. It was immediately scrutinized by the ultra-Montanists and former Leaguers for the slightest hint of heterodoxy. A few objectionable phrases were found, and when the second part, covering the years 1560 to 1572, appeared without praise for St. Bartholomew's Day, his enemies appealed to Rome. Despite the efforts of Cardinals duperron and Ossat, Thou's history was placed on the Index in 1609. By this time two more volumes, covering the period to 1584, had appeared. The fifth and final volume, which brought the narrative to 1607, appeared posthumously in 1620.

Though Thou made errors, his work is the result of careful study. His history and his memoirs reflect the Gallican sentiment of his family and the ideas of the politiques who sought peace and toleration in France.

Bibliography: h. harrisse, Le Président de Thou et ses descendants (Paris 1905). h. dÜntzer, J. A. Thou's Leben, Schriften und historische Kunst (Darmstadt 1837). k. hoffman, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. m. buchberger (Freiburg 193038) 10:14647.

[j. m. hayden]

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