Bellay, John Du

, cardinal, was born in 1492, and made early proficiency in learning. Francis I. who highly esteemed him, bestowed many preferments on him. He owed this favour to an accidental circumstance: The night before the pope made his public entrance into Marseilles, to meet the French king, it was discovered that the president of the parliament, who had been appointed to receive him with a Latin oration, had unluckily chosen a subject which would certainly give the pontiff offence; and yet there was no tune for a new composition. In this extremity, when the whole business of the ceremonial was deranged, Bellay offered his services to speak extempore, and did it with such uncommon propriety and elegance, that he was marked, from that time, as a man of the first genius in France. He was first bishop of Bayonne, and afterwards of Paris in 1532. The year following, Henry VIII. of England having raised just apprehensions of a schism on account of a quarrel with his queen, du Bellay, who had been sent to him in 1527, in quality of ambassador, and who is said to have managed his boisterous temper with great address, was dispatched to him a second time. He obtained of that prince that he would not yet break with Rome, provided time was granted him to make his defence by proxy. Du Bellay set out immediately, to ask a respite of pope Clement VII. which he obtained, and sent a courier to the king of England for his procuration, but the courier not returning, Clement VII. fulminated the bull of excommunication against Henry VIII. and laid an interdict on his dominions. It was this bull that furnished Henry with an opportunity, fortunately for England, of withdrawing that nation from the church of Rome, and a great source of revenue from the coffers of the pope. Du Bellay continued to be entrusted with the affairs of France under the pontificate of Paul III. who made him cardinal in 1535. The year afterwards, Charles V. having entered Provence with a numerous army, Francis I. in order to appose so formidable an enemy, quitted Paris, whither du Bellay was just returned, and the king appointed him his lieutenant-general, that he might have a watchful eye over Picardy and Champagne. The cardinal, no less intelligent in matters of war than in the intrigues of the cabinet, undertook to defend Paris, which was then in confusion, and fortified it accordingly with a rampart and boulevards, which are still to be seen. He provided with equal | promptitude for the security of the other towns, which important services procured him new benefices, and the friendship and confidence of Francis I. After the death of that prince, the cardinal de Lorraine became the channel of favour at the court of Henry II., but du Bellay, too little of a philosopher, and too much affected by the loss of his influence, could no longer endure to remain at Paris. He chose rather to retire to Rome, where the quality of bishop of Ostia procured him, under Paul IV. the title of dean of the sacred college, and where his riches enabled him to build a sumptuous palace; but by some means he took care to keep the bishopric of Paris in his family, obtaining that see for Eustache du Bellay, his cousin, who was already provided with several benefices, and president of the parliament. The cardinal lived nine years after his demission; and, whether from patriotism or from the habit of business, he continued to make himself necessary to the king. He died at Rome, Feb. 16, 1560, at the age of 68, with the reputation of a dexterous courtier, an able negociator, and a great wit. Literature owed much to him. He concurred with his friend Budæus in engaging Francis I. to institute the college royal. Rabelais had been his physician. Of his writing are Several harangues, An apology for Francis I. Elegies, epigrams, and odes, collected in 8vo, and printed by Robert Stephens in 1546. 1


Gen. Dict.—Moreri—Gilpin’s Life of Cranmer, p. 32.