Tom Hamilton, "A Widow's Vengeance After the Wars of Religion: Gender and Justice in Renaissance France" (Oxford UP, 2024)


Paris, 1599. At the end of the French Wars of Religion, the widow Renée Chevalier instigated the prosecution of the military captain Mathurin Delacanche, who had committed multiple acts of rape, homicide, and theft against the villagers who lived around her château near the cathedral city of Sens. But how could Chevalier win her case when King Henri IV's Edict of Nantes ordered that the recent troubles should be forgotten as 'things that had never been'? 

A Widow's Vengeance After the Wars of Religion: Gender and Justice in Renaissance France (Oxford UP, 2024) is an original and wide-ranging account of the impact of the religious wars on daily life. Based on neglected archival sources and an exceptional criminal trial, it recovers the experiences of women, peasants, and foot soldiers, who are marginalized in most historical accounts. Tom Hamilton shows how this trial contributed to a wider struggle for justice and an end to violence in postwar France. People throughout the society of the Old Regime did not consider rape and pillage as inevitable consequences of war, and denounced soldiers' illicit violence when they were given the chance. As a result, the early modern laws of war need to be understood not only as the idealistic invention of great legal thinkers, but also as a practical framework that enabled magistrates to do justice for plaintiffs and witnesses, like Chevalier and the villagers who lived under her protection. 

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