A finished tapestry, richly woven through with the glorious threads of Gods love and wisdom, is the final work of every true child of God. His artistic hand providencially weaving through all the colorful threads of our faith, love, obedience, and even the more ruddy threads of our failings and faults, into one beautiful and complete work hemmed in with the golden cord of our Lord, Jesus Christ. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Renée, the second daughter of King Louis XII and Anne, Duchess of Brittany, would very quickly in life become acquainted with heartache in the death of both her father and mother, just one year apart, leaving her as an orphan at four years old. She was sent to live with her Royal Uncle and her education was put to the charge of a close attendant of her mother, Michelle de Saubonne, who very faithfully instructed the highly intelligent Renée in all areas of learning, including in the Reformed faith that she herself practiced. It is said of Michelle that, “Her religion was a more pure sort than was common at that time.” Renée and her older sister, Claude, the future queen, were greatly blessed having Dame Saubonne in their lives, and they loved her dearly. The young princess was known for having a singleness of purpose with a most generous heart. Her charity flowed forth to the needy, the desolate and the oppressed. She “loved the luxury of doing good.” Renee was heavily influenced by her dear cousin and friend, Marguerite d’ Angouleme, the future Queen of Navarre. While Renée was but a girl, she would yet again be made familiar with grief and sadness. Her beloved sister, Claude, died in her arms on July 26, 1524, at just the tender age of twenty-five. The Hand of providence had indeed painted a dark stroke over her bright countenance once again. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
June 28, 1528, the princess Renée was married to Hercule d’ Este, the inheritor of the duchy of Ferrara. She received an ample dowry and annuity from her Uncle, Francis I of France, and thus surrounded herself with a court brimming of intellectuals in Reformed Theology and Poets. Her court was open to those fleeing the religious persecution in France and Italy. She kept company was some great minds such as the Italian Reformer and preacher, Bernardo Ochino and John Calvin, under the secret name of Charles d’ Espeville. During his stay with Renée, Calvin explained the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, and Renée’s hearty appetite for learning and spiritual zeal kept her in correspondence with Calvin for the next thirty years of her life. A letter from Calvin expressed his heart concerning her conversion, “I observe in you such fear of God, and such a real desire to obey Him, that I should consider myself a castaway if I neglected the opportunity of being useful to you.” Under the pastoral care of John Calvin, her heart was opened to the Gospel and she stopped attending Mass with the royals.
Hercule d’ Este, Renée’s husband, being heavily influenced by political interests, made clear to his wife and court that Protestants and all sympathizers were no longer welcome. The princess entreated her husband in letters to permit Protestants refuge from religious persecution, to no avail. It was a crime punishable by death to teach Reformed doctrine in Italy, and Rome did not take kindly to Renée’s continued actions and ordered sanctions to be taken against her. Her French guests were ordered to leave the court by her husband. This included her beloved childhood teacher and friend, Michelle de Saubonne. Charges of heresy were brought against her by her husband and she confessed, her children were then taken away and her daughters were placed into a convent. Once again, the heavy hand of providence brought Renée to her knees. Being distraught, she sent for a priest and signed a form of recantation. She had failed miserably and her life became a sad shell of what it had been. She made a public pretense of being a devout Catholic, while secretly adhering to Reformed doctrine. It is during this time that Renée returned to the cross many times to find strength, wisdom, and forgiveness. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
It is the later part of her life that her works shined most bright and exceeded her first works. After the death of her husband, Renée took on a renewed vigor for the Christian fight and moved to Montargis where she opened her manor house to French Huguenot families that were fleeing the massacres. She gave medical aid to the wounded and refreshment and refuge to Protestants. Montargis was known as “The Lord’s Hotel,” because of Renée’s work. She died on June 15, 1575. Renée was denied burial with the rest of the royal family in Bisilica of Denis. There is a simple monument in Montargis that reads, “May many daughters of France yet rise to emulate the example of her faith, patience, and charity.”
It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear no fruit because there is no winter there. – John Bunyan
The next post in this series is Argula von Grumbach and Elizabeth of Braunschweig by Barbara Thayer
Today we are giving away 1 copy of Roland Bainton’s, “Women of the Reformation in France and England.” Leave a comment to let us know that you are interested. Winners will be announced at the conclusion of the series. International entries welcome for this contest.
Also, to correspond with our series, our friends at The Bible Truth Chat Room will post, all this week, companion meditations on the subject of women. Today’s topic is “Female Piety.” Click here to read.
About the Author: Barbara Ann is married, mother of five and a member of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. She lives in North Carolina and posts for Puritan Women and Notable Women of Faith with her daughter on Facebook.