Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Friday, May 22, 2015

Françoise de Cezelli, the "Joan of Arc of Languedoc"

Françoise de Cezelli (born 22 May 1558)


Born in Montpellier, the capital city in the Languedoc region of France, Françoise de Cezelli was the daughter of a silk merchant, Jean de Cezelli, and his wife Catherine de la Croix de Castries, the daughter of a noble family.  

Re-erected statue of Françoise de Cezelli,
Leucate

The 1899 statue in Leucate,
before its removal in 1942
In 1577,  Françoise was married to Jean de Boursiez, seigneur de Pantnau de Barri. The couple had five children, and at some point Boursiez became the governor of Leucate. In 1590, after her husband was captured and by the Spanish who were besieging Leucate, Françoise de Cezelli organized the city, encouraging the resistance while on the front lines of the defense.

Although she was offered her husband's life if she would surrender, she responded, "La ville est au roi et mon honneur à Dieu. Je dois les conserver jusqu’au dernier soupir"--"The city belongs to the king and my honor to God. I will defend them with my last breath." Her husband was executed, but the Spanish were eventually forced to abandon the siege of Leucate.

In return, the grateful French king, Henry IV, rewarded Françoise de Cezelli by appointing her as governor of Leucate. She served for twenty-seven years, until her son, Hercule, was old enough to take up the position. 

Françoise de Cezelli died on 16 October 1615 and was buried, with her husband, in the Church of St. Paul of Narbonne. In Leucate, she is identified as "La Jeanne d'Arc du Languedoc."

A bronze statue was erected in her honor in 1899--but it was sent by the Vichy government to Germany to be melted down in May 1942. A new statue in her honor was erected on 17 August 1975.

Information about Françoise de Cezelli is hard to find in English; there are several good sites about her, if you can read a bit of French (try here and here, for example).

A plaque in Montpelier,
marking a place where Françoise de Cezelli
once lived.

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