Christine De Pizan

Christine de Pizan was an Italian French author from late medieval times. She acted as the court writer in the royal court of French ruler, Charles VI. Christine also served in the courts of several French dukes like Louis of Orleans, Philip the Bold and John the Fearless from Burgundy.

She wrote both poetry and prose with equal ease. Her poetry was infused with her knowledge of aristocratic customs and fashion in vogue. She also wrote biographies and books containing practical advice for women. She also wrote about mythology and history.

Christine De Pizan

Early Life of Christine: Christine was born in 1364 in Venice, Italy. Her father Thomas de Pizan was an astrologer, physician and a councilor of Republic of Venice. Her family belonged to the city of Pizzano near Bologna. Soon after Christine’s birth, her father accepted the offer to act as the court astrologer, physician and alchemist in the court of French ruler Charles V. So at a very early age she moved to Paris with her family.

The atmosphere provided Christine a chance to pursue her intellectual leanings. She showed interest in learning languages and benefited from the royal archives of Charles V. The archives contained several manuscripts which helped Christine educate herself. She married Etienne du Castel, a royal court secretary at a remarkably young age of fifteen. She had three children with her husband (one daughter died in her childhood). In an unfortunate turn of events, her husband died in 1387 in an epidemic while in Beauvais with the king.

Christine was faced with an inevitable task of looking after her family and her ageing mother. This is how she decided to start writing. She started by writing love ballads. She wrote close to three hundred ballads in a relatively short time between 1393 and 1412. The quality of her work and the novelty of being a female writer caught the attention of influential court patrons. They had Christine write their own romantic exploits in the form of ballads.

She raised her stature when in 1401-1402 she participated in a debate about the depiction of women in ‘Romance of the Rose’, work of famous 13th century French write Jean de Meun. She established herself as the advocate of giving women a respectable position in French society. She successfully drew the attention of society towards abusive literary treatment of women.

Work: Christine spent her childhood and adult life in France and adopted French as her mother tongue. She exclusively wrote in French. Her work included poems, epistles, biographies and political essays. Christine’s most well known literary works are her two books ‘The Book of City of Ladies’ and ‘The Treasure of City of Ladies’.

In the first book she wrote about the contribution of women to the society and in the second she gave useful advice to women about their domestic and societal conduct. She also showed particular interest in classical antiquity. Her essays on ethical and just conduct were aimed at her royal readers and greatly influenced her. This is a role for which Christine has been hailed by modern critics.

Later Life: Christine shifted to a convent in 1415 after a crushing French defeat in Battle of Aginfield during the Hundred Years War. She spent her last days in this convent and in 1429 completed her final work which was a poem eulogizing Joan of Arc.

The poem titled ‘The Poem of Joan of Arc’ celebrated achievement of the young French heroine. This was the final work of her long and celebrated literary career after which she decided to call it a day. Christine’s two surviving children were a daughter and a son. In 1430, Christine de Pizan died after a brief illness at the age of 66.