« Bonnet, Jules Bonnivard, Francois de Bonnus, Hermannus »

Bonnivard, Francois de

BONNIVARD, ben´´nî´´vɑ̄r´, FRANÇOIS DE: The "Prisoner of Chillon"; b. at Seyssel on the Rhone (21 m. s.w. of Geneva) c. 1493; d. at Geneva 1570. As a younger son he entered the Church and became prior of St. Victor near Geneva; certain other benefices to which he thought he was entitled he failed to receive through the intrigues of Charles III, duke of Savoy; in consequence he joined the party of the young Genevan patriots who were resisting the duke's attempts to gain control of the city. When the duke entered Geneva in 1519, Bonnivard fled, but fell into the hands of the duke, and was imprisoned for twenty months. On May 28, 1530 he was arrested near Lausanne, taken to the castle of Chillon at the east end of Lake Geneva and kept there for six years. It is this imprisonment which Byron has immortalized in verse more musical than truthful. The first two years were tolerable; but after a visit from the duke in 1532 he was put in the dungeon now shown to visitors. It is only a local tradition that he was chained to a pillar. In the spring of 1536 the Bernese took the castle and freed Bonnivard. During his incarceration the priory and church of St. Victor had been razed and the income of the estates applied to the city hospital. As indemnification he was pensioned and given a liberal sum to pay his debts. He adopted the Reformation and married four times, but no time happily. He made the city of Geneva his heir on condition that it should pay his debts; but his estate consisted only of certain books which formed the beginning of the city library. Bonnivard's literary activity was the chief reason for the forbearance which his contemporaries showed him; his career was somewhat wavering, time-serving, and dishonorable. In 1517 he was entitled "poet-laureate," and after his liberation he was commissioned by the magistracy to write a history of the republic of Geneva. This work, Les Chroniques de Genève (published at Geneva, 2 vols., 1831), ends with 1551, is full of anecdotes and interesting, but unreliable. Other works which have been published are: Advis et devis des langues (Geneva, 1849); Advis et devis de la source de l’idolatrie et tyrannie papale (1856); De l’ancienne et nouvelle police de Genève (1865).

Bibliography: J. J. Chaponnière, Mémoire sur Bonnivard, Geneva, 1846; F. Gribble, Lake Geneva and its Literary Landmarks, London, 1901.

« Bonnet, Jules Bonnivard, Francois de Bonnus, Hermannus »
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