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Early Modern Parisian Soundscapes


Here is a song, set to the popular tune of the day "Réveillez-vous belle endormie", about a man called Jacques Chausson, a former customs officer, who (along with his friend Jacques Paulmier) was about to be burnt at the stake for the sin of sodomy. We know exactly the time that this song would have been sung, as Chausson was executed on 29th December 1661. Just three days later, on 1st January 1662, Guillaume Pechpeyrou-Cominges, comte de Guitaut (1626-1685), favourite and reputed lover of the King’s cousin Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, was being awarded one of the highest honours in the land, becoming a “Chevalier de l’Ordre du Saint-Esprit”: the “cordon bleu” is the blue riband from which the Cross of the Holy Spirit hung. This devastatingly simple song questions the double standards of executing and honouring men for the same "crime".


Grands Dieux! Quelle est vôtre justice?

Chausson va périr par le feu;

Et Guitaut par le même vice

A mérité le Cordon bleu.

[Great Gods! Where is your justice?

Chausson is about to die in the fire;

And Guitaut for the same vice

Has deserved the Cordon bleu.]


Now listen to a performance of the song by mezzo-soprano Katie Bray and the period instrument ensemble “Badinage” by clicking here. You can follow the musical arrangement (by Jonathan Rees) here.

The full story of Chausson's song can be found in The Powers of Sound and Song in Early Modern Paris (Penn State UP, 2019), by Nicholas Hammond, available in hardback, paperback and as an ebook.