The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

Month: March 1644 (page 1 of 2)

Monday 28 March 1644

We went toward Paris, lying the first night at Evreux, a Bishop’s seat, an ancient town, with a fair cathedral; so the next day we arrived at Paris.

“Veüe de l’eglise de NOSTRE DAME, Cathedrale d’EVREUX, dessiné du costé du grand Portail” by Louis Boudan. 1702 . Source: BNF.

Friday 25 March 1644

We arrived at Caen, a noble and beautiful town, situate on the river Orne, which passes quite through it, the two sides of the town joined only by a bridge of one entire arch. We lay at the Angel, where we were very well used, the place being abundantly furnished with provisions, at a cheap rate. The most considerable object is the great Abbey and Church, large and rich, built after the Gothic manner, having two spires and middle lantern at the west end, all of stone. The choir round and large, in the center whereof elevated on a square, handsome, but plain sepulcher1 , is this inscription:

“Hoc sepulchrum invictissimi juxta et clementissimi conquestoris, Gulielmi, dum viverat Anglorum Regis, Normannorum Cenomannorumque Principis, hujus insignis Abbatiae piissimi Fundatoris: Cum anno 1562 vesano hæreticorum furore direptum fuisset, pio tandem nobilium ejusdem Abbatiae religiosorum gratitudinis sensu in tam beneficum largitorem, instauratum fuit, aº D’ni 1642. D’no Johanne de Bailhache Assætorii proto priore. D.D.014”

On the other side are these monkish rhymes:

“Qui rexit rigidos Northmannos, atq. Britannos
Audacter vicit, fortiter obtinuit,
Et Cenomanensis virtute coërcuit ensis,
Imperiique sui Legibus applicuit.
Rex magnus parvâ jacet hâc Gulielm’ in Urnâ,
Sufficit et magno parva domus Domino.
Ter septem gradibus te volverat atq. duobus
Virginis in gremio Phœbus, et hic obiit.”

We went to the castle, which is strong and fair, and so is the town-house, built on the bridge which unites the two towns. Here are schools and an University for the Jurists.

The whole town is handsomely built of that excellent stone2 so well known by that name in England. I was led to a pretty garden, planted with hedges of alaternus3, having at the entrance a screen at an exceeding height, accurately cut in topiary work, with well understood architecture, consisting of pillars, niches, friezes, and other ornaments, with great curiosity; some of the columns curiously wreathed, others spiral, all according to art.


  1. This was a second tomb, erected circa 1626, which had replaced an earlier one, and only contained a thigh-bone of the Conqueror. “In 1742, this second tomb, being considered to be in the way of the services of the church, was removed to another part of the choir, where it was destroyed and rifled in 1793, when the one remaining fragment of the body of William was lost for ever” (Hare’s North-Western France, 1895, 116).  

  2. Caen stone or Pierre de Caen, is a light creamy-yellow Jurassic limestone quarried in northwestern France near the city of Caen” – Wikipedia 

  3. The Italian buckthorn or Rhamnus alaternus was planted at Sayes Court Garden see this article featuring alaternus. -GS 

Thursday 24 March 1644

The next morning, we saw the citadel1, strong and regular, well stored with artillery and ammunition of all sorts: the works furnished with fair brass cannon, having a motto, Ratio ultima Regum2.

“Intérieur de la citadelle du Havre de Grâce” by Hubert Robert. 1700. Source: BnF. Shows woman sitting on cannon – one of many bearing the King’s motto.

The allogements3 of the garrison are uniform; a spacious place for drawing up the soldiers, a pretty chapel, and a fair house for the Governor4. The Duke of Richelieu being now in the fort, we went to salute him; who received us very civilly, and commanded that we should be showed whatever we desired to see. The citadel was built by the late Cardinal de Richelieu, uncle5  of the present Duke, and may be esteemed one of the strongest in France. The haven is very capacious.

“La (sic) Havre de Grâce” by Jaques Gomboust, 1657. Source: BnF

When we had done here, we embarked ourselves and horses to pass to Honfleur, about four or five leagues6  distant, where the Seine falls into the sea. It is a poor fisher-town, remarkable for nothing so much as the odd, yet useful habits which the good women wear7  , of bears’ and other skins, as of rugs at Dieppe, and all along these maritime coasts.


  1. Where Cardinal Mazarin, six years later, shut up the leaders of the Fronde, Condé, Conti, and Longueville, — “the lion, the ape, and the fox” according to Gaston of Orleans. –AD 

  2. Latin – “The last argument of Kings” or more “The last resort of Kings”.  This phrase was placed on French cannon by order of Louis XIV  – GS 

  3. Accommodation – from the French “logement” -GS 

  4. In 1644 the Governer was Francis Vignerot Pont-Courlay – father of the Duke of Richelieu. The Duke took over the role of Governor on the death of his father in  June 1646. In this entry Evelyn wrote he met the both  Duke and Governor during his stay in Le Havre – perhaps he was incorrect when referring to notes or he met both father and son – GS 

  5. actually great-uncle -GS 

  6. An English  league was 3 miles, so Evelyn was stating 12-15 miles or 19 – 24km -GS 

  7. Possibly the distinctive quichenotte or sun-bonnet -GS 

Wednesday 23 March 1644

We passed along the coast by a very rocky and rugged way, which forced us to alight many times before we came to Havre de Grace, where we lay that night.

Monday 21 March 1644

On Easter Monday, we dined at Tôtes, a solitary inn1  between Rouen and Dieppe, at which latter place we arrived. This town is situated between two mountains, not unpleasantly, and is washed on the north by our English seas.

“Profil de la ville de Dieppe” by Israel Silvestre. 1650. From BNF.

The port is commodious; but the entrance difficult. It has one very ample and fair street, in which is a pretty church. The Fort Pollet consists of a strong earth-work, and commands the haven, as on the other side does the castle, which is also well fortified, with the citadel before it; nor is the town itself a little strong. It abounds with workmen, who make and sell curiosities of ivory2 and tortoise-shells; and indeed whatever the East Indies afford of cabinets, porcelain, natural and exotic rarities, are here to be had, with abundant choice.

Detail from “Plan de Dieppe” showing citadel / chat to left and Fort du Pollet to the right of map. Source:BNF.


  1. Almost certainly the “Auberge du cygne” or Swan Inn in Tôtes built in 1611 as a coaching inn -GS 

  2. Many examples of these ivory items can be seen today in the Château de Dieppe -GS 

Sunday 20 March 1644

I lay at the White Cross, in Rouen, which is a very large city, on the Seine, having two smaller rivers besides, called the Aubette and Robec. There stand yet the ruins of a magnificent bridge of stone1, now supplied by one of boats only, to which come up vessels of considerable burden. The other side of the water consists of meadows, and there have the Reformed a church.

“Plan de Rouen et des environs” by François de La Pointe. 1680-1700

The Cathedral Nôtre Dame was built, as they acknowledge, by the English; some English words graven in Gothic characters upon the front seem to confirm it. The towers and whole church are full of carving. It has three steeples, with a pyramid; in one of these, I saw the famous bell2 so much talked of, thirteen feet in height, thirty-two round, the diameter eleven, weighing 40,000 pounds.

In the Chapel d’Amboise, built by a Cardinal of that name3, lies his body, with several fair monuments. The choir has behind it a great dragon painted on the wall, which they say had done much harm to the inhabitants, till vanquished by St. Romain, their Archbishop; for which there is an annual procession. It was now near Easter, and many images were exposed with scenes and stories representing the Passion; made up of little puppets, to which there was great resort and devotion, with offerings. Before the church is a fair palace. St. Ouen is another goodly church and an abbey with fine gardens. Here the King hath lodgings, when he makes his progress through these parts. The structure, where the Court of Parliament4 is kept, is very magnificent, containing very fair halls and chambers, especially La Chambre Dorée. The town-house is also well built, and so are some gentlemen’s houses; but most part of the rest are of timber, like our merchants’ in London, in the wooden part of the city.


  1. Built, in 1167, by Queen Matilda, daughter of Henry I. It lasted till the middle of the fifteenth century, when the bridge of boats was substituted. –AD 

  2. In the south-west tower (Tour de Beurre). It was called George d’Amboise after the Cardinal of that name (Archbishop of Rouen, and the popular Minister of Louis XII.), and was melted at the Revolution, all but a fragment in the Museum. –AD 

  3. George d’Amboise, 1460-1510, above mentioned. His body, and that of his brother, were torn from their graves in 1793, and the lead of the coffins melted.  –AD 

  4. Now the Salle d’Assises. –AD 

Saturday 19 March 1644

The next day, descending a very steep hill, we dined at Fleury1, after riding five leagues down St. Catherine2 , to Rouen, which affords a goodly prospect, to the ruins of that chapel and mountain. This country so abounds with wolves that a shepherd whom we met, told us one of his companions was strangled by one of them the day before, and that in the midst of his flock. The fields are mostly planted with pears and apples, and other cider fruits. It is plentifully furnished with quarries of stone and slate, and hath iron in abundance.

“Profil de la ville de Rouen” by Israël Silvestre. 1650. Source: BNF.


  1. Probably Fleury-sur-Andelle -GS 

  2. St Catherine’s hill overlooks Rouen -GS 

Friday 18 March 1644

I went with Sir J. Cotton, a Cambridgeshire Knight, a journey into Normandy. The first day, we passed by Gaillon, the Archbishop of Rouen’s Palace. The gardens are highly commended, but we did not go in, intending to reach Pontoise by dinner. This town is built in a very gallant place, has a noble bridge over the Oise, and is well refreshed with fountains.

“Etching of the château de Gaillon named Veue du Chateau de Gaillon en Normandie” by Israël Silvestre. 1658.

“Profil de la ville de Pontoise” by Israël Silvestre.1650.

This is the first town in Normandy, and the furthest that the vineyards extend to on this side of the country, which is fuller of plains, wood, and inclosures, with some towns toward the sea, very like England.

We lay this night at a village, called Magny.

Wednesday 9 March 1644

Next morning, we were invited by a painter, who was keeper of the pictures and rarities, to see his own collection. We were led through a gallery of old Rosso’s work, at the end of which, in another cabinet, were three Madonnas of Raphael, and two of Andrea del Sarto. In the Academy where the painter himself wrought, was a St. Michael of Raphael, very rare; St. John Baptist of Leonardo, and a Woman’s head; a Queen of Sicily, and St. Margaret of Raphael; two more Madonnas, whereof one very large, by the same hand; some more of del Sarto; a St. Jerome, of Perino del Vaga; the Rape of Proserpine, very good; and a great number of drawings1 .

“Saint John the Baptist ” by Leonardo da Vinci. Cicrca 1513-1516.

Returning part of our way to Paris, that day, we visited a house called Maison Rouge2 , having an excellent prospect, grot, and fountains, one whereof rises fifty feet, and resembles the noise of a tempest, battle of guns, etc., at its issue.

Thence to Essone, a house of Monsieur Essling3 , who is a great virtuoso; there are many good paintings in it; but nothing so observable as his gardens, fountains, fish-pools, especially that in a triangular form, the water cast out by a multitude of heads about it; there is a noble cascade and pretty baths, with all accommodations. Under a marble table is a fountain of serpents twisting about a globe.

We alighted next at Corbeil, a town famous for the siege by Henry IV. Here we slept, and returned next morning to Paris.


  1. Other paintings by Leonardo were recorded at Fontainbleu by visitors including the lost painting “Leda and the Swan” mentioned in a 1625 visit by Cassiano dal Pozzo– GS 

  2. Possibly the Vaux-le Vicomte as a village called Maison-Rouge was destroyed during the building up of this estate – see source. -GS 

  3. the house closely fits the description of the “Château de Courances”, a grand 16th century house with extensive gardens and water features. – GS 

Tuesday 8 March 1644.

This House is nothing so stately and uniform as Hampton Court, but Francis I. began much to beautify it; most of all Henry IV. (and not a little) the late King. It abounds with fair halls, chambers, and galleries; in the longest, which is 360 feet long, and 18 broad, are painted the Victories of that great Prince, Henry IV. That of Francis I., called the grand Gallery, has all the King’s palaces painted in it; above these, in sixty pieces of excellent work in fresco, is the History of Ulysses, from Homer, by Primaticcio, in the time of Henry III., esteemed the most renowned in Europe for the design1.

The Cabinet is full of excellent pictures, especially a Woman, of Raphael. In the Hall of the Guards is a piece of tapestry painted on the wall, very naturally, representing the victories of Charles VII. over our countrymen. In the Salle des Festins is a rare Chimney-piece, and Henry IV. on horseback, of white marble, esteemed worth 18,000 crowns; Clementia and Pax, nobly done. On columns of jasper, two lions of brass. The new stairs, and a half circular court, are of modern and good architecture, as is a chapel built by Louis XIII., all of jasper, with several incrustations of marble through the inside.

Having seen the rooms, we went to the volary, which has a cupola in the middle of it, great trees and bushes, it being full of birds who drank at two fountains. There is also a fair tennis court, and noble stables; but the beauty of all are the gardens. In the Court of the Fountains stand divers antiquities and statues, especially a Mercury. In the Queen’s Garden is a Diana ejecting a fountain, with numerous other brass statues.

Detail from “Portrait des Chasteaux Royaux de Sainct Germain en Laye [on sheet with] Portrait de la Maison Royale de Fontaine Belleau” by Braun & Hogenberg, 1617. From Sanderus maps, with permission.

The great Garden, 180 toises long and 154 wide, has in the center a fountain of Tyber of a Colossean figure of brass, with the Wolf over Romulus and Remus2. At each corner of the garden rises a fountain. In the garden of the piscina, is a Hercules of white marble; next, is that of the pines, and without that a canal of an English mile in length, at the end of which rise three jettos in the form of a fleur-de-lis, of a great height; on the margin are excellent walks planted with trees. The carps come familiarly to hand (to be fed). Hence they brought us to a spring, which they say being first discovered by a dog, gave occasion of beautifying this place, both with the palace and gardens3. The white and terrific rocks at some distance in the forest, yield one of the most august and stupendous prospects imaginable. The park about this place is very large, and the town full of noblemen’s houses.


  1. A number of these, owing to their licentious character, were effaced by Anne of Austria when, in 1653, she became Regent. –AD 

  2. “ At the toppe of it there is represented in brasse the Image of Romulus very largely made, lying sidelong and leaning,, upon one of his elbowes. Under one of his legs is carved the shee Wolfe, with Romulus and Remus very little, like sucklings, sucking at her teats” (Coryat in l60S, Crudities, 1776, i. S6).J –AD 

  3. The “ Fontaine Bleau ” or “de Belle Eau ” (supposed by some to give its name to the place), the source of which was lost in forming the artificial ponds. The gardens at Fontainebleau were laid out by Le Notre for Louis XIV. –AD 

Older posts