Pierre Du Moulin (1568-1658)

Pierre Du Moulin was born in 1568 to Joachim Du Moulin and Françoise Gabet in the Château de Buhy in north-east Normandy, France. Joachim was a protestant minister whose family disinherited him after he converted. Because of his father’s religious occupation, Pierre’s early life was marked by difficulties. As an adult, he remembered harrowing instances of hiding within a straw mattress or under a servant’s skirt during raids by Roman Catholic forces. During this time, Pierre’s mother died in what was most likely a suicide. She suffered from depression, which Pierre inherited from her. Memories of these early struggles led to Pierre’s combative nature in adulthood.

As this conflict became increasingly dangerous, the Du Moulin family fled Normandy and moved to Sedan, a Protestant commune led by Guillaume Robert de la Mark, duc de Bouillon. While there, Pierre entered into the Huguenot and then the academy. The principal of the academy had a significant affect on Du Moulin, sharing with him a love for the written word, teaching, and for the monarchy. Du Moulin left the school after Bouillon died and the school was less safe. He went first to Paris where he tutored for the de Cussy family, then to London where he became involved in the French church. Pastor René Bochart, sieur Du Mesnillet, led the French church at the time.

After he completed his probationary period for preaching in 1589, Du Moulin obtained a job in the household of Roger Manners. During this time, Du Moulin studied for three years at Cambridge. While there, Calvinist William Whitaker influenced him greatly. By the time Du Moulin left Cambridge in 1592, he was skilled in the art of disputation and began preaching for the French church consistory. That same year, Du Moulin left to attend the University of Leiden. At Staaten College, he eventually taught languages, philosophy, and logic. It was also at this time that Du Moulin began his career as a published scholar.

Du Moulin became close with James I, travelling with him and helping him in his defence of the monarchy against the papacy. Du Moulin’s close ties with James earned him the king’s favor as well as a doctorate of divinity. Afterwards, Du Moulin became immersed in ideological controversy and a string of written attacks. In 1618, he responded to a challenge from the Jesuit preacher Anrnoux with The Buckler of Faith. A round of disputes followed this publication. The French council of state lost patience with Du Moulin, who fled once more to Sedan in 1621. While at Sedan, Du Moulin served as a pastor and professor at the academy. At this time, he suffered from depression and anxiety, especially after the death of his wife in 1622 and upon the discovery in 1623 that his church in London had been burned. Despite his fragile mental condition, which is recorded as a near-catatonic state, Du Moulin published in that same year his Du combat chrestien, or A Preparation to Suffer for the Gospel. The piece was intended as a message of encouragement for his former followers. After King James’ death, Du Moulin attempted in vain to gain with Charles I the same familiarity they had shared. He remained at Sedan, and his health declined. In 1655, he was injured by a fall from a horse. He never recovered and died at Sedan in 1658.


Amanda Fowler


Works Cited

Brian G. Armstrong, Vivienne Larminie, ‘Du Moulin, Pierre (1568–1658)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008