François Bonivard

François Bonivard or Bonnivard (1496 – 1570) was a Swiss patriot and historian whose life was the inspiration for Byron's 1816 poem "The Prisoner Of Chillon".

He was the son of Louis Bonnivard, Seigneur de Lunes, and was born at Seyssel into an old family of Savoy. He was educated in Turin starting in 1510 by his uncle Jean Aimé de Bonnivard, then succeeded him as prior of St Victor, near Geneva. Young Bonivard opposed Charles III, Duke of Savoy in his efforts to control Geneva; the duke captured Bonivard and imprisoned him at Grolée from 1519 to 1521.

The experience was not much of a deterrent; Bonivard continued his political activism. In 1530, he was set upon by robbers in the Jura, who turned him over to the Duke of Savoy. The duke imprisoned him again, this time underground in the Castle of Chillon. Bonivard was released by the Bernese when they conquered Vaud in 1536. His priory had meanwhile been destroyed, but Geneva awarded him a pension. He was made "bourgeois" of Geneva and sat on the Council of 200 in 1537.

Ultimately married four times, Bonivard was perpetually in debt.

In 1542, he was entrusted with compiling a history of Geneva from its beginning, and carried the story down to 1530 before he died. The manuscript was sent to Calvin for correction in 1551, but not actually published until 1831. It is not a highly regarded work, being both biased and uncritical. In his later years, he enlisted the help of Antoine Froment to help with the chronicle.

In 1551, he donated his considerable library to the public. He left everything to the city of Geneva in his will. His exact date of death is not know because of a gap in the death records of the city.


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