Gaston III, Count of Foix

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Gaston Fébus, from an early 15th-century copy of his Livre de chasse, made in Paris and kept at the National Library of France.

Gaston Fébus [also spelt Phoebus] (30 April 1331 – 1391) was the eleventh count of Foix (as Gaston III) and viscount of Béarn (as Gaston X) from 1343 until his death.

Early life[edit]

Gaston was born either in Orthez or Foix, the eldest son of Gaston II/IX (1308–1343). As the lord's eldest son, he was given the name, Gaston. He later adopted Fébus as a nickname. In its classic spelling, Phoebus, it is one of the names of the sun-god, Apollo, and is apt because of Gaston Fébus's golden hair. His native language was Gascon (a dialect of Occitan), but he was also fluent in French. He wrote a treatise on hunting in French, and an Occitan song, Se Canta, has been ascribed to him. One contemporary records that he "very willingly spoke to me not in his native Gascon but in proper and elegant French".[1]

Count of Foix[edit]

Béarn had passed to the county of Foix in 1290. Fébus paid homage to the French king for his own county, but starting in 1347 he refused to give homage for Béarn, which he claimed as an independent fief, with its chief seat his stronghold at Pau, a site that had been fortified by the 11th century, which was later made the official capital of Béarn in 1464.

He was succeeded as count of Foix by Mathieu of Foix-Castelbon.

A fortune won in battle[edit]

The House of Béarn-Foix was engaged in a long running feud with the House of Armagnac. In 1362, a battle was fought between the two noble houses at Launac. Fébus was victorious and succeeded in capturing his chief rivals, whom he ransomed for a vast fortune of at least 600,000 florins. This money was stored in the Moncade tower in Orthez, where Fébus also created a gallery of portraits and military trophies to commemorate the event.[2]

Records of Jean Froissart[edit]

Jean Froissart and Espaing de Lyon on their way; Gaston Fébus receiving them.

In the 1380s, Jean Froissart visited the County of Foix and recorded the splendour of Fébus' court at Orthez. Fébus recorded the three "special delights" of his life as "arms, love and hunting"; he wrote an important treatise on the latter entitled Livre de chasse. [3]

Livre de chasse (Book of the Hunt)[edit]

Fébus was one of the greatest huntsmen of his day, and hunted his entire life – he died of a stroke while washing his hands after returning from a bear hunt. His Livre de chasse (Book of the Hunt) was written between 1387–1388 and dedicated to Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Recorded in the book are different stages of hunting different animals, as well as describing animal behavior, offering advice to less well-off gentry about how to enjoy hunting without bankrupting themselves, and is even sympathetic to the peasant poacher because he too has the hunting instinct. It is the classic treatise on Medieval hunting, and noted for one manuscript which has exquisite miniatures, illustrating the hunt.[4]

Marriage and children[edit]

Fébus married Agnès of Navarre (1334–1396), daughter of Joan II of Navarre and Philip III of Navarre in 1348. They had a son:

Betrayal of the Count's son[edit]

Gaston III outside the Château de Pau.

As Jean Froissart records, Fébus was betrayed by his son who also bore the dynastic name, Gaston, and who tried to kill his father using poison given to him by Charles II of Navarre. Fébus caught his son in the act and imprisoned him. In a subsequent violent quarrel, Fébus stabbed his son, who died.[5] With Gaston's death, Fébus had no legitimate heir. In 1393, in Paris at a masquerade given by the Queen of France, Isabeau of Bavaria, one of Gaston Fébus's four recorded illegitimate sons, Yvain de Foix, was burned to death when his costume caught fire from a torch. The other performers died as well. This masquerade came to be known as the Bal des Ardents.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Cohen, "Linguistic Politics on the Periphery: Louis XIII, Béarn, and the Making of French as an Official Language in Early Modern France", When Languages Collide: Perspectives on Language Conflict, Language Competition, and Language Coexistence (Ohio State University Press, 2003), pp. 165–200, at 189 n. 40.
  2. ^ Fowler, Kenneth (2001). Medieval Mercenaries: Vol. I The Great Companies. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 61–7. ISBN 0631158863. 
  3. ^ Klemettilä, Hannele (2015). Animals and Hunters in the Late Middle Ages. Evidence from the BnF MS fr. 616 of the Livre de chasse by Gaston Fébus. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-13-884233-5. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, pps.360-61
  6. ^ Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, pps. 530-32


Preceded by
Gaston III
Count of Foix
Viscount of Béarn

Succeeded by