Honoré d’Urfé, Marquis de Valbromey, Count de Châteauneuf, and Sieur de La Bastie, was born in Marseilles on February 11, 1568. His mother, Renée, was descended from the powerful House of Savoy, and his father, Jacques, was a lieutenant general in the government of Forez, a region in central France in the Loire department. D’Urfé’s parents were married in 1554, and they had twelve children. D’Urfé’s father, Jacques, was the eldest son of Claude d’Urfé, an influential nobleman who was ambassador to Rome and to the Council of Trent under Francis I of France, while his older brother authored several books of poetry.
While the family was influential, it was always short of funds and encouraged d’Urfé, at the age of thirteen, to join the Knights of Malta. After following his parents’ wishes, he returned to the family castle at La Bastie and entered the College of Tournon, a Jesuit school. The education he received at Tournon strongly influenced the young d’Urfé and gave him a good foundation in Humanist and classical studies. The intellectual atmosphere at his home of La Bastie, with its renowned library, great works of art, and frequent visitors, also seems to have contributed to d’Urfé’s interest in literature. At the age of twenty-two, d’Urfé followed the example of his brother, Anne, and fought in the Ligue during the religious wars. He was twice taken prisoner, once at Feurs in 1595, and several years later at Montbrison. In the prison at Montbrison, he wrote his first major work, Epistres morales.
After the victory of Henry IV, d’Urfé went to live in Savoy. When Anne decided to join a religious order, d’Urfé married his brother’s wife, Diane de Châteaumorand, in 1600. The couple separated amicably some fourteen years later; critics have speculated that it was the beautiful Diane who inspired the story of Celadon and Astrea. D’Urfé spent the rest of his life in Savoy, in Paris, and at his properties of Châteauneuf and Virieu-le-Grand. In 1625, he fought a battle on the side of the duke of Savoy against Genoa and was taken afterward to the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer near the Italian border. At Villefranche he became ill and died on June 1, 1625.