More On Calvin’s Children

It is difficult to know the details of Calvin’s family life and there remains some uncertainty about the number of Calvin’s biological children but it has been known for centuries that Calvin married the widow Idellete de Bure in 1540. She brought to the marriage two children, a son and a daughter. Calvin and Idellette were married for nine years. In that time she bore him a son, Jacques, who, in 1542, died in infancy. J. H. Alexander (who was born in 1905 but who must be deceased by now and who published a popular volume, Ladies of the Reformation in 1978) writes that they had a daughter together, who died in 1544. Bruce Gordon writes, “[i]n addition to a son, they may well have had several daughters, but sadly none of the children survived.”1 Idellete herself died in 1549 leaving Calvin a widower.

As to the claim by Driscoll and Breshears that Calvin’s daughter married Jacob Arminius and the old Arminian claim that Theodore Beza married Calvin’s daughter, Calvin’s step daughter was a source of grief to him but she did not marry Beza or Arminius. Had he a surviving biological daughter, she would have been born in the early 1540s. Arminius was born in 1560. Calvin’s hypothetical (biological) daughter would have been about 47 when Arminius married. His step daughter would have been no younger than 52 when Arminius married. In point of fact, Arminius married Lijsbet Reael in 1590, in Amsterdam.2 That marriage is well-known and widely recorded in biographies of Arminius.

Theodore Beza was married in Paris before he came to Geneva. Widowed late in life, he remained as an old man. In neither instance did he marry Calvin’s daughter.

Five minutes in a decent library would have prevented the authors from making these claims.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.



1. Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 88; Willem van’t Spijker, Calvin: A Brief Guide to His Life and Thought, trans. Lyle D. Bierma (Louisville: WJKP, 2009), 63.

2. Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 28.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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