Online Froissart

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, manuscrit français 2663

Godfried Croenen, with the collaboration of Peter Ainsworth and Inès Villela-Petit

Jean Froissart, Chronicles, Book I, ca. 1410–1420


  • fol. 3r–4v: table of rubrics, added later in a separate quire, this table refers to the rubrics of Book II (ms. fr. 2664), rubric: "La table des rebriches du segond volume des cronicques de maistre Jehan Froissart", inc. : "Vous avéz bien cy dessus ouy recorder comment le duc de Bourgoingne", expl. : "et comment ceulx de Gamp envoierent a Tornay pour la confirmacion de la paix."
  • fol. 6r–73v: Jean Froissart, Chronicles, Book I, part I, rubric: "Cy commencent les croniques que fist sire Jehan Froissart, lesquelles parlent des nouvelles guerres de France, d’Angleterre, d’Escoce, d’Espaigne et de Bretaigne et sont devisees en IIII parties, dont le premier chappitre fait mencion de la cause pourquoy elles sont faittes", inc. : "Affin que honnourables advenues", expl. : "en la duchié de Bretaingne et es marches voisines." rubric: "Cy fine la premiere partie de ces presentes croniques. "
  • fol. 74r–170v: Jean Froissart, Chronicles, Book I, part II, rubric: "Comment le duc de Bretagne mourut sans hoir masle et des grans guerres qui a cause de ce avindrint ou paÿs de Bretaingne. ", inc. : "Assavoir est que quant les trieves", expl. : "et plusieurs autres terres et heritages."
  • fol. 171r–257v: Jean Froissart, Chronicles, Book I, part III, rubric: "Comment le roy Phelippe de France trespassa a Nogent le Roy. Et comment Jehan, son ainsné filz, fut couronné a Reims", inc. : "En l’an mil CCC L, a l’entree du moys", expl. : "et amé du roy de Navarre et de ceulx d’Evreux."
  • fol. 258r–405v: Jean Froissart, Chronicles, Book I, part IV, rubric: "Comment le corps du roy Jehan fut honnourablement enseveli et de la pourveance que le roy Charles fist a son couronnement et comment les François et les Normans s’ordonnerent a la bataille de Cocherel", inc. : "Aucques en ce temps", expl. : "les marches sur le clos de Constentin" rubric: "Cy fine le premier volume des croniques de sire Jehan Froissart."
  • Physical description:

    Parchment 407 folios. Pages measure 370 mm by 285 mm. Written space 252 mm by 188 mm



    This manuscripts contains 22 miniatures, all by the Boethius Master, except for the opening miniature, which was painted by the Master of the Harvard Hannibal.
  • fol. 6r: four-part miniature two columns wide. Presentation page, Master of the Harvard Hannibal.
    • The Master of the Harvard Hannibal shows Richard enthroned beneath a canopy embroidered with the royal arms of England, the leopards displayed proper (the right way round). The king receives the advice of a clerk and two lords, one of whom holds a chancellor’s wand.
    • Charles IV of France, accompanied by courtiers, welcomes to his court in 1325 queen Isabella of England. The French king is shown in a scarlet robe lined with ermine, beneath a canopy of azure powdered with gold fleurs-de-lys.
    • Queen Isabella’s ship lands on a deserted bank of the river Orwell.
    • The siege of Bristol, where king Edward II has taken refuge along with his counsellors and favourites, the Despensers. The artist shows a castle surrounded by a moat, its drawbridge raised and held by its supporting chains. Soldiers in kettle hats and bascinets carry spears, bows, pavises (large shields) and, in one case, a crossbow with stirrup.
  • fol. 14v: Condemnation of Hugh Despenser and Edmund Arundel (1326), Boethius Master. The illustrative programme adopted for the Paris manuscript concludes the sequence recounting the ‘invasion’ of England by Edward II’s own queen, Isabella, which opened with the frontispiece page executed by the Master of the Harvard Hannibal. Here, the work of the Boethius Master begins, showing in this scene Sir Hugh Despenser and Edmund, earl of Arundel kneeling in submissive posture before queen Isabella who looks particularly imposing in her scarlet, ermine-lined gown and her crown which protrudes above the miniature’s frame. The two prisoners were beheaded in November 1326, while Edward II was obliged to abdicate in favour of his son, Edward III.
  • fol. 35v: The court of Edward III of England (1340), Boethius Master. Edward III is here portrayed by the Boethius Master talking to his counsellors in a landscape setting.
  • fol. 61r: Battle of Sluys (1340), Boethius Master. Defeat of the French fleet off the Flemish coast to the NW of Bruges near the Zwin estuary, on 24 June 1340. The Boethius Master seems to have understood the key role played by the Welsh and English (Cheshire) archers during the fight: the French soldier brandishing a war hammer (‘bec de corbin’) above his head has already been struck by an English arrow. His companion retaliates with a javelin.
  • fol. 74r: Funeral cortège of John III, duke of Brittany (1341), Boethius Master. On 30 April 1341, John III, duke of Brittany died at Caen without leaving an heir. His niece, Joan of Penthièvre, and his half-brother John of Montfort, would henceforward contest the right to succeed to the duchy, in what became known as the War of the Breton Succession. The Boethius Master brings together three successive moments in a single miniature: the late duke’s funeral cortège (the pall embroidered with counter-ermine and a red cross, perhaps to convey the theme of death even more insistently); a town under siege, and the entry of an armed contingent into a town. In the foreground, severed tree trunks evoke the passage of marauding companies searching for firewood. At the top right we see a doorway with successive receding bays; below on the right a fortified gateway with reinforcing lateral buttress, crenellated corner towers and blue-tiled roof. Note also the war hammer and boar spear for war (or ‘épieu’: a pole weapon).
  • fol. 87v: The countess of Montfort at Hennebont (1342), Boethius Master. In June 1342, Charles of Blois was laying siege to the town of Hennebont, defended by the countess of Montfort and her garrison. Froissart’s narrative highlights the energetic approach adopted by the countess to motivating the town’s female population in its defence: ‘And the countess, armed from top to toe and mounted on a fine courser, rode from street to street all over town, rousing her people to defend themselves stoutly. And she had the women of the town, ladies and others, break up the cobbled streets and carry the stones aloft to the ramparts to hurl down upon their enemies. And she had bombards and pots of burning pitch brought up to throw down onto those scaling the walls’ (Book I, ed. Diller-Ainsworth, p. 390, tr. PFA). The Boethius Master shows us the countess sallying forth from the town, later in the siege, with a force of 300 men-at-arms, sowing panic amongst the besiegers and torching their campaign tents. The warrior countess, in burgundy robe and riding a white horse, appears to be carrying a couched lance and is wearing her coronet.
  • fol. 92v: Combat between an English force and a French one led by Louis of Spain (1342), Boethius Master. Louis de la Cerda, known as Louis of Spain, was created admiral of France in 1341 and took part in the War of the Breton Succession in support of the pro-French Charles of Blois. The Boethius Master provides no means of identifying which camp is which, but shows the victors trampling the bloodstained vanquished underfoot. Note the surcoats of the soldiers at the front, buttoned and laced, and the ‘movement’ of the three lances.
  • fol. 133r: The English disembark in Normandy (1346), Boethius Master. King Edward III of England arrived at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue in the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy on 12 July 1346; thus began a campaign which would reach its climax in his victory at Crécy and the subsequent taking of Calais. The Boethius Master depicts the young king as an old man! Edward trips as he leaves his vessel, falling headlong on French soil. The artist would appear to have understood the propaganda interest of this purported episode: ‘When the king of England’s fleet had made landfall at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and was drawn up on the beach, the king came forth from his ship and, taking his very first step on the ground, fell so heavily that blood spurted from his nose’ (Chroniques, Paris, ms. fr. 2663, f. 134, tr. PFA ; cf. SHF edn, t. 3, p. 133).
  • fol. 145v: Battle of Crécy (1346), Boethius Master. On 26 August 1346, the French, hard on the heels of Edward III’s army, finally forced their enemy into a pitched battle at Crécy-en-Ponthieu, but suffered a bitter defeat. The Boethius Master provides a rather summary though energetic treatment of the battle. Weapons brandished by the infantry protrude beyond the top margin of the miniature’s frame: a dagger, sword and two types of war hammer. A figure in red to the right is seen from behind, so that we can see the laces or thongs securing his breastplate.
  • fol. 164r: The Burgesses of Calais (1347), Boethius Master. The Boethius Master returns us here to the northern French theatre of operations by illustrating a key episode in the Hundred Years’ War. Five hundred years later it would inspire Rodin’s famous group sculpture, still prominently displayed in front of the town hall in Calais. In August 1347, having held out for almost a whole year, the besieged town of Calais finally capitulated to Edouard III. In order to spare their fellow citizens from a massacre, six townsmen handed themselves over dressed only in their shirts, with ropes around their necks; they were ultimately spared. In front of the gates of Calais, rendered here in recessive planes of hachured green colour wash and surmounted by a scarlet dome, their leader Eustache de Saint-Pierre hands over the town’s keys to the king of England. To the king’s right, a soldier holds a large, oval pavise shield.
  • fol. 171r: Death of Philip VI of Valois, king of France (1350), Boethius Master. The royal bier, draped with a blue cloth powdered with gold fleurs-de-lys and flanked by four tall candlesticks, is represented in miniatures found in several manuscripts of Froissart’s Chronicles. The Boethius Master’s composition lends support to the (still very new) Valois dynasty by illustrating not only the death of its first king on 12 August 1350, but also the transmission of royal legitimacy to Philip’s heir, John II the Good, whose coronation followed hard upon the obsequies of his father. In this large miniature occupying the width of two columns of text, the two key moments are brought together beneath a double arcade in pale pink stone supported by three pillars. Before the catafalque of the late king Philip, a canon wearing an almuce or shoulder cape of grey fur, accompanied by several tonsured clerks, reads the funeral office from a lectern, whilst three mourners in black habits and hoods have taken their places in the wooden stalls opposite.
  • fol. 185v: Battle of Poitiers at Maupertuis (1356), Boethius Master. John the Good’s attempts to put an end to the expeditionary raids (chevauchées) into French territory by the prince of Wales and Aquitaine, Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward III, culminated with the capture of the French king at the battle of Poitiers (19 September 1356). John’s son Philip, although subsequently interned along with his father, acquired the sobriquet ‘the Bold’ as a result of his conduct on the battlefield. The Boethius Master’s composition is almost identical to that employed for his representation of the Battle of Crécy, and underscores the brutality of the hand-to-hand fighting. Amongst the weapons featuring here we should note a war hammer (‘bec de corbin’ or crow’s beak), two maces, a dagger, sword and shortened lance or spear; once again, a laced cuirass is in evidence.
  • fol. 217v: Battle of Nogent (1359), Boethius Master. In 1359 a bloody encounter took place at Nogent-sur-Seine between a body of English troops augmented by mercenaries from the Great Company, all under the command of Eustace of Aubercicourt, and a French contingent led by a knight from Lorraine in the service of Charles, dauphin (and heir apparent) of France: Brocard of Fénestrange, assisted by the inhabitants of Nogent. The captain of the mercenaries was taken prisoner. Here, two groups of soldiery confront one another with shortened lances or spears and with a mace, as two horses and their riders emerge from a wood to the right.
  • fol. 247r: Battle of Brignais (1362), Boethius Master. On 6 April 1362 at Brignais just south of Lyons, a royal French army was crushed by the Tard-Venus (‘Late-Comers’), a mercenary company which had come together shortly after the 1360 Treaty of Brétigny, which had left soldiery on both sides with neither wages nor occupation. Jacques de Bourbon, count of La Marche, and Louis d’Albon, count of Forez, were slain on the field. The Boethius Master illustrates the moment at which Jacques de Bourbon receives a fatal lance thrust through the visor of his bascinet.
  • fol. 258r: Battle of Cocherel (1364), Boethius Master. At Cocherel, on 16 May 1364, just three days after the coronation of Charles V as king of France, his army, commanded by Bertrand Du Guesclin, secured a resounding victory which augured well for the new reign, over the army of Charles the Bad, count of Evreux and king of Navarre, led by Jean de Grailly, captal (seigneur) of Buch, and his English allies. The Navarrese, hemmed in against a fortified position on a hillside, were put at a disadavantage. The Boethius Master provides a wide canvas across two columns of text, allowing him to include in the top right-hand corner the king of France surrounded by his counsellors, as though Charles V had been personally present at the battle himself; unless, that is, the artist is showing us the king receiving an eyewitness account of Cocherel from a third party. The round shields deployed in the left foreground were used for foot combat.
  • fol. 271r: Battle of Auray (1364), Boethius Master. Auray would prove to be the final battle of the War of the Breton Succession between John IV of Montfort, supported by the English under the command of Sir John Chandos, and Charles of Blois, whose vanguard was entrusted to the great French captain Bertrand Du Guesclin. Charles was killed by a lance thrust, whilst Du Guesclin, having broken his weapon, was obliged to surrender to Chandos, one of the great English heroes of Froissart’s Chronicles. The Boethius Master’s composition, on the model of those already used for the battles of Crécy and Poitiers, portrays the death of Charles of Blois. Note the recurring detail of a soldier viewed from behind with cuirass attached by laces, confirming that a ‘template’ is being used by the artist.
  • fol. 300r: Battle of Nájera (1367), Boethius Master. The battle of Nájera near Navarrete (3 April 1367) won by Sir John Chandos, the Captal of Buch, English marshal Steven Cosington and Poitevin marshal Guichard d’Angle, was a crushing defeat by the prince of Wales’ Anglo-Gascon army of the Franco-Castilian force commanded by Du Guesclin. The Anglo-Gascons chose to fight on foot, wrongfooting Du Guesclin and the Castilian heavy cavalry ; the tactic was a great success. The collapse of the Franco-Castilian formations culminated in the capture of Du Guesclin, his ransom being set at 100.000 Castilian doblas. The Boethius Master focuses on the foot combat favoured by the Anglo-Gascons (strongly supported by their archers), whilst on either side of the combattants can be seen some magnificent horses representing the Castilian calvalry.
  • fol. 312v: Battle of Montiel, and death of Pedro (the Cruel) of Castille (1369), Boethius Master. Having lost the support of the prince of Wales and Aquitaine, Pedro of Castille was captured at the battle of Montiel and handed over to his rival Enrico of Trastámara. In the composition adopted by the Boethius Master, the scarlet of the captured king’s surcoat and his kneeling posture draw attention to Pedro’s critical situation, in stark contrast to the more energetic figure of Enrico, shown in full armour and accompanied by a soldier carrying a large pavise shield. Enrico’s gestures convey resolve and strength.
  • fol. 346v: Death of Sir John Chandos (1369), Boethius Master. As noted earlier, the programme of illustration prepared for Paris BnF ms. fr. 2663 does not provide for any illustration of the capture of Du Guesclin at Auray. However, the Boethius Master does show us, in contrast, the end met by Du Guesclin’s great adversary, several years later during a skirmish at the bridge at Lussac in Poitou on 31 December 1369. Tripping on a patch of hoarfrost and entangling his feet in the hem of the unusually long surcoat he favoured, Chandos fell forward onto the lancepoint of a French squire by the name of Jacques de Saint-Martin, receiving a fatal wound through the visor of his bacinet. The English captain died the following day.
  • fol. 374v: Combat at sea off the coast near La Rochelle (1372), Boethius Master. On 10 June 1372 a fleet commanded by the earl of Pembroke set sail from Southampton laden with reinforcements destined for English garrisons in Guyenne (Aquitaine). A Castilian fleet commanded by Genoese admiral Simone Boccanegra intercepted them off the coast near La Rochelle, inflicting a resounding defeat. Pembroke was to die in captivity in Picardy, in 1375. The Boethius Master uses the scheme already employed to represent the battle of Sluys (f. 61), adding the detail of a royal English banner, to the left. On the right-hand galley we see a soldier throwing a rock, and a second brandishing a war hammer but dressed this time in red, whilst a third holding an oval pavise shield is about to hurl a javelin at an English archer.
  • fol. 381r: Capture of the Captal de Buch at Soubise (1372), Boethius Master. On 22 August 1372, the Captal (lord) of Buch was taken prisoner outside the town of Soubise. He was to die subsequently in Paris. The soldier at the centre of the composition brandishes a spear with quillons, even as he is run through by an adversary. Note the curious tunnel-shaped roof and encorbelled balcony of the fortress.
  • fol. 404r: The town of Auray surrenders to the French (1378), Boethius Master. At the end of a prolonged siege, the town of Auray in Brittany, hitherto of Montfortist sympathies, finally found itself obliged to capitulate to the French, having lost all hope of the duke of Brittany coming to its rescue (he had fled to England). The triumphant besiegers pass beneath the town gates, armed with shortened lances and a war hammer. One of them holds a scarlet pavise shield with daisy pattern.
  • Bibliography

    Richard Rouse and Mary Rouse, ‘Some Assembly Required: Rubric Lists and Other Separable Elements in Fourteenth-Century Parisian Book Production’, in “Li premerains vers”: Essays in Honor of Keith Busby, ed. by Catherine M. Jones and Logan E. Whale (Amsterdam — New York: Rodopi, 2011), pp. 405–16 (pp. 408–10)