Bibliothèque nationale de
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
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
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
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.