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Six The Medieval Entry Ceremony at Paris
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Ceremonial and Symbols

Long before they became formalized into a ceremony, Parisians made demonstrations of support and zeal for new kings. As early as 1226 armed Parisians escorted to Paris the young Louis IX and his regent mother who were threatened by a baronial revolt.[16] Parisians showed equal zeal in welcoming and supporting Philip V in 1316 who also faced a major revolt of the barons.[17] No one reported the rituals or cries such as Noel ! and Vive le Roi ! that appeared in the fifteenth century, but one does see the emergence of Paris as a ritual place and as a personality in political dialogue. When the succession to the crown was questioned, as it was in 1316 and 1328, the importance to a king of "les quiex le rechurent à roy " was attested to by chroniclers including among the proofs of legitimate right to the French crown the name of the Parisian échevins.[18] Several years after being so received by the Parisians, Philip VI remembered the gesture when he granted them a special favor, noting "comment les bourgois et tout le peuple de Paris de leur auctorité le rechurent à seigneur ."[19]

In receiving a new lord and king, Paris and its great corporations demonstrated their legal personality in a way comparable to a great lord.[20] By the fifteenth century, heralds of the city went out to the king in advance of the urban processional and reminded the king of the city's virtues and status.[21] Then came the requests of the Parisian authorities in their robes of office. Any gesture of the king, such as going into the city, constituted a response. In reaction to the city's assertion of its identity, the role of the king became more ritualized and remote. In the process the chancellor or some other principal royal official began to speak for the king. The shaping of the ritual can be


followed in the evolution of the extramural greeting, the king in the procession, and the rhetoric of the pageantry stations.

The ritual upgrading of the Parisian reception of a king first took place through the symbolism of costumes. In 1350, various Parisian groups donned distinctive uniforms for John II's postcoronation entry. Guildsmen put on identical costumes in order to contrast with the dress of uniformed "Lombards."[22] The échevins took the same cut as the guildsmen, but in a different color. In 1380, two thousand Parisians wore green and white; in 1389, twelve hundred wore green.[23] As other corporations—that is juridical persons—joined the processional, the symbolism of the polity becomes evident: first the clergy, then guildsmen and officials of the Hotel-de-ville, then of the Châtelet, and finally the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris. When the parlementaires first appeared in the processional in 1431, the first president wore what was described as habit royal and exercised the prerogative of a powerful lord in having "son bonnet fourré " carried in front of him by an usher of the Parlement.[24] The earliest recorded debates about the processional took place over the claim of the Parlement to have a monopoly on the right to wear red robes in entries of kings—a claim that resulted in the Parlement of Paris taking over regulation of the ceremonial performance of entries by urban groups.[25]

Whether or not the costumed Parisian hosts in 1350 made any verbal request is not known. In 1360, they received John II with a gift of plate worth a thousand marks. In 1380, the prévôt des marchands greeted the newly crowned king with a request for tax relief, an item on the agenda of the meeting of the Estates general in Paris the next day.[26] The dominant gesture of the entry in 1383 was submission, and, before the entry, the prévôt des marchands and échevins journeyed over fifty miles to try to placate the king who was angry at the Parisian refusal to support his war with the Flemish cities.[27] Charles VI returned from Flanders victorious, and he prepared to enter Paris in military dress and with his army. Because of the crisis and potential for violence, the ceremonial forms of this entry stand out.

In 1383, the Constable of France—approaching the city in advance of the king's party—encountered armed Parisians who sought to demonstrate both the might of Paris and to submit to the commander of the king's forces. Then the prévôt des marchands with five hundred Parisians went to the king to render reverence and submission and to request his mercy. The king refused to acknowledge the gestures and then proceeded to enter the city with his armed entourage. Nevertheless, even in the strained circumstances, the ceremonial form for the entry balanced between the obvious military might of the king and his juridical obligations; for although Charles VI entered in armor followed by troops, he promised those Parisian leaders who exited to greet him a future hearing before deciding the fate of the city. According to an Italian witness, he replied to the prévôt des marchands: "Tornate a Parigi, e


quand io saro a sedere in luogho di guistizia venite, e domanderete, e parte troverte ."[28] Over a century later, Louis XII followed the same juridical procedures after defeating and entering in armor his cities of Genoa and Milan and, likewise, Henry II in his dealings with a rebellious Bordeaux.[29]

What was delayed until a hearing and judgment at the Palais de Justice in 1383 had been in previous entries part of the ritual choreography for the first encounter between king and city. In that encounter, the gestures by the city and the ready response by the king dramatized the reciprocity between the two parties. Even when the bond was broken and the rituals for entries refused, any change in the status quo required a juridical process with the king presiding and the citizens seeking justice. Paris lost its independent government and the restoration of Parisian liberties only came about when Charles VI escaped the tutelage of his uncles: an event celebrated in the Parisian entry and coronation of his queen, Isabella of Bavaria (20 June 1389), the best-described entry of the period.[30]

The circumstances of the reign of Charles VI (the madness of the king, the collapse of the French army, religious schism, and the Burgundian and English control of Paris) had an important impact on Parisian ritual symbolism. The number and scale of public processions greatly increased. Parisians more frequently went en masse to attend the king when he visited the city and they often did the same for powerful lords and around religious objects.[31] The more events seemed out of human control, the more civic and religious processionals were conducted to elicit divine intervention in averting disasters. The new civic and religious union in processionals influenced the Parisian conduct of the traditional first entry ceremony, and fourteenth-century symbolism and gestures, which had called attention to the right order of the city and its officials, gave way to calls on the king to be the instrument for bringing prosperity and good government to the city. The request for renewal of specific liberties and offices continued, but the idea was enlarged to include the king as the instrument of all good in the life of the body politic. At this time, the Parlement of Paris joined both processions in the city and the entry processional to greet the king.

The Lancastrian rulers of Paris proved particularly accomplished at using entries to demonstrate their control of government and to legitimize their usurpation of Valois authority. The Parisians received Henry V in the same manner as Charles VI after they had publicly sworn to uphold Henry's right to the crown.[32] In this way, they bound themselves to a treaty and policy rather than to a newly crowned king. After Henry V's death, the reception of the Duke of Bedford as regent was carefully coordinated by "l'ordannance du conseil du Roy " and orders were given for the clergy to join the extramural processional.[33] Following the London practice, Henry VI added the new touch of a precoronation entry that was staged on Advent (2 December) 1431. His reception of the urban processionals at the little La-Chapelle-


Figure 6.5.
The submission of the town of Troyes to Charles VII with Jeanne
d'Arc assisting, in Vigiler de Charles VII, c. 1448 (B.N., ms. fr. 5054).

Saint-Denis outside the city's walls altered the synbolism of the entry, and now—in a closed setting—the king first "received" representatives of the corporations residing in Paris before allowing them to receive him. At this moment the Parlement of Paris first acted in the cermonial. It entered because of the Parlement's failure to influence the council of the English king and to obtain security of offices and salaries.[34] In the entry, the parlementaires found a well-established ritual structure to acquire an access to the king and an occasion for freedom of address otherwise closed to them. Their most potent symbol was the first president of the Parlement in the red fur-lined robe that only he, the three other presidents, the chancellor, and the king could wear. Since, in another departure from tradition, the king entered in military dress, the first president's costume also served to remind all—even the English conquerors of France—to do justice and to preserve the highest law court of his French subjects.

The ceremonial improvisations that took place under the Lancastrian kings were continued in the entry rituals of the late Valois rulers. At Charles VII's reception, the gift of the keys of the city first was mentioned for a Parisian entry.[35] The gesture common elsewhere, but not at Paris, was somewhat like that illustrated in the miniature of the submission of Troyes in 1429 (fig. 6.5). Here, the chancellor and Jeanne d'Arc flank the king-in-regalia. Jeanne points to the chancellor and shifts the focus from a rite of submission to a military conqueror to a submission to the chief juridical official of the


kingdom. The chancellor gestures with one hand for the magistrates to kneel and, seeing obeisance, indicates with the other hand for him to rise. Figure 6.2 also illustrates the same balance between submission and liberty by having the king gesture for the dignitaries who are in the process of kneeling to rise. In future entry ceremonies at Paris and elsewhere, the king-in-armor replaced Jeanne d'Arc, and the chancellor in robe-of-office carried out the acts of recognition and justice. Over time, the chancellor came to respond for the king to panegyrics and requests; he was the intermediary for justice and peace—the image of reciprocity—over the reserved right of the king to use force.[36]

Louis XI showed sensitivity to the power of symbolism by not renewing parliamentary and other offices in advance of the Parisian entry—including his dismissal of the Chancellor Guillaume Juvenal des Ursins.[37] However, the refusal of the new king to renew offices deprived many civic officials of a legal identity and a ritual place in the ceremony. The splendor of the nobility of France and Burgundy—one of the greatest host of nobility seen in Paris during the century—stood in stark contrast to the civic form of the entry; one chronicler commented, "la roy et les bourgeois de Paris allèrent au-de-vant du roy, mais ce fust bien peu de chose au regard de la puissance de ladite ville ."[38] Charles VIII returned the ceremony to the forms of Henry VI and Charles VII. Thereafter, the Parisians and the Parlement de Paris made certain of their places in the ceremony and that in process of the entry kings were reminded of their duty to preserve the city, the kingdom, French laws, and the Parlement.

If to some degree the wave of civic processions compelled the king to act in a juridical manner by granting a hearing to the petitions brought by his subjects, and, at least by tacit gesture, to acquiesce in their requests, the king in entry had more freedom with his entourage in the royal cavalcade. When he started into the city the ranking of his following took place according to the various ways that one could be connected to the king: family or blood relatives, feudal status, military chains of command, position in the royal household, place in the administration of the kingdom, or even by the special favor of the king. As with the Parisian participants, so too with those around the king: to perform ceremonial honors was both to show one's duty and to claim one's rights and privileges. The very nature of the occasion required that each participant in the order of march elicit from those among the audience in the street an anticipation of the arrival of the king. But in calling attention to the king, each also singled out himself and his status. Women did not appear in the kings' entries, nor kings in those of queens.

The presentation of Charles VII in the entry (tab. 6.5) differed from the form prescribed by Christine de Pizan (table 6.2). First, as even a miniature portrait of the time shows, he entered in armor (fig. 6.3). The rich blue tunic with golden fleurs-de-lis, the crown, and the canopy somewhat mitigated the military aspects.[39] The canopy gave the échevins a chance to symbolically


TABLE 6.5. The Cavalcade for the Parisian Entry of Charles VII,
12 November 1437

1. 800 royal archers

2. Great and noble lords

3. Squires with

i. Great sword with fleurs-de-lis in gold

ii. Coat of arms on a blue velvet banner with fleurs-de-lis in gold

iii. Giant fleurs-de-lis on a saddle on a riderless horse

iv. Crowned helmet with fleurs-de-lis at apex carried on a baton

4. King armed on horse with blue duster

5. Dauphin Louis in silver armor

6. Charles d'Anjou, "contes de Perdriach et de La Marche"

7. Other knights and lords

show their reverence for authority and right order. In what we can not see, but know from the chronicles, the ermine-lined robe and the royal hat had ceased to be among the appurtenances. In their place, there went a riderless horse and a crowned helmet with fleurs-de-lis at the apex.[40] The fleurs-de-lis mark the Valois attention to the French royal cult. The Lancastrian kings first brought the crowned helmet to entries as a sign of conquest, but the Valois kings continued its use as a symbol of authority. Over time it came to represent the maiestas of the French kings, as in 1498 when it was described as the mark of imperial authority: "Et au dessus du heaulme, au millieu de ladicte couronne, avoit une fleur de lys d'or comme empereur. "[41] Like the change to military costume that the king wore in the entry, the appurtenances asserted the independence of the ruler from juridical limitations—as an emperor—and distanced him from the image of kingship advanced by the Parisian host for over a century of entry ceremonies, that of judge.

Traditionally, kings received the royal sword (another of the preeminent symbols of sovereign magnificence in the entry) at their coronation, and they had it carried in front of them as they left the cathedral at Reims. Christine de Pizan gave it a place of prominence in Charles V's equipage, and the English did not alter a practice already traditional in the London royal progresses. When the Valois ruler returned to Paris, a chronicler took careful notice of Charles VII's exquisite "grande espee toute semee de fleurs de lis de fin or de orfavrerie ."[42] Since the death of his father and during the ebb of his fortune, this sword had been carried before Charles VII as symbol of his right to the crown. Louis XI's master of the horse conveyed the royal sword in the 1461 entry, but in 1484 Charles VIII and in 1498 Louis XII had neither the royal sword nor royal robe among their appurtenances. Rather, the chivalric imperial crowned helmet announced their majesty to the crowds. Francis I returned the sword, but not the robe, to the ranks before the king.

Symbols changed or realized their potential for richer meanings, always


resident in the atmosphere of the entry ceremony, in response to circumstances. Most striking of all the changes that took place in the late medieval Parisian entry ceremony was the addition of the chancellor and the royal seal to the appurtenances immediately before the king. The practice had been rehearsed in provincial entries at Rouen in 1449 and Bordeaux in 1451. At Bordeaux and elsewhere in the recovery of France, the seal and chancellor substituted for the person of the king who was absent.[43] Only in 1484 were the seal and chancellor added at Paris, but, for the rest of the history of the entry ceremony, the chancellor held the place of honor immediately before the king.

Like the changes in the forms for greeting the king by the urban processionals, the additions to the order of march before the king emphasized his might in the crowned helmet and his right in the fleurs-de-lis. The royal hat and robe of office denoting the kingly duty to justice were transferred to the symbolism of the chancellor and seal. Even if the chancellor entered in armor at Bordeaux, he followed the seal and wore the fur bonnet: the latter being a symbol first brought to the entry ceremony by the first president of the Parlement de Paris in 1431. At Bordeaux in 1451 the chancellor received the submission of the town, its expression of loyalty, its requests, and confirmed its liberties. The seal supplied the symbolic center for the juridical theater and rites of reciprocity. When the king was present in entries, he symbolically gained flexibility in assuming the military role, and he gave a suggestion of his right to rule by conquest. But justice lost little in ritual honors and gained in having the major official for justice securely placed in the entry rituals. The same principle that the parlementaires argued as a fundamental law, that is, that the Parlement of Paris as guardian of law represented "the person of the king," had symbolic statement in the entry treatment of the chancellor.[44]

The retinue of the king greatly expanded after 1431, but other than the addition of symbols of juridical kingship, most changes were of lesser importance. The growth in the royal ranks was such that the great lords continued to have places of honor, but they tended to appear because they held offices of the crown or places in the royal household, particularly after 1484. In this sense, the evolution of the entry ceremony chronicles a shift from an occasion when great lords temporarily gathered around the king in rituals marking the change of suzerains to an occasion projecting the image of a court of servants and officials who permanentlly served the needs of the king. The seal and the chancellor represented the highest duty of traditional kingship: to preserve through justice the entire "body moral" of the kingdom. All the parts of the civic and royal processions of the entry ceremony taken together represented in microcosm the union of such a body politic and moral.[45]

Finally, and briefly, note needs to be taken of how the expressions in the


art of the street pageantry relate to the structure of the entry ceremony. The representations, gestures, and rhetoric of the street pageantry produced at stations along the rue St. Denis (as marked out in fig. 6.3) were playful variations inspired by the rituals that the king and Parisian corporations conducted within the entry frame. These productions strike the modern reader as the work of youthful members or even children of the leaders of the corporations and guilds—such as those who formed abbayes de jeunesse , the basoches , and the enfants de la ville —who in miming the acts of their elders and rulers reinforced community values and learned rules of decorum. Thus, although occasionally satires were included, the performances before kings and queens making an entry presented forms of right-rule rather than misrule.[46]

Although almost from the beginning of the ceremonial for an entry Parisians had conducted ritual greetings at St. Denis Gate, decorations and dramatic play at that place only began in 1389. It is no chance occurrence that the Parisians started occasional civic pageantry there at the time when assemblies of estates ceased to be held in conjunction with Parisian entries. The pageants assumed the voice of estates and spoke clearly to the king through their personified representatives (see tab. 6.6). Personifications of the estates appeared in 1431, perhaps in 1437, in 1461, 1483, 1491, as late as 1549. Similarly, the debut of the Parlement of Paris in the entry can be paralleled with the pageant artistry that personified and represented the role of justice in the kingdom. These representations made efforts to reach an increasing remote king in the serious play of entry artistry. The age of organized civic street pageantry developed as kings tended to free themselves from the juridical restraints imposed by institutions, rituals, and customs.

The gesture of actual corporations and officials in the extramural ceremonies found counterparts in the pageantry before the gate and elsewhere. The dominant image of the king at the Port St. Denis was that of the ruler as child. There may be some influence of the popular imagery of great lords kneeling before the Christ Child in these tableaux vivants of submission to the king. More pointedly, the representation of the king as child with his subjects as adult personifications made the statement that the new ruler depended on good counsel and trusted supporters when he took over "France," "the Lily," "Paris," or the "ship of state." Such didactic programs again balanced the necessary act of submission with instruction.[47] All along the ceremonial route, the playful guise of the street pageantry explicitly expressed the meaning of the graver rituals of the entry ceremony; one can gain a sense of the scale and subjects of these dramas from the list in table 6.4. The new patronage and censorship of Renaissance princes ended the artistic playfulness and political inventiveness of their medieval Parisian subjects. Parisian communal control of pageantry space and direct representation


TABLE 6.6. Entry Pageantry at St. Denis Gate


Central Frame

Image of the Ruler

Companion Figures

Special Features

Isabella of Bavaria
(20 June 1389)


Christ Child

Virgin Mary

Blazing Sun

Henry VI
(2 Dec. 1431)




Heart-shaped Bouquets

Charles VII
(12 Nov. 1437)

Shield of France


Three Angels

Shield of France

Louis XI
(31 Aug. 1461)


Crowned Infant



Margaret of Austria
(2 June 1483)

Three-tiered Stage

Enthroned Sovereign



Royal Family

Charles VIII
(5 July 1484)

Giant Lily

Crowned Infant


Blazing Sun


Anne of Brittany
(8 Feb. 1491)


French Goodwill
Secure Alliance



Louis XII
(2 July 1498)

Giant Lily

Portrait of Charles V


Ancestral Portrait

(table continued on next page)


(table continued from previous page)



Central Frame

Image of the Ruler

Companion Figures

Special Features




Anne of Brittany
(20 Nov. 1504)

Giant Heart

Sovereign Lady



Mary Tudor
(6 Nov. 1514)


Honor Holding Shield of France


Classical Gods

Claude of France
(12 May 1517)


Crowned Queen

Biblical Heroines

Descending Dove with Crown

Eleonor of Austria
(16 April 1531)



Henry II
(16 June 1549)

Triumphal Arch

Gallic Hercules


Chains of Eloquence

Charles IX
(16 March 1571)

Triumphal Arch



Crowned Shield of France

Elizabeth of Austria
(25 March 1571)

Triumphal Arch


Column of Church
Column of Empire

Crowned Crossed Shields of France and Empire


of political thought vanished before the allegory-filled, but peopleless, arches of wood and plaster favored by new aesthetic values and a new political agenda.[48]

The medieval pageantry stations dramatized political commonplaces such as those expressed in the famous sermon of Jean Gerson on the image of true kingship. In a well-run civic government, he preached, the royal council would maintain Prudence, the nobility would provide Force, the judiciary would ensure Justice, and the people would act with Temperance. As head and symbol of the whole body, "le Roy doibt estre assis au throne non point quelconque, mais de iustice et de equité ."[49] In art and reality the king should be shown to make clear that "il n'est pas personne singuliere mais est une puissance publique ordonnee pour le salut de tout le commun ." Gerson cautioned against the dangers of flatterers who tell kings that others are beasts to do their bidding, and he warned against portraying the king in any other costume than that of justice and particularly against dressing him as a warrior. Gerson noted that he preached with "grand franchise et liberté " because he represented the University of Paris; as he rhetorically asked, "l'Université ne represente elle pas tout le Royaume de France, voire tout le monde, en tant que de toutes parts viennent ou peuvent venir supposts pour acquerir doctrine et sapience ?"[50]

In the entry ceremony, other Parisians and members of the body politic found an occasion to act, or at least to play, at being a royal counsel. The specific guise of these counselors varied—including the cerf volant of the Parlement of Paris, Fama as the genius of the city, or the Three Estates—but the message was consistent: the good king ruled to preserve his subjects and he consulted them; the ideal king did not embody but rather brought to his person those whose offices completed his personality as king; the virtues necessary for preserving the common good were in a balance of power such as that visualized in the entry ceremony. The art and ritual of the entry activities clearly attest to both a public consciousness and an arrangement of institutions that emphasized reciprocity and consensus. In consideration of these expressions of their sense of right government, there can be no basis for considering the French Middle Ages weak in constitutional habits of mind and particularly fertile ground for the growth of absolutism. Contrary to arguments such as those put forth by Professor Bryce Lyon that "there was in France no balance of power, all power resided in the king,"[51] balance of power was everywhere evident. The historian's problem is to recognize how it was expressed and by whom.

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Six The Medieval Entry Ceremony at Paris
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