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From its origins in the late thirteenth century through the mid-fifteenth century, the Grandes Chroniques de France was an important royal history. It is a French translation of the Latin histories written and updated by the monks of Saint-Denis, who were, from the thirteenth century, official historiographers to the French kings.[1] The French text that these monks produced incorporated information from contemporary vernacular chronicles and was structured differently from its Latin model. As first written, the Grandes Chroniques traced the history of the French kings from their origins in Troy to the death of Philip Augustus in 1223. With subsequent additions drafted first at Saint-Denis and then at the court in Paris, the chronicle took its final form, describing a chain of royal lives from the fall of Troy to the reign of Charles VI in the 1380s. Copied and amended for a variety of royal and courtly patrons, it survives in approximately 130 manuscripts. Because the Grandes Chroniques de France originated at Saint-Denis, the center of royal historiography, it had a quasi-official status that distinguished it from other vernacular histories and accounted for its popularity.

The study of the Grandes Chroniques has traditionally fallen between two areas of inquiry. Until recently, those interested in the historiography of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries concentrated primarily on Latin texts. They paid little attention to the Grandes Chroniques , which they[2] considered a "simple" translation of the Latin chronicles. Scholars interested in fifteenth-century historiography generally saw the Grandes Chroniques as outdated and passed over its continuations in favor of other fifteenth-century sources.[3] Rarely was the chronicle viewed on its own terms as an original creation whose audience differed from that of the Latin chronicle and whose illustrated text was edited and restructured.

Historiographical researchers have begun to reexamine the importance of the vernacular in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and, as a result, propose a different understanding of the Grandes Chroniques . Gabrielle Spiegel's ongoing analysis of the origins of French vernacular historiography traces the political forces that gave rise to the vernacular tradition in France and describes the distinct literary form forged for vernacular history during the thirteenth century.[4] Serge Lusignan and Nicole Pons have studied the selection of Latin or French (or Latin and French) as a literary language in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,[5] providing a context for the origins and development of the Grandes Chroniques and revealing the audience as a determiner of the textual form and of the language.

Indeed, as Bernard Guenée's analysis of the diffusion of the Grandes Chroniques shows, the study of audience provides one avenue for understanding the popularity of the chronicle in the Middle Ages. Guenée demonstrates that, for the first 150 years of the Grandes Chroniques's existence, its audience was carefully circumscribed.[6] Its readership was centered in the royal court at Paris, and its owners included French kings, members of the royal family, members of the


court, and a few clerics in northern France. During this period, no copies of the work belonged to members of the Parlement or the university community.

One of the most important—and distinctive—features that the French chronicles of Saint-Denis provide their audience is a program of illustration; unlike the Latin compendia of the thirteenth century that the Grandes Chroniques translated, most copies of the Grandes Chroniques were decorated with miniatures. Scholars seeking to describe the creative rather than the derivative aspects of the Grandes Chroniques have overlooked its pictorial cycles,[7] yet, from the earliest copy of the chronicle presented to King Philip III in 1274 to the copies produced by Parisian booksellers in the early fifteenth century, most manuscripts of the Grandes Chroniques were illustrated with widely differing cycles that vary in number, subjects, and style.[8] Of the approximately 130 surviving manuscripts, over 75 have pictorial cycles, ranging in size from 1 miniature to more than 400 miniatures. The illustrations of the Grandes Chroniques de France offer a rare insight into the creation and dissemination of the royal image in Paris during the tumultuous era in French history when the Valois kings succeeded the Capetians and the Hundred Years' War began. The changes in imagery in copies of the chronicle from the late thirteenth through the early fifteenth century make clear the importance of these political events and the questions about legitimacy that they raised.

Because the illustrated cycles in the Grandes Chroniques vary from manuscript to manuscript, a monographic study of an exceptional version would do little to clarify the aggregate function of the illustrations. Yet a comprehensive analysis of all the illustrated exemplars of the text would be unwieldy. This book aims for the middle ground, covering 5 royal and 15 nonroyal manuscripts that exemplify different pictorial solutions to the problem of illustrating the Grandes Chroniques . I chose these books after examining 100 of the 131 manuscripts of the Grandes Chroniques that I have located. In order to provide readers with background for my observations and a guide to sources for further research, I have included at the end of the book a Catalogue of Manuscripts dating from 1274 to c. 1420 (coordinated for easy comparison of individual illustrations to specific texts) and appendixes that provide a chronological list of copies of the Grandes Chroniques , as well as lists of the names of known owners of the manuscripts and of artists who decorated them.

To explore the role that pictures play in directing a reading of the chronicle, I examine their function in their text and their cycle of illustration. By comparing cycles of illustration in various copies of the chronicle, and by considering the manuscripts within the broader contexts of artistic production and contemporary literature and politics, I hope to place primary emphasis on the structure of cycles and the pictorial content of individual manuscripts and to dispel the notion of a standard pictorial or textual edition.[9] My research suggests that such an approach can provide valuable insights into the uses of history and the perceptions of kingship in France during the late Middle Ages.

This book is arranged chronologically and structured to compare chronicles belonging to the king to those belonging to members of the royal circle. These two groups had differing relationships to the history recorded in the Grandes Chroniques . Contemporary events played a major role in determining the illustrations of the past in royal and princely books. Indeed, royal copies of the chronicle


often used pictures to reshape the past to reflect present interests and suggest a new reading of history. This sense of active participation in the interpretation of history is probably the most significant difference between the illustration of royal and noble versions of the Grandes Chroniques. Grandes Chroniques manuscripts produced for the nobility contain less historical interpretation in the illustration and more expression of a popular sentiment for the monarchy, the religion royale .

The Introduction describes the origin and development of the text of the Grandes Chroniques , which I interpret as a manifestation of Louis IX's political ideology. It then sketches the relationship of the text to contemporary vernacular historiography and to its Latin predecessors. The remainder of the book concentrates on the manuscripts themselves. Part One analyzes the cycle of the first royal Grandes Chroniques and contrasts its function as a Mirror of Princes with that of courtly chronicles from the first decades of the fourteenth century produced for the nobility and of a chronicle commissioned from a Parisian libraire in 1318. Part Two concentrates on manuscripts executed between 1330 and 1345 during the reigns of the early Valois kings; it contrasts the cycle in King John the Good's newly revised copy with a series of contemporary manuscripts decorated by the Master of the Roman de Fauvel for members of the nobility, manuscripts that show the strength of the religion royale in the early stages of the Hundred Years' War. The subject of Part Three is Charles V's manuscript, the first royal book to break from the tradition of a Mirror of Princes and forge an explicitly politicized vision of history. This section describes how Charles's book, the first to contain the account penned at court by Chancellor Pierre d'Orgement, was continued over a period of years and updated by illustrations and interpolated text specifically grounded in the political events of Charles's reign, additions that never reappeared in subsequent copies. Part Four concentrates on manuscripts produced during the reign of Charles VI, the last French king to reign in Paris before the English interregnum. Perhaps because there was little direct royal patronage for manuscripts while Charles VI was king, most illustrated copies of the Grandes Chroniques produced during his reign were conservative. One group made by Parisian booksellers for the nobility shared a concern for the celebration of the religion royale popular since the early fourteenth century, and a second group sought to guide Charles VI with a new kind of mirror for kingly behavior. Only a few books were innovative; in response to the absence of royal leadership, manuscripts painted for members of the court by the Master of the Cité des Dames offered creative representations of the past.

The turbulent reign of Charles VI is a logical endpoint for this study because production of the Grandes Chroniques ceased for a time in Paris from Charles VI's death in 1422 through Charles VII's exile and the regency of the duke of Bedford for the English king, Henry VI. By the time Charles VII was restored to the throne and production resumed in the mid-fifteenth century, the Grandes Chroniques was no longer current because the last event it recorded had occurred in 1381. It therefore lost its position as official history.

By the late fifteenth century the audience for the history recorded in the Grandes Chroniques had changed, and Paris was no longer the sole center for its production. Copies produced after the reign of Charles VI were therefore perceived, illustrated, and used differently. The problems posed by these copies


are very different from those raised by books produced during the first 150 years of the text's existence and will thus be sketched only briefly in the concluding chapter.

From the late thirteenth to the early fifteenth century, the Parisian audience, to which the Grandes Chroniques appealed as a quasi-official history of France, commissioned illustrated copies that differed as much from one another as did their individual patrons. Although illustrations may not have played as vital a role as text in forming the political outlook of the Grandes Chroniques's owners, our perception of the political culture of late medieval France is enriched by analyzing these pictures in the contexts of artists' production, patronage, contemporary literature, and historical events. Because the pictorial cycles of the Grandes Chroniques frequently reflect the political attitudes of the manuscripts' owners, they document the different perceptions of kingship engendered by the chronicle. Moreover, in a few special cases, they provide commentary on contemporary events. The illustrations to the Grandes Chroniques de France thus provide additional insight into the impact of vernacular history on its readers.

I am pleased to acknowledge the generosity of many scholars during the time that I have worked on this topic: François Avril, Joan Diamond, Bernard Guenée, Gilette Labory, Gilbert Ouy, Nicole Roccati, Gabrielle Spiegel, and Patricia Danz Stirnemann. Elizabeth A. R. Brown and Walter Cahn read earlier versions of the book; their thoughtful criticism improved it. Sandra Hindman, the supervisor of the dissertation that forms the core of my study, deserves special thanks for the guidance she gave as I wrote my dissertation and the advice, encouragement, and friendship she has continued to provide in the years since I finished it.

Numerous grants and fellowships supported my work on The Royal Image . The Samuel H. Kress Foundation funded the research for my dissertation, the first stage of this book. Subsequent research, revision, and expansion of the text were made possible by a summer Grant-in-Aid (in 1985) and Fellowship for Recent Recipients of the Ph.D. (in 1987) from the American Council of Learned Societies, and by a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Art and the Humanities (in 1987–88). The book is being published with the generous support of an Arnold O. Beckman Research Award from the Research Board of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Finally I would like to thank my husband, John, for his good will, generosity, and humor, and my daughter Jacquelin, for the joy she brought as I worked on this project.


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