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The fortunes of France took a turn for the worse after about 1415.[1] Just as it became evident that Charles VI's mental illness would no longer permit him to take an active role in government, the dauphin, Louis of Guyenne, died. The next dauphin, John of Touraine, was returning to Paris in 1417 when he became ill and also died. Armagnacs who controlled the capital and the government of Charles VI named the new dauphin, Charles (later Charles VII), lieutenant general of the king. At the same time Queen Isabeau, who had fled Paris in 1417, established a provisional government at Troyes and appointed Duke John the Fearless of Burgundy governor general of the realm. Both Armagnacs and Burgundians sought to guarantee their legitimacy by gaining control of King Charles VI and the city of Paris. In 1418 when the Burgundians staged a successful coup, the dauphin Charles fled to Bourges and established a government-in-exile there.

Despite the assassination of John the Fearless in 1419, Burgundian forces were sufficiently powerful to retain control of the capital and negotiate the Treaty of Troyes with the English in 1420. This treaty ostensibly ended the Hundred Years' War, because it provided that Henry V of England would drop his claim to French territories during Charles VI's lifetime if Charles would designate Henry and his heirs as successors to the kingdom of France. Shortly after the signing of the treaty, the dauphin Charles was summoned to a lit-de-justice , a judicial session of Parlement, investigating his role in the murder of John the Fearless. When the dauphin did not appear, he was formally disinherited and banished.

Henry V became king of France after Charles VI died in 1422, but Henry died shortly thereafter, and his infant son, Henry VI, succeeded to the dual monarchy. France was governed on his behalf by a regent, the duke of Bedford, who resided in Paris. Because the dauphin Charles also claimed the throne from his court in the Loire valley, civil war resumed. Charles VII was crowned king in Reims in 1429 with the help of Joan of Arc, and by 1437 he and his successful forces entered Paris. By 1453 Charles VII's army had reconquered France.

The lack of a French royal presence in the capital from about 1420 to 1440 helps explain the dearth of illustrated manuscripts of the Grandes Chroniques after the first quarter of the fifteenth century. Because the chronicle had been popular among a Parisian audience intimately associated with the Capetian and Valois kings of France, there was little place for the Grandes Chroniques as an expression of French national pride once the English took control of the government in Paris.


The English rulers did not patronize illustrated copies of the chronicle, preferring dynastic imagery that centered on Saint Louis, an ancestor that Henry V and Henry VI shared with the French. The duke of Bedford and members of his Anglo-French chancery promoted dynastic ideas in coinage, in posters hung in the city of Paris, and in public ceremonial.[2]

The religion royale was renewed in Paris only after the restoration of the Valois to the throne in the mid–fifteenth century, and it was strongest during the reigns of Louis XI and Charles VIII, the last Valois kings.[3] Although the Grandes Chroniques was revived at the late fifteenth-century French court, it had lost its position as the preeminent royal history, probably because its content was out of date. The account recorded in the Grandes Chroniques ended early in Charles VI's reign; it was superseded by a Latin chronicle and a complete life of Charles VI written by Michel Pintoin, the religieux of Saint-Denis, and Pintoin's chronicle was continued with a Latin life of Charles VII written by Jean Chartier.[4] The lives of Charles VI and VII were translated into French; Juvenal des Ursins translated Charles VI's life in the early 1430s, and Jean Chartier revised and updated his Latin life of Charles VII in a French translation. These translations were paired most frequently with Pintoin's Latin chronicle rather than with the Grandes Chroniques .

Two groups of Grandes Chroniques exemplify the different functions of the chronicle in Parisian circles after the mid–fifteenth century. The first group consists of unillustrated texts on paper or on mixtures of parchment and paper that belonged (when provenance is known) to secretaries and notaries and to members of the Parlement.[5] These inexpensive books filled a practical need; they provided a chronology for persons charged with maintaining the state archives and doubtless also assisted them in their increasingly common role as writers of history.

A second illustrated group of Grandes Chroniques reflects the Parisian nobility's increased interest in the expression of dynastic issues in public ceremonial. The most famous of these is the copy of the Grandes Chroniques completed in the mid–fifteenth century by Jean Fouquet for Charles VII (B.N. fr. 6465), a chronicle illustrating such ceremonies as sacres , entries, and funerals that paid special attention to the pomp surrounding the visit of the Holy Roman Emperor to Charles V in 1378.[6] Two other manuscripts in Paris (B.N. fr. 5729 and Arsenal 5128) with identical layouts document the continuing interest in this ceremonial genre during the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Their text consists of an excerpt from the Grandes Chroniques describing the visit of the Holy Roman Emperor to Charles V in Paris in 1378 and is decorated by a miniature of the meeting of Charles V and Charles IV outside Paris. The concentration on Charles V in this pair of abridged texts may have royal and imperial connotations; these books glorify Charles V, the last direct royal ancestor of Louis XII, who was king when they were produced.[7] The interest manifested in the visit of the Holy Roman Emperor may also relate to the imperial aspirations of the French monarchs in the late fifteenth century.[8]

In this late period illustrated Parisian copies of the Grandes Chroniques most commonly commemorated ceremonies that provided precedents for the public celebrations increasingly popular under the last Valois kings. In this respect, these manuscripts relate more closely to contemporary books like those that memorialized the tableaux from royal entries than to earlier copies of the Grandes Chroniques .[9]


Courts outside of Paris seem to have been the primary audience for illustrated manuscripts of the Grandes Chroniques in the second half of the fifteenth century. Guillaume Fillastre commissioned a Grandes Chroniques (Leningrad, Public Library, Saltykov-Schedrin Er. fr. 88) decorated by Simon Marmion, for presentation in the 1450s to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. A manuscript dated 1471 now in Paris (B.N. fr. 2609), is attributed to Robinet Testard and was probably executed in the Loire valley near Poitiers where Testard was active. Even Thomas Thwaytes, the English king Henry VII's "tresorier de ses ville et marches de Calays," commissioned a multivolume manuscript (B.L. Royal 20 E I–20 E VI) produced in Calais in 1487 as a gift for the English monarch.[10] These non-Parisian manuscripts contain updated texts and extensive narrative cycles that illustrate French history without the stress on ceremonial evident in many contemporary Parisian copies of the chronicle. They seem to have met a new regional taste for dynastic and courtly literature that is especially well-documented for the Burgundian court.[11]

By the late fifteenth century, the Grandes Chroniques seems to have been considered one history among many—and it was not the most important. Although Vérard printed specially illuminated royal versions of the Grandes Chroniques on vellum, French kings of the late fifteenth century were interested in more modern histories.[12] Thus Louis XI carried with him in his travels the mid-fifteenth-century Abrégé de l'histoire de France by Noël de Fribois rather than the Grandes Chroniques .[13] Although the royal myths described in the chronicle continued to be popular into the sixteenth century, other, more contemporary, histories incorporated them and these, rather than the Grandes Chroniques de France , shaped the royal image.


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