Jean Froissart

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Jean Froissart (* around 1337 in Valenciennes ; † around 1405 probably in Chimay / Belgium) was a French-speaking poet and chronicler. His main work is an extensive chronicle of the first half of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) between the crowns of England and France .

Life and work

Place Froissart, Chimay , Belgium
Edward III besieged Reims. Illustration in a 15th century edition the Chroniques de Jean Froissart, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
The battle of Beverhoutsveld, illuminated around 1468 in the Chroniques de Jean Froissart (Berlin Staatsbibliothek: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, ms. Rehdiger 3 (Depot Breslau, 1, vol. 3)
Isabella of Bavaria enters Paris. Book illustration in Chroniques, London, British Library, ms. 4379, around 1470/72

Froissart grew up in what is now the Belgian town of Hainaut (Hainaut). He made contact with Philippa von Hainaut , the wife of King Edward III. of England , and went to her in 1361 at the London royal court. Here he wrote courtly poetry and other poems in the style of Guillaume de Machaut . In London he also began to work as a chronicler of the recent past. A first chronicle that celebrated the wars of the English and was dedicated to Philippa has not survived.

Until then, chroniclers were usually people who were involved in the events they described and who presented them in retrospect from their perspective, but Froissart developed the new method of having historical events reported by different witnesses and from different perspectives to put together a quasi-objective picture. In order to gain information, he not only used his local (for example initially mostly London) acquaintances, but also traveled to England, France and the Netherlands to see potential eyewitnesses.

The image of the Hundred Years' War that he paints, however, is primarily that of glorious princes and knights who fight impressive battles and battles. At first, Froissart sympathized with the English. Later he became at least partially aware of the sufferings of the people in France and the fact that the English campaigns on French soil were raids in which English kings and military leaders exploited the weakness into which France fell after 1314 through a series of rapid changes of the throne.

In 1368 Froissart accompanied a son Philippas to his wedding in Milan . When he learned of the death of his patroness on his return trip in 1369, he did not return to England, but settled in Hainaut, where he was promoted one after the other by several new high-ranking patrons , including Wenceslaus I of Luxembourg , Duke of Brabant .

Around 1370 he began work on his four-part Chroniques de France, d'Angleterre, d'Ecosse, de Bretagne, de Gascogne, de Flandre et lieux circonvoisins (chronicles of France, England, Scotland, Brittany, Gascogne, Flanders and the neighboring locations), where he wrote tirelessly until almost the end of his life and which were so widely distributed in the 15th century that more than 100 manuscripts, some of them richly illustrated, have survived.

In addition, Froissart also created other works. So he put the 1383 Meliador finished the last written in verse chivalric novel in French, interspersed with the poems Duke Wenceslas, who died that same year.

After Wenceslas death in 1383 he entered the service of Count Guy de Blois . This provided him with a lucrative benefice and financed a trip to Count Gaston III for him in 1388 . from Foix-Béarn , near the Spanish border. Froissart hoped to get information from Gaston's court for the Spanish part of his Chroniques .

Later, after falling out with Guy, he found new patrons, first in Enguerrand VII. De Coucy and then in Philip the Bold , Duke of Burgundy. After further trips, he visited London again in 1395, but soon left disappointed.

He ended his life in Chimay as a Canon .

Manuscripts of his works

Numerous copies of Froissart's works were made as early as the 15th century and the four volumes of the chronicles in particular were provided with important and extensive cycles of illustrations from the 1460s to 1480s. Among the artists were such important illuminators as Loyset Liédet and Lieven van Lathem . Through numerous reproductions since the 19th century, these images have strongly shaped today's image of the late 15th century and its material culture and way of life (costumes, weapons, battles, etc.). The chronicles were first printed in 1495. The following overview is a selection of the most important manuscripts:

  • Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, MS 15.4 (Book I)
  • Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, MS 15.5 (Book II)
  • Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, MS 15.6 (Book III)
  • Antwerp, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, ms. 48
  • Berlin, State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage, Depot Breslau 1, ms. Rhediger 4 (copied around 1468 and illuminated for Anton Bastard of Burgundy )
  • Besançon, Bibliothèque d'Étude et de Conservation, ms. 864
  • Besançon, Bibliothèque d'Étude et de Conservation, ms. 865
  • Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, ms. II 88
  • Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, ms. IV 251, tome 1
  • Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, ms. IV 251, tome 2
  • Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, ms. IV 467
  • Brussels, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds français MS 2663
  • London, British Library, ms. Harley 4379 - 4380 (made around 1470/72 for Philippe de Commynes )
  • Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, ms. 5187 (Book I)
  • Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, ms. 5188 (Book II)
  • Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, ms. 5189 (Book III)
  • Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, ms. 5190 (Book IV)
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds français ms. 2641 (Book I)
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds français ms. 2643 (Book I) Digitized version of the BNF (with the following manuscripts up to ms. 2646 made for Ludwig von Gruuthuse in Bruges, illuminated by the miniaturist Loyset Liédet there)
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds français ms. 2644 (Book II) digitized version of the BNF
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds français ms. 2645 (Book III) digitized version of the BNF
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds français ms. 2646 (Book IV) digitized version of the BNF
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds français ms. 2663 (Book I)
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds français ms. 2664 (Book II)
  • Stonyhurst College Library, ms. 1
  • The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, ms. 72 A 25
  • Toulouse, Bibliothèque d'Étude et du Patrimoine, ms. 511

Individual evidence

  1. Katariina Närä, 'Some Burgundian manuscripts of Froissart's Chroniques, with particular emphasis on British Library Ms Harley 4379-80', in The Online Froissart, ed. By Peter Ainsworth and Godfried Croenen, v. 1.5 (Sheffield: HRIOnline, 2013), Online , first published in v. 1.0 (2010)


  • Peter Ainsworth: Froissart, Jean . In: Graeme Dunphy (ed.): Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle . tape 1 . Brill, Leiden / Boston 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-18464-0 , pp. 642-645 (English).
  • Cristian Bratu, “Je, auteur de ce livre”: L'affirmation de soi chez les historiens, de l'Antiquité à la fin du Moyen Âge. Later Medieval Europe Series (vol. 20). Leiden: Brill, 2019, ISBN 978-90-04-39807-8 .
  • Godfried Croenen: Froissart illustration cycles . In: Graeme Dunphy (ed.): Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle . tape 1 . Brill, Leiden / Boston 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-18464-0 , pp. 645-650 (English).
  • Nina Zenker: Froissart from Breslau as reflected in the late medieval conception of history . Petersberg 2018.
  • Michael Schwarze: Generic truth: courtly polylogue in the work of Jean Froissart . Stuttgart 2003.
  • Peter F. Ainsworth: Jean Froissart and the fabric of history. Truth, myth and fiction in the "Chroniques" , Oxford 1990, ISBN 0-19-815864-5 .
  • Georg Jäger: Aspects of the war and the Chevalerie in the XIVth Century in France: Investigations on Jean Froissart's Chroniques . Bern [u. a.] 1981.
  • Julia Bastin: Froissart. Chroniqueur, romancier et poète , 2nd edition, Brussels 1948.
  • Jean Alexandre C. Buchon (Ed.): Les chroniques de Sire Jean Froissart. Qui traitent des merveilleuses emprises, nobles aventures et faits d'armes advenus en son temps en France , 3 volumes, Paris 1835–1837.
  • Nicole Chareyron: Jean le Bel. Le maître de Froissart, grand imagier de la Guerre de Cent Ans , (Bibliothèque du Moyen Age, vol. 7), Brussels 1996, ISBN 2-8041-2116-X .
  • Laurence DeLooze: Pseudo-autobiography in the fourteenth century. Juan Ruiz, Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart and Geoffrey Chaucer , Gainesville 1997, ISBN 0-8130-1507-3 .
  • Peter F. Dembowski: Jean Froissart and his Meliador. Context, craft and sense , (Edward C. Armstrong monographs on medieval literature, Vol. 2), Lexington 1983.
  • Peter F. Dembowski (Ed.): Le paradis d'amour. L'orloge amoureus de Jean Froissart , (Textes littéraires français, vol. 339), Geneva 1986.
  • Kristen Mossler Figg: The short lyric poems of Jean Froissart. Fixed forms and the expression of the courtly ideal , (Garland studies in medieval literature, Vol. 10), New York, London 1994, ISBN 0-8153-1351-9 .
  • Julie Singer: L'horlogerie et la mécanique de l'allégorie chez Jean Froissart. In: Médiévales. Volume 49, Fall 2005, pp. 155-172.

Web links

Commons : Jean Froissart  - album with pictures, videos and audio files