Kings and kingship in British Library MS Harley 2253.
British Library MS Harley 2253 contains a number of texts, in English, French, and Latin, in which historical and legendary kings feature. Like other works in the manuscript, these interact so that each text acquires meaning that it does not have if read in isolation; in certain texts the authority of kingship is undermined through the particular nature of the works' relationship. Links can be established between one of the texts and the putative connections of the compiler and scribe of the manuscript. This may have had a bearing on the way it and the other works about kings were read.
Anyone who has heard of the fourteenth-century manuscript British Library MS Harley 2253 knows that it contains lyrics: in particular, the earliest surviving collection of lyrics in English on secular subject-matter. But recent writing on the manuscript has focused on the other material it contains--not just lyrics, and not just texts in English, but works in French and Latin as well, ranging from saints' lives to fabliaux, from romances to more 'practical' material. (1) The critical interest that these texts have attracted has usually been directed towards items adjacent in the manuscript, works in the same language, or those perceived as having generic affinities. (2) It is the argument of this essay that scrutiny across the codicological, linguistic, and generic boundaries of MS Harley 2253 throws further light on the interests of its compiler, and opens up interpretative possibilities for its texts that are alternative to those by which they have previously been interpreted. Isolation of the texts from their manuscript context, comparison of the texts with their sources, or association of the works with texts of the same genre: all offer strategies for analysis of the items in MS Harley 2253, but within the manuscript other associations and comparisons are suggested and invited, throwing into relief elements and aspects of the texts that may be disregarded if they are read in other contexts. Critical assumptions about the works are challenged when they are examined in this way, and so too are cultural ones about the compiler of the manuscript. The interest of MS Harley 2253 lies not only in its texts per se, but in what the interaction of those texts suggests about the milieu in which the miscellany was assembled. (3)
After the lyrics, the text in MS Harley 2253 that has probably received most attention is King Horn. Unlike most of the lyrics, this work is not unique to MS Harley 2253--it survives in two earlier manuscripts also--but like the lyrics, it represents a 'first': it is usually classed as the earliest extant romance to have been composed in English. (4) If not published on its own, it has been published in the company of other romances, and it has been discussed as a romance, in the context of other romances, most influentially in Susan Crane's study Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle English Literature. (5) This is despite the fact that the rubric to the text in MS Harley 2253 describes it as a 'geste', (6) and despite the fact also that within the manuscript, there are no other texts of the same genre, in English or French, with which King Horn might be compared. It is worth pointing out here that in one of the other manuscripts in which the text is preserved, the late-thirteenth-century Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc. 108, King Horn is found in the company of a group of saints' lives, and it may have been viewed by the compiler and readers of this manuscript as another text of the same kind--as hagiography, rather than romance. (7) While there is no indication that the compiler of MS Harley 2253 saw it in the same light, there is no indication either that he associated it with other romance texts, or that he was interested in it as a representative of the romance genre; he was certainly not interested in associating it with other romances within his manuscript, or in prompting any other users of the manuscript to associate it with such texts.
If there are no other romances in MS Harley 2253, there are a number of other texts about kings. Before King Horn, early in the fourteenth-century section of the manuscript, is a Latin prose 'life' of the martyred eighth-century East Anglian king Ethelbert: Ethelbert's body was translated to restrictive criteria that are not enforced in the compilation of a miscellany' (Marilyn Corrie, 'Harley 2253, Digby 86, and the Circulation of Literature in Pre-Chaucerian England', in Fein, Studies, pp. 427-43. By this criterion, MS Harley 2253 as a whole is a miscellany, although the connections between certain of its items (see further below) suggest that some of its contents may have been selected. Hereford after his death, and he was something of a 'local hero' for the scribe of MS Harley 2253, who has been shown to have worked in the Herefordshire and Shropshire areas. (8) Like the fictional Horn, the real Ethelbert is, then, an English king; but the manuscript also contains a text about a real French king. At folios 128v-129v there is a copy, the only one surviving in an English manuscript, of the instructions, or 'Enseignements', that the posthumously canonized King Louis IX is reputed to have delivered to his son Philip when Louis was on his death-bed. (9) This is another prose piece, in French; before it, at folios 107v-109v, is a French verse text without a rubric in the manuscript, but that has been published under the title Le Roi d'Angleterre et le jongleur d'Ely. (10) This text appears to be of insular provenance or, more accurately perhaps, it was written by somebody whose French is typical of other French written in England; the king whom it features is not given a name. The collection of texts in MS Harley 2253 closes with another item about a king, another Latin item about another martyred English king of local interest for the compiler: Wistan, who was believed to have been martyred at Wistanstow near Ludlow, and who was venerated in the Hereford diocese. (11) As only one page of Wistan's 'life' remains in MS Harley 2253 (fol. 140v), I shall not be discussing this text in detail; the work does, however, offer itself for comparison with the other texts about kings in the manuscript.
Another text that I shall not discuss in detail, but that is nevertheless of importance, has been copied on folio 131. Here the scribe has listed, in French, information about the arms of twenty-five kings of defferent realms. Beginning with the king of Jerusalem (who bears 'l'escu d'asure ou crois e crucifix d'or'), the list describes the arms of the kings of France and England ('l'escu d'asure poudre ou flur de lyls d'or' and 'escu de goules ou trois leopardz d'or' respectively), plus those of, for example, the kings of Navarre, Denmark, Scotland, and Hungary, ending with the 'Roy de Ostrice'. In case one has not picked up the interest in kings apparent elsewhere in the manuscript, this item seems to encapsulate it, and to declare it unequivocally. But it also makes clear that the compiler was not somebody who was interested only in England, and it suggests that he did not see English kingship as particularly 'special'--the English king is only the sixth in the list, two places after the king of France. I shall return to this idea later; for the moment it is enough to point out that this text not only draws attention to the compiler's interest in kings, but prompts a user of the manuscript to single out the motif, and to think about other kings in MS Harley 2253, and the ways in which works that feature kings compare.
These ways are numerous and interesting. One conspicuous example is that both King Horn and the Latin Vita Sancti Ethelberti make use of portentous dreams. Horn's lover, Rymenhild, whom Horn marries at the end of the work, tells Horn how she dreamt that she cast a net into the sea; this was burst 'at [thorn]e ferste' by 'a gret fyssh', making Rymenhild fear that she will lose '[thorn]e fyssh [thorn]at y wolde cheose'. (12) The sexual symbolism of this dream is obvious: it gives narrative form to Rymenhild's apprehension that her virginity will be taken by a man not of her choosing, not Horn. The dream plays out the consequences of a disaster that is ultimately averted when Horn saves Rymenhild from marriage to King Mody of Reynes later in the work; the dream is a warning of what could happen, rather than an accurate prediction of what does actually come to pass. Later in the work, Horn too has a dream, paralleling Rymenhild's dream as Troilus's does Criseyde's in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. Horn dreams that Rymenhild is taken into a ship which then founders; when she tries to swim to land, Horn sees his treacherous companion Fikenhild hold her back with his sword hilt. (13) Again this seems suggestive of sexual violence, the sword symbolic of the phallus; the dream dramatizes, and alerts Horn to, Rymenhild's involuntary marriage to Fikenhild, which temporarily subverts the happy ending to which the narrative seemed to be heading. That both dreams are set on the sea draws attention to the element that separates the lovers and emphasizes their distance from each other; the sea also represents a void from which unexpected perils may emerge. There is only one dream in the Vita Sancti Ethelberti and it has a more enclosed setting, an urban one, that accords well with Ethelbert's later entrapment and murder in the palace of Offa, king of Mercia, whose daughter he seeks to marry. Ethelbert sees the roof of a palace collapse and the garment that he is wearing becomes soaked with blood; he is then transformed into a bird and slowly flies over a tree in the middle of the city. The reader is told with some rather laboured word-play that this is an indication for Ethelbert 'de dissolutione sui corporis et regni sui desolatione'; (14) but, like many of Ovid's Metamorphoses, it also seems to suggest--more optimistically--release from the world and ongoing life through this. Ethelbert chooses to embrace the fate of which his dream is a premonition, associating it with God's will and deferring to this; Horn's dream alerts him to what has already happened, and he acts on it by at once sailing back to Rymenhild and killing Fikenhild. The kings' respective reactions to their dreams highlight how they differ: Ethelbert is a passive figure, Horn an irrepressibly active one. If Horn, as I have suggested, may have been regarded as a saint, his sanctity is not based on the same criteria as Ethelbert's: he is a fighter, not a martyr, a king who responds to events rather than acquiescing in them.
Horn, like Ethelbert, is an unwilling lover, but the reasons for his initial reluctance to respond to Rymenhild's advances again set him apart from Ethelbert. Horn claims that he is socially unequal to Rymenhild, who is the daughter of a king: 'Ich am ybore [thorn]ral', he pleads (l. 449), although this seems disingenuous, since although Horn is displaced from his heritage (he is put to sea by the Saracens who invade his father's land), the work nowhere suggests that he is ignorant of his true origins. On the one hand, in asserting the lowliness of his status, Horn appears to be testing Rymenhild's commitment to him; on the other, he uses his feigned humble birth to fast-track his way to knighthood. Knighthood, Horn claims, is the means by which the social gap that separates him from Rymenhild can be closed; it is also the means by which Horn can go o. and test his 'pruesse' in battle, which he promptly leaves Rymenhild to do (ll. 590-625). Is one to infer that this was his plan all along? About Ethelbert there is no such ambiguity. Ethelbert is reluctant to have anything to do with women not because he prefers to fight, but because he wishes to preserve his virginity, 'cor gerens signatum castitatis pudore'. (15) When he does decide to marry, this is solely at the prompting of his counsellors, and it is dictated by considerations of political expediency: marriage is the means by which Ethelbert's lineage may be continued, and stability in the kingdom ensured. Whereas the courtship of Horn and Rymenhild is conducted clandestinely, that of Ethelbert and his chosen spouse, Elphryda, is a public affair, with Ethelbert going in state to Offa's court to negotiate the terms of the union. (16) Love does not enter into the courtship, and the relationship between Ethelbert and Elphryda takes up minimal narrative space; that King Horn devotes much more attention to the relationship of Horn and Rymenhild, and its tribulations, is the principal reason why it seems such a different kind of text, a romance rather than a conventional saint's life.
The Enseignements of Louis IX is not a narrative piece like King Horn or the Vita Sancti Ethelberti, but a representation, ostensibly a reportage, of Louis's speech, a sequence of his injunctions to his son. Yet this text compares interestingly with the others too. If dynastic continuity is represented as a vital concern of kingship in the Vita Sancti Ethelberti--the consideration that persuades Ethelbert to marry--it is possible to see the Enseignements as a very expression of that concern: in passing on the 'rules' of governance to his successor at the moment of his death, Louis declares an uninterrupted transference of power to the next king, a verbal bequeathing of kingship that can be associated, as Colette Beaune has argued, with other rituals by which the continuity of kingship was expressed from the late thirteenth century onwards. (17) The concern with continuity is expressed within the work as well, when Louis relates an anecdote about his grandfather, Philip II (Philip 'Augustus'), in which Philip rebukes one of his counsellors for criticizing the king's tolerance of clerical abuses: 'Quant ie regard les grauntz bontez que Dieu me ad fait e le poy de bien que ie ay deseruy, ie vueil mieux endurer damage de siecle en bienz temporals que mouer esclaundre entre seinte eglise e moy'. (18) This refers the younger Philip, Louis's son, to the authority of his own ancestor and it validates that ancestor's wisdom; it points the immediate addressee of the text towards a heritage of which he is the successor and safeguard, and it also impresses that heritage on any reader of the work. Susan Crane has noted the theme of dynastic continuity in King Horn also. She suggests that Horn's motivation can be construed as primarily dynastic, his goal the repossession of the birthright he lost when the Saracens killed his father and seized the throne of which Horn was the heir. Crane's contention is that the issue of dynastic perpetuation is a typical element of romances written in England, whether in English or in French: like the Anglo-Norman Romance of Horn that shares its story, King Horn shows a 'characteristically insular concern for regaining a rightful heritage and achieving family stability'. (19) It is worth pointing out, however, that when it comes to kingship and depictions of kingship, this concern is far from unique to insular texts--it is as characteristic of the king represented in the French Enseignements as it is of his fictional counterpart in the English King Horn or, for that matter, the protagonist of the Vita Sancti Ethelberti.
The Harley version of the Enseignements does not describe Louis as a saint, but he had been one since 1297, less than three decades after his death in 1270, and the Enseignements exudes the piety that earned him his canonization. Louis's religiosity expresses itself not just in his constant emphasis on the importance of loving and praising God: 'Trescher fiz', he tells Philip, 'ie te aprenk a commencement que tu aymez dieu de tot toun cuer e de tote ta vertue quar saunz ce n'est salut a nully.' It is apparent also in the remarkable humility that he encourages towards the Church and its agents: 'Seiez obedient e deuout a la eglise de Rome e a le apostoille come a vostre pere espirital'; 'Amez especialment gentz de religion e les eydez en lur bosoignes e nomement ceux par qy dieux es plus honore en cest mound.' (20) Louis's humility aligns him with the other sainted king in MS Harley 2253, Ethelbert, whose holiness is confirmed by an account of the miracles that follow his death: Ethelbert appears to one Brychfridus 'cum immenso lumine', and the sight of a man is restored when he asks Ethelbert for help. (21) Is it reading too much into the phraseology of the Enseignements to suggest that the link between the two kings in the manuscript is sealed, and advertised, when Louis tells Philip, 'De tot mortiel peschie te garde en tiele manere que vueilletz mieux soffryr martire que fere nul'? (22) Martire in Old French does not necessarily mean 'death in the cause of one's faith', but the use of the word does make one think of Ethelbert's martyrdom earlier in the collection of texts. (23) It has been claimed that other texts in MS Harley 2253 are connected by verbal reminiscences and allusions: is this another instance of the same phenomenon? (24)
From Horn, Louis seems as different a king as possible. Whereas Horn loves fighting, Louis urges peace: 'Gardez que guerre no mouez sauntz grant counsail.' If Horn struggles against adversity, Louis, like Ethelbert, accepts it as a gift from God: 'Si dieu te enuoie ascun adversete, pren la debonerement en rendant graces a nostre seigneur e pensez que ele te est auenu pur toun bien e que tu le as bien deserui pur toun mesfet.' (25) But in the one exception to Louis's pacifist policy, there is an important link with Horn. Louis led the Christian forces on the disastrous Seventh Crusade of 1248-54, and it was while he was making his way to the Holy Land once again that he met his death: a fact of which the Harley text of the Enseignements reminds its readers through the somewhat repetitive rubric, 'Ce est le aprise que le roy Lewis de Ffraunce aprist a Philip soun fitz quant il estoit en lit mortiel a Tunes.' (26) Horn likewise is a leader of Christians against the infidel (a more successful one than Louis), who defeats them to regain his kingdom, and earlier helps another king, Thurston, to void his land of the 'paynes', or pagans, who have overrun it. (27) This, no doubt, is what would have earned Horn the status of a saint; but another way in which he resembles Louis adds another, complementary element to his portrayal. It has been argued that the emphasis on Louis's speech in the Enseignements and other works devoted to him was intended to align him with those saints who are depicted in their biographies as using words as a weapon to assert and defend themselves and their faith. (28) Horn does not use language to the same purpose, but he also is shown to have a remarkable facility with speech. The spokesperson for the party that accompanies him into exile, and apparently able to speak the language of the land in which they arrive, Horn is '[thorn]e wyseste ant of wytte [thorn]e beste' (l. 190). His sagacity coexists with his military ability and establishes him as a man of prudence as much as Louis. The same qualities are mingled in the two kings; it is just that the texts in which they feature highlight the opposite elements of their essence.
Within the texts, the kings I have discussed are sometimes validated because they are seen against much less impressive images of kingship. Thus in King Horn, Horn himself has an opposite in Aylmer, the father of Rymenhild, who initially gives Horn refuge. A weak, foolish king, Aylmer is credulous enough to believe Fikenhild when Fikenhild tells him, falsely, that Horn is planning regicide; Aylmer overlooks the high regard in which Horn is held by all and banishes him from his land on pain of death (ll. 730-61). Completely dominated by Fikenhild by the end of the text, Aylmer submits to Fikenhild's plans to marry Rymenhild because he 'ne durst him werne' (l. 1515); the author seems to punish this king by dropping him from the narrative, informing the reader only of the fate of his kingdom before the principal business of the conclusion, Horn's triumphant homecoming and marriage to Rymenhild, is related. The Vita Sancti Ethelberti also offers an example of a bad king to contrast with its hero. Offa, like Aylmer, is a king too easily dominated by an evil counsellor, although the fact that in his case that counsellor is a woman surrounds him with an additional aura of emasculation. It is Offa's wicked wife, 'mulier scelera' (fol. 54v), who induces him to murder Ethelbert: resentful that the handsome Ethelbert should be interested in her daughter rather than her, she warns Offa that Ethelbert could invade his kingdom, usurp his throne, and banish him for good. (29) In one of the few other accounts of Ethelbert's martyrdom, in William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum Anglorum, Offa plans to betray Ethelbert from the start, luring him to his court 'magnarum promissionum' ('with handsome promises') and treating him 'fraudulentis assentationibus' ('with spurious affability') once he is there: a more scheming king, he is also a more resolute and vigorous individual, of whom William writes, 'animus heret in dubio utrum probem an improbem'. (30) William's Ethelbert is also a more ambiguous figure than in the Latin Vita, since the claim that he was attracted to Offa's court 'with great promises' opens up the possibility that his motives in going there were less than laudable: possibly materialistic, and not, it seems, unequivocally altruistic. The Harley text polarizes the two kings in the story much more, making the one unquestionably virtuous, the other unquestionably craven. As in King Horn, one king shines more brightly because he appears against a total lack of grandeur in another.
Such a juxtaposition of opposites is a strategy that is sometimes extended to the texts in MS Harley 2253 themselves. Thus, most famously, a lyric describing the permanence and immutability of Christ's love is followed immediately by another poem lamenting the fickleness of woman's love; the fact that both poems begin with the line 'Lutel wot hit any mon' alerts the reader to the interplay between the two and the ways in which they contrast. (31) In the works about kings, however, I would suggest that a different kind of contrastive matrix is in play: one that involves the texts in a 'vertical' rather than a 'horizontal' relationship, and one in which the work that I have so far omitted from analysis, Le Roi d'Angleterre et le jongleur d'Ely, is key. This work resembles the Enseignements of Louis in that it depicts speech rather than action, although it is a dialogue rather than a monologue that is portrayed. A king questions a jongleur near London about who he is; the jongleur answers by exploiting the potential for ambiguity in the king's questions. Sometimes he turns a request for information into one for definition of a concept of which, he implies, the king's ignorance is astonishing:
'Quy est toun seignour?' fet le roy. 'Le baron ma dame, par ma foy.' (fol. 107v) (32)
At other times, it is the room for word-play that is opened up by the jongleur. The king, for example, asks about the gait of his conversant's horse: 'Emble il bien, come vus est auis?', but the jongleur jumps on the meaning of the transitive verb embler rather than the intransitive verb, and answers the king as if he were asking about the horse's ability as a thief:
'Yl ne fust vnqe de larcyn pris; Tant com ou moi ad este Ne fut mes de larcyn proue.' (fol. 107v)33
If Louis's authority is reflected in his use of language, this is a king whose authority is made vulnerable by his language, so much so that his voice eventually is entirely displaced by that of the jongleur, who reduces the king to a petulant refusal to participate in the conversation further. What is especially important is that this king, like the jongleur, has no name: the reader is therefore invited to see him primarily in terms of his office, as much more of a representative figure than the other, named kings in the works in MS Harley 2253. As such, his humiliation seems to deal a blow to kingship as a whole, to deflate the dignity with which it is normally surrounded, and with which it is surrounded in the other texts. Put another way, this work seems to colour one's interpretation of the other texts about kings in the manuscript more than they colour it; the individualization of the kings in these other texts makes their places within the manuscript equal, whereas this king subsumes them all. By cancelling out the ideology of the other works about kings, Le Roi d'Angleterre comes to dominate them all; it distances the other texts from the solemnity with which they were originally imbued, and it undermines the didacticism that is a vital part of each.
Various features of Le Roi d'Angleterre both attach it to the other works and make it antithetical to them. Like the Vita Sancti Ethelberti and King Horn, Le Roi d'Angleterre shows a king being tested; but it is neither his faith that is tested, nor his loyalty to his lover or to the memory of his ancestors, but his ability to respond to the powers of wit, and in this he proves inadequate. Whereas the other texts show kings conversing with other high-born men within their immediate courtly circle, here a king is confronted with a lowly outsider, and is finally brought down to his level. The king's last comment before he is frustrated into silence is:
'Certes, ie preise molt petit Vostre vie ou vostre manere, Quar ele ne valt mie une piere.' (fol. 108v) (34)
The use of colloquialism here seems to elide the distance between the speech of the jongleur and that of the aloof king, and seals the king's defeat by his unconventional opponent. In the other works, kings prove themselves worthy of their status; but here, the connection between rank and worth is undone. Once the jongleur has silenced the king, his observations become much more profound, bolstering the concluding couplet:
'Sage est qe parle sagement, Fols come parle folement.' (fol. 109v) (35)
Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale questions the notion that gentillesse is the prerogative of the well-born; Le Roi d'Angleterre questions the claim of the noble to wisdom, subverting the expectations raised by the identification of its protagonists as 'le ioglour' and 'le roy' respectively.
In this, of course, the work attaches itself especially to the Enseignements of Louis, the most prominent exponent of kingly wisdom in MS Harley 2253, and it does so also in the fact that the jongleur becomes a source of advice to rival Louis:
'Sire, moun counsail vus dirroy: Si vus vostre estat vueillez bien garder, Ne deuez trop encrueler, Ne trop simple vers ta gent; Mes vus portez meenement; Quar vos meymes sauez bien Qe nul trop valt rien.' (fol. 109v) (36)
The measured tones of the jongleur, and his sententiousness, parallel those of Louis in the Enseignements; the difference is that the words of wisdom come here from a much more humble source. Le Roi d'Angleterre is the last work about kings in MS Harley 2253 before the Enseignements: anyone reading the manuscript sequentially has his responses towards the Enseignements conditioned by what he has previously read in Le Roi d'Angleterre. Louis's specialness is diminished by the resemblance between what he says and what the jongleur has already said; the unrelenting gravity of his tone comes to seem pompous in the wake of a sage who can mix seriousness with humour. Louis's authority appears less impressive in the context of the manuscript than it does if the Enseignements is read on its own.
There are other ways in which Le Roi d'Angleterre interacts with the Enseignements. A major theme of the Enseignements is Louis's support for the poor: he urges Philip, 'Eyez pitous cuer as cheytyfs e as poures e a tormentez e solum ton poer eidez les e confortez', and again, later, 'Tien toi auques plus vers la partie du poure que du ryche si la que tu sachez la verite'. (37) Poverty is also a prominent issue in Le Roi d'Angleterre, but here the man who raises it, the jongleur, is one of the poor himself. The jongleur describes the yearnings of the poor man and the constraints under which he lives:
'Nus n'avoms cure de auer, For que nus eyoms assez a manger; Plus despondroms a un digner Q'en vn mois purroms gayner.' (fol. 108v) (38)
What is highlighted here, and highlighted bluntly, is the physical and material hardship that is the plight of the destitute; the lines reject the less tangible kinds of comfort advocated by Louis, and the more elegant, less direct language in which these are commended. A gap is opened up between Louis's perspective and that of the real poor man, questioning the utility of what Louis so unquestioningly exhorts. The bases of the respective codes of conduct advanced in the two works are even more starkly opposed. Louis's code is one of absolutes; looking beyond worldly consideration, it grounds its clauses in the Christian evaluation of what is right: 'Gardez toi de totes choses que despleisent a dieu e de tot mortiel peschie te garde.' (39) The jongleur, on the other hand, recommends all things in moderation, including what Christians would regard as virtues:
'Qy par mesure tote ryen fra, Ja prodhome ne l'y blamera.' (fol. 109v) (40)
The best sanction that the jongleur can imagine is that of a worldly authority, the prodhome; if Louis encourages striving to satisfy God, the jongleur dwells on the cynical observation that satisfying all of one's fellow human beings is an impossibility:
'Si vus estez simple e sage houm, Vus estez tenuz pur feloun; [...] Si vus estes riche chiualer E ne volez point torneyer, Donqe dirra ascun houme Vus ne valez un purry poume; Si vus estes hardy e pruytz, E hauntez places de desduytz: "Cesti cheitif ne siet nul bien; Taunt despent qu'il n'a rien."' (fol. 108v) (41)
The gap between the texts may expose the limitations of the earthbound horizons of the jongleur, but then it also emphasizes the ethereality of Louis, his lack of contact with the gritty reality of the world. It is another way in which Le Roi d'Angleterre casts an ironic light on Louis's particular brand of kingship within MS Harley 2253.
One might wonder if this subtle ironizing of Louis in an English manuscript has something to do with the fact that he is French; but other Frenchmen in MS Harley 2253 appear to escape such barbed jibes. The manuscript includes prayers introduced by the rubrics 'Icest oreysoun enueia nostre dame seinte Marie a seint Moris euesque de Parys' and 'Seint Hillere archeuesque de Peyters ordina ces salmes pur prier a dieu': (42) here the origins of the material are clearly felt to be significant, and appear to be mentioned as an advertisement for it. This may be chiefly because of the identity of the individuals associated with the items rather than where those individuals came from; but where they came from is not something that the compiler feels the need either to conceal or to deride. Another manuscript that was copied by the scribe of MS Harley 2253, British Library MS Royal 12.C.xii, includes a text where a French king appears in a better light than an English one. The Anglo-Norman prose romance of Fouke le Fitz Waryn pits its hero, Fouke, against King John, who deceives and persecutes the innocent, and forfeits the loyalty of his most important subjects. Fleeing from John's wrath, Fouke and his companions travel to Paris, where they are astonished by the magnificence of the French court; Philip Augustus treats Fouke honourably and with loyalty, at one point refusing John's request to dismiss him from his retinue. The French king and his court here seem to be everything that John and his court are not, and while one could argue that there might be irony implicit in the positive portrayal of Philip (it is saying something, perhaps, if even the French king is a more attractive figure than the English monarch), it is not against Philip that this irony is directed. (43) This tolerance of Frenchness may seem surprising when one considers the period in which MS Harley 2253 and the Royal manuscript were being compiled: during the 1330s, when Anglo-French political relations were strained, and finally broke down, leading to the outbreak of the Hundred Years War in 1337. But then political hostility does not necessarily entail contempt for everything associated with the enemy, especially individuals from its past; nor does everyone feel a jingoistic desire to blacken such individuals. And to what extent are they seen first and foremost as associated with the enemy anyway? Criticism has recently made much of the expression of 'nationalistic' sentiment in literature of the period 1290 to 1340, but this sentiment is not ubiquitously evident. (44) The compiler of MS Harley 2253 apparently did not extend any nationalistic fervour he might have held to his treatment of the English kings included in the manuscript, since these are ironized as thoroughly as the French king Louis, if in fewer ways.
What we know about the compiler (who, I shall assume, is the same person as the scribe of MS Harley 2253) suggests that he may have had close personal contact with people of French descent, and it is worth considering how this may have tempered his attitudes to what he read and included in his manuscripts. He seems to have been especially well acquainted with the area around Ludlow, where he copied a number of charters; he also annotated references to Ludlow Castle in Fouke le Fitz Waryn in the Royal manuscript, suggesting an intimate knowledge of it. (45) In 1308, Ludlow Castle and half the town of Ludlow came under the lordship of Roger Mortimer and his wife Joan: together with estates in Ireland, they were passed to the couple by Joan's grandfather Geoffroi de Joinville, or Genville, who entered the Irish Dominican house at Trim that year. (46) There is evidence that the Harley compiler had some kind of connection with these magnates, because one side of the binding leaves of MS Harley 2253 contains early-fourteenth-century household accounts made at Ardmulghan, County Meath, which was in the Joinville holdings in Ireland. (47) Geoffroi de Joinville was French by birth: lord of Vaucouleurs, he married Maud de Lacy in 1252 and became co-heir to the Lacy inheritance in England and Ireland. Control of Geoffroi's 'cross-Channel' estates was subsequently divided among his family, his French lands passing to his son Gauthier in 1298; (48) the French connections of the Anglo-Irish lords known to the Harley compiler remain, however, strong. The link between the Joinville family and MS Harley 2253 is important also because Geoffroi de Joinville's elder brother was Jean de Joinville, seneschal of Champagne and biographer of Louis IX, whom Jean accompanied on crusade. (49) Was the Harley compiler especially interested in Louis because of the Joinville family connection with him? More intriguing still is the fact that Jean's biography actually incorporates a version of the Enseignements towards its close. (50) Did the Harley compiler have access to a copy of the work owned by Jean's English relatives, or a version of the material on which it drew?
It is easy to think of the compiler of MS Harley 2253 as somehow 'parochial'. Working in an isolated part of England, his interest in his own locale is reflected in his inclusion of the lives of saints whose cults were celebrated only in that region; his dialect of English contains forms with a very restricted currency, unmodified by outside influence. (51) But his contacts were far from narrow, and offered him links to much further a field. This is not only because of his apparent connection with the Joinvilles. The binding leaves of MS Harley 2253 also contain extracts from the ordinal of Hereford Cathedral, and in the Royal manuscript, the Harley scribe has copied the Latin seal-mottoes of two bishops of Hereford, Richard de Swinfield and Adam de Orleton. (52) Hereford was a great intellectual centre in the early Middle Ages, a 'transmitter or transformer' of diverse cultural influences, according to Michael Clanchy; (53) its bishops were great prelates. The Harley compiler seems to have had a particular interest in Adam de Orleton, who became bishop of Worcester in 1327: he includes Adam's Worcester sealmotto too. How well did he know him? The bishop served as a royal diplomat in Paris, and travelled to the papal curia in Avignon: (54) in him, the compiler would have known a very cosmopolitan man. Scholars have detected Italian influences in features of the Harley scribe's hand and his system of punctuation: 55 it is tempting to speculate that he might have picked these up from Italian jurists in Avignon. Whether this was the case or not, the indications that he was somebody with a knowledge of the world outside the area in which he seems to have compiled his manuscripts are complemented by his interest in the world that is evident in those manuscripts.
That MS Harley 2253 should include texts about kings is far from surprising: kings are the protagonists of most medieval romances, kingship the subject of many medieval treatises. What is distinctive is the way those texts are treated, so that they gather, and sometimes lose, meaning from their place within the manuscript, altering the ways in which they can be read. This, of course, evokes a comparison that has been made before, between MS Harley 2253 and The Canterbury Tales: as Thorlac Turville-Petre has claimed, in the manuscript, as in Chaucer's miscellany of tales, 'the possibility is kept open for any of the individual pieces, though self-sufficient, to gain new meanings in relation to others'. (56) As in The Canterbury Tales, this is as true of items that are separated by other works as of items that are juxtaposed, and it is as true of texts that share a theme as of ones belonging to the same genre. But there is another way in which MS Harley 2253 can be compared with The Canterbury Tales: because the manuscript, like the Tales, was put together by somebody whose contacts and interests were far-reaching, and who drew on material written abroad as well as works written more locally. Chaucer adapted this material, the Harley compiler incorporated it; Chaucer used it pervasively, the compiler only sporadically. (57) None the less, the compiler's work in the first half of the fourteenth century foreshadows Chaucer's in the second half of the century, and this is nowhere clearer than in his texts about kings.
(1) See in particular the essays in Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253, ed. by Susanna Fein (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000); see also Thorlac Turville-Petre, England the Nation: Language, Literature, and National Identity, 1290-1340 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), Chapter 6 ('Three Languages'). The classic study and edition of the lyrics is The Harley Lyrics, ed. by G. L. Brook, 4th edn (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1968).
(2) An example is Barbara Nolan, 'Anthologizing Ribaldry: Five Anglo-Norman Fabliaux', in Fein, Studies, pp. 289-327; other essays in this volume take a similar approach. Turville-Petre, England, pp. 198-217 is an exception, considering the interaction between texts in the three languages of the manuscript.
(3) My description of MS Harley 2253 is a controversial one: Theo Stemmler, 'Miscellany or Anthology?', in Fein, Studies, pp. 111-21 argues that it is an anthology rather than a miscellany, because many of the texts it contains have been 'discernibly arranged' (p. 120). I can only repeat a point made in my own essay in Fein's volume: 'The difference between a miscellany and an anthology is not a matter of organization but of selection of the contents: those in an anthology are admitted according to
(4) The work is generally dated to around 1225: see, for example, Of Love and Chivalry: An Anthology of Middle English Romance, ed. by Jennifer Fellows (London: Dent, 1993), p. viii. The other manuscripts of the text are Cambridge University Library MS Gg.4.27(2) (around 1300) and Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc. 108 (late thirteenth century). N. R. Ker in the Facsimile of British Museum MS. Harley 2253, EETS 255 (1965), p. xxi gives 'the fourth decade of the fourteenth century' as a likely date for the Harley manuscript; Carter Revard, 'Scribe and Provenance' in Fein, Studies, pp. 21-109 argues that copying of the manuscript postdates 1329 (p. 57), but predates 'ca. 1340-42' (p. 64).
(5) Editions of King Horn include 'King Horn': An Edition Based on Cambridge University Library MS Gg.4.27(2), with an Analysis of the Textual Transmission, ed. by Rosamund Allen (New York: Garland, 1984), and Fellows, Of Love, pp. 1-41. Line numbers in the present essay refer to the Harley version of the text printed in King Horn, Floriz and Blauncheflur, The Assumption of our Lady, ed. by George H. McKnight, EETS OS 14 (1901). Crane's Insular Romance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986) analyses King Horn in Chapter 1 ('Romances of Land and Lineage'); other discussions of King Horn as a romance can be found in, for example, W. R. J. Barron, English Medieval Romance (London: Longman, 1987), pp. 65-74. My point about the wresting of King Horn from its manuscript context echoes an observation made in Turville-Petre, England, p. 211, about the discrepancy between the context of the Harley lyrics and the way they are presented in modern editions.
(6) 'Her bygynne[thorn] [thorn]e geste of Kyng Horn' (fol. 83).
(7) Fellows, Of Love, p. xi, citing Allen, King Horn, pp. 15-16.
(8) The Vita Sancti Ethelberti, as I shall refer to the text, is unpublished: I have transcribed it from folios 53-54v of the manuscript. Ker notes (Facsimile, p. x) that the work is an abbreviation of the life printed by M. R. James in 'Two Lives of Ethelbert, King and Martyr', The English Historical Review, 32 (1917), 214-44 (pp. 236-44): this text is taken from Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 308. Although certain phrases in this text are identical to those used in the Harley Vita, however, some important details of the story are different. In my discussion, I quote from, and refer to, the Harley version of the text; the same is true of texts I consider subsequently. On the provenance of the Harley scribe, see Ker, Facsimile, pp. xxii-xxiii, and Revard, 'Scribe'. On the cult of Ethelbert, see D. H. Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 163, and Michael P. Kuczynski, 'An "Electric Stream": The Religious Contents', in Fein, Studies, pp. 123-61. The first forty-eight folios of the manuscript are in another, earlier hand, and are not reproduced in the Facsimile.
(9) The text of the Enseignements varies greatly between manuscripts: a composite version is printed in The Teachings of Saint Louis: A Critical Text, ed. by David O'Connell, University of North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures 116 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972). O'Connell questions the claim that the Enseignements were formulated by Louis when he was dying, and suggests that they may have been composed some time earlier (p. 47).
(10) Recueil general et complet des fabliaux des XIIIe et XIVe sie'cles, ed. by Anatole de Montaiglon and Gaston Raynaud, 6 vols (Paris: Librairie des Bibliophiles, 1872-90), ii, 242-56.
(11) Details of the saint's biography and cult are given in Farmer, Dictionary, p. 502; see also Kuczynski, 'Electric Stream'.
(12) King Horn, ll. 704-06.
(13) King Horn, ll. 1523-27. Dreams in MS Harley 2253 as a whole are discussed in Helen Phillips, 'Dreams and Dream Lore', in Fein, Studies, pp. 241-59; Phillips considers King Horn here, but not the Vita Sancti Ethelberti.
(14) 'Of the dissolution of his body and the forsaking of his kingdom' (fol. 53v).
(15) 'Keeping his heart sealed with the modesty of chastity' (fol. 53).
(16) Elphryda is the form in the Harley text for Old English AElf[thorn]ry[thorn], represented as AElf[thorn]ry[thorn]a in the version published in James, 'Two Lives'.
(17) Colette Beaune, The Birth of an Ideology: Myths and Symbols of Nation in Late-Medieval France, trans. by Susan Ross Huston (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), p. 44. Beaune's work here draws heavily on Ernst Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957).
(18) 'When I observe the great bounties God has granted me and the little good I have deserved, I prefer to put up with being wronged on this earth in worldly goods than to provoke enmity between Holy Church and myself ' (fol. 129); see O'Connell, Teachings, p. 57.
(19) Crane, Insular Romance, p. 27. King Horn is not thought to have been derived from The Romance of Horn: see, for example, The Romance of Horn by Thomas, ed. by Mildred K. Pope, rev. and completed by T. B. W. Reid, ANTS 9-10, 12-13, 2 vols (Oxford: Blackwell, 1964), ii, 3, and Fellows, Of Love, p. viii.
(20) 'Dearest son, I instruct you first of all to love God with all your heart and might, because no-one is saved without this'; 'Be obedient and loyal to the Church of Rome and the Pope, as he is your spiritual father'; 'Love representatives of religion above all people and help them in their duties, especially those through whom God is exalted in this world' (Enseignements, fols 128v, 129v, 129 respectively); see O'Connell, Teachings, pp. 55, 59, 58.
(21) Brychfridus is Berhferthus in James's text of the saint's life; Ethelbert appears 'with a great light' (fol. 54v).
(22) 'Avoid all mortal sin, to the extent that you endure excruciating suffering rather than commit any' (fol. 128v); see O'Connell, Teachings, p. 55.
(23) A. J. Greimas, Dictionnaire de l'ancien francais jusqu'au milieu du XIVe sie'cle, 2nd edn (Paris: Larousse, 1968) lists the following meanings for martire: 'martyre'; 'ravage'; 'souffrance'.
(24) See especially Nolan, 'Anthologizing Ribaldry'; Turville-Petre, England, pp. 199-217.
(25) 'Be careful not to wage war without careful deliberation'; 'If God sends you adversity, accept it graciously and thank the Lord, and reflect that it has happened for your own good and that you have deserved it because of what you have done wrong' (fols 129, 128v); see O'Connell, Teachings, pp. 58, 55.
(26) 'The instruction that King Louis of France gave Philip his son when he was on his death-bed in Tunis' (fol. 128v). Louis was captured during the Seventh Crusade, and a huge ransom had to be paid for his release: see for example, Alain Saint-Denis, Le Sie'cle de Saint Louis, 2nd edn (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1994), pp. 63-68.
(27) King Horn, ll. 886-952. Horn assumes the alias Godmod at this point (Cutberd in the other manuscripts of the work). He is given refuge by Thurston when he is discovered by the king's two sons on his arrival in the land.
(28) Jacques Le Go., 'Saint Louis et la parole royale', in Le Prince et son historien: La Vie de Saint Louis de Joinville, ed. by Jean Dufournet and Laurence Harf (Paris: Champion, 1997), p. 10.
(29) The text in James, 'Two Lives', p. 239 gives a different reason for Offa's queen's hatred of Ethelbert.
(30) 'I am in doubt whether to praise or condemn'; see William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regvm Anglorvm: The History of the English Kings, ed. and trans. by R. A. B. Mynors, completed by R. M. Thomson and M. Winterbottom, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998-99), i, 120-22, from which I have taken all translations of William's Latin.
(31) The lyrics are on folio 128; they are printed in Brook, Harley Lyrics, pp. 70-72. The possible origins of their pairing are discussed in Richard Firth Green, 'The Two "Litel Wot Hit Any Mon" Lyrics in Harley 2253', Mediaeval Studies, 51 (1989), 304-12; on what he calls the 'dialectic arrangement' between the contents of Harley 2253, see Carter Revard, 'Gilote et Johane: An Interlude in B.L. MS. Harley 2253', Studies in Philology, 79 (1982), 122-46.
(32) '"Who is your lord?" the king asks. "My lady's husband, for goodness sake."' See Montaiglon and Raynaud, Recueil, p. 243. I have restored spellings and forms regularized or altered by Montaiglon and Raynaud to the readings of the manuscript. A full discussion of the poem and its publishing history can be found in Nolan, 'Anthologizing Ribaldry', pp. 292-304.
(33) 'He was never accused of thieving; he's not been convicted of theft while he's been with me.' See Montaiglon and Raynaud, Recueil, p. 245.
(34) 'In truth, I'm not impressed with your way of life or the way you conduct yourself, because it's not worth a stone.' See Montaiglon and Raynaud, Recueil, p. 249.
(35) 'A wise man is one who speaks wisely, a fool whoever speaks foolishly.' See Montaiglon and Raynaud, Recueil, p. 256.
(36) 'Sire, I'll give you my advice. If you want to hold on to your position safely, you must be neither too cruel nor too indulgent towards your people; but act with moderation, because you yourself are well aware that it's useless to do anything to excess.' See Montaiglon and Raynaud, Recueil, pp. 255-56.
(37) 'Have pity in your heart for the wretched and the poor and the tormented, and help and comfort them to the best of your ability'; 'Be more inclined to take the part of the poor man than the rich until you have discovered what the truth is' (fols 128v, 129); see O'Connell, Teachings, pp. 56, 57.
(38) 'We're not interested in wealth, just enough to eat; we'll spend more on a single dinner than we can earn in a month.' See Montaiglon and Raynaud, Recueil, p. 248.
(39) 'Avoid all things displeasing to God and avoid all mortal sin' (Enseignements, fol. 128v); see O'Connell, Teachings, p. 55.
(40) 'No good man will criticize somebody who does all things in moderation.' See Montaiglon and Raynaud, Recueil, p. 256.
(41) 'If you are a straightforward, good man, people think you are wicked; if you are a powerful knight and you don't want to fight, somebody will say that you're not worth a rotten apple; if you are intrepid and valiant and frequent places where you have fun, "This rascal can't do anything worthwhile; he spends so much that he's penniless."' See Montaiglan and Raynaud, Recueil, pp. 249-50.
(42) 'Our Lady, St Mary, sent this prayer to St Maurice, the bishop of Paris', 'St Hillary, the archbishop of Poitiers, selected these psalms for praying to God.' These are items 104 and 111 in Ker's catalogue in the Facsimile.
(43) See Fouke le Fitz Waryn, ed. by E. J. Hathaway, P. T. Ricketts, C. A. Robson, and A. D. Wilshere, ANTS 26-28 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975). For the episode featuring Philip, see pp. 40-41. It is true that Philip's subjects are less positively portrayed than the king himself: one of his knights, Sire Druz de Montbener, is 'un molt orgoilous Franceys' ('a very arrogant Frenchman') who insists on jousting with Fouke despite Philip's warnings, and is ignominiously defeated. The editors' introduction gives a full account of the Royal manuscript; see also Ker in the Harley Facsimile, pp. xx- xxi, and Revard, 'Scribe and Provenance', which attempts to date the copying of the various sections of the manuscript. Revard and the editors of Fouke also discuss annotations made by the scribe of Harley 2253 and Royal 12.C.xii in another manuscript: British Library MS Harley 273.
(44) See especially Turville-Petre, England. Robert Warm has recently argued that Charlemagne romances were able to attain popularity during the Hundred Years War because Charlemagne was viewed as a Christian hero rather than a specifically French one (see 'Identity, Narrative and Participation: Defining a Context for the Middle English Charlemagne Romances', in Tradition and Transformation in Medieval Romance, ed. by Rosalind Field (Cambridge: Brewer, 1999), pp. 87-100). While this is undoubtedly true, I suggest that there are other reasons why the popularity of Charlemagne as a literary hero is not incongruous at this time.
(45) Revard, 'Scribe and Provenance' gives the fullest account of the scribe's associations with Ludlow: see p. 24 for his annotations to Fouke le FitzWaryn. Charters and documents in the scribe's hand are also discussed in Revard's earlier articles: 'The Scribe of Harley 2253', Notes &Queries, n.s. 29 (1982), 62-63; 'Three More Holographs in the Hand of the Scribe of MS. Harley 2253 in Shrewsbury', Notes &Queries, n.s. 28 (1981), 199-200; 'Richard Hurd and MS. Harley 2253', Notes &Queries, n.s. 26 (1979), 199-202.
(46) Revard, 'Scribe and Provenance', p. 24; Hathaway, Fouke, p. xxxv (n. 32). See also Ker, Facsimile, p. xxii, and Malcolm Vale, The Origins of the Hundred Years War: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 32.
(47) Ker, Facsimile, pp. xxii-xxiii; Revard, 'Scribe and Provenance', pp. 23-24.
(48) Vale, Origins, pp. 32-33. Geo.roi de Joinville is just one of a number of 'cross-Channel' lords of the pre-Hundred YearsWar era whom Vale discusses.
(49) Vale, Origins, p. 32; Hathaway, Fouke, p. xxxv (n. 32).
(50) See Jean, Sire de Joinville, 'Histoire de Saint Louis', 'Credo' et 'Lettre a' Louis X', ed. and trans. by Natalis de Wailly (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1874); for the Enseignements, see pp. 400-05. De Wailly's text has been translated into English by Joan Evans, The History of St Louis by Jean Sire de Joinville (London: Oxford University Press, 1938). I have also consulted two early printed editions of Joinville's biography: L'Histoire &Chroniqve dv treschrestien roy s. Loys, IX. du Nom, &XLIIII. Roy de France, ed. by Anthoine Pierre de Rieux (Poitiers, 1547); and Histoire de S. Loys IX. dv nom, roy de France, ed. by Claude Menard (Paris: Sebastien Cramoisy, 1617), which De Wailly's edition more or less duplicates. The Harley text of the Enseignements is closer to the versions published in these editions of Joinville than to the text published by O'Connell.
(51) On the dialect of the scribe, which is typical of the region in which he worked, see Frances McSparran, 'The Language of the English Poems: The Harley Scribe and His Exemplars', in Fein, Studies, pp. 391-426; also M. L. Samuels, 'The Dialect of the Scribe of the Harley Lyrics', in Middle English Dialectology, ed. by Margaret Laing (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1989), pp. 256-63.
(52) Ker, Facsimile, pp. xxii-xxiii; Revard, 'Scribe and Provenance', pp. 26-27. The Hereford ordinal is in the hand of the Harley scribe.
(53) M. T. Clanchy, England and its Rulers 1066-1272: Foreign Lordship and National Identity (London: Fontana, 1983), p. 177.
(54) Revard, 'Scribe and Provenance', p. 27.
(55) Hathaway, Fouke, p. xxxix and n. 41.
(56) Turville-Petre, England, p. 211. See also Nolan, 'Anthologizing Ribaldry', p. 327.
(57) Revard, 'Scribe and Provenance', p. 73 suggests that the Harley scribe may have composed some of the English lyrics included in the manuscript. If true, this would make him a compiler who turned his hand to occasional authorship, whereas Chaucer is an author who pretends to be turning his hand to compiling.
University College London
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|Publication:||Yearbook of English Studies|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2003|
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