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Philippe de Mezieres's Anglo-French crusading order and BnF f. fr. 2456.

Philippe de Mezieres is a central figure in the political and intellectual history of the fourteenth-century Mediterranean world. His zeal for holy war against militant Islam shaped everything in a long professional career. He was Chancellor of Cyprus from 1358 to 1369, playing an essential role in crusade-related diplomacy with the greatest secular and ecclesiastical leaders of his time. Upon returning to his native France in the early 1370s, he established himself as an indispensable royal counselor in Paris and became the most powerful advocate of the 1396 truce between England and France that facilitated a multinational Christian expedition against the Turks in eastern Europe. Philippe's prolific writings, along with his passionate campaigning for a crusade led by his international religious-military society, the Order of the Passion of Jesus Christ, earned him friends and followers from east to west (1) and even suggest his participation in a late-fourteenth-century network of European literary exchange (Hanly). This cluster's emphasis on international cultural and political diffusion across borders makes him a natural choice. In this essay, I will focus on the testimony gleaned from a particular manuscript--Paris, BnF f. fr. 2456. This codex contains a devotional text on the Lamb of God and was likely executed in a Parisian workshop between 1390 and 1395. The examination of its textual and iconographical details--which include the coat of arms of one of the leading officials in Philippe de Mezieres's Order of the Passion of Jesus Christ, namely the Burgundian nobleman Jean de Blaisy--suggests a number of fascinating connections between this book and the sphere of his transnational crusading society.

From the time the twenty-year-old undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during his first sojourn in the Middle East in 1347, Philippe de Mezieres envisioned a united Christian crusade to "liberate" the Holy Land. After serving for several years in France against the English, he returned to Cyprus in 1359, and was soon named Chancellor to the new king, Peter I of Lusignan (r. 1358-69). The two were instrumental in the mounting of the expedition against Alexandria in 1365, a venture that required years of planning and that sent them to all the European capitals in search of support. During that time, Philippe would have been able to establish the intellectual "network," I theorize, especially in England, Burgundy, and Italy. Philippe was in Venice several times during this period, and it must be there that he met Francesco Petrarca. (2) Their contact is documented by Petrarch's epistle to Mezieres, which is collected in the Letters of Old Age. (3) Philippe, for his part, translated the Latin story of Griselda, which Petrarch had adapted from Boccaccio's Italian-language tale at the end of the Decameron, and incorporated the story into two later works, along with a salute to the author, "his special friend from long ago." (4) This acquaintance with Petrarch enhanced his international profile while the Chancellor of Cyprus was still in his thirties. But Philippe's familiarity with the poet laureate and his writings, at a time when few people in France and England were reading him, seems even more significant in the context of his connections with French and English writers a quarter century later. (5)

Having abandoned Cyprus after the murder of King Peter in 1369, Philippe had returned to Paris by 1373, where he sought to persuade King Charles V (r. 1364-80) to proclaim a new crusade, one that might accomplish what the abortive Alexandria campaign failed to do (Iorga 416-43). The king rejected the crusade on political grounds, but retained the learned and experienced former Chancellor as a personal advisor and tutor to his son and heir. Charles VI (r. 1380-1422) came to the throne as an eleven-year-old in 1380, and, in the first year of his personal rule, called for a truce with the English and for a new campaign against militant Islam in the East; Philippe's continued exhortations had not been in vain. In 1384, he returned to an idea he had first conceived at the time of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem almost forty years before and composed a second version of his "rule" for his Chevallerie de la Passion de Jhesu Christ. (6) The "Order" was a military-religious coalition modeled after the chivalric orders, sworn to the creation of an ideal Christian society through obedience and discipline, and to the liberation of the Holy Land (Paris, Bibliotheque Mazarine 1943, fols. 45 r-101 r). His Songe du vieil pelerin of 1389 set these principles--Christian peace and unity as prerequisite to a "holy war" against militant Islam--into a vast allegorical and geographical context (Mezieres, Le Songe). His next composition, the allegorical Epistre au roi Richart of 1395, more pointedly exhorts the King of England to join a crusading coalition of French and English armies led by their two kings and knights of the Order of the Passion; the expedition would take place during a peace solemnified by the wedding between Richard and the daughter of Charles VI. (7) It is in this Epistre that Philippe incorporates one of his versions of the Griselda story he found in the work of Petrarch: given that Richard II was slated to marry the six-year-old daughter of Charles VI, the author suggests the malleable youth could become as exceptional a mate as the patient Griselda (London, BL Royal 20 B VI, fol. 49 r; Mezieres, Letter, 115: "le solempnel docteur et souverain poete, maistre Frangois Petrac").

The mid-1390s also saw the composition of a third and final redaction of his "rule," in the conclusion of which Philippe names four "evangelists" who have been advocating truce and crusade and lists the group's first members. (8) This roster, in many cases a veritable "who's who" of contemporary European aristocracy, also includes some less-prominent figures whose social connections support the thesis that the Order of the Passion had intellectual, as well as political, repercussions. For example, the document includes the name of a knight from Richard II's camera regis, Lewis Clifford, friend of Geoffrey Chaucer; the names of three other courtiers who would have been known to Chaucer appear here as well (Hanly 312). Philippe's strategies proved effective in the near term: a peace treaty was finalized; Richard II married young Isabelle of France by proxy in March 1396; and in April, a huge but undisciplined Christian army commanded by Duke Philip of Burgundy's young son departed for the east. The expedition's destruction by the Turkish sultan Bayezid I at the Battle of Nicopolis would bring to a crashing close a project first envisioned nearly a half-century before. (9)

One of the many Western noblemen to die at Nicopolis was Jean de Blaisy, lord of Mauvilly, royal chamberlain and captain of the city of Paris, and one of the four "evangelists" mentioned earlier, hand-picked by Philippe to disseminate the philosophy and objectives of the Order of the Passion. Since it is his blazon that appears on the first page of BnF f. fr. 2456, a biographical sketch is in order here. Blaisy was a Burgundian nobleman whose importance and ubiquity can be gleaned from original documents ranging over the last four decades of the fourteenth century. (10) By 1363, he was named as chamberlain to Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. In 1368-69, he completed an expedition to Prussia and, in 1374, served in a regiment commanded by Jean de Vienne, admiral of France, with whom he was closely associated thereafter. Blaisy was mentioned in the service of the young king Charles VI by 1381, probably served at his side at the battle of Roosebeke in the next year, and was listed among the king's bodyguards shortly thereafter. (11) He participated in an expedition to Scotland alongside Vienne in 1385. (12) In 1386, he conducted missions in Brittany for Charles VI alongside another eminent knight, Morelet de Montmor (BnF f .fr. 20590 no. 47). (13)

Having earned the king's confidence, in the second half of the 1380s Blaisy was entrusted with a crucial operation. The marauding Free Companies had become a major problem by this time in central and southern France, as is seen in the testimony of Philippe de Mezieres himself: in his Songe du vieil pelerin of 1389, he describes them as rapacious bloodsuckers, a menace to the nation: "... les compagnies du royaume de Gaule ... sont engendrees, nourries et engraissees et enflees du sang du peuple gallican comme la sansue en l'eauue attachee a aucun membre de l'omme." ["... the Free Companies in the Kingdom of France ... are spawned, fed, and fattened and engorged with the blood of the French people, like the leech in the water that attaches itself to some part of a man's body ..."]. The king must "exterminate these wicked leeches," (14) writes Philippe, and it was his trusted associate who was tasked with their removal (Le Songe 2.407; Songe 3.217). In records of the Chatelet de Paris from 1391, Blaisy is mentioned as royal chamberlain during the case against the notorious routier Merigot Marches. (15) In 1392, he was named captain of the city and viscounty of Paris, a difficult position in a volatile political moment. His obligations in the city of Paris prevented him from taking part in the expedition led by Charles VI during the same year, a venture that resulted in the king's first episode of madness. In 1394, Blaisy accompanied the diplomat and early humanist Jean de Montreuil on a mission to Scotland and England (Montreuil vol. 3 13-17; vol. 4 135-36, 308). J. J. N. Palmer sums up Blaisy's diplomatic career by comparing him with a more celebrated colleague: he observes that, unlike Oton de Grandson (see below), who served as an informal intermediary between the English and French courts,

John de Blaisy was employed more formally, on matters which required a very special tact and delicacy. He supervised the evacuation of the 'English' routiers from the southern provinces of France in the years following the truce of Leulingham [June 1389], and he was given the thankless task of arranging Scotland's inclusion in the truce in a way which would soothe English feelings. (Palmer 188)

Perhaps the highest honor in Blaisy's distinguished career came at the hand of Philippe de Mezieres. In the early 1390s, when Mezieres began his most forceful push for a truce between England and France that would lead to a crusade against the Turks, he chose four agents to propagate the message of his Order of the Passion to ranking nobles on both sides of the Anglo-French and papal divides (Iorga 490-91; also note Mezieres, Letter, 115). The most famous "evangelist" was Oton de Grandson, a Vaudois aristocrat and knight of honor to King Edward III (r. 1327-77) and his son John of Gaunt, veteran warrior and poet known to both France's Eustache Deschamps and England's Geoffrey Chaucer (Hanly 313). Robert de Mennot, a Norman known as "Robert the Hermit," provided the most visible contribution of the four, personally carrying the manuscript copy of Philippe's Epistre an roi Richart to the English king (Contamine and Paviot 83-84; Puiseux). Louis de Giac, a Limousin knight who died at Nicopolis, was the third. The fourth member of the group was Blaisy, whose experience as soldier and envoy had earned him a place at the center of the command structure for Philippe's influential Order. It had also destined him for service in that final and most ruinous military adventure of the European fourteenth century. In 1396, Blaisy's name appeared on a list of French knights at the head of the Western military coalition that would march to meet Bayezid I at Nicopolis. Philippe de Mezieres himself, despite his monumental efforts to launch this crusade, condemned the indiscipline of the assembled army on the eve of its departure (Paris, Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal, MS 2251, fols. 31-32v; cited in Iorga 489). (16) Contamine and Paviot observe that Blaisy, who must have been nearly sixty years old at the time, was assigned to the command structure along with other seasoned campaigners as a check to the rashness of young commander, Jean of Nevers. They imagine the veteran's dismay, both at the disgraceful behavior of the knights en route to Bulgaria and at their complete incompetence on the field of battle (Une epistre lamentable et consolatoire 90).

In the aftermath of that catastrophe, Philippe composed the Epistre lamentable et consolatoire, intended to comfort Philip of Burgundy during the captivity of his son John in the east and to exhort Christians to mount another crusade against the Turks. In the epilogue to this work, Philippe's narrator recounts a harrowing vision, that of "a great man, his face pale, dead and completely disfigured" (Une epistre lamentable et consolatoire 222). (17) The man was clothed in an old Turkish garment, a staff in his right hand; his feet were bare, his head uncovered, and blood flowed from a wound down his left side. Philippe describes him as his very dear friend, and the apparition introduces himself as a man who was in bygone days honored among soldiers and esteemed by princes, "the ill-fated Jean de Blaisy" (223), (18) killed on the field at Nicopolis or massacred along with several thousand other Christians by the Turks a day later. In a compelling interpretation of this passage, Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski observes that "The text's culmination is a multi-layered revelation in which one of his former companions, Jean de Blaisy (now dead), appears to him in his tattered Turkish clothing and reveals a vision important for the future of European chivalry." (19) Blaisy's account of the Battle of Nicopolis (Mczieres, Un epistre lamentable, 224-30) takes the typical Mezierean form of allegory, blaming the great defeat on the Western army's abandonment of the saintly figure Discipline de chevalerie. Philippe then equates this concept with the "chevalerie du doulx Jhesu plaiee" --the order of Christ crucified--"thus firmly linking Christ's Passion to chivalric discipline, replicating in fact the name of his own order, l'Ordre de la Passion de Jesus-Christ" (Blumenfeld-Kosinski 187). But the optimism and ambition that characterized Philippe's previous works is gone. Instead of claiming for himself the job of emissary to the kings of England, France, and Scotland in making this final plea for military and religious reform, Blumenfeld-Kosinski argues that "Philippe in a way abdicates; instead of continuing to pursue his goals of spreading his Order and the spiritual discipline that goes with it, he sends his dead friend and comrade-in-arms on a diplomatic mission, perhaps believing that a visionary message carried by a ghostly apparition will strike the fear of God into the secular rulers in a way that he, Philippe, has failed to do" (188).

The fact that Jean de Blaisy's coat of arms appears on the first folio of BnF manuscript fr. 2456, combined with a few other facts, can make plausible a certain amount of conjecture. We know that at least one other "evangelist"--the poet Oton de Grandson--shared the literary interests of the Order's founder. We also know that frangais 2456 was executed at about this time (20) and that, as we shall see below, was illuminated by a painter in a Parisian atelier Philippe had employed several years before. One can imagine Philippe de Mezieres presenting the book as a gift to Jean de Blaisy after having had the initial folio decorated with the Burgundian's blazon; at the same time the poet Grandson, and even the other two members of the quartet, could have been given copies of the same devotional volume, a text dominated by the salvific imagery central to the mission of the Order. In order to establish a context for this manuscript, we must consider the prominence of the iconography of the Lamb of God in Philippe de Mezieres's political writings and in other English and French texts and images from the mid-1390s.

In his study of the Middle-English Pearl, John Bowers analyzes the political imagery in artworks contemporary with frangais 2456, including the celebrated Wilton Diptych. In a close examination of the diptych, he argues that its "central obsession ... is the same as Richard II's political and personal obsession throughout the 1390s: "the sacred status of kingship" (Bowers 29). In its left panel, Richard is surrounded by two other monarchs, St Edmund of East Anglia and St Edward the Confessor. St John the Baptist appears alongside the kneeling king, clutching to him the Lamb of God, whose presence brings to mind the Baptist's salutation of Christ in John 1:29: "Ecce Agnus Dei." In the right panel, the three kings are saluted by the Christ Child, who is crowned with the emblems of his Passion: thorns and nails, reminders that kingship entails not only glory, but on suffering as well. The Christ Child raises his hand in benediction towards a white banner bearing a red cross, a standard that "partly represents the banner of St George as patron of the Order of the Garter and partly reflects the contemporary drive of men like Philippe de Mezieres for a crusade to liberate Jerusalem" (29). The Frenchman's devotion to the symbolism of the Lamb of God is significant here.

In her seminal article on the Wilton Diptych, Maude V. Clarke dates the work to the mid-1390s and suggests that its iconography expresses a similar spirit of accord and cross-channel commitment to crusade apparent in a work from nearly exactly the same date, Mezieres's Epistre an roi Richart. She zeroes in on the juxtaposition of the red-cross banner to the lamb held by St John the Baptist (Clarke 279-92). (21) For his part, Bowers observes that Clarke explicates these images through comparison with those in the unique copy of the Epistre au roi Richart (89). (22) The manuscript's famous presentation miniature depicts Richard II receiving the book from a man carrying the red-cross banner of Philippe's Order of the Passion, superimposed with the figure of the Lamb. A close-up image of the banner appears on folio 35 of the same manuscript. Bowers concludes that "the cumulative weight of the textual evidence extracted from Mezieres's Epistre au roi Richart suggests that by the mid-1390s the Lamb of God ... had become powerfully implicated in the English king's personal piety but also in his political dealings with the French, including the arrangements for his marriage to the child-bride Isabelle" (93). As part of the same diplomatic effort, Philippe gave John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon and Half-brother to King Richard, a copy of La sustance abregie--a version of his "rule" for member knights of the Order of the Passion--for delivery to Richard II. This document is probably the manuscript that survives as Oxford, Bodleian Library Ashmole 813, La sustance de la Passion deJhesu Crist, which contains images depicting the banner and the shield of the Order. As Bowers observes, the illustrations "clearly indicate that the Lamb on a red cross had been adopted as the insignia of the Order." He concludes that "these repeated appeals to the image of the Lamb in the Sustance and the Epistre au roi Richart were probably calculated to take full advantage of Richard II's well-known devotion to the Baptist whose iconography included the lamb" (Bowers 91). The imagery of the Lamb of God, therefore, is essential to the figurative mission of two crucial documents from the mid-1390s, the Wilton Diptych and the Epistre au roi Richart. We now turn, finally, to a consideration of another contemporary text in which the Agnus Dei features prominently and which contains as well the coat of arms of Jean de Blaisy. These facts suggest that the book may well have originated in the sphere--and maybe even at the command--of Philippe de Mezieres.

BnF manuscript fr. 2456 is very small, about the size of a mass-market paperback, bound within a decorated original calf-skin cover and dated approximately to the 1390s. It comprises sixty-seven folios of text written in a very careful cursive hand; the mise-en-page features alternating red or blue paragraph markers surrounded witH blue or red filigree, occasional square blue or red initials, and, more rarely, larger initials. The volume contains one work, a Middle French prose work entitled "L'aignel qui pour nous fu rostiz," which to my knowledge has been commented upon in only two publications. Even in these studies --an iconographical study by Francois Avril, and Joan B. Williamson's edition of Philippe's Book for Married Ladies--the notices are brief and incidental (Avril 269; Mezieres Le Livre de la vertu 7). Avril himself refers to the work as "rare." "L'aignel qui pour nous fu rostiz" is the first section of a tripartite devotional text entitled "Li Livres des enfans Israel," which appears in its entirety in a single manuscript, BnF f. fr. 1802, which later passed into the possession of Charles d'Orleans. Even this conjoined work is mentioned in but one study, an article on the function of memory in French theological texts by Sylvia Huot (104). The work is listed neither in Friedrich Stegmuller's Repertorium Biblicum Medii Aevi, nor in Keith Sinclair's French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages: A Bibliographic Manuscript Guide or its two supplements. The text in fr. 2456 is very close to the earlier version, its alterations limited to minor textual variations and the addition of several short passages. The text is anonymous, but one thing is certain: the author is not Philippe de Mezieres (born 1327), who would have been a boy when the manuscript containing the earliest known version of the Aignel, BnF f. fr. 1802, was copied in the 1330s.

The text draws its title from the first lines, in which the anonymous author claims to write of "L'aignel qui pour nous fu rostiz," literally "the lamb who was roasted for us," a formulation clearly linking the Passover lamb with Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God. Its title-page illumination features, from left to right, St Agnes of Rome with her symbolic lamb, St John the Baptist with the Agnus Dei in his left arm and a young lady (likely a relative of the manuscript's owner) under his right, and, finally, the Virgin Mother with the Christ Child on her lap holding an orb, perhaps a pomegranate. At the foot of that page appears the coat of arms of Jean de Blaisy: d'or seme de six coquilles, 3 et 3, a lafasce de sable.

"L'aignel qui pour nous fu rostiz" is a devotional treatise on the Lamb of God, drawn largely from Exodus. I have noted above that Philippe de Mezieres is clearly not the author of the "Aignel" text. Nevertheless, we know that Philippe was strongly attracted to the symbolism of the Lamb of God, and his affection for this iconography adds to the evidence suggesting that the Blaisy manuscript is connected to Mezieres and his circle. As Philippe observes in the introduction to his Epistre lamentable et consolatoire of 1397, this military society--which he, intriguingly enough for our purposes, describes as "un nouviau peuple d'Israel"--will carry before them "la banniere et les armes de l'Aingnelet occis, offrant son corps a mort au service de Dieu." The title of this little treatise, therefore, might itself have been enough to attract the attention of the founder of the Order of the Passion; it is then possible that, once having studied it, he decided to copy and disseminate it among his principals.

The exegetical practices in Laignel qui pour nous fu rostiz and in the works of Philippe de Mezieres also hint at a connection. Both Philippe and the Aignel author exhibit a tendency to cite a scriptural text and then to expand, sometimes at astonishing length, in an almost improvisational allegorical style. (23) Mezieres's method is to moralize and allegorize, to express himself, in his words, "par figure" and "par allegorie." This is not to say that the interpretations of scripture offered by the two authors are not sometimes straightforward. For example, early in the Aignel it is noted that "l'y aigneaulx rostis signifie Jhesucrist qui pour nous fu rostis en la croix." ("The roasted lamb signifies Jesus-Christ who was roasted for us on the cross.") For his part, Philippe, despite his reputation for prolixity, can also be concise, as we see in his comment on the same theme in the Epistre lamentable: he describes the Lamb of God as "l'Aingnelet occis, offrant son corps a mort au service de Dieu." (24) In his Livre sur la vertu du sacrament de manage, furthermore, he refers to "le doulz Aignelet qui en la Cene fu rosti et mengie en figure." ("The sweet lamb who was at the Last Supper figuratively roasted and eaten.") But more often than not, both writers prefer to cite texts and then elaborate, in the manner of homilists. Here is a passage from L'aignel qui pour nousfu rostiz:

Aprez venrez au flun Jourdain ou nostreseigneur trouva le sien nom, car en lettre appele Ton Marguerite, pierre precieuse, et le scripture dit que Dieux commanda ou flun Jourdain prendre deux pierres precieuses et l'evangille parle d'un home marcheant qui queroit bonnes marguerites, ce sont pierres precieuses.

Or se gart elle dont bien puis que Dieux est venuz pour li querre qu'elle ne se esconde paz en tenebrouse conscience ains face tant qu'elle soit trouvee. Se vous demandez que segnifie le flun Jourdain, sachiez que c'est autant a dire comme ruisseaux de jugement. Si signifie la mort par cui il convient passer tout le lignaige de Adam par le droit jugement de nostre seigneur.

After you come to the River Jordan where our Lord found his own name, because specifically we name these precious stones "pearls," and Scripture says that God commanded at the Jordan that they take two precious stones, and the Gospel speaks of a merchant who was seeking good pearls, these are precious stones.

But guard these stones well because God came looking for them, and they should not be hidden through dark conscience; we should rather make it so that they are found. If you ask to know what is signified by the River Jordan, know that it means the river of judgment. And so it signifies Death, through which all of the lineage of Adam must pass by the judgment of our Lord. (Paris, BnF f. fr. 2456, fols. 4 [r.sup.0] - 4 [v.sup.0])

This passage from Laignel provides a fine example of the text's method: it is drawn largely from the Hebrew history recounted in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, and liberally interpreted via references to the four Gospels. In Deuteronomy 27, the Lord commands the people Israel to build an altar of stones upon reaching the River Jordan. The Aignel author takes "stones" to mean "precious stones" and specifies "marguerites," that is, "pearls"--and to this theme he connects the passage from Matthew 13:45 in which the Kingdom of Heaven is likened to a merchant seeking fine pearls. The author goes on to say, tortuously, that such pearls should be carefully guarded, since the Lord demands that we not hide them because of a guilty conscience, under a bushel basket, as it were, and concludes the passage by saying that the River Jordan is a river of judgment, which signifies death, the fate of all sons of Adam.

Finding an apposite example in the vast allegorical corpus by Mezieres requires some searching; in his Songe du vied pelerin, for example, he offers one-hundred seventeen different allegories, some of which evolve into still other allegories. In the fifth chapter of his Epistre au roi Richart, however, Philippe employs the symbolism of the Exodus, claiming that just as Moses and Aaron were denied passage into Canaan for failure to sanctify the Lord at Meribah, so would God punish Charles of France and Richard of England for failing to make peace. But, a more fitting example of what Mezieres himself calls his "rough and ready moralizing" (Letter to King Richard I 92; English translation 20) is a passage near the end of the Epistre's first chapter, in which he displays his fascination with the imagery of precious stones. (25) This comes near the end of a long exhortation for peace between France and England, wherein Charles VI is figured as holy balm transformed into a precious carbuncle, and Richard II as the lodestone transformed into diamond:

Lc roi Richart ... de la nature des noirs sengliers dont il estoit issu fu transmue, parlant moralement, en la pierre precieuse d'aymant, merveilleusement atraiant comme il est dit dcssus, ct puis apres se transforma en la pierre du riche dyamant, et se transporta, parlant figuralment, par amour fraternelle a son frere, le roy Charles, dont par la bonte de Dieu le transport fu tel et de si grant vertu que I'escharboucle reluisant en un moment cuxi fu transmuee en la vertu et amour du fin dyamant ... par telle maniere et vertu singuliere que l'amour des ii. Pierres figurees, par la grace de Dieu est encore toute entiere ...

King Richard ... was, so to say, transmuted from the nature of the Black Boars from whom he sprang, into the precious lodestone, with its miraculous power of attraction ... and afterwards into the rich diamond. And he was transported by fraternal love towards his brother, King Charles, and ... in a brief moment the glowing carbuncle was also transmuted figuratively speaking by the virtue and love of the diamond ... in such a way that the love of the two precious stones, by the grace of God, became merged into one whole ... (Letter to King Richard II92; English translation 19-20)

But if precious stones provide the imagery for but one example in the Epistre au roi Richart, in Philippe's Litre sur la vertu du sacrement de manage they recur throughout the long text, in which marriage is allegorized time and again in terms of a wedding feast between the Ruby and the Diamond:
   Et ce souffice briefment a laie gent pour recognoistre la grant
   difficulte de cestui mariage de nostre redempeion, afin que nous en
   doions mieulx amer, servir, doubter, et honnourer nostre Pere et
   Rcdemptour, le Fin Rubin, et demourer enticrcmcnt en la sainte
   doctrine du Fin Dyamant son espouse, nostre mere sainte Eglise.

   And this is enough to permit lay people to recognize the great
   difficulty there is in this marriage of our redemption, so that we
   must love better, serve, fear, and honor our Father and Redeemer,
   the Fine Ruby, and rest entirely in the sacred teachings of the
   Fine Diamond, his spouse, our holy mother the Church. (20-24)

Typical of Mezieres's allegorical method, incidentally, elsewhere in this work the Diamond symbolizes the soul, and occasionally the synagogue. The imagery of precious stones in all of these works adds to the circumstantial evidence suggesting Philippe as the inspiration behind the copying and transmission of L'aignel qni pour nousfu rostiz at the end of the fourteenth century.

The cult of John the Baptist was popular in France, of course, as well, and the paintings by Francois Avril's "Policraticus Master," illustrator of the Blaisy Manuscript, participate in this trend. Illuminations on two different folios of a Life of Jean the Baptist dating from the early 1390s display the artist's repeated use of the Baptist holding the Lamb of God (Paris, frangais 2182, Vie de saint Jean-Baptiste, ca. 1392, fols. 1 r and 23 v; Avril 277-78, plates 22 and 26). The miniature on the first folio of the Blaisy manuscript reveals many of the details represented in the Wilton Diptych that recall devotional practices familiar to both Richard II and Philippe de Mezieres. The young lady of the Blaisy family is blessed by the Christ Child, who is not crowned with thorns but holds the pomegranate, symbolizing the passion. Finally, we must keep in mind that the "Policraticus Master" had been associated with Philippe and his Order since 1389, when he illustrated the presentation copy of his Book for Married Ladies (Avril 268, 281, and plate 15), and that he also decorated manuscripts of the Arbre des hatailles and Apparition maistre Jehan de Meun by Plonorat Bovet, a figure I place on the periphery of the political and intellectual network represented by members of the Order of the Passion (Avril 268, 282). (26)

Philippe de Mezieres was a giant whose career spanned six decades and a host of international borders, and whose name was renowned throughout the Western world. The evidence that we have to recommend this nearly-unknown prose manuscript as an artifact of his entourage is clearly circumstantial, but it is substantial enough to warrant further scholarly attention. L'aignel remains unedited and untranslated, and my comments here regarding its textual and visual imagery are only introductory. Some heraldic questions, furthermore, are still unanswered, and the inquiry into the textual annotations that first attracted the notice of French scholars thirty years ago remains inconclusive. The study of the opening illumination, finally, which has already yielded so much crucial information, must be expanded to consider frangais 2456 in the context of other illuminated manuscripts of its time. For now, this little book, whose theme is so consonant with the introspective devotional turn Philippe seems to have taken in the despondent conclusion of his career, provokes a good deal of useful inquiry into the life and times of one of the fourteenth century's most compelling and cosmopolitan figures.

Works Cited


Chevallerie de la Passion de Jhesu Christ. 1396. MS 2251, fols. 1 r-114 v. Bibl. Arsenal, Paris.

De l'aignel qui pour nousfu rostiz. Ca. 1390. f. fr. 2456. BnF, Paris.

Epistre au roi Richart. 1395. Royal 20 B VI. British Lib., London.

La sustance de la Passion de Jhesu Crist. Ca. 1395. Ashmole 813. Bodleian Lib., Oxford.

Recueil de titres scelles, originaux, provenant du la Chambre des Comptes et concernant divers voyages et ambassades en Italie, Castille, Aragon, Barbarie, Allemagne, Angleterre, etc. (1334-1573)" no. 47. 1386. F. fr. 20590. BnF, Paris.

"Recueil d'oraisons et pieces devotes," containing "Li Livres des enfans Israel." 1330s. F. fr. 1802, fols. 122 r-225 v. BnF, Paris.

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Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate. "Philippe de Mezieres's Ghostly Encounters from the Vie de Saint Pierre de Thomas (1366) to the Lepistre lamentable (1397)." Romania 127 (2009): 168-89.

Bovet, Honorat. Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Dialogue: the Apparicion maistre Jehan de Meun of Honorat Bovet. Ed. and trans. Michael Hanly. Tempe, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2005.

Bowers, John M. The Politics of Pearl: Court Poetry in the Age of Richard II. Cambridge; Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer, 2001.

Chayes, Evelien. "Trois lettres pour la posterite: la correspondance entre Philippe de Mezieres, Boniface Lupi et Frangois Petrarque (ms. Arsenal 499)." Philippe de Mezieres and his Age: Piety and Politics in the Fourteenth Century. Ed. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Kiril Petkov. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012. 83-117.

Clarke, Maude V "The Wilton Diptych." Fourteenth Century Studies. 1937. Oxford: Books for Libraries Press, 1967. 272-92.

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Mezieres, Philippe de. Philippe de Mezieres: Le livre sur la vertu du saint sacrament de manage, edited from Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale frangais 1175. Ed. Joan B. Williamson. Washington: Catholic U of America P, 1993.

--."Le Songe du Vieil Pelerin" of Philippe de Mezieres, Chancellor of Cyprus. Ed. George W. Coopland. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1969.

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--. Songe du Vieux Pelerin. Trans., intro. Joel Blanchard. Paris: Pocket/Agora, 2008.

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(1) Philippe Contamine and Jacques Paviot provide an excellent short biography in their recent edition of Mezieres's line epistre lamentable, 11-45. In the words of these modern editors, however, Nicolae Iorga's monograph, Philippe de Mezieres, remains "irremplagable." Joel Blanchard's Modern French translation of the author's most important work, the Songe du Vieux Pelerin, provides a briefer review of the facts.

(2) Ernest Hatch Wilkins shows that Petrarch left Provence in the summer of 1352, never to return (128). He lived in Venice (with occasional visits to Padua and Pavia) between 1362 and 1368, and, according to Wilkins, the poet laureate "presumably became acquainted with Philippe de Mezieres" there "either in 1363 or not long thereafter" (193). For his part, Iorga (Chap. 8, 202-72) chronicles Philippe's activities in Venice and elsewhere in Italy in 1363-64, and observes (253 n. 3) that it was around this time (Summer 1364) that the two were introduced.

Giuseppe di Stefano points out, incidentally, that Mezieres was the first French author whose work contains a reference to Dante (159-61). The passage in question is Inferno 33.151-53, where the narrator wishes the depraved Genoese had been driven from the earth. Philippe cites this passage to underscore his disgust with the same city in the Songedu vieil Pelerin 1.39.

(3) Seniles (Epistolae return senilium) 13.2, Opera Omnia, 2 vols. (Basel 1554; repr. Ridgewood, NJ: Gregg Press, 1965), 2.1013-15.

(4) See Hanly, "Courtiers and Poets," 309-10, and Chayes.

(5) See the brief reference to this matter at pages 5-6 and note 13, below.

(6) The first had been written near the end of his service as Chancellor of Cyprus, in 1367-68.

(7) The manuscript is London, British Library Royal 20 B VI. It has been edited and translated by G. W. Coopland.

(8) This third and most complete version of Philippe's "rule," which bears the French name of the Order (Chevallerie de la Passion de Jhesu Christ), is conserved in Paris, Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal 2251, fols. 1 r-114 v; the list of "evangelists" and supporters of the Order appears at fols. 112 v-114 v. Sections of this text, including the passage containing these names (362-64), were published by Auguste Molinier.

(9) The battle took place on September 25, 1396, and its outcome was not known at the court of France until Christmas. A thorough study of the conflict is Aziz S. Atiya, The Crusade of Nicopolis.

(10) For much of this information I am indebted to the biographical summary in Contamine and Paviot, 87-90.

(11) At the Battle of Roosebeke (Westrozebeke, West Flanders) on November 27, 1382, the French army crushed a Flemish force under Philip van Artevelde. For a detailed account of the battle, see Vaughan 25-28.

(12) Blaisy is mentioned in the account presented by Francisque Michel 88.

(13) Morelet de Montmor, lord of Gouaix in Ile-de-France, was a chamberlain to King Charles V and is most famous for having been involved, along with his brother Jacques and the knight Owen of Wales, in the defeat and capture of the Captal de Buch (June 1372). In 1387, he is called captain and castellan of the fortifications and castle of the Louvre, and in 1388, castellan and consierge of the Louvre. Sec Dupont-Ferrier 2.71 and 4.387 and Christine de Pizan 205 and note 5.

(14) " ... extirper les dictes males sansues." Translations, unless otherwise specified, are the author's.

(15) For Blaisy's role in these negotiations, see Moranville 81-86.

(16) An echo of Philippe's criticism is seen in a contemporary text by Honorat Bovet (1398): a Muslim speaker in the aftermath of Nicopolis observes that Christian knights have been too proud to train and have seen the calamitous results on the battlefield, concluding that they are concerned more for ostentatious sendoffs than for victory: "Mais que le partir soit joly, /Vous ne regardes point la fin" ("But in assuring that the start is splendid, /You never give a thought to the finish") (Bovet 515-16 and note 70).

(17) "...un grant homme, la face pale, admortie et toute deffiguree, et qui avait les piex nuz et la teste decouverte, un bourdon en sa main destre auquel il s'apuioit, et estoit vestuz d'un vil et vicl habit des Turs, blanc et tout dessire, et saint d'unc corde. Encore ladicte personne piteuse a veoir ou coste senestre avoit une grant plaie, de laquelle le sang couloit a grans ruissiaux jusques a ses piez ..."

(18) "Je suis, dit il, l'infortunejchan de Blaisy qui souloye estre reputez aucuncment entre les gens d'armes et le grans prince m'avoient assez chier."

(19) Blumenfeld-Kosinski 182. The author notes, incidentally, that the Scottish episode cited by Palmer (188) "helps Philippe double check whether this phantom is in fact his late friend: are you not the one, Philippe asks, 'qui anongas a la generacion d'Angleterre et d'Ecosse qu'ils deiissent cesser d'espandre le sane de leurs freres crestiens?"' (187; Mezieres, Une epistre lamentable, 223).

(20) Frangois Avril places this manuscript in the middle period (1380-95) of a prolific illuminator's career (281); upon examination of the manuscript, his BnF colleague, Dr. Marie-Therese Gousset, suggested in a personal communication that it had been completed during the 1390s.

(21) See also Gordon.

(22) See also Mezieres Le Songe du Vieil Pelerin.

(23) For a detailed study, see Williamson "Allegory in the Work of Philippe de Mezieres."

(24) Mezieres also employs the phrase TAignelet Occis" in his Songe du vieil Pelerin, Coopland, ed. 1.85 (Prologue) and at 1.295 and 296 (chap. 39); he also describes "le Doulx Aignelet Occis" at 2.284 (chap. 246).

(25) See Kinoshita 41 and note 2, where she discusses several instances of fictional nobles masquerading as jewel merchants. See also Williamson, "Jewels in the Works of Philippe de Mezieres."

(26) On Bovet's potential contacts with the milieu of Mezieres's Order, see Hanly 316-21.

Michael Hanly is Professor of Medieval Literature in the Department of English at Washington State University, and chercheur associe in a medieval history unit of the Centre national des recherches scientifques. He has published on Anglo-French politics and culture in the time of the Hundred Years' War, and on such authors as Geoffrey Chaucer, Honorat Bovet, and Philippe de Mezieres.
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