Matthew Giancarlo
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Mirrors of war
Chronicle narratives, class conflict and regiminal ideology between France and England, c.1330–1415

This chapter addresses the dynamics of class, language and reciprocity or exchange between England and France, specifically in ideas of ‘good governance’ and proper ‘regimen’ during the Hundred Years War. Drawing on vignettes and narratives from wartime chronicles (Jean Froissart, Jean de Venette), as well as de regimine or ‘mirror’ texts (William of Pagula, Thomas Hoccleve and Christine de Pizan), this chapter argues that these shared French and English writings reveal a clear crossing of class-based and national-based identifications often at odds with the ostensible sides of the war: English and French nobility often had more in common with each other than they did with their own countrymen, just as the labouring classes were recognised as a border-crossing estate. Similarly, ideals and standards of good governance and proper regimen – as expressed in contemporary de regimine texts and poetical works (William of Pagula, Thomas Hoccleve, Christine de Pizan and others) – also display a pattern of cross-identification between supposedly opposed sides. Overall it is argued that this pattern of identity-in-difference, as it was inflected across both class and nationality, provides a unique perspective for understanding the ideological and constitutional self-images presented by contemporary writers.

Jean Froissart was nothing if not a good storyteller, and in large part his talent for choosing compelling anecdotes underlies the power of his wartime narratives. A famous vignette from his account of the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 can serve as a good entry point for investigating the dynamics of class, language and the wartime practices of exchange that underlay ideas of governance and regimen between England and France during the Hundred Years War. On the battlefield at Poitiers as the French are being routed – even driven back to the city walls and slaughtered in the road before the main gate – the standard-bearer Geoffrey de Charny is killed and the French forces dissolve into chaos. The king’s division collapses and King John II himself, surrounded by hostile English, looks to surrender. As he is being jostled, he comes into range of ‘un chevalier de la nation de Saint-Omer que on clamoit monsigneur Denis de Morbeke’ [a knight from the region of Saint-Omer called Sir Denis de Morbecque],

et avoit depuis V ans ou environ servi les Englès, pour tant que il avoit de sa jonèce fourfait le royaulme de France par guerre d’amis et d’un hommecide que il avoit fait a Saint-Omer, et estoit retenus dou roy d’Engleterre as sauls at as gages. Si chéi adont si bien à point au dit chevalier que il estoit dalés le roy de France et li plus proçains qui y fust, quant on tiroit ensi à lui prendre: si se avança en le presse, à le force des bras et dou corps, car il estoit grans et fors, et dist au roy en bon françois, où li roi s’arresta plus c’as aultres: ‘Sire, sire, rendés-vous.’ Li rois qui se veoit en dur parti et trop enforciés de ses ennemis et ossi que la deffense ne li valoit mès riens, demanda en regardant le chevalier: ‘A cui me renderai-jou? à cui? Où est mon cousin le prince de Galles? se je le veoie, je parleroie.’ – ‘Sire,’ respondi messires Denis de Morbeke, ‘il n’est pas ci; més rendes-vous à moy, et je vous menrai devers lui.’ – ’Qui estes vous?’ dist li rois – ’Sire, je sui Denis de Morbeke, uns chevaliers d’Artoi; mès je siers le roy d’Engleterre, pour tant que je y ay fourfait tout le mien.’ Adont respondi li rois de France, sicom je fui depuis enfourmés, ou deubt respondre: ‘Et je me rench à vous’, et li bailla son destre gant.

[who had been with the English for five years because he had been banished from France in his youth after killing a man in a family feud. He had become a paid retainer of the King of England. Fortunately for this knight he found himself near to King John during the scuffle to capture him. He forced his way through the press, for he was a big, strong man, and said in good French, by which he attracted the king’s attention better than the others: ‘Sire, give yourself up!’ Seeing himself in this desperate plight and feeling that resistance was useless, the king looked at him and said, ‘to whom shall I surrender? To whom? Where is my cousin the Prince of Wales [i.e. Edward the Black Prince]? If I could see him, then I would speak.’ ‘Sire,’ replied Sir Denis, ‘he is not here. But surrender to me and I will take you to him.’ ‘Who are you?’ the king asked. ‘Sire, I am Sir Denis de Morbecque, a knight from Artois. But I serve the King of England because I have been exiled from France and have forfeited all my possessions. Then, as I was informed, the king answered, or probably answered: ‘I surrender to you’, and gave him his right-hand glove.]1

Sir Denis’s bon françois gives the enterprising knight an advantage on the battlefield, as the king can understand and communicate with him to secure his own safety. Denis is another figure of exchange, serving in the court of the English king because of his banishment from his native lands in Artois. Thus, a French-speaking knight from Artois in the service of the English king secures (at least temporarily) the grandest prize to be won, his own French king.2 He does so explicitly to deliver him to Prince Edward the Black Prince, as this exchanged knight himself was eager to profit from the aristocratic game of prisoner exchanges that provided the profits of war. King John was nobly received by his ‘cousin’ the Prince of Wales, and as the Chandos Herald notes, the two kinsmen resided amiably together that night in a tent on the battlefield, among the dead.3

And so, as Froissart famously declared, at Poitiers ‘Et fu là morte … toute li fleur de la chevalerie de France’ [there died the whole flower of French chivalry].4 The capture of King John precipitated the continued troubles in France for decades to come. The circumstances attending that surrender provide a good example of how the shared assumptions and class-determined practices of exchange made the whole episode play out as it did between warring nations, and as I will argue here, how that dynamic of exchange blurs the lines of interior versus exterior, of ‘national’ identity versus cross-class and cross-national allegiances. Sir Denis has made a home in exile in England and even in English royal service; King John scans the battlefield for his English cousin to properly surrender. Both men behave like family, communicating and sharing as kin even amidst the bloodiest conflict yet seen in the war. It is not just shared language and class but the shared language of class that makes the terms of exchange possible.

As I would like to argue in this analysis, it is also a shared language of governance and regimen, that is, a specific modality of regiminal understanding of proper behaviours which come to the surface as governing principles with both symbolic and pragmatic force, depending on ‘who one is’ in the stratified relations of language and social position. As much recent scholarship has made clear, these relationships were mediated by wartime literary practices, and they were further reinforced by exchanges of specifically regiminal and mirror-texts circulating between France and England with notable frequency. At the aristocratic and royally symbolic level, these sorts of exchanges were cultivated particularly in the second phase of the war under Richard II (r.1377–99), as the English attempted to imitate the Valois-inspired cult of divine kingship.5 At the lower levels of the social spectrum where the war was fought closer to the bone, we find remarkable expressions of class awareness that are as cognisant of their antagonistic distinctions as they are of their mutual dependence, expressions of both difference and solidarity that confuse the nationalistic boundaries supposedly driving the conflict. I would like to discuss here several examples of this exchange dynamic, in both poetry and prose, highlighting the sometimes occluded relation of sameness-in-difference specifically in contemporary idealisations and critiques of good governance.

Chronicle accounts from the time around Poitiers provide telling examples of the crossing of conflicts from exterior foreign war to interior civil war, and from one nationality to the other. In the chronicle of Jean de Venette, the Carmelite friar and Provincial Superior of France provides (with the benefit of hindsight) a foreboding account of the conflicts between the peasantry and aristocracy that would cross national borders in the wake of the French defeat at Poitiers:

Anno igitur eodem MCCCLVI fastus et dissolutio in multis personis nobilibus et militaribus quamplurimum inolevit … Incoeperunt etiam gestare tunc plumas avium in pileis adaptatas, laxantes ultra modum se ad voluptates carnis, et ad ludos taxillorum de nocte, et pilae cum palma de die nimium intendentes; unde populus communis lugere poterat et lugebat pecunias ab eo pro facto guerrae levatas, in talibus ludis et usibus inutiliter positas et conversas. Tunc temporis nobiles, derisiones de rusticis et simplicibus facientes, vocabant eos Jaque Bonne homme. Unde in illo anno qui in bellis rusticaliter missi portabant arma sua, trufati et spreti ab aliis, hoc nomen Jaque Bonne homme acceperunt, et nomen rustici perdiderunt. Quo quidem nomine omnes rustici ruerunt postea tam a Gallicis quam Anglicis diutius nominati. Sed, proh dolor! multi qui eos hoc tempore tali nomine deriserunt, a quamplurimis de ipsis postmodum letaliterdelusi sunt. Nam multi postea per manus rusticorum, ut dicetur, miserabiliter perierunt, et deinde vice versa plurimi rustici per aliquos nobiles crudeliter occisi sunt, et villae eorum in hujusmodi vindictam concrematae.

[In the same year, 1356, the luxury and dissoluteness of many of the nobles and the knights became still more deeply rooted … By night they devoted themselves immoderately to the pleasures of the flesh or to games of dice; by day, to ball or tennis. Wherefore the common people had reason to lament, and did lament greatly, that the taxes levied on them for the war were uselessly spent on such sports and converted to such uses. It was at this time that the nobles in derision called the peasants and simple folk Jacques Bonhomme. That year men sent to the wars who bore arms in rustic fashion of peasants were given the name Jacques Bonhomme by those who mocked and despised them, and thus lost the name of peasant. Both French and English called peasants this for a long time afterwards. But, woe is me! Many who derided peasants with this name were later made mortal sport of by them. For many nobles, as shall be told, perished miserably at the hands of peasants and many peasants in turn were cruelly slain by the nobles and their villages burned in revenge.]6

Venette’s foreshadowing of the Jacquerie Revolt of 1358 is remarkable for its connection of the peasant uprising not just to the tax burdens imposed by the nobility ostensibly to pay for the war, but to the class antagonisms expressed during the war muster itself.7 The very name Jacques Bonhomme – apparently displacing the ‘lost name’ of rustici/paysan as ‘(fellow) countryman’ – was a pejorative identity-marker for the same peasantry who were serving in the war, indeed the ones who would die at the Battle of Poitiers alongside (or underneath) the ‘flower of French chivalry’. In this way the conflict of French versus English was mirrored by the conflict of low versus high class within the French nation and even within the military impressment. That specifically class-based conflict carried across national lines as the derisive name of ‘Jack Goodman’ became as much English property as French.

As Venette explains and Froissart also relates – and as Christine de Pizan would also later assert repeatedly – at its root this crossing of conflict resulted directly from the loss of proper regimen among the ruling classes of the nation which in turn prompted the breakdown of relations ostensibly justifying estates’ distinctions and governance in the first place. Froissart composed two remarkable pastourelles on the subject, one lamenting the violence of the routiers who pillaged the French countryside after the Battle of Poitiers, and another decrying that ‘a wolf has been set to guard the sheep’ (‘un lour pour garder les oeilles’), which probably refers to the peace treaties negotiated between France and England in 1359–60 that left the common people exposed to violence from both the English invaders and their own nobility.8 Far from defending the country, as Venette also laments, the nobility became the wartime enemy of their own peasants, and the peasantry could not distinguish the marauding forces of the English – both armies and free companies pillaging at will – from their own nobility.9 Even accounting for the chronicler’s biases, other sources attest to essentially the same dynamic of internalised war. This too has an interesting set of symbolic and ideological manifestations in the blurring of French and English national identities, as it becomes harder to say just who were the ‘fellow countrymen’ and who the ‘enemy’.

Froissart presents the popular uprising of the Jacquerie as an anti-chivalry: headless, animal and inhuman, anticipating and perhaps influencing John Gower’s later characterisation of the Great Rising of 1381. As such, military violence was easily turned inward, even as the rebellious constituency of the Jacquerie itself displayed a ‘remarkable degree of organizational and hierarchical leadership’, possibly drawn from military experience.10 Froissart recounts how the commander for the English, the Captal de Buch (Jean III de Grailly), together with the count of Foix, effectively turned their military skills against the rebellious peasants of Meux, ‘exterminat[ing] more than seven thousand’ [il en tuèrent ce jour plus de VIIm] and burning the town to the ground.11 And another siege episode indicates how the violence of the war operated on two separate planes or levels. In 1359, at the town of Cormicy (just north of Reims), the English commander Bartholomew Burghersh successfully invested and undermined the castle controlled by the archbishop of Reims.12 Rather than attacking, Burghersh brought the castle’s commander, Sir Henry de Vaulx, safely outside to see that his great tower had been completely compromised and would fall as soon as the English attacked. Sir Henry then surrendered his garrison peacefully and commended Burghersh for his honourable behaviour: ‘Certainnement, sire, vous avés bonne cause, et ce que fair en avés, vous vient de grant gentillèsce: si nous mettons en vostre volenté et le nostre ossi’ [Certainly, sir, you were quite right and it was really a gentlemanly act to do what you did. We put ourselves at your disposal with everything we have with us]. As the castle is destroyed, Froissart recounts Burghersh’s telling exchange with Vaulx:

‘Or regardés’, ce dist messires Biétremieus à monseigneur Henri des Vaus et à chiaus de la fortrèce, ‘se je vous disoie vérité’. Il respondirent: ‘Sire, oil, nous demorons vostre prisonnier à vostre volenté, et vous remercions de vostre courtoisie, car lie Jake Bonhomme qui jadis resgnèrent en ce pays, se il euissent esté au-deseure de nous ensi que vous estiés orains, il ne nous euissent mies fait la cause parelle que vous avés.’

[‘Look at that’, said Lord Burghersh to Sir Henry de Vaulx and the rest of the garrison. ‘Didn’t I tell you?’ ‘Yes, sir’, they replied. ‘We will remain prisoners at your discretion and we are grateful for your courteous dealing. If the Jack Goodmans (Jake Bonhomme) who were once uppermost in this district had got the better of us as you did just now, they would never have treated us in this generous way.’]13

This is another story of military surrender where again the wartime distinctions between ‘French’ and ‘English’ are almost completely blurred by the coordinate but orthogonal forces of social class. Like King John on the battlefield looking to surrender to his English cousin, the local French and English chivalry have more in common with one another than they do with their own countrymen, and their conduct in war is explicitly framed in this differential way.

At the same time, the Jack Goodmans/Jacques Bonhommes of both nations apparently formed a boundary-crossing estate as well, and this conflict, high versus low, also inflected the perception of the conduct of the war from a bottom-up perspective. Decades later a similar dynamic is evident in Froissart’s account of the English Uprising of 1381, which was motivated by English domestic wartime pressures but which Froissart presents as part of a transnational crisis. After telling how the English rebels forced some knights and nobles to join their ranks, he says of the Uprising:

Or regardés le grant derverie. Se il fuissent venu à leur entente, il eussent destruit tous les nobles en Engletière, at après en autres nations. Tous menus peuples se fust revelés; en prendoient piet et exemple sour cheux de Gand et de Flandres qui se rebelloient contre leur signeur, et en celle propre année li Parisyen le fissent ossi et trouvèrent à faire les mailles de fier, don’t il fissent plus de XX mille, sicom je vous recorderay quant je seray venus jusques à là, mais nous poursievrons à parler premièrement de ceulx d’Engletière.

[Just consider what devilry was abroad. If their plans had succeeded, they would have destroyed all the nobility of England; and afterwards, in other nations. All the common people would have rebelled; they had been inspired and influenced by the people of Ghent and Flanders who rebelled against their lord. And in that very year the Parisians did the same, making themselves long iron hammers to the number of over twenty thousand.]14

Froissart’s account of the English Uprising is among the best known and most informative, both for the broad sequence of events and for some of the domestic details.15 Here, taking a wider view, Froissart connects the rebellion directly to the Maillotins Uprising of 1382 in Paris and (by implication) to the Harelle rebellion in Rouen just prior to it, as well as to the long Flemish peasant rebellion of 1323–28. Ostensibly both the English and French rebellions were motivated by abuses of taxation, but Froissart sees them as cross-channel expressions of organised anti-aristocratic violence and as revolutionary movements taking inspiration from one another. The disparate events are presented as de facto evidence of a kind of European community of bonhommes, a mirror-reversed version of the transnational self-awareness of the chivalric class itself. International chivalric war has its not-so-secret sharer in class war.

At other places Froissart also accounts for the class-based anger of the English community, expressed not by the bourgeoisie but explicitly by the agrarian and pastoral working segment:

Et, se le coustiage et les tailles en estoient grandes parmy France, aussi estoient-elles en Angleterre et tant que toutes gens s’en douloient. Mais pour tant que la communaulté veoit que il besoingnoit, ils s’en portoient au plus bellement que ils povoient. Si disoient-ils: ‘C’est trop sans raison que on nous taille maintenant pour mettre le nostre aux chevalliers et escuiers de ce pays; car pourqouy? Il fault que ils deffendent leur héritages. Nous sommes leurs varlets, nous labourons leurs terres et les biens de quoy ils vivent. Nous leur nourrissons les bestes de quoy ils prendent les leynes. A tout considérer, se Angleterre se perdoit, ils perdroient trop plus que nous’.

[And if the expenses and taxes were great in France, they also were in England, and everybody complained about them. But insofar as the community saw that it was necessary, they bore it as best they could. So they said, ‘It’s ridiculous that we are taxed to give our goods to the knights and squires of this country; and why? It’s their job to defend their own heritages. We are their servants, we work their lands and [provide] the goods by which they live. We feed their beasts from which they take the wool. All things considered, if England were lost, they would lose a lot more than us!’]16

Here, in another mirror-moment, the comparison between England and France is made explicitly to show that for the labouring classes – servants and agricultural labourers and workers of the wool trade, England’s tax staple – things really were not so different on either side. Since the nobility were fighting for their own ‘good(s)’, their relation to the nation is seen as a sectional and fundamentally different interest. They are the ones with something to lose, not the workers who labour for them. And yet the English labourers are now the ones being taxed for war and (at this point in the 1380s) with a severity finally beginning to approach the level of exploitation already felt in France for decades.

Froissart’s point is probably to condemn the disloyal and unchivalrous grumbling of the lower classes, but viewed overall, these several vignettes point to a larger insight. Taken in the context of the military events of the war and the conduct of war, what emerges from them is a complex set of exchanges across not just the national categories of ‘French’ and ‘English’ but also across the ideological divide of feudal versus seigneurial bonds and the manifestations of class identity. The feudal system of vassalage bound the aristocracy together but also exposed the contradictions and conflicts of material interest at stake in the ties of hereditary lordship, as well as in the political fault-lines not mapping neatly onto national divisions. Correlatively, the seigneurial system of material extraction and manorial dominance – the relentlessly local and regional exploitation of peasant and artisanal classes – emerges as a non-localised and rhizomatic vector of conflict that criticises, in a potentially revolutionary way, the transnational ideals of princely governance and regimen supposedly justifying the peasantry’s own subjection. Since the nobility were no longer fulfilling their duty of protection – indeed, since they were as bad as ‘the enemy’ in both violence and taxation – what good was obedience and service? And from the perspective of the narrative and genre-based expressions of these tensions, we might fairly ask how it is that at least some of the recorded events of the Hundred Years War indicate the mixture of stratified languages we see in this context of conflict?

The episodes discussed so far have highlighted the complex exchanges of French–English wartime identities at the practical but also conceptual or ideological level. They provide examples of the ambiguity attending questions of ‘national’ identity for both sides, perhaps more so for the French and their less precociously developed structures of nation statehood.17 At the same time, as these episodes make evident, the cross-class and cross-national tensions of identity were not unperceived, both between nations and within them. Explicit connections were drawn not just from chivalry to chivalry but also from peasantry to peasantry, and against the grain of the national boundaries that both sides tried to enforce. Practical notions of ‘good governance’ and its failure bespeak the kind of boundary-crossing awareness of regiminal ideals exchanged in the literature of governance across the temporal length of the Hundred Years War, and indeed both before and after it.

At first glance this may seem a strange genre-connection to make, from chronicles and imaginative writings to the supposedly practical writing of de regimine texts and mirrors for princes, in the context of war narratives that display this conflict-driven ideological mixture. As recent criticism has shown, regiminal texts were a shared currency specifically between French and English, and not just for the idealised portraits of the princely ruler or the personal ethical virtues of good governance.18 They were vehicles for the broader constitutional discourses of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries which acted as a common language through which assertions of both identity and difference could be articulated in terms drawn from the war, as the genre was directly concerned with the practices of war. The genres and tropes of the regiminal mode were important enough for the attention of every major English courtly writer of the period: Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Thomas Hoccleve, John Lydgate and others all wrote or translated their versions of mirrors and de regimine texts, which provided a major vector for the recovery of Latin classical and post-classical writing. The French translation of the Livre de l’informacion des princes of Jean Golein from around 1379 found its way into English libraries at about the same time that John Trevisa was producing a complete English translation of Giles of Rome’s massive De regimine principum, which was also translated into French.19 A minor work such as Philippe de Mézières’s Epistre au Roi Richart (Letter to King Richard II) from 1395 exploited the tropes of the ‘regiminal letter’ as well as the symbolic alchemical, geomantic and medical lore that travelled closely with the de regimine genre in the tradition of the Secretum secretorum.20 The French letter directly exhorted the king to reconcile the ‘marriage’ of French and English relations.21 The mirror-texts of Chaucer and Gower (the Tale of Melibee and Book 7 of the Confessio Amantis), although more artistically oriented, also fit into this larger pattern of genre-mixing and border-crossing. Simply put, the French and English were talking to each other extensively through this mode during the war, as a means of both chivalric exchange and national self-definition.

But if this process of literary exchange was taking place, it is also the case that the regiminal genre, specifically from its inception in English writing, provided a vector for the critique of lordship, in tropes that drew from the ideologemic figuration of the French monarchy for critical contrast and self-definition.22 French and English national identities were co-mixed here too, and the traces of that mixture are visible through different identificatory strategies. A Latin Fürstenspiegel from the early fourteenth century provides a good initial example. At the start of Edward III’s reign the cleric and author William of Pagula composed – and then apparently later re-composed – a mirror-text for his new sovereign, editorially titled Admonition to King Edward III or Mirror of the King. Both versions (of which there are several manuscripts) date from around 1331–32, just after the death of Charles IV and during the time Edward III was assessing his claim to the French crown.23 The differences between the two versions are revealing. Both exhort Edward to good kingship and good policy, but ‘Version A’ invokes canon law, English statutes, legal charters (including Magna Carta) and the negative example of the recently deposed Edward II. The treatise also appeals strongly to class arguments and threats of conflict. It warns the young king that popular rebellion will rise if he does not observe the proper constitutional limitations on his power of purveyance. Because of his ‘rapinas et injusticias’, ‘robberies and injustices’,

quasi totus populus tristatur contra adventum tuum ubicumque veneris in regnum tuum et tecum non sunt mente, licet tecum videantur corpore, et forte, si caput aliud haberent insurgerent contra te, sicut contra patrem tuum fecerunt, et sicut in veritate non haberes tecum aliquam populi multitudinem.

it is as if the whole people sorrows against your coming, wherever you may travel in your kingdom. The people are not of one mind with you, although they seem to be of one body with you, and indeed, if they had another head, they would rise against you, just as they did against your father, and then in truth, you will not have a multitude of people with you.]24

Negative passages like this dot the treatise. As Pagula says elsewhere, quoting scripture, ‘et tu, domine rex, nisi aliter facias ordinari, timendum est, de amissione regni tui. Juxta illud Ecc. x: “Regnum a gente in gentem transfertur propter injusticias, et injurias, et contumelias, et diversos dolos”’ [and you, lord king, unless you ordain otherwise, the loss of your kingdom must be feared. According to Ecclesiasticus 10:8, ‘Kingdoms are transferred from people to people, on account of injustices, injuries, contumacies, and diverse harms’].25 He asks rhetorically, ‘Nonne tu, rex, astrictus es obedire preceptis Dei sicut unus rusticus?’ [Are not you, king, required to obey the precepts of God as much as any peasant?], and he warns clearly that if the king’s household continues with unjust purveyances he risks resistance and rebellion: ‘in hiis enim, que sunt contra preceptum Dei, non est regi obediendum, sed resistendum, et qui sic fecerit grande premium sibi adquirit’ [for in these things that are against the precept of God, one must not obey, but rather resist, the king, and he who does this obtains reward for himself].26 As Cary Nederman has noted, these are some of the most striking expressions of popular resistance to be found in any such work.27

These radical criticisms of ‘Version A’ contrast starkly with the ‘Version B’ of the same treatise. In this other rendition, all of the legalistic citations of Gratian’s Decretum and English statue law are removed; almost all hints or direct threats of domestic rebellion are softened; and a clearer sermon-structure is provided for the text’s framework with a thema taken from Deuteronomy 32:29, ‘O Domine mi Rex: Utinam saperes et intelligeres ac novissima provideres’ [O Lord my God, that you would be wise and would understand, and would provide for your last end], which is repeated at every chapter head.28 The criticisms are also largely reframed as moral and eschatological exhortations, not legal and constitutional, urging the king to ‘look to his end’. And while still English, this second version looks much more to France and the French. In a large addition, Chapter 11 inserts the entire text of ‘Les enseignements de Saint Louis à son fils’, a regiminal letter on good governance supposedly written by Louis IX to Prince Philip (Philip III ‘The Bold’) as recorded in Jean de Joinville’s Histoire de Saint Louis.29 In approximately twenty-four sub-sections of this text within a text, Louis exhorts his son to avoid evil customs, unjust purveyances and all manner of moral temptations and failings of kings. For Pagula, St Louis exemplifies how the English king can avoid the harm of bad policies and thus escape ‘odium Dei, et odium populi tui anglicani’ [the hatred of God and the hatred of your English people].30 At the end of the treatise he concludes: ‘Erroribus premissis correctis, et a te sancti Ludovici regis ammonicionibus inchoatis; te docebo qualiter Deo et populo complacebis et sic rectam viam ad celi gaudium ambulabis. [When you have corrected the errors previously mentioned and begun on the warnings of the St King Louis, then I will teach you how to please God and the people, and thus you will walk along the right path to the joy of heaven].31 The French king thus becomes a direct regiminal model for Edward and even a figure for mediating what was, in the first draft, one of the most vociferous critiques of an English king to come down to us from the period.

In generic content, Pagula’s criticisms are closer to what much of the de regimine tradition actually says about resisting tyrants. Every major work of that genre – books by John of Salisbury, Brunetto Latini, Vincent of Beauvais, Giles of Rome, Ptolemy of Lucca, John of Wales, the Secretum secretorum and others – condemn the oppressions of overreaching kings who exploit their subjects unjustly. Like Pagula, each one warns that discord, popular rebellion and overthrow are the inevitable fate of tyrants. As well there are other examples in the British de regimine tradition of writers appealing specifically to French models for a contrastive example of good governance, proper constitutionality and generally virtuous behaviour.32 So there was some prior experience in this mode of looking over the Channel and taking something good by which to judge the badness of a domestic king, and along with this, of framing that critique in explicit class terms. That is, political rebellion would not be only (or mainly) manifested by the resistance of the noble classes, but the commonalty and peasantry would rise up and resist and have justification for doing so. Even the eclectic Secretum secretorum, widely circulated and frequently adapted from French to English during the Hundred Years War, highlights the threat of popular uprising as a correlative to its vision of a balanced political order that both imitates and epitomises the harmony of the natural world and divine order.33 English writers such as Gower, who read and adapted the Secretum (along with, in Gower’s case, the French-language Trésor of Latini), could not have missed these elements of popular resistance and peasant rebellion that are presented not simply as the lamentable collapse of authority, but as a homeostatic mechanism whereby a return to proper order is, in the natural course of things, more or less assured.34

Looking at the genre with an emphasis on these elements of class rebellion and in the context of these chronicle accounts, it then becomes, if not necessarily more obvious, then certainly more understandable why contemporary writers betray such a conflicted consciousness not only of national identity but also of class conflicts. In his works Chaucer remained famously mum about the direct impact of both the Hundred Years War and the long-running class frictions attendant to it, although specific elements of his oeuvre give hints of critical awareness.35 Gower repeatedly appeals to the vox populi as both a personal and institutional vehicle for the tenor of his public poetry: he insistently frames himself as the voice of traditional regiminal authority and the voice of ‘popular’ protest. At the same time, he strongly condemns the commons and peasantry for the violence of rebellion that he saw (like Froissart) as a direct product of the war and as an unacceptable challenge to the chivalric ideology underwriting it. Gower’s own engagement with the transnational de regimine mode thus both invokes and effaces this important coordinate aspect of subaltern class-consciousness, even as his linguistic practice moves from French to English (and draws French texts into English) in the most adroit way of any Anglophone writer. When he is most ‘French’ in language and influence he most vociferously asserts his Englishness, and in turns his expressions of Englishness – his insistent self-presentation as the critical vox clamantis – draw from the regiminal framework of ethical governance which was largely a French inheritance.36

In the long Lancastrian period of the war, the most important exemplars of this dynamic of exchange were Thomas Hoccleve and Christine de Pizan, both in their persons and works. We might say that they formed, from an English point of view, something of a Christine–Hoccleve dyad, a female–male, French–English pair in which Hoccleve frankly leeched from Christine’s prior and trendsetting work as he mediated and legitimated it for English consumption. This exchange was largely filtered through the de regimine mode, even when the generic content was ostensibly courtly. As modern scholarship has noted, Christine de Pizan was a liminal figure in almost all ways: in gender, marital status, class, nationality (an Italian-Pisan with a strong adopted French identity) and as one of the vernacular French writers who most successfully fed the aristocratic appetite for both courtly and neoclassical regiminal works.37 After 1400 almost all of her major works were composed under the broad aegis of regiminal and mirror-texts, including her influential adaptation of Vegetius, Le Livre de fais d’armes et de chevalrie, and the paired Le Livre de la cité des dames and Le Livre des trois vertus. Indeed, her career as a professional writer began with the same fraught dynamic of French–English hostage exchange that characterised the war as a whole. When her son Jean was detained by the usurper Henry IV after the deposition of Richard II, she promised to cross the Channel and take up residence as a writer in the English court if Henry agreed to allow Jean’s return to France. But once he was out of harm’s way, she declined to complete the exchange.38 What was exchanged were her numerous books, which were extensively translated and imitated by Hoccleve and later in the 1450s by the scholar-soldiers of the Fastolf circle, making her one of the most prominent ‘English’ literary figures during that phase of the war.39 For all his praise and ostensible debt to Chaucer, it was really Christine whom Hoccleve most imitated and emulated and who was his most significant contemporary interlocutor.40 Although his own Regiment of Princes does not identify Christine’s writing as his immediate source (as it was for his Letter of Cupid), he clearly imitates her voice and literary practice in his dependence upon Giles of Rome and in his foray into the Fürstenspiegel genre, with a large personal element added to the political.

The text of Hoccleve’s Regiment addresses the French–English war most directly at the very end, the traditional textual spot in a de regimine for deliberations on the conduct of war.41 His fitful attempts at mediatory gestures, the explicit turn to the French–English conflict as a tragic example of ‘werre inward’, and his sorrow over the ‘agonye’ of France, all enact this conflation of inward versus outward through the recasting of foreign war as civil war, a war of self versus self:

Now unto my mateere of werre inward

Resort I; but to seeke stories olde

Noon neede is, syn this day sharp werre and hard

Is at the dore heere, as men may beholde.

France, no wondir thogh thyn herte colde

And brenne also, swich is thyn agonye;

Thyself manaceth thyself for to dye.

Thyself destroie, and feeble is thy victorie

Thow hast in thyself stryven ofte or now

And has appeised al, have in memorie,

Thurgh thy prudence.

I am an Englissh man and am thy fo;

For thow a fo art unto my ligeance;

And yit myn herte stuffid is with wo

To see thyn unkyndly disseverance.

Accordith yow; girdeth yow with souffraunce!

Yee greven God and yourself harme and shame,

And your foos therof han desport and game. (5286–96, 5307–13)

Written after the main violence of the Burgundian-Armagnac feud in France (Hoccleve’s ostensible referent here), the Regiment goes on to declare it would be better if ‘France and Engeland’ were united ‘oon in herte’ for the good example of all Christian nations: ‘Yee hem ensaumplen, yee been hir miroures / They folwen yow’ (5321–9). In this way the major English mirror-text of the period presents the combatants, and the conflict itself, as both a mirror and a redoubling, even as Hoccleve is mirroring Christine by taking her field of vernacular literary practice and translating it across the Channel. The domestic troubles of France are ambiguously both those internecine upheavals and France’s refusal to acknowledge its external but ‘rightful’ sovereign in Henry. But again, the same laments could be made for England too, which had been no less riven by violent internal divisions during the war. This point simply could not have been lost on Hoccleve, as he spends the first two thousand lines of the Regiment cataloguing the endemic, class-crossing and bodily ills of the English nation and of the ‘Englissh man’ – Hoccleve himself – lamenting them. The crossings and redoublings are thus more complex than they might seem at first glance, as the frame of war is itself refracted in those mirror-texts which provide the ideologemes and figures necessary for understanding it in the first place.

In contrast, although there are no references to England as a double or mirror in Christine’s texts – and no idealisations of an English king in the way Pagula idealised St Louis – we do find expressions of class awareness combined with questions of regiminal virtue, governmental legitimacy and class conflict. Christine’s most traditionally structured de regimine is the Livre du corps de policie (c.1406), which was translated into English in the later fifteenth century.42 It is divided into three parts based on three estates: princes, nobles and knights, and ‘tout l’universel peuple’ [the common people]. Roughly following the pseudo-Plutarchan organicist model drawn from John of Salisbury, Christine includes in this third estate not just the bourgeois and artisanal classes but also, explicitly, the agricultural, labouring and peasant classes necessary for the health and regimen of the entire body politic.43 She says she will describe the good governance of the universitas in France only. But in addition to her considerations of the French political scene, she includes criticisms of the fickle nature of elective and chartered governments elsewhere:

Car les terres qui sont gouvernees des hommes par l’universel monde sont subgetz a divers establisemens selonc les anciennes coutumes des lieux. Les unes sont gouvernees par elections des empereurs, les aultres par succession des roys, at ainsi diversement. Aussi y a des cités et paÿs qui possident seigneuries et se gouvernent par princes qu’ilz eslisent entre eux. Et souvent teles y a qui font leur election a voulenté plus que par grande raison, par quoy avient a la foys que ainsi comme a voulenté les eslisent, semblablement les deposent. Et tele gouvernaunce n’est mie a preu du bien ou elle s’acoustume, si comme en Ytalie en maintz lieux.

[Throughout the whole world, lands which are governed by humans are subject to different institutions according to the ancient customs of places. Some are governed by elected emperors, others by hereditary kings, and so on. Also there are cities and countries which are self-governed and are ruled by princes which they choose among themselves. Often these make their choice more by will than by reason. And sometimes, having chosen them by caprice, they seem to depose them in the same way. Such government is not beneficial where it is the custom, as in Italy in many places.]44

As in the Livre de l’informacion des princes, these general observations come at the end of the whole book, whereas in many Latin regiminal texts they are at the beginning. Throughout this and her later works she repeats many of the commonplaces characteristic of the regiminal mode. Most notable is the way these comparisons play out with their immediate class context. Why muse on the variability of constitutional forms at this point, in the part of the treatise that is devoted to the third estate and is most insistent that the universitas should be patient, obedient and loyal to France’s kings? Here as elsewhere in Christine’s work, the threat of popular rebellion suffuses her explication without being explicitly evoked.45 The barely suppressed comparison is not just with the chartered city-states of Italy but also with the English neighbour to the north, that country so prone to upheavals and capricious depositions despite – or even because of – their powerful nobles and chartered liberties. Speaking of the need to tolerate bad princes, Christine goes on:

Ces choses dictes peuent tourner a exemple en aucun pais. Mais Dieu mercy en France n’avons mie princes crueulx ne plains de sang contre leur peuple. Car des toutes les nacions du monde je l’ose dire sans flaterie, car il est vray, n’a tant benignes princes ne tant humains qu’il y a en France; et de tant leur doit estre plus doulcement obey. En quoy que aucunesfoys il semble par aventure au peuple, qu’il soit grevé et chargié, ne cuident point que autre part, c’est assçavoir es aultres royaumes ou pays le peuple soit moins grevé que celui de France. Car pose qu’ilz ne le soient d’aucunes choses par la raison des leurs franchises, si le sont ilz d’aultres servitutes plus prejudiciables comme des grans tortz qu’on leur fait ou que eulz mesmes s’entrefont par occisions. Et n’y a point de justice qui les en garde ou diversement en aultre maniere.

[These things could be given as an example in any country, but merciful God has not put cruel and bloody princes against their people in France. Because of all nations of the world, I dare say without flattery, it is true that there are no more benign and humane princes than in France, and thus they ought all the more to be obeyed. And even if sometimes by chance it seems to the people that they are grieved and burdened, they should not believe that other places are less so, and even supposing that were true because of their chartered liberties (leurs franchises) that other people enjoy, yet they may have other services and usages that are more detrimental, like great wrongs done to them, or murders amongst themselves, because there is no justice which guards them or treats them in another way.]46

Given France’s well-known history of internal upheaval prior to the Burgundian-Armagnac civil war, and given the kinds of complaints that even aristocratic chroniclers like Froissart were able to voice, it seems fair to say that Christine is being disingenuous with this rosy picture of class relations in her adopted homeland.47

Nonetheless it is the comparative popular-regiminal perspective that gives her argument its nativist point. However bad things may be here, the political systems of other countries are not any better, franchises or no. At the same time that Christine declares the unique regiminal virtues of the French and the honesty of her unbiased testimony, she also acknowledges that when it comes to the tribulations of governance, the French are, in fact, more or less in the same situation as everybody else:

Et quoy que nul die, sauve la grace des contredisans, quelque mal que il ait en France ne qui que s’en plaingne, je tiens que des tous les pays de Crestienté c’est cellui ou il fait communement meilleur habiter, et tant pour la benignité des princes sans cruaulté comme pour la courtoisie et aimableté des gens d’icelle nacion. Et toutesfoys ce ne dy je mie par faveur, comme je n’en soie pas nee. Mais Dieu me soit tesmoing en sa retribucion comme je cuide dire veoir par ce qui me apert. Et ce que j’ay enquis du gouvernement des aultres pays si n’est mie paradis en terre, car saiche chacun qu’il y a par tout des tribulacions assez.

[And in spite of those who contradict me, I hold that of all the countries in Christendom, in this one the people commonly live better both because of the benevolence of princes without cruelty, and because of the courtesy and amiability of the people of this nation. And I do not say this out of favouritism, because I was not born here. But, God be my witness at the end, I say what I think! And since I have enquired about the government of other countries and I know there is no paradise on earth, I know that everywhere has its own troubles.]48

Like her sincere praise of the labouring classes, this is an endearingly frank moment in Christine’s text. It is interesting how she lightly identifies herself as something of an armchair expert in comparative political systems. Still, this moment of supposedly disinterested comparison is surrounded by the nationalist chauvinism and class insensitivity characteristic of any deeply stratified political order. But this incongruity is the point, as with Hoccleve’s awkward attempts to use his de regimine to reconcile the relation of England to France as both self and other, enemy and family. Once again we see traces, in this specific generic context, of how the internal ideological polarities of nation and class can fit only roughly with the lived realities of sustained conflict and turbulent exchange as they were actually experienced across what Kate Langdon Forhan has so aptly called the ‘nightmarish companion’ of Christine’s entire life, the Hundred Years War.49

That nightmarish context can perhaps sometimes recede into the background, obscured by the grace of such writers as Christine and Hoccleve and Froissart and his contemporaries, not unlike the subjected commons and Jacques Bonhommes who receded behind, or beneath, King John, the Black Prince or even Denis de Morbecque. But in these fascinating stories and border-crossing parallels – in writers such as Venette and Pagula, and even in Froissart – it, and they, are not completely submerged. Even accounting for their authors’ idealisations and opposed nationalist biases, in these episodes and mirrors we can nonetheless trace how the tensions between national and class identities provided the shared framework for formulating French and English self-conceptions of nation, of classes and of artistic practice that would be profoundly important for decades, even centuries to come. More than just the specific persons and books, then, this fraught dynamic of ideological mixture also helps us to understand how those participants tried to understand the web of relations that bound them in both war and peace, bonne gouvernaunce and its dissolution, and in its artistic representation.


1 The longer version of the story comes from the second recension of Froissart’s text: Froissart, Chronicles, trans. Brereton, 140–1; Froissart, Oeuvres, eds de Lettenhove and Scheler, vol. 5, 455–6. See Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, 172–3.
2 As Froissart goes on to narrate, Denis de Morbecque quickly lost control of King Jean. English and Gascons fought for possession of him as he was delivered to ‘his cousin’ the Black Prince (le prince mon cousin) by Warwick and Cobham: Chronicles, 142; Oeuvres, vol. 5, 455–6. See generally Ambühl, Prisoners of War.
3 Chandos Herald, ‘Life of the Black Prince’, 102–3.
4 Froissart, Oeuvres, vol. 5, 458.
5 See Staley, Language of Power; Keen, ‘Chivalry and English Kingship’.
6 Translation from Jean de Venette, Chronicle, ed. Newhall, trans. Birdsall, 63. Jean de Venette, Chronique, ed. and trans. Beaune, 142–4.
7 Venette relates the English depredations following the loss at Poitiers and then the violence of the Jacquerie in 1358, in terms that anticipate accounts of the Great Rising of 1381: Chronicle, 71–7 at 76–7. Venette’s identity as ‘a French peasant become a churchman’, as Birdsall puts it (3), may account for the relative evenhandedness of his account in terms of the class conflict. See also Hilton, Bond Men Made Free, 127–8.
8 For analysis of these pastourelles see Wimsatt, Chaucer and His French Contemporaries, 196–202. For a discussion of the pastourelle and the Hundred Years War, see Strakhov’s chapter in this volume.
9 Chronique, 150–2; Chronicle, 66. See also Hilton, Bond Men Made Free, 116–17; and about similar episodes at London during the 1386 invasion scare, see Bowers, ‘Chaucer after Retters’, 107.
10 Firnhaber-Baker, ‘Social Constituency’, 697.
11 Froissart, Chronicles, 154–5; on the Jacquerie see Froissart, Oeuvres, vol. 6, 44–58 (at 55–8). The men were cousins ostensibly on opposite sides of the conflict. Jean III de Grailly was a Gascon nobleman allied with the English, a founding Knight of the Garter, and the cavalry commander at Poitiers largely responsible for the capture of King John II. Gaston III Phoebus was nominally allied with the French crown, but he had absented himself from the war because the king had favoured the count of Armagnac. The episode at Meux occurred upon his return from Prussia, shortly before he resumed conflict against Armagnac.
12 This was at the time of Chaucer’s capture and ransom in 1360 at Retters, during the English campaign at Rheims. See Bowers, ‘Chaucer after Retters’, 91–8.
13 Froissart, Chronicles, 163–4; Froissart, Oeuvres, vol. 6, 252–53 (2nd recension).
14 Froissart, Chronicles, 213; Froissart, Oeuvres, vol. 9, 394.
15 See Dobson, Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.
16 Froissart, Oeuvres, 12:6–7 (my translation).
17 Richards, ‘Uncertainty in Defining France’ and Caldwell, ‘Hundred Years’ War’.
18 See Fletcher et al. (eds), Government and Political Life; Graßnick, Ratgeber des Königs and also ‘“And out of olde bokes”’; the chapters in Lachaud and Scordia (eds), Le Prince au miroir, and also Lachaud and Scordia (eds), Au-delà des miroirs; Schmidt, ‘Spätmittelalterliches Fürstenspiegel’; Krynen, Empire du Roi, esp. 167–240; Watts, Henry VI, esp. 1–80; Ferster, Fictions of Advice; Staley, Language of Power, esp. 75–147. An older but still excellent overview is provided by Green, Poets and Princepleasers, 135–67.
19 Scordia, ‘Le roi, l’or, et le sang’; Green, Poets and Princepleasers, 154–5.
20 Philippe de Mézières, Letter, ed. and trans. Coopland, esp. 1–24, 75–97, et passim.
21 For a discussion of Philippe de Mézières’s role in the Hundred Years War, see Vander Elst’s chapter in this volume.
22 See especially Nederman, ‘Mirror Crack’d’.
23 Boyle, ‘William of Pagula’. Boyle places the first version, the ‘Epistola’, to the time ‘just at the beginning of 1331’, and the second version, the ‘Speculum’, to the period after the Peace of Amiens signed between Edward and Philip of France in April 1331 (332).
24 William of Pagula, Mirror of King Edward III, ver. A, ed. and trans. Nederman, 83–4; Moisant (ed.), 96 (§11).
25 William of Pagula, Mirror of King Edward III, ver. A, trans. Nederman, p. 89; Moisant (ed.), p. 103 (§18).
26 William of Pagula, Mirror of King Edward III, ver. A, trans. Nederman, 93–4; Moisant (ed.), 109, 110 (§29, §32).
27 William of Pagula, Mirror of King Edward III, 72; this assessment is especially relevant to Version A.
28 William of Pagula, Mirror of King Edward III, ver. B, trans. Nederman, 103; Moisant (ed.), 127 (cap. 1, §1). The Vulgate actually reads in the third-person plural: ‘utinam saperent et intellegerent ac novissima providerent’ (Deut. 32:29).
29 See also Krynen, Empire du roi, 225–7.
30 William of Pagula, Mirror of King Edward III, ver. B, 123–30, 134; Moisant (ed.), 163 (cap. 13, §48): ‘et intelligeres quid nocet et nocere tibi poterit, habere odium Dei, et odium populi tui anglicani’ [and you will understand what hurts and can hurt you, to have the hatred of God and the hatred of your English people]. Here Pagula may be echoing the vernacular French commonplace Il n’est pas sire de son païs / qui de ses hommes est haïs [He is not lord of his country / who is hated by his people]: see Dudash, ‘Christine de Pizan and the “menu people”’, 804 n. 72, for context and examples.
31 William of Pagula, Mirror of King Edward III, ver. B, 139; Moisant (ed.),169 (cap. 15, §53).
32 See especially the earlier treatise of Gerald of Wales, the De principis instructione liber from c.1177–80 to 1217. Gerald’s treatise was published at the time of the First Barons’ War in 1217. It excoriates Henry II (and the whole Angevin line) and praises Louis VII and looks toward Louis’s son Philip II. The later version of the De principis instructione also condemns Henry II’s sons, especially John. See Lachaud, ‘Liber de principis instructione’. Hints of French idealisations – or of looking to French models for positive examples of regnal ideology – are also present in Walter Milemete’s Treatise (in Nederman (ed.), Political Thought in Fourteenth-Century England) and companion Secretum secretorum: Michael, ‘Iconography of Kingship’, 35–47 (at 38, 43).
33 Cf. Secretum secretorum, ed. Steele, 44 (cap. 1.6).
34 Giancarlo, ‘Gower’s Governmentality’.
35 See especially Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, 172–200, for excellent examples.
36 Yeager, ‘Politics and the French Language’.
37 See especially Forhan, Political Theory of Christine de Pizan, the chapters in Green and Mews (eds), Healing the Body Politic, and the introductory context provided by Angus Kennedy (ed. and trans.), Book of the Body Politic.
38 For details see Forhan, Political Theory, 73–4.
39 Summit, Lost Property, 61–107. For a discussion of manuscript exchange in the Hundred Years War, see Mattison’s chapter in this volume.
40 For contrasting analyses see Ellis, ‘Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, and Hoccleve’; Perkins, Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes, esp. chs 2–3; Knapp, Bureaucratic Muse, esp. chs 2–4.
41 Citations will be parenthetical within the text, and are from Ptolemy of Lucca, Regiment of Princes, ed. Blythe.
42 Middle English Translation of Christine de Pisan’s Livre du corps de policie, ed. Bornstein. The translation survives in one manuscript, Cambridge, Cambridge University Library MS. Kk.1.5.
43 See Christine de Pizan, Book of the Body Politic, ed. and trans. Forhan, 105–10 (§ 3.9–10). In this regard her work is notable: see especially Dudash, ‘Christine de Pizan and the “menu people”’ for extensive analysis; Nederman, ‘Mirror Crack’d’, 28–33, and ‘Living Body Politic’; Forhan, Political Theory of Christine de Pizan, 45–75.
44 Christine de Pizan, Book of the Body Politic, trans. Forhan, 92; Livre du corps de policie, ed. Lucas, 169–70. Middle English Translation of Christine de Pisan’s Livre du corps de policie, ed. Bornstein, 167.
45 Anxiety about popular rebellion particularly informs her Livre de l’avision Cristine and Livre de la paix; see Dudash, ‘Christine de Pizan and the “menu people”’, 807–8, 815–29. For more on Christine and her Livre de l’avision Cristine, see Wood’s chapter in this volume.
46 Book of the Body Politic, 101–2; Le Livre du corps de policie, 188. See also Middle English Translation of Christine de Pisan’s Livre du corps de policie, ed. Bornstein, 181.
47 For political and historiographical context of the turbulent period around the assassination of Louis of Orléans in 1407, see especially Adams, Christine de Pizan and the Fight for France.
48 Book of the Body Politic, 102; Le Livre du corps de policie, 188–9. See also Middle English Translation of Christine de Pisan’s Livre du corps de policie, ed. Bornstein, 181.
49 Forhan, Political Theory of Christine de Pizan, 25.
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