From Bogeyman to Noble King: Sigismund and Hungary in French Medieval Literature

Charles I of Hungary - Chronicon pictum, Marci de Kalt, Chronica de gestis Hungarorum (Képes Krónika), Széchényi Nationalbibliothek, BudapestFrom Bogeyman to Noble King: Sigismund and Hungary in French Medieval Literature

Agrigoroaei, Vladimir

Studia Patzinaka, Vol.5 (2007)

Introduction: This study focuses on a diachronic approach of a literary topos, that of Hungary, and concentrates on the evidence concerning this realm during the reign of Sigismund of Luxemburg. The main topic of our research lays primarily with the Roman de messire Charles de Hongrie, a romance written towards the end of the XVth century, which deals in a fabulous manner with the story of Charles-Robert of Anjou king of Hungary (1308-1342),. The romance also uses and abuses various events related to the life, times, and actions of Charles VIII (1483-1498), king of France, as the editor of the text implies, or of Sigismund of Luxemburg. The redaction of the novel must have taken place under the patronage of a member of the House of Anjou, since the manuscript mentions as author an otherwise unknown Beauveau, seneschal of Anjou. His sponsor could have intended to celebrate in this way Charles-Robert king of Hungary, one of his ancestors.

The only manuscript copy that survives is MS Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français 1467 (previously MS 1223 and MS 7546 of the library of Philippe Hurault of Cheverny, bishop of Chartres in 1598-1620) and the terminus ante quem for the redaction of the work is 1498, the very close of the Middle Ages. The manuscript is 190 mm wide, 275 mm long and contains no drawings. The only decorative element consists of red letters employed for relevant fragments or for initials. The Gothic cursive which fills almost all of the 316 folios is common, while the paper watermarks of various shapes and sizes led the editor to conclude that the signatures of the manuscript were bound together some place where the scribes assembled all sorts of paper, of various origins. There is no unity in the choice of paper, here are no exquisite drawings, there are no signs of golden letters, no colour harmony; nothing draws attention to this manuscript. It must have been a cheap copy of a lost source, as the editor implies, or, as I tend to believe, the only one who was ever written. Both hypotheses are equally plausible. Due to the not so exquisite quality of the manuscript, previous researches have even labelled it as “detestable”.


Despite the fact that I could not gain direct access to the manuscript, its description does point to a rather low quality product. Furthermore, the parenthood of the sponsor, the patron, or the owners of the manuscript are rather uncertain, even though the editor made desperate tries to search all data relative to the house of Hurault, to the anonymous Beauveau, seneschal of Anjou, or even to the house of Anjou in general; once assembled, these data did not provide the basis for future speculations. As we have already implied elsewhere, there must have been a connection between the House of Anjou and the manuscript, as a certain interest regarding Hungary is rather common for the members of this family, but all in all it remains just a hypothesis.

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