Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Flower of Chivalry: Bertrand Du Guesclin and the Hundred Years War

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Flower of Chivalry: Bertrand Du Guesclin and the Hundred Years War

Article excerpt

Richard Vernier, The Flower of Chivalry: Bertrand du Guesclin and the Hundred Years War (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2003). 237 pp. ISBN 184383-006-X. £30.00/$50.00.

Bertrand du Guesclin (d. 1380) was the most famous French soldier of his generation. Already in his own lifetime he enjoyed heroic status, and his death was widely remarked by friend and foe alike. As 'the good Constable' he was lauded from his own lifetime as the 'tenth Worthy' and his career was commemorated in verse and prose. Ever since his death he has seldom been long neglected by biographers or eulogists. Alongside a huge bibliography of works of history devoted to his career, there has also grown up an almost equally abundant and luxuriant imaginative literature as Du Guesclin became the subject, from the Enlightenment onwards, for numerous plays, poems, and novels. With a few honourable exceptions, most published historical accounts have been almost exclusively based on a long near-contemporary verse Life by the Picard trouvère Jean Cuvelier, which was already circulating in prose by 1387. Vernier's book unashamedly stands in this tradition but is the first in English to be able to use to good effect Jean-Claude Faucon's monumental edition of La Chanson (3 vols, 1990-1). This not only provides a much more satisfactory text than Charrière's of 1839, with a wealth of variants, but also extensive commentary on all aspects of the poem, though there remain things to be done, for example in tracing Du Guesclin's movements or in identifying his companions, while Cuvelier's account of the constable's last years (essentially those following the reconquest of Poitou in 1372-3) is extremely sketchy. …

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