Not exactly a looker, but ‘an excellent princess in other respects’. Such was the view of Charlotte, at any rate, expressed by diplomat and chronicler Philippe de Commines (Scoble 1856, I.80). Born in about 1442, Charlotte married the future king Louis XI in 1451, becoming queen of France in 1461. By ‘excellent princess’, presumably Philippe meant she didn’t cause too much trouble. Her life at the château of Amboise was a quiet one, ‘une existence pieuse vraisemblablement occupée surtout à la lecture d’œuvres de piété et d’édification morale, reflétant un penchant marqué pour la dévotion et la méditation’ (Legaré 2016).

Charlotte de Savoie (detail from Adoration of the Shepherds, c. 1472)

Charlotte’s personal library was certainly impressive. The inventory drawn up after her death lists more than 100 books, most of them religious in nature. Among them is a ‘Legigolle’, that is, a Legiloque, made of paper. This no doubt corresponds to Chantilly BdC 138, copied by Estienne Fauvre in October 1476, according to a colophon on f. 113v. The watermark on f. 116 points towards Bourges as place of production (where Charlotte sourced a number of her books), and a fair few volumes once in Charlotte’s possession are now in Chantilly, having been passed on to Charlotte’s daughter Anne de Bourbon and eventually acquired by the duc de Condé (Legaré 2001, 44; Rouse & Rouse 2010, 122).

Chantilly BdC 138 preserves eight of the 14 works (Dyalogue included) that make up the earlier Legiloque anthologies Chantilly BdC 137, Paris BnF fr. 1136 and Paris BnF NAF 4338, probably made for friends or family of Marie de Bretagne, countess of Saint-Pol (Rouse & Rouse 2010). Is it possible to identify which one (if any) was the source for Chantilly BdC 138?

All three of the Legiloque volumes were meticulously produced, but errors inevitably crept into the copying process. If Chantilly BdC 138 was copied directly or indirectly from any of them, we’d expect at least some of those errors to have been reproduced. In the case of the Dyalogue text, there are plenty of errors that occur in Chantilly BdC 137 but nowhere else (including the omission of the beginning of Q.31). There are also a fair few errors unique to Paris BnF NAF 4338 (such as the non-sensical ‘sainte Eglise de res‘, for ‘nostre mere‘ in Q.21). But there are barely any errors unique to Paris BnF fr. 1136. Of these one could have been easily corrected (omission of ‘na‘ in ‘ne Diex n’est cors, ne n’a semblance de cors’, translating a Latin quotation in Q.7). And the other would probably have been guessable given the context (omission of ‘endormis’ in ‘que tu ne soies endormis’, Q.4). Without errors common to Chantilly BdC 137 and Paris BnF fr. 1136 that aren’t present in the other two manuscripts we can’t be sure, but Paris BnF fr. 1136 is the only surviving Legiloque volume that could be the source for Charlotte’s book.

 

Bibliography

Legaré, Anne-Marie (2001). ‘Charlotte de Savoie’s Library and Illuminators’, Journal of the Early Book Society 4, 32-67

Legaré, Anne-Marie (2016). ‘Le mécénat artistique de Charlotte de Savoie à Bourges (1470-1483): L’exemple de ses livres à caractère religieux’, in Murielle Gaude-Ferragu & Cécile Vincent-Cassy (eds), «La dame de cœur»: Patronage et mécénat religieux des femmes de pouvoir dans l’Europe des XIVe-XVIIesiècles (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes), pp. 109-21

Rouse, Mary & Rouse, Richard (2010). ‘French Literature and the Counts of Saint-Pol ca. 1178-1377’, Viator 41, 101-40

Scoble, A.R., ed. (1855-56). The Memoirs of Philip de Commines, 2 vols (London)