The only two known MSS., both early fifteenth century French, of the
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The only two known MSS., both early fifteenth century French, of the
love-story here rendered into English prose, are the one in the
Bibliothèque Nationale (836), and that in the British Museum (Harley,

The MS. in the Bibliothèque Nationale forms one of the treasures of the
famous collection of MSS. made by Jean, Duc de Berry, the Mecænas of
illuminated MSS. At his death it passed into the possession of his
daughter Marie, who, by marriage, had become Duchesse de Bourbon. When,
in the reign of François I., the Connétable de Bourbon, to whom it had
descended, was disgraced, the king seized his books and MSS., and
carried them off to Fontainebleau, well pleased to add by any means,
righteous or unrighteous, to the treasures of the royal library. Here
this MS. and others remained until the reign of Charles IX., when they
were removed to Paris, and placed in the Bibliothèque du Roi, now the
world-famous Bibliothèque Nationale.

The MS. in the British Museum has also had an interesting and chequered
career. It was originally presented by Christine de Pisan to Isabelle of
Bavaria, the queen of Charles VI. of France, whose books and MSS. were,
in 1425, acquired by John, Duke of Bedford, Regent of France. It is more
than probable that this MS. was amongst these and was brought to
England, for the various signatures on the enclosing parchment would
certainly seem to indicate that this was the case. Late in the fifteenth
century the MS. was sold to one of the most celebrated bibliophiles of
the day, Louis of Bruges. After this, there is a blank in its history,
until, in the seventeenth century, we find it once more in England, in
the possession of Henry, Duke of Newcastle, whose grand-daughter married
Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, the founder of the splendid collection of
MSS. and books purchased in 1754 for the British Museum, and now known
as the Harleian Collection.

The writer of the story, Christine de Pisan, was one of the world’s many
famous women, and one who, by her life and work, created an ideal for
womankind—that of sweetness and strength. Born in Venice in 1363, she
was, when five years of age, taken by her mother to Paris, to join her
father, Thomas de Pisan, who had been summoned thither by the king,
Charles V., to serve as his astrologer, in which service he remained
until the king’s death. The Court of Charles V. was, in spite of the
constant warfare that troubled his kingdom, at once most cultured and
refined, and it was in such surroundings that Christine was brought up.
At the age of fifteen she was married to the king’s notary and
secretary, Etienne de Castel, a gentleman of Picardy, who, however, died
some ten years later, leaving her with three children to provide for.
Like many another, she turned to letters as both a material and a mental
support. She wrote not only purely lyrical poetry, of extraordinary
variety and abundance considering that the subject is almost invariably
the joys and sorrows of love, sometimes, as she tells us, expressing her
own sentiments, sometimes those of others at whose request she wrote,
but she also wrote sacred and scientific poems, and moral and political
prose works, and a kind of romantic fiction, of which the story of The
Duke of True Lovers is an example, although it is quite possible, and
indeed probable, that it has some historic basis.

Christine begins her story by saying that it had been confided to her by
a young prince who did not wish his name to be divulged, and who desired
only to be known as The Duke of True Lovers. It has been suggested, with
much likelihood, that this is the love story of Jean, Duc de Bourbon,
and Marie, Duchesse de Berry, who has already been alluded to as the
daughter of the famous Jean, Duc de Berry, and the inheritor of his MSS.
This Marie had been married, when quite a child, to Louis III. de
Chatillon, Comte de Dunois, and afterwards to Philippe d’Artois, Comte
d’Eu, Constable of France, whose wife she was at the time when the
incidents which have been woven into this story are supposed to have
taken place. Philippe d’Artois only survived the marriage three or four
years, and after three years of widowhood, the already much-married
Marie wedded (1400) our hero, Jean, Duc de Bourbon.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940013117365
  • Publisher: SAP
  • Publication date: 7/25/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 77 KB

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