Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The grand entrance of Queen Isabella into Paris, and the pageants and tournament that took place (1389)

Queen Isabella's entrance into the capital is the occasion for fabulous pagentry and feasting.

Book IV, ch. 2 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 398-405). On Sunday the 20th day of June, in the year of our Lord 1389, there were such crowds of people in Paris, it was marvellous to see them; and on this Sunday, the noble ladies of France who were to accompany the queen, assembled in the afternoon at Saint Denis, with such of the nobility as were appointed to lead the litters of the queen and her attendants.

The citizens of Paris, to the amount of twelve hundred, were mounted on horseback, dressed in uniforms of green and crimson, and lined each side of the road. Queen Joan and her daughter the duchess of Orleans, entered Paris first, about an hour after noon, in a covered litter, and passing through the great street of Saint Denis, went to the palace, where the king was waiting for them, and this day they went no farther. The queen of France, attended by the duchess of Berry, the duchess of Burgundy, the duchess of Touraine, the countess of Loran, the countess of Nevers, the lady of Coucy, with a crowd of other ladies, began the procession in open litters, most richly ornamented. The duchess of Touraine was not in a litter, but to display herself the more, was mounted on a palfrey, magnificently caparisoned.

The litter of the queen was led by the dukes of Touraine and Bourbon at the head; the dukes of Berry and Burgundy were at the centre, and the lord Peter de Navarre and the count d'Ostrevant behind the litter, which was open and beautifully ornamented. The duchess of Touraine followed, on her palfrey, led by the count de la Marche and the count de Nevers, the whole advancing slowly, at a foot's pace. After her came the duchess of Burgundy and her daughter, the lady Margaret of Hainault, in an open litter, led by the lord Henry de Bar and sir William, the young enunt de Namur. Then came the duchess of Berry, and the daughter of the lord de Coucy, in an open and ornamented litter, led by sir James de Bourbaon, and sir Philip d'Artois. Then the duchess Bar and her daughter, led by sir Charles d'Albret and the lord de Coucy.

There was no particular mention made of the other ladies and damsels who followed in covered chariots, or on paifreys, led by their knights. Serjeants, and others of the king's officers, had full employment, in making way for the procession, and keeping off the crowd; for there were such numbrs assembled, it seemed as if all the world had come thither.

At the gate of St. Denis, that opens into Paris, was the representation of a starry firmament, and within it were children dressed as angels, whose singing and chaunting was melodiously sweet. There was also an image of the Virgin holding in her arms a child, who at times amused himself with a windmill, made of a large walnut. The upper part of this firmament was richly adorned with the arms of France and Bavaris, with a brilliant sun dispersing its rays through the heavens; and this sun was the king's device at the ensuing tournaments. The queen of France and the ladies took delight in viewing this as they passed, as indeed did all who saw it. The queen then advanced slowly to the fountain, in the street of Saint Denis, which was covered and decorated with fine blue cloth, besprinkled over with golden flowers-de-luce. The pillars that surrounded the fountain were ornamented with the arms of the chief barons of France; and, instead of water, it ran in great streams of Clairét, and excellent Piement. Around this fountain were young girls handsomely dressed, having on their heads caps of solid gold, who sang so sweetly, it was a pleasure to hear them; and they held in their hands cups of gold, offering their liquors to all who chose to drink. The queen stopped there to hear and look at them, as did the ladies as they passed by.

 Below the monastery of the Trinity there was a scaffold erected in the street, and on this scaffold a castle, with a representation of the battle with king Saladin, performed by living actors; the Christians on one side and the Saracens on the other. All the lords of renown, who had been present, were represented with their blazoned war-coats, such as were worn in those times. A little above was the person of the king of France, surrounded by his twelve peers, in their proper arms; and when the queen came opposite the scaffold, king Richard was seen to leave his companions, and advance to the king of France, to request permission to fight the Saracens, which having obtained, he returned to his army, who instantly began the attack on Saladin and the Saracens. The battle lasted for a considerable time, and was seen with much pleasure.

The procession then passed on, and came to the second gate of St. Denis, where, like to the first, there had been made a representation of a richly starred firmament, with the Holy Trinity seated in great majesty, and within the heaven little children as angels singing very melodiously. As the queen passed under the gate, two angels descended from above, holding an extraordinarily rich golden crown, ornamented with precious stones, which they gently placed on the head of the queen, sweetly singing the following verses:

 Dame enclose entre fleurs de Lys,
Reine êtes vous de Paris,
De France, et de tout le païs.
Nous en r'allons en paradis.

 When they came opposite the chapel of St. James, they found a scaffold erected on the right hand, richly decorated with tapestry, surrounded with curtains, in the manner of a chamber: 'within which were men who played finely on organs. The whole street of Saint Denis was covered with a canopy of rich camlet and silk cloths, as if they had had the cloths for nothing, or were at Alexandria or Damascus. I, the writer of this account, was present, and astonished whence such quantities of rich stuffs and ornaments could have come; for all the houses on each side the great street of Saint Denis, as far as the Châtelet, or indeed to the great bridge, were hung with tapestries representing various scenes and histories to the delight of all beholders.

The queen and her ladies, conducted by great lords in their litters, arrived at length at the gate of the Châtelet, where they stopped to see other splendid pageants that had been prepared for them. At the gate of the Châtelet was erected a castle of wood, with towers, strong enough to last forty years. At each of the battlements was a knight completely armed from head to foot; and in the castle was a superb bed, as finely decorated with curtains, and every thing else, as if for the chamber of the king, and this bed was called the bed of justice, in which lay a person to represent St. Anne. On the esplanade, before the castle, (which comprehended a tolerably large space) was a warren and much brush-wood, within which were plenty of hares, rabbits and young birds, that fled out and in again for fear of the populace. From this wood, on the side near the queen, there issued a large white hart, that made for the bed of justice; from another part came forth a lion and eagle, well represented, and proudly advanced towards the stag. Then twelve young maidens, richly dressed, with chaplets of gold on their heads, came out of the wood, holding naked swords in their hands, and placed themselves between the hart, the lion, and eagle,_showing that with their swords they were determined to defend the hart and the bed of justice.

 The queen, the ladies and lords, having seen this pageant with pleasure, passed on to the bridge of Nôtre-Dame, which was decorated so handsomely, it could not be amended: it was covered with a starry canopy, of green and crimson, and the streets were all hung with tapestry as far as the church of Nôtre-Dame. When the queen and her ladies had passed the bridge, and were near the church, it was late in the evening; for the procession, ever since it had set out from St. Denis, had advanced but a foot's pace. The great bridge of Paris was hung all its length with green and white sarcenet; but before the queen and her company entered Nôtre-Dame, she was presented with other pageants that delighted her and her ladies very much I will describe them.

A full month before the queen's entry to Paris, a master engineer from Geneva had fastened a cord to the highest tower of Nôtre-Dame, which, passing high above the streets, was fixed to the most elevated house on the bridge of Saint Michael. As the queen was passing down the street of Nôtre-Dame, this man left the tower, and, seating himself on the cord, descended, singing, with two lighted torches in his hand, for it was now dark, to the great astonishment of all who saw him how he could do it. He kept the lighted torches in his hands that he might be seen by all Paris, and even two or three leagues, off. He played many tricks on the rope, and his agility was highly praised.

The Bishop of Paris and his numerous clergy, clothed in their robes, were without the church of Nôtre-Dame, waiting for the queen, who was helped out of her litter by the four dukes, of Berry, Burgundy, Touraine and Bourbon. When the other ladies had left their litters and dismounted from their palfreys they all entered the church in grand procession, preceded by the bishop and priests, singing aloud to the praise of God and the Virgin Mary. The queen was conducted through the nave and choir to the great altar, where, on her knees, she made her prayers according as she thought good, and presented as her offering, four cloths of gold, and the handsome crown which the angels had put on her head at the gate of Paris, as has been related. The lord John de la Riviere and sir John le Mercier instantly brought one more rich with which they crowned her.

This being done, the queen and her ladies returned to their litters, wherein they were seated as before; and, as it was late, there were upwards of five hundred lighted tapers attending the procession. In such array were they conducted to the palace, where the king, queen Joan, and the duchess of Orleans, were waiting for them. The ladies here quitted their litters, and were conducted to different apartments; and the lords, after the dancing, returned to their hôtels.

On the morrow, which was Monday, the king gave a grand dinner to a numerous company of ladies; and, at the hour of high mass, the queen of France was led by the before-mentioned dukes to the Holy Chapel, where she was anointed and sanctified as queens of France usually are. Sir William de Viare, archbishop of Rouen, said mass. After mass, which was well and solemnly sung, the king and queen returned to their apartments, as did the other ladies to theirs who lodged in the Palace. Shortly after the mass, the king, queen, and all the ladies entered the hall. You must know, that the great table of marble, which is in this hall, and is never removed, was covered with an oaken plank, four inches thick, and the royal dinner placed thereon. Near the table, and against one of the pillars, was the king's buffet, magnificently decked out with gold and silver plate, and much envied by many who saw it. Before the king's table, and at some distance, were wooden bars with three entrances, at which were serjeants at arms, ushers, and archers, to prevent any from passing them but those who served the table; for in truth the crowd was so very great, there was no moving but with much difficulty. There were plenty of minstrels, who played away to the best of their abilities.

 The kings, prelates, and ladies, having washed and seated themselves at table, their places were as follows the bishop of Noyon was seated at the head of the king's table, then the bishop of Langres, and then the archbishop of Rouen, by the side of the king of France, who was that day clothed in a crimson surcoat, lined with ermine, and the royal crown on his head. A little above the king was the queen, crowned also very richly. Next the queen was placed the king of Armenia, then the duchess of Berry, the duchess of Burgundy, the duchess of Touraine, madame de Nevers, mademoiselle Bonne de Bar, madame de Coucy, and mademoiselle Marie de Harcourt. There were none others at the king's table, except at the very lower end, the lady de Sully, wife of sir Guy de la Tremouille.

There were two other tables in the hall, at which were seated upwards of five hundred ladies and damsels; but the crowd was so great, it was with difficulty they could be served with their dinner, which was plentiful and sumptuous. Of this it is not worth the trouble to give any particulars; but I must speak of some devices which were curiously arranged, and would have given the king much amusement, had those who had undertaken it been able to act their parts.

 In the middle of the hall was erected a castle of wood, forty feet high, twenty feet long, and as many wide, with towers at each corner, and one larger in the middle. This castle was to represent the city of Troy the great, and the tower in the middle the palace of Ilion, from which were displayed the banners of the Trojans, such as king Priam, Hector, his other sons, and of those shut up in the place with them. The castle being on wheels, was very easily moved about. There was a pavilion likewise on wheels, on which were placed the banners of the Grecian kings, that was moved, as it were, by invisible beings, to the attack of Troy. There was also, by way of reinforcement, a large ship, well built, and able to contain one hundred men at arms, that, like the two former, was ingeniously moved by invisible wheels. Those in the ship and pavilion made a sharp attack on the castle, which was gallantly defended; but from the very great crowd, this amusement could not last long. There were so many people on all sides, several were stifled by the heat; and one table near the door of the chamber of parliament, at which a numerous company of ladies and damsels were seated, was thrown down, and the company forced to make off as well as they could.

 The queen of France was near fainting, from the excessive heat, and one of the doors was forced to be thrown open to admit air. The lady of Coucy was in the same situation. The king, noticing this, ordered an end to be put to the feast, when the tables were removed, for the ladies to have more room. Wine and spices were served around, and every one retired when the king and queen went to their apartments. Those ladies who did not lodge in the Palace returned to their h“tels, to recover themselves of their sufferings from the heat and crowd.

The lady of Coucy remained in her hotel until it was late; but the queen, about five o'clock, left the Palace, attended by the duchesses before named, and, mounting an open litter, proceeded through the streets of Paris, followed by the ladies in litters, or on horseback, to the residence of the king, at the hôtel de St. Pol. She was attended by upwards of one thousand horse. The king took boat at the Palace, and was rowed to his hôtel, which, though it was sufficiently large, there had been erected in the court, at the entrance leading to the Seine, an immense hall, covered with undressed cloths of Normandy, that had been sent from divers places: the sides were hung with tapestry, that represented strange histories, and gave delight to all who saw them.

In this hall the king entertained the ladies at a banquet: but the queen remained in her chamber, where she supped, and did not again appear that night. The king, lords, and ladies, danced and amused themselves until day-break, when the amusements ceased, and every one retired to his home, each of them to sleep and repose themselves, as it was full time.

I will now speak of the presents the Parisians made to the king, queen, and duchess of Touraine, who was but lately arrived in France from Lombardy: she was called Valentine, and was daughter to the duke of Milan. She had this year been married to the duke of Touraine, and had never been in Paris before this public entry of the queen: the citizens, therefore, were bound to bid her welcome. About twelve o'clock, forty of the principal citizens of Paris, all uniformly dressed, waited on the king at his h“tel of Saint Pol, bringing a present they had displayed through the streets of the town. Their gift was in a very richly worked litter, borne by two strong men, dressed as savages. This titter was covered with a transparent crape of silk, through which might be seen the magnificent things it contained.

On their arrival, they advanced to the king's chamber (which was open and ready prepared to receive them, as their coming was known, and welcome is always made to those who bring gifts); and, having placed the hitter on vessels, in the midst of the apartment, they cast themselves on their knees, and thus spoke:

 "Most beloved lord and king, your citizens of your good town of Paris present to you the plate that is contained in this litter, as tokens of their joy that you have taken the government of the kingdom into your own hands."

 "Many thanks, my good people," replied the king: "they are fair and rich." The citizens then rose up, and having taken leave of the king, withdrew. When they were gone, the king said to sir William des Bordes, and to Montaigu, who were then present, "Let us go nearer, and examine what their gifts are." They approached, and looked into the litter. I will now mention what presents it contained. First, there were four pots of gold, four saucers to match, four golden salts, twelve cups of the same, twelve porringers, and six dishes of gold also: the whole weighed one hundred and fifty marcs.

Another party of citizens, very handsomely equipped in uniforms of cloth, waited on the queen, and presented her with a litter borne by two men dressed, one as a bear, the other as a unicorn, which they placed in her chamber, and the citizens recommended their town and inhabitants to her protection. This present consisted of the model of a ship in gold, two large flaggons of gold, two comfit boxes, two salts, six cups, and as many saucers, all of gold: twelve lamps of silver, two silver basins, two dozen of silver porringers, the same number of silver cups: the whole weight of gold and silver being three hundred marcs.

 The third present was carried, in like manner, to the chamber of the duchess of Touraine, by two men representing Moors, having their faces blackened, and richly dressed with white turbans, as if they had been Saracens or Tartars. This litter was ornamented and covered, like the others, with gauze, and accompanied by twelve citizens in uniforms, who presented the duchess with a ship in gold, a large flaggon of gold, two comfit boxes, two large dishes, and two salts, all of gold: six jugs of silver, and two dozen cups and saucers of the same: the 'whole weighing two hundred marcs. The duchess of Touraine was exceedingly pleased with this present, as she had reason, for it was very magnificent, and returned handsomely her thanks to those who had brought it, and to the good city of Paris that had given it to her.

Such were the gifts made this Tuesday to the king and queen of France, and to the duchess of Touraine. You may judge from them the liberality and riches of the Parisians; for it was assured me, the author of this history, that all these presents, which I saw, had cost upwards of sixty thousand golden crowns. When these ceremonies were concluded, the hour for dinner arrived; but this day the king and his court dined in private at their different h“tels, for at three o'clock the tournament was to take place in the square of Saint Catherine, where scaffolds had been erected for the accommodation of the queen and the ladies.

 I will name the knights of this grand tournament, who were styled the Knights of the Golden Sun, which, although it was that day the king of France's device, was borne by others, who tilted in hopes of gaining the prize. These knights were thirty, including the king: first, the duke of Berry, the duke of Burgundy, the duke of Bourbon, the count de la Marche, sir James de Bourbon his brother, sir William de Namur, sir Oliver de Clisson constable of France, sir John de Vienne, sir James de Vienne, lord d'Espaigny, sir Guy de la Tremouille, sir William de la Tremouille his brother, sir Philip de Bar, the lord de Rochfort a Breton, the lord de Rais, the lord de Beaumanoir, sir John de Barben‡on called the Ardenois, the halze of Flanders, the lord de Torcy a Norman, sir John des Barres, the lord de Nantouillet, the lord de la Rochefoucault, the lord de Garencieres, sir John de Harpedant, the baron d'Ury, sir William Marciel, sir Reginald de Roye, sir Geoffry de Carin, sir Charles de Changiet, and sir William de Lignac.

All these knights were sumptuously dressed, and each had on his shield a splendid sun. At three o'clock, they entered the square of St. Catherine, where the queen had already arrived in a magnificent car, and the duchesses and other ladies in great state, and taken their places on the seats prepared for them. The king of France next made his appearance completely equipped for tilting, of which amusement he was very fond.

The justs now began, and were carried on with vigour, for there were many knights from foreign parts. Sir William de Hainault, count d'Ostrevant, tilted right well, as did those knights who had accompanied him, such as the lord de Gommines, sir John d'Andregines, the lord de Cantan, sir Ansol de Transsegines, and sir Clinquart de Herinno. Every one performed his part, in honour of the ladies; and the duke of Ireland tilted well: being then a resident at Paris, the king had invited him to the tournament. A German knight from beyond the Rhine, called sir Gervais de Mirande, gained great commendation. The number of knights made it difficult to give a full stroke, and the dust was so troublesome that it increased their difficulties. The lord de Coucy shone with brilliancy. The tilts were continued without relaxation until night, when the ladies were conducted to their hôtels.

 The queen of France and her attendants were led back to the hôtel of St. Pol, where was the most magnificent banquet for the ladies ever heard of. The feast and dancing lasted until sunrise, and the prize of the tournament was given, with the assent of the ladies and heralds, to the king, as being the best tilter on the opponents' side, and the prize for the holders of the lists was given to the halze de Flandres, bastard-brother to the duchess of Burgundy. On account of the complaints the knights made of the dust which had prevented many from exerting themselves to the utmost at the late tournament, the king ordered the lists to be watered. Two hundred water-carriers were employed on the Wednesday to water the square, but, notwithstanding their efforts, there was still a sufficiency of dust.

 The count de St. Pol arrived this Wednesday straight from England, having made haste to be present at these feasts, and had left sir John de Châtel-Morant to follow with the treaty of the truce. The count de St. Pol was kindly received by the king and his lords: his countess, who had been near the person of the queen at these festivals, was rejoiced at his arrival. In the afternoon of the Wednesday, thirty squires, who had been in attendance the preceding day, advanced to the lists where the tournaments had been held, whither the ladies also came, in the same state, and seated themselves as before. The tilting was ably and vigorously kept up until night, when the company returned to their homes. The banquet this evening at the hôtel de St. Pol was as grand as the preceding one, and the prize was adjudged by the ladies and heralds to a squire from Hainault, who had accompanied the count d'Ostrevant, called John de Flaron, as the most deserving of the opponents, and to a squire belonging to the duke of Burgundy, called John de Poulceres, for the best tenants of the field.

The tournament was continued on the Thursday, when knights and squires tilted promiscuously, and many gallant justs were done, for every one took pains to excel. Night put an end to it, and there was a grand entertainment again for the ladies, at the hôtel de St. Pol, when the prize for the opponents was given to sir Charles des Armoyes, and for the tenants, to a squire attached to the queen, called Lons.

On the Friday, the king feasted the ladies and damsels at dinner, which was very splendid and plentiful. Towards the end of it, as the king was seated at table, with the duchess of Berry, the duchess of Burgundy, the duchess of Touraine, the countess de Saint Pol, the lady of Coucy, and many more, two knights, completely armed, entered the hall, (which was very spacious, having been, as I have said, erected for the occasion) on barded horses, with lances in their hands. One was sir Reginald de Roye, the other sir Boucicaut the younger. Having tilted bravely for some time, they were joined by sir William de Namur, sir Charles des Armoyes, the lord de Garencieres, the lord de Nantonillet, sir John de Barben‡on, and several others, who gallantly tilted for two hours before the king and ladies; and, when they had sufficiently amused themselves, they returned to their hôtels.

The ladies and damsels took their leave, this Friday, of the king and queen, as did such lords as pleased, and returned to their homes. The king and queen thanked very graciously such as took leave, for having come to this feast.

Return to the Tales from Froissart Main Page

Contact the editor