The Black Prince and the Burghers of Calais, a very large miniature on a cutting from an illuminated historical manuscript on vellum
Jean de Wavrin, in his Chroniques d'Angleterre, repeats a story found in book I, chapter 145 of Froissart's Chronicle, that on the approach of Edward, the Black Prince, to the walls of Calais the burghers appealed for leniency as the town was on the point of starvation. Edward ordered that "six of the principal citizens of Calais march out of the town, with bare heads and feet" and be made an example of in order to secure the pardon of the remainder of the inhabitants. A public meeting was called in the town, and amid much sorrow the wealthiest citizen, Eustace de St. Pierre, volunteered, along with a number of his peers: John Daire, James Wisant, his brother Peter Wisant, and two others. They were collected and presented to Edward by Sir Walter Manny, who pleaded for clemency. Despite this, Edward ordered them to be beheaded. Hearing this, Edward's pregnant wife, who had joined him on campaign, threw herself to her knees imploring him "Gentle sir, since I have crossed the sea with great danger to see you, I have never asked you one favour: now, I most humbly ask as a gift, for the sake of the Son of the blessed Mary, and for your love to me, that you will be merciful to these six men". Moved by her actions, Edward gave the six burghers to her, and she freed them, clothed them, served them a plentiful dinner, and presented each with nobilities.
The present scene is not commonly illustrated in Froissart manuscripts, and there are no extant copies which lack the relevant miniature. However, fragments of a lavish illuminated copy of Wavrin's chronicle exist in Oxford, Bodleian, Laud misc.653 (Pächt and Alexander, I, 1966, no.346); Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, MS.W.201 (Randall, cat.III, ii, 1997, no. 276); and the largest remnant in The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Ms. 133 A7, vols.1-3. The catalogue of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek ascribes the painting to the hands of the Ghent Associates (c.1470-80), and in a recent publication S. McKendrick (Illuminating the Renaissance, 2003, p.256, n.10) has linked the miniatures to the hand of the Rambures Master. The present miniature is almost certainly by the same artist(s), and is most probably another fragment of this dispersed manuscript.