(1) The text was begun for Philip the Good (d.1467) and completed c.1470 in Brussels for his successor, Charles the Bold (d.1477). One of the watermarks (close to Briquet nos. 8567, 8572, 8577) occurs in manuscripts of the 1460s to 1480s, suggesting that the present manuscript was written soon after the text’s composition. (2) Guillaume de Cotereau (1615–89), Marquis d’Assche, Baron de Jauche, Seigneur de Widooie: inscribed ‘Ceste cronique a este donnée par la barone de Jausse à Guil(lau)me de Cotereau son fils eage de neuf ans le 2 d’octobre 1626’ (front pastedown); next to a mention of ‘le seigneur d’Assche’ is an added marginal note ‘notre predessesseur’ (f.167r; cf. f.242v). (3) Maria de Cotereau, cousin of Guillaume: made available by her to Gillis die Vooght (d.1653), archivist of Averbode Abbey. (4) The Comtesse de Hamal, who lived at the Chateau de Hamelette; given by her to: (5) Charles d’Aspremont-Lynden (1822–88): his property when published by Borgnet in 1856; he gave it to the Commission royale d’histoire (their Bulletin, séance 5 janvier 1857, pp.259–60), and they passed it to Pierre de Ram for use in his edition of the Chronicles of Brabant.
Table of contents: ‘Cy commence la table des rubrices du premier liure qui sappelle le liure des chronicques de Brabant’ (f.[i]r); dedication: ‘A tresexcellent et tresvictorieux prince mon tresredoubtee et souverain seigneur mon seigneur le duc de Bourgoingne et de Brabant M. Jehan dEnghien chevalier seigneur de Kestergate et visconte du pays de Grimberges …’ (f.[iv]r); introduction: ‘Pour demonstrer la dessendue prouesses et vaillances des princes et ducs qui ont este en Brabant et aussy leurs noms et de quelle vie ilz ont este en meurs et conversation …’ (f.1r); Book I (f.18v); Book II (f.38r), Book III (f.98v), Book IV (f.123r), ending ‘… Et fut la bataille le samedy Vme jour de Juing la feste de saint bonneface lan mill deux cents iiijxx et viij. Et ainssy deffinist le quatriesme liure’ (f.281r).
The text is unpublished. Only three other manuscripts are known, all on paper:
London, BL, Add. MS. 18290 (15th-century; with a single historiated initial)
Brussels, KBR, MS 21266 (16th-century; undecorated)
Brussels, KBR, MS 21983–84 (17th- and 19th-century; undecorated)
There are also some extracts, transcribed from the present manuscript in the 17th century, in Averbode Abbey, MS 5.
The only discussion in print of the present manuscript, and indeed the only extensive summary of the text itself, is J. Borgnet ‘Le Livre des cronicques de Brabant’, Compte-rendu des séances de la commission royale d'histoire, 2nd series, 8 (1856), pp.355–87; most other accounts of the text are very brief e.g. G. Doutrepont, Littérature française à la cour des ducs de Bourgogne, 1909, pp.430–31, and A. Bayot and A. Cauchie, Chroniques brabançonnes, 1900, pp.47–48 (where they wrongly state that the present manuscript was in the Royal Library at Brussels).
In the introduction to his Chronicle, Jean d’Enghien (d.1478) explains that due to the multitude and prolixity of histories and chronicles about the Dukes of Brabant, he has decided to combine them into a single volume in French. He uses Emond de Dynter’s Chronica ducum Lotharingiae et Brabantiae and its French translation by Jean Wauquelin; the Brabantsche yeesten. The work is divided into an introduction and four books, from Noah onwards; Book IV fills more than half of the present volume, from Godfrey ‘the Bearded’ (d.1139) to the Battle of Woeringen in 1288. The work was originally planned in five books (Book I ends ‘Cy prend fin le premier livre de zincque’, f.37r), but both of the 15th-century copies end with Book IV.
There is much work to be done understanding the differing texts of the manuscripts. For example, it seems that the manuscripts combine translations of the Grimbergsche oorlog (Rhymed Chronicle of the War of Grimbergen) and Jan van Boendale’s Brabantsche yeesten (Deeds of the Dukes of Brabant), in different ways. Much also remains to be done to clarify the relationships between the manuscripts: the latest copy in Brussels, for example, has drawings of heraldic shields and banners very like those in the present manuscript, but without any colour, and has a note at the beginning stating that it was copied from a manuscript in the library of the Dukes of Burgundy (‘Ce libvre … se garde et trouve en la librarie du Duc de Brabant …’). The latter manuscript cannot be traced in the ducal inventories, however, and is not known to survive. At the very least, the similarity between the late Brussels manuscript and the present one, suggests a close connection between the present manuscript and the (dedication?) copy lost from the ducal library.
Illustrated with marginal paintings, many with gold or silver: more than fifty-five heraldic shields and banners (mainly at ff.151r–164r and ff.182v–204r), nearly twenty cadavers each on a rectangular gold ground; and about twenty other simple images, typically buildings, including Utrecht (f.26v), Affligem Abbey (f.122r), Grimbergen (f.147v), the ruins of Grimbergen Abbey (f.210v), Enghien (ff.214r, 221r), and 'Woeronck' (ff.265r, 268r), but also crossed swords (f.224r); a crown (f.226r), and the cemetery of Woeronck with skulls and a dozen bodies (f.280v), Noah’s ark depicted as a 15th-century galleon (f.1r), and a sword cutting off the head of Albert of Louvain (d.1192), bishop of Liège, brother of Henry I, Duke of Brabant (f.220v). The largest illustration shows an infant, identified as ‘Le Duc Godefroy’ (i.e. Godfrey III), in a gold cradle hanging from the branch of a tree (f.182v).
We are very grateful to Dirk Schoenaers for considerable assistance in the preparation of this description.
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