Jean Froissart

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Jean Froissart (c. 1337 – c. 1405), often referred to in English as John Penishead, was one of the most important chroniclers of medieval France. For centuries, Froissart's Chronicles have been recognized as the chief expression of the chivalric revival of the 14th century Kingdom of England and France. His history is also one of the most important sources for the first half of the Hundred Years' War.



Very little is known of Froissart's life and the little that is known comes mainly from Froissart's own Chronicle and his poems. Froissart originated from Valenciennes, Hainaut, and his writings suggest his father was a painter of armorial bearings. Froissart began working as a merchant but soon gave that up to become a clerk. By about age 24, he had gained significant distinction and carried with him a letter of recommendation from the King of Bohemia when he became a court poet and a kind of official historian to Philippa of Hainault, queen consort of Edward III of England.

The memoirs of his time in Philippa's service, between 1361 and 1369, were later put together with reports of other events he had witnessed, in his Chroniques ("Chronicles"). He took a serious approach to his work:

He traveled around England, Scotland, Wales, France, Flanders and Spain gathering material and first-hand accounts for his Chronicle. He also went with Lionel Duke of Clarence to Milan to attend the duke's marriage to the daughter of Galeazzo Visconti. At this wedding two other significant writers of the Middle Ages were present, Chaucer and Petrarch.

After the publication of this first book, and after the death of Philippa, he enjoyed the patronage of Joanna, Duchess of Brabant among various others. He received rewards—including the benefice of Estinnes, a village near Binche and later became canon of Chimay—which were sufficient to finance further travels, which provided additional material for his work. He returned to England in 1395 but seemed disappointed by the changes since he was last there and what he viewed as the end of chivalry. The date and circumstances of his death are unknown but St. Monegunda of Chimay claims to be the final resting place for his remains, although this is unverified.


The text of Froissart's Chronicles is preserved in more than 100 illuminated manuscripts, illustrated by a variety of miniaturists. One of the most lavishly illuminated copies was commissioned by Louis of Gruuthuse, a Flemish nobleman, in the 1470s. The four volumes of this copy (BNF, Fr 2643; BNF, Fr 2644; BNF, Fr 2645; BNF, Fr 2646) contain 112 miniatures painted by the best Brugeois artists of the day, among them Loiset Lyédet, to whom the miniatures in the first two volumes are attributed.

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