The sword in the stone: The hazzards of a duke

This is going to be the first SITS/Duke post after some time. I have put the bigamous woman on the side burner for now. WIP is also for another post (started a new painting)

Over the holidays I have been reading the chronicles of Jean de Haynin, Olivier de la Marche, Chastellain, Molinet and de Comines. I’ve only read snippets of the bigger ones (Chastellain, Comines, several volumes) so far. I have concentrated on the adult years of the Bold (see earlier posts, not doing a recap). It’s quite interesting to read them side by side because they complement each other. One has to bear in mind that the Comines switched sides so his story will be quite biased.

Arles: Olivier de la Marche doesn’t mention anything about the Arles visions but he does talk about Arles and Saint Trophyme which was interesting. Also, according to the chronicles it looks like the B stayed in our town on his way to sack Liège. I must do some further research about this. I also learned something about very strange burial rituals in our region. Must look into that as well.

Other things that struck me: How gory, brutal and pointless wars are. How high the amount of miles these people were able to cover in a day were (without the cannons, though, those were slow), and the amount of travelling they did despite the absence of trains, planes and automobiles. (Charles the Bold was always on the move during his duke days.) How these high-born women were treated like goods or assets, almost like promotions in a shop (If you buy this you get one free – If you marry her you get this or that land or title) and on the other hand how well some of them managed to run their businesses or govern their lands while the men were always away from home, waging their endless wars or being just plain dead. It’s also interesting to read how terrified Olivier de la Marche was of Charles the Bold during those final days. How the B left a trail of mental breakdowns behind him. There was the anecdote about the books but there were some others in the presence of his father. I haven’t come across the boot incident yet.

A summary is for when I am done reading with all of the books. I also have come across some other clues regarding the remains that are interesting enough to look into. That’s for next week or the week after. Durendal and Gideon also have appeared again.

In the meantime here are some more samples of pictures of the B I have collected for my reference library, most of them fantasy portraits made after his death, or based on Rogier’s painting.

I came across two more examples of why you always need to check the sources. While I was looking for more information about a statue that was supposedly Charles the Bold (spoiler alert: it was not) I came across a twenty year old newspaper article about the theft of a wooden statue of St George in a church near Beernem. It said the statue dated from the 15th century and had the face of the Charles the Bold. There was no picture of the statue included and it took me some time to find it, on a website of Bruges.

Zooming in on the face, it’s clear that this is not the B but Philip the Fair. It says so in the description of the picture too so the reporter just sucked on his thumb, I guess (local expression for making things up). Or maybe I am wrong and this is not the stolen picture after all.

An engraving of the B in armour:

Another – low quality – print of a portrait, (not sure when and by whom it was made):

Charles the Bold when he was 9. Apparently this is a contemporary portrait drawing (museum of Arnhem). He looks about three or four in this, though.

This is not the Bold, but an engraving of a painting by Jan van Eyck which looks nothing like the original painting, so that’s why I included it. But note that this St George probably inspired the reliquary commissioned by the B that is now in Liège.

Also another thing I was looking for: a picture of the tomb of the B, taken from above.

And an engraving of the Bruges tomb from a book of the 19th century, when it was in another location in the church:

And my favourite thrift store find of last month, a book with large, good quality reproductions of Jean-Léon Huens’s totally underrated illustrations for the history of Belgium. There was only one volume of the three but never mind. I think the original pictures date from the 50ies or 60ies and people could collect them on small cards via tokens on coffee, flour and other packages of household stuff. (My pictures are not good, it’s quite dark in my work room atm)

That’s all for now.


Dead ends

Melencolia I by Albrecht Dürer

The past week I have not been well at all, and did not go out much. I’ve spent several days travelling back and forth between 1473 and 1667 AD, researching the gaps in the lives of two separate persons. There are not many online documents to consult, certainly not before 1600, and what I’ve found is incomplete, eaten by rodents, not accurate or just plain wrong, because people who wrote the information down didn’t double check facts or even thought logically (it seems very unlikely to me that an elderly – illegitimate child and all – priest would have a go at jousting, e.g.). I have ended up in many dead alleys and it’s very frustrating. At the same time definitely getting better at deciphering 17th century manuscripts in Latin.

As for the research on the B, I have finished the chronicles of Jean de Haynin on Christmas day and am now reading Olivier de la Marche’s memoires. It’s a scan of a 19th century edition, in old French that’s not too hard to understand. Halfway through the third volume of four so far.

Art project is also not going according to plan. I have finished the miniatures and am putting the book together. I smeared most of the glue and paint in my hair, made a couple big stains in the book and cut my hand, so far not so good. I just saw some cakes that were better painted on the internet so I am ready to throw the book out of the window. Maybe the Righteous Judges in miniature format was a bit too ambitious.

Some creepy nightmares, my brain warning me to take it easy. It will all fall into place, I’m sure, just not now.

Couple samples of gouache/ink/watercolour paintings:

Nicolas Rolin and a dragon.
More or less copied from a prayer book of the B.

The sword in the stone – update

Just did a page count of the old chronicles and biographies related to CtB I want to go through in the coming weeks: more than 8000 pages. I’ll have to be selective. The contemporary summaries and biographies are not useful. I am looking for very specific information.

Earlier today I checked the progress of the restauration works in the church of Bruges, to find out whether the tomb is visible right now or not, because I don’t want to undertake the long trip for nothing (but it’s not clear from the website – the Michelangelo statue will not be visible until March in any case). Not that it’s urgent or really matters, the skeleton is not underneath the tomb anyway.

I am busy with a little project for the painting course and wanted to find a view from above of the tomb of C (impossible, apparently). During my research I came across a site of the Palais ducal at Nancy with a lot of info on the tomb of C, which seems to have been updated today. It also has some info on the intestines (see earlier post), which were buried separately and where they were buried (near a statue of the Virgin). Also interesting is the suggestion, that the skeleton could still be somewhere buried in the soil of Nancy, if I understood correctly.

It looks like it’s turning into a Rennes-le-Château type of treasure hunt. However, I am not going to immediately rush to Nancy with a shovel in hand. This needs some planning.

For those interested, the link is this: Tombeau de Charles le Téméraire (Tomb of Charles the Bold)


A day at the races

On Friday I spent some time researching the results of a jousting tournament in May 1473, at the chapitre of the Golden Fleece at Valenciennes. Not because I had placed a bet, but I had to check some info on a guy whose history I am researching. This had nothing to do with the Bold quest originally but soon it became clear he was directly linked to Charles. According to the info I found, he grew up at the Burgundian court and was on the Bold’s payroll. It’s very hard to find more proof of this on the internet, maybe a few trips to libraries will have to be undertaken.

Not only was the year wrong in the article I started from, but it seemed very unlikely that that particular man had taken part in any of the jousting tournaments of 1473. 

Another problematic thing – as a side remark – is the Gregorian versus the Julian calender (not to mention other calendars that were/are in use). I never know if this has been taken into account in the info that is available. 

I checked the chronicles of several of the men in the circles of the Bold (who made a big show of himself at the convention, but that’s another story) and came to the conclusion that there was some confusion among them who exactly it was that won the tournament. They all had it from one source and the original source was very vague in his description.

Conclusion: even the original sources are not always a guarantee for correct and complete information.

It doesn’t look like it was my guy anyway.  

Spent the day at the Asylum. The Christmas rush has started so it was quite busy.

WIP – Trying to paint a study of a suit of armour. The arms are too short.

The sword in the stone: Duck à la blood

This is a sequel to the previous post. I am working my way through thousands of pages of memoirs and biographies, mostly in French (with free headache included), such as those of Olivier de la Marche, Georges Chastellain and Molinet plus some obscure footnotes in catalogues. I haven’t started Comines yet. Some of the research pertains another French man who was involved with the ducks dukes of Burgundy so it’s basically a double whopper. The blood is flowing from the pages and women and soldiers are moved around like chess pieces. At the same time, those women had to take care of the business and the state affairs when the men were away on their endless campaigns or crusades, or got killed in them. And often they did well, or even better.

Cryptophoriques at Arles or the mind of Charles of Burgundy. Your guess is as good as mine.

After watching the news I can only conclude that not much has changed in 500 years, despite the obsolescence of catapults and crossbows. There is still a lot of hunger, disease and random violence around us. We still have a Charles at the head of the government, not Charles of Burgundy, just Michel, funny hats, tights and hair not included, and he’s under fire too, proverbial this time. No blood has been drawn yet but it’s getting very interesting. Anyway.

Charles (the duck, not our prime minister) started behaving strangely in 1472. Well, even more strangely than he already was, that is. There was a vague reference to a couple anecdotes in the catalogue I borrowed from the library so I specifically looked for those. I also looked for a description of the 6 month period in which the D was very depressed and underwent special treatments. And finally I looked for the boot incident. So far I have only found one of those, but also other things.

First of all I found some accounts about the castle of Hesdin. This was more of a fairground attraction than a castle with machinery that scared or surprised visitors. After a quick search I found a description of the castle on this website: Marvels of Hesdin. I wish I had a time machine and could see this.

Secondly I found an account of the death of brave but poor de Lalaing who was killed at 32 in a siege of Gent (Philip had his hands full with the Gent people). Apparently Jacques had a problem with his leg and his doctor told him to rest but he wouldn’t listen and went into battle anyway. The revolters fired a cannon, and some wood hit de Lalaing in the head so his skull was crushed and his brain came out. (if my medieval French was good enough).

Thirdly I found a story in which someone was voodooed with a wax doll. I need to reread that story, it is quite interesting. Lots of poisonings, hangings and chopping off hands, raping and pillaging, and in between all that, – in Philip’s time – dining and jousting and extorting citizens and borrowing money from fishy bankers for war machines and expensive jewellery. 

I found some circumstantial evidence that the D saw/was near the Holy Blood at least once in his life. 

Some claim that the D was so depressed after the lost battles in the end, he wouldn’t take any advice from the others and claimed he’d even fight alone if he had to, so basically committed virtual suicide at Nancy in 1477.

According to a professor who had it from another professor who wrote about it to his student in 1800-something, the duck suffered from strange visions about Arles, Italy and God. It’s supposedly in Chastellain’s memoires, but I haven’t found it yet. I visited Arles once and they have dark Roman cellars and this church full of gruesome relics of saints so it is a place that inspires black thoughts.

Relics in the St. Trophime church

Also encountered a rather gruesome description of the destruction of a city in which nobody was spared, not even the people who sought refuge in a church. The vengeful Terrible rode into the church on his horse, into the bodies and the great pool of blood on the floor and he allegedly said: “My butchers have done a good job.”

Most interesting anecdote regarding his mental state in my opinion, I found in Molinet’s chronicles:

car il estoit fort mélancolieux et faci- lement incité à l’ire depuis la perte de Granson. Et disent aulcuns de ses privés serviteurs, qu’il prendoit par fois un libvre pour faire manière de vouloir, lire , et s’enclouoit seule; et illec, par grand courroux, tiroit cheveux, et se destordoit, en faisant les plus angoisseux regrets et plainctes qui jamais furent ouys; et, à ceste cause, chascun craindoit l’advertir de chose qui tournoit à sa des- plaisance.

Simply translated from my less than perfect old French: ...”[because] he was quite melancholic and was easily incited to rage after the loss of Granson. And some of his private servants said that sometimes he would take a book as if to read and lock himself up alone, where in great wrath he would tear at his hair and twist himself, while uttering the most anguished regrets and complaints ever heard. And because of this, everybody feared to inform him of something that would displease him.”

Ironically I drew this quick sketch as a study for the second, more fantasy painting of the series, long before I read about the above anecdote.

Still quite some research to do, but the coming days will be filled with 21st century tasks.