UPDATED VERSION: The original version of this post contained numerous errors, which are hopefully now corrected.
The legend of Floovant, son of King Clovis, is to be found in the following versions:
La Chanson de Floovant. French Alexandrines, assonanced, c. 1200.
Fioravante, Italian prose, c. 1315-1340.
Andrea da Barberino’s I Reali di Francia, Book II. Italian prose. c. 1400
Flovent, Dutch couplets, fragmentary, 1300s.
Floresvento: Portuguese ballad, still alive and kicking in the Azores and the mainland.
La Chanson de Floovant is a poem in Old French Alexandrines, assonanced. It survives in only one MS and a few fragments.
Newth, Michael A. H., trans. “The Song of Floovant,” in Heroines of the French Epic. D. S. Brewer, 2014.
Floovant, the oldest son of King Clovis of France, is committed to the care of the Duke of Bourgogne. He cuts the duke’s beard while he is asleep. The duke complains to the king, who is about to order Floovant executed when the Queen persuades him to reduce the sentence to seven years’ exile. Floovant leaves, intending to offer his services to King Flore of Ausai, who is fighting the Saracens. On the way, he rescues a maiden (who turns out to be Flore’s daughter Florete) from three Saracen robbers. As they ride on, he meets the Saracen giant Fernagu, son of King Galien, who tries to steal the lady. Here there is a gap in the MS. What follows in italics is hypothetically supplied from fragments and from other versions. Ferangu has four minions to help him. Luckily, Floovant’s squire Richier has been seeking him, and arrives at this juncture. The Saracens are slain. The three Christians arrive at Beaufort, where Flore greets them and makes Floovant his general. Florete gives Floovant the sword Joyeuse. Floovent, Richier, and Urbain the Allemand [German] besiege Avenant.
Maugalie, daughter of Galien, falls in love with Floovant. After beating back a Saracen sortie, Floovant returns to Flore’s court, where he refuses all honors, and the love of Florete. He returns to the siege and takes Avenant. He keeps Maugalie under his protection. Galien hears of this. Meanwhile, Flore and his sons Maudaran and Maudoire take possession of Avenant, and offer Florete’s hand to Floovant. Florete and Maugalie meet and quarrel. Flore and his children leave the castle in Floovant’s hands. The princes agree to betray him to Galien. That king retakes Avenant, capturing his daughter and her lover. Richier escapes with Joyeuse. At Maugalie’s plea, Floovant is thrown in the dungeon instead of being hanged. Richier kills a man on the road, then stays at the castle of Emelon, who turns out to be the deceased’s father. The father forgives him, after a fight. He comes to Baume, where he disguises himself as a Moor, pretends to be an escaped captive, and joins the Saracen camp. Meanwhile, Galien has captured twelve French barons and thrown them in jail with Floovant. Richier slips away to comfort them. Maugalie sees him, confronts him, and agrees to help the Christians escape if Floovant marries her. Galien, meanwhile, has promised her to Maudaran. The French escape, and ride for Beaufort with Galien in pursuit. At Beaufort, Flore and his army ride out to the rescue. The Pagans flee, and Maugalie is baptized and married to Floovant. Richier marries Princess Florete. Galien, furious, decides to besiege Clovis in Laon instead. Floovant and company ride to the rescue, saving Emelon from Saracen raiders on the way. Clovis’ other two sons have betrayed him. One is killed, but Geté flees to Baume, and succeeds Galien as king. Floovant and Maugalie become king and queen of France.
For the Fioravante, Andrea da Barberino, and the Reali di Francia see our page on Fiovo.
Fioravante and Andrea are in very close agreement for this section, with the main difference being Andrea’s greater loquacity.
Fiorello, son of Fiovo, son of Emperor Gostatino who was baptized by Pope Sylvester in 322, is king of France. Riccieri is duke of Sansogna. Fiorello marries Biancadora of Bavaria. His brother Fiore is king of Dardenna, and is father of Lione, Lionello, and Uliana. At age 20, Biancadora gives birth to Fioravante, who has a cross-shaped birthmark on his right shoulder, as Bevis of Hampton, Charlemagne, Orlando, and William of Orange later would. Fioravante cuts the beard of Salardo of Brettagnia, because he snores. The Queen gives her son Gioiosa [Joyeuse] when he is banished, and sends the Paladin Riccieri after him. The princess Fioravante rescues is Uliana, his cousin, and her father is fighting King Balante of Balda. He calls himself Guerrino, so she won’t recognize him. He fights with Finau, the son of King Galerano, whence Riccieri rescues him, killing Finau.
After killing a rogue who tried to rob them, they come to Dardenna, fight King Mambrino, nephew of Balante, and are succored by Tibaldo di Lime [Urbain the Allemand]. They present Uliana to her father, and she marries Tibaldo. King Fiore’s sons are Lione and Lionello, who betray Fioravante and Riccieri to Balante and Galerano. Balante’s daughter Drusolina and Galerano’s daughter Galerana fall in love with Fioravante. When the prince indicates his preference for Drusolina, Galerana retires to her chamber and dies of grief. Drusolina throws her body into the moat, and pretends that it was an accident. Tibaldo di Lime takes the news to Fiore, and then summons Emperor Arcadio and Pope Innocent Albanus [this is the year 345, according to the book] to send an army. At the siege, Tibaldo kills the traitors Lione and Lionello, but Balante kills him and King Fiore. Drusolina, after being baptized, releases her beloved Fioravante and Riccieri to aid the Christians. Galerano is killed in the ensuing fight, and Balante flees, taking his wife and daughter with him. Fiorello inherits the kingdom, and Fioravante and Riccieri return home. The Queen wishes her son to wed Salardo’s daughter. Fioravante makes excuses, and leaves to find his beloved Drusolina.
On the road, his squire steals his horse and sword [Durindarda here, introduced out of nowhere]. Fioravante recovers them, and travels to Scondia. Here the son of the Sultan of Babylon [Cairo] is besieging that city, for love of Drusolina. He fends off the advances of a damsel who dies for love of him, and takes service with Balante, pretending [to all except Drusolina] to be a knight who has killed Fioravante and stolen his armor. He wins the war, peace is made, but his identity is revealed, and Balante throws his savior in prison. Drusolina and her mother help him escape, and the lovers flee to Monfalcon, where Balante besieges them.
Meanwhile, Fiorello, Fioravante’s father and king of France, dies. Since all think Fioravante is dead, too, they wish to crown Riccieri. But the court jester knows where the prince is, but only reveals it after being promised the Countess of Flanders as wife in exchange for the information. Riccieri, the Emperor Arcadio [the 41st emperor, says the book] and the Pope ride to the rescue. They save the day again. Balante is defeated and baptized, and Fioravante takes his love back to France and weds her.
The Queen Mother, the Countess of Flanders, and Salardo’s wife and daughter all hate Drusolina. It happens that a poor widow comes begging to the court, with her twin infants. Drusolina remarks that this cannot happen without adultery. Fioravante rebukes her for saying so, and informs her that a woman can have up to seven children at a birth, and adultery has nothing to do with it.
Soon enough, the princess herself gives birth to twin sons. Shortly thereafter the Queen Mother orders a servant named Antonio to wait in Drusolina’s room while she sleeps, and brings Fioravante to see. He, enraged, immediately kills Antonio, but can’t kill his wife or children, thanks to Drusolina’s prayer to Mary. Riccieri runs in, and calms Fioravante down. The king sentences his wife and children to burn at the stake. The fire, however, does not hurt her, but does spread to the Queen Mother’s palace. Riccieri rescues Drusolina, and flees with her and the babies to the forest. He leaves her in a safe place while he goes to try to talk sense into Fioravante. As Drusolina sleeps, Giogante the thief steals one baby, and a lion the other.
Giogante is captured and hanged, and the boy given to a merchant of Paris named Chimento, who names him Gisberto Fier Visaggio [Gisbert of the Fierce Face] and raises him as his own. When Gisberto is eighteen, he takes part in a tournament, and is taken into favor by King Fioravante, and eventually made seneschal. Meanwhile, Saint Mark, disguised as a lion, accompanies Drusolina and her other son, Ottaviano del Lione, back to Scondia, where, unrecognized, the three live at king Balante’s court. She takes the name Rosana. Old Danebruno, the Sultan of Babylon [Cairo] hears the news, and demands that such a wondrous lion be sent to him. When Rosana refuses, he sends his son to besiege Scondia, which is not far from Bruges. [remember that Saxon and Saracen are interchangeable in old romances, and this makes much more sense]. Ottaviano captures the young Sultan, makes peace, and takes his daughter for wife. During the war, Balante’s vassal, the giant Giliante, had revolted. Now Balante and Ottaviano subdue him. Then they make war on Fioravante. That king and Riccieri are captured and thrown in prison, where Drusolina recognizes them. Gisberto and Ottaviano duel, but Saint Mark throws off his disguise, parts them, and reveals all. Balante is baptized [again?] and leaves his kingdom to Ottaviano. Fioravante’s mother is burnt at the stake. Fioravante himself lives three more years, then dies, leaving France to Gisberto. Drusolina dies five years after.
The horrors of the Reformation and the arrogance of the Renaissance wrought an incalculable destruction to medieval art, and the Dutch Charlemagne romances were among the hardest hit. Some two dozen romances are known, most of which survive only in one or two fragments. Why this is so can only be guessed at, but the most likely explanation is that the Dutch nobility read the romances in the original French, and preserved them in elaborate manuscripts that were made partly as status symbols, while Dutch translations were made for the bourgeoisie, in plain manuscripts that no one was interested in preserving from the scrap heap.1
1 Have, J. B. van der, “The Manuscripts of the Middle Dutch Charlemagne Romances.” Olifant 26.2 (2011) 9-34. p. 29.
As for Flovent, it survives only in two fragments, totaling just over 600 lines, in rhyming couplets, dated between 1330 and 1370.2
2 Have, J. B. van der, “The Manuscripts of the Middle Dutch Charlemagne Romances.” Olifant 26.2 (2011) 9-34. p. 27.
Bartsch, Karl, “Flovent,” in Germania, IX (1864) 407-436.
Fragment 1: …Galien and the Saracens are besieging Floovant, Margalia, and the twelve Peers. Flure of Antsai, Duke Hemelioen of Bavaria, Ritzier, and Lucari the hermit arrive with an army. Maugalie helps the French escape, and they triumph. Margalia is crowned, and marries Floovant. Ritzier marriers Fleur di rose [evidently Flure’s daughter]. Galien lays siege to Paris with fifteen kings. Clovis, however, isn’t there, so Galien besieges Laon instead. He builds Purlepont to stop the army from Anstai. Clovis wishes that he hadn’t banished Floovant for offending Salvaerd. With his sons Germin and Severin, and the castellan Rigant, he makes a sally…
Fragment 2: …Claude, the Queen, on the walls, sees an army coming. All in the city arm. Clovis’ son Disdier joins Galien, who has promised him Bavaria. He almost kills Severin, but Rigant takes the blow and is slain. Floovant, with army and Joyeuse, arrives. Hemelioen, Lucari, and Flure are killed. Ritzier kills Disdier and Galien. After winning the battle, he announces his intent to turn hermit…
The Pan-Hispanic Ballad Project collects eighteen versions of Floresvento. The format is Date Collected, Location. First printed edition, page number. (Pan-Hispanic Ballad Project number). For the sigla of the ballad collections, see this page.
B: 1869, Ribeira de Areias, Velas, Isla de S. Jorge, Azores, Portugal. Braga, Romanceiro Geral, 232-233. (PHBP 0343:17)
C: 1883, Vimioso, Vimioso, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1886A,4 19. (PHBP 0343:12)
4 The PHBP lists this ballad as first published in Leite de Vasconcellos 1883. However, since the article known by that sigla is impossible to find on the internet, we here give the second time the ballad was published.
D: 1902, Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1958-1960, I:44. (PHBP 0343:9)
E: 1906, Vinhais, Vinhais, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Tavares 1906B, 297. (PHBP 0343:15)
F: 19??, Castiñeira, Vilariño de Conso, Pobra de Trives, Viana do Bolo Ourense, Spain. RT-Galicia 1998, p. 181. (PHBP 0343:1)
G: 1928, Vinhais, Vinhais, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Martins 1928, 219. (PHBP 0343:13)
H: 1938, Vinhais, Vinhais, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Martins 1938, 26. (PHBP 0343:14)
I: 1958, Parada de Infanções. Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1958-1960, I:43-44. (PHBP 0343:8)
J: 1958, Salselas, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1958-1960, I:43. (PHBP 0343:11)
K: 1960, Parada de Infanções. Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos 1958-1960, II:482. (PHBP 0343:10)
L: 1969, As Lajes das Flores, As Lajes das Flores, Isla de As Flores, Azores, Portugal. Purcell 1987, Ilhas, 6.1, pp. 80-81 (PHBP 0343:18)
M: 1969, Ponta Ruiva, Ponta Ruiva, Santa Cruz das Flores, Isla de As Flores, Azores, Portugal. Purcell 1987, Ilhas, 6.2, pp. 81-82 (PHBP 0343:19)
N: 1980, Baçal, Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1987c, I, p. 38, no. 59 (PHBP 0343:2)
O: 1980, Sacóias, Braganza, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1987c, I, p. 38, no. 60a-b (PHBP 0343:3)
P: 1980, Santalha, Vinhais, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1987c, I, p. 39, no. 61a-b (PHBP 0343:4)
Q: 1980, Carção, Vimioso, Braganza, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1987c, I, p. 39-40, no. 62 (PHBP 0343:5)
R: 1984, Portugal. Costa Fontes 1997b, p. 77 (PHBP 0343:6)
Question marks in the following summary indicate my ignorance of Portuguese, not gaps in the texts.
Joãozinho A, Flores e Ventos B, Cruelbento CK, Cruelvento DEGHIJNOPQR, Crua o vento F, Florbento K, Florevento M, on Christmas Eve ABLM, wins a hundred doubloons at gambling (?) ABM, kills a priest ACEFK, seven priests B, three priests DGJOPR, a hundred priests LM, at the altar (before cockcrow, at the moment of consecration G), rapes seven maidens ABM (three CDEQ, three royal maidens FGIKNOPR, kills seven maidens L), and burns seven castles/cities ABLM (three C, three in Portugal DEIK, three churches in Portugal FGJNOPQR). He kills three babies (?) I. He robs seven rich men Q.
ABM: The authorities, (His father the king B) wish to kill him, but his mother (and her servants M) has him banished instead. He wanders through strange lands, where he cannot find bread, nor wine, nor water, and at last he goes to the Holy Land.
CEHIJKLMNOQR: He offers to pay for the castles/churches, marry the maidens or pay their dowry, and seek God’s pardon for the priest(s) (babies I). Money cannot atone for rape Q.
DEGHI: He is sentenced to go overseas (Africa, and the ship will sink G, A land with no bread nor wine H)
D: The rivers he crosses will be difficult. The fountains he drinks at will run dry (also GI). His wife will be faithless, his children worthless.
I: None will give him water. He will not eat his bread nor sleep in peace.
LM: No one will give him bread, and his wife will be faithless. Dona Branca takes two cavaliers as her lovers while her husband is away. He comes home and asks whose two hats are hanging up, and whose two white horses are in the stables, but she says they are gifts for him L. He finds the men and threatens to kill her, but ultimately leaves her punishment to God M.
If it were not for the names in a few versions, and for the Queen’s intercession in ABM, this ballad’s descent from Floovant would be utterly undetectable.
THE ORIGIN OF THE FLOOVANT LEGEND
No one is sure. The truth appears to be a combination of the following theories and the ever-fertile imagination of minstrels.
Theory 1: The song was inspired by Dagobert I, known to French children as Le Bon Roi Dagobert. According to legend, he cut off the beard of Sadragesile, duke of Aquitaine, who was his tutor and was plotting to usurp the throne. In real life, Dagobert did indeed marry the Saxon serving-girl Nanthilde, and made war on the still-pagan Saxons.
Theory 2A: The historical Clovis had four sons. One of them, Clotaire, fought the Saxons in 555 and 556, whereupon his brother Childebert attacked his territory and besieged Laon. Also, the plot of Floovant is very similar to that of Lohier and Mallart, and Lohier is the same name as Clotaire.
Theory 2B: Clovis’ other son, Theuderic, who also warred against the Pagans. [Incidentally, Theuderic’s son Theudebert killed the historical Hygelac, from Beowulf, in this war.] Theuderic also warred, with his brothers, against the Burgundians, and married their princess Suavegotha.
The French Floovant was probably written between 1170 and 1200, after Fierabras and La Chevalerie Ogier, but before Auberi le Bourguignon. It was most likely the ancestor of the other versions. The further adventures of Drugiolina and her sons Gisberto and Ottavione in I Reali are lifted almost wholesale from the romance of Octavian. The Portuguese ballad probably came from the Italian, directly or indirectly. Flovents Saga (or its lost French source) appears to have attracted some elements from Floovant into its retelling of Fiovo.