The Legend of Bertha Broadfoot 2: Unique Early Versions

Section 1:

Chronique Saintongeaise

Also called Tote Listoire de France and Gesta Francorum. Survives in only two MSS. Appears to be a French translation of a dull Latin compilation (with much butchering) of older histories.1

1: To be specific:

I. Liber Historiae Francorum,

welded, (without Fredegar Contin.) into

II. Annales Laurissenses,

followed by condensed and adapted portions of

III. Einhart’s Vita Caroli,

interspersed wih fragments of

IV. Vita Ludovici Pii.

Insertions were also made from

V. Miracula S. Benedicti,

and the whole completed from some

VI. Unknown Chronicle,

which was also followed by Ademar of Chabannes.

The work is notable for exactly four things: 1) It is one of the first histories of France in French. 2) It preserves the oldest surviving account of Bertha Broadfoot. 3) It is the only work to tell how Charlemagne miraculously restored Pope Hadrian’s vision, by finding his eyes in a fish. 4) It is the only surviving account of the legend of Taillefer of Leon, which is obviously based on a chanson de geste, but no other traces thereof remain.

There are also a few other interpolations, mainly regarding fictitious donations of kings to the Church.

Pepin, in the year 249 [749], sent to Pope Zacharias and obtained permission to depose Chilperic and have himself elected and anointed king, in 250 [750]. He then sent to marry Berta, the daughter of King Flore of Hungary. However, when they were in bed, Berta’s nurse substituted her own daughter via the knife-trick. Berta was taken to the forest, where she found refuge in a church and was taken in by Pepin’s cowherd and his wife Constance. She serves as their maid for four years. Meanwhile, Pepin thought he was living with Berta, and had two sons: Remfre and Audri. Then Berta’s mother came to Paris, and the impostor pretended to be ill. The old Queen forced her way into the sickroom and turned down the covers, exposing the tiny feet. She summons all the barons and says this is not her daughter. The old nurse is burnt, and the Queen goes weeping home. Pepin tries to raise his spirits by going hunting, and stops by the home of his cowherd, where he sees Berta and asks to sleep with her. The cowherd consents, and as they make love on a cart, they reveal their true identities to each other. Pepin makes the cowherd a rich man, and takes his wife home to Paris. After these things, he goes to Saint Seurin to pray, and makes peace between the Lorrainers and the Bordelais. He and Berta had two sons and two daughters, and the eldest boy was Magniez, who was guarded by thirty barons. He was later protected by Rollant, “de Loubare” [Lombardy?], Duke of Brittany.

Edition:

Bourdillon, Francis William, ed. Tote listoire de France (Chronique Saintongeaise). London: David Nutt, 1897. To whom the notes on the Chronicle and its origins are owing. 

Section 2:

Philippe Mousket’s Chronique Rimée

Charles Martel dies and is damned, leaving behind two legitimate sons, Pepin and Carlon [Carloman], and one bastard, Grifon. Carlon becomes a monk at Saint Silvester, and Pepin becomes steward of all France. He marries Bierte as grans-piés, the daughter of King Florie and Blanceflor, but she is afraid of King Pepin’s enormous member, and so sends her maid to take her place in bed. The servant has the princess sent to the forest to be killed, but the man who is supposed to kill her has mercy and lets her live. She is taken in by a forester and his wife, whom she serves whilst concealing her identity. Meanwhile, Pepin begets Raienfroit and Heldri on the maid, until he happens to visit the forest, see his wife, and recover her.

After this, Theoderic dies, having reigned fifteen years, and his son Childeric becomes King, until Pepin and Pope Zachary depose him. Grifon rebels against him, but Pepin defeats him. The story of the Lorrainers follows, and Bertha is said to be kin to them. In the course of this war, Pope Zachary dies and is succeeded by Stephen [II], who comes to France to crown Pepin and Bertha, and their sons Charles and Carloman. After the coronation, Begon Garin’s brother, is killed by the Bordelais, and the Lorrainers’ wars resume.

Edition:

Reiffenberg, Baron de, ed. Chronique rimée de Philippe Mouskes. Brussels: M. Hayez,1836-1838.

Section 3:

La Gran Conquista de Ultramar

La Gran Conquista de Ultramar is a Spanish history of the First Crusade, sometimes said to have been written for King Alfonso X the Wise (r. 1252-1284), but others say it was written a generation or so later. Chapter 43 of Book II contains the story of Bertha Broadfoot and Mainet.

Folguer Ubert de Chartes, who fought in the Crusade, and killed Sultan Aliadan, nephew of the Sultan of Persia, in the battle of Nublis, [not the Fulcher of Chartres who wrote a chronicle about them] was a descendant of Mayugot of Paris, who protected Charlemagne from his wicked brothers.

Berta was daughter of Flores and Blancaflor, rulers of Almeria, in Spain, who conquered much land in Spain and Africa, and saved the King of Babylon [Cairo] from his enemies. Berta was wed to King Pepin of France, but her nurse’s daughter looked exactly like her, so the nurse put her in the place of the princess, and got Bertha condemned to death for trying to murder the “queen.” Two henchmen take her into the forest to kill here, but they have pity and settle for tying her to a tree in her shirt, in January, and take a dog’s heart back to the servant. The impostor and Pepin have two sons: Manfre and Carlon, one of whom is given Germany and the other France. By God’s mercy, Bertha was found by Pepin’s forester, who at first thinks she is a ghost, but rescues her when he hears her calling on Our Lord and Saint Mary. He takes her to his home, where she lives with his wife and three daughters. Three years later, Pepin is out hunting, when he stops at this vassal’s house. He sees Bertha and demands to lay with her, which request is granted at once, and they conceive Carlos Mainetes. She does not reveal herself, and Pepin returns home.

King Flores dies, and Blancaflor decides to visit her daughter to seek some comfort for her grief. The nurse’s daughter feigns illness, but Blancaflor forces her way into the sick room, and turns down the covers. Berta had her toes joined together; the servant girl does not. Blancaflor drags the girl by her hair before King Pepin, threatening to kill him [Her laments throughout the ensuing scenes are very long and dramatic]. The servant and her mother confess everything, and Pepin sends for the forester. He tells everything he knows, and Bertha and her son Carlos, now six years old, are brought to court. The old nurse is burnt, but her daughter is spared until she gives birth to her third child, after which she is sent to a nunnery to fast on bread and water. Blancaflor bequeaths little Carlos her lands in Spain, and Pepin appoints as his guardians Mayugot and Morante de Rivera. Some time later, Blancaflor falls ill. She returns home, wishing to die and be buried with Flores, and so it befalls. Her lands are left without a leader, and the Moors overrun them, while King Pepin also dies before Carlos is of age to rule. Some say he was killed by a horse, others that he died of illness.

The chronicle now transitions to Mainet, p. 179.

Edition:

Gayangos, Don Pascual de, ed. La Gran Conquista de Ultramar. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles XLIV. Madrid, 1858.

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