The Legend of Bertha Broadfoot 3: The Italian Family

Section 1:

MS V13: Berta de la Pie Grant

Venice, Biblioteca marciana fondo francese manuscript XIII (=256), usually abbreviated V13, is a collection of chansons de geste in Franco-Italian assonanced decasyllables, containing: Bovo d’Antona (Part 1, unknown number of pages lost at the beginning), Bertha Broad-Foot, Bovo Part 2, Karleto, Berta e Milone, Enfances Ogier, Orlandino, Chevalerie Ogier, and Macario, of all of which it is the only copy. Franco-Italian was never a spoken dialect, but rather a literary creation. The MS and poems date from the early 1300s.

Pepin holds court in Paris on Pentecost, at which Aquilon of Bavaria (father of Naimon), Bernard of Clairmont, Salomon and others attend. They urge him to take a wife, and a çubler announces that the most beautiful woman he has ever seen is named Berta da li pe grandi, daughter of King Alfaris of Hungary and his wife Belisant. The barons all agree that this is a good plan, and Pepin sends as ambassador to Hungary Aquilon, Bernard, Morando de Rivere, and Grifon of Altafoglia [Hauteville]. The King receives them warmly, then consults with his family. He tells Berta that Pepin is short and ugly, but very rich and very brave. She agrees to marry him, and they depart. On their way home, they stop at the castle of Belençer of Magance, whose daughter happens to look exactly like Berta. The two become friends at once, and Berta takes the damsel with her to Paris. As they near that city, Berta asks the girl to take her place in King Pepin’s bed, because she is exhausted from the long ride. King Pepin is surprised to see his bride’s tiny feet, but decides the çubler must have been lying. In the morning, the girl bids her henchman take Berta into the forest and kill her. The man is touched by pity, however, and spares Berta’s life after making her swear never to return to France. Berta wanders into the forest. Continue reading