The following is a composite family tree of the Merovingians, according to the legendary chansons de geste known as the Dagobert Cycle. Specifically, it is based on Dieudonné of Hungary (Charles le Chauve), Octavian, Florence of Rome, Ciperis of Vignevaux, and Theseus of Cologne, and centered on Dagobert I, known as Le Bon Roi Dagobert, “Good King Dagobert.”
The legend of Dieudonné of Hungary survives in only one MSS: A 17,500 line chanson de geste in monorhymed Alexandrines, also known as Charles le Chauve. Despite that name, it is set in the days of the Merovingians, not of Charlemagne’s grandson. To avoid confusion, we will be referring to the legend and chanson as Dieudonné of Hungary.
The MS. in question is BnF Fr. 24372, which is incomplete at the end. There are partial editions, but no complete ones, and of course no English translation.
DIEUDONNÉ OF HUNGARY
King Clotaire of France had no heirs at his death, so the Twelve Peers met to choose his successor. An angel of the Lord appeared to tell them to choose no king, but to wait for the coming of King Melsiau of Hungary, who, though currently a Saracen, would be baptised under the name of Charles the Bald. William of Montfort, a Breton baron, rejects this plan, and readies an army to seize the throne with his faithful companion, Goubaut of Lausanne. At the same time, Melsiau invades, intending to convert the folk to the worship of Mahound. The Peers, flustered, manage to persuade both parties to a truce, and they will both present themselves at Notre-Dame de Riems, where the Holy Ghost will make His will known. As Melsiau approaches the altar, the Holy Ghost appears and places in his hand a vial filled with sacred oil. Melsiau is baptized under the name of Charles, known as the Bald. He melts down his idols and uses the gold to adorn churches, and marries Marguerite, heiress of Berry. They have two sons, Philip and Charlot.
But William and Goubaut are not pleased. They flatter the king while secretly hating him. Charles makes Goubaut the tutor of Prince Philip. Goubaut poisons a barrel of wine and sends it to Philip in the name of Charles. He then throws the squire who delivered it down a well, to silence him. Meanwhile, the Duke of Touraine has tasted the wine and died in agony. Charles wishes to banish his son, but Marguerite persuades him to settle for banishment. Philip is forced to swear to tell no one of his lineage.
Philip learns that King Hilaire of Hungary is besieged in Montluisant by a Saracen giant named Merlangier, and has promised his daughter Doraine to whoever slays the Pagan. As he travels thither, he kills a “monstrous serpent” that ravaged the countryside. He then rests at the home of Goubaut’s kinsman Butor de Saleries, who plots to kill him by night, but Butor’s wife warns Philip, who escapes and comes to Montluisant. Inside the city, he is given lodging by one Joseran, a fellow Frenchman. That same day, a Lombard knight is defeated by Merlangier. His squire, passing though the town, resents Philip’s mockery, and the two fight, and the Lombard is slain. Philip is brought before King Hilaire for murder. He announces that he has come to fight Merlangier, whereupon all is forgiven. Doraine falls in love and gives him a magic ring which will protect him from poison and drowning.
When Philip fights the giant, Merlangier throws him in the river, from which he emerges unfazed and beheads the Saracen. This does not end the war, however, for Merlagier’s brother Soltibran begins a general combat, in which Soltibran mortally wounds Hilaire and is slain in turn by Philip. Hiliare, dying bequeaths his daughter and his kingdom to Philip.
Meanwhile, in France, Butor has strangled his wife and now prepares to follow Philip and kill him, too. Coming to Montluisant, he apologizes to Philip for the unfortunate incident at his house, and lays all the blame on one of his squires, whom he has punished. Credulity seems to run in the family, for King Philip believes him and makes him seneschal.
Doraine conceives a child. Before he is born, however, an angel orders Philip to lead twenty thousand soldiers to save Jerusalem from the Saracens. He departs, leaving Butor in charge. Philip saves Jerusalem and is crowned king by the Patriarch. Meanwhile, Butor has forged letters saying that Philip is dead in Syria, and claims that he was the son of a peasant, banished from France for banditry. He offers to marry Doraine, who refuses him. So instead, he schemes with a midwife to swap her baby for a half-devoured chicken and to pretend the queen ate her child. The baby is abandoned in the woods, but rescued by Guillaume d’Esturgon, a local lord, who sees that he has a cross birthmark on his shoulder, and names him Dieudonné.
Philip, sailing home, is shipwrecked by a storm, and saved only by the magic ring. He washes up on a desert island inhabited only by a hermit, also shipwrecked. There the two remain for eighteen years.
Guillaume raises the young Dieudonné with his own son Mancion and daughter Supplante. Mancion is jealous of his foster-brother’s talent for learning and fighting, but Supplante adores him. Supplante says Dieudonné’s birthmark means he is a king. Mancion laughs and says the only king Dieudonné will ever be is the Twelfth-Night King. Such quarrels as these continue, until at last they fight over a chess game. Mancion pulls a knife and tries to stab Dieudonné, who, however, wrestles the knife away and pierces his foster-brother’s heart. He flees, but Guillaume pursues and overtakes him. Dieudonné will not fight his foster-father, who is touched with pity and banishes him instead of executing him. He decides to wander the earth seeking his birth parents. As he travels, he hears the sad tale of the Queen dowager of Hungary, accused of murdering her own child. He decides to defend her. He gets lost on the road to Hungary, however, and comes to a fountain where three naked young women are swimming. He modestly averts his eyes, and asks them where he can find lodging. They dress and conduct him to the castle of the Fairy Queen, Gloriande. Here a dwarf named Maufumé, who is old enough to remember Noah, challenges him to battle. Dieudonné refuses, so Maufumé leaves, summons a storm, transforms himself into a knight, and jousts with Dieudonné, who with difficulty overcomes him. Maufumé resumes his own shape, announces that Gloriande is in love with Dieudonné, and welcomes him into the castle, which is so beautiful that Dieudonné almost forgets his parents and his beloved Supplante at once. Almost, for when Queen Gloriande offers him her love, he tells her that his heart is pledged to Supplante. She accepts her rejection with grace, and offers him a horn, that can summon seven thousand men when blown; a napkin, which, if the sign of the cross is made over it, will provide bread and meat for a hundred; and a chalice, which will always be full of the world’s best wine. If Dieudonné ever tells a lie, however, the gifts will cease to work for him. Maufumé gives him a sword whose blows are always mortal. Thus arrayed, he departs for Esturgon, where Gloriande tells him his love is waiting.
On the road to Esturgon, Dieudonné kills a man-eating centaur, rescuing its victims from its castle, and winning an enchanted helmet. He arrives at Esturgon, where he invites all the beggars to a feast and feeds them with his napkin and chalice. When Guillaume comes to see what the commotion is about and recognizes his foster-son, he calls his men to seize him, but Dieudonné blows his horn and summons an army, whereupon Guillaume sees the benefits of mercy and gives Supplante to Dieudonné in marriage. Gloriande and three fairies play the music at their wedding, and on their wedding night Dagobert is begotten.
Dieudonné remembers that he was supposed to go rescue the Queen of Hungary, (whom he has learned is really his mother) and leaves his bride in the morning. He arrives at Montluisant and saves her with his fairy army. Unfortunately, Butor escapes and holes up in his castle of Nimègue. Dieudonné now goes to find his father, saving Constantinople from the Saracens on the way, but when he arrives on the island, the hermit tells him that Philip is gone; a ship came by at last and took him away. Dieudonné, suspicious, lies to the hermit about his identity, causing Gloriande’s gifts to lose all their power. To make things worse, Dieudonné is shipwrecked on the Isle of Adamant. Maufumé is given permission to go help him, but only on condition that he (Maufumé) spend three years in shape of a luiton. The dwarf rescues the prince, and he, having never lied, is able to use the napkin and chalice to feed Dieudonné and the crew. They return to Gloriande, who restores Dieudonné’s ability to use them as well.
Dieudonné now returns to Montluisant, where he learns that Philip is at Nimègue, where Butor has persuades him that Queen Doraine murdered their son, and that the man pretending to be Dieudonné is actually Queen Doraine’s lover, who has changed his shape by magic. Dieudonné cannot fight his father, lest he break the power of the gifts again, and so he slips away, leaving his mother to the tender mercies of her husband and Butor.
Here there is a lacuna in the only manuscript.
When the story resumes, Emperor Charles the Bald, King Philip, and Dieudonné have reconciled and are accusing Goubaut and Butor of treason. In a two-on-two duel, Philip and Dieudonné mortally wound their opponents, who confess everything before dying. Everyone is happy and content.
Or they would be, if Goubaut’s kinsmen were not trying to take over France in Charles’ absence. Charles, Philip, and Dieudonné ride to raise the siege of Rheims, but they have the worse of the battle. Dieudonné is unhorsed, taken captive, and bound. With great difficulty, he loosens his bonds enough to raise his horn to his mouth. He blows a mighty blast, the fairy army arrives, and the kings are victorious. Unfortunately, the traitors escape. The royalty pursue them to Lausanne, leaving Doraine and Supplante in Montluisant, where they are besieged by the pagan King Joshua of Majorca and Almería, who has fallen on love with Supplante by report. He hires the famous enchanter Balan of Ascalon, who helps him capture the city. Doraine leaps out a window to keep her chastity, Supplante is made a captive of Joshua, and Balan kidnaps the infant Dagobert to raise as his own son. Touched by pity, he also provides Supplante with a chastity-preserving ring. Thus she lives chastely for several years in Almería.
After successfully defeating the traitors in Lausanne, Charles, Philip, and Dieudonné learn of the fate of their womenfolk. Dieudonné heads for the sea and sets sail for Almería, destroying the navy of the Sultan of Damascus en route, thanks to his enchanted horn. He slays the Sultan and rescues his fiancée, Princes Corsabrine of the Indies, whom he proceeds to deflower, thereby causing the fairy gifts to lose their power a second time. He is unaware of this, however, and confidently attacks Almería. Without the fairy horn, his entire army is destroyed. Corsabrine is taken captive by King Joshua, and Dieudonné manages to escape in a dinghy which eventually washes up near the Roman campagna. King Joshua happens to be the nephew of the Sultan of Damascus, so Corsabrine tells him that she is pregnant with the Sultan’s child (really it is Dieudonné’s). Joshua swears to install her and her son (if the child is male) as rulers of Damascus.
Meanwhile, Emperor Valerian of Rome is being attacked by the heathen King Abel of Acre. Dieudonné offers his services, but he and Valerian are taken prisoner. The Pope orders every priest, monk, cardinal, and bishop to take up arms, and this second army manages to drive the Saracens away, but not to rescue the prisoners, who are taken to Syria, where they enslaved and set to hard labor. After a year or so, King Abel decides to marry the beautiful Sultana Corsabrine of Damascus and become guardian of her son. Joshua approves the marriage, and it is done. Dieudonné seeks permission to attend to festivities, but the overseer simply laughs and beats him. Dieudonné and Valerian snap and begin slaying many Saracens with whatever comes to hand, but they are overcome and led in chains before Abel and Corsabrine, who takes some time recognize Dieudonné. When she does, however, she secretly consults with him, offering him freedom if he will take her back to France and wed her. But this he cannot do, for he is married already. The Sultana is furious, informs him that she was secretly baptized for love of him, and finally orders him and Valerian thrown in the dungeon, to be fed on black bread and hot water.
King Abel invites all his allies to come watch the execution of Dieudonné and Valerian. Queen Supplante is very much alarmed when the invitation comes. Without waiting for her alleged husband, she sets sail to save her true one. She persuades the King of Acre to postpone the execution, and bceoms the confidante of Corsabrine. Supplante admits she is still a Christian, and Corsabrine tells how Dieudonné is the father of her child, but refuses to marry her. Supplante is filled with very mixed emotions at this news, but at last she persuades Corsabrine that Dieudonné was just testing her, and will surely be glad to take her to France and marry her if she asks again. The two queens go to the dungeon, where a very awkward reunion and explanations ensue. At last though, all are content, and Supplante gives Corsabrine her magic ring.
That night, the two queens, their chamberlain Griffon, and the two prisoners flee Damascus, murdering the porter as they go. As they travel west, they meet King Joshua of Almería coming east. They attack him, Joshua is slain, but his men take the Christians prisoner. Corsabrine accuses the men of having kidnapped her, and is thus returned to Damascus in honor. Supplante claims to be pregnant with Joshua’s child, and is taken back to Almería with the three men, who, however, are thrown in a dungeon overlooking the sea. When the waves cause a portion of the wall to crumble, Dieudonné breaks his chains, takes his leave of his companions, and leaps into the sea.
At this juncture, who should arrive but Maufumé, in form of a luiton, who is sent by Gloriande to rescue Dieudonné and to restore him his napkin, chalice, and horn. He carries the man to Ascalon, where Dieudonné’s son Dagobert is being raised by King Balan, the enchanter. In the city, Maufumé shape-shifts into a monkey, and Dieudonné dresses as a jongleur. They play at the king’s banquet, until Maufumé siezes a knife and stabs a Saracen. Balan calls for his arms, and prepares to work his magic, but Maufumé shape-shifts into a fire-breathing serpent, then into a flying dragon, and causes a lightning-storm. Balan is amazed, and says that the devils who have taught him much can do no such tricks. Maufumé explains that he is a Fairy, that the jongleur is Dieudonné, father of the young Dagobert. He offers to pardon the magician if he will accept Holy Baptism. So it is done, and now Dieudonné, Maufumé, Dagobert, and Balan go to Almería, where, thanks to the fairy horn, they resuce Supplante and kill or convert all the Saracens. They return home to Montluisant at last. Dieudonné wishes to go to Damascus and rescue Corsabrine, but Supplante, jealous, will not hear of it, and persuades him not to. This was a great mistake, and much woe came to Christendom because of it, for Sultan Abel of Damascus invades Rome, captures the Emperor and his son Othovian, and beheads the Supreme Pontiff.
Meanwhile, Charles the Bald has died, and Philip is now King of France. Dieudonné and his horn save Philip from the traitor Amaury of Brittany, who had already been crowned king at Paris. To punish the Parisians for their part in the rebellion, Dieudonné ordains that the kings shall henceforth be consecrated at Rheims. An angel tells Dieudonné that he may not inherit the throne, but must do penance for his sins in a hermitage. Dieudonné renounces his rights, leaving Dagobert at court to be Philip’s heir, and retires with Supplante to a wild spot near Blaye, on the Gironde, where after living lives of holiness, they are murdered by robbers. God works many miracles through them, and they are known as Saint Honoré and Saint Foi. Corsabrine, when she dies, will be known as Saint Innocent of Paris, her baptismal name.
Here the only manuscript ends. It would appear that it was meant to lead into some version of Florent and Octavian.
ORIGINS AND INFLUENCE
The author knew and drew from Le Chevalier au Cygne, Huon de Bordeaux. The poem is very similar to Baudoin of Sebourg, Tristan de Nanteuil, Floovant, and Hugh Capet, among others, though it is unclear which came first.
The pagan origins of Charles the Bald, and that name being applied to a Merovingian, seem to be our author’s inventions. The ring that preserves from drowning is a new twist on an old idea, as is the final scene between Balan and Maufumé. The bulk of Diuedonné’s aventures, however, are slavishly copied from those of Huon and the Swan Knight.
The real Saint Honoré (Honoratus of Amiens) was a bishop of Amiens who died May 16, around 600. He was chosen as patron by the Parisian baker’s guild in the 1400’s, on account of a legend that his old nursemaid had been incredulous when she heard that he had been elected bishop, and refused to believe it unless her peel grew into a tree. It did so, and she believed.
The real Saint Foi was a young woman from Agen in Aquitaine, burned to death on October 6 under Diocletian. She is not to be confused with Saint Faith, the daughter of Saint Sophia and sister of Saints Hope and Charity.
The real Saint Innocent was a man, the first Pope of that name, in the 400’s. Perhaps our author misunderstood the meaning of the Cimetière des Saints-Innocents (The Holy Innocents) in Paris.
 Paris here says (p. 112) that the secret is that of the fairy Viviane, who ensnared Merlin this way, but this appears to be his comment, not that of the jongleur.
ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND
Girart of Roussillon, Girart of Vienne, and Girart of Euphrate are all inspired by the same historical figure: Girart II, Count of Paris, born 810, ascended 837, died c. 878.
Now Girart I of Paris had married Rotrude (who may have been the daughter of Carloman, son of Charles Martel), and founded the Girardid dynasty of Counts of Paris. His three sons, Stephen, Begon, and Leuthard I, succeeded him in turn as Counts. Leuthard I had two sons: Girart and Adalard. Adalard served as King Louis the Pious’ seneschal, and Girart became Count of Paris. Meanwhile, Count Hugh of Tours had two daughters: Bertha and Ermengarde. Girart II married Bertha sometime before 819, and Ermengarde married Lothair I, son of Louis the Pious and king of Middle Francia, Bavaria, and Italy, and Emperor of the West. In 836, Girart was sent on official business to Italy. In 837, he was made Count of Paris. He lost the title in 841, when he took the side of Lothair I against King Charles the Bald and broke down the bridges across the Seine to inconvenience the latter. Girart was among Lothair’s soldiers at the Battle of Fontenoy in 841, when that king and his nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine were decisively defeated by Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Lothair nonetheless made Girart his count of the palace in 842. When Lothair I died in 855, his son Charles, still a child, inherited Provence as his kingdom, and Girart became his regent. In 860, Girart repelled a band of Vikings who had sailed up the Rhone. The following year, Charles the Bald attempted to disinherit his nephew, but he was repelled, possibly by Girart, and returned to France. Around this time, Girart and Bertha founded the monasteries of Vézelay and Pothièrs. In 863, Charles of Provence died young and childless, and his lands passed to his brother Lothair II, King of Lotharingia, for whom Girart continued to administer them until that king’s death in 869, whereupon his territories were divided by his uncles Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Charles went to occupy Provence, but met with resistance from Girart and Bertha. Charles laid siege to Vienne, which was ably defended by Bertha while Girart was holding another castle nearby. Charles, however, first burnt all the lands around Vienne and then promised the people mercy if they surrendered. The people told Bertha they wished to surrender, Bertha send word to Girart, and Girart formally surrendered to Charles on Christmas Eve, 870. The couple went into retirement in their fiefs near Avignon, where Girart died between 877 and 879. He was buried in the abbey of Pothièrs, in Langres, where once could be seen Girart’s tomb on the Gospel side of the chapel, Bertha’s on the Epistle, and, in front of the altar, an epitaph for their infant son Thierry.
Bedier would have it, as usual, that the legend was created in the 11th or 12th century by some minstrel who had heard or read the monks’ chronicles of their founder, Girart. He argues that the only similarities between Girart of Paris and Girart of Roussillon are that they fought a king named Charles, had a wife named Bertha, had a son who died young, and founded certain monasteries, all facts that a minstrel could have learned at the abbey. The minstrels did not, however, know about such striking facts as Girart of Paris’ defeat of the Vikings, his protection of the young prince Charles of Provence against his cruel uncle, Bertha’s protection of Vienne on her own, etc., all things we would expect them to know if the story of Girart had been passed down orally.
Although Saint Badilon is real, the cult of St. Mary Magdalene at Vézelay seems to have been an invention of the eleventh century. Although Girart and Bertha did obtain for their monasteries the relics of Ss. Pontien, Eusebius, Andéol and Ostien, there is no record of the relics of the Magdalen there prior to 1050. Unfortunately for Vézelay, in the mid 1200’s a tomb was discovered in Provence. This tomb was, in reality, a Gallo-Roman tomb of the 500’s with a carving of Pontius Pilate washing his hands and a servant holding the washbasin. The discoverer, however, thought the servant was Mary Magdalene preparing to wash the feet of Christ, and the word went out that St. Mary Magdalene’s tomb had been found. The monks of Vézelay now claimed that they had received their relics from the south, but their popularity declined, and the cult in Provence flourished. Had it not been for this discovery, there would have been no association of the Magdalen with Provence, no tradition of St. Lazarus as bishop, no legend of St. Martha taming the Tarrasque, no Holy Blood, Holy Grail, no Da Vinci Code, and Dan Brown would be an obscure third-rate hack writer, instead of a rich and famous third-rate hack writer.
The relics at Vézelay were destroyed the Protestants during the Wars of Religion, and the church turned into a stable. The relics currently venerated there are replacements sent from elsewhere. The shrine in Provence was destroyed during the Revolution, but the skull was saved and is now in a rebuilt shrine. The most likely candidate for the real relics are those brought to Constantinople in the ninth century, but I can find no information on what became of them afterwards, or if they are still preserved today.
Val Pergunde is perhaps Valprionda, a suburb of Cahors.
Girart of Roussillon appears already in the Oxford Song of Roland as one of the Twelve Peers, and he dies at Roncesvalles. Later works incorporated him into the elaborate genealogies of the Paladins, and made him the brother of Aymon of Dordone, Doon de Nanteuil, and Bueve d’Aigremont. He plays hardly any role, however, in the poems of the Nanteuil cycle or those of the Aymonids. On occasion he fights alongside his kinsmen, but they seldom if ever, if I recall correctly, allude to the events of his life story as given in his own chansons. Later still, Girart was made into one of the twelve sons of Doon de Mayence. Besides the three mentioned above, the other eight were: Gaufrei (father of Ogier the Dane), Grifon d’Hautefeuile (of Altafoglia, one of the Maganzans), Othon, Ripeus, Seguin of Bordeaux (father of Huon), Pierre (father of the Swan Knight), Morant de Riveirs, and Hernaut de Girone.
Some MSS of Hervis de Metz insert an episode, between Hervis proper and the beginning of Garin le Loherain, wherein Girart is at war with Charles Martel. Charles asks the Pope for permission to tax the Church, reminding him that he has always given generously to her and now needs her help. The Pope agrees, but Girart is on the warpath and nearly at Paris. Charles has enough money now, but not yet enough men, and so, reluctantly, sends to Hervis for aid. Hervis makes ready to go to France, but before he gets there, Girart conveniently dies of illness. He is buried in an abbey he founded at Bar-sur-Aube.
There are other minor references to Girart. Auberi le Bourguignon conflates Girart of Roussillon and Girart of Eufrate in a prologue. Adenet le Roi alludes to the story in Bertha Broadfoot, as does the anonymous Italian who wrote the Entrée en Espagne. Girart is mentioned in some of the chronicles, more usually as the founder of abbeys than as the adversarial brother-in-law of Charles the Bald or Charles the Hammer, or as the real Girart II of Paris.
The legend of Girart of Roussillon is found in the following versions:
Girart de Roussillon. Rhyming decasyllables, 1150, in an artificial dialect that combines French and Provencal.
Vita nobilissimi comitis Gerardi de Rossellon. A Latin saint’s life.
Le Vie de Gerard. A French translation of the Latin life. Can be found with the Latin in Romania, vol. 7, pp. 161-235.
Gerart van Rossilun. A Low German translation of the saint’s life, of which only one page survives.
Girart de Roussillon. Rhyming Alexandrines, 1300’s, based on the decasyllables and the Latin life.
Jehan de Wauquelin’s Girart in prose, 1477, based on the Alexandrines.
David Aubert’s Histoire de Charles Martel, 1448, taken from Wauquelin.
Jean Mansel’s Fleur des Histoires, also from Wauqeulin.
Popular chapbooks, descended from Mansel’s version.
GIRART IN DECASYLLABLES
The poem claims to have been written by a monk named Sestu [Sextus], who began it in the sweet springtime. Charles Martel is holding a joust at Pentecost when word comes that Rome is under siege by the Saracens. Charles and his army travel thither to save the day with the help of the Emperor of Constantinople’s men. In return the Emperor agrees to give his elder daughter Bertha to Charles and his younger, Elissent, to Girart of Roussillon. Girart is sent to fetch them to France. When the girls arrive, however, Charles sees that Elissent is more beautiful, and demands to switch. Girart is furious, and threatens war. Charles offers him as compensation to be released from all his feudal obligations. Girart asks Elissent if she loves him, and she says yes. Thereupon Girart agrees to make peace, so that she can be Queen, and they will love truly and nobly. The double marriage is celebrated. When Charles releases Girart from his vassalage, he keeps only one right: the right to hunt in Girart’s forests. Queen Elissent gives Girart a ring, and the two part with tears. They love truly and nobly.
Some time later, Charles decides to go hunting in Roussillon, without asking leave of Girart. He prepares the hunt with his vassals, and sends a herald to Girart ordering him to do homage for his lands. Girart answers that he and his father before him held the land in alleu [that is, not as a fief, but in their own right], that he has four bold nephews, and that he does not care a fig for Charles’ power. Charles promptly lays siege to Roussillon. The siege lasts all summer, until the King bribes Girart’s seneschal Richier of Sordane, a peasant’s son, to open the gates for him. Girart awakens to find the enemy inside his castle, and he is obliged to flee to Avignon, which he also holds. He raises an army there and returns to reclaim Roussillon. Fouque kills Richier in the battle. Charles, meanwhile, is in Orleans. Girart sends Fouque as messenger to Charles, who is exceedingly displeased. Thierry says that this is what comes of using treason instead of honest fighting. Charles is angrier still, but Thierry reassures him that he has no love for Girart, because Girart’s father Drogon and uncle Odilon made him an outlaw in the woods for seven years, until Charles restored him to favor and gave him his sister as wife. Charles and Fouque meet in a monastery near Roussillon, and agree to trial by battle, in the field of Vaubeton. The loser will have to travel to the Holy Land as a pilgrim. So many knights come that there are none left anywhere else in France. In the battle, Drogon has a hauberk from the forge of Espandragon [King Uther?] and the sword of Marmion [otherwise unknown]. Nonetheless, Thierry kills him and his brother Odilon. God stops the battle by striking Charles’ and Girart’s standards with lightning, turning them to ashes. The two agree to a five year truce, and that Thierry will be banished.
Meanwhile, in the confusion of the civil war, the Saracens, Saxons and Frisians have all invaded France. Charles marches south first, to deal with Seguran of Syria, who has invaded Gascony. Unbeknownst to him, Girart is there, too, and the brothers-in-law are formally reconciled in Val Pergunde. The French go north to repel King Rabeu [Raimbaut] of Frisia, and Girart serves the king well in other battles over the years. When the five years are up, Girart formally pardons Thierry, and all seems to be well.
It is not well, however, for Girart’s cousins Boson and Seguin (sons of Odilon) murder Thierry and his two sons during a tournament Charles is holding at Pentecost. War again breaks out. Charles sends an ambassador to Girart, who refuses to make peace. Charles defeats Girart in battle after battle, including Mont-Amele, and Civaux. Girart’s men begin to abandon him. Girart is defeated at Civaux, but as he flees he kills some of Charles’ men who have taken sanctuary at a roadside cross, and then goes on to burn down a monastery in which some other men of Charles’ have taken refuge. He then returns to Roussillon, which Charles besieges. Girart insists, against Fouque’s advice, on doing battle in the field. The men of Roussillon are slaughtered, Fouque taken captive, Boson slain. Girart and Bertha head for Hungary, but learn that her family is dead, and they can expect no shelter there. Instead, they settle in Aurillac, where they live as peasants for twenty-two years and do penance for their sins. He becomes a coal-burner, she a seamstress. After twenty-two years, Girart returns to France in disguise and manages to obtain an interview with Queen Elissent by showing her his ring. She recognizes him and obtains his pardon from Charles. For seven years, there is peace. Girart has two sons by his wife after their return. One dies young, but the other grows strong and healthy. Unfortunately, Girart has not learned his lesson about showing favor to the children of peasants: his seneschal, an ex-serf named Guy de Risnel, kills Girart’s son and blames it on Charles, hoping to start the war again. The war does indeed start. Guy repents too late. Girart takes Charles prisoner in battle, but the Pope makes peace, and Girart and Bertha return to Vézelay, to end their days in peace. Bertha sneaks out every night to work on the church, which causes Girart some alarm, until he discovers the reason for her absence. Girart has the body of Saint Mary Magdalene transferred to the monastery of Vézelay, which he joins after Bertha’s death. The wars began in 700, and lasted sixty years, all told, but now he dies in peace and sanctity.
VITA COMITIS GIRARDI
The Vita Girardi is found in its original Latin, and in an old French translation, both of which were printed by P. Meyer in Romania, vol. VII. Scholars agree it was based on the chanson de geste.
Girart is stated to have served under Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, Charles the Bald, and Louis II. He was the son of Drogon, born in Avignon. He married Bertha, daughter of Count Hughes of Sens. Bertha’s sister Eloyse marries King Charles. When Count Hughes dies, his sons-in-law quarrel over his inheritance, which starts the war. Girart loses and spends seven years in the forest, after which he and Bertha go to Eloyse, disguised as pilgrims. The Queen makes peace, but Charles the Bald has wicked counselors, who stir up war. Girart defeats Charles, but forbears to pursue him in his flight. They fight 12 or 13 battles, until an angel bids Charles make peace. Girart and Bertha build monasteries, where miracles happen. Girart’s two sons die a natural death in this version. The mention of miracles reminds the author about earlier events in Girart’s life, so now he relates some more details about the war, telling how Charles took Rousillon by treason, Girart reclaimed it, and God intervened by striking both their standards with lightning. Back in the present, Bertha dies and is buried in Pothièrs. Two years later, Girart dies at Avignon, requesting to be buried by his wife. The folk of Avignon try to keep his body, but they are stricken with a seven-year famine. An angel appears to a monk, bidding him transfer the body. So it is done, and Girart works miracles at his new grave.
GIRART IN ALEXANDRINES
Based on the poem and the Vita, but insists that the king is Charles the Bald. Louis the Pious split his empire between Louis the German, Charles the Bald, and Lothaire, who promptly went to war. Girart stayed neutral. The brothers made a treaty at Verdun. Charles the Bald reigned thirty-two years until his own doctor poisoned him, in 878. Bertha died three yeas after. Girart seven years after Bertha. Before that, though, Girart had a very large territory in southeast France. The kings of Hungary, Span, Sicily, Aragon, Navarre, Galicia, and Seville are all his allies. Fouchier le Marshall is the son of Hernault. Girart has four nephews: Fouque, Gibert, Seguin, Boz, the sons of the Count of Provence. Girart himself is eight feet tall. His children, Eve and Theodore, died young. A description of Poitiers follows, and an account of how the Vandals invaded Roussillon, and the city was destroyed and rebuilt. The author suggests it was named after rossignols [nightingales]. Girart, in sum, has almost as much land as Charles. They marry Bertha and Eloise, the daughters of Count Hugons of Sens. When he dies, his sons-in-law quarrel over his inheritance, despite Bertha’s pleading for peace. Charles lays siege to Roussillon, whereupon the rest of Girart’s fiefs surrender without a fight. Bertha advises Girart to surrender. Girart sends Fouque to Charles, as in the decasyllabic poem. Fouque is about to attack Charles, but courtiers restrain him. Girart is defeated and driven from Roussillon to Poligny, where he is defeated again, and flees with Bertha. They intend to go to King Oton of Hungary, but instead are obliged to live in the woods where Girart works as a charcoal burner. Eventually, the reconciliation takes place as in the Vita. Girart and Betha do good works, but at last Girart asks Charles for Bertha’s fiefs back, whereupon Charles declares war. Girart thinks he’s bluffing, and takes possession of the disputed land, whereupon Charles attacks him. Girart defeats Charles in Flanders and at Soissons, then comes the battle of Valbeton, in Pierre-Pertuise. In the battle, Drogon is killed. After the battle, a truce is made, but no lasting peace. Charles returns home, and Girart and Bertha build monasteries. They bring Saint Eusebius to Pothièrs, and Saint Pontien to Vézelay. Saint Badilon, a bishop, brings the body of St. Mary Magdalene from Aix in Provence to Vézelay. Charles resumes the war and lays siege to Roussillon. Girart’s chamberlain betrays him and opens the gates. Girart manages to retake the castle, but Charles sets fire to it as he retreats, and it is ruined. Girart flees and builds a new castle, Chatillon. Charles lays siege to this one, too. Girart sends Bertha to Provence, and himself retreats to Montargis. He and Charles battle at Sixte, near Pont-sur-Yonne. Girart is victorious, and chases the king all the way to Paris, which he besieges. But God sends an angel to make peace. Girart and Bertha return home to live piously and work miracles and Vézelay and Pothièrs. Bertha and Girart die and his vassals fight over his body, all as in the Vita. Miracles occur at their tombs. The lame are healed, a vandal is blinded, and Bertha appears in glory to the sacristan. A hermit sees seats in Heaven prepared for their souls, as in the Vita.
Is a mere mise en prose of the Alexandrines, with a few details of Burgundian local color.
DAVID AUBERT’S HISTORY OF CHARLES MARTEL
Is based on Wauquelin, but he restores Bertha and Eloyse to their place as princesses of Hungary. According to Aubert, Charles the Hammer was the son of Eustache of Berry, who was son of Duke Gloriant of Berry. Charles married the fair Marcebille, daughter of King Theodorus of France, much against that monarch’s will. He then fell in with Duke Girart of Roussillon, and they became fast friends. They went to Constantinople, where they served the Emperor and had many adventures, before returning home, the one to become King of France, the other to become Duke of Bourgogne. The story then continues as in Wauquelin, only much abridged.
JEAN DE MANSEL
I can find little information on him, but what I have indicates that he did little of interest. He slightly abridged Wauquelin, and the chapbooks that followed him and were based on him presumably did the same, with each new edition being even more corrupt than the one before it.