The Legend of Renaud of Montauban 11: Origins of the Legend

Aymon’s Brothers

Bueves d’Aigremont was apparently invented for this chanson. No historical basis, nor is he known earlier. His wife is called Lanfusa in Boiardo, though this is usually the name of Ferraguto’s mother. The Italian Cantari di Rinaldo calls her Smeragda [Emerald]. Girart of Rousillon is based on Count Girart II of Paris, who also inspired Girart of Vienne and Girart of Eufrate. Doon of Nanteuil was known before the Quatre Fils, but was not historical, and does not seem to have been linked with Aymon before this poem.


There are several Aigremonts in France. The most likely contenders are:

Aigremont, on the far side of Troyes from Paris, and not too far from Roussillon.

Aigremont, in the Haute-Marne.

Aigremont, in the Yonne.

Aigremont, on the Meuse, in Belgium.

However, all the foregoing are small hamlets, and Aigremont in the poem is a rich city, on the sea, apparently near Lombardy.

Aymon of Dordonne and his wife

There was a King Aimo of Saragossa in the Middle Ages, but he was a Muslim who probably never saw France. Louis the Pious appointed another Aimo to be governor of Albi. A Duke Haimo is mentioned as living under Clodovech II (r. 639-657), but he had only one son, who predeceased him. A Count Haymo was alive in 863, of whom nothing is known.

The wife of Aymon and the mother of the Four Sons is named Aye in most manuscripts of the Quatre Fils, (DPNCLMV) though usually simply referred to as “la duchesse.” O consistently and A occasionally call her Hermanjart, though this name is probably taken from the wife of Aymeri of Narbonne. ZM call her Marguerite, in which they are followed by Caxton. In the Orlando Innamorato and Furioso she is called Beatrice and made to be the sister of Ogier the Dane’s wife Ermelline. The Dutch poem and its descendants call the duchess Aya and make her the sister of Charlemagne and daughter of Pepin. This relationship is alluded to in passing in some of the manuscripts of Les Quatre Fils, (DP, for example) though no emphasis is placed on it. In reality, Charlemagne had several half-sisters, of whom almost nothing is known, but his only full sister, the only one with whom he had any sort of relationship, was Gisela, who entered the nunnery of Chelle in her youth and as far as we know died a virgin.

In the Oxford Roland, Hamon [=Aymon] of Galice and Rembalt lead the Flemings and Frisians against Baligant. The Karlamagnussaga’s First Branch, doubtless based on a lost French source, tells how these two met and became sworn friends. Aymon marries Aye, the daugher of the Count of Laon and widow of the wicked Varner of Pierrepont, whom Rembalt had slain in a duel. In the Dutch Renout, Aymon the father of the Four Sons holds Pierrepont as well as Dordonne, and his wife Aye is the daughter of Charlemagne. [There are several Pierreponts, but this is the one in Aisne]. Is there a connection here? We will never know for sure. Continue reading


Book I, Canto I, Part 1





While King Gradasso plots to conquer France,
Charles, unawares, is putting on a feast,
At which Angelica has evil plans
To kidnap all his knights and take them East.
First Malagise falls into her hands,
And then Astolfo by the dame is seized,
But Ferraguto, headstrong and extreme,
Upsets completely her malicious scheme.

Come, gentle lords and knights and gather round,
To hear a novel and delightful thing.
Pay close attention and make not a sound
And hearken to the history I sing
Of mighty deeds and enterprise renowned
Of wondrous feats and high adventuring
Done by Orlando when he felt Love’s pain
When Charles the Great as emperor did reign.

“Orlando in Love.” My lords, be not astounded
To hear that title, for if truth be known,
The man whose strength and prowess were unbounded
By love was overcome and overthrown.
Not strength of arms, nor soul in reason grounded,
Nor shield, nor mail, nor sword of sharpest hone,
Nor any other thing may men defend,
But Love shall take and bind them in the end.

This tale is scarce, and very few have read it,
Because Don Turpin, once the tale was written,
Thinking, perhaps, that it would being discredit
Upon the Count, to tell how he was smitten
By Love, who said when no one else had said it,
That by his might Orlando had been beaten,
Hid the true story of the Count away,
Which I have found, and tell you all today.

Turpin begins his chronicle veracious
Stating past India reigned a potentate
Whose fiefs and territories were so spacious,
His lands so fertile and his wealth so great,
And he himself so mighty and pugnacious,
That he thought none in all the world his mate.
This worthy admiral Gradasso hight,
Who had a dragon’s heart and giant’s height.

But great lords have an all-too-common habit:
They see the wealth which other people own
And straight consumes them a desire to nab it
And make it to belong to them alone,
And in their greed they cook up plans to grab it,
From which all trace of common sense hath flown.
So this strong Pagan had but one desire:
Baiard and Durindana to acquire.

He sent through his dominions far and nigh,
Calling his lords to gather on a day,
For well he knew he could not simply buy
The horse and sword: too valuable were they.
Their owners asked a price which was so high
That even kings would find it hard to pay.
So he determined to go into France
And simply take them through his great puissance.

One hundred fifty thousand men of might
He chose from all his warriors who there banded.
Not that he wished to use them in the fight.
He hoped to gain his triumph single-handed
Against King Charlemagne and all the knights
Of every land wherein the Cross was planted,
And he himself would conquer and subdue
Ev’ry last country which the son doth view.

But let us leave them sailing on the main,
Until they’ve made their way across the sea,
And rather turn to France, to Charlemagne,
Who also summoned all his barony.
His dukes, marquis, and counts before him came
With all the flow’r of Christian chivalry.
For Charles had proclaimed both far and wide
He’d hold a tournament at Whitsuntide.

To Charles’ court came all the Paladins
To do him honor and enjoy the feast.
Men came from ev’rywhere. The Paris inns
Were full to bursting; still the crowds increased.
And with the Christians mingled Saracens,
For Charles had proclaimed a solemn peace,
And ev’ry knight his solemn oath had made
To be no traitor and no renegade.

A host of brave and worthy cavaliers
Had come from Spain with all their retinue:
The King Grandonio, like a serpent fierce;
Lowering like a griffin, Ferragu;
And Serpentin and his friend Isolier;
King Balugante, father-in-law  to
King Charles, with far more knights than I could state,
The jousts and tourneys eagerly await.

The city rang through all its streets and courses
With sounds of drums, of trumpets, and of bells.
Had you been there, you would have seen the forces
Decked in their best array. I must not dwell
On all the finery of men and horses.
They bore more gold and jewels than I could tell.
To please the king, and make each other jealous,
Each knight for his apparellings was zealous.

The day had come when Charles had decreed
The joustings and the tourney should commence,
But first he summoned one and all to feed
In his own hall, with great magnificence.
All of the cavaliers of either creed
Came to do Charles fitting reverence,
And when the number of them was completed,
Twenty-two thousand thirty there were seated.

King Charles sat upon a throne of gold,
With joyous face, among his paladins,
At his round table, whence he might behold
All things. Near him the noblest Saracens
Sat not on benches, but on carpets lolled
Like dogs, for this their custom long has been,
To lie on carpets when they wish to dine.
To try the Frankish custom they decline.

On either side of him, in order fitting,
Were ranged the tables, says the history.
At the first table all the kings were sitting.
King Desiderio, who ruled Lombardy;
And King Ottone, sovereign lord of Britain,
And Salamon the wise of Brittany.
According to their rank, on either hand,
Sat the crowned kings of ev’ry Christian land.

Marquis and dukes the second table grace;
The third is for the counts and simple knights.
Men of Maganza have a special place,
And Ganelon is on the emperor’s right.
Rinaldo’s eyes with wrath and fury blaze,
Because these traitors, to do him despite,
Mock at his poverty, and put on airs
Because his clothes are not as fine as theirs.

Although his anger is by no means spent,
He masks it with a joyous countenance,
While to himself he thinks, “O hateful men,
Tomorrow in the lists you’ll feel my lance.
We’ll see who sits aloft in triumph then,
Accursed family, and scourge of France!
If my heart fails me not, I shall, I trust,
Make ev’ry one of you roll in the dust.”

King Balugante eyes Rinaldo then,
And guessing somewhat of his inner thought,
By his interpreter a message sends
To ask the knight if honor can be bought
At Charles’ court, or only worthy men
Obtain it, for he wishes to be taught
The Christians’ customs, that he might dispense
To ev’ry man a fitting recompense.

Rinaldo smiled, and raised up his head,
And to the messenger said, “Tell the king
That if by our example he’d be led,
And be at one with us in reckoning,
Gluttons at table and our whores in bed
Win praise from us above all other things.
But let him wait until he sees us fight,
And then he’ll know whom he ought to requite.”

But while these two their conversation hold,
The trumpets ring out, and the feast begins.
The servers enter, bearing plates of gold,
Heaped with fine viands, while the cups from brim
To base were wrought with carvings manifold.
Which Charlemagne sent as a gift from him
To ev’ry baron, and the like largesse
He showed to ev’ry man of high prowess.

With gabs and boasts, and many merry jests,
With mirth and revelry the hall resounds
King Charles looks, and joy swells in his breast,
Seeing kings, dukes, and knights of such renown.
He thinks the Pagans will be sorely pressed
In jousts, like dust before the breezes blown.
But just then, there occurred a wondrous thing,
Which stunned alike the barons and the king.

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