The Legend of Girart of Roussillon – Origins and Influence


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.

Read more on St. Mary Magdalene here.

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.

Let thus much suffice for the Legend of Girart of Roussillon, and let us now speak of Auberi of Bourguignon, to him his fiefs were given when he died without inheritors.


Bevis of Hampton 5: The Italian Version, First Redaction

The legend of Bevis of Hampton is extant in three great families of redactions: the Anglo-Norman, the Continental French, and the Italian. The Italian family consists of the following versions.

The Italian family consists of the following versions.


Buovo d’Antona, in Franco-Italian assonanced decasyllables. Only surviving manusccript is part of the Geste Francor. Beginning lost, down to Bovo’s return to England and war with Do. Best edition is La Geste Francor, edited by Leslie Zarker Morgan. I refer you to Arlima for earlier editions.

I Reali di Francia: an Italian compilation of Carolingian legends, by Andrea da Barberino. Bevis’ story is in books IV and V. An abridged translation by Max Wickert can be found on his website, here.

Buovo d’Antona, in prose. Only a fragment survives as an independent work. Bib. Ricc. 1030. To be found in Pio Rajna’s “Frammenti di redazioni italiane del Buovo d’Antona. II. Avanzi di una versione tosca in prosa (continuaz. e fine) », Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, 15, 1891, p. 47-87.” Runs from the beginning to Buovo’s rescue of Drusiana from Marcabruno.


Bovo d’Antona, in pure Italian rhymed decasyllables. Survives only in fragments. The largest fragment, the Laurenziano, is to be found in Rajna’s misleadingly titled work I reali di Francia. [Volume I:] Ricerche intorno ai reali di Francia, seguite dal libro delle storie di Fioravante e dal cantare di Bovo d’Antona. An analysis comes first, and the Buovo is stuck in at the end. Runs from Brandoria’s message to Dodo of Maganza to Drusiana’s meeting with Malgaria.

The other, much shorter, fragments of the rhymed Bovo, known as the Udinese fragments, are currently lost, but were printed by Rajna in « Frammenti di redazioni italiane del Buovo d’Antona. I. Nuovi frammenti franco-italiani », Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, 11, 1887, p. 153-184. Runs from Do of Magance’s conquest of Hampton to after Buovo’s fight with Marcabrun.

Buovo d’Antona di 1480, in ottava rima. The only edition is Daniela Delcorno Branca’s Buovo d’Antona. Cantari in ottava rima (1480).

Bova Karolovich. Or Bova Korolevich , meaning “Prince Bova”. The Russian versions, which reached that country near the end of the 1500’s. There are five major redactions of the manuscripts and of the chapbooks based on them, each one more Russianized than the last in style. From these the story passed into oral tradition and is found in several collections of Russian folktales and ballads, where one would never guess it was not a native production if one didn’t know. I have read that the story is also known in several of Russia’s neighbors, but I cannot find any details. A chapbook version was translated by Robert Steele in The Russian Garland. A shorter, folklore version is to be found in Russian Wondertales II. Tales of Magic and the Supernatural, an absurdly expensive book by Jack Haney which is Volume 4 of his series The Complete Russian Folktale.

THE THIRD ITALIAN REDACTION, being a combination of the Italian and the Third French.

Buovo Riccardiano. Fragments of ottava rima. Not printed, so far as I know.

Buovo d’Antona by Gherardo. Ottava rima, in three books, of which only the second survives. Also not printed.

THE FOURTH ITALIAN REDACTION, being a combination of the First and Second Redactions with details from French sources, and several new adventures.

Buovo Palatino. A MS fragment that appears to have been from a text similar to the following.

Buovo d’Antona di Guidone Palladino. Rezunto e Reviso. (Bevis of Hampton, son of the Paladin Guidone, abridged and revised) in Ottava Rima, as first printed in 1497. This was frequently reprinted and became the standard Italian version.

Bovo Boek, a Yiddish poem, in ottava rima, by Elia Levita, from the Italian. Published 1541, though written 1507. Translated into English prose in Early Yiddish Epic, by Jerold Frakes. An earlier translation by Jerry Christopher Smith, published under the title Elia Levita Bachur’s “Bovo-Buch”, is so inaccurate that it is more honestly described as a retelling.


Celinos y la Adultera. Also called La Caza de Celinos. A Spanish ballad, from some form of the Italian, these being the only ones where, as in the ballad, Brandoria sits at her mirror admiring herself. The titles mean “Celinos and the Adulteress” and “The hunt of Celinos”, respectively.


A Franco-Italian chanson, in assonanced decasyllables, found in one MS: Marc. Fr. XIII, containing Bovo d’Antona (Part 1), Bertha Broad-Foot, Bovo Part 2, Karleto, Berta e Milone, Enfances Ogier, Orlandino, Chevalerie Ogier, and Macario.

[The beginning is lost] Bovo has Clarença, which Druxiana gave him. Do de Magançe is besieging San Simon. Synibaldo’s wife recognizes Bovo. Now he and Terigi disguise themselves as physicians to enter Antona, where they make alliance with one Uberto de la Cros, and rouse the citizens. He sends Do off on a palfrey, who returns to Magançe. He locks his mother, Brandoia, in a small room where she can hear Mass said. The news of his victory runs to Sydonia, to Braidamont, who writes to Bovo, requesting him to come back and marry her. Meanwhile, Druxiana has been for seven years wandering as a minstrel with her sons Synibaldo and Guion, and has come to Armenia, where she does not reveal herself, but is taken into favor anyway, for her talent. Braidamont, despite the fact that Bovo killed her brother Luchafer, wishes to marry him, and sends a messenger, offering to convert. Bovo agrees to wed her, and travels to Sydonia, where Druxiana also comes and reveals herself in song. [Pulican was killed by lions, the song says]. Braidamont is married to Teris, and Bovo and his family return home to Hampton. Do, meanwhile, has persuaded King Pepin of France to send messengers to Hampton demanding the release of Brandoia. The messenger is Garner, son of Brandoia and Do. Bovo refuses, and threatens war.

[The story of Bertha Broad-foot follows. Bovo resumes afterward.]

Pepin, son of King Angelo, leads Aquilon of Bavaria, Bernardo of Clermon, Do of Magançe, his brother Albrigo, and others against Bovo, against the advice of all his non-Maganzan advisors. Bovo sends for aid to Teris, who comes. Negotiations fail, and fighting begins. Teris kills Albrigo, Bovo captures Aquilon and Bernardo. They are received hospitably in Hampton, while Bovo kills Do, and then captures Pepin. Bovo releases his prisoners on condition they send their sons, Names of Bavaria and little Charles, as hostages. They do so, the war is ended, and Bovo releases his hostage-children. Teris goes home to Sydonia, and there are seven years of peace. At that time, however, Bovo’s uncle, king Guielme of England invites him to his son Folcon’s wedding, to a daughter of an emir. The prince offers to buy Rundel [there is no race] but is refused, for Bovo is too fond of him, and remembers how Druxiana had fed him for three years while he languished in Syndonia. Folcon tries to steal Rundel, who kills him. The King wishes to hang the horse, but is content to send Bovo on pilgrimage to Jerusalem instead. Bovo leaves his wife, children, and city in the care of Synibaldo, and departs. As he is visiting the Holy Sepulchre, the Persian Corcher [Khosroes?] arrives to besiege it. Bovo succors the city and converts Corcher and all his people. Baldechin, however, the son of Corcher, will not convert, and Bovo slays him in a duel. He gets lost pursuing the fleeing Paynims, and comes to a cave wherein a dragon lives. He slays the dragon, and returns to Jerusalem. Once the four years of his exile are fulfilled, he returns to England, and tells his wife all the story.

[Here the story ends, and the MS moves on to Karleto]


This is the form in which the legend was known to Boiardo.

Guido d’Antona weds the daughter of King Ottone de Bordeaux, in Gascony, and begets Buovo within a year. He is named after Bovetto. His tutor, no relation to him, is Sinibaldo dall Rocca a San Simone [of Saint Simon’s Rock]. Sinibaldo’s wife is Luzia, his son Teris. Luzia suckles Buovo until he is seven years old(!), and sends him home to his father at ten. By then, his mother Brandoria is twenty-four, and very annoyed that her husband is old and feeble. She sits in front of the mirror and remembers how Guido had once killed Count Rinieri of Maganza, who left two sons: Duodo [Doon de Mayence] and Alberigo, who are now about thirty-five, and both unwed. She sends her servant Antonio “Gascon” to Duodo, who comes with eight thousand knights. Meanwhile, Brandoria pretends to be pregnant and to have a craving for wild boar. On August 1st, she persuades Guido to go to the hunt without his armor, so as to be quicker. Duodo kills Guido, and takes Antona after a slight battle. In the confusion, Buovo, aged eleven, hides into the stables, where Sinibaldo finds him. Duodo catches them as they try to escape, and Brandoria locks Buovo in a chamber. Duodo dreams that he is killed by a lion cub, and orders Buovo dead. Brandoria serves him poisoned bread, but the maid warns the lad, who refuses to eat it. She then sets him free, and he flees to Amusafol, on the coast. His mother tells Duodo he is dead. They have a son, Gailone, and Duodo lays siege to Sinibaldo in San Simone.

Buovo is taken about by sailors, and calls himself Agostino. He is sold, by his will, to King Erminione of Erminia [lesser Armenia, in Turkey today]. He serves and carves there for five years, until he speaks the language like a native. He tames Rondello, who has been chained for seven years. Drusiana begins to fall in love with him [she is fourteen, he sixteen], asks him to dance, kisses him under the table when he kneels to pick up the knife she dropped on purpose, and summons him to her bedroom, where he flees her seductions. A year passes, during which Buovo refuses to admit that he loves her. When Buovo is seventeen, King Erminione holds a tournament to find a husband for Drusiana. King Marcobruno of Polonia [not Poland] is favored to win, but Buovo “borrows” armor and a lance, and, riding Rondello, overthrows Marcobrun and slips away. Only Drusiana recognizes him. She summons him that evening, the first time they’ve spoke in a year.

Meanwhile, the King of Buldras has a son, Lucafero, who wishes to wed Drusiana. He arrives with fifty thousand soldiers just as the tourney ends. In the ensuing battle, Lucafero captures Erminione, his brother Ugolino, and Marcobrun. Drusiana arms and dubs Buovo, giving him a sword which used to be Sir Lancelot’s. Some English knights had brought it here. His shield bears the arms of his father Guido. They are engaged, and Buovo reveals his identity. He then kills Lucafero, and reveals his true identity to the king. After the celebrations, Ugolino walks in on Buovo and Drusiana kissing, and calls Drusiana a whore, whereupon Buovo beats him. Erminione decides to give Drusiana to Buovo, so Ugolino and Marcobrun make a plan. Ugolino lies in the king’s bed, and pretends to be the king, dictating to a scribe a “kill-the-bearer” letter for Buovo to take to Lucafero’s father. Buovo leaves Rondello behind, but takes his sword Chiarenza [Clarence]. He finds Sinella in Ischiavonia [Slavonia]. But, on the way, a thief drugs him and steals his horse and sword. Buovo does not break any idols on his arrival, but is still imprisoned. The king’s daughter, Margalia, hears his lament. There are no snakes or dragons in the dungeon, but she brings him out of it and hides him in a much more comfortable tower. For three years and four months she brings him food, trying to win his love, but in vain.

After two years, Erminione has decided Buovo probably is gone for good, and betroths Drusiana to Marcobrun. She agrees to marry him if Buovo does not return in one more year. She spends that year in his country, with where cousin Fiorigio, with Rondello, and with a slave named Pulicane, who is a dog from the waste down and a man from the waist up, talks like a man and runs like a dog. He was the son of a Christian lady of Cappadocia, who married the Turkish King of Liguria, on condition that he convert. Instead, he stripped her and threw her to his dog, whence Pulicane. Naturally, they keep him chained.

Buovo has been in Sinella for three years and four months. Since he won’t starve to death, they decide to kill him. He overcomes the two guards-turned-assassins and escapes. He persuades sailors to take him to Constantinople, and kills King Baldras’ nephew Alibrun, who had pursued him to the ship. They sail by Polonia, where Buovo hears the news of Drusiana. He stays there, meets the pilgrim who robbed him, and recovers Chiarenza. Two merchants give him food, but flee when he mentions Buovo’s name. A lady takes him to Drusiana’s palace, where he fights the cooks, kills the seneschal, and meets Fiorigi, who takes him to Rondello and Drusiana. Buovo, still in disguise, tells her that he met Buovo in prison, and that he is now married to Margalia. Drusiana weeps so loudly at this that Marcabruno comes in to ask what’s wrong, and is put off with an excuse about the palmer’s life-story being so sad. They hear Rondello neighing, and Buovo is able to tame him, whereupon Drusiana and Fiorigi [Boniface] recognize him. They escape that night, and ride for Montefeltrone, the castle of Duke Canoro, who hates King Marcabruno.

In the morning, King Marcabruno is furious, summarily executes Fiorigi, and sends Pulicane to bring back Drusiana. Pulicane finds Buovo and Drusiana sleeping, Buovo and Pulicane fight, but Drusiana reconciles them, and they are received warmly at Montefeltrone. Marcabruno follows and lays siege. In a sally, Buovo kills Duke Sanguino, but Canoro is captured. After eight months have gone by, Marcabruno releases him, on promise that he will give his sons Lione and Lionido as hostages, and will betray Buovo. The duchess sends her sons as hostages, welcomes her husband, and is horrified at his proposal to betray their guests. He begins to beat her, and her cries alarm Pulicane, who comes, listens to their arguing long enough to learn about the treason (but not about the hostages), and then kills Canoro. He, Buovo, and Drusiana flee. They kill some commissariats of King Baldras of Sinolla’s on the way, for that king is on his way to help Marcabruno. The duchess surrenders the castle soon after. Meanwhile, Drusiana, in the middle of the forest, gives birth to twins: Guidone and Sinibaldo. They are hopelessly lost, however, and Buovo leaves to scout ahead for help. He finds a river and a merchant ship, who agree to wait for him for a day. While he was gone, however, Pulicane went out hunting, was badly mauled by lions, and Drusiana fled with the children for terror. Buovo returns to find a dying Pulicane, who does not know Drusiana is still alive. He baptizes the cynocephalus, and buries him when he dies shortly after. He then sadly returns to the merchants. Drusiana has gotten there first, however, and left with them, thinking Buovo dead. She comes to Armenia, but does not reveal herself to anyone.

Buovo, luckily, finds another ship, captained by Terigi of the Rock of San Simone, son of Sinibaldo. Terigi recognizes Buovo’s arms [red lion on blue field, with silver stripes], but Buovo conceals his identity, calling it a strange coincidence, and gives his name as Agostino. They return to the Rock, where one Riccardo of Conturbia becomes jealous of him, but is reconciled after losing in a tournament. Sinibaldo is still at war with Duodo of Magazna, lord of Antona, and after an inconclusive skirmish, they return to the Rock. Now Buovo’s nurse recognizes him, and to prove it, tells Sinibaldo to urge Buovo to bathe, and to look for the red cross on his shoulder. Buovo tries to conceal it, but at last reveals his identity. Now he and Terigi disguise themselves as physicians to enter Antona, where they make alliance with one Ruberto dalle Croce, rouse the citizens, and take Duodo, Alberigo, Brandoria, and Duodo and Brandoria’s son Galione prisoners. Buovo keeps his mother prisoner but lets the others go. They go straight to King Pepin of France, who goes to war against Buovo. In the war, Alberigo and Duodo are killed, and Pepin taken prisoner. Peace is made, Brandoria is executed, and Pepin grants Buovo and his descendants independence from every emperor and king. King William of England, Pepin, and Buovo next go to succor Princess Margaria, who is besieged by King Druano of Syria. Druano flees, and Buovo intends to wed Margaria. He announces far and wide that a tournament will be held at the wedding, and the news comes to Armenia, where Drusiana has been living for the last twelve years. Guidone and Sinibaldo do exceptionally well in the tournament, and then Drusiana reveals herself. Margaria marries Terigi. Buovo and family return to Antona, and Terigi takes his parents Sinibaldo and Aluizia to live in Schiavaonia with him.

King William of England sends for Buovo, and in London Buovo wins a race on Rondello. William’s son Fiore tries to buy Rondello, then to steal him, and is killed by his hooves. The King banishes Buovo, who leaves Antona in Drusiana’s hands, and leaves with his sons for Schiavonia, ruled now by Terigi and Margalia, who have a son, Sicurans. They go to war against Arpitras, the admiral of Dalmazia and Corvazia. In the war, Sinibaldo and Terigi are slain, but Ascilacca, Arpitras’ city, is taken, and the Admiral slain. Sixteen months later, King Arbaull of Hungary, successor to Buldras, makes war on the Christians now, and after a long war, the Christians are victorious. Sicurans is now king of Sinella and Hungary as well as Schiavonia. He grows up to beget King Filippo, Ughetto, and Manabello. Buovo stays in Sinella for fourteen years.

The King of Langle, a realm between England and Ireland, dies, leaving a daughter Orlandina, whom he wishes to marry Buovo’s son Guido. It is done. Erminione dies, leaving Armenia to Sinibaldo, son of Buovo. Buovo at last returns to Antona, and his third son, Guglielmo, is crowned King of England. Guido has a son named Chiaramonte, who dies at sixteen. A castle is named in his memory, and in this castle Guido has another son, Bernardo, and hence Bernardo descendents are called the House of Clairmont. Galione, now lord of Flanders, Maganza [Mayence], Pontiers, Bayonne, and more, has five sons. Riccardo, Guglielmo, Spinardo, Tolomeo, and Grifone the father of Ganelon. His wife is pregnant with Ghinamo of Baiona. Galione a church called Santo Salvadore, three miles from Antona, and favored by Drusiana and Buovo. Galione kills his half-brother while he is praying, and then flees to Babylon, where he converts to Islam and is honored richly by the Sultan. Drusiana swoons over Buovo’s body, but lives for another fifteen days. They are buried in one tomb.

The Legend of Bevis of Hampton, 3: The Continental French Redaction

The legend of Bevis of Hampton is extant in three great families of redactions: the Anglo-Norman, the Continental French, and the Italian. The Italian versions are the only ones to link Bevis with the legend of Charlemagne, but this post treats of the Continental French Redaction. It is the least interesting of the three, except for those who wish to puzzle over the great and still unsolved mystery of which version came first.

The Continental French family consists of the following versions.

The First Redaction: Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung I, 1911.

The Second Redaction. Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung II, 1912. Two volumes, one for the text and one for the notes.

Beufves de Hantonne. The French prose rendering. Based on the Second verse redaction. The only edition, according to Arlima, is Beufves de Hantonne, version en prose, éd. Vérard, présentée et transcrite par Marie-Madeleine Ival, Aix-en-Provence, Publications du Cuerma (Senefiance, 14), 1982, 339 p.

The French chapbooks, descended from the prose redaction.

Beuvijn von Austoen. The Dutch translation. A verse translation survives in fragments. The prose rendering survives entire, and is the ancestor of the Dutch chapbooks. As far as I know there are no modern editions.

The Third Redaction. Assonanced decasyllables. The only edition is Stimming’s Der festländische Bueve de Hantone, Fassung III, 1914. Two volumes, one for the text and one for the notes.

The First Redaction

Gui of Hantone weds Beatix, daughter of King Edward of Scotland, who loves Doon of Maience. Hantone is not Southampton, but a town on the Maese. Boeve is fifteen when all goes down. He is sold to King Hermin of Armenia, at whose court he slays a man who accused him of being a peasant. Hermin is impressed, and Josiane falls in love, and gives him her horse Arondel. Boeve enters the world of chivalry one May, when Josiane finds him weeping that he is too poor to enter a tourney, and helps him out. After he does very well in the tourney, King Danemons of Persia lays siege to Armenia, for love of Josiane. As Boeve fights the war, he and Josiane fall in love. Two traitors, Foré and Gouse, betray their love to the king, who tries to get Boeve killed in the war, but Boeve wins, taking Brandimond of Damascus prisoner. Hermin spares him, so that he can put into motion his plot to kill Boeve. As Boeve is going to Damascus with his death-note, he kills a boar, then meets a pilgrim, who is not Terri seeking for him, and does not offer to read the letter. [In fact, he is fairly irrelevant]. Boeve does not demolish the idols of Damascus. In the dungeon he kills cockatrices, but no dragons. Meanwhile, Josiane pleads with her father not to wed her to King Yvorin, but to no avail. She enchants Yvorin to keep her maidenhood, making him think he has taken it. Arondel is not imprisoned, but cared for richly by her. Boeve is freed by an angel, kills the guards, and heads to Jerusalem. He does not make a miraculous leap to escape. After the giant’s castle, he kills four robbers who robbed a pilgrim, and then reaches Jerusalem, not speaking with the Patriarch.

Passing Monbranc, he recognizes Josiane and Arondel. They recognize and escape as usual, Boneface is killed by the lions, who drag Josiane to their den, whither Boeve tracks them and kills them, with Arondel’s help. Garsile sends Ascopart, and all goes as the Anglo-Norman, until they reach Cologne, only without the comic baptism scene. Boeve goes to Doon, pretends to be a merchant named Aïmer of Hungary, and then meets Sobaut’s nephew David and joins Sobaut. In the war, he kills Hate and Fromont, the men who sold him to the Saracen slave traders.

Meanwhile, in Cologne, Count Audemar, the Emperor’s nephew, has forged letters telling of Boeve’s death, lured Ascopart into a dungeon, and wed Josiane. Boeve walks in on the wedding, and kills Audemar just as Ascopart arrives, panting. With Ascopart’s help, Boeve defeats Doon, in a very long war. Doon is hanged, Ascopart marries a rich noblewoman and exits the story, and Boeve and Josiane settle in Hampton, which seems to now be Southampton in England again.

After a year, Boeve attends the king’s feast, at which the prince tries to buy Arondel after Boeve wins a race with him. When Boeve won’t sell, the prince, egged on by Doon’s nephew Rohart, tries to steal him. In the ensuing battle, both are killed, along with three stablehands. The King banishes Boeve, who stops by Southampton to pick up Josiane and to have his mother locked in a tower until he comes back. Only her confessor is to be allowed in. Boeve, Josiane, Terri [Sobaut’s son], and Arondel now depart for the Acre, but a storm drives them to Monbranc, in Africa. Here, in the wilderness, Josiane goes into labor. The men blindfold themselves to help her. After the twins are born, Terri goes to town to buy food, but is followed home by foresters, who tell King Yvorin, who kidnaps Josiane and her children. In a subsequent battle, Boeve kills Garsile, but he is hopelessly outnumbered, and flees on Josiane’s orders. He and Terri come to Siviele, where they save the Queen Eglantine from Escorfaut of Majorge [Majorca?], in a very long and very tedious siege. She compels Boeve to marry her, but he places a sword in their bed every night.

Meanwhile, Josiane and the boys are in prison. One Bertram, of Bar-sur-Aube, joins with Sobaut to go look for Boeve. They find Josiane in Monbranc, and rescue her uneventfully, bringing her home to Hampton. They take the children to the king in London, who stands godfather to one of them, naming him after himself, and making him his heir. King Oduars of Scotland names the other one his heir. Sobaut and Josiane, the latter guised as a minstrel, now resume the search for Boeve. They come to Sevilie, where Arondel recognizes her, as she sings a song about Boeve. Her husband recognizes her too, and there is much rejoicing. Terri weds Queen Eglantine, and Boeve and Josiane go home to Hampton, and meet their sons, Boevon and Guion. They live happily, and have a third son, but then word comes that King Hermin is besieged. Boeve rescues him, and kills Braidimons. Guy and Buevon inherit England and Scotland, Sobaut is given Hampton, and Boeve and Josiane move to Armenia, where they live happily until their death, when their son Hermin inherits it.


Though there are many minor differences between the three redactions, the most notable difference between the them is that in the Second Redaction, as in all others, Bevis and Josiane have twin sons, Bevis and Guy. In the First and Third Redactions, they have two pairs of twins: firstly Guillaume, who grows up to be King of England, and Hermin. Bueve and Guy are born later.

The Legend of Bevis of Hampton, 1: The Anglo-Norman Boeve

The legend of Bevis of Hampton is extant in three great families of redactions: the Anglo-Norman, the Continental French, and the Italian. The Italian versions are the only ones to link Bevis with the legend of Charlemagne, but we will here treat of the Anglo-Norman version first, as it is generally believed to be the earliest, and it is the version best-known to English readers.

The Anglo-Norman family consists of the following versions:

Boeve de Hantone. The Anglo-Norman chanson de geste. Assonanced decasyllables. Sometimes attributed to Bertrand de Bar, though this is no longer a widely-held theory. Translated by Judith Weiss in Boeve De Haumtone and Gui De Warewic, 2008.

Bevers saga. The Norse prose translation, which exists in two major versions.

Bevusar Taettir. The Faerose ballads based on the preceding. See Corpus Carminum Faeroensium, volume 5.

Bown o Hamtwn.  The Welsh prose translation of the Anglo-Norman. Translated by Robert Williams in Selections from the Hengwrt Mss. Preserved in the Peniarth Library.

Sir Beves of Hampton, the English poem, which adds many incidents and rearranges others. All six MSS are printed in EETS Extra vol 46, 48, 65. An edition for the general reader is available from TEAMS in Four Romances of England.

Bibuis o Hamtuir.  The Irish prose translation of the English, c. 1452-1500. Copied, or possibly written, by Uilliam Mac an Leagha. Translated by Frederick Norris in The Irish Lives of Guy of Warwick and Bevis of Hampton.


Count Gui of Haumtone marries the King of Scotland’s daughter, who, however, loves the emperor of Alemaine [Germany]. He begets on her Boeve. Ten years later, in early May, the princess sends word to the Emperor, telling him how to ambush and kill Gui. He agrees. She pretends to be ill, and that only boar’s flesh will cure her. Luckily, she knows where a boar lives: the very spot the Emperor is hiding. And so Gui is killed. The Emperor brings his head to Hampton, and marries his widow. Boeve calls his mother a whore, and swears vengeance. She orders his tutor Sabot to kill him. Sabot kills a swine, bloodies Boeve’s clothes, and sets Boeve to tend his sheep while he plans to escape. But Boeve goes to the castle, kills the porter, and then knocks his stepfather unconscious. He is seized, and his mother sells him to English slavers. They sell the lad to Hermine, king of Egypt, who has a fair daughter, Josiane. The king is touched by his story, and impressed by his refusal to convert to Islam, even when offered Josiane and the kingdom. He decides to raise the steadfast youth at his court as a knight.

By the time Boeve is fifteen, he is the best knight at court. A wild boar savages the kingdom, and Josiane watches from the castle tower as Boeve slays it, alone. Foresters ambush him, seeking the credit for saving the kingdom. He kills them all, causing Josiane to fall hopelessly in love with him. Boeve presents the boar’s head to King Hermine.

Hermine, looking out the window one day, sees Brademond of Damascus and his army of a hundred thousand. He has come to wed Josiane. Josiane tells her father how Boeve killed the foresters, so Hermine dubs the lad a knight, giving him the sword Murgleie. Josiane gives him the horse Aroudel. Boeve leads the army to victory, and spares Brademond’s life on condition that he become Hermine’s vassal. After the victory feast, Josiane confesses her love. Boeve protests that he won’t have her. Angered, she calls him a churl. Angered in turn, he announces he will leave on the horse she gave him. He goes to take lodgings in the town. She sends a messenger after him. He sends back a present of silk. She goes to see him in person, and promises to convert to Christianity. They kiss.

Two courtiers whom Boeve saved from Brademond during the battle tell the king that Boeve has defiled Josiane. He sends Boeve with letters to Brademond, ordering his new vassal to kill the lad. He convinces Boeve to leave Murgleie and Arundel behind, for faster travel.

On the road, Boeve meets on the fourth day of travel a palmer, who turns out to be Sabot’s son, seeking Boeve. Boeve tells him that the lad he’s searching for has been hanged. The palmer weeps, and offers to read the letter Boeve is carrying. Boeve refuses, since he trusts Hermine. They kiss and part. In Damascus, Boeve kills a heathen priest and breaks his idols before delivering the letter. He is promptly seized, and thrown in a thirty toise deep dungeon, filled with snakes and other vermin, and is fed on a quarter-loaf of bread a day.

Josiane asks her father where Boeve is. He says he went home to avenge his father, and said he would never return. Now King Yvori of Munbrant comes wooing Josiane. He has conquered fifteen kingdoms. Hermine marries her off, but luckily she has a magic chastity-protecting girdle. Hermine delivers Josiane, Arundel, and Murgleie to Yvori, but when that king tries to ride Arundel, the gallops off and throws him, nearly killing him. He locks the horse in a stable, where he has to be fed through a door in the ceiling, because he kills anyone who comes near him. Yvori falls asleep beside Josiane every night and only dreams that he has her, thanks to her girdle.

Boeve is in prison seven years, with two guards by day and another two by night. Finally it occurs to him to pray, which so annoys his jailers, that they climb down a rope into his dungeon, whereupon he kills them. He escapes, steals a horse and armor, and rides out the gate, pretending to be a guard chasing Boeve. He travels for three days. But, Brademond sends his nephew Grounder to check the prison. Then, the news discovered, he beats his idols, and rides out with three thousand men to find Boeve, who cuts the top of Brademond’s head off, steals his horse, and flees. Cornered at the edge of a cliff, he rides the horse into the sea and swims away, at which the English give up and go home.

Coming to land, Boeve reaches the castle of a giant who kills English, who happens to be Brademund’s brother. The giant recognizes the horse, but Boeve kills him, takes food and a new horse from his widow, and rides to Jerusalem. Here he confesses his sins to the Patriarch, debates whether to go to England or Egypt, and settles on Egypt. He there learns of Josiane’s marriage, and travels to Monbrant via Carthage. He hears Josiane weeping for him, disguises himself as a palmer, and approaches her. She gives him food, and he tells her that Boeve has married an English lady. She swoons, but on awaking recognizes him. He tries to deny it, but her page Bonefey and Arundel recognize him, too. Josiane offers to flee with him, but he says the Patriarch has forbidden him to wed a woman who is not a maid. Josiane explains, but now Boeve is afraid that Yvori will be back from hunting [where he is] before they can make a clean getaway. They decide to tell him that his brother King Baligant of Abilent is besieged, and to flee while he’s away with his army. All goes as planned, and Yvori leaves the city in King Garcie’s care. Bonefey drugs the elderly Garcie, and they flee. They hide in the forest, where Boeve goes hunting. While he is gone, two lions kill Bonefey, but spare Josiane, as she is a virgin princess. Boeve returns and kills them, and they travel on. They next meet Escopart, a giant who was laughed out of his home for being so short, and now serves Yvori. He tries to reclaim Josiane, but Boeve fights him, until the princess reconciles them, and the giant becomes their squire. They come to the shore, Escopart kills the crew of a ship, and they sail away therein.

Anustrai, the uncle of Yvori, leads nine ships after them, but Escopart scares them back. Our heroes arrive at Cologne, where the bishop turns out to be Boeve’s uncle, and explains how everyone thinks Boeve is dead. Josiane is baptized. Escopart refuses, claiming he is too large for the font. The bishop advises Boeve to go to England, and gives him five hundred knights. He departs, leaving Josiane with Escopart. Arriving at Hampton, he meets Emperor Doon, gives his name as Gerard, and promises to help him fight Sabaoth, who has rebelled and is holding out on the Isle of Wight. The Emperor equips him with a boat and food, and Boeve sails, alone, to a joyful reunion.

Meanwhile, Josiane and Escopart are in Cologne. A count falls in love with her, whom she rejects. He lures Escpoart into a dungeon with a false message from Boeve, taunts him by telling him his plan, and leaves. Escopart escapes, steals a boat, and searches for Boeve. Meanwhile, Josiane has been forced to marry the count, has strangled him on their wedding night, and has been sentenced to burn therefore. Boeve and Escopart rescue her, and return to Wight, where they send a messenger to Emperor Doon announcing their true identity. The Emperor throws a knife at the messenger, but misses and kills his own brother. The messenger taunts him and leaves. After a great battle, Doon is captured and boiled in lead. Boeve’s mother jumps off a tower. Boeve and Josiane are wed.

Half a year later, Boeve goes to King  Edgar’s court to do homage and receive his fiefs. At court, they hold a horse race, which Boeve easily wins on Arundel. The King’s son offers to buy the horse, but is refused. He tries to steal him instead, during the feast that night, but Arundel kills him. The King wants to kill Boeve, but his barons convince him to settle for executing Arundel. Boeve flees with Arundel to Hampton, then flees Hampton with Josiane and his new squire Terri, Sabaoth’s son. Escopart, jealous at being left behind, offers his services to King Yvori in Mombraunt. Boeve and company are wandering in Egypt, when Josiane gives birth to twin sons. Her modesty forbids Boeve and Terri to be nearby while she is in labor, so it is easy for Yvori’s goons and Escopart to kidnap her, leaving the baby boys behind. Boeve and Terri find the boys, name them Guy and Miles, and each take one.

Meanwhile, Sabaoth has a dream that Boeve is attacked by lions en route to Compostella. His wife, Eneborc, explains that it means Josiane has been kidnapped. Sabaoth and his men sail to the rescue, find Escopart and his goons carrying of Josiane, and kill them all. They come to Abreford, where they rest for seven years and three months, while Josiane sustains them by learning the art of minstrelsy.

Meanwhile, Terri has left Miles with a fisher, and Boeve has left Guy with a forester. He comes to Civile [Seville?], where he fends off the besieging army, and is thus obliged to marry the lady of Cevile. He explains to her the awkward situation, and she grants him four years to seek his wife, and she will marry Terri if Josiane is found. The ceremony is held, but not consummated. After four years, there is no news of Josiane, and Boeve obtains another three years. Sabaoth finally recovers from his illness, and he and Josiane come to Cevile, where there is a joyful reunion. They send for Miles and Guy.

News comes that King Yvori is at war with King Hermine. Boeve captures Yvori, and send him to Hermine, who spares him for a ransom. Hermine dies, leaving Egypt to Guy. Miles is made a duke. Sabaoth goes home to his wife and his younger son Robant, who at first don’t recognize him. Yvori summons Gebitus, a wizard, to steal Arundel, and he does so. But Sabaoth dreams Boeve is wounded, and his wife says it means Arundel has been kidnapped. Sabaoth goes, disguised as a pilgrim, to Abreford, meets Boeve, goes to Yvori’s castle, and steals the horse back from a stable boy. He flees, with Yvori in hot pursuit. Boeve, Guy, and Miles ride out to meet him, and turn back Yvori, who returns with his army. He challenges Boeve to single combat, wherein he is killed. His fifteen vassal kings convert, and destroy their idols. Guy inherits Yvori’s land. The Pope comes to anoint Boeve and Josiane king and queen, and they return to their dominions.

At Pentecost, news comes that Edgar has disinherited Robant. Boeve, Josiane, Arundel, and Sabaoth go to England, and make peace. Edgar’s daughter weds Miles. Boeve and Josiane go home to Monbraunt, leaving Hampton to Sabaoth. After many years, Josiane falls ill. Boeve finds Arundel dead in the stable, and lays down beside Josiane. They say farewell to Guy, and die together. They are laid in the church of Saint Lawrence.

Let thus much suffice for the Anglo-Norman poem, and let us now speak of the versions descended therefrom.