The French priest, poet, and itinerate reporter Jean Froissart (c. 1337-c.1404) is known primarily as a chronicler. During his wide travels, lodging in castles from Scotland to Italy, he recorded what he observed, leaving the best picture of 14th-century feudal life.
Jean Froissart was born in Valenciennes. Educated by and for the Church, he was later received into the priest-hood, but his natural inclinations were somewhat opposed to the austerity of religious life, even though he was canon of the collegial church of Chimay and chaplain to the Count of Blois. After his arrival in England in 1361 he entered the service of Queen Philippa (she too a native of Valenciennes), wife of Edward III. His early poems and his heroic stories pleased the English court, but after the death of his protectress in 1369 he returned to Valenciennes.
Four years later Froissart was received by Wenceslas of Luxembourg, Duke of Brabant, a congenial poet who was his patron until 1384. His last patron on the Continent was the Count of Blois. From 1389 he was generally at Valenciennes or Chimay until he again left for England in 1394, where he was well received by Richard II but did not stay. Froissart was living in 1404, but the date of his death is unknown.
The poetry of Froissart fills three sizable volumes and ranges from pastourelles, to narrative and didactic poems, to courtly poetry. The best are The Paradise of Love, The Pretty Buzzard of Youth, and the long Thornlet of Love, on disappointments in love, and the bitter Tale of the Florin. His Méliador, in which are inserted 81 short poems of Wenceslas, contains over 30,000 lines; it is an attempt to revive the old Arthurian romance.
Froissart's Chroniques de France, d'Engleterre et des paīs voisins (Chronicles) begins in 1327 and ends in 1400. His written source up to 1361 was Jean le Bel, whom he often copied directly. His main source derived from his art of getting people to tell him all they knew; no news correspondent ever equaled this medieval information magnet. Unlike Geffroi de Villehardouin and Jean de Joinville, Froissart was never involved in public affairs or military action, but he traveled and interviewed endlessly. He knew everyone and was at his best in describing the coronation of John II and the visit of Philip VI of France to Pope Benedict XII at Avignon. Indeed, the index to his chronicle constitutes a veritable "who's who" of western Europe for more than half a century, and yet Froissart was much more of a historian than a social reporter.
The only work of Froissart in English is the Chronicles, the classic translation is Lord Berner's, edited by William P. Ker (6 vols., 1901-1903). Two good studies in English are G. G. Coulton, The Chronicler of European Chivalry (1976; 1977), and F. S. Shears Froissart, Chronicler and Poet (1974). □
Jean Froissart (zhäN frəwäsär´), c.1337–1410?, French chronicler, poet, and courtier, b. Valenciennes. Although ordained as a priest, he led a worldly life. He became a protégé of Queen Philippa of England, visited the court of David II of Scotland, and accompanied (1366) Edward the Black Prince on the campaign in Gascony. He also traveled widely in the Low Countries and in Italy. In the south of France he saw the brilliant court of Gaston III of Foix, and he later described it in a famous passage. Nothing is known of his life after 1404: his death date is traditionally 1410. His chronicle, continuing that of Jean le Bel, canon of Liège, covers the history of Western Europe from the early 14th cent. to 1400, roughly the first half of the Hundred Years War. In literary merit Froissart's chronicle far surpasses similar efforts in any European language. He described events with brilliance and gusto, and his sympathy was with the established order—or disorder—of his time. His highly partisan spirit and disregard for accuracy limit the value of his chronicle as pure history, yet few historians have so successfully brought an era to life. The chronicle remains a superb portrait of contemporary society. Apart from a tedious romance, Méliador, Froissart's poetry is charming and light; it somewhat influenced Chaucer, whom Froissart probably knew personally. The standard English translation (1523–25) of the chronicles by John Bourchier, Lord Berners, is available in many editions.
See study by R. M. Smith (1965).
French historian and poet whose renowned Chronicles detail the history of Western Europe from the early 1300s to 1400, supplying valuable contemporary information about medieval life and society, noble courts, and warfare. A scholar and traveler, Froissart ventured to seats of power throughout England, Scotland, France, and Italy, living among Europe's kings, queens, and princes, and studying their history and the chivalry of their courtiers. The ideals of knighthood and the heroic deeds of the time were a part of the romantic accounts in his Chronicles.