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Enguerrand de Monstrelet

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A French chronicler, born about 1390 or 1395; died in July, 1453. He was most probably a native of Monstrelet, a village situated in the present department of the Somme. His life was spent at Cambrai in the service of Philip, Duke of Burgundy, who was also Count of Flanders. The cartulary of the church of Cambrai proves that in 1436 Monstrelet was lieutenant of the gavenier; as such it was his duty to collect in the Cambrésis the tax called "gavenne", which was paid to Philip by the tenants of the churches there in return for the protection which he gave them. From 20 June, 1436, to January, 1440, he was bailiff ( bailli ) of the chapter of Cambrai and he was provost ( prévôt ) of Cambrai from 1444 to 1446 (not until his death, as Dacier says); he became bailiff of Walincourt on 12 March, 1445, an office which he held till his death. Monstrelet, who lived during an agitated period, did not take personal part in the conflicts of the day. To him, perhaps, applies a letter of pardon granted in 1424 to a certain Enguerrand de Monstrelet by Henry IV of England, who then ruled a part of France : Enguerrand, according to this letter, had committed certain highway robberies, believing that he had a sufficient excuse because he robbed the Armagnacs, enemies of the Duke of Burgundy. However this may be, his attitude in his "Chronicle" is that of an impartial narrator. He speaks of himself but once, when he relates in the eighty-sixth chapter of the second book that he was present at the interview which Joan of Arc, taken prisoner before Compiègne, had with Philip of Burgundy ; and with his usual sincerity and modesty he declares that he does not remember well the words of the duke.

The "Chronicle" of Monstrelet opens with a mention of the coronation of Charles VI, which took place in 1380; but its true starting-point is Easter-day, 1400, when the history of Froissart finishes, and it extends down to 1444. While Froissart confined himself almost entirely to events which took place in France, Monstrelet deals also with other countries, giving many documents. He treats not only of military history, but also gives interesting details of great religious events such as the Councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basle. We feel, moreover, that the ravages of war and the sufferings of the people therefrom cause him real pain, and he is not over-enthusiastic about great feats of arms. He is occasionally guilty of chronological errors and confusing proper names. Finally, the literary merit of the book is mediocre; the narrative is often heavy, monotonous, diffuse, and lacks the charm of Froissart. In the early editions of Monstrelet — of which the first, published at Paris towards 1470 in three folio volumes, goes back almost to the invention of printing — the chronicles contain a third book, relating the events which took place between April, 1444, and the death of the Duke of Burgundy in 1467. But the "Nécrologe des Cordeliers de Cambrai " and the "Memoriaux" of Jean le Robert prove that Monstrelet died in July, 1453, so that all this book could not possibly have been written by him. Furthermore, the history of years 1444-53. given in this third book, is so bald that it contrasts singularly with the prolixity of the first two books. It is, besides, much more partial to the House of Burgundy than the first two, and, in contrast to these, scarcely contains a single document. Whereas the first two books are preceded by a preface, the third has none; finally, the historian, Matthieu d'Escouchy, in the prologue to his own chronicle, states that Monstrelet's "Chronicle" ends at 20 May, 1444. Modern scholars unanimously accept the statement of Matthieu d'Escouchy and hold that this so-called third book was not written by Monstrelet.

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