French Renaissance Paleography


Selles-sur-Cher,[1] after April 1434
Memoranda about Charles d’Orléans’s rights as Count of Blois
Washington, D.C., Folger Shakespeare Library, MS X.d.41


Charles d’Orléans (1394-1465) famously wrote hundreds of love poems during the 25 years he spent in captivity in England, after being taken prisoner at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). Charles himself did not write the document presented here; rather, it was written by one of his deputies in charge of administering his properties and lands during his captivity (1415-1440). Charles was not only Duke of Orléans, but also Duke of Valois, Count of Beaumont-sur-Oise, Count of Blois, and Lord of Coucy.

In 1434 a disagreement arose between Charles’s administration and that of Charles VII, King of France, regarding tax collection in the County of Blois. In April of that year, two emissaries of the king traveled to Selles-sur-Cher, in the diocese of Bourges, to collect amortissement, _a tax owed to the Crown when non-noble people, including members of the clergy, were given a special right to hold or inherit property. This tax created issues in cases where the territory subject to the tax was under the jurisdiction of someone other than the king, as in this particular case: Saint-Aignan, Selles, Valançay, and other places mentioned in the document, while located in the diocese of Bourges, were also part of the County of Blois. The document lists Charles’s _droits seigneuriaux, his rights in the County of Blois, even though he is in captivity in England. It refutes the king’s right to amortissement and argues for a postponement of the tax collection until the duke’s return.

Louis, the son of Charles d’Orléans, would continue the Orléans lineage and rule France from 1498 to 1515 as King Louis XII. He succeeded his cousin Charles VIII, who had died without a closer heir. In a document held at the Huntington Library, Louis of Orléans makes arrangements for the construction of a convent in Chauny, in honor of his celebrated father and mother Maria of Cleves.

The Baron de Jourvansault may have owned the memorandum about the rights of Charles d’Orléans in the 18th century. Jourvansault’s collection consisted of a staggering 80,000 documents related to the history of France, including around 2,500 documents issued by the Blois Chambre des comptes and other administrative instances of the house of Orléans. Number 132bis in the catalog published by the Parisian bookseller and art dealer Joseph Léon Techener in 1838, appears to describe our document: “Instruction sur ce que les conseillers du duc d’Orléans ont à remontrer aux gens du roi à l’occasion d’un impôt qu’ils voulaient prélever au mépris des droits du duc d’Orléans comme comte de Blois- sans date, vers 1434.” The Jourvansault collection was sold by Techener in 1838, and dispersed in European and North American collections.

[1] Commune and chef-lieu de canton _in Centre-Val-de-Loire, _département Loir-et-Cher, arrondissement Romorantin-Lanthenay.- Caroline Prud’Homme