French Renaissance Paleography


Chinon,[1] 28 February 1445
Roole des parties payees par maistre Estienne Petit, tresorier et receveur general des pays de Languedoc et duchié de Guienne par le commandement et ordonnance du Roy nostre seigneur
San Marino, Huntington Library, HM 9621


This document is a treasury account for King Charles VII of France (1403-1461). Drafted by the king’s secretary, Jean de la Loëre, it attests to the reform of the finances of the kingdom of France during the years 1443-47, much needed after years of war and uncontrolled expenses. A series of ordinances reorganized the treasury so that revenues from the royal domain (finances ordinaires) would be separate from the collecting of taxes (finances extraordinaires), whereas in the 13th century they had been combined. The reform also redefined the role of financial officers. Now treasurers and generals of finances were each assigned a particular territory to administer, Languedoïl, Languedoc, Seine-et-Yonne, and Normandy.

This account records expenses related to Languedoc, which fell under the jurisdiction of treasurer Etienne Petit (d. 1465). The document is an important source for the history of the administration under King Charles VII, for the payroll lists some of the realm’s most prominent officers, their specific role or contribution, and the amount of their retribution. Jacques Coeur (ca. 1395-1545), the famous merchant who became master of the mint and steward of the royal expenditure after having financed King Charles VII’s wars, appears as a prominent figure, listed no less than four times.

Before ruling as King Charles VII, the son of Charles VI and Isabeau de Bavière was Dauphin of France. He was involved in the assassination of John the Fearless on Montereau Bridge in 1419. Although his father disinherited him in the Ordinance that appears here/manifest, Charles nonetheless officially became king of France in 1429, after the successful intervention of Joan of Arc and a series of campaigns to regain control of the kingdom from the English.

This document, as well as the Letter signed by Catherine de Medici/manifest and the Confirmation of the donations made by Louis, Duke of Orléans, and his mother to the convent of Sainte-Croix in Chauny/manifest form part of a large collection of documents held at the Huntington Library titled Original Manuscripts; The Kings and Emperors of France from Charles VI to Napoleon III (1368-1873 inclusive). The collection was compiled by Benjamin Franklin Stevens and Henry J. Brown, two bibliophiles based in London, who prepared hundreds of such collections of European, as well as American, historical documents. Their collections were highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, and are now found in numerous American repositories. This particular collection once belonged to the Saint Louis industrialist William Keeny Bixley. It contains documents which supposedly all bear the autographs of French kings (or close members of the royal family), although in some instances the signatures were probably imitated by secretaries.