French Renaissance Paleography


Paris, 25 January 1492
_Confirmation of the donations made by Louis, Duke of Orléans, and his mother to the convent of Sainte-Croix in Chauny _
San Marino, Huntington Library, HM 9623


A son honoring the memory of his illustrious parents, a famed poet, and a beloved patroness of the arts – these are the actors behind the document presented here.

The story begins in 1353: King John II of France exchanged some land with one of his four brothers, Philip, for whom the Duchy of Orléans had recently been created: John swaps the County of Beaumont-sur-Oise for that of Beaumont-le-Roger in Normandy. From then on, Beaumont-sur-Oise becomes part of the appanage of the dukes of Orléans.

Years later, in the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt (1415), the poet and duke Charles d’Orléans sells Chauny, a seignory in Beaumont-sur-Oise, to pay for his ransom. Once liberated, Charles buys back Chauny in 1450 and makes his wife, Maria of Cleves, lady of Chauny.

Upon her husband’s death in 1465, Maria makes Chauny her home. She has a residence built there for her use during her lifetime, called “la maison d’Orléans,” which she wishes to be given to the Convent of Sainte-Croix upon her death. She signs a donation to this effect on 26 July 1485. In October of the same year, her son Louis gives letters patent at Blois to transfer the Convent of Sainte-Croix, then situated in nearby Condren, to Chauny. The document presented here confirms the two preceding deeds, and also establishes a new donation for the construction of another building for the convent.

Maria dies in 1487, and in 1492, Louis honors his parents’ memory by fulfilling his mother’s wishes and becoming a patron to a small community of monks residing in a little-known part of the estate of the dukes of Orléans.

Louis would later rule France from 1498 to 1515 as King Louis XII, succeeding his cousin Charles VIII. Louis owed his right to the crown to his ancestor King Philip VI of Valois, who had made his fifth son Philip the first Duke of Orléans.

This document, as well as the letter signed by Catherine de Médic and the treasury account for King Charles VII of France 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 century and early 20th century, and are now found in numerous American repositories. This particular one was once owned by the Saint-Louis industrialist William Keeny Bixley.