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11 - The Charters of the Thirteenth-Century Inheriting Countesses of Ponthieu

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 February 2023

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Summary

Found appended to a genealogy in Latin of the counts of Boulogne, at the end of a thirteenth-century manuscript now in the municipal library in Arras (Arras, Bibliothèque Municipale, 163), five stanzas of an Old French planctus deplore the death of the countess of Boulogne. Although the poem does not name the specific countess whose loss it laments, it most likely refers to Mathilde II, daughter of Ide de Boulogne and Renaud de Dammartin, both because her second husband, Alfonso of Portugal, is the last count mentioned in the list of the counts of Boulogne that precedes the poem, and because her death in 1260 left Boulogne without an obvious heir, a situation that fits well with the poet’s description of a county bereft.

Using the well known ubi sunt motif, in which the writer expresses the virtues and benefits of his subject by asking, rhetorically, where these shall be found, the last stanza of the poem lists things the countess’s death will deny to the people of Boulogne:

Qui fera mais bele feste criée?

Qui fera mais ne joie ne baudor?

Qui donra mais parement ne collé

A chevalier novel, ne bel ator,

Quant cele a fait de cest siècle retor

Qui des dames estoit rubins et flor,

Et son païs sostenoit en vigor?

Par qui ert mais povre dame gardée

Ne pucele de faire désonor?

Who will henceforth offer fine fêtes?

Who will henceforth cause joy or rejoicing?

Who will henceforth give the altar clothes or the ritual strike

to a new knight, or a fine outfit.

when she has left this world,

she who was the ruby and flower of ladies

and who sustained her lands in vigor?

By whom will henceforth poor ladies be protected

or maidens kept from dishonor?

After deploring the loss of pleasures in the first two lines of the stanza, the poet turns to the more serious implications of the countess’s death. First, the poet addresses the elements of the knighting ceremony: ‘Who will now give altar clothes or the (ritual) blow to new knights, or good equipment’, (lines 30–1); then he turns to the protection of poor women and maidens, ‘by whom will poor women ever be protected and maidens kept from dishonor’ (lines 45–6)?

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The Haskins Society Journal 25
2013. Studies in Medieval History
, pp. 223 - 244
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2014

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