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19.02.04 Response: Morrison on Bouchard on Morrison

19.02.04 Response: Morrison on Bouchard on Morrison

A recent review of A Knight for the Ages: Jacques de Lalaing and the Art of Chivalry was written for this journal by Dr. Constance Bouchard, Distinguished Professor Emerita of History at the University of Akron, a specialist in the history of French monasticism and nobility through the twelfth century. A Knight for the Ages provides an in-depth introduction to a sixteenth-century Flemish illuminated manuscript, the Getty's copy of the Livre des faits de Jacques de Lalaing. I am delighted that Dr. Bouchard found the manuscript's illuminations to be beautifully illustrated, and I, too, hope that our study will spur the efforts of future scholars in a range of fields. However, Dr. Bouchard makes the surprising claim that several key aspects of the manuscript's study are lacking when in fact they are extensively discussed, often in more than one essay. I wanted to provide the information for where readers of the volume might find some of these aspects, should they wish.

For example, Dr. Bouchard says that "Historians who might be more interested in Jacques de Lalaing himself will find little discussion beyond paraphrases of what is recounted in the Deeds." Yet Wim Blockmans, in the first essay in the book, devotes pp. 55-56 to a discussion of Jacques' family history (none of which can be found in the Deeds), as well as pp. 56-60 to a lengthy exposition on the events of Jacques's life. The discussion to be sure includes details from the Deeds, but this should not come as a surprise, given of course, that the Deeds was a primary source of information. Moreover, Blockmans provides a valuable epilogue (60-62) that follows the Lalaing family through the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Dr. Bouchard also states that "There is no effort to analyze the purposes of the anonymous author who wrote these Deeds, or even to ask where the author found his material, much less the extent to which he might have been creating an ideal knight rather than simply describing the historical Jacques." Wim Blockmans specifically identifies the close friends who are the most likely candidates to have commissioned the author to write the text, and goes on to discuss their reasons for doing so (60-61). On pg. 70, Rosalind Brown-Grant gives a thorough and exact accounting of which sources by which different authors were used for each section of the Deeds, and on pg. 77, Zrinka Stahuljak observes that scholars have long commented on the fact that the Deeds "unhesitatingly employs romance elements in what should instead be a factual account of the subject's life." When Dr. Bouchard goes on to claim that in my essay, a "suggestion is made that the various chapters of the Deeds might have been written originally by multiple authors, then compiled into one account (91), but no evidence is given for this idea," she is absolutely right, but the footnote on pg. 91 directs readers to the essays by Brown-Grant and Stahuljak within the volume where this idea is discussed exhaustively, as outlined above.

In another section of the review, Dr. Bouchard discusses the essay by Margaret Scott, praising its study of dress in the manuscript. She then comments that "Curiously, however, she draws no distinction between what dress might have been like in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, the time of the manuscript's production, and dress a century earlier, during Jacques' lifetime." Scott has only three sections to her essay, separately titled "Men's Dress in Jacques's Adult Lifetime," "Dress in the Book of the Deeds," and "Dress in the Getty Manuscript." I am not sure how she could have drawn these distinctions any more clearly.

And just to clarify a few historical details introduced by the reviewer, Jacques did not serve under the "dukes of Burgundy" but under only one (Philip the Good), the text was not written in "Old French" but in Middle French, and Jacques was not a "native Fleming," but from Hainaut.

In sum, I encourage Dr. Bouchard to go back and read A Knight for the Ages again, so that she can perhaps find even more of the aspects she seems to have missed the first time. In the meantime, we hope fellow medievalists and those of the general public will also read this book and discover the beauty and complexity of the Getty's manuscript. Jacques de Lalaing, one of the greatest knights of his time, should indeed be as well known, as Dr. Bouchard suggests, as William Marshall, and this volume demonstrates why.