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The Queen of France | Die Königin von Frankreich

Heidelberg Hs. 1012 (olim Ashburnham Place, Cod. 486) ff. 249r [Public Domain]

Introduction to the Text

The Queen of France was composed in the late 14th century somewhere in the Alemannic region (what is today Southern Germany or Austria). Two of 24 surviving manuscripts name one “von Schondoch” as the author of The Queen of France. Aside from the name, nothing else is known about this person. The Queen of France is a prototypical melodramatic tale. There are similar texts in the medieval German tradition, but they are usually shorter. This verse narrative, composed in rhymed couplets, is also unique because of its wide transmission. The large number of textual witnesses and adaptations of the story, among them Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken’s famous prose novel Sibille (after 1437), suggest that The Queen of France was very popular in late medieval Germany.

The Queen of France tells the story of a queen, a good and faithful wife, who is banished for alleged adultery by her husband, the king. Falsely accused by the king’s marshal, whose advances she had turned down earlier, the pregnant queen is saved from death by the intercession of the king’s nephew, the Duke of Austria. The queen is escorted away under the protection of a noble knight, who is assassinated by the villainous marshal. The queen, however, manages to elude the murderer, fleeing into the forest where she is sheltered by a virtuous, poor man. The story takes a turn for the better when the virtuous knight’s faithful dog persistently pursues his master’s murderer. The Duke of Austria sees to it that the dog and the marshal engage in a judicial ordeal whose outcome–the dog is victorious–exposes the marshal’s guilt. Ashamed and shocked by his error of judgement, the king bitterly regrets his actions and searches unsuccessfully for the queen for three and a half years. At last, a female merchant recognizes the queen’s exquisite needlework, which leads to the discovery of the queen and her three-year-old son, and the king and queen are reconciled.

In The Queen of France medieval honor emerges as a core concept at multiple points throughout the story: as a commodity that can be both acquired and lost, and as a matter of reputation and respect, which was the basis of the rule of elites. This translation makes The Queen of France available to scholars who are working on topics such as popular tales, on the prototypes of modern melodrama, or on depictions of animals in literature.

Introduction to the Source

Heid. Hs. 1012, the version of The Queen of France that was used for this transcription and translation, was written around or before 1460 in the Moselle Franconian/Rhenish Franconian region (Siegen-Luxembourg/Kassel-Saarbrücken). The Queen of France is the final text of three in that manuscript. It is preceded by The Duke of Brunswick, a German rhymed couplet narrative; and by Loher and Maller, which is a German prose translation by Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken (or someone at her court) from a chanson de geste, an Old French heroic epic.

Heid. Hs. 1012 tells The Queen of France in a manner focused on the queen's steadfastness and virtue. By adding lines and by expanding on specific themes (e.g. a comparison between the queen and the Virgin Mary and the king's explicit joy at discovering that the queen has lived a virtuous and pious life without him), this version emphasizes the "good wife" theme more than other versions, and in some cases suggests parallels with religious stories of martyrs and saints.

About this Edition

This transcription and translation are based on the newly rediscovered Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Heid. Hs. 1012 (olim Ashburnham Place, Cod. 486), Die Königin von Frankreich: fol. 249r- 254v, dated 1463. This edition follows the manuscript in the following ways: u/v- spelling and i/j- spelling follow the manuscript; separate and compound spelling are not normalized but rather follow the manuscript; no punctuation has been added.

To give a visual impression of the original manuscript’s structure this edition also recorded scribal corrections, deletions and additions, mostly indicated by the rubricator with red ink. Crossed out letters and words in the manuscript are crossed out in the edition as well. For the sake of the edition’s readability and following standard practice, abbreviations and diacritical signs are expanded (these expansions are unmarked), and the descending s (ſ) is replaced with the round s. In three places where Heid. Hs. 1012 appears to be flawed, amendments (see critical notes) follow Jutta Strippel's 1978 edition of The Queen of France.

Further Reading

Jefferis, Sibylle. “Die Neuaufgefundene Heidelberger Handschrift von Schondochs ‘Königin von Frankreich und der Ungetreue Marschall’: Ihre Einordnung in die Übrige Handschriftenüberlieferung.” New Texts, Methodologies, and Interpretations in Medieval German Literature (Kalamazoo Papers 1992-1995), Kümmerle, 1999, pp. 209–27.

  • Transmission history

Jefferis, Sibylle. “Schondochs Märe ‘Die Königin von Frankreich und der Ungetreue Marschall’ im Vergleich mit dem ‘Sibillenroman’ von Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken.” Text Analyses and Interpretations: In Memory of Joachim Bumke (Kalamazoo Papers 2012-2013), Kümmerle, 2013, pp. 105-24.

Jefferis, Sibylle. “The ‘Cronica von der Königin von Frankreich’: The Prose Adaptation of Schondoch’s Novella.” Nu lôn' ich iu der gâbe: Festschrift for Francis G. Gentry, Kümmerle, 2003, pp. 159–72.

  • Adaptations of the story

Strippel, Jutta. Schondochs 'Königin von Frankreich': Untersuchungen zur Handschriftlichen Überlieferung und Kritischer Text. Kümmerle, 1978.

  • Transmission history and historical-critical text edition

Werner, Wilfried. Cimelia Heidelbergensia: 30 Illustrierte Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg. Reichert, 1975.

  • Manuscript version and its features


Transcribed by Jana KoepckeTranslation by Jana KoepckeEncoded in TEI P5 XML by Danny Smith

Suggested citation: von Schondoch. "The Queen of France." Trans. Jana Koepke. Global Medieval Sourcebook. Retrieved on July 02, 2022.