Jean de Venette

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Jean de Venette : biography

1307 – 1370

As many of the portions were recorded contemporaneouslyJean Birdsall edited by Richard A. Newhall. The Chronicles of Jean de Venette (N.Y. Columbia University Press. 1953) line 4-5 and in a chronological fashion, it gives a very reliable first hand account of several historical events. The evidence seems to indicate a dual authorship from 1340 to 1368.Jean Birdsall edited by Richard A. Newhall. The Chronicles of Jean de Venette (N.Y. Columbia University Press. 1953) Introduction During the years 1358-1359 the entries were contemporary with the events recorded; the earlier portion of the work, if it was begun as early as 1340, was subjected to revision later, though Venette himself states on the first page of his chronicle (1340) he is recording events "…in great measure as I have seen and heard them."Jean Birdsall edited by Richard A. Newhall. The Chronicles of Jean de Venette (N.Y. Columbia University Press. 1953) chpt. (1340) p. 1)

The Chronicle begins in the year 1340 at which time Jean de Venette talks about the revelations of a (unnamed) priest who was held prisoner by the Saracens for 13 years and freed in 1309 who foretold of a vison of a great famine which would occur in 1315 and other horrible things which were to happen thereafter. Venette states that he was seven or eight in this year and indeed the famine did occur exactly as predicted and lasted two years. He then tells the background of the fight for the crown of France after the death of Philip the Fair and the claims of Edward I of England to that throne, thus describing the background to the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War. His history is detailed and precise. He also describes the Battle of Crecy in 1356, The Peasant’s War, and the siege of Calais, again with great detail.Jean Birdsall edited by Richard A. Newhall. The Chronicles of Jean de Venette (N.Y. Columbia University Press. 1953)

According to one scholar, "Jean de Venette is not a first-class chronicler. He is often inaccurate or muddled, and there are few matters of real importance for which he is our sole or principal authority. The interest of the chronicle lies in the fact that it is the work of an intelligent and not uncritical observer, well placed to witness great and often tragic events, who provides a useful corrective to Froissart’s aristocratic romanticism and is quite uninfluenced by the official Valois version of affairs, the version preserved by the Saint Denis chroniclers and still largely accepted by French historians."Le Patourel review, see above, p. 148

The Hundred Years War

Jean vividly describes several battles of the Hundred Years’ War such as the Battle of Crecy, the siege of Calais and the Battle of Poitiers.

Of the Battle of Crecy, de Venette places the time and day on "Saint Louis’s Day, 1346, at the end of the ninth hour". He mentions the failure of the Genoese crossbows to function, he states they were useless because they were wet and not given time to dry out. He states that the French King ordered the massacre of the crossbowmen because of what he conceived as cowardice. He blames this and the further disorder and confusion of the French on the "undue haste" of the French King. He describes the English longbowmans’ arrows as "rain coming from heaven and the sky’s which were formerly clear, suddenly darkened".Jean Birdsall edited by Richard A. Newhall. The Chronicles of Jean de Venette (N.Y. Columbia University Press. 1953) p.43

Venette was known as a child of the people, and until later in his life, he consistently acknowledged the power of the monarchy. He does not, however, hesitate to criticise the nobles for their failure to protect the people, particularly after the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 at which time the King of France and his son were taken hostage and held for an enormous ransom.

After the Battle of Poiters, many of the nobles and the "Companies" were ravaging the different towns and cities, pillaging and raping. Of that time Venette states: