Charles d’Orleans (d. 1465), cousin of the French king, was captured at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and spent 25 years as a prisoner in England. During this time, he composed over 500 love poems and political verses in English and French, which were widely circulated during his lifetime. 166 of these texts are collected in this luxuriously illustrated volume, along with other works on the same themes.
The manuscript includes an illustration of the Tower of London, where Charles spent many of his years in imprisonment (image nos. 1 and 2). The White Tower and Traitors’ Gate are clearly recognisable in the foreground of the panorama of London that precedes a French poem entitled Des Nouvelles d’Albyon (News from Albion). This is the earliest known topographically accurate view of the city, depicted here as the centre of England’s power and wealth. The Thames, busy with ships, flows past Custom’s House, and London Bridge connects the city to the South.
The border of this image contains the heraldic motifs of Edward IV (r. 1461–1470, 1471–1483) and his wife Elizabeth Woodville (d. 1492), who were probably its original intended recipients. Production on the manuscript began during Edward’s reign but halted abruptly, because of his sudden death in 1483.
Another illustration in the work shows Heloise (d. 1164), lover of Peter Abelard (d. 1142), depicted as an abbess, teaching a young man (image no. 3). It precedes a French treatise on love, supposedly written by Heloise (though the actual authorship of the text is unknown) and addressed to ung sien disciple qui Gaultier ot nom (‘one of her disciples who has the name Gaultier’). The image’s border contains heraldry associated with Henry VII (r. 1485–1509), including a portcullis surmounted by a crown and a red rose supported by a white greyhound and a red dragon. The manuscript was later owned by Henry and remained in the royal collection after his death.