Jean Froissart’s Chronicles are an important narrative source for the history of western Europe in the 14th century. Relying on both historical and eyewitness sources, Froissart uses a colourful, dramatic style to record events of the Hundred Years War and provide an account of internal politics in England, France and the Low Countries during the reigns of Edward III (r. 1327–1377) and Richard II (1377–1399).
Many deluxe copies were made of Froissart’s Chronicles, lavishly illustrated for important patrons. This copy of the work was made in Bruges in the late 15th century, probably for William, 1st Baron of Hastings (d. 1483), a courtier, administrator, and chamberlain of Edward IV (r. 1461–1470, 1471–1483). The manuscript contains the second of four volumes of Froissart’s work, and covers the period 1377 to 1385. The fourth volume of this set is also part of the British Library’s collections (now Royal MS 18 E II); the third volume is housed at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles; and the first volume has not been traced.
One of the many episodes depicted in the manuscript is the death of Wat Tyler, the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, who in 1381 marched a group of rebels from Canterbury to London to oppose the institution of a poll tax on the country (vol II, f. 175r; image no. 1). Having gone to meet the young Richard II, Tyler was attacked by William Walworth (d. 1385), the Mayor of London, and was decapitated shortly afterwards. Among the other illustrations are a full-page image of Philip the Bold (d. 1404), Duke of Burgundy and his army (f. 12r; image no. 3) and a smaller one of English ships sailing to Brittany under Thomas of Woodstock (d. 1397), Duke of Gloucester (f. 103v; image no. 4).