Thursday, September 8, 8157
Richard Coeur-de-Lion (1157-1199) - Trouveres
Richard the Lion-Heart - Ja Nuns Hons Pris (1180)
Denis Stevens - Early European Music
David Munrow - Music of the Crusades
Richard I (September 8, 1157 – April 6, 1199) was King of England and ruler of the Angevin Empire from July 6, 1189 until his death. He was known as Richard the Lionheart, or Cœur de Lion, even before his accession, because of his reputation as a great military leader.
The term Angevin Empire describes a collection of states ruled by the Angevin Plantagenet dynasty. The Plantagenets ruled over an area stretching from the Pyrenees to Ireland during the 12th and early 13th centuries. Their 'empire' was roughly half of medieval France as well as all of England and Ireland. The term 'Angevin Empire' is a modern construction as the empire had no such collective term at the time.
The House of Plantagenet, also called the House of Anjou, or the First Angevin dynasty, was originally a noble family from France, which ruled the county of Anjou.
They later came to rule the Duchy of Normandy (1144–1204 and 1415–1450), the Kingdom of England (1154–1485), the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1131–1205), the Duchy of Aquitaine (1153–1453), and the Lordship of Ireland, (1171–1485).
At only 16, Richard had his own command, putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father, Henry II.
Richard was a central Christian commander during the Third Crusade, effectively leading the campaign after the departure of Philip Augustus, and scoring considerable victories against his Muslim counterpart,
While Richard spoke very little English and spent very little time in his Kingdom, preferring to use it as a source of revenue to support his armies, he was seen as a pious hero by his subjects.
He remains one of the very few Kings of England remembered by his epithet, not number, and is an enduring, iconic figure in England.
Richard was a younger brother of William, Count of Poitiers, Henry the Young King and Matilda of England. As the third legitimate son of King Henry II of England, he was not expected to ascend the throne. He was also an older brother of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany, Leonora of England, Joan Plantagenet and John, Count of Mortain, who succeeded him as king. Richard was the younger maternal half-brother of Marie de Champagne and Alix of France. He is often depicted as having been the favourite son of his mother,
[Eleanor with her son King John]
Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Although born at Beaumont Palace, Oxford, England, like other early Plantagenets Richard was essentially French. When his parents separated, he remained with his mother. He was invested with her duchy of Aquitaine in 1168 and with the county of Poitiers in 1172. In 1170, in accordance with custom, his elder brother Henry was crowned king of England during his father's lifetime, as Henry III. Historians have named this Henry "the Young King" so as not to confuse him with the later Henry III of England, who was his nephew.
Richard was an educated man who composed poetry, writing in French and Limousin. He was said to be very attractive; his hair was between red and blond, and he was light-eyed with a pale complexion. He was apparently of above average height, but as his remains have been lost since at least the French Revolution, his exact height is unknown. From an early age he showed significant political and military ability, becoming noted for his chivalry and courage as he fought to control the rebellious nobles of his own territory.
Like his brothers, Richard frequently challenged his father's authority. In spring 1174, at age 16, Richard joined both his brothers, Henry and Geoffrey, in a revolt against their father, whom they sought to dethrone. Initially, only Normandy remained faithful to Henry II; by August, however, Henry had largely crushed the rebellion in England. Crossing the channel to Normandy, he invaded Poitou and Aquitaine, the domains of Richard's mother, Eleanor, and captured and imprisoned her towards the end of the year.
Richard was the last of the brothers to hold out against Henry, but in the end he refused to fight him face to face and humbly begged his pardon.
Henry seemed unwilling to entrust any of his sons with resources that could be used against him. It was suspected that Henry had appropriated Princess Alys, Richard's betrothed, the daughter of Louis VII of France by his second wife, as his mistress. This made a marriage between Richard and Alys technically impossible in the eyes of the Church, but Henry prevaricated: Alys's dowry, the Vexin, was valuable. Richard was discouraged from renouncing Alys because she was the sister of King Philip II of France, a close ally and possible lover.
After his failure to overthrow his father, Richard concentrated on putting down internal revolts by the nobles of Aquitaine, especially the territory of Gascony. The increasing cruelty of his reign led to a major revolt there in 1179. Hoping to dethrone Richard, the rebels sought the help of his brothers Henry and Geoffrey. The turning point came in the Charente Valley in spring 1179. The fortress of Taillebourg was well defended and was considered impregnable. The castle was surrounded by a cliff on three sides and a town on the fourth side with a three-layer wall. Richard first destroyed and looted the farms and lands surrounding the fortress, leaving its defenders no reinforcements or lines of retreat. The inhabitants of the fortress were so afraid of Richard at this point that they left the safety of their castle and attacked Richard outside its walls. Richard was able to subdue the army and then followed the defenders inside the open gates, where he easily took over the castle in two days. Richard’s victory at Taillebourg deterred many barons thinking of rebelling and forced them to declare their loyalty. It also won Richard a reputation as a skilled military commander.
In 1181-1182, Richard faced a revolt over the succession to the county of Angoulême. His opponents turned to Philip II of France for support, and the fighting spread through the Limousin and Périgord. Richard was accused of numerous cruelties against his subjects, including rape: "He carried off by force the wives, daughters and female relatives of his free men, and made them his concubines; and after he had extinguished the ardour of his lust on them, he handed them over to his soldiers for whoring."
However, with support from his father and from the Young King, Richard succeeded in bringing the Viscount Aimar V of Limoges and Count Elie of Périgord to terms.
After Richard subdued his rebellious barons, he again challenged his father for the throne. From 1180 to 1183 the tension between Henry and Richard grew, as King Henry commanded Richard to pay homage to Henry the Young King, but Richard refused. Finally, in 1183, Henry the Young King and Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany invaded Aquitaine in an attempt to subdue Richard. Richard’s barons joined in the fray and turned against their Duke. However, Richard and his army were able to hold back the invading armies and executed any prisoners. The conflict took a brief pause in June 1183 when the Young King died. However, Henry II soon gave his youngest son John permission to invade Aquitaine. With the death of Henry the Young King, Richard became the eldest son and heir to the English crown, but still he continued to fight his father.
To strengthen his position, in 1187 Richard allied himself with Philip II, who was the son of Eleanor's ex-husband Louis VII by his third wife, Adele of Champagne. Roger of Hoveden wrote:
"The King of England was struck with great astonishment, and wondered what [this alliance] could mean, and, taking precautions for the future, frequently sent messengers into France for the purpose of recalling his son Richard; who, pretending that he was peaceably inclined and ready to come to his father, made his way to Chinon, and, in spite of the person who had the custody thereof, carried off the greater part of his father's treasures, and fortified his castles in Poitou with the same, refusing to go to his father."
Hoveden mentions how Richard and King Philip "ate from the same dish and at night slept in one bed" and had a "passionate love between them," which some historians have taken to imply a homosexual relationship. In addition, there are allusions to the Books of Samuel's depiction of Jonathan and David in this passage, though overall, Hoveden is chiefly concerned with the politics of the relationship. In March 2008, Professor John Gillingham, a former history professor at the London School of Economics, pointed out that theories that Richard was homosexual were first suggested in 1948 and stemmed from an official record announcing that, as a symbol of unity between the two countries, the kings of France and England had slept overnight in the same bed. He expressed the view that this was "an accepted political act, nothing sexual about it; ... a bit like a modern-day photo opportunity."
In exchange for Philip's help against his father, Richard promised to concede to him his rights to both Normandy and Anjou. Richard did homage to Philip in November of the same year. With news arriving of the battle of Hattin, he took the cross at Tours in the company of other French nobles.
In 1188 Henry II planned to concede Aquitaine to his youngest son John. The following year, 1189 Richard attempted to take the throne of England for himself by joining Philip's expedition against his father. On July 4, 1189, Richard and Philip’s forces defeated Henry's army at Ballans. Henry, with John's consent, agreed to name Richard his heir. Two days later Henry II died in Chinon, and Richard succeeded him as King of England, Duke of Normandy, and Count of Anjou. Roger of Hoveden claimed that Henry's corpse bled from the nose in Richard's presence, which was taken as a sign that Richard had caused his death. He was officially crowned duke on July 20, 1189 and king in Westminster Abbey on September 13, 1189.
Richard had already taken the cross as Count of Poitou in 1187. His father and Philip II had done so at Gisors on January 21, 1188, after receiving news of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin. Having become king, Richard and Philip agreed to go on the Third Crusade together, since each feared that, during his absence, the other might usurp his territories.
Richard swore an oath to renounce his past wickedness in order to show himself worthy to take the cross. He started to raise and equip a new crusader army. He spent most of his father's treasury (filled with money raised by the Saladin tithe), raised taxes, and even agreed to free King William I of Scotland from his oath of subservience to Richard in exchange for 10,000 marks. To raise even more money he sold official positions, rights, and lands to those interested in them. Even those already appointed were forced to pay huge sums to retain their posts.
After repositioning the part of his army he left behind to guard his French possessions, Richard finally set out on the crusade in summer 1190. (His delay was criticised by troubadours such as Bertran de Born). He appointed as regents Hugh, Bishop of Durham, and William de Mandeville, 3rd Earl of Essex -- who soon died and was replaced by Richard's chancellor William Longchamp. Richard's brother John was not satisfied by this decision and started scheming against William.
Some writers have criticised Richard for spending only six months of his reign in England and siphoning the kingdom's resources to support his Crusade. According to William Stubbs (The Constitutional History of England, vol. 1, p. 550-1):
“ He was a bad king: his great exploits, his military skill, his splendour and extravagance, his poetical tastes, his adventurous spirit, do not serve to cloak his entire want of sympathy, or even consideration, for his people. He was no Englishman, but it does not follow that he gave to Normandy, Anjou, or Aquitaine the love or care that he denied to his kingdom. His ambition was that of a mere warrior: he would fight for anything whatever, but he would sell everything that was worth fighting for. The glory that he sought was that of victory rather than conquest. ”
Richard claimed that England was "cold and always raining," and when he was raising funds for his Crusade, he was said to declare, "I would have sold London if I could find a buyer."
However, although England was a major part of his territories -- particularly important in that it gave him a royal title with which to approach other kings as an equal -- it faced no major internal or external threats during his reign, unlike his continental territories, and so did not require his constant presence there. Like most of the Plantagenet kings before the 14th century, he had no need to learn the English language. Leaving the country in the hands of various officials he designated (including his mother, at times), Richard was far more concerned with his more extensive French lands. After all his preparations, he had an army of 4,000 men-at-arms, 4,000 foot-soldiers, and a fleet of 100 ships.
In September 1190 both Richard and Philip arrived in Sicily. After the death of King William II of Sicily, his cousin Tancred of Lecce had seized power and been crowned early in 1190 as King Tancred I of Sicily, although the legal heir was William's aunt Constance, wife of the new Emperor Henry VI. Tancred had imprisoned William's widow, Queen Joan, who was Richard's sister, and did not give her the money she had inherited in William's will. When Richard arrived, he demanded that his sister be released and given her inheritance. The presence of foreign troops also caused unrest: in October, the people of Messina revolted, demanding that the foreigners leave. Richard attacked Messina, capturing it on October 4, 1190. After looting and burning the city, Richard established his base there. He remained there until Tancred finally agreed to sign a treaty on March 4, 1191. The treaty was signed by Richard, Philip and Tancred.
After signing the treaty Richard and Philip left Sicily. The treaty undermined England's relationships with the Holy Roman Empire and caused the revolt of Richard's brother John, who hoped to be proclaimed heir instead of their nephew. Although his revolt failed, John continued to scheme against his brother.
In April 1191, while on route to the Third Crusade, Richard stopped on the Byzantine island of Rhodes to avoid the stormy weather. It seems that Richard had previously met his fiancée Berengaria only once, years before their wedding. He had assigned his mother to represent him and convince her father, Sancho VI of Navarre, and her other relatives to agree to the wedding, and to bring the bride to him. Richard came to their rescue when they were shipwrecked on the coast of Cyprus. He left Rhodes in May but a new storm drove Richard's fleet to Cyprus.
On May 6, 1191, Richard and fleet arrived in the port of Lemesos (now Limassol) on Cyprus, and captured the city.
Before leaving Cyprus, Richard married Berengaria, first-born daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre. The wedding was held in Limassol on May 12, 1191 at the Chapel of St. George. It was attended by his sister Joan, whom Richard had brought from Sicily. When Richard married Berengaria he was still officially betrothed to Alys, and Richard pushed for the match, in order to obtain Navarre as a fief like Aquitaine for his father. Further, Eleanor championed the match, as Navarre bordered on Aquitaine, thereby securing her ancestral lands' borders to the south. Richard took his new wife with him briefly on this episode of the crusade. However, they returned separately. Berengaria had almost as much difficulty in making the journey home as her husband did and did not see England until after his death. After his release from German captivity Richard showed some regret for his earlier conduct, but he was not reunited with his wife.
Richard had to be ordered to reunite with and show fidelity to Berengaria in the future, being told to "remember the destruction of Sodom and abstain from illicit acts." This may be further evidence that Richard engaged in homosexual activities, although it is argued that "the sin of Sodom" could be interpreted more broadly: the Biblical story concerns attempted male rape; Richard had already been accused of raping women. A common elaboration on that theory is that Berengaria's own brother, the future Sancho VII, was one of Richard's early lovers.
Nevertheless, when Richard died in 1199, Berengaria was greatly depressed, apparently having loved her husband very much. The picture is further muddied by the fact that she had to sue the Church to be recognised as his widow. Historians remain divided on the issue of Richard's sexuality.
King Richard landed at Acre on June 8, 1191. He gave his support to his Poitevin vassal Guy of Lusignan, who had brought troops to help him in Cyprus. Guy was the widower of his father's cousin Sibylla of Jerusalem and was trying to retain the kingship of Jerusalem, despite his wife's death during the siege of Acre the previous year. Guy's claim was challenged by Conrad of Montferrat, second husband of Sibylla's half-sister, Isabella: Conrad, whose defence of Tyre had saved the kingdom in 1187, was supported by Philip of France, son of his first cousin Louis VII of France, and by another cousin, Duke Leopold V of Austria. Richard also allied with Humphrey IV of Toron, Isabella's first husband, from whom she had been forcibly divorced in 1190. Humphrey was loyal to Guy and spoke Arabic fluently, so Richard used him as a translator and negotiator.
Richard and his forces aided in the capture of Acre, despite the king's serious illness. At one point, while sick from scurvy, Richard is said to have picked off guards on the walls with a crossbow, while being carried on a stretcher. Eventually, Conrad of Montferrat concluded the surrender negotiations with Saladin, and raised the banners of the kings in the city.
He moved south, defeating Saladin's forces at the battle of Arsuf on September 7, 1191. He attempted to negotiate with Saladin, offering his widowed sister, Joan of Sicily, as a bride for Saladin's brother Al-Adil, but this was unsuccessful. In the first half of 1192, he and his troops refortified Ascalon.
An election forced Richard to accept Conrad of Montferrat as King of Jerusalem, and he sold Cyprus to his defeated protégé, Guy. However, only days later, on April 28, 1192, Conrad was stabbed to death by Hashshashin before he could be crowned. Eight days later, Richard's own nephew, Henry II of Champagne was married to the widowed Isabella, although she was carrying Conrad's child. The murder has never been conclusively solved, and Richard's contemporaries widely suspected his involvement.
Realising that he had no hope of holding Jerusalem even if he took it, Richard ordered a retreat. There then commenced a period of minor skirmishes with Saladin's forces while Richard and Saladin negotiated a settlement to the conflict, as both realized that their respective positions were growing untenable. Richard knew that both Philip and his own brother John were starting to plot against him. However, Saladin insisted on the razing of Ascalon's fortifications, which Richard's men had rebuilt, and a few other points. Richard made one last attempt to strengthen his bargaining position by attempting to invade Egypt — Saladin's chief supply-base — but failed. In the end, time ran out for Richard. He realised that his return could be postponed no longer, since both Philip and John were taking advantage of his absence. He and Saladin finally came to a settlement on September 2, 1192 — this included the provisions demanding the destruction of Ascalon's wall as well as an agreement allowing Christian access to and presence in Jerusalem. It also included a three-year truce.
Bad weather forced Richard's ship to put in at Corfu, in the lands of the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos, who objected to Richard's annexation of Cyprus, formerly Byzantine territory. Disguised as a Knight Templar, Richard sailed from Corfu with four attendants, but his ship was wrecked near Aquileia, forcing Richard and his party into a dangerous land route through central Europe. On his way to the territory of Henry of Saxony, his brother-in-law, Richard was captured shortly before Christmas 1192, near Vienna, by Leopold V of Austria, who accused Richard of arranging the murder of his cousin Conrad of Montferrat. Richard and his retainers had been travelling in disguise as low-ranking pilgrims, but he was identified either because he was wearing an expensive ring, or because of his insistence on eating roast chicken, an aristocratic delicacy. The Duke kept him prisoner at Dürnstein, where he wrote Ja nus hons pris or Ja nuls om pres, a song in French and Occitan versions, expressing his feelings of abandonment by his people. The Duke then handed him over to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who imprisoned him in Trifels Castle. Richard famously refused to show deference to the emperor and declared to him, "I am born of a rank which recognizes no superior but God". Despite his complaints, the conditions of his captivity were not severe.
His mother worked to raise the ransom of 150,000 marks (2-3 times the annual income for the English Crown under Richard) demanded by Henry. Both clergy and laymen were taxed for a quarter of the value of their property, the gold and silver treasures of the churches were confiscated, and money was raised from the scutage and the carucage taxes. The emperor demanded that 150,000 marks (65,000 pounds of silver) be delivered to him before he would release the king, the same amount raised by the Saladin tithe only a few years earlier.
At the same time, John, Richard's brother, and King Philip of France offered 80,000 marks for the Emperor to hold Richard prisoner until Michaelmas 1194. The emperor turned down the offer. The money to rescue the King was transferred to Germany by the emperor's ambassadors, but "at the king's peril" (had it been lost along the way, Richard would have been held responsible), and finally, on February 4, 1194 Richard was released. Philip sent a message to John: "Look to yourself; the devil is loose."
During his absence, John had come close to seizing the throne. Richard forgave him when they met again and, bowing to political necessity, named him as his heir in place of Arthur, whose mother Constance of Brittany was perhaps already open to the overtures of Philip II. Richard came into conflict with Philip. When the latter attacked Richard's fortress, Chateau-Gaillard ('The Saucy Castle'), he boasted that "if its walls were iron, yet would I take it," to which Richard replied, "If these walls were butter, yet would I hold them!"
Determined to resist Philip's designs on contested Angevin lands such as the Vexin and Berry, Richard poured all his military expertise and vast resources into war on the French King. He constructed an alliance against Philip, including Baldwin IX of Flanders, Renaud, Count of Boulogne, and his father-in-law King Sancho VI of Navarre, who raided Philip's lands from the south. Most importantly, he managed to secure the Welf inheritance in Saxony for his nephew, Henry the Lion's son Otto of Poitou, who was elected Otto IV of Germany in 1198.
Partly as a result of these and other intrigues, Richard won several victories over Philip. At Freteval in 1194, just after Richard's return from captivity and money-raising in England to France, Philip fled, leaving his entire archive of financial audits and documents to be captured by Richard. At the battle of Gisors (sometimes called Courcelles) in 1198 Richard took "Dieu et mon Droit" "God and my Right" as his motto, (still used by the British monarchy today) echoing his earlier boast to the Emperor Henry that his rank acknowledged no superior but God.
In March 1199, Richard was in the Limousin suppressing a revolt by Viscount Aimar V of Limoges. Although it was Lent, he "devastated the Viscount's land with fire and sword."
He besieged the puny, virtually unarmed castle of Chalus-Chabrol. Some chroniclers claimed that this was because a local peasant had uncovered a treasure trove of Roman gold, which Richard claimed from Aimar in his position as feudal overlord.
In the early evening of March 25, 1199, Richard was walking around the castle perimeter without his chainmail, investigating the progress of sappers on the castle walls. Arrows were occasionally shot from the castle walls, but these were given little attention. One defender in particular was of great amusement to the king -- a man standing on the walls, crossbow in one hand, the other clutching a frying pan which he had been using all day as a shield to beat off missiles. He deliberately aimed an arrow at the king, which the king applauded. However, another arrow then struck him in the left shoulder near the neck. He tried to pull this out in the privacy of his tent but failed; a surgeon, called a 'butcher' by Hoveden, removed it, 'carelessly mangling' the King's arm in the process. However, the wound swiftly became gangrenous. Accordingly, Richard asked to have the crossbowman brought before him; called alternatively Peter Basile, John Sabroz, Dudo and Bertran de Gurdun by chroniclers, the man turned out to be a boy. This boy claimed that Richard had killed the boy's father and two brothers, and that he had killed Richard in revenge. The boy expected to be executed; Richard, as a last act of mercy, forgave the boy his crime, saying, "Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day," before ordering the boy to be freed and sent away with 100 shillings. Richard then set his affairs in order, bequeathing all his territory to his brother John and his jewels to his nephew Otto.
Richard died on Tuesday, April 6, 1199 in the arms of his mother; it was later said that "As the day was closing, he ended his earthly day." His death was later referred to as 'the Lion [that] by the Ant was slain'. His last act of chivalry proved fruitless; In an orgy of medieval brutality, the infamous mercenary captain Mercadier had the crossbowman skinned alive and hanged as soon as Richard died.
Richard's brain was buried at the abbey of Charroux in Poitou, his heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, and the rest of his body was buried at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou.
A thirteenth-century bishop of Rochester wrote that Richard spent 33 years in purgatory as expiation for his sins, eventually ascending to heaven in March 1232.
“ The reputation of Richard ... has fluctuated wildly. The Victorians were divided. Many of them admired him as a crusader and man of God, erecting an heroic statue to him outside the Houses of Parliament; Stubbs, on the other hand, thought him ‘a bad son, a bad husband, a selfish ruler, and a vicious man’. Though born in Oxford, he spoke no English. During his ten years' reign, he was in England for no more than six months, and was totally absent for the last five years. ”
—John Gillingham, Kings and Queens of Britain: Richard I
Richard produced no legitimate heirs and acknowledged only one illegitimate son, Philip of Cognac. As a result, he was succeeded by his brother John as King of England. However, his French territories initially rejected John as a successor, preferring his nephew Arthur of Brittany, the son of their late brother Geoffrey, whose claim is by modern standards better than John's. Significantly, the lack of any direct heirs from Richard was the first step in the dissolution of the Angevin Empire. While Kings of England continued to press claims to properties on the continent, they would never again command the territories Richard I inherited.
Richard's legacy comprised several parts. First, he captured Cyprus, which proved immensely valuable in keeping the Frankish kingdoms in the Holy Land viable for another century. Second, his absence from the English political landscape meant that the highly efficient government created by his father was allowed to entrench itself, though King John would later abuse it to the breaking point. The last part of Richard's legacy was romantic and literary. No matter the facts of his reign, he left an indelible imprint on the imagination extending to the present, in large part because of his military exploits. This is reflected in Steven Runciman's final verdict of Richard I: "he was a bad son, a bad husband and a bad king, but a gallant and splendid soldier."
By 1260 a legend had developed that, after Richard's capture, his minstrel Blondel travelled Europe from castle to castle, loudly singing a song known only to the two of them (they had composed it together). Eventually, he came to the place where Richard was being held, and Richard heard the song and answered with the appropriate refrain, thus revealing where the king was incarcerated. The story was the basis of André Ernest Modeste Grétry's opera Richard Coeur-de-Lion (1784) and seems to be the inspiration for the opening to Richard Thorpe's film version of Ivanhoe (1952). It seems unconnected to the real Jean 'Blondel' de Nesle, an aristocratic trouvère.
In the Arab world, Richard became something of a bogeyman after his death. The mid-thirteenth-century Old French Continuation of William of Tyre claimed that Arab mothers would occasionally threaten unruly children with the admonition "King Richard will get you."
[Richard the Lionheart (center, in hat)]
Trouvère, sometimes spelled trouveur, is the Northern French (langue d'oïl) form of the word troubadour (as spelled in the langue d'oc of the South). It refers to poet-composers who were roughly contemporary with and influenced by the troubadours but who composed their works in the northern dialects of France. The word trouvère comes from the Old French trovere, from the Provençal word trobaire, meaning "to find or invent (rhetorically)." The first known trouvère was Chrétien de Troyes (fl. 1160s-80s) and the trouvères continued to flourish until about 1300. Some 2130 trouvère poems have survived; of these, at least two-thirds have melodies.
The popular image of the troubadour or trouvère is that of the itinerant musician wandering from town to town, lute on his back. Such people existed, but they were called jongleurs and minstrels -- poor musicians, male and female, on the fringes of society. The troubadours and trouvères, on the other hand, represent aristocratic music making. They were either poets and composers who were supported by the aristocracy or, just as often, were aristocrats themselves, for whom the creation and performance of music was part of the courtly tradition.
Among their number we can count kings, queens, and countesses. The texts of these songs are a natural reflection of the society that created them. They often revolve around idealized treatments of courtly love ("fine amors") and religious devotion, although many can be found that take a more frankly earthy look at love.
The performance of this style of music is a matter of conjecture. Some scholars suggest that it should be performed in a free rhythmic style and with limited use of accompanying instruments (especially those songs with more elevated text). Other scholars, as well as many performers, believe that instrumental accompaniment and a more rhythmic interpretation is equally valid.
[Vielle Player, c. 1300]
Johannes de Grocheio (1255-1320), a Parisian musical theorist of the early 14th century, believed that trouvère songs inspired kings and noblemen to do great things and to be great:
"This kind of song is customarily composed by kings and nobles and sung in the presence of kings and princes of the land so that it may move their minds to boldness and fortitude, magnanimity and liberality..." (Page, 1997)
Selected list of trouvères
Adam de la Halle (c.1240–88)
Blondel de Nesle (fl c.1175–1210)
Colin Muset (fl c.1230–60)
Conon de Béthune (fl c.1180–c.1220; †1220)
Gillebert de Berneville (fl c.1255)
Guiot de Dijon (fl c.1200–30)
Jacques de Cambrai
Jehan Bretel (c1200–1272)
Perrin d'Angicourt (fl c.1245–50)
Philippe de Remy (c.1205–c.1265)
Richard the Lionheart
Thibaut de Blazon
Thibaut IV de Champagne (1201–53)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail alludes to the trouvere/troubadour tradition in The Tale of Sir Robin (although the movie itself is set hundreds of years previously, during the rule of the legendary King Arthur, b. c. 486 -- and the harmony of the music seems more pointed towards Renaissance models, c. 1486!).
[8160 Conon / 8157 Richard / 8142 Seneca Confederation]