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Alexander, Porrus and the peacock

Alexander, Porrus and the peacock

2023-02-28 12:44:48

The French Alexander Romance is a protracted and complicated narrative, during which miraculous deeds and encounters on the edges of the recognized world are grafted onto the true journeys of conquest and exploration by the historic determine, Alexander the Nice. This work was so widespread within the 14th century that additional imaginary exploits have been invented to complement it in numerous methods, as proven in our exhibition, Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth. One among these ‘spin-offs’, the Voeux du Paon (Vows of the Peacock), was composed in 1312 by Jacques de Longuyon, growing the medieval character of Alexander as a courtly determine, and inventing a brand new set of fictional companions for him.

Eight figures behind a banqueting table. They are talking in pairs. A woman carries in a platter with a peacock on it

The roast peacock is dropped at the desk and vows are made, in Les Voeux du Paon (?England, c. 1390–1400): Add MS 30864, f. 1r

The motion within the Voeux du Paon takes place throughout a brief interlude within the metropolis of Epheson (?Ephesus) on Alexander’s ultimate journey to Babylon. Alexander meets an aged knight, Cassamus, who asks for his assist to alleviate the town from a siege by the evil Clarus, king of Ind; Clarus needs to kill the younger princes of Epheson, Gadifer and Betis, and marry their sister, Woman Fesonas. Throughout a battle outdoors the palace, Porrus, a younger Indian prince preventing alongside Clarus, is captured and imprisoned within the Chamber of Venus at Epheson, the place he’s handled in a well mannered way by the younger courtiers, becoming a member of of their video games.


Porrus within the chamber of Venus with Fesonas and younger companions at Epheson: Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley MS 264, f. 133v

Whereas wandering by way of the palace gardens in the future, Porrus mistakenly shoots Woman Fesonas’s pet peacock, however she forgives him. It’s plucked, roasted and dressed, and a feast is organized. Courtly vows are revamped the peacock beneath the tutelage of Alexander, who’s portrayed as a drive for reconciliation between East and West. He organises a contest whereby the younger males undertake feats of prowess and the women promise themselves in marriage to appropriate candidates. The next army and courtly exploits are described in some element. In the midst of these, the idea of the 9 Worthies, the 9 best knights of all time, is launched.

Two knights jousting, the one of the right hand side is being knocked off his horse

Alexander watches as Canans is unhorsed by Lyonies, in Les Voeux du Paon: Add MS 30864, f. 10v

Edeas, one the younger courtiers, vows to reconstruct the peacock in gold (this units the scene for a whole new Romance: the sequel generally known as the Restor du Paon, ‘The Peacock Restored’). Having organized the marriages and loved fifteen days of celebration, Alexander units off for Babylon, the place he’s destined to die by poisoning. 

A group of people are standing around a raised pillar upon which is perched a golden peacock

Honouring the Golden Peacock (Paris, 1335–1340): Add MS 16888, f. 142r

The textual content of the Voeux du Paon was generally copied inside or alongside the Alexander Romance, as is the case in a manuscript from the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Bodley MS 264.  There are additionally quite a few unbiased copies of the textual content. It has been judged the ‘most profitable of all Previous French Alexander poems’ by the scholar, David Ross, with over 40 manuscripts surviving from throughout Europe, a lot of them richly illustrated and owned by necessary collectors just like the Dukes of Burgundy.

Eight figures behind a banqueting table. They are talking in pairs. A woman carries in a platter with a peacock on it
Alexander on the banquet of the Voeux du Paon: Bodley MS 264, f. 146v

In 1381 a banquet was held on the court docket of Aragon in Spain, the place vows have been taken over a peacock, whereas in 1454 Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, held a banquet at Lille, generally known as the Banquet du Faisan (Pheasant). These considerably weird princely rituals involving roast poultry (albeit of the luxurious selection) have been in all probability impressed by the Alexander/Peacock legend.


Courtly pursuits in Epheson: Bodley MS 264, f. 127v

Within the sequel romance Restor du Paon (‘The Peacock Restored’), Edeas re-creates the peacock in gold and jewels and Alexander bestows a prize on Betis, essentially the most worthy of the lads. A second sequel, the Parfait du Paon (‘The Peacock accomplished’), has Alexander collaborating in a literary contest by composing ballads. 

People at work with hammers, anvils, tools, furnaces

See Also

Goldsmiths at work on the peacock: Bodley MS 264, f. 164v

And this was not the one ‘sequel’ to commerce on the recognition of the Alexander Romance within the 14th and fifteenth centuries. Characters from the Peacock cycle, together with Betis and Gadifer, reappear in Perceforest, a story that supposedly takes place in pre-Arthurian Britain. Taking a detour by ship whereas on his journey to Babylon, Alexander is blown off track by a storm and (with a sure geographical licence) lands within the British Isles, the place he founds a brand new dynasty and invents the medieval match.

Manuscript page. Miniature in top write shows women watching from stands while two knights fight on horseback with swords

A match in historic Britain, in Perceforest (Bruges, c. 1500): Royal MS 19 E II, f.305r

You may study extra in regards to the Alexander Romance on our web site:

We’re indebted to the Kusuma Belief, the Patricia G. and Jonathan S. England – British Library Innovation Fund and Ubisoft for his or her help in direction of the exhibition, in addition to different trusts and personal donors.


Chantry Westwell

Comply with us on Twitter @BLMedieval

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