T345: "La reine blanche comme liz"


Most editors identify  "La reine blanche comme liz"  as Blanche of Castile, though she could simply be "The queen as white as lily". The manuscripts and early printed editions contain no upper-case "B" in that line, and we have already seen Villon identify one of the poem's figures solely through her deeds:

    "...la royne
    Qui commanda que Buriden
    Fut gecte en ung sac en Saine?"  (T341-43)

In fact, there is a whole stanza  in the "Ballade des seigneurs du temps jadis"  where the poet identifies three kings separately through attributes and deeds, without naming a single one:

    "Semblablement, le roy scotiste
    Qui demy face ot, ce dit on,
    Vermaille comme une emastiste
    Depuis le front jusqu'au menton,
    Le roy de Chippre de renom,
    Helas ! et le bon roy d'Espaigne
    Duquel je ne sçay pas le nom ?
    Mais ou est le preux Charlemaigne?"  (T365-720)


Nicolas Lenglet Du Fresnoy (c. 1744) in MS. Paris Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal 2948, was likely the first to say that this queen was Blanche de Castille:  "Vers 345 La Royne blanche comme un lys.} Il parle de la Reine Blanche de Castille mère de St Louis. C'etoit une habile princesse qui avoit le talent d'amurer ceux qui aspiroient à lui plaire, comme ill arriva à Thibau Comte de Champaigne, qui n'eut de plaisir que dans l'imagination, malgré le nombre infini de chansons qu'il fit pour cette princesse, qui amoit sans doute à chanter." (fols. 35v-36r)

Here is some information on Blanche of Castile:

    Blanche of Castile (Book Rags)
    http://www.bookrags.com/Blanche_of_Castile

    Blanche of Castile (Everything2)
    http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1164123

    Blanche of Castile (Wikipedia)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanche_of_Castile

    Blanche de Castille (Les femmes du Moyen Age)
    http://mboullic.club.fr/histo_blanche_casti.htm

    Le château de la Reine Blanche: le Paris du Moyen Age
    http://www.aquadesign.be/news/article-3521.php

With the ambiguity of  T344, what shall we make of the continued description in T345: "Qui chantoit a voix de seraine"? The Rychner-Henry edition notes "...la tradition, en effet, ne célèbre point les talents musicaux de la mère de Saint Louis, et rien ne porte à croire que V. les ait inventés, car les personnages de sa ballade sont évoqués selon l'histoire et la légende, et non selon la pure imagination." (Le Testament Villon, Vol. II, p. 35)   Since Villon's poem gives us so many reasons to mistrust "la tradition", we might declare that lack of evidence that about Blanche's musical talent does not mean that she did not have a musical talent, or that Villon's generation did not attribute one to her. 

A song attributed to Blanche de Castille is discussed in Joseph Bédier "Un Feuillet récemment retrouvé dans unchansonnier français du XIIIe siècle."  In Mélanges de philologie romane et d’histoire littéraire offerts à M. Maurice Wilmotte à l’occasion de son 25e anniversaire d’enseignement. Ed. Mario Roqies.  Paris: Honoré Champion, 1910),  vol, II, pp. 895-922.

The fact Blanche of Castile, mother of Saint Louis and grand-daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, is frequently listed as a composer, even as a trouvère, that she is partnered with Thibaut de Champagne in a tenson,

Coldwell, Maria V. "Blanche of Castile (b. 1188; d. 1252). Spanish-French trouvère." The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. Eds, Julie Anne Sadie and Rhian Samuel. New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995. p. 66.

"12 Blanche de Castille & Thibaut de Champagne - Tenson." in Doss-Quinby , Eglal, Joan Tasker Grimbert, Wendy Pfeffer and Elizabeth Aubrer, ed, tr. and intro. Songs of the women trouvères.  New Haven: Yale University Press, c2001, pp. 106-13. 

 The Medieval Lady - Music by Medieval Women Composers & Anonymous ("Amours, u trop tart me sui pris", MP3)
 http://www.leonarda.com/le340.html


and that one song attributed to her is circulated


    Amours, u trop tart me sui pris (clip)
    http://www.leonarda.com/mp3s/Leonarda-340-QueenBlanche.mp3

    Amours, u trop tart me sui pris (clip)
    http://csis.pace.edu/grendel/music/amours.htm


For these reasons, I find it Rycher-Henry's note on T345, as well as others who have followed this lead confusing, if not misleading. The important issue is, of course, not whether or not she was a composer or vocal musician, but if her legendary status allowed her that in the time of Villon.