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[p. 681] The Chancery of the Duchy of Brittany from Peter Mauclerc to Duchess Anne, 1213–1514 (Tafel XXII–XXIX)1

The Breton chancery fulfilled the same function as chanceries in other late medieval states by serving primarily as the writing office for letters issued in the name of the ruler. Such letters were normally authorised by the duke and his councillors – either by that small semi-permanent group of advisers who handled the day-to-day affairs of the duchy or by larger bodies called together for a particular purpose like Parlement or the États (which assembled fairly frequently from the late fourteenth century) or by informally summoned groups called to advise on special issues2. By the fifteenth century the letters issued could cover every matter of business from great matters of state down to the most insignificant administrative detail; the duke exercised in this respect [p. 682] full sovereign powers over his subjects within the duchy. He corresponded and entered into treaties with foreign princes as an equal. At the head of his administration – both of the small ducal council and of the chancery itself – was the chancellor. It was under his authority that clerks and secretaries wrote the letters and the appropriate seals were attached. The two administrative organs of council and chancery, for long directly linked in the position of the chancellor, were in the end officially joined in the last ordonnance (1498) concerning the chancery in its late medieval phase and served between them as the chief guardians of the duke’s rights3.

Misunderstandings could arise. When in 1404 secretaries were reminded not to ‘escrire lettres qui puissent grever ou porter dommage au royaume ne duchie de Bretaigne, ne autres lettres de grand pois pour envoier hors desdiz royaume et duchie sans deliberation de conseil’ or when in 1459 it was decided ‘touchant les lettres que le duc en a escript a Paris, il convient que le duc escripve a son procureur et gens de son conseill a Paris que la cause soit porseue o diligence, non obstant quelxconques lettres que le duc par inoportunes requestes inadvertment ou sans deliberacion de son conseil’ had issued, we can see this friction. The chancery, just like the council, might act on its own authority. Individual clerks might be persuaded to issue letters unknown to council; the chancellor himself, as some charges in 1463 allege, might collude with them for private gain4. But in normal circumstances council and chancery cooperated to protect ducal interests and this role was not purely defensive. It involved the active preparation of what would now be called propaganda to promote those interests. Their reciprocal functions, even common personnel (for at any one moment other councillors besides the chancellor also worked in the chancery) can be emphasised at the outset. The chancery gave public expression to decisions taken in council.

What is known about the chancery’s records, organisation and personnel in Brittany during this period? First, its position, like that of the council, becomes progressively clearer as the period unfolds. When Jacques Levron catalogued the letters of Peter Mauclerc, ruler of the duchy between 1213–37, including documents in which Peter’s name occurred, not simply limiting himself to those apparently issued by the chancery during his reign, he listed 283 entries. But of these he cited only 19 as still surviving originals relating to [p. 683] Peter’s rule, whilst the name of the chancellor who seems to have served for most of his reign appears just once in this catalogue5. Léon Maître compiled a similar catalogue for Charles de Blois and his wife, Jeanne de Penthièvre, who ruled for a comparable period (1341–64) just over a century later, listing just 59 documents6. It is true that this was a time of civil war and there may be some truth in the claim that their successor, John IV (1345–99), deliberately attempted to destroy the documentary evidence of his predecessors’ rule7. It is also unfortunately true that Maître’s catalogue is woefully inadequate as a survey of the surviving ducal letters of this period8. Yet the contrast with the next reign is startling. In my recent edition of the letters of John IV for the period 1357–99, I have listed over 1200 entries. Whereas for Blois the names of 23 secretaries or clerks have been brought to light, the identity of his chancellors still remains obscure. But in the case of John IV, over 50 chancery clerks are known by name and a reasonably reliable sequence of chancellors can be constructed9. A keeper of the ducal archives (trésor des chartes) was appointed and in 1395 he compiled the first, still surviving, inventory of the ducal records10.

This advance in available evidence continues with the next reign. There is an ordonnance issued jointly in 1404 by Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, and his ward John V (1399–1442), which throws some light on the organisation of the chancery and payments to its staff11. For a brief moment between [p. 684] 1404–8, fragments from two series of overlapping registers have been conserved in their original form or later transcripts12. These provide for the first time summaries of considerable numbers of letters issued from the chancery, with the result that for a reign of comparable length to that of his father, John V’s collected letters number some 2700 in the remarkable edition of René Blanchard, even though the editor unfortunately omitted the letters issued during the minority (1399–1405). The names of over 160 chancery clerks are known for this period13. The records of the next three short-lived dukes (Francis I, 1442–50; Peter II, 1450–7; Arthur III, 1457–8) have been less well preserved14. But from 1462 there survives a broken series of original registers covering some 20 of the last 52 years of the period in detail, while eighteenth-century transcripts or publications provide some indications of the contents of now lost registers for a further four years15.

From them can be obtained a comprehensive view of ducal government at work as it expressed itself through the formal work of the chancery or, in the case of the register for 1490–1, of an administration in crisis during the last days of the independent duchy. From February 1491, in particular, this register shows increasing disorder in the enrollment of documents. There are many blanks for letters which were to be written up subsequently but never were. Folios have been misplaced or lost and office routine as a whole appears to have collapsed almost entirely between March and July. Only the siege of Nantes in 1487 had provoked similar irregularities on an earlier occasion on such a scale16. Subsequently, when Brittany came into the hands of Charles VIII of France, he officially suppressed the post of chancellor and replaced it with a governor of the chancery. Letters were issued largely in the King’s name, omitting mention of his wife, the former duchess Anne, and no registers [p. 685] have survived17. At present the series recommences with the register for 1503 – Queen Anne, acting in her own right as duchess, had re-established the chancery two days after the death of her husband in April 149818 – and only two registers are missing for the last ten years of her reign. In comparison with entries in the registers of Francis II or in those of the first years of her own reign, their content is now much more formal, though it is unfair to say that they only contain remissions in full as one recent commentator has stated19. Clearly, however, with the disappearance of the independent Breton state after 1491, most of the political and diplomatic material which predominated when Brittany was still at war with France also disappears. From Anne’s reign, too, there are a number of documents throwing light on the functioning of the chancery like a unique fragment of a daily register of fees, collected on behalf of the chancellor, for the issue of letters between October 1489 and 1 February 1490 and other material relating to the payment of secretaries, especially between 1498 and 151220. There are the two important ordonnances – that relating to the abolition of the chancery by Charles VIII in 1493 and that to its re-establishment in 1498 – which add considerably to a precise knowledge of its personnel. In addition important efforts were made to provide suitable accommodation for the preservation of the records at Nantes both by Charles VIII and Anne. In the early sixteenth century the archives were placed in wooden boxes (cassettes) in cupboards (armoires) and given a reference number which served to identify them until the compilation of the Inventaire sommaire in the nineteenth century. The original boxes still survive, whilst the contemporary reference numbers on documents which have been scattered since the early sixteenth century have enabled archivists to identify several formerly kept at Nantes21. As a result the reign of Anne is by far the best documented in the period under study, though as the records relating to the inquiry into the alleged misconduct of Chancellor Guillaume Chauvin in 1463 show, a penetrating light can occasionally be thrown onto chancery practices at earlier periods.

[p. 686] Despite this increasing wealth of evidence and considerable interest in all aspects of the history of the duchy during the later middle ages, studies of diplomatic and the systematic edition of ducal letters have not advanced as quickly as might have been expected given the fundamental work on the Breton chancery done with admirable thoroughness by Blanchard almost a century ago in his monumental edition of the letters of John V. He included a survey of the earlier history of the chancery and its archives. He paid particular attention to the origins of registration which, in some form, he traced back to the thirteenth century22. He also provided a full description of the diplomatic of documents for John V’s reign, which with some modification also seems to hold good for earlier periods too23. It would be futile to attempt to emulate that description here, but it should also be noted that in addition Blanchard kept detailed notes on ducal acta from other reigns and that these notes, together with those of his literary executor, Abbé Bordeaut, himself a very competent historian, still form a remarkable source of information on Breton diplomatic. Both fichiers are now deposited at the Archives départementales de la Loire-Atlantique24. A few additional letters of John V have been discovered since Blanchard’s day but general studies of the Breton chancery have advanced little25. The ill-fated Marcel Planiol, a near contemporary of Blanchard, provided some useful pages on the chancery in his Histoire des institutions de la Bretagne, but unfortunately neither Levron nor Maître in their later catalogues attempted a serious study of the diplomatic of their respective dukes’ chanceries26. Although a welcome start has been made to calendaring the late fifteenth-century registers in diplomas undertaken by students at the University of Nantes (a series which is currently being revived under M. Jean Kerhervé at the University of Western Brittany at Brest), by [p. 687] their nature these studies of a single annual register preclude a serious comparative approach to the diplomatic of the period27. The main addition to the corpus of available material has been the recently completed edition of the letters of John IV, in which parallels and contrasts with his son’s reign have been commented upon briefly. More particular attention has been devoted to the seals of that duke which have been shown to display a hitherto unsuspected richness of variety, form and symbolism which is in line with the increasingly independent aspirations of the duke as a ruler28. Although this variety cannot be matched in the seals of any other rulers of the duchy, comparative studies of sigillography in Brittany will in future be considerably assisted by the compilation at the departmental archives at Nantes of a photographic record, now available for consultation, of all the surviving seals in that repository.

To sum up the results of a hundred years’ labours, the letters of two dukes have been edited or calendared in their entirety, those of two others have been listed (one very inadequately), but ten out of the fourteen rulers of the duchy between 1213–1514 still await definitive editions of their letters which would enable a sound comparative study of diplomatic and of the development of the chancery to be written. The lack of serious studies of the letters of John I (1237–86), Francis II (1458–88) and Anne (1488–1514) – who briefly issued letters jointly with her first husband, Maximilian, king of the Romans – are especially regrettable29.

We may now turn to the organisation and role of the chancery. The period from 1213 to the mid-fourteenth century is a dark age about which little is, [p. 688] or perhaps can be, certainly known, for the separate existence of a chancery cannot be definitely established. The succession of a Capetian cadet in 1213 seems to have coincided with a number of changes in diplomatic practice. It was, perhaps, natural that Levron, who first directed attention to these (which he viewed favourably), should have attributed them largely to the influence of a French cleric who accompanied Mauclerc to Brittany and became his chancellor, Rainaud, future bishop of Quimper. ‘Aux usages anglais, he wrote, qui étaient jusque-là observés dans la rédaction des actes, il substitua des règles françaises. Sous sa direction, les scribes de la cour ducale adoptèrent des habitudes d’ordre, de clarté. Rainaud imposa même ces pratiques aux chancelleries secondaires (monastères et petites cours féodales)30.’ These views have been repeated by subsequent writers, although they now seem to be largely misconceived31. It is true that in comparison with charters dating from the period of Plantagenet domination in the duchy (c. 1156–1206), there are some grounds for arguing that a majority of Mauclerc’s letters are somewhat simpler in form, technically more ordered and their latinity clearer32. But it is at a cost.

Those interested in administration or in diplomatic will regret the absence of witness lists, a paucity of details on the circumstances of issue, often imprecise dating clauses, a dearth of indications on the type and mode of attachment of the seal, failure by the scribes responsible for the documents to append their names and an absence of other useful additional notes in comparison with both earlier Breton documents and those issued later. It is, in fact, the loss of just such features which makes study of the Breton proto-chancery and its organisation during the thirteenth century such a barren one at present – rather like that of the royal chancery at a slightly earlier period33. Evidence for personnel from the chancellor downwards is almost entirely lacking34. [p. 689] In the absence of any paleographical studies, the identity of different ducal clerks and their hands is unknown, and not until some aid is afforded by financial accounts late in the century may we guess some names. For it was not until the reign of Charles de Blois (1341–64) that it became normal practice for clerks to sign their names again, whilst lists of witnesses only begin to re-appear consistently from c. 1330. Warranty notes such as ‘Par le conseil’ or more detailed references to the circumstances of issue or on the seal used only appear at all regularly from the end of the thirteenth century35. At that period, and indeed for the rest of the Middle Ages, advantage was particularly taken of formal meetings like Parlement, sessions of the Chambre des Comptes and also of the États to publicise grants and privileges36.

It may be gathered from all of this that in the thirteenth century Breton chancery practices, in keeping with other aspects of the rudimentary administration of the duchy, lagged considerably behind the much more sophisticated chanceries of France or England37. To take the example of the missing clerk’s signature; already in Edward I’s reign in England the legal manual Fleta had stated as axiomatic that every royal writ ‘had to bear the name of the scribe who wrote it, so as to engage the scribe’s responsibility towards the purchaser of the writ38.’ In French royal letters, likewise, the addition of the name of the clerk became a feature of late thirteenth century documents and [p. 690] from this period separate lists of royal notaries begin to survive39. This similarly was to become a rule in the Breton chancery – the letters enrolled on the surviving registers all bear the name of the clerk responsible for them – but the practice does not begin to operate until c. 1342, perhaps as an innovation by Blois’s French clerks40.

It is thus not just on the grounds that Levron’s views are simplistic, nor his evident prejudice against the supposed ‘English practices’ of the Plantagenets, nor his touching faith in the ability of Rainaud to impose standard practices not only on the Breton chancery but on other scriptoria in the duchy, that I would now judge his opinions inadequate. Rather, it is clear that the changes he observed, whilst owing something to the installation of a new régime – and one manifestly much influenced by Capetian example – were also part of a general movement in Western Europe. This was fuelled by growing literacy and familiarity with written records, their increasing number and the need to streamline and standardize office procedure. ‘La grande nouveauté du règne (de Philippe Auguste), it has recently been argued, est précisement le recours constant à l’écrit41.’ It was a time of experiment in documentary forms in response to pressures which demanded more business-like, precise and unambiguous official records though, conversely, in the course of development, there was a period when some records temporarily became less precise, too simplified, lacking authenticating detail. Something of the same process may be seen at work in the royal chancery as standardization occurred42.

In other words, although some of the changes which happened in the thirteenth-century Breton proto-chancery may be attributable to the deliberate decision of the chancellor and his staff to adopt certain specific practices in imitation of other influential chanceries – notably the French, but one might suspect the English and papal chanceries as well – or because of increasing familiarity with Roman law and notarial practice, many usages seem to have crept in gradually, even surreptitiously, over long periods. It was surely by a similar process of imitation, rather than at the behest of the chancellor, that [p. 691] letters written elsewhere in the duchy adopted similar forms. The result was that certain formulae were favoured (or ignored) for a period before being replaced (or omitted) by slightly different forms. Thus the relaxation of precise detail on dating, notable in Mauclerc’s letters, is gradually replaced in John I’s reign by more informative clauses; conversely John I’s early letters make only the most sparing references to the seal which was attached, frequently, indeed, omitting all mention of it43. Yet the overall appearance of ducal letters, like royal ones from the 1190s, remained fairly constant from one reign to the next44.

As far as we can tell, at this stage the duke made regular use of only two seals – the great seal (with a counter seal) and a secret seal45. In the fourteenth century, dukes from Charles de Blois began to use privy seals and signets much more freely and, from early in John V’s reign, a seal of majesty, a unique usurpation of sovereign rights by a French prince46. As in other chanceries there developed a close connection between the particular seal used, its mode of attachment, the colour of the wax and the type of letter to which it was appended. In the thirteenth century the dukes used white or yellow wax for solemn grants (later considered a royal prerogative), and by the late fourteenth century it was normal to use green wax for grants in perpetuity (appended to the most solemn and elaborate letters on multi-coloured silk laces) and red wax for other business. Any deviation from the usual routine was noted on the document as an added precaution – the use of a departmental or institutional seal, a seal of absence, a particular signet or privy seal. A final authenticating feature was the autograph of the duke. John IV seems to have been the first duke to have annotated his letters extensively (from 1372), not [p. 692] merely with his signature. His successors were usually less free with their holograph comments, but all continued to sign throughout their rule. In contrast to the royal practice by which certain clerks imitated the royal sign manual, Francis II in 1483 took advantage of the introduction of printing to have his normal signature engraved on a block for application to routine financial documents to lessen the burdens of government47.

The most obvious external change to occur in the form of thirteenth-century Breton documents was the way in which French was adopted as a new language for charters from the late 1240 s. This innovation may be considered not as a deliberate act of state, an early anticipation of the ordonnance of Villers-Coterêts, but one brought about largely by a natural geographical diffusion of that language in written sources. At first used only for documents relating to the affairs of the ducal family and great nobles, it reflected the spoken language of the Breton court and, presumably, the desire of the parties involved to be as fully informed as possible on their legal position. Then documents in French rapidly began to appear across the whole duchy between c. 1250–80, even in the remotest western districts, until they were even used for transactions between religious houses involving no lay parties48. The language’s advance in Brittany came a generation or more after French had begun to be employed regularly for similar transactions in north-eastern France, about twenty years after its incursion into Saintonge, Poitou and the Charentais, but only a few years after its appearance in documents issued in the Middle Loire region – Anjou, Touraine and Berry49. Royal and princely chanceries had been remarkably conservative, even resistant to the use of the vulgar tongue in France, but it is interesting to note that the first royal letters issued in French by Louis IX in 1254 involved John I of Brittany as one of the parties50.

[p. 693] A superficial survey of protocol in letters issued by Mauclerc and his successors (in the notification, address, salutation or ducal title and the dating clauses) reveals that there were certain, limited, standard forms which continued in use from reign to reign, subject only to necessary modifications dependent on personal circumstances – the addition or omission of an extra territorial title, a particularly solemn form of address, the conventional reversal of the normal word order to show deference to a superior party51. So that although no early formularies have been discovered – the first register which may have had that purpose was compiled by Master Hervé le Grant at the beginning of the fifteenth century52 – it is plain that there were established and regularly followed forms practised by Breton clerks throughout the period with which we are dealing. Ducal letters and grants were no longer written up, as they had once been in Brittany as elsewhere, by the beneficiaries, but in the chancery. Apart from the change from Latin to French as the normal language for the vast majority of documents written from c. 1280, the formulae used by John III (1312–41) or Francis II differed little from those used by Mauclerc. The introduction of new formulae – the phrase ‘par la grace de Dieu’ into the ducal title by 1417, for instance – thus had a deliberate political significance. It was a further step in the duke’s increasing assertion of his own independent sovereignty which marks the rule of all the late medieval dukes53.

[p. 694] The implication of these last few remarks is that there was tradition and continuity, the maintenance of archives and the training of clerks in the particular forms of letters issued in the duke’s name, even though little can be directly learnt of all this before 1341. As more records survive, so the range of business covered also expands until, inter alia, we find the duke exercising the whole range of powers which royal officials were anxious to reserve solely to the sovereign. He ennobled, enfranchised, legitimised, amortised, created notaries, fairs, markets and warrens, authorised fortifications, controlled taxation, struck money (including gold from the reign of Charles de Blois), enjoyed regalian rights during ecclesiastical vacancies, issued safe-conducts and pardons, even by the later middle ages, claimed the jurisdiction of cases of lèse-majesté54. And although the expansion of the political ambitions of the duke is sometimes signalled by the exercise of a right revealed by a new form of letter from time to time – John V, for example, particularly exercised his powers of ennoblement and promotion of those already within the ranks of the nobility – it would be wrong automatically to assume, in the absence both of diplomatic studies and of the fragmentary survival of the documents, that previous dukes had never exercised similar privileges55. But of the internal organisation of the chancery which produced this diverse range of records, at least before 1341, little is known.

We may presume that there was a succession of chancellors after Rainaud though the example of Burgundy where there was a break between c. 1210–70 may make us equally wary. The likelihood is that they were clerics but there is no definite evidence until mention of Macé le Bart, canon of Dol and Rennes, as chancellor in 1319. There is a tradition that he served John III for 15 years and that he had a hand in the compilation of La très ancienne coutume de Bretagne56. Later on there was Gautier de St-Pern, bishop of Vannes, who [p. 695] seems to have served under Charles de Blois for whom a number of other names have also been suggested as chancellors57. The habit of referring to the chancellor as ‘Vois’ in the list of witnesses from c. 1361 is a complicating factor since it deprives us on many occasions of certainty as to the identity of the chancellor concerned58. For this reason, when the duchy was still divided by civil war, we cannot be sure who it was who served John IV as chancellor – possibly John de Locminé, archdeacon of Vannes. But after 1364 other evidence is available and it is notable that at least three of John IV’s next six chancellors were laymen, signalling the end of a long clerical monopoly in the fourteenth century in Brittany as in other contemporary administrations. Though the post was to be held again by clerics in the first half of the fifteenth century, thereafter it reverted to laymen. Jean, vicomte de Rohan, in the fourteenth century and Louis de Rohan, sire de Guéméné and Philippe de Montauban, sire de Sens, in the fifteenth came from some of the most distinguished families in the duchy, though in the latter two cases they were from cadet branches, but the other lay chancellors emerged from more obscure backgrounds. Silvestre de la Feuillée and Jean de la Rivière were minor nobles and the latter was also a ‘maistre en medecin’59; others came from bourgeois families or from those of very recent noble status and owed their advance to their professional expertise in the law. They had often acquired their training by attending university and holding other administrative posts.

Once acquired the post might be filled for a long period: Jean de Malestroit was chancellor for thirty-five years from 1408–43, Guillaume Chauvin for 22 (1459–81) and Philippe de Montauban for almost thirty years (1487–1514), though he had a rival early in his appointment and was deprived of the title during Charles VIII’s reign. All three have attracted attention because of their important political role – John, duke of Alençon, considered Malestroit so influential with John V that he captured him in 1431, provoking a small war. The long-standing rivalry of Chauvin with Pierre Landoys, [p. 696] Francis II’s treasurer, has given rise to much discussion, particularly since their feud involved matters of principle over conflicting foreign policies. It ended in the cruel death of Chauvin, imprisoned at Landoys’ behest, and in the violent end of the treasurer himself in 1485, events which are part of the general history of the fifteenth-century duchy60. The story of Montauban’s career would also be worth telling in more detail. He first appeared in ducal service as a man-at-arms in the ordonnance companies in 1465 and he can be traced through other military and civil ranks until he became chancellor in September 1487. The next few years were especially hectic as he tried to protect Duchess Anne from the rival baronial cliques who wanted to use her as a pawn in a complex diplomatic game as the final war of independence was fought against France. He survived both personal misfortunes and considerable financial losses in the duchess’s cause, provoking after 1491 the hostility of royal councillors like Cardinal Guillaume Briçonnet by his uncompromising stand for Breton rights. But he emerged again as chancellor of the duchy in 1498, when he was able to rebuild his fortunes. His final solemn service to his mistress was his central role in the burial of her heart in the Carmelites’ church in Nantes in 1514 amidst much pomp. However, on his death shortly afterwards the position of chancellor of Brittany was amalgamated with that of the chancellor of France61. And what of other, lesser known, chancellors like François Chrestien, allegedly a pawn of Landoys, appointed to replace Chauvin, but who in 1485 refused to seal letters in which Landoys accused his enemies of lèse-majesté? He was, said the chronicler Alain Bouchart, who [p. 697] had probably served under him, ‘un homme simple et paisible’62. It would be interesting to know more about him and the other chancellors as influential political figures. Here, however, we must limit ourselves to a few further remarks on the role of the chancellor.

By the fifteenth century something of the dignity of his office can be gathered from his place on ceremonial occasions. In the funeral procession for Francis II, for instance, the seals of the duchy were borne before the chancellor on a square of velvet. Other members of the chancery, too, including no less than 24 secretaries received black cloth for mourning robes63. Montauban was similarly accompanied by the full chancery staff, maîtres des requêtes and secretaries in the vast procession to bury Anne’s heart. Elsewhere, in Parlement and at the États, chancery officials had their special positions. It was the chancellor who normally gave the speech from the throne on the latter occasions. It was he who summed up council discussions and gave the decisive opinion64. Among his most important public appearances in the later middle ages came to be the speech which he made on behalf of the duke at the ceremony where he rendered homage to the king of France. In the thirteenth century this homage was indisputably liege but from 1366 every effort was made by the duke to avoid pronouncing the, by now, distasteful words acknowledging his inferiority. When John IV first refused, royal officials were outraged as they continued to be as the same charade (as it has been called) continued to be re-enacted at every homage ceremony until Louis XI’s reign65. In the interim it was the chancellor who was called upon to justify his master’s refusal and his speech on these occasions needed to be a masterpiece of tact. Of course a compromise formula was reached – the duke performed homage ‘as his predecessors had done’ without specifically mentioning that it was liege homage. This usually satisfied both parties. But it was always a [p. 698] stern test and in preparation for it, as council minutes in 1461 make clear, careful arrangements had to be made beforehand to ensure that the duke’s case was not mishandled66. It was at these moments that the value of the chancery’s staff became apparent in providing the necessary briefs and actual documents to be displayed.

By this time, of course, the chancery was highly organised with a hierarchy of officials, including a vice-chancellor (first named in 1415), maîtres des requêtes and conseillers ordinaires (their role was described in the 1498 ordonnance succinctly for they were to serve ‘par quartier et signeront les lettres et mandemens en queue qui y seront deliberez et expediez’), a group of senior clerks, specifically called ducal secretaries, of whom one was sometimes singled out as the first secretary, a keeper of the seals and a keeper of the archives, other clerks and greffiers, normally between 20–30 officers in all67. But two hundred years earlier things were very much less formal. It may be presumed that c. 1300 the chancellor normally held the great seal (as he did later in the century), that his remuneration was chiefly from fees charged for the issue of letters, that the records of chancery were deposited in various ducal residences or religious houses and that for normal business there were a few scribes in attendance on the duke. Accounts occasionally reveal the names or numbers of the resident clerks in the household – seven are listed in a document of 1305 – and it may be suspected that these were the principal chancery officials at that moment68.

[p. 699] Numbers grew only slowly; in the late fourteenth century there were probably six or eight clerks simultaneously writing ducal letters, of whom three or four might specifically be called secretaries69. Amongst these latter there were also by this stage some important members of the duke’s entourage, councillors who went on diplomatic missions and held other posts in the administration, which clearly left them little time to work daily in the chancery. As a result the numbers of secretaries and clerks tended to inflate, a tendency which continued modestly through the fifteenth century. In the household regulations of 1404 two secretaries had ‘bouche à cour’ and 50 l. p.a., Guillaume Bruneau, ‘secretaire et controlle’ had ‘bouche à cour’ for himself and his clerk and 80 l. p.a. whilst two other secretaries ‘de la chancellerie’ received 40 l. p.a.70. A few years later Blanchard found that ten or twelve clerks were already at work concurrently in the chancery and the same picture emerges from the first surviving registers when between 12 and 15 clerks, on average, seem to have been authorised to issue and enroll letters at any one period71. Nevertheless a few stand out for the regularity and volume of letters they wrote72. As with other household positions, chancery clerks sometimes [p. 700] worked a rota system, whereby some remained in the chancery for a set period – three months seems to be an average stint – before being relieved73. This need for duplication would account for the 24 named chancery clerks in the beguin of Francis II in 148874. On the other hand, the first secretary and some other leading officials, the keeper of the seals, for example, appear to have remained on duty almost constantly. Among the reforms proposed by Charles VIII in 1493 was the reduction in the number of secretaries to eight. In 1498 Anne authorised ten and in the early sixteenth century the numbers of chancery employees remained fairly constant, though two men or more could on occasion share one salary75.

By this period the council and chancery were normally expected to perform their duties chiefly in Nantes and Rennes (Anne’s ordonnance stipulated alternating periods of a year at each location) though both could still be peripatetic as is evidenced by their activities when accompanying Anne in her pilgrimage and triumphal tour of the duchy in 150576. At earlier dates most chancery work was performed in the normal administrative centres of the duchy – Nantes, Rennes and Vannes – often in houses owned or hired by the chancellor for the purpose, though by the late fifteenth century the majority of records seem to have been moved principally to the castle at Nantes77. The house in which Jean de Malestroit lived as chancellor in Vannes – Château [p. 701] Gaillard – still stands, whilst Guillaume Chauvin occasionally delivered letters at his manor house just outside Nantes and Philippe de Montauban frequently despatched business at his manor of Bois de la Roche78. Sometimes the absence of the ducal household or of the chancellor was useful as an excuse to delay the issue of letters79. On the other hand both the chancellor and vice-chancellor might take advantage of visits to different parts of the duchy to issue letters on the spot80. Naturally the duke acted in the same fashion wherever he was within or outside the duchy.

In the absence of registers before 1462 there has been some speculation on the volume of ducal letters issued in relation to the proportion now surviving. Blanchard thought that on average six or seven letters a day were issued from John V’s chancery, which led him to calculate that some 90,000 might thus have been written in the course of that reign81. However this figure probably ought to be revised downwards, perhaps by as much as a half, for the annual enrollment in Francis II’s early registers totals about 1000 letters while the fragment of the daily register of letters for which fees were charged for the period 24 October 1489 – February 1490, shows that not such a large percentage of letters as was once thought escaped registration. The registers also show that normally sessions were not held daily for the issue of letters but every two or three days or even after longer intervals – in 1506, for example, there were less than 100 sessions at which letters were authorised. This leads me to suggest that an average of 4 or 5 a day seem to have been issued in the late fifteenth century, hardly an intolerable workload for the dozen or [p. 702] so leading clerks and an added reason, perhaps, for Charles VIII’s desire to reduce their numbers82.

Whether the Breton chancery clerks developed any form of collegiality or received any corporate privileges like the royal notaries and secretaries, we cannot say at the moment. As individual figures chancery clerks only begin to emerge from their anonymity during Charles de Blois’s reign. In addition to signing letters, a number of them gave evidence at the hearings intended to establish his sanctity, held at Angers in 137183. From this testimony, in addition to personal information of considerable interest, it is clear that many features of the chancery’s activities which can only be easily documented from a later period, were already well established. For example, in normal circumstances and in conformity with other contemporary chanceries, fees were exacted for letters of grace and justice and it was from these that the chancellor was rewarded84. Later there is evidence that he was often also in receipt of a pension, which either supplemented or recompensed him for these fees, and of an allowance for daily attendance in the chancery and council85. Henri le Barbu, chancellor from 1386–96, received 1000 l. a year as a pension, but it could be a smaller sum86. A hundred years later, Philippe de Montauban received a pension and fees which sometimes amounted to as much as 4000 l. [p. 703] p.a.87. By then the normal pension of the vice-chancellor was 600 l. p.a., maîtres des requêtes received 300 l. p.a., whilst secretaries could usually expect annual salaries (in addition to robes) in the range 40–200 l. depending on seniority, figures which seem to have remained fairly stable throughout the century, though Master Henri Milet as first secretary to Francis II received the exceptional sum of 240 l. p.a. Conversely, after 1498 the normal pay of a secretary fell to 100 l. p.a.88. Of course there were other rewards as well, since the clerks were in a position to promote their own interests, but the payment of salaries was not always guaranteed. Towards the end of Francis II’s reign a proportion only of the salary – ten months, six months or even no wage at all on occasion – might be paid as desperate attempts were made to meet all the duke’s commitments89. Like civil servants in other administrations who faced similar demands, they were sometimes called upon even to make loans to the duke90. However, when the annual income of many Breton gentlemen [p. 704] and lesser nobles was often less than 100 l. a year, the regular financial and other rewards of service in the chancery must nevertheless have appeared attractive enough during the latter half of our period. For the higher officials, there were other opportunities, too, to accumulate modest fortunes. The total wage bill for the chancery between 1498–1512 came to 91,270-11-7 d, approximately 6300 l. p.a.91.

To return to the chancery in the mid-fourteenth century: according to some witnesses in 1371, the volume of business was already considerable. Guillaume André alone claimed, in exaggerated fashion, that he had written over 10,000 letters during his time as secretary92. He and others testified with surprising approbation that a number of office rules had been broken by order of the duke when it was a matter of rendering justice to his poverty stricken subjects. We thus hear of Charles de Blois waiving fees, issuing letters freely to paupers (some of whom received their letters on the spot after accosting the duke in the countryside, his clerks having to dismount there and then to write the orders), getting his secretaries to write letters outside normal hours by night and even dipping into his own pocket to provide parchment and, significantly, paper for his clerks93. All of which speaks highly of the flexibility of this group of civil servants in accepting the foibles of their eccentric and saintly master. It was a similar flexibility that some of them showed when they transferred their allegiance after his death in the battle of Auray, 29 September 1364, to his rival and successor, John IV. Among those who made this transition was Master Guillaume Paris, reputedly once chancellor [p. 705] for Blois, later certainly dean of Nantes and one of the leading councillors of the new duke94.

What of the quality and experience of these fourteenth century clerks? Most of those named in 1371 were, of course, in religious orders. Virtually all those who styled themselves secretary had been to university, though there were some who seemed either to have been trained within the ducal administration or to have had notarial training. A good example is Rolland Poencé, from Goudelin in the diocese of Tréguier, aged 53 when he gave his testimony. He had known Blois since his marriage to Jeanne de Penthièvre in 1337. He had served successively as a clerk and notary ‘in curia senescallorum’ for fifteen years, then as alloué (a chiefly legal post) and lieutenant to the seneschal of Guingamp, followed by another spell of fifteen years up to Charles’s death as one of his secretaries, a position which he held simultaneously for the last four years with that of seneschal of Cornouaille95. Similar career patterns can be established from this point for many of Poencé’s colleagues. Of the 15 clerks whose signatures appear at the foot of Blois’s letters in Maître’s catalogue, four testified in 1371 as did the brother of a fifth, while the names of three additional ducal clerks and secretaries can be added if the details of the testimonies can be trusted96. They and others like them, who began their careers in other ducal courts – the later registers reveal the names of scores of such clerks and notaries who never rose above these minor jurisdictions – might expect employment once within the chancery for thirty years and more97. Guillaume André, originally from Le Mans, had known Blois for 31 years and spent the last 24 with him as a notary98. Geoffroy le Fèvre, who first comes to attention in the court at Morlaix in 1346, was still in ducal service in the mid 1380 s99. The same pattern continues through the fifteenth century. The social origins of these clerks was mixed, with a preponderance, not surprisingly, of bourgeois and lesser nobles, and the network of brothers, [p. 706] fathers and sons, uncles and nephews soon becomes all too apparent. Frequently success led to ennoblement in the fifteenth century of those lacking noble lineage.

Charles de Blois rewarded some of his servants in the traditional fashion by helping them to obtain ecclesiastical benefices or by providing them with pensions. Alain Raoul had been a scholar at Paris before becoming a secretary for three years before Blois’s death; in 1371 he was rector of Plouzévedé in the diocese of Léon100. Master Rolland de Coestelles, a graduate in arts and law, who had spent twenty years with Blois and his children ‘tam serviendo in capella … et instruendo dictos liberos in scienciis litterarum quam in officio secretarii’, including several years with Blois during his English capitivity, was now a canon of the cathedrals of Nantes, St-Pol de Léon and Angers101. Yet others might move on to different administrations like Mr Jean Vitreari who claimed in 1371 to be a royal secretary after spending five years with Blois102. Whilst yet others were considered influential enough with their master to warrant a pension from a foreign prince like two secretaries of John IV, Richard Clerk, who received one from Louis, duke of Anjou103, and Master Robert Brochereul, one of the chief negotiators of the duke’s third marriage to Juana of Navarre. Her father, Charles II, gratefully acknowledged his services by granting him 500 Aragonese florins a year104. As in other administrations a bishopric was the ultimate reward for a few of the outstanding secretaries. Among the clerks of John IV were Gacien de Monceaux, later bishop of Quimper (1408–16) and Master Alain de la Rue, later bishop of St-Brieuc (1419–24), where he succeeded Chancellor Malestroit105. Later Guy du Boschet and Guillaume Gueguen had served Francis II as secretaries before becoming vice-chancellors. Boschet was elected bishop of Quimper (1480–4) and [p. 707] Gueguen after a prolonged battle, bishop of Nantes (1500–06)106. But lesser dignities were not spurned; Macé Louët, one of the leading chancery officials at the turn of the fifteenth century became archdeacon of Vannes and then also of Dreux107.

Increasingly, however, many clerks were not simply satisfied by the rewards of celibacy but married and established families. An early example is that of Pierre Poulard, one of Blois’s leading advisers108. Like those royal notaries and secretaries in the later middle ages whose careers, social advance and family connections have in recent years been so remarkably traced by MM. Lapeyre and Scheurer, or the councillors of the fifteenth-century dukes of Burgundy studied by M. John Bartier, within the more limited context of Brittany’s history similar success stories can be described109. One example, which will have to serve for many, is that of Master Robert Brochereul just cited.

Little is known of his family background before he emerged as a member of the ducal administration in the early 1380 s. Possibly of bourgeois stock from Nantes, certainly a minor landholder in the Pays de Rays and a graduate in law from the university of Angers, he held a succession of important offices such as seneschal of Nantes and Rennes before becoming chancellor from 1396–9. Though his name does not appear amongst those of the clerks signing ducal letters, he is styled ducal secretary in documents connected with his mission to Navarre in 1386 and he undertook many other confidential missions, to the English and French courts in particular110. As his status rose, [p. 708] so did his material fortunes and although he left only daughters, his eldest married into the prestigious Montauban family and was grandmother of the last chancellor of the duchy111. Though replaced as chancellor on John IV’s death in 1399, Brochereul continued to sit in John V’s council till 1410 at least112.

Throughout the fifteenth century the network of family alliances between the duke’s servants in all the offices of his administration – council, chancery, chambre des comptes and the local legal and financial offices – became ever denser113. Master Hervé le Grant, the prime organiser of the late fourteenth-century ducal records, married into the Mauléon family who were to prove one of the major bureaucratic families of the fifteenth century114. The names of Breil, Carné, Chapelle, Chauvin, Coëtlogon, Coglais, Ferron, Gibon, Lespervier and Mauhugéon, to name but a few families in this tangled network, constantly reappear amongst the chancery clerks and other office holders from this point115. Nor were relations limited simply to the duchy, but stretched to the royal and other princely administrations like the case of Master Henri Milet, for long first secretary to Francis II. His father, Jean, a royal clerk, had been ennobled by Charles VI before 1419 and lived until 1463. His other sons included Jean, bishop of Soissons, Eustache, a councillor in the Parlement of Paris, and Pierre, who served the duke of Burgundy116. Henri first comes to attention in the service of the Constable, Arthur de Richemont (the future Arthur III) in 1439 and from then until his death in 1477 he was at the centre of Breton politics117. Latterly he was particularly responsible for coordinating the diplomatic correspondence of Francis II and his allies against Louis XI. [p. 709] I treasure a reference to the king and his agents in 1471 in true cloak and dagger fashion piecing together the charred remains of some incriminating coded letters discovered after one of Milet’s secret journeys to Guyenne to Charles, Louis’s brother, as evidence for this world of intrigue into which the formal records of the chancery so infrequently allow us to penetrate118. That Henri took his chancery duties seriously may be gathered from the fact that he acquired the legal books and working papers of Master Jean Lespervier in 1473, when this member of another established bureaucratic family, defected to Louis XI119. A prosopographic study of the fifteenth-century chancery clerks would reveal many similarly intriguing connections and enable us to plot more exactly their place in the social structure of the duchy, their intellectual interests and attainments, the range of their religious and artistic patronage120. But we must return to the central political role of the chancery in Brittany during the later middle ages.

It had long been realised that defence of ducal rights, both against his own subjects, but more importantly against the claims of the king of France, his sovereign, might be more effectively countered by the production of documents supporting the ducal point of view. Even before the civil war began in 1341, there is evidence that claims based on both actual records and legendary materials were coming to play a part in the thinking of the duke and his council in the preparation of legal defences121. Once formulated the arguments [p. 710] could be valuable to future ducal governments and the details revised or reinforced by further evidence. It was chiefly the responsibility of the chancellor and his staff to produce such evidence from their records. Given the initially unpopular victory of the Montfortists (aided by the English) in the civil war and the shaky position of the ducal administration for much of John IV’s reign, it is not surprising that he and his advisers should seek to make full use of this relatively cheap form of propaganda. They attempted to build up quite deliberately an image of an independent identity for the duchy of Brittany which would appeal to local pride, stimulate loyalty to the Montfort dynasty and limit the authority of the king of France within the duchy122. Its worth has already been glimpsed in connection with the question of the duke’s homage; by the 1380 s it was being put to similar use to justify other pretensions. In particular a group of chancery clerks, headed by two ducal secretaries, Master Guillaume de Saint-André and Master Hervé le Grant, seem to have coordinated literary and administrative moves to create a Montfortist mythology which was to serve the rulers of the duchy until its incorporation in the kingdom of France. Saint-André’s major literary contribution was a eulogistic biography in verse of John IV to demonstrate triumph over adversity and his writings show that he had an abiding interest in the mutations of fortune123. As for Hervé le Grant, his well-established role as the organizer of the ducal archives has already been touched upon. Besides his inventory of 1395, he compiled a formulary (c. 1407–8), a similar collection of papal bulls and either undertook himself, or had copied under his supervision, other copies of important documents. Some of these were of considerable antiquity like the ordonnance of John I in 1240 expelling the Jews from Brittany which Le Grant attested in a public instrument in 1397 or the fine copy of the Livre des Ostz of 1294, together with documents relating to the duke’s homage, which he had copied at much the same time as his formulary124. He was to hold the position of ‘tresorier et garde des lettres et chartes’ [p. 711] until 1416 and one frequently comes across documents endorsed with notes like ‘Doyt estre et a portee a mestre Herve’ and other indications of documents confided to his keeping125.

As a result it is not surprising, perhaps, that in recent years opinion has been swinging strongly to the view that Hervé le Grant is the most likely author of an ambitious although incomplete history of the duchy, for long inaptly entitled the Chronicon Briocense126. Its tone can be gauged from a recent comment that it was written by ‘un fougeux patriote breton, chez qui l’amour du pays s’accompagnait d’un violent sentiment xenophobe à l’égard des Anglais et des Français.’ Whoever the author was, he was an expert on Breton and was an ardent defender of the church. ‘Il regrettait la scission au moment du Grand Schisme d’Occident. Ses sympathies allaient aux clémentistes, mais plus encore à l’Église universelle127.’ He was also someone who had easy access to the ducal archives – no fewer than 34 ducal letters and 5 papal bulls are cited verbatim in the chronicle – and also had inside knowledge of the workings of the ducal council and a familiarity with notarial practices. No one better fills this description than Le Grant, a native of the diocese of Quimper and a graduate of Angers, who entered ducal service in 1379 at the beginning of the great schism128. He was a qualified notary, and a man who throughout his professional career came to have an intimate knowledge of [p. 712] the ducal archives and of the family affairs of John IV129. A frequent member of diplomatic missions, closely associated with all aspects of ducal policy, no one would have known better where to find the documents which have been summarized, quoted verbatim or invented in the Chronicon Briocense, which provides a classic statement of the Montfortist view of Breton History130. Hervé would have been by no means a unique example of a princely archivist in the fifteenth century who put his expert knowledge to good use in writing history – the house of Foix employed several such figures as the value of records for propaganda purposes became more widely appreciated131. Whilst in Brittany itself another burst of similar and more distinguished literary activity in the late fifteenth century was again spearheaded by two ducal secretaries, Pierre le Baud and Alain Bouchart, both of whom were fully aware of the political value of their histories to the defence of Breton interests132.

The Breton court, more particularly the chancery, as a centre of historical studies in the later middle ages seems a well established fact now. But chancery clerks did not spend all their time composing or inventing history. It is tempting to link Hervé le Grant’s name with an important step in enabling the administration to keep track of its records for more prosaic purposes, that is the introduction of registration. Given his orderly mind and notarial training (unfortunately no Breton notarial registers survive until the late fifteenth century)133 and the fact that it was during his period as keeper of the archives that registration seems to have first been extensively practised, it may seem logical to see Hervé’s hand in this innovation. However, another candidate as originator of the idea may have been Hervé’s one-time senior, Henri le Barbu, chancellor of the duchy from 1386–96. For it was shortly after Le Barbu transferred from Vannes to the see of Nantes in 1404 that he ordered the [p. 713] compilation of baptismal registers throughout his diocese134. But whoever promoted the idea, both the fragmentary chancery registers of John V and the parochial registers of Nantes (curiously the first full surviving registers from both series now begin in 1462 and 1464 respectively) testify to the systematizing surge that was sweeping over the duchy c. 1400. Their value was increasingly appreciated whilst at fairly regular intervals throughout the rest of the century, inventories of the archives were prepared which enabled appropriate records to be produced for envoys going to defend the duke in Paris or elsewhere135. From the mid-century in particular diplomatic bags containing lists, originals or copies, dossiers which could be revised almost immediately, stood ready for use and were quickly brought out in emergencies. A case in point was the quarrel over the régale at Nantes in 1462 which M. Contamine has recently investigated136. There he found that the royal administration on this occasion, unlike its ducal counterpart, had virtually to start from scratch to find the documentary justification for its position, whereas the duke began with a long tradition of defending his claims which had resulted in the creation of a whole archive of records to be brought into the argument137. When royal commissioners were sent to gather information in the duchy, they were accompanied round it by ducal servants anxious to gather yet further material for their own dossier138. Another contentious issue which had resulted in a similar file was the disputed jurisdiction of the Breton marches discussed over [p. 714] the years by a succession of commissions139. Yet another, of course, was the question of homage. On the eve of his journey to Tours in 1461, the council not only discussed ‘que sont a besoigner touchant le voiage’ but prepared statements on what Francis II was to say to Louis XI and what documentary evidence he wae to display, ‘et a servir a cest article le tresor des lettres baillera au vichancelier les lettres et instruments des precedentes hommages tant de la part du duc que de la part du roy140.’ Over the years, under the obvious guidance of ducal councillors, as in two great inquiries in 1392 and 1455, other testimonies had been gathered around the duchy on what the duke was pleased to call his own ‘regalities’ with a view to providing a suitable defence of his exercise of these rights141. Within the chancery whenever the word was mentioned there was an almost pavlovian reaction and a standard recitation of what this meant in practice was produced automatically. Themes first elaborated in John III’s reign were thus constantly repeated, refined or expanded by chancery officials in defence of the duchy142.

By the fifteenth century, then, the Breton chancery was highly organised with professional personnel, clearly established office procedures, carefully following its own rules for the formulation of letters, the application of seals and registration, and it played a crucial role in the defence of the duchy’s political stance. Though it had not developed many distinctively different procedures from those practised in other French chanceries, its letters had their own characteristics, idiosyncrasies of language and style and decoration143. [p. 715] Apart from recourse to public instruments – a particular characteristic of John IV’s reign, but one also practised by other dukes for a wide range of business – the competence of the chancery to handle all forms of document was unquestionable144. From time to time efforts were made to tidy up aspects of its administration – the ordonnances in 1404, 1493 and 1498 are reasonably well documented – some attempted reforms in the mid-1450 s less so. In a brief and still too little understood reign, Peter II undertook an almost complete overhaul of the duchy’s administration145. In the case of the chancery he confirmed the traditional fees for the issue of letters. These were halved briefly by his successor, Arthur III, but returned to their usual level in Francis II’s reign146. As a further sign of the tightening up of the administration from the mid-century, in the chancery as in some other departments, continuous appointments can be traced to offices which had lapsed or been left vacant in the recent past. Thus regular appointments of vice-chancellors, keepers of the seals and other subsidiary posts within the chancery begin again147. Posts were now normally filled only on the death or resignation of the previous occupant. By the late fifteenth century great care was often taken to ensure the safety of the seals, with elaborate rituals developing for their handover or guardianship148. The registers contain many notes on the particular circumstances of the issue or cancellation of letters, use of seals of absence and fees to [p. 716] be exacted149. The signatures of others members of the administration who had come to chancery to collect particular records, to note their delivery or return, and so on, also occasionally appear. At the end of each session’s business the presiding officer – the chancellor or his deputy – now added his own signature to conclude the day’s work and to ensure against unauthorised enrollment150. The neat business-like registration of letters and his concern for minutiae encourages a generally favourable impression of the efficiency onf the chancery at this stage.

But it would be remembered that appearances can be deceptive sometimes. The witnesses in the 1371 inquiry at Angers were unanimous in praising the concern of Charles de Blois to appoint just officers in all levels of his administration151. But there were occasional lapses in probity. It has already been seen that the duke might inadvertently grant letters with contradicted earlier ones, appointing two men to the same office, for instance, and one can occasionally suspect an element of bribery, other pressures or simple ignorance152. More seriously, an inquiry into the misconduct of Chauvin and his staff in 1463, shows how relatively easy it was for chancery clerks to engage in fraudulent practices. In this instance they had apparently conspired to issue blank safeconducts which were then sold to English and German merchants wishing to trade in the duchy in contravention of a general prohibition by Louis XI. It is impossible here to unravel all the intricacies of the plot which involved some of the most senior members of the chancery, possibly the chancellor himself153. Public confidence had been shaken and morality outed, it was alleged, by these events. Olivier du Breil, the proctor-general, called [p. 717] for a searching investigation, a powerful commission was appointed and eventually many serious charges about the breach of chancery practices were layed against the chancellor154. It was even claimed that through his actions the very safety of the prince and duchy had been imperilled, that he had indeed committed crimes which amounted to lèse-majesté155. But for reasons about which we cannot be clear, Francis II chose to forgive most of those involved with the plot. Giles de Cresolles, the chancery clerk most deeply involved (homme feable, said Jacques Raboceau, his senior) is no longer found signing the register but no one else was dismissed, despite incriminating confessions; blank letters and letters with windows as they were picturesquely called, were later still used for some kinds of business156. But it was an episode which rankled and Chauvin’s reputation as chancellor never entirely recovered, for although he survived this first serious assault on his position, the charges were to be resurrected many years later in 1482 by his bitter rival, Landoys, to justify his ultimate dismissal157.

Tafel XXII
Tafel XXIV
Tafel XXV
Tafel XXVI
Tafel XXIX

[p. 718] As for the technical competence of the fifteenth-century chancery there is another minor incident which may be used to show it up in rather poor light. It was normal for original letters to be produced before the council when privileges needed to be checked. In the surviving minutes for 1459–63 this procedure can be observed on several occasions as in November 1459, when the rights of the abbey of St-Melaine to enjoy certain privileges in the forest of Rennes were inspected. A number of original ducal letters were exhibited including those of Conan III (1128), Duchess Constance (1193), John III (1333) and one of 1379 ‘contenant une sentence’158. A year later the countess of Laval displayed letters of John IV (1395) to support claims in a dispute with the duke over her possession of the barony of Vitré and she followed this up with even older letters of 1235, whilst the ducal proctor countered with a whole series of aveux ‘estans ou tresor dou duc’159. But the ability of the councillors to apply their critical faculties to the examination of some of these letters must be called into question when, in December 1462, the lord of Derval produced before them one of the most handsome forgeries in a duchy renowned for such productions in the later middle ages160. These were allegedly letters of Arthur II ‘soeant en nostre general parlement o la solemnipte de nos troes estas’ by which he granted to his kinsman Bonabé, lord of Derval (by a mythical descent from ‘nostre feu oncle Salmon jadis conte de Nantes’) the right to include two plain quarters of ermine in his family arms161. According to the secretary, who wrote the council minutes – probably Pierre Raboceau, one of those implicated in the scandal of 1463 – these letters supposedly granted on Monday after St Mark’s day, 1306, were ‘saines et entieres en escripture, signe et seel’. They bore a seal on silk laces displaying the arms of Dreux with an ermine quarter (Brittany) and the legend ‘S. Parlamenti Britanie’162. Although the attention of any alert chancery clerk should have been immediately aroused by letters which began ‘A tous les oeans et voeans ces presentes, Artur par la grace de Dieu duc et prince de Bretaigne …’ no comment is made on their authenticity. It is unfortunate that the laconic minutes do not provide further detail on the context for the production of these letters in council. The evidence is that they had been forged in [p. 719] the very recent e, possibly at much the same time that Peter II promoted Jean, lord of Derval, to the rank of one of the nine ancient barons of Brittany in 1451, in order to explain the appearance of the ermines of Brittany in the Derval arms163. Perhaps the fact that this original forgery still survives in the former ducal archives should be taken as indicating that someone in the council meeting in December 1462 was not quite so credulous as his colleagues164. And to be fair, it must be pointed out that other forgeries were detected and measures were frequently taken to try to end fraudulent practices in the fifteenth-century duchy165. The duke enjoyed the confiscated property of convicted forgerers. Prosecutions did occur, though he also exercised clemency towards offenders166. There continued to be a certain ambivalence in the attitude of officials; after all there were occasions when the ability to fabricate documents might be useful to the state as the work of the chancery historians shows! It is thus doubtful whether in the end he Breton administration was in this respect any different, more corrupt and inefficient, than other contemporary administrations.

It is perhaps right that this survey of the history of the Breton chancery should conclude with some remarks on the strengths, weaknesses and failings of its personnel. The registers show how well placed its members were to forward their own private interests, sometimes at the expense of the state. More often their rewards were considered legitimate perquisites – the registration of letters on their behalf, taking advantage of the fact that they were often the first to learn that an office was vacant, a plot of land available, the farm of [p. 720] a lucrative source of revenue about to be renewed. The first grant in the first surviving register is to the chancellor, Guillaume Chauvin or, more probably, a namesake167. He was in a position also to speed the prosecution of those who infringed his rights like those caught fishing his lakes in 1464, to register a grant of a fair at St-Leger in 1473 or the enfranchisement of properties or to forward his claims to other inheritances168. And what the chancellor could arrange, mutatis mutandis, so could his subordinates169. Whilst those outside the chancery knew that its employees were influential and their cooperation essential if certain titles were to be established. Only more prolonged study of its personnel will reveal the parameters of acceptable behaviour, the baffling and dense family connections and the extent to which the chancery was the lynchpin of the duchy’s administration, the source of its political propaganda in the struggle with the crown, the ultimate guardian of Breton liberties.

After more than two centuries of continuous existence described briefly here, the first half of the sixteenth century saw the disappearance of the chancery as it had been developed in the service of the dukes of Brittany. The first ominous indications of what was to be royal policy had manifested itself in the suppression of the chancellor’s title between 1493–8. There followed a brief Indian summer after 1498 and while Anne lived her council and chancery in Brittany still had an important role in the affairs of the duchy. But with her death on 9 January 1514 and that shortly afterwards of her devoted chancellor, Philip de Montauban, the tightening grip of the royal administration became apparent. There was room in France now for only one chancellor; the office in Brittany was merged with that of chancellor of France. A non-Breton from one of the most powerful royal bureaucratic dynasties, Jean Briçonnet, was appointed vice-chancellor and it was he who now directed the Breton council and chancery170. As late as 1539 Francis I once more confirmed the chancery’s existence but the fundamental political role which council and chancery had played under the Montfort dukes had long since ceased. Finally in November 1552 its judicial duties were taken over by the présidiaux courts [p. 721] and the Parlement de Bretagne assumed responsibility for the registration of public acts171. But as far as the late medieval phase of the chancery’s history is concerned this ended symbolically on 19 March 1514 when in the church of the Carmelites at Nantes ‘led. chancellier print le cueur de ladicte dame (Anne) et au devant de luy le roy darmes Bretaigne … descendirent soubz celle voulte … et la fut pose le cueur de la magnanime dame en ung coffre dacier fermant a clef entre son pere et mere …’172.

[p. 722] Appendix I: A provisional list of chancellors of Brittany, 1213–1514

NameActingOther postsReferences
Rainaud d. 1245By March 1214–1236 at leastBishop of Quimper 1219–45Levron, no. 9 (1214); Bib. nat. MS. 9035 fo. 6 no. 2 (1219); Bull. diocésain… Quimper, 1911, 249 no. 35 (1236).
Macé le Bart28 March 1319Canon of Dol, Rennes and St Martin de Tours, scholastic of Nantes (1321–3), chanter of Dol (1323–40)G. Mollat, Études et documents sur l’histoire de Bretagne, Rennes 1907, pp. 54–5.
Gautier de St-Pern173 d. 1359Between 30 April 1345 – 14 May 1346 at leastBishop of Vannes 1346–59Arch. dép. Pyrénées-Atlantiques E 624 no. 1 fos. 5–8
Jean de Locminé d. 1365Between 8 Feb. 1361 – 4 May 1365Archdeacon of VannesRecueil Jean IV, i. nos. 8, 33, 43–5.
Hugues de Montrelais d. 28 Feb. 1384By 27 Jan. 1366 – 28 Nov. 1372 at leastBishop of Tréguier 1354–7; bishop of St-Brieuc 1357–84; Cardinal 1372Recueil Jean IV, i. no. 66; Lettres secrètes de Grégoire XI, no. 1010.
Jean, vicomte de Rohan d. May 1396By 26 Sept. 1379 – 5 May 1384Recueil Jean IV, i. no. 320; ii. 493
Silvestre de la Feuillée d. after Oct. 13928 June 1384 – 6 June 1385 at leastRecueil Jean IV, ii. nos. 511, 521, 546.
[p. 723] Henri le Barbu d. 27 April 1419Probably by 19 May 1386 – 18 July 1395 at leastAbbot of Prières (1381); bishop of Vannes 1383–1404; bishop of Nantes 1404–19Recueil Jean IV, ii. 582; Bib. Nat. MS. français 22319 p. 154.
Robert Brochereul d. after May 14141 August 1396 – Nov. 1399 at leastSeneschal of Nantes and RennesRecueil Jean IV, ii. no. 1063; Preuves, ii. 697, 699.
Mr Etienne Ceuret d. 6 Dec. 1429July 1401 – before 7 Jan. 1404Bishop of Dol 1405–29Lettres de Jean V, no. 734.
Anselme de Chantmerle d. 1 Sept. 14277 Jan. 1404 – at least 18 May 1404Bishop of Rennes 1390–1427ibid., no. 2; Preuves, ii. 740.
Hugues Lestoquier d. 10 Oct. 1408By 18 Nov. 1404 – April 1408Bishop of Tréguier 1403–4; bishop of Vannes 1404–8Lettres de Jean V, nos. 20, 1025
Jean de Malestroit d. 14 Sept. 1443Between 9 April / 20 June 1408–1443Bishop of St-Brieuc 1405–19; bishop of Nantes 1419–43ibid., nos. 1027, 1029, 1034, 1251
Louis de Rohan, sire de Guéméné d. 14571445–50Preuves, ii. 1395; Mathieu d’Escouchy, Chronique, iii. 247; E. Cosneau, Le connétable de Richemont, Paris 1886, p. 388.
Jean de la Rivière, chevalier d. after 1461By 3 Nov. 1450 – before 27 Sept. 1457Preuves, ii. 1545, 1554, 1605–6, 1671, 1686, 1708, 1725; iii. 38.
Mr Jean du Cellier d. by 9 Aug. 146827 Sept. 1457–1458Seneschal of Rennes; alloué of Vannesibid., ii. 1710, 1733.
[p. 724] Guillaume Chauvin d. 1484By 28 Feb. 1459–5 Oct. 1481Trésorier de l’épargne; trésorier général; président de BretagneBib. Nat. MS. français 11549 fo. 134; Preuves, ii. 1741.
Mr François ChrestienJune 1484–1485ALA, E 212 no. 17 fo. 6r; Preuves, iii. 446, 461–3.
Mr Jacques de la Villeon d. by 19 Sept. 1487Sept. 1485–1487Procureur de Lamballe; seneschal of RennesPreuves, iii. 484, 577; ALA, E 2–9 no. 23 fo. 12.
Philippe de Montauban174 d. 151620/23 Sept 1487–1514Seigneur de Sens et du Bois de la Roche; captain of Montauban and RennesPreuves, iii. 541, 694, 757, 923–4.

[p. 725] Appendix II

A. Types of letters issued according to the register of fees from 24 Oct. – 1 Dec. 1489 (ALA, E 212 no. 21).


[p. 726] B. Types of letters issued according to the chancery register from 24 Oct. – 1 Dec. 1489 (ALA, B 12).


[p. 727] Appendix III.

Francis II orders the chancellor and the other officers who preside in his council to accept letters sent to them by Guyon Richart and Guillaume Gueguen, secretaries, to which the duke’s signature has been added by means of an engraved stamp, Nantes, 6 May 1483 (ALA, E 128 no. 6 (anc. N.H. 31), original parchment, 350 × 219 mm, formerly sealed on a tongue, with a tying thong).

Francoys, par la grace de Dieu, duc de Bretaigne, conte de Montfort, de Richemont, d’Estampes et de Vertus, a noz bien amez et feaulx conseillers, noz chancelier, vichancelier et autres qui ont preside et presideront en nostre conseil, salut. Comme par cy devant depuis lavenement a nostre principaulte pour les faiz et affaires de nous, noz subgetz et du bien de la chose publique de nostre pais, nous ait este necessaire et expedient continuellement vacque a lexpedicion de grant nombre de lettres et mandemens patens et autres, tant de grace, de justice que dautre nature et quallite et icelles signer et expedier de nostre seign manuel, a quoy le temps passe avons porte et eu de grans ennuyz, pour la grant multitude et habundance desdites lettres et pluseurs importunes requestes avons faictes de signer et expedier icelles lettres et soit ainsi que presentement chacun jour et plus que jamais nous surviennent pluseurs matieres tant pour nous, nosdiz subgetz que pour les exprez affaires de nostre pays. Pour lexpedicion desquelles et les vallider et auctoriser soit besoign y apposer le seign de nostre main a quoy ne pourrions vacquer ne satisfaire ainsi que bien requis seroit obstant pluseurs autres grans occupacions enquoy suymes bien souvant, et pour ceste cause ayons nagueres fait faire engraver et inprimer nostre signet le plus conforme que possible a este sans y avoir fait inprimer le chiffre que avons acoustume a faire et apposer apres nostre nom aux lettres, mandemens et estaz de finance, rolles et descharges et autres qui doresenavant seront expediez soubz nostre dit signe manuel duquel ainsi inprime avons desja use en aucunes lettres, mandemens, rolles, estaz et descharges, et depuis en ayons fait faire engraver et inprimer ung autre ouquel avons fait inprimer le chiffre que avons acoustume de faire et apposer apres nostre nom et desdiz deux signetz tant en mandemens, patens, rolles, estaz et descharges de finances et autres que lettres missives entendons de cy enavant nous en aider et user. Et pour ce vous mandons et commandons expressement que lesdites lettres et mandemens, patens tant estaz, rolles et descharges de finance que avons ja soit signer et expedier soubz nostredit signe dinpression depuis environ le premier jour de fevrier mil quatre cens quatre vingtz et deux et que doresenavant ferons expedier desdiz signetz qui sont et seront signez de nostre contrerolle general Guyon Richart et Maistre Guillaume Gueguen, noz secretaires, de nostre commandement, vous les passez, seellez et expediez en ce qui [p. 728] sera a faire en nostre chancellerie ainsi que silz estoint signez de nostre main, et a ce faire vous avons auctorisez et auctorisons par ces presentes et voullons que esdites lettres ainsi expediees et signees soit garde estat et autant de foy et effect estre adjoustez comme si icelles lettres et mandemens, estaz, rolles et descharges de finance estoint signez de nostre main car tel est nostre plaisir, non obstant quelxconques choses a ce contraires. Donne en nostre ville de Nantes le vjme jour de May lan mil cccc quatre vingtz et troys.

FRANCOYS (autograph with a flourish, the chiffre noted above) Par le duc de son commandement G. Gueguen

Dorse: Lettre de limpression du signe du duc Francois deuxieme de ce nom (and various later sixteenth century additions).


The following abbreviations have been used throughout:

ABret.Annales de Bretagne
ALAArchives départementales de la Loire-Atlantique
BECBibliothèque de l’école des chartes
B. m.Bibliothèque municipale
BSAFBulletin de la société archéologique du Finistère
Lapeyre & ScheurerA. Lapeyre and R. Scheurer, Les notaires et secrétaires du roi sous les règnes de Louis XI, Charles VIII et Louis XII, 2 vols. Paris 1978.
Lettres de Jean VLettres et mandements de Jean V, duc de Bretagne, 1402–1442, ed. R. Blanchard, 5 vols. Nantes 1889–95.
Monuments, ed. PlaineMonuments du procès de canonisation du bienheureux Charles de Blois, duc de Bretagne, ed. F. Plaine, St-Brieuc 1921.
MSHABMémoires de la société d’histoire et d’archéologie de Bretagne
PlaniolMarcel Planiol, Histoire des institutions de la Bretagne, new edition, 5 vols. Mayenne 1981–4.
PreuvesDom P-H. Morice, Mémoires pour servir de preuves à l’histoire ecclésiastique et civile de Bretagne, 3 vols. Paris 1742–6 (réimpression 1968).
Recueil Jean IVRecueil des actes de Jean IV, duc de Bretagne, 1357–1399, ed. Michael Jones, 2 vols. Paris 1980–3.

2 Planiol, iii. 105–53, 411–25; B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, Les faux états de Bretagne et les premiers états de Bretagne, BEC, lxxxvi (1925), 388–406; idem, Le conseil du duc en Bretagne d’après ses procès-verbaux, ibid., cxvi (1958), 136–69.

3 Preuves, iii. 791. The ordonnance is transcribed at the beginning of Jean Regnier’s accounts as paymaster of the chancery from April 1498–September 1512 (Nantes, B. m., MS. 1336 fos. 2 r–4 v).

4 ALA, E 5 no. 3 (= Preuves, ii. 737, 1404); E 131 fo. 25 r (1459); E 198 nos. 23–39 (cf. Preuves, iii. 38–40) and below p. 716 for 1463.

5 J. Levron, Catalogue des actes de Pierre de Dreux, duc de Bretagne, MSHAB, xi (1930), 173–266. But it should be noted that Levron did not track down all surviving originals (for e.g. those of nos. 35 and 149, cited after Preuves, i. 831–2 and 869, can be found in Nantes, B.M., MS. 1691). For the single letter given ‘per manum Ran’ cancellarii’ cf. no. 9 (March 1214), published in Recueil d’actes inédits des ducs et princes de Bretagne (XIe, XIIe, XIIIe siècles), ed. A. de la Borderie, Rennes 1889, no. LXXXV.

6 L. Maître, Répertoire analytique des actes du règne de Charles de Blois, Bulletin de la société archéologique de Nantes, xiv (1904), 247–73. Maître made similar répertoires for the other dukes which still remain in manuscript (ALA, 14 J 2–15).

7 Planiol, iii. 23.

8 I have notes on at least a further 40 letters not in Maître’s list; cf. also ALA, 7 JJ 22, papiers de René Blanchard for a more complete répertoire of Blois’s letters.

9 Recueil Jean IV, i. 35–7. For a provisional list of chancellors see below Appendix I.

10 ALA, E 238, ‘Cest linventoire des lettres de monseignour le duc de Bretaingne baillees en garde de Maistre Herve le Grant en la Thesaurerie de la Tourneuve de Nantes ou moys de Juign lan mil troiscens quatrevins et quinze.’ The oldest records date from the mid-thirteenth century, but the majority come from the reign of John IV himself. 839 articles are listed.

11 ALA, E 5 no. 3 (= Preuves, ii. 735–40; Lettres de Jean V, no. 2).

12 cf. Lettres de Jean V, i. pp. c-cxvi for a description; ALA, B 1, 12 March–22 July 1407 fragments.

13 Identified in the index by the note ‘acte signé par lui.’

14 Extracts from the lost register of Arthur III are in Preuves, ii. 1709–18.

15 ALA, B 2–21 covering 1462–3, 1466–8, 1473, 1477, 1480, 1486–8, 1489–91, 1503, 1505–6, 1508–11, 1513. Preuves, iii. 321–4 (1477), 538–41 (1486–7), 574–83 (1487–8), 662–4 (1489–90) for published extracts; ibid., 238–9 (1472), 281–3 (1474–5) and 456–8 (1484) for extracts from now lost registers.

16 Between 12 March–23 July 1491 there are no entries (ALA, B 13 fos. 126 r–128bis v). Many documents from this register have been printed in Choix de documents inédits sur le règne de la duchesse Anne de Bretagne, ed. A. de la Borderie, Rennes 1902. ALA, B 10 fos. 187 et seq. for the confusion at the time of the siege in 1487 when there was a complete break in registration from 7–31 July.

17 Preuves, iii. 757–8. Maître lists only two grants made in Anne’s name between her marriage to Charles VIII in December 1491 and her widowhood in April 1498 (ALA, 14 J 15).

18 Preuves, iii. 791.

19 H. de Berranger, Guide des Archives de la Loire-Atlantique, 2 vols. Nantes 1962–4, i. 18.

20 ALA, E 212 no. 21 shows 717 écus were collected; for a breakdown of the types of letters issued, see below Appendix II; Nantes, B. m., MS. 1336, payments.

21 L. Delisle, Pièces soustraites au trésor des chartes des ducs de Bretagne, BEC, liv (1893), 413–7; lviii (1897), 379–80. The best account of the development of the trésor des chartes is in Lettres de Jean V, i. p. iii et seq.

22 ibid., p.c. He claimed that the word Scripta on the dorse of letters of John I in 1275 was contemporary. However similar notes, in a hand and ink which appear identical, occur on a number of documents widely separated in date (e.g. ALA, E 151 nos. 7 [1294] and 10 [1371]) and suggest that many of these notes were later cataloguing marks, possibly c. 1400 when the ducal archives were first seriously inventoried (see below p. 710 and cf. A.-L. Courtel, La chancellerie et les actes d’Eudes IV, duc de Bourgogne [1315–1349], BEC, cxxxv [1977], 304). For the additional R or Registrata on letters of John IV and John V, cf. Recueil Jean IV, p. 34.

23 cf. ibid., 23–34.

24 There is a typescript inventory (ALA, 7 JJ); see in particular 7 JJ 20, notes on diplomatic by Blanchard.

25 cf. F. Merlet, Cinq actes inédits de Jean V, duc de Bretagne, Association bretonne, 1933, pp. 109–19.

26 Above notes 5, 6 and 8; cf. Planiol, iii. 115–21.

27 J-P. Dupuis, Les activités de la chancellerie du duc de Bretagne en 1466, DES Nantes 1964; J-J. Dubreuil, Les activités … en 1468, DES Nantes 1965; A. Lescouzières, Les activités … en 1477, Mémoire de maîtrise, Nantes 1968. Copies of these are deposited at ALA.

28 Recueil Jean IV, i. 40–5 and more fully Michael Jones, The Seals of John IV, duke of Brittany, 1364–1399, The Antiquaries Journal, lv (1975), 366–81.

29 Anne was married by procuration to Maximilian on 19 December 1490 and is styled Queen for the first time in the registers on 4 January 1491 (ALA, B 13 fo. 100 r), though letters of 28 December 1490 refer to her by that title (Preuves, iii. 682). The usual address of their joint letters was ‘Maximilian et Anne, par la grace de Dieu, roy et royne des Romains, duc et duchesse de Bretaigne, a touz ceulx qui cestes presentes lettres verront, salut’ (cf. Choix de documents, ed. La Borderie, nos. LXVIII–LXX). The latest letters in that form that I have seen are dated 28 September 1491 (ALA, B 13 fos. 141 v–2 v), though as late as 15 November letters issued earlier were still being registered with that title (ibid., fos. 143 r–4 r). Anne married Charles VIII by a contract of 6 December 1491 (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale MS. Nouv. acq. française 11339, cf. Preuves, iii. 711–8).

30 Levron, MSHAB, xi (1930), 175.

31 J.L. Montigny, Essai sur les institutions du duché de Bretagne à l’époque de Pierre Mauclerc, Paris 1961, p. 51 simply plagiarises Levron.

32 cf. Recueil, ed. La Borderie, nos. LXXXIII–CII. Most of the original charters of Mauclerc which I have seen are of modest dimensions (200 × 100 mm or less), sometimes in a very contracted hand and lacking decorative features, characteristics to be observed in the diplomatic of other regions of the west in this period.

33 cf. M. Nortier, Les actes de Philippe Auguste: notes critiques sur les sources diplomatiques du règne, in La France de Philippe Auguste. Le temps des mutations, ed. R.H. Bautier (Actes du Colloque international organisé par le C.N.R.S., Paris 29 septembre–4 octobre 1980), Paris 1982, pp. 429–51.

34 In addition to the letter cited in note 5, Rainaud delivered judgement in 1219 as ‘R. dei gratia Corisopitensis electus Britannie cancellarius’ (Paris, Bibl. nat., MS. latin 9035 fo. 6 no. 2) and was still called chancellor by Gregory IX in 1236 (Abbé Peyron, Actes du Saint-Siège concernant les évêchés de Quimper et de Léon, Bulletin diocésain d’histoire et d’archéologie de Quimper, 1911, p. 249 no. 35). But no other thirteenth-century chancellors are known. In 1293 Bertrand de Chaveigne, alloué at Rennes, described himself as ‘lator sigilli ipsius ducis tunc temporis’ (Cartulaire de l’abbaye de Saint-Georges de Rennes, ed. P. de la Bigne Villeneuve, Rennes 1876, appendice no. XLIV) but this may simply have meant that he held the seal of contracts of the court of Rennes rather than the ducal great seal.

35 The name Yvon de Noial appears at the foot of a letter in 1274 (Preuves, i. 1033 cf. Cartulaire du Morbihan, ed. L. Rosenzweig, Vannes 1895, no. 356) but it is a unique case; for a letter authorised ‘Par nostre bon conseil’ in 1318 see Preuves, i. 1281; cf. Courtel, BEC, cxxxv (1977), passim for remarkable parallels with Burgundian practice.

36 Preuves, i. 1084–5, 1090, 1361, 1369; Nouveau recueil d’actes inédits des ducs et princes de Bretagne (XIIIe et XIVe siècles), ed. A. de la Borderie, Rennes 1902, nos. XII and XIII; Planiol, iii. 135 et seq.

37 cf. Michael Jones, Ducal Brittany, 1364–1399, Oxford 1970, pp. 22 et seq.

38 P. Chaplais, English Royal Documents, King John – Henry VI, 1199–1461, Oxford 1971, p. 20.

39 Lapeyre & Scheurer, i. x et seq. ‘Mentions hors teneur’ only occur in Burgundian letters from c. 1331 (Courtel, BEC, cxxxcv [1977], 295).

40 Preuves, i. 1345, 1431.

41 R.H. Bautier, La place du règne de Philippe Auguste dans l’histoire de la France médiévale, La France de Philippe Auguste, p. 17 and cf. M. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record. England 1066–1307, London 1979, pp. 29–59.

42 A comparison with the letters of Louis VI, Louis VII and Philip Augustus is instructive in this respect, whilst the splendid exhibition Die Fürstenkanzlei des Mittelalters, München, 25. Oktober–18. Dezember 1983 organised by the Staatlichen Archive Bayerns provided admirable evidence for a similar evolution in Germany.

43 Dating by the Easter style was generally adopted in Brittany in the early thirteenth century (cf. A. Oheix, Recherches sur le commencement de l’année civile en Bretagne au Moyen Age, Le Moyen Age, xxvii [1914], 215–32). From about 1250 John I made occasional references to his seal but still exceptional for their detail are letters issued at Rome on 7 April 1256 (Preuves, i. 963–4) in making his submission to Alexander IV, where the close supervision of the papal chancery may be felt.

44 M. Nortier’s introduction to the Recueil des actes de Philippe Auguste, 4 vols., ed. H. Fr. Delaborde, Ch. Petit-Dutaillis, J. Monicat, J. Boussard and M. Nortier, Paris 1916–79, will contain an important discussion of diplomatic.

45 Tafeln XXII–XXIX provide a few examples of ducal seals.

46 ALA, E 176 no. 5 (1353) has an impression of Blois’s small armorial seal and Public Record Office, London, E 30 no. 74 (1356) for an impression of his signet. 10 examples of John V’s first seal of majesty were known to Blanchard, dating from 18 May 1405–4 June 1408 (Lettres de Jean V, i. p. lxxxvi). It replaced a large privy seal of John IV which showed the duke as a standing, armed figure (cf. The Antiquaries Journal, lv [1975], 375–6).

47 Recueil Jean IV, i. 29–31 and Lettres de Jean V, i. p. lxxiii for the holograph of John IV and John V; ALA, E 128 no. 6 (1483), printed below p. 727.

48 Preuves, i. 940–2 (1249) for the earliest ducal letters in French. Many documents exchanged by John I and Hervé, vicomte de Léon, were in French (Recueil, ed. La Borderie, pp. 238–74). The first ducal ordonnance in French was the Assise des Pledeours (1259) though Planiol believed the text to be a translation of a lost Latin original (La très ancienne coutume de Bretagne, Rennes 1896, p. 331, cf. Preuves, i. 971). I have noted letters in French amongst ecclesiastical archives from 1255 (abbey of Bocquen), 1257 (St-Malo de Dinan), 1262 (abbey of St-Aubin des Bois), 1264 (abbey of Geneston), 1272 (priory of Montonac), 1275 (abbey of Buzay), 1277 (St-Magloire de Lehon), etc.

49 A. Giry, Manuel de diplomatique, Paris 1903, pp. 467–70.

50 Paris, Arch. Nat., J 198 no. 97 (= Preuves, i. 985), cf. G. Tessier, Diplomatique royale française, Paris 1962, p. 239.

51 Whether they actually enjoyed possession or not, all dukes in this period from Mauclerc usually included the title ‘earl of Richmond’ (Comes Richemondie, conte de Richemont) in their style, unless the county was held by a cadet. Among other titles used by more than one duke were those of viscount of Limoges, and count of Montfort, Étampes and Vertus, whilst Mauclerc was briefly lord of La Garnache, Charles de Blois and Jeanne de Penthièvre were lord and lady of Avaugour, Guyse and Mayenne, John IV was lord of the Rape of Hastings and of Rays, and Arthur III, lord of Parthenay and constable of France.

52 ALA, E 236, containing letters dated between 1220–1407, a splendid manuscript bound in red leather boards, roughly 300 × 340 mm. ‘(C) y ensuit la tenour par vidimus et copie de pluseurs des lettres de tres excellent prince et segnour monseignour le duc de Bretaingne que Maistre Herve le Grant tresorier et garde dicelles a fait escripre en cest livre pour lutilite et profit de mondit seignour des quelles ensuit les rebriches en la forme si apres contenantes …’ (fo. 5 r). The majority were copied by Jean Halouart and Jamet Lamouroux, notaries.

53 Lettres de Jean V, i. p. xxxiv, where an example of 1408 is also discussed. In letters drawn up by a notary, but bearing the duke’s own autograph signature, agreeing to marry Juana of Navarre (13 April 1385) John IV is styled ‘Jehan, par la graice de Dieu, duc de Bretaingne’, the only such case I have come across (Archivo general de Navarra, Caj. 49 no. 20, cf. Recueil Jean IV, i. 27). Although listed in the supplement to that Recueil, no. 540 B, a full text arrived too late for inclusion. See now MSHAB, lxi (1984), 101–2.

54 Michael Jones, ‘Bons Bretons et bons Francoys’: The Language and meaning of treason in later medieval France, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, 32 (1982), 91–112; idem, Trahison et l’idée de lèse-majesté dans la Bretagne du quinzième siècle, Actes du 107 e Congrès national des sociétés savantes, Brest 1982 (forth-coming).

55 A single letter ennobling lands survives for John IV (Recueil Jean IV, ii. no. 773). In Burgundy the duke had been exercising this right since 1371 and in the Bourbonnais since 1334 (A. de Barthélemy, Étude sur les lettres d’anoblissement, Revue historique nobiliaire, 1869; see also R.H. Lucas, Ennoblement in Late Medieval France, Mediaeval Studies, xxxi [1977], 239–60).

56 B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, Mahé le Léal ou Macé le Bart, l’un des auteurs de la Très Ancienne Coutume de Bretagne, Revue historique de droit français et étranger, 4ème sér., iv (1925), 445–53.

57 Arch. dép. Pyrénées-Atlantiques, E 624 no. 1, accounts for the viscounty of Limoges show various payments to Gautier as chancellor of Brittany in 1345–6. Witnesses at the 1371 canonisation inquiry (Monuments, ed. Plaine, p. 118; Preuves, ii. 20) mention Auffroy le Voyer and Guillaume Paris as chancellors but I have been unable to confirm this.

58 Recueil Jean IV, i. 35–6. There is an original letter of Blois in the bottom right hand corner of which there is the note ‘Vo’ with a contraction which could be extended as Vous or voir, possibly indicating the chancellor’s presence (Nantes, B. m., MS. 1707 no. 2, 24 Feb. 1347), otherwise the earliest example of the practice is Recueil Jean IV, i. no. 8 (8 Feb. 1361). The chancellor did not use a visa in Brittany.

59 Arch. dép. Ille-et-Vilaine, 1 F 1116, fragments of accounts of Arthur III.

60 P. Thomas-Lacroix, Jean de Malestroit, chancelier du duc Jean V, Bulletin de la société archéologique et historique de Nantes et de Loire-Atlantique, cxv (1978), 135–93; B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, François II, duc de Bretagne, et l’Angleterre (1458–1488), Paris 1929.

61 Preuves, iii. 124, 238, 388, 427, 462 (military career). Promoted to chancellor through the influence of the duke of Orléans and prince of Orange (according to Alain Bouchart, Les Grands Croniques de Bretaigne, ed. H. Le Meignen, Nantes 1886, fo. 235 v) in September 1487 (ALA, B 10 fo. 246bis r; Preuves, iii. 541), an attempt to replace him by Gilles de la Rivière, a former vice-chancellor, was made in January 1489 (ibid., 617) but he kept Anne’s favour and was her staunchest defender in the next few years (B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, La politique d’Anne de Bretagne. Inspirateurs et intentions, MSHAB, xxvii (1947), 1–16; idem, Les débuts du gouvernement de Charles VIII en Bretagne, BEC, cxv (1957), 138–55). He drew up his will on 27 June 1514 (Preuves, iii. 923–4). Unfortunately there is no surviving register for 1514 to show when he last sat as chancellor. For his role at the burial of Anne’s heart see below p. 721 and note 172.

62 Bouchart, fos. 226 v, 231 v; ALA, E 212 no. 17 fo. 6 r, ‘A maistre Francois Chrestien chancelier de Bretaigne institue aud. office environ le premier jour de Juign (1484) derrain pour ses gaiges jouira du sceau de la chancellerie.’

63 Documents inédits sur le Complot Breton de M. CCCC. XC. II, ed. A. de la Borderie, Nantes 1884, no. XLVII at pp. 85–7.

64 Pierre Choque, Brittany Herald, Commemoracion et advertissement de la mort de … madame Anne (edited by L. Merlet and Max. de Gombert as Récit des funérailles d’Anne de Bretagne, Paris 1858); I have used the copy for a princess of the house of Bourbon (Nantes, B. m., MS. 653); Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, BEC, cxvi (1958), 154 after ALA, E 131, the surviving minutes of the council, 1459–62.

65 P. Jeulin, L’hommage de la Bretagne, ABret., xli (1934), 380–473; B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, Une idée politique de Louis XI: la sujétion éclipse la vassalité, Revue historique, no. 460 (oct.–déc. 1961), 383–98; Jones, Ducal Brittany, pp. 19, 46–7.

66 See below p. 714 and note 140. Bouchart, fos. 208 v–9 v has elaborated with considerable skill themes from the speech of Mr Jean du Cellier in 1458 (cf. Preuves, ii. 1729), by quoting earlier documents at length.

67 Preuves, iii. 791. The beguin of Francis II in 1488 names 13 councillors and maîtres des requêtes, 22 other officers ‘extraordinaire’, 24 secretaries and 2 huissiers of the chancery, 61 names in all, under the general heading ‘Gens du Conseil’ (Complot Breton, ed. La Borderie, pp. 85–7).

68 Nouveau recueil, ed. La Borderie, p. 149, cf. Preuves, i. 1189 and 1196. Unfortunately La Borderie who claimed that he had published all the articles in a series of accounts c. 1289–1311 (ALA, E 20) ‘qui ont un interêt historique’, omitted a number of items which might have thrown light on the functioning of the chancery, e.g. in 1311 the notary Jamet de Vern was paid 100 s ‘pour escripture … et dut faire quatre instrumenz publique pour covenance faite o lui de linventoire de la Tour nue’ (E 20 no. 16 fo. 2). These inventories were probably like three he drew up in 1315–6 of John II’s jewels and other goods at Nantes (E 23 nos. 65–7). In 1311 Mr Guillaume Gaumont was paid 6 l. for services ‘en deffendant les privileges mons. contre les personnes deglise’ and there is a later payment ‘Pour parchemin, cire et encre et pour .iij. clefs pour les huches du tresor des chartes les freres de Vanes, xxiij s.’ (E 20 no. 16 fo. 3). The whole series would probably repay study.

69 Recueil Jean IV, i. 38–40.

70 Preuves, ii. 737–8 (ALA, E 5 no. 3).

71 Lettres de Jean V, i. p. lxxxix. In 1451–2 there were 14 secretaries (Preuves, ii. 1605–6); nine are mentioned in 1454–5 but there were also ‘autres secrétaires pour la chancellerie’ (ibid., 1686) and 9 secretaries and two former secretaries are listed in 1457–8 (ibid., 1726). I have noted the regular signatures of 12 clerks in 1462 (ALA, B 2), 10 in 1464 (B 3), 11 in 1466 (B 4), 9 in 1467 (B 5), 10 in 1468 (B 6), 16 in 1473 (B 7), 12 in 1477 (B 8), 14 in 1480 (B 9), 17 in 1489–90 (B 12), 15 in 1490–1 (B 13), 11 in 1506 (B 16) and 10 in 1513 (B 21).


The following list gives details of the numbers of letters signed by the leading clerks of John V (after Lettres de Jean V).

Jean Rocher, secretary127
Jean Mauléon, secretary108
Jean Cador, secretary93
Pierre Ivette89
Jamet Godart83
Alain Coaynon, secretary76
Guillaume Bily73
Jean Fresero46
Ph. de Marois, secretary43
René Pasquier42
Bertrand Huchet37
Robert Cador, secretary35

Among the clerks of Francis II early in his reign the most hardworking secretaries by this crude measure were Robert le Gouz, Henri Milet, Guyon Richart, Robert Marc, Jacques and Pierre Raboceau (ALA, B 2–6).

73 An impression which might be modified by more thorough study. Girard de Billy was called resident secretary in 1477 (ALA, B 8 fo. 167 v).

74 Above note 67.

75 Nantes, B. m., MS. 1336 fo. 31 v shows that three huissiers ‘qui ne font que deux quant ausd. gaiges en ensuivant lesd. lettres de chartre’ (of 1498) received only 80 l. a year between them.

76 ALA, B 15. In July and August sessions were held at Auray, Quimper, Lesneven and St-Pol, during September at Morlaix (3), Guingamp (13), St-Brieuc (16), Dinan (19), St-Malo (20), Dol (22), St-Aubin du Cormier (24) and Vitré (28); cf. A. de la Borderie and B. Pocquet, Histoire de Bretagne, 6 vols., Paris and Rennes 1896–1914, iv. 601–3.

77 ALA, E 240, ‘Inventaire de lettres du tresor rendu par Yves evesque de Vennes’, a composite volume, containing various lists of documents in the keeper’s charge or delivered to various envoys between 1450–6, shows that most of the records were then already in armoires at the Tourneuve, Nantes, but some important records were also at Vannes. In 1490 Mr Jean Blanchet took various documents from the trésor at Nantes to Rennes. These were returned in 1506 (ALA, E 242 no. 2). A petition seeking the transfer of the records of the chambre des comptes from Vannes to Nantes was made in 1492 (Paris, Bibl. nat., MS. français 15541 fo. 81, published in BEC, cxv [1957], 150–2) although they were not finally moved until 1501.

78 Congrès archéologique de France, lxxxie session, Brest et Vannes, 1914, Paris 1918, pp. 429–30 for Château Gaillard, now the home of the Société polymathique du Morbihan and its collections. ALA, B 7 fo. 91 r (1 July 1473) for Chauvin at Bois; ibid., B 16 shows that Montauban despatched business at Bois de la Roche from 2 January–15 February, for a few days after 5 March and on 4 April and 25 May 1506, but that apart from a brief trip to Ploërmel, for the rest of the year he divided his time between Rennes and Nantes, apart from 12 September–6 October when he was at Vannes, or en route between these three centres.

79 ALA, E 131 fo. 12 v (15 June 1459) for a case where the chancellor used the absence of the duke and the greater part of his council to delay publishing certain royal letters.

80 ibid., fo. 104 r (23 Oct. 1460) shows the council sitting at Fougères. On 5 March 1462 Chauvin was at Malestroit, at la Chezé on 9 March, Josselin (10–13 March) and at Vannes by 17 March (ALA, B 2 fos. 19 v–27 r). Some business was transacted in his absence at Nantes on 22–24 March before he himself returned there on 25 March (ibid., fo. 29 r).

81 Lettres de Jean V, i. p. xxvii.

82 The total number of letters registered in 1462 is 949 (ALA, B 2), 998 in 1466 (B 4), 993 in 1468 (B 6) and 1008 in 1477 (B 8). A comparison of the accounts for the ‘produit de la chancellerie’ and the corresponding section of the register for the same period shows that very few letters for which fees were charged escaped registration, though they might be referred to under different headings in the two records (ALA, E 212 no. 21 and B 12). The average number issued per day at this point was 5 (cf. Appendix II). Letters issued by the Chambre des comptes should also be remembered in any total of documents issued in the duke’s name.

83 Monuments, ed. Plaine, passim.

84 ibid., p. 41. A scale of fees to be charged in local courts for sealing contracts etc. between 1334–41 may be found in La très ancienne coutume, ed. Planiol, pp. 348–9.

85 Preuves, ii. 738 (1404), ‘L’evesque de Rennes chancelier a M. l. de pension et se paiera sur le profit et revenu des sceaux, se tant peuvent monter et valoir et se non le parsur luy sera fourni et seront mis les sceaux au prix que estoient ou vivant de feu Mons. et Madame, et en outre lad. pension, aura pour chacun jour qu’il sera mande par monsieur pour aller hors de son hostel ou de la ville de Rennes pour les affaires et besoignes de Monsieur, Cs. par jour.’

86 Arch. dép. Ille-et-Vilaine, 1 F 1111, accounts for 1393; Lettres de Jean V, i. p. lxxxv (after Preuves, ii. 900) indicates that in 1416 the chancellor was receiving only 600 l.

87 Nantes, B.m., MS. 1336 fos. 20 r–1 r show that from 1 April 1498–31 December 1506 he was paid 2000 l. breton p.a., from 1 January 1506 he had received an increase of 400 l. p.a. on his pension, together with another 1200 l. p.a. to recompense him for revenues from the seals which he used to draw and that from 1 January 1507–30 September 1512 he received 4000 l. p.a., a total of 40, 500 l. in all.

88 Jean de Rouville received 600 l. in 1465–6 as vice-chancellor (Preuves, iii. 145, 166–7) as did Guy du Boschet, bishop of Quimper, in 1481–2 (ALA, E 212 no. 16 fo. 10 r). In 1465–6 Milet was receiving 200 l. (Preuves, iii. 145), which had been raised to 240 l. by 1468 (ALA, B 6 fo. 188 v). The États de finance for 1481–5 show that Guyon Richart and Mr Guillaume Gueguen were the highest paid secretaries at 150 l. p.a., raised in the latter case to 200 l. in 1484 (ALA, E 212 nos. 16–19). Mr Jean Blanchet as garde des chartes got 120 l. In 1491 ten secretaries received between 20 l. and 120 l. p.a. (ALA, E 214 no. 41 fo. 6 r). From 1498–1512 there were normally six maîtres des requêtes and eight secretaries in office at 300 l. and 100 l. p.a. respectively (Nantes, B.m., MS. 1336), together with one extra secretary and two (or three huissiers) on the normal strength of the chancery. But many of these must have employed juniors of whom we hear little save for Guillaume Vaillant, secretary to Vicechancellor Gueguen, to whom an ex gratia payment of 25 l. was made ‘pour ses paines davoir durant cinq ou six annees grossoyer et mynuter les estaz des debtes de Bretaigne tant generaulx que particulier dont il avoit eu la garde durant lad. temps et faict plusieurs expeditions et escriptures’ (fo. 32 v). Jean Regnier, receiver of the chancery, was a royal secretary by 1501 (Lapeyre & Scheurer, no. 573).

89 ALA, E 212 nos. 17–19. Around 1500 Laurens Maczault claimed he was still owed 523 l. 15 s for diplomatic missions to England and Maximilian, king of the Romans, before the loss of Breton independence, and other secretaries like Jean Mauhugéon and Roland Scliczon claimed debts outstanding since the days of Francis II (E 209 no. 23 fos. 2 r, 5 r, 12 r–v).

90 cf. J. Bartier, Légistes et gens de finances au XV e siècle. Les conseillers des ducs de Bourgogne, Philippe le Bon et Charles le Téméraire, 2 vols., Brussels 1955–7.

91 Nantes, B.m., MS. 1336 fo. 34 v. By 1534 the bill was 8584 l. 16 s t. (Preuves, iii. 1014).

92 Monuments, ed. Plaine, p. 98.

93 ibid., p. 136. Paper was already being used in the duchy for accounts by 1342 (ALA, 7 JJ 143/2). The earliest ducal letter on paper known at present dates from 1364 (Recueil Jean IV, i. no. 34) but it would be unwise to consider this date as final in the absence of diplomatic studies for earlier dukes. ALA, E 238 fo. 79 r (1395 inventory) mentions ‘le papier de celx qui doyvent host au duc de Bretaingne et est ledit papier en parchemin’ – a reference to the famous muster at Ploërmel in 1294 (Preuves, i. 1110–5). From this ambiguous reference it is not clear whether the manuscript of the Livre des Ostz still surviving at Nantes is meant (ALA, E 132). In the crisis conditions of 1490 the president and members of the Chambre des comptes were ordered to accept various quittances on paper presented by Mr Pierre Becdelièvre for payments by Guillaume de Forestz on the extraordinary revenues ‘neantmoins le stille et usement de lad. chambre soit de apparaistre lesd. quittances en parchemin’ (ALA, B 13 fo. 18 r).

94 Paris was serving Blois in 1355 (Nantes, B.m. MS. 1707 no. 1). For his career under John IV cf. Recueil Jean IV, s.n. As dean of Nantes he accepted the second treaty of Guérande in 1381 (Arch, Nat., J 242 no. 5818; Preuves, ii. 280) and he was still dean in 1390 (ALA, E 163 no. 32).

95 Monuments, ed. Plaine, pp. 135–40.

96 ibid., 93–8 (G. André), 56–60 (G. Berengar), 71–7, 351–3 (P. de la Chapelle), 44–6 (R. de Coestelles), 135–40, 330–2 (R. Poencé), 147–9, 332–4 (R. Poulard), 84–9 (A. Raoul) and 174–6 (J. Vitreari).

97 At least eight secretaries for local courts were instituted in 1462 (ALA, B 2), 5 in 1464 (B 3), 7 in 1468 (B 6) etc.

98 Monuments, ed. Plaine, pp. 93–8.

99 Recueil Jean IV, i. 38 n. 150.

100 Monuments, ed. Plaine, pp. 84–9.

101 ibid., 44–6.

102 ibid., 174–6; his name does not appear in Mandements et actes divers de Charles V (1364–1380), ed. L. Delisle, Paris 1874.

103 Journal de Jean le Fèvre, évêque de Chartres, chancelier des rois de Sicile, Louis I et Louis II d’Anjou, ed. H. Moranvillé, Paris 1887, p. 4, ‘Item, une lettre seellee par laquele monsegneur retient en secretaire maistre Richart … secretaire du duc de Bretaingne’ (c. Aug. 1381).

104 Archivo general de Navarra, Caj. 54 no. 38 iv, Pamplona, 6 May 1387, quittance from Brochereul for 300 florins out of 500.

105 Recueil Jean IV, ii. nos. 985, 998, 1006, 1026, 1107, 1110, 1163; B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, Les statuts synodaux d’Alain de la Rue, évêque de Saint-Brieuc (1421), Mémoires de la société archéologique d’Ille-et-Vilaine, xlvii (1920).

106 B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, Les papes et les ducs de Bretagne, 2 vols. Paris 1928, ii. 877 et seq. for Gueguen’s election in 1487.

107 ALA, E 126 no. 2 (1397) as archdeacon of Vannes; P.R.O., C. 76 no. 90 mm. 7, 11, 22; no. 91 mm. 18, 22, as archdeacon of Dreux (1406). Richard Clerk (above note 103) had briefly been treasurer of Vannes and archdeacon of Poher (Preuves, ii. 446) but later became chanter of Nantes.

108 Poulard married Constance de Kerraoul and his will mentions three sons, Jean already dead, Guillaume (bishop of Rennes, 1357–9, and of St-Malo, 1359–66) and Roland (Preuves, i. 1554–5, 14 July 1362). His brother Roland gave evidence in 1371 (above note 96).

109 M. Jean Kerhervé is currently studying the analogous group of Breton gens de finance; see especially, Une famille d’officiers de finances bretons au XVème siècle: les Thomas de Nantes, ABret., lxxxiii (1976), 7–33 and Jean Mauléon, trésorier de l’épargne, Une carrière au service de l’État breton, Actes du 107 e Congrès national des sociétés savantes, Brest 1982 (forthcoming).

110 Preuves, ii. 379, 450, 555, 576, 580; Recueil Jean IV, Index s.n. and Archivo general de Navarra, Caj. 60 no. 7, 29 May and 2 September 1386 for his diplomatic career. See also Michael Jones, Mon pais et ma nation: Breton identity in the Fourteenth Century, War, Literature and Politics in the Late Middle Ages, ed. C.T. Allmand, Liverpool 1976, p. 159 for his career at Angers.

111 Lettres de Jean V, no. 1934 cf. Père Anselme, Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France, 3rd ed., 9 vols. Paris 1726–33, iv. 82.

112 Lettres de Jean V, no. 1104. In 1413–4 he was exchanging various rents and lands with the lords of Rays and La Suze (Cartulaire des sires de Rays, ed. R. Blanchard, Archives historiques du Poitou, xxviii [1898] and xxx [1900], nos. CXLIX–CLII).

113 cf. in addition to his studies cited in note 109, J. Kerhervé, Les trésoriers de l’épargne du duché de Bretagne au XVe siècle, paper read at the University of Bielefeld, 1982.

114 B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, La dernière phase de la vie de Du Guesclin. L’affaire de Bretagne, BEC, cxxv (1967), 145.

115 For Carné and Gibon see Michael Jones, The Breton Nobility from the Civil War of 1341–64 to the Late Fifteenth Century, The Crown and Local Communities in England and France in the Fifteenth Century, ed. J.R.L. Highfield and Robin Jeffs, Gloucester, pp. 60–1.

116 Lapeyre & Scheurer, no. 471.

117 E. Cosneau, Le connétable de Richemont, Paris 1886, pp. 582–3. Milet was dead by 8 March 1477 (ALA, B 8 fo. 47 r).

118 Lettres de Louis XI, ed. E. Charavay, J. Vaesen and B. de Mandrot, 11 vols. Paris 1883–1909, iv. no. DXC and pièces justificatives x and xi. His incriminating correspondence had been discovered by Olivier le Roux, a former colleague as secretary of the Constable (Arch. Nat., K 69 no. 8 = Cosneau, pp. 652–3), who had to flee the duchy on the accession of Francis II (ALA, E 131 fo. 33 v) and became a leading adviser of Louis XI (Lapeyre & Scheurer, no. 423, where his Breton antecedents are ignored). Milet had also acted as secretary and controller general of finances in Normandy for Charles (H. Stein, Charles de France, frère de Louis XI, Paris 1920, pp. 524, 653). On 23 September 1467 he entered the chancery to collect certain secret letters of alliance (ALA, B 5 fo. 11bisr).

119 ibid., B 7 fo. 67 r. Lespervier had first fallen under suspicion in 1470 though no charges were preferred against him after investigation (ALA, E 198 no. 14). He later became First President of the Parlement de Paris (Lettres de Louis XI, viii. no. MCCCXCIII [1479], MCCCCXXXII [1480]; ix, p.j. xii).

120 Many ducal officers had known each other since student days at Angers, Orléans, Paris or, after 1461, Nantes (cf. Jones, War, Literature and Politics, ed. Allmand, pp. 157–60 and idem, Education in Brittany during the later Middle Ages: a survey, Nottingham Mediaeval Studies, xxii [1978], 58–77).

121 Some documents relating to the disputed succession to the duchy of Brittany, 1341, ed. Michael Jones, Camden Miscellany, xxiv, (Royal Historical Society, Camden Fourth Series 9, London, 1972), 1–78.

122 J. Kerhervé, Aux origines d’un sentiment national: Les chroniqueurs bretons de la fin du moyen âge, BSAF, cviii (1980), 165–206 is a fine survey of the literary aspect.

123 C’est le livre du bon Jehan, duc de Bretaigne, ed. E. Charrière as an appendix to the Chronique de Bertrand du Guesclin par Cuvelier, 2 vols. Paris 1839, ii. 421–560, omitting 1200 lines (cf. F. Lecoy, Guillaume de Saint-André et son ‘Jeux des échecs moralisés’, Romania 67 (1942), 491–503). It was dedicated to the author’s son.

124 ALA, E 55 (bulls); E 236 (formulary); E 126 no. 2 (Jews – for a photograph of the original letters of John I, 10 April 1240, see La Borderie and Pocquet, Hist. de Bretagne, iii. 336–7); E 132 (Livre des Ostz), 22 fos., 160 × 230 mm., bound in the same red leather boards and written and decorated in much the same style as the formulary.

125 ALA, E 172 no. 18 (1399 – Doyt estre … Herve), whilst ibid., no. 20 also has a note that it is to be taken to him; Preuves, i. 1216, ‘Cet instrument (concerning the confiscation of the goods of the Templars, 1308) fut trouve chez les Freres Mineurs de Nantes en la huche du sire de Septmaisons le Jeudi 13 de Janvier 1406 et donne a Herve le Grant, Tresorier des lettres de Bretaigne’; Lettres de Jean V, no. 1222 (1416); for other examples of his public instruments see Arch. dép. Côtes-du-Nord, 1 A 1 nos. 4 (1383), 8 and 9 (1391); ALA, E 8 nos. 2 and 3 (1392), E 166 no. 8 (1389), E 72 no. 10 (1397), E 138 no. 24 (1385), E 172 no. 7 (1383); E 159 no. 14 (1410) is in a different hand from his earlier instruments.

126 Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, BEC, cxxv (1967), 145; Kerhervé, BSAF, cviii (1980), 205–6. Chronicon Briocense. Chronique de Saint-Brieuc, ed. G. Le Duc and C. Sterckx, vol. i, Paris 1972, provides a text down to the year 640, but the edition is both incomplete and sadly deficient; Preuves, i. 7–102 continues the text in extracts. The main manuscripts are Paris, Bibl. nat., MS. latin 6003 and 9888, together with some important additions in Pierre le Baud’s notes (Arch. dép. Ille-et-Vilaine, 1 F 1003).

127 Kerhervé, BSAF, cviii (1980), 205–6.

128 Recueil Jean IV, i. no. 322 (29 September 1379). As Herveus le Grant clericus Corisopitensis he witnessed a grant in 1388 (Preuves, ii. 548) and in 1397 a sentence of excommunication on him for obtaining the office of chanter of Nantes was raised (ALA, E 38 no. 11). It is not known whether he had married before or after this event.

129 He drew up copies of the mutual donation between John IV and Juana of Navarre in 1387 (Arch. dép. Ille-et-Vilaine, 1 E 2 no. 1), was particularly busy at Tours in 1392 when the terms for the marriage of the future John V and Jeanne de France were drafted (ALA, E 8 nos. 2 and 3) and acted as the duchess’s secretary on several occasions (e.g. Arch. dép. Ille-et-Vilaine, 1 E 10, 1394). His notarial sign included ermines, the ducal arms, as did St-André’s (ALA, E 151 no. 14 [1384], for a joint instrument).

130 cf. Preuves, i. 7–102.

131 Guillaume Leseur, Histoire de Gaston IV, comte de Foix, ed. H. Courteault, 2 vols. Paris 1893–6, i. pp. xxvi–xxvii; J. Richard, Les archives et les archivistes des ducs de Bourgogne, BEC, cv (1944), 123–69, for the more routine activity of archivists.

132 Kerhervé, BSAF, cviii (1980), 202–4.

133 ALA, E 1071–4, cf. R-H. François, Les activités d’un notaire rural de Saint-Philbert de Grandlieu à la fin du XVe siècle, Mémoire de Maîtrise, Nantes 1968.

134 Preuves, ii. 770; A. Croix, Nantes et le pays nantais au XVIe siècle. Étude démographique, Paris 1974, pp. 18–19.

135 ALA, E 239–242 for most of the surviving inventories, cf. Lettres de Jean V, i. pp. iv–v.

136 P. Contamine, The Contents of a French Diplomatic Bag in the Fifteenth Century: Louis XI, Regalian Rights and Breton Bishoprics 1462–1465, Nottingham Medieval Studies, xxv (1981), 52–72.

137 ALA, E 59–60, cf. E 240 fo. 110 r–111 v (c. 1450), ‘Touchant les Regaeres’.

138 ALA, E 241 no. 2, a cahier of 30 fos., includes on fos. 1–12 r a list of documents collected at St-Malo, Rennes and Dol and at the abbeys of Tronchet, Rillé, Montfort and Paimpont in May 1464; cf. no. 10, ‘Memoire daucunes lettres trouvees aux abbays de Bretaigne’, a similar cahier of 9 fos. with lists of letters and extracts from manuscripts, breviaries, chronicles etc. gathered at the same time. This latter had subsequently been handed to royal officials who annotated the margins with demands for the production of the originals or authenticated copies. Ibid., no. 11, a cahier of 20 fos., includes fos. 9 r–14 v another list: ‘Cest inventoire des lettres livrees rapportez de Paris qui touchent les regales, les fondacions et droitz de Bretaigne’, also probably dating from 1464–5.

139 Nantes, B.m., MS. Dugast-Matifeux 223, including a list of documents (23 May 1459) for delivery to Mr Bertran de Coëtanezré, vice-chancellor, about to go to the royal court, and a ‘Memoire des materes desquelles mons. le vichancelier doibt avoir souvenance’.

140 ALA, E 131 fo. 168 r (5 Dec. 1461), cf. E 241 no. 9, a cahier of 12 fos. of ‘Lettres des redevances faitz par les ducs de Bretaigne aux roys de France et de leurs aliances ensemble’ and no. 5, 27 fos., ‘Lettres royalles touchant les libertez et previleges de Bretaigne’, both produced c. 1461.

141 cf. Preuves, ii. 595–7, 1651–8.

142 Jones, War, Literature and Politics, ed. Allmand; cf. ALA, E 240 fos. 109 r–112 v, ‘Des lettres que Reverend Pere en Dieu Missire Yves evesque de Vennes a baille du commendement du duc et de son conseill a Olivier de Coetlogon, conseiller et contrerolleur de la meson du duc pour le voyage de Paris’ (1456), which includes the sectional headings ‘Touchant les Regaeres’ and ‘Touchant le Parlement de Bretaigne’ and the marginal note ‘Dei gratia’ to signify three main topics of discussion.

143 cf. Recueil Jean IV, i. 23–34 and Lettres de Jean V, i. pp. xxxi et seq. Decoration of ducal letters was normally limited, extremely rare in the thirteenth century, less so later. The initial letter (or letters), sometimes a few words of the address or ducal title, were normally written in a larger hand and sometimes enlivened by allusions to the duchy’s arms (ermines) or its connection with the sea (the initial J was frequently in the form of a fish). I have seen no highly decorated letters like those produced in contemporary royal chanceries.

144 Recueil Jean IV, i. 13, 40; a study of Breton notaries is a desideratum. Courtel, BEC, cxxxv (1977), 290 remarks that the use of public instruments by the dukes of Burgundy, common in the thirteenth century had become rare by the fourteenth.

145 La Borderie and Pocquet, Hist. de Bretagne, iv. 396–400.

146 Preuves, iii. 38. In 1463 Robert Marc gave particularly detailed evidence on the chancery practice with regard to sealing during Peter II’s reign (ALA, E 198 no. 33).

147 Two vice-chancellors have been traced between 1415–26 (Lettres de Jean V, i. pp. lxxxv–lxxxviii) but the next known holder of the office is Yves de Pontsal, bishop of Vannes, vice-chancellor from 1450–7. He was succeeded by Messire Jean Inisan (1457–8), Messire Bertrand de Coëtanezré (1458–61), Mr Jean de Rouville (1461–71 or later), Mr Guy du Boschet (by 1474–82), Gilles de la Rivière (1486–7) and Mr Guillaume Gueguen (1488–1506); cf. Planiol, iii. 117.

148 ALA, B 9 fo. 88 v, ‘Aujourduy xiije jour de may lan mil iiijc iiijxx la poche des seaulx de la chancelerie qui paravant avoit este close soubz le signet de monsgr. le Vichancelier a este apportee par Jehan de Cerisy, conterolle general et garde desd. seaulx devant monsgr. le Chancelier close soubz le seel de secret du duc. Et a dit led. conterolle que le duc avoit en sa presence fait ouvrir lesd. seaulx et fait seeller une lectre de laquelle le registre est cy apres escript. Et apres avons fait clorre lesd. seaulx soubz led. seel de secret lesd. seaulx avoint este clos soubz le signet de monditsgr. le Vichancelier des le quart jour de cedit moys de May. Et depuis en cedit xiije jour de May ont este lesd. seaulx apportez devant monditsgr. le Vichancelier clos soubz led. seel de secret, lequel les fist ouvrir, et apres avoir seelle aucunes lettres de justice les clouyt soubz son signet, presens a ce Maistre Pierre le Boteiller, Robert Marc et Jacques Raboceau’ and signed with flourished ‘P. Le Bouteiller, present soit. R. Marc. J. Raboceau’.

149 cf. ALA, B 2 fos. 17r, 19v, 71r, 83v; B 3 fo. 133r; B 4 fos. 11r, 17v; B 5 111bisr; B 6 fos. 12v, 74v, etc.

150 ALA B 7 fo. 139v (19 Oct. 1473), Pierre Landoys signed to acknowledge receipt of a quittance from Francis II to Louis XI for 30,000 l.t.; B 9 fo. 147v (2 Oct. 1480), Gilles de Rivière, archdeacon of Rennes,and Etienne Millon, papal protonotaries, signed the register. The practice of the chancellor or his deputy signing had begun by 1503.

151 Monuments, ed. Plaine, pp. 41, 46, 56, 59, 66-7 etc.

152 ALA, E 131 fo 25r, cf. B 5 fo. 39v (2 April 1467), a pardon for murder granted (according to a marginal note) under pressure from Odet d’Aydie, lord of Lescun. On 19 Nov. 1490 a grant of rachat on the death of the lord of Molac to the lord of La Roche had to be revoked because Molac was still alive (B 13 fo. 55r).

153 ALA, E 198 nos. 24–39 (briefly summarized in Preuves, iii. 38–40); see Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, François II et l’Angleterre, pp. 61–9.

154 ALA, E 198 no. 38, ‘Ensuit aucune remonstrance pour lentendement du mal commis et perpetre par Guillaume Chauvin, chancelier, ses clercs, commis et depputez en la maniere devoir baille les sauffconduiz es ennemis’.

155 Ibid.; this case is not discussed in the two articles on treason cited in note 54, though it adds significantly to the arguments advanced there.

156 ALA, E 198 no. 23 (18 June 1463), commission to the Grand Maître (Tanguy du Chastel), president of Brittany (Jean Loisel), the vice-chancellor (Rouville), the seneschals of Rennes and Tréguier (Pierre Ferré and Pierre le Cozic) and Olivier de Coëtlogon to inquire into the abuses, including the issue of letters ‘les ungs seelles en blanc, les autres a fenestres pour y mettre et emploier telz port de navires, nombre de gens, pour les conduyre, le date, nombre et noms de marchans que bon leur sembleroit’; cf. B 4 fo. 81 v (22 June 1466), ‘ont este scellees vignt lettres decharge que ont este baillees en blanc au regart des noms a Jamet Thomas qui doit rendre du seau icelles lettres’; Ph. de Commynes, Mémoires, ed. J. Calmette and G. Durville, 3 vols. Paris 1921–5, i. 15.

157 La Borderie and Pocquet, Hist. de Bretagne, iv. 500–2, but cf. Bouchart, Croniques, fos. 225 v et seq. for whom Chauvin remained renowned for his just administration. Little survives of the documents in his case but an interesting discussion took place in the ducal council on 22 June 1482 in the presence of Guy Boschet, vice-chancellor, and others, in which the proctor-general (Guillaume de la Lande) asked about the status of Chauvin’s lands during his imprisonment: ‘Apres avoir apporter veu et leu aucuns livres de droit faisans mencion delad. matiere pour icelle plus meurement veoirs et estudier, que le duc ne devoit selon raison pendant le proces contre led. Chauvin et par avant santence et condempnacion despouiller ne deposseder reellement led. Guillaume Chauvin de lexercice de lad. jurisdicion de sesd. terres … aincoys que lad. jurisdicion devoit estre exercee ou nom dud. Guillaume Chauvin mays les fruiz, revenus et esmolumens dicelle jurisdicion aussi bien comme des terres et autres heritaiges dud. Chauvin devoint estre mys en sauvegarde’ (ALA, E 198 no. 40). Two months later Louis XI tried to evoke his case (ibid., no. 41i).

158 ALA, E 131 fo. 46 v.

159 ibid., fos. 90–95 v.

160 cf. B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, Les faussaires en Bretagne, Bulletin philologique et historique (jusqu’à 1715), années 1951 et 1952, Paris 1953, pp. 95–102.

161 ALA, E 131 fo. 225 v.

162 Though Parlement is known to have had a seal, no fourteenth century impressions survive (cf. Jones, Antiquaries Journal, lv [1975], 377).

163 Preuves, ii. 1560–1. In the fourteenth century the Derval-Châteaugiron line, of which Jean was the representative, bore Quarterly, 1 and 4, Gules, a cross patée argent, 2 and 3, gules, two fasces argent, arms used as late as 1416 (Preuves, ii. Planche 11, no. CLXXXIV) but Jean bore Quarterly, 1 and 4, Ermines (3, 2, 3), 2 and 3, argent, two fasces gules, arms which appear on his many manuscripts (J. Dupic, Un bibliophile breton du XVe siècle, Jean de Derval, Trésors des bibliothèques de France, xix [1935], 157–62).

164 ALA, E 152 no. 1, where the date given is 30 April 1302.

165 ALA, E 131 fo. 147 r–8 r (10 July 1461), condemnation of a forger to be pilloried at Nantes, Rennes and Vitré ‘un chapeau de papier paint sur la teste ou soint les personnaiges desd. faulsonneries et une escripture que on face mancion’; B 8 fo. 48 v (23 March 1477).

166 ALA, B 7 fo. 68 v (10 May 1473), remission to Olivier le Pelotier and his wife ‘davoir induit Roland Riou et Alain du Launay a faire et passer par faulczonnerie ung certain contract du nombre de xii s. de rente entre ilz et feu Jehan le Mestrier sans que pour lad. remission ilz seront aucunement restituez a leur bonne renommee’. Riou was also given a remission but the moveable goods of all four were given by the duke to Pierre de la Mote, sire de Kergoët.

167 ALA, B 2 fo. 1 r, ‘Respit a ung an pour Guillaume Chauvin habitant de la ville de Nantes’.

168 ALA, B 2 fo. 99 r; B 3 fo. 169 r; B 4 fo. 61 v; B 8 fo. 137 v etc.

169 ibid., B 125–129, individual letters of ennoblement and enfranchisement, contain many obtained by ducal secretaries for themselves or their relatives and friends.

170 ALA, B 22 fo. 56 v (18 April 1515) for Briçonnet’s first appearance in the chancery. He is not listed with other members of his family in Lapeyre & Scheurer, nos. 97–105.

171 Berranger, Guide des archives de la Loire-Atlantique, i. 18.

172 Nantes, B. m., MS. 653 fo. 35 r–v.

173 The names Auffroy le Voyer and Guillaume Paris have been suggested as chancellors of Blois (Preuves, ii. 20); also that of Henry du Bois but without serious reference.

174 Mr Gilles de la Rivière was named chancellor on 24 Jan. 1489 as a rival to Montauban (Preuves, iii. 616–7).

175 Dated 12 November in register.