Jean de Wavrin, Lord of Forestel

De Wavrin’s Chronicle – The British Library Board: Royal 15 E iv vol 1, f. 14

De Wavrin was born at the turn of the fifteenth century. Jean’s father was killed at Agincourt as was his brother. Jean having lost his family, and being an illegitimate descendent of the house of Artois, continued to fight alongside the French army until 1435 when he entered into the employment of the Duke of Burgundy who was an ally of the English. Eventually de Wavrin retired from a career as a professional soldier, married and settled down with a wife in Lille. It helped that she was a rich widow.

He was an avid book collector and amateur chronicler. In effect history was one of his hobbies. From 1445 onwards he began to write a chronicle of English history in four volumes which he finished in 1455 with the death of King Henry IV. Before long he commenced a fifth volume and continued writing about the history of England until 1471 by which time he was on his sixth volume.

Wavrin’s work was not undertaken for patronage and as such the work is not only extensive it is also uncritical. The period covering the Wars of the Roses is not so disinterested. It should be remembered that de Wavrin favoured the House of York because of his association with Burgundy and its alliance with the Yorkist kings. He even presented a copy of his history to Edward IV which can, today, be found in The British Library.

What makes the chronicle unique is that he knew the people that he was writing about and presents the Wars of the Roses from a European perspective. What’s not helpful is that he is not always accurate- perhaps in part because he was not a fan of the Lancastrians. My current interest comes from his description of the relationship between Edward IV, his brother George and the Earl of Warwick and the role played by the Woodville family in the breakdown of the family relationship.

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