created since 2003       

Valentina Visconti and the Court in France
- with a focus on the years 1392 - 1397 (playing card time at the French court)

Playing Card Notes at the French court

1392 Paris
Account book for King Charles VI, "Given to Jacquemin Gringonneur, painter, for three packs of cards, gilt and colored, and variously ornamented, for the amusement of the king, fifty-six sols of Paris." These are not the so-called Gringonneur cards, aka Charles VI cards, which are a late fifteenth-century Ferrarese Tarot deck. (K I:24; GT 65-66; P 37.)
(Ross Gregory Caldwell has researched in detail the Gringonneur-entry and its long being taken as the oldest reference to Tarotcards, compare his article).
The original document has disappeared, all goes back to Pere Menestrier, Bibliotheque curieuse et unstructive, Trevoux 1704, vol. II, p. 174

1393 Paris
An anonymous describes in "Menagier de Paris" the life and occupations of Roman women in old times by refereing to the occupations of noble womem in his own time: ".. les unes divisans, les autres jouans au bric, les autres a qui fery, les autres a pince-merille, les autres jouans aux cartes et aux autres jeux d'esbatemens avecques leurs voisines ..." The reporting Schreiber (1937) refers to Pere Menestrier, Bibliotheque curieuse et instructive, Trevoux 1704, vol. II., p.174) (S p. 68)

1395 Gerson (Paris ?):In our general research Diane O'Donovan once gave me access of an article by her, "Stone-throwing, lot-casting and the 'Head of the Year': Almanacs and the card-pack.", in which she pointed out as part of an argumentation to another theme:

... we should recall here the comments made by Jean Gerson, chancellor of the University of Paris in 1395, who spoke of a craze at that time for pictures which showed the diis gentium (the gods of the nations) "not excepting Bel phegor", and which were used for prognostication: even in the churches and on festival days obscene [blasphemous?] pictures were sold tanquem idola Belphegor, which corrupted the young, while sermons were ineffective to remedy this evil. We may suppose that Gerson knew his gods of the nations as most educated people did. Various of the diis gentium had been known since Carolingian times. .... I take Bel Phegor to derive from the Greek phago and describe a god known for eating [a specific type of] food, though it can equally mean the god of mathematical apportioning.

As it seems Belphegor was already in 1395 related to a Parisian favour for pictures (likely on paper, similar to playing cards (?)) and this connection reappears later in the Ingold text (Strassburg 1432) and the earlier context (1395) possibly determined the later (Ingold's choice to open the playing card chapter with a quote about Baalam-Baal, who is related to Belphegor, mentioning the name Bof Belphegor in the later text).
Actually the finding of Diane is very remarkable: The "pictures of the Diis Gentium", once en vogue in Paris, are in their iconographical idea in not far distance to the Greek-Roman gods, which once filled the "the oldest Tarot cards" of the commissioner Filippo Maria Visconti.

1396 Paris
"At the French court a hawker or maker of cases, Guion Groslet appears in the account books of 1396 for having sold an estuy for the cards of Queen Isabelle of Bavaria (Charles VI's wife)." (Ortalli 178) Schreiber notes, that the entry of Hemon Raguier reads: "A Guiot Groslet, gaingnier, un estuy (etui) pour mettre les cartes de la royne, le petiz bastonnez d'ivoire et les roolles de parchemin 12 sols parisins." (S p. 68.)

1397 Paris
Prohibition against card playing. (K I:24.) This may be the same prohibition referred to by Ortalli, "when the prevot of Paris forbade the gens de metier from playing cards on working days." (Ortalli 178.)
Schreiber notes, that this passage is given by many French sources, but that he couldn't detect any, which gives the source for it. Although he himself controlled various possible sources, he couldn't detect it. He adds, that surprizingly in France there is no other card prohibition till 1541 (it seems, that Schreiber isn't aware of the entry to Paris 1377 and Lille 1382)(S p. 68/69). As text is given "de jouer les jours ouvrables a la paume, a la boule, aux des, aux cartes et aux quilles", which Schreiber identifies as a modern form of writing. Schreiber (who doesn't mention the 1377 ordonance in his text) points out, that it would the only playing card prohibition in France till 1541.

1408 Orleans
in an inventory of the Duke and Duchess of Orleans, listing "ung jeu de quartes sarrasines and unes quartes de Lombardie (‘one pack of Saracen cards; one cards of Lombardy’)". (GT 42.)(S p. 70)
Schreiber adds in a footnote (refering to V. Gay, p. 286), that Louis d'Orleans, brother of the French king Charles VI., must have been a "Spielratte allerersten Ranges" ("first class gambling rat"): In the possession of baron de Joursanvault (Catalogue des Archives de M. le bn. de J., Paris 1838, vol. I, p. 103 - 105) were various bills about gambling losses of the duke. 1394 he lost in the "jeu de la paume" 200 livres de tournois; 1396 in the "jeu de echaiz" "une aulmure de gris a chanoine, further 1200 fr. in the "jeue de la bille" and other sums; 1397 he paid back various sums, which were lend to play "aux tables" and "au glic", also he had to cover various sums and losses to various persons. The gambling losses followed 1394, the year, in which he founded a knight order; likely "gambling" and "knight orders" had a natural social connection (see below the point knight orders).

Knight Orders
- have a curious relationship to Tarot cards

  • Charles VI, French king, founded a knight order "Order of the Broom-Pod" (Ordre de la Cosse de Genêt), ca. 1388 - had games and playing cards at his court
  • Duke Louis d'Orleans, brother of Charles VI, and husband of Valentina Visconti, founded the Order of the Porcupine (Ordre de la Cosse de Genêt in 1394) - was known as notorious player with gambling debts
  • Christine de Pizan, likely sponsored by Valentina, founded a sort of "literary" female order, perhaps more as an ideal, and somehow she opened the fight for the rights of women. Around her were the French queen Isabelle of Bavaria, and Valentina Visconti, wife of Louis d'Orleans - it's possible, that a specific figure, the Justice with a knight on horse with sword in the background goes back to her influence.

    Valentina accused for sorcery

    From the "Encyclopedia of Ancient and Forbidden Secrets", additional notes by Ross Caldwell

    "In 1393, in the reign of Charles VI., it was considered that his sister-in-law, the Duchess of Orleans, who was a viscomte and the daughter of the Duke of Milan, had rendered the King mad by sorcery. The ministers of the court resolved to pit a magician against her, - and one Arnaud Guillaume was brought from Guienne as a suitable adversary to the noble lady. He possessed a book to which he gave the strange title of Smagorad, the original of which, he said, was given by God to Adam, to console him for the loss of his son Abel, and he asserted that the possessor of this volume could hold the stars in subjection, and command the four elements. He assured the King's advisers that Charles was suffering from the malignity of a sorcerer, but in the meantime the young monarch recovered, and the possessor of the patriarchal volume fell back into his original obscurity."

    (Ross Caldwell: After the first episode (1392), the King became very close to Valentina. To the point that, during his relapses, he wanted only to see her. It seems reasonable to speculate that Isabelle had a hand in the rumours about Valentina.
    Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Valentina's father, became in 1395 duke of Milan by the German emperor and turned politically away from the side of the French kings. Gian Galeazzo had a bad reputation as well, as did all of the Visconti and "Lombards" - I read they were called "half-Jews" because of their wealth and money-lending, and maybe because of their attitude to the Church. Isabelle was Bernabo's granddaughter, and Valentina was her cousin obviously. Charles decided to support Florence if Gian Galeazzo decided to attack them, after 1395 (when he was made Duke by Wenceslas). So there was a rift from then on - it made it easy to distance the Lombard connection. After she left Paris, Valentina became irrelevant in politics. As a patron of the arts (Christine de Pizan) she continued. Valentina was never charged formally with casting a spell on the King. But popular opinion and gossip in the court made her have to leave Paris in April, 1396.)

    "Five years after 1392 the King had another attack, and two Augustine friars were sent from Guienne for the purpose of effecting a cure. But their conduct was so outrageous that they were executed.
    A third attack in 1403 was combated by two sorcerers of Dijon, Poinson and Briquet. For this purpose they established themselves in a thick wood - not far from the gates of Dijon, where they made a magic circle of iron of immense weight, which was supported by iron columns of the height of a middle-sized man, and to which twelve chains of iron were attached. So great was the popular anxiety for the King's recovery, that the two sorcerers succeeded in persuading twelve of the principal persons of the town to enter the circle, and allow themselves to be fastened by the chains. The sorcerers then proceeded with their incantations, but they were altogether without result. The bailiff of Dijon, who was one of the twelve, and had averred his incredulity from the first, caused the sorcerers to be arrested, and they were burnt for their pretences.
    The Duke of Orleans appears to have fallen under the same suspicion of sorcery as his Italian consort. After his murder by order of the Duke of Burgundy - the commencement of those troubles which led to the desolation of France - the latter drew up various heads of accusation against his victim as justifications of the crime, and one of these was, that the Duke of Orleans had attempted to compass his death by means of sorcery. According to this statement, he had received a magician - another apostate friar - into his castle of Mountjoie, where he was employed in these sinister designs. He performed his magical ceremonies before sunrise on a neighbouring mountain, where two demons, named Herman and Astramon, appeared to him; and these became his active instruments in the prosecution of his design."

    - Valentina was cousin to her husband Louis and a distant cousin to Queen Isabeau

    • King JEAN II "le Bon" of France (1350-64), cr Reims 26.9.1350, Duc de Normandie et de Guyenne 1331, *Château de Gué-de-Maulin 26.4.1319, +a prisoner in London 8.4.1364, bur St.Denis; 1m: Melun 6.8.1332 Judith=Bonne de Luxembourg (*21.5.1315, +11.9.1349) dau.of King Johann of Bohemia; 2m: Nanterre 19.2.1349 Jeanne, Cts d'Auvergne et de Boulogne (*1326, +Château d'Argily 21.11.1361, bur St.Denis) dau.of Cte Guillaume XII
      • King CHARLES V "le Sage" of France (1364-80), *Château de Vincennes 21.1.1337, +Château de Beaute-sur-Marne 1380, bur St.Denis; m.Tain-en-Viennois Jeanne de Bourbon (*1339 +1378), totally 11 descendants
        • King CHARLES VI "le Bien-Aime" of France (1380-1422), *Paris 3.12.1368, +Paris 22.10.1422, bur St.Denis; m.Amiens 1385 (Elisabeth =) Isabeau of Bavaria-Ingolstadt (granddaughter of Bernabo Visconti) (*1371 +24.9.1435),
        • Duc Louis d'Orleans, etc, *Paris 13.3.1372, +murdered Paris 13.12.1407, bur there; m.Melun 17.8.1389 Valentina Visconti, Cts d'Asti (*1366 +4.12.1408); 4th son of Charles V., father of Charles d'Orleans, long time prisoner in England (1415 - 1440), the duke of Orleans, himself father of Louis XII, French king (1498 - 1515)
      • Duc Louis d'Anjou et de Touraine (1360-84), etc, titular King of Naples, Sicily & Jerusalem, Cte de Provence, etc; *Château-du-Bois-de-Vincennes 1339, +Biselia 1384, bur Angers, grand-father of Rene d'Anjou; m.1360 Marie, Cts de Blois et de Guise (*1343 +Angers 1404, bur there) dau.of Charles de Chatillon-Blois, some-time Duc de Bretagne;
      • Jean "le Magnifique", Duc de Berry et d'Auvergne, *Vincennes 30.11.1340, +Château de Nesles 15.3.1416, bur Bourges; 1m: Carcassone 24.6.1360 Jeanne (*ca 1346 +1387) dau.of Cte Jean I d'Armagnac; 2m: Riom 1389 Jeanne, Cts d'Auvergne et de Boulogne (*1378 +1422) dau.of Cte Jean II, had 5 descendents, but no surviving sons.
      • Duc Philippe II de Bourgogne (1363-1404) et de Touraine, etc, *Pontoise 15.1.1342, +Hall, 27.4.1404, bur Dijon; ancestor of Charles the Bold of Bourgogne, who died in 1477 short after Galeazzo Maria Visconti; m.Ghent 19.6.1369 Css Margueritte III of Flanders and Artois, Dss of Brabant and Limburg, Mgvne of Antwerp, Lady of Malines, Cts de Nevers et de Rethel, etc (*13.4.1350 +16.3.1405);
      • Isabelle, *Bois-de-Vincennes 1.10.1348, +Pavia 11.9.1372, bur there, mother of Valentina Visconti; m.VI.1360 Gian Galeazzo I Visconti, Duca di Milano (*1351 +3.9.1402)

  • Valentina Visconti