Online Encyclopedia

RAOUL DE CAMBRAI

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 898 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RAOUL DE CAMBRAI, the name of a French chanson de geste. The existing romance is a 13th-century recension of a poem by a trouvere of Laon called Bertholais, who professed to have witnessed the events he described. It presents, like the other provincial geste of Garin le Loherain, a picture of the devastation caused by the private wars of the feudal chiefs. A parallel narrative, obviously inspired by popular poetry, is preserved in the chronicle of Waulsort (ed. Achery, Spicilegium, ii. p. roo seq.), and probably corresponds with the earlier recension. Raoul de Cambrai, the posthumous son of Raoul Taillefer, count of Cambrai, by his wife Alais, sister of King Louis (d'Outre-Mer), whose father's lands had been given to another, demanded the fief of Vermandois, which was the natural inheritance of the four sons of Herbert, lord of Vermandois. On King Louis's refusal, he proceeded to war. The chief hero on the Vermandois side was Bernier, a grandson of Count Herbert, who had been the squire and firm adherent of Raoul, until he was driven into opposition by the fate of his mother, burned with the nuns in the church of Origny. Bernier eventually slew the terrible Raoul in single fight, but in his turn was slain, after an apparent reconciliation, and the blood-feud descended to his sons. The date of these events is exactly ascertainable. Flodoard (Annales, Anno 943) states that Count Herbert died in that year, and was buried by his sons at St Quentin, that when they learnt that Raoul, son of Raoul de Gouy, was about to invade their father's territory, they attacked him and put him to death. The identity of other of the personages of the story has also been fixed from historical sources. The second part of the poem, of which Bernier is the hero, is of later date, and bears the character of a roman d'aventures. See Li Romans de Raoul de Cambrai et de Bernier, ed. E. le Clay (Paris, 184o); Raoul de Cambrai, ed. P. Meyer and A. Longnon (Soc. des anc. textes fr., Paris, 1882); J. M. Ludlow, Popular Epics o the Middle Ages (London and Cambridge, 1865) ; H. Gruber, rundriss d. roman. Phil. (ii. pp. 567 seq.).
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