Charles is being dressed in hoses with fleur-de-lis

Coronation of Charles V

In 1364 Charles V (1338 -1380) was crowned as king of France in Rheims. The following year he commissioned a beautiful manuscript to commemorate the event – the so-called Coronation Book of Charles V.

The Coronation Book of Charles V measures 29,5 x 20 cm. It contains 38 miniatures showing stages of the liturgy of the coronation of the French King and Queen. It begins with a translation from about 1320 of the Ordo of Rheims plus a text rendering the coronation oaths and a list of the French peers of the realm. However, the main part of the manuscript is devoted to the coronation ceremonies of the king and queen. These are illustrated with a series of “comic-stripe” like illuminations detailing the series of distinct tableaus from one end to the other. It is largely intact except from some water damage, it suffered in 1731.

One of its defining elements is the notice, which Charles V wrote in his own hand in the colophon on folio 74v. It reads:

Royal signature in the coronation book of Charles V
Royal signature in the coronation book of Charles V. British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B VIII, fol.74v

Ce liure.du.sacre.dez france/est a nous Charles. Le le. istorier. Ian. M.ccc.LX.V. Charles.

(This book of the consecration of the kings of France belongs to us, Charles the fifth of our name, king of France; and we had it corrected arranged, written, and illustrated in the year 1365. Charles) [1]

Sceptre of Charles V
Sceptre of Charles V with a statue of charlemagne, Louvre. Source Wikipedia

It has been speculated, that the book might not render the precise ritual used in Rheims in 1364, since there was only a two-month gap between the death of the old king and the coronation in Rheims. On the other hand it is highly unlikely that the king had the manuscript made after the fact and the corrected it at that point. The logical process must have been that the when the coronation was planned, the king and the Archbishop discussed the details, which during this process were written down as a proper ordo. The present ‘coronation’ book, as we possess it, is probably an illuminated and formal “publication” of this text. Sherman believes that the book was commissioned by the king, but that the actual supervision of the layout and the miniatures were carried out by the royal PR-bureu, headed by Raoul de Presles or Nicole Oresme (but others might also be candidates).

Charles V is enthroned,
Charles V is enthroned, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B VIII fol. 59v

The miniatures, themselves, were painted by the so-called “Master of the Coronation Book”, who worked in the royal scriptorium from 1350 to the end of reign of Charles V. He is also known for his miniatures in the Grandes chroniques de France.There are many intriguing elements in these miniatures, due to the care, which was taken to render them as correct as possible as witnessed by the use of portraiture in the faces of king, queen and archbishop. But also the exact clothes, the couple wore, as well as the heraldic signs carried by the participants have been rendered faithfully. For instance one of the scepters worn by the king, may still be seen in the collection in Louvre. Others have easily been identified with those pictured in drawings made in the 18th century of the French crown jewels and insignia.

In short: the manuscript seems to have been designed in order to provide as exact as possible a record of the rituals used on a specific day, at a specific place, and involving specific people.

Who was Charles V?

Portrait of Charles V from the coronation book
Portrait of Charles V from the coronation book, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B VIII fol. 44v

Charles V, king of France from 1364 to 1380, is an important figure in the history of the Hundred Years War. Charles acted as regent when his father, King John II, was captured at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 and taken to London as a hostage for four years. During this time and after his succession, Charles had to contend with a series of rebellions, hoards of brigands and peasant uprisings.

Nevertheless, Charles maintained the French court in an opulent and refined manner that anticipated the courts of the European Renaissance. Christine de Pisan, Charles’ biographer, paints a picture of a wise ruler whose academic tastes led him to commission and to collect some of the finest works of medieval illuminated manuscripts of his day. Eventually Charles amassed at his royal residences a library of over 900 manuscripts, of which around 100 are known to survive today. Among the most important of these manuscripts is this Coronation Book.

The coronation book probably entered English hands around the year 1425 when John, Duke of Bedford and regent of France after the Battle of Agincourt, took ownership of the library of Charles VI. It was probably used at the coronation of Henry VI in Paris in 1431 and perhaps even later at English coronations. In the early 17th century it ended up in the collection of Robert Cotton. From there it entered the British Library in 1753



[1] The Queen in Charles V’s “Coronation Book”: Jeanne de Bourbon and the “ordo ad Reginam Benedicendam”.
By Claire Richter Sherman
In: Viator, Vol 8, p. 255 – 298


The Coronation Book of Charles V, king of France (r. 1364–1380) (ff. 35-80). Bound with a 12th-century pontifical (ff. 3-34, 81-197, Cotton MS Tiberius B VIII:).

The Coronation book is digitized and the illuminations can be studied in magnificent detail


Daily Life of Charles V 1338 -1380
By Medieval Histories 2015

Vive le Roi! A History of the French Coronation from Charles V to Charles X
By Richard A. Jacksom
Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press 1984

Featured Photo:

Charles is being dressed in hoses with fleur-de-lis. The Coronation Book of Charles V. Cotton MS Tiberius B VIII, fol. 47 r. © British Library







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