The French writer Jean Froissart (1337[?]-1404[?]) - commonly referred to as plain Froissart, pronounced in the French way 'FRWAH-sar', IPA: /frwa sar/; his forename is the French form of 'John' (IPA: /dʒɒn/), pronounced like English but with a softer 'j-' sound (/ʒ/), and the rest of the word realized as the nasalized vowel /ɒ/ (IPA: /ʒɑ̃/) - was a servant of Queen Phillipa of Hainault (1310/1315?-1369), wife of Edward III. Froissart himself had been born in the French county of Hainault. He remained in court circles throughout his life, first with Jean de Hainault, seigneur de Beaumont (d. 1356); then with Robert of Namur, (1323-1391), brother-in-law of Queen Phillippa, to whom he introduced him; Phillippa, his greatest patron, for whom he wrote a now lost rhyming chronicle of events between 1356 and 1360; David II of Scotland; the Duke and Duchess of Brabant; the Black Prince; and Gui, count of Blois (d. 1394). This offered him unparalleled access to talk with the men of arms about whom and whose exploits he wrote in his Chronicles.
The first source of his fame was his verse. He was known throughout Europe for this, as later for the Chronicles. His lyrics include Le paradis d'amour (c.1361-2), Le joli mois de mai (c.1363), the Dit dou bleu chevalier, the Dit de la marguerite (c.1364), La prison amoureuse (1371-2), Le joli buisson de Jonece (1373) and L'espinette amoureuse (c.1369-70). But his major source of fame remains his 'Chronicle', the Chroniques de France, d'Angleterre et des pais voisins (Chronicles of France, England and neighbouring countries). This was translated into English by John Bourchier, Lord Berners (c.1467-1533), who began it in 1521; the second volume was finished and printed in 1525. Froissart built on his acquaintance with such men as Edward Despenser and the Black Prince to tell the story of, in essence, the Hundred Years War and its chivalry.
- His verse is said to have been one of Chaucer's influences, and it is possible that the two poets met each other, and possibly Petrarch too, when all three were in Milan in 1368 on the occasion of the marriage of Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, son of Edward III, to Violante, daughter of Galeazzo Visconti, the Lord of Pavia.
- Froissart's Chronicle remains a highly important source for modern writers on the period. Although Froissart can be shown to be wrong in many details, and he has a tendency to repeat the rather one-sided reports of those eye-witnesses to whom he spoke, he gives a clear picture of the social history of his time, particularly the chivalric attitude to war, and provides unrivalled insight into what the leaders of the time thought they were doing. He also gives a clear account of the unfolding of events as he knew them.