De verrassende Middeleeuwen


A murderous rage

koning doodt dwerg, handschrift in kleur

A well-known story: the Queen of France is wooed by a dwarf, but rejects him. Nevertheless, when the King has left for a hunt, the dwarf enters the bed of the sleeping Queen, cuddling up to her. When the King returns, he seizes the dwarf and in a surprisingly violent act throws him against the wall, killing him. Then the tribulations of the pregnant Queen begin, involving a near death at the stake, a judicial fight between a knight and a dog, a long separation and a final reconciliation of King, Queen and the son who was born meanwhile.

The image comes from a strange manuscript: it consists of only 8 parchment folios containing Schondoch’s Die Königin von Frankreich (‘The Queen of France’), a novelistic tale transmitted in 22 manuscripts, but, other than here, never alone. There are 8 illustrations, some obviously planned as diptychs at the top of the page, even if in the finished manuscript the scribe has somehow marred this plan. We see the King in the act of throwing the dwarf against the wall (while the Queen is already absent and not, as in the text, still sleeping.) The illuminator, probably from Salzburg, knows how to draw this extreme situation: he takes his inspiration from illustrations of the biblical Massacre of the Innocents. 

There is a different, longer version of the story, Königin Sibille (an adaptation of the Old French Reine Sebile), where the Queen punches the dwarf in his face so that he bleeds profusely and loses a tooth. There is also room for an illustration there; sadly, it’s missing. 

Matthias Meyer

Further reading

Weiler, Christina. Die Geschichte der Königin von Frankreich (Wien, ÖNB Cod. 2675*): wie Bilder erzählen. MA-thesis, online, Wien 2009.


Schondoch, Die Königin von Frankreich. Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 2675*, Fol. 3r.

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