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John, Duke of Berry

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Duke of Berry
Image of John, Duke of Berry from the Très Riches Heures
Regent of France
MonarchCharles VI
Co-RegentPhilippe II, Duke of Burgundy (1382-1388)
Louis II, Duke of Bourbon (1382-1388)
Born30 November 1340
Château de Vincennes
Died15 June 1416(1416-06-15) (aged 75)
SpouseJoan of Armagnac
Joan II, Countess of Auvergne
IssueJean de Valois, Count of Montpensier
Bonne, Viscountess of Carlat
Marie, Duchess of Auvergne
FatherJohn II of France
MotherBonne of Bohemia

John of Berry or John the Magnificent (French: Jean de Berry, Latin: Johannes de Bituria; 30 November 1340 – 15 June 1416) was Duke of Berry and Auvergne and Count of Poitiers and Montpensier. His brothers were King Charles V of France, Duke Louis I of Anjou and Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy. He was Regent of France from 1380 to 1388 during the minority of his nephew Charles VI.

John is primarily remembered as a collector of the important illuminated manuscripts and other works of art commissioned by him, such as the Très Riches Heures. His personal motto was Le temps venra ("the time will come").[1]


Coat of arms of John, Duke of Berry, 1360

John was born at the castle of Vincennes on 30 November 1340, [2] the third son of King John II of France and Bonne of Luxembourg.[3] In 1356, he was made Count of Poitou by his father,[2] and in 1358 he was named king's lieutenant of Auvergne, Languedoc, Périgord, and Poitou to administer those regions in his father's name while the king was a captive of the English. When Poitiers was ceded to England in 1360, his father granted John the newly raised duchies of Berry and Auvergne.[2] By the terms of the Treaty of Brétigny, signed that May, John became a hostage of the English Crown and remained in England until 1369. Upon his return to France, his brother, now King Charles V, appointed him lieutenant general for Berry, Auvergne, Bourbonnais, Forez, Sologne, Touraine, Anjou, Maine, and Normandy.

Service as regent


Upon the death of his older brother Charles V in 1380, the latter's son and heir, Charles VI was a minor, so John and his brothers, along with the king's maternal uncle the Duke of Bourbon acted as regents. He was also appointed Lieutenant General in Languedoc in November of the same year,[2] where he was forced to deal with the Harelle, a peasants' revolt spurred by heavy taxation in support of the war effort against the English. Following the death of Louis of Anjou in 1384, John and his brother, the Duke of Burgundy, were the dominant figures in the kingdom. The king ended the regency and took power into his own hands in 1388, giving the governance of the kingdom largely to his father's former ministers, who were political enemies of the king's powerful uncles. John was also stripped of his offices in Languedoc at that time. John and the duke bided their time, and were soon able to retake power, in 1392, when the king had his first attack of insanity, an affliction which would remain with him throughout his life.

In the 1390s, the dukes of Berry and Burgundy would jockey for royal favor against the Duke of Orléans, Charles VI's brother. In April of 1401, while the Duke of Orléans was away from court, King Charles VI's uncles made him sign the lieutenancy of Languedoc, Berry, Auvergne, and Poitou back over to Jean de Berry.[4]

Simon of Cramaud, a canonist and prelate, served John in his efforts to find a way to end the Great Western schism that was not unfavorable to French interests.

Later life


In his later years, John became a more conciliatory figure in France. After the death of Philip the Bold in 1404, he was the last surviving son of King John,[2] and generally tried to play the role of a peacemaker between the factions of his nephews Louis of Orléans and John the Fearless. After the murder of Orléans at the orders of the Duke of Burgundy, he generally took the Orléanist or Armagnac side in the civil war that erupted, but was always a moderate figure, attempting to reconcile the two sides and promote internal peace. It was largely due to John's urging that Charles VI and his sons were not present at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Remembering his father's fate as a captive after the Battle of Poitiers fifty-nine years before, he feared the fate of France if the king and his heirs should be taken captive and he therefore successfully prevented their participation. John died on 15 June 1416 in Paris a few months after the battle, which proved as disastrous as he had feared.[5]

Joan of Auvergne and Boulogne
John of Berry
Drawings of the effigies of John, Duke of Berry and his second wife, Joan of Auvergne and Boulogne, by Hans Holbein the younger

Family and children


John sired the following children by his first wife, Joanna of Armagnac (1346–1387), whom he married in 1360:[6][2]

Illegitimate son by a Scottish woman:

  • Owuoald (1370 – before 1382), born in England during John's captivity.

In 1389 he married his second wife, Joan II, Countess of Auvergne (c.1378-1424).[9][10]

Art patron

A portrait of John kneeling in prayer
John, Duke of Berry was the owner of the Fonthill vase, made in Jingdezhen, China, the earliest piece of Chinese porcelain documented to reach Europe, in 1338.[11]

John of Berry was also a notable patron who commissioned works such as the most famous Book of Hours, the Très Riches Heures. "Like other works produced on the duke’s auspices, this model of elegance reflected many of the artistic tendencies of the time in its fusion of Flemish realism, of the refined Parisian style, and of Italian panel-painting techniques."[12] Admiring the artistic productions of Jean Pucelle, John employed several well-known artists such as the Limbourg Brothers, Jacquemart de Hesdin, the Master of the Brussels Initials, and André Beauneveu. His curiosity to illumination and patronage led to much success on preserving and absorbing talented miniaturist painters.[13] His spending on his art collection severely taxed his estates, and he was deeply in debt when he died in 1416 at Paris.

Works created for him include the manuscripts known as the Très Riches Heures, the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry and (parts of) the Turin-Milan Hours. Goldsmith's work includes the Holy Thorn Reliquary and Royal Gold Cup, both in the British Museum.

The web site of the Louvre says of him:[14]

By his exacting taste, by his tireless search for artists, from Jacquemart de Hesdin to the Limbourg brothers, Jean de Berry made a decisive contribution to the renewal of art which took place in his time and to a number of religious houses, notably Notre Dame de Paris.

After the death of John's maternal grandfather, John the Blind, during the Battle of Crecy (1346), the famed court composer and poet Guillaume de Machaut entered into the service of John of Berry.[15]




  1. ^ Jean de Berry, la science et les Très Riches Heures, la devise Le temps venra et le chiffre EV [article] sem-linkMme Patricia Stirnemann sem-linkJean-Baptiste Lebigue Bulletin de la Société nationale des Antiquaires de France Année 2015 2010 pp. 298-304 [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f Emmerson 2013, p. 381.
  3. ^ Keane 2016, p. 17.
  4. ^ Lehoux, Françoise (1966). Jean de France, duc de Berri, sa vie, son action politique (1340-1416) (in French). Paris: Éditions A. et J. Picard et Cie. p. 448.
  5. ^ Emmerson 2013, p. 382.
  6. ^ Ars subtilior and the Patronage of French Princes, Yolanda Plumley, Early Music History: Volume 22: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Music, ed. Iain Fenlon, (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 145-146.
  7. ^ Joni M. Hand, Women, Manuscripts and Identity in Northern Europe, 1350–1550, (Ashgate, 2013), 25.
  8. ^ Figg & Palmer 2001, p. 690.
  9. ^ John, Duke of Berry, Richard C. Famiglietti, Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, ed. William W. Kibler, (Routledge, 1995), 498.
  10. ^ Emmerson 2013, pp. 381–382.
  11. ^ Victoria and Albert Museum
  12. ^ Strayer, J. R. (1982). Dictionary of the middle ages. New York: Scribner.[page needed]
  13. ^ Thomas, Marcel (1980). The Golden Age: Manuscript Painting at the Time of Jean, Duc de Berry. London: Book Club Associates. pp. 10–12.
  14. ^ Dossier thématique : La France en 1400 : Jean de Berry[permanent dead link] at museedulouvre.fr (accessed 20 February 2008)
  15. ^ Wimsatt, James; Kibler, Williams (2017). Le Jugement Du Roy de Behaigne and Remede de Fortune. University of Georgia Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-8203-5354-8.


  • Emmerson, Richard K. (2013). Key Figures in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. ISBN 978-1136775185.
  • Figg, Kristen M.; Palmer, R. Barton, eds. (2001). "Notes and Commentary". Jean Froissant: An Anthology of Narrative and Lyric Poetry. Routledge.
  • Keane, Marguerite (2016). Material Culture and Queenship in 14th-century France: The Testament of Blanche of Navarre (1331-1398). Brill.
John, Duke of Berry
Cadet branch of the House of Valois
Born: 30 November 1340 Died: 15 June 1416
Regnal titles
Royal domain
Title last held by
John II
Count of Poitou
Merged into royal domain
Title next held by
John IV and II
New title Duke of Berry
Duke of Auvergne
Succeeded by
Preceded by Count of Montpensier
Preceded by Count of Auvergne and Boulogne
with Joanna II
Succeeded byas sole countess
Royal domain
Title last held by
Count of Angoulême
c. 1372 – 1374
Title next held by
Louis I
Royal domain
Title last held by
Louis II
Count of Étampes
Merged into royal domain
Title next held by