The Fair Unknown
Le Bel Inconnu
A translation into English by A. S. Kline.
Published with illustrations.
Little is known for certain of Renaud de Beaujeu whose one major work is Le Bel Inconnu, ‘The Fair Unknown’, composed in the late-twelfth or early-thirteenth century in rhyming couplets. He may have been that Renaud de Bâgé (or Baugé), lord of Saint-Trivier and Cuisery, born in 1165, died 1230, who was the third son of Renaud III, lord of Bâgé (Bâgé-le-Chastel, Aisnes) from 1153 to 1180. The latter died fighting against the lords of Beaujeu and the counts of Mâconnais, who resented the powerful seigneury of Bâgé. Renaud’s poem survives in a single manuscript: Chantilly, Bibliothèque du Château, 472 (134ra-153 bis ra).
An Arthurian romance, it relates the adventures of the knight Gingalain, the Fair Unknown, who is torn between the love of two women, la Pucelle a Blanches Mains (‘The Maid of the White Hands’) of the Golden Isle, and Blonde Esmerée (‘The Fair and Radiant One’), Queen of Wales.