Blancheflour and Jellyflorice [Child 300]

DESCRIPTION: Blancheflour, a pretty servant girl, finds a place sewing for a queen. The queen warns the girl away from her son Jellyflorice, but the two fall in love. The queen would kill the girl, but Jellyflorice rescues and marries her
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1828 (Buchan)
KEYWORDS: royalty courting servant punishment rescue marriage
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Child 300, "Blancheflour and Jellyflorice" (1 text)
Whitelaw-Ballads, pp. 221-222, "Blancheflour and Jellyflorice" (1 text)
RELATED: Versions of the Romance "Floris and Blanchefleur" --
Digital Index of Middle English Verse #3686
Erik Kooper, editor, _Sentimental and Humorous Romances_, TEAMS (Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages), Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2006, pp. 1-52, "Floris and Blancheflour" (1 text, of 1227 lines, based primarily on the "A" or Auchinleck manuscript with the first 366 lines from the "E" or Egerton 2862 text)
Donald B. Sands, editor, _Middle English Verse Romances_, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1966, pp. 279-309, "Floris and Blanchefleour" (1 text, of 1080 lines, based on the "E" or Egerton 2862 text)
Robert D. Stevick, editor, _Five Middle English Narratives_, Bobbs-Merrill, 1967, pp. 98-139, "Floris and Blanchefleur" (1 txt, of 1083 lines, based on the "E" or Egerton 2662 text)
J. Rawson Lumby, editor (1866), revised (1901) by George H. McKnight, _King Horn, Flori3 and Blauncheflur, The Assumption of our Lady_, Early English Text Society/Oxford University Press, 1901 (reprinted 1962), pp. 71-110, "Floris and Blauncheflur" (showing the Egerton, Cambridge, and Cotton manuscripts in parallel)

Roud #3904
NOTES: Depending on how you count, there seem to be between thirty and eighty Middle English metrical romances which have survived to the present day. Of these, if you exclude the works of Chaucer, three seem to get most of the critical attention: "King Horn," because it is the oldest; "Sir Orfeo," because because it is the best; and "Floris and Blancheflour," because it is the prettiest.
All three seem to have become ballads -- "King Horn" became "Hind Horn" [Child 17]; "Sir Orfeo" became "King Orfeo" [Child 19], and "Floris and Blancheflour" (also known as "Floriz and Blauncheflur," etc.) became "Blancheflour and Jellyflorice" [Child 300]. Briggs also compares the romance to the folktale "The Dorsetshire Garland or The Beggar's Wedding" (Briggs, volume A.2, pp. 400-401), but while there are thematic similarities, I wouldn't call them the same song.
"Floris and Blancheflour" is not really the source of the plot of this piece, but probably the ultimate inspiration. Dickins/Wilson, p. 43, report that there are two European versions of the story, one for aristocratic and one for popular audiences; both exist, e.g., in French. The oldest text of the aristocratic version is thought to go back to around 1200, and there is a translation (known as the Trierse Floyris, and surviving only in fragments) from around 1170. The original romance may go back to around 1150. There are versions in Middle High German, Middle Dutch, Old Norse, Spanish, and even Yiddish (Flere Blankeflere; Boccaccio also made use of it. It was printed as a chapbook as early as 1517 by the Dutch printer Jan van Doesburg; modern authors continue to work with it today (Gerritsen & van Melle, pp. 108-109).
The Middle English romance seems to be derived from the aristocratic French version (Sands, p. 280).
The plot of the romance is roughly as follows: A band of pilgrims is attacked by Saracens. A young pregnant widow is taken prisoner when her father is killed. Taken to Spain, she bears a daughter Blancheflur. On that day, the Saracen queen has a son Floris. Brought up together, they fall in love. The parents oppose the match, and sell Blancheflur into slavery. Floris attempts suicide; his parents relent and equip him for a journey to find her. He discovers her in an eastern harem and manages to rescue her.
(The popular version makes the ending simpler; Floris simply performs some of the tasks of a knight errant.)
The plot is common; Boccaccio used it in Il Filocolo, some claim to see the idea at least in Chaucer's "Franklin's Tale," and the plot is said to go all the way back to India. (Although Alice B. Morgan, "'Honour & Right' in Arthur of Little Britain," Benson, p. 380, says, "ALthough romances offer numerous instances of a high-born lady ultimately accepting a knight of lower birth, there are few in which the process is reversed. (The sole example known to me is Floris and Blanchefleur.)")
The Middle English "Floris and Blauncheflur" romance, according to Dickins/Wilson, p. 43, has been "severely pruned... to such a degree that occasionally details vital to the plot have been omitted." This includes even the introductory material, about the capture of the Christian widow that motivates the plot -- though all the surviving Middle English versions seem to have lost material at the beginning, so that lack may be accidental.
The name "Blancheflour" -- "White Flower" -- also worked its way into the Percival legend (Lacy, p. 422), but that doesn't seem to be the same girl, just the same name.
"Floris and Blancheflour" seems to have been very popular by romance standards. Most Middle English romances survive in only one copy (although we have three of "Sir Orfeo" and three of "King Horn"). "Floris and Blancheflour" tops that; there are four manuscripts:
* B.M. Cotton Vitellius D III (late XIII century, according to Dickens/Wilson, p. 44 and Sands, p. 280; c. 1300, according to Cooper, p. 1; Sands notes that it suffered very badly in the Cotton Library fire -- unfortunate, since it seems particularly close to the French). Often cited as "V."
* Cambridge Gg.4.27.2 (early XIV century, according to Dickens/Wilson; late XIII according to Sands; c. 1300 according to Cooper, p. 1; Emerson, p. 263 puts it in the middle of XIII and considers this the best manuscript as far as extant), Often cited as "C."
* Edinburgh Auchinleck MS (probably written between 1325 and 1350; this is the best and most important of all Middle English romance manuscripts, but in this case, it is held in relatively low esteem because of the two older texts). Often cited as "A."
* B. M. Egerton 2862 (early XV century according to most sources; c. 1400 according to Kooper, p. 1; about 1440, according to Lumley/McKnight, p. xlii, which calls it the "Trentham Manuscript" after an earlier location; although the latest manuscript, it is the most complete, probably lacking only a few lines at the beginning; it contains 366 lines not found in any of the others, according to Dickins/Wilson, p. 44). Often cited as "E."
Dickins/Wilson, p. 44, make the odd claim that "All MSS. go back to a single lost original, but the wide discrepancies between them suggest that the intervening links were more probably oral than written." Similarly Kooper, pp. 1-2, believes oral tradition is responsible for many of the discrepancies. And this
Sands seems to offer a simpler explanation: The manuscripts have all been edited, with much material being omitted along the way. The result is erratic and the meter often defective, but Sands notes (p. 282) that it is a "well-structured story" and believes that this makes up for the "undistinguished verse."
The language is a mixture of southern and Midland (Emerson, p. 263).
The earlier history of this romance is curious and disputed. Sands, p. 280, dates the English version c. 1250, and suggests that the French original was current 75-100 year before that. Emerson, p. 263, says that the plot is "probably of Eastern origin, and brought to the West in the twelfth century, perhaps by crusaders. The English poem was freely translated and condensed from a French version."
Garnett and Gosse, p. 117, call this the "most beautiful" of the romances, and note that it is "represented in most mediaeval literatures. The theory of its Spanish origin is inadmissible, but in tolerance and spirit of humanity it does seem to bear traces of influence from some land where Christian and Moslem often lived in amity." (This would seem to support the notion that it was carried by Crusaders, since -- prior to the formation of the Ottoman Empire -- it was in the Islamic regions of Palestine and Egypt that such toleration was most common.)
Bennett/Gray, p. 136, says that "Floris and Blancheflour, translated and modified from a French original somewhere in the South East Midlands in the mid-thirteenth century -- and soon copied in the South West -- is as near as we can come in English to the daintiness and charm of the more famous Aucassin et Nicolette, and has something of the perennial appeal, though little of the artistry, of that early masterpiece." On p. 137, however, they declare that "It was doubtless the Eastern magic and marvels -- the gleaming carbuncle, Babylon of 140 gates and 700 towers, the brazen conduit, a stream that runs from Paradise over precious stones and tests chastity -- that gave the poem its chief appeal." On p. 138, we read, "If we miss the verve of Aucassin, there is something in this tale for most tastes of the time, and a foretaste of the Arabian Nights."
All four manuscripts of "Floris and Blancheflour" have been published, typically in obscure volumes. Sands, pp. 282-309, prints a 1083 line version, slightly modernized, based mostly on the Egerton manuscript. Dickins/Wilson, pp. 44-48, print what they consider to be lines 639-824 based on the Cambridge manuscript. Emerson, pp. 35-47, prints about 400 lines based on Cambridge, starting with line 433 of that manuscript.
For a bibliography of the romance, see Rice, Middle English Romance, pp. 255-258 -- it is one of the more extensive entries in her work.
As already mentioned, several other ballads also derive loosely or from Middle English romance, or from the legends that underlie it, examples being:
* "Hind Horn" [Child 17], from "King Horn" (3 MSS., including Cambridge Gg.4.27.2, which also contains "Floris and Blancheflour")
* "King Orfeo" [Child 19], from "Sir Orfeo" (3 MSS., including the Auchinlek MS, which also contains "Floris and Blancheflour")
* "The Marriage of Sir Gawain" [Child 31], from "The Weddynge of Sir Gawein and Dame Ragnell" (1 defective MS, Bodleian MS Rawlinson C 86)
For further discussion, including some examination of the relationship between the ballad and English romance, see now Robert Waltz, Romancing the Ballad, Loomis House Press, 2013, especially pp. 40-41. - RBW
Bibliography Last updated in version 4.1
File: C300

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.