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Flamberge — etymology [charlemagne] [weapon:sword]

Flamberge, in modern-day translations of chanson de chanson de gestes and commentaries, is the modernized spelling of Froberge or Floberge, names of swords of famous knights, particularly:

§ Etymology of Flamberge

Several issues to address here,
  1. The form flamberge is no older than 16th cent. This word is usually employed as a common noun that means "sword".
  2. That form does derive from the medieval spelling, which was Froberge (or Floberge).
  3. There are some reference in print that describe flamberge as a specific type of sword with a wavy or "flamboyant" blade. However, the military dictionary/encyclopedia of Marquis de Chesnel states that such swords are a subtype of the flamberge, called the flambard or flammard.

§ The spelling form "Flamberge" being 16th cent.

    Referring to a French dictionary of historical usage dictionary *1, we read :

Flamberge n.f un altération (1581) par attraction de flambe «flamme» (→ flamber) de Floberge (v. 1180), nom de l'épée d'un héros de ch. de geste Renaud de Montauban; la mot reprand la germanique *froberga attesté comme nom féminin. Flamberge feminine noun. an alteration (in 1581) of Floberge, due to assimilation with flambe "flame" (→ flamber); Flamberge (dating to ca. 1180) is the name of the sword of the hero in the chanson de geste Renaud de Montauban; the word deriving from Germanic *froberga attested in a female name.

The earliest usage of the "Flamberge" from the following passage in the tales of Odet de Turnébe:
..mettant bravement la main à ma flamberge, je les ay receus d'une telle façon .. etc.
(.. bravely placing my flamberge in hand, I received them in such a way.. )
— TOURNEABU*2, les Contens, IV, w.
And the ascribed date 1581 seems to be the year of this author's death.
.

*1 Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, comprenant l'origine, les formes diverses, les acceptions successives des mots, avec un choix d'exemples tirés des écrivains les plus autorisés, pub. par, Académie française. (Paris, Firmin-Didot et cie., 1858-)

*2 More usual spelling is: Tournebu (or Turnèbe), Odet de, 1552-1581:
Les contens / Odet de Turnèbe, édition critique avec une introduction et des notes par Norman B. Spector. (Paris : Société des textes français modernes : [Diffusion Klincksieck], 1993.)

Beecher, Donald tr., Satisfaction all around = (Les Contens) / Odet de Turnèbe (Ottawa : Carleton University Renaissance Centre, 1979.)

§ Medieval (Old French) form being Froberge or Floberge

The Godefroy's classic multi-volume old French dictionary*1 has no entry for flamberge. It has an entry for "FROBERGE, floberge" on vol. IV, p. 154 and the reader is free to verify this by clicking the hyperlink on the margin.

Interestingly, in Godefroy the citation is not one for the famous Froberge belonging to Renaud de Montauban, but one apparently belonging to the chanson of the Lorrainers (perhaps more familiar as Garin le Loherain).

Et Bernars s'arme li ber o le vis fier,
D'auberc et d'armes et d'espee d'acier,
Çainte a Floberge, la bele au poig d'or mier.
(Les Loh., ms. Montp. H 243, fo 39d)

Qui tient Froberge la bele au poing doré.
(Ib., fo 98d)
And Bernard, brave and fierce-faced, arms himself
With hauberk and arms and steely sword
Girt with lovely Floberge, with pommel of pure gold.


Who took lovely Froberge with pommel of gold.
—translations mine.

Another passage from the same work is quoted by Gautier in La Chevalerie [?]
"Begue struck Isore upon his black helmet through the golden circlet, cutting him to the chine; then he plunged into his body his sword Flamberge with the golden hilt; took the heart out with both hands, and threw it, still warm, at the head of William, saying, 'There is your cousin's heart; you can salt and roast it.'"

*1 p.154 on Frédéric Godefroy, Dictionnaire de l'ancienne langue française et de tous ses dialectes.. Tome quatrième, Filé-Listage (pdf viewer on browser also downloadable = télécharger). At the Gallica site of the BNF (national library).

§ Scheler ed., Dictionnaire d'etymologie française (1862)

FLAMBERGE; n'a rien de commun avec flamme, comme on le croit généralement. Le mot est allemand, et probablement composé de flanc, côté, et de bergen, protéger; donc = défense du côté. Cp. froberge, autre nom d'épée, litl. = défenseur du seigneur.
&mdashl;Scheler, Dict. d'etym. fr. p.137
FLAMBERGE: the word does not have any connection with "flame" as commonly belived, but is of German origin, probably consisting of flanc "side" + bergen "protect", hence = "defense of the side." Cf. the other name of the sword froberge means litterally "defense of the lord."
&mdashl;tr. mine

*1 Scheler, Jean Auguste U. ed., Dictionnaire d'etymologie française (1862) [books.google]

§ Francisque Michel, Encyclopédie militaire maritime (1865)

FLAMBE, FLAMBERGE, s. f. Épée, sabre de cavalerie.
Il y a un souvenir de notre mythologie nationale, où Floberge, Froberge, Flamberge, ouvrage du fameux armurier Véland, figure comme ayant appartenu au duc de Bégon, du Roman de Garin le Loheranc, puis au roi païen Anthénor, ensuite á Maugis d'Aigremont, qui la donna à son cousin Renaud de Montauban.
— tr. mine
FLAMBE, FLAMBERGE, substantive, feminine. Sword, sabre of the cavalry.
This word is a vestige of our national mythology, where Floberge, Froberge, or Flamberge, was the workmanship of Wayland the Smith. One such sword was initially owned by the Duke Begon, and afterwards by several other personages in the Roman de Garin [de Monglane, or les Loherains]."
— tr. mine

§ Chesnel de la Charbouclais ed., Encyclopédie militaire et maritime (1865)

This source makes a distinction between the flamberge, defined as heavy sword and the type of sword with wavy (flamboyant) blades, for which this encyclopedia assigns the name flambard/flammard. There are books on swords that have confounded the two.

FLAMBARD ou FLAMMARD. Sorte de flamberge á lame longue, dont les tranchants, au lieu d'être droits, formaient des sinuosités qui lui donnaient l'apparence d'une flamme.

FLAMBERGE. C'était la plus forte et la plus lourde des épées dont on fit usage au moyen âge. La lame en était large, épaisse au milieu, longue, pointue, à deux tranchants et luisante. Lorsque le poids des flamberges les rapprochait de celui des masses, elles s'appelaient plombées; lorsqu'elles étaient courtes et pouvaient faire l'office de haches, on les nommait verduns ou brands. Elles recevaient aussi des noms particuliers sous lesquels elles étaient renommées lorsqu'elles appartenaient à des guerriers illustres.
Ce mot, dit M. Francisque Michel.. {voyez dessus} :
Selon Charles Nodier, flamberge signifie non-seulement épée, mais épée soignée, par opposition à rouillarde
&mdashl;Chesnel de la Charbouclais Enc. milit. et marit. p.538
FLAMBARD or FLAMMARD. Type of flamberge with a long blade, which instead of being straight-edged form a swerving (wavy) curve that gives it flame-like appearance.

FLAMBERGE. This used to be the strongest and heaviest sword in usage during the middle ages. The blade was wide and thick at mid-length, long, pointed, sharp and gleaming. When they weighed as much as maces, they were called plombées;, and when they were short and functioned as azes, they were called verduns [* named after the city of manufacture] or brands. Flamberge was also the proper name of swords belonging to famed warriors. According to Francisque Michel, {see above, since Scheler misquotes "duc Begon" as "duc de Begon" and "Loheranc" as "Loranc"} :
According to Charles Nodier, flamberge does not denote any plain ordinary sword, but rather a "well-groomed sword" as opposed to a rusty one.
—tr. mine

*1 Chesnel de la Charbouclais, Louis Pierre François Adolphe, marquis de, 1791-1862. ed., Encyclopédie militaire et maritime: Dictionnaire des armées de terre et de mer (Paris, A. le Chevalier, 1865) [books.google] 1er partie A-F 2e partie G-Z


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