Le Bone Florence of Rome

General Information

(N)IMEV: 334
Form: 12-line tail-rhyme stanzas, rhyming aabccbddbeeb
Date of Composition: Late fourteenth century
Place of Composition: North Midlands
Keywords: Accused Queen, Disease, Disguise, Education, Ekphrasis, Exile, Familial Discord, Forest, Heraldry, Incest, Jerusalem, Marriage, Merchants, Military Combat, Mistaken Identity, Penance, Pilgrimage, Rape, Religious Figures, Religious Spaces, Rome, Sacrament, Saracen, Secular Spaces, Sexual Encounters, Siege, Steward, Supernatural, The Third Estate, Travel, Treachery, Urban Spaces

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

Despite being wizened with age, Garcy, the Emperor of Constantinople, proposes marriage to Florence, the beautiful daughter of Otes, Emperor of Rome. When Florence expresses disgust, Otes rejects the offer and war is declared. Garcy’s messengers return to Constantinople, where they describe Rome in detail before his army sets sail.

Otes’ troops are joined by Emere and Mylys, disinherited princes of Hungary. Florence falls in love with Emere, but on seeing the assembled armies offers to marry Garcy to protect Rome. Her father refuses and the battle continues. Emere fights bravely, rescuing the cowardly Mylys, and Florence calls out a promise to marry him. Despite Emare’s efforts, however, he is captured and Otes is slain. Florence mourns as the Romans retreat into the city, besieged by Garcy’s army.

The starving barons advise Florence to marry Mylys. But Emere is released, returns to the city and, to Mylys' fury, marries Florence and becomes Emperor. She refuses to consummate the marriage, however, until Garcy is dead. Entrusting Florence to Mylys, Emere pursues Garcy to Constantinople. Mylys, plotting to take his brother’s position, claims that Emere is dead: Florence takes a vow of chastity and he imprisons her in the palace. She is rescued by the Pope and an army of clerics, who imprison Mylys and assure Florence that Emere is alive.

Meanwhile, Emere conquers Constantinople and returns to Rome. Florence releases Mylys, who accuses her of adultery. When this fails, he abducts Florence and attempts to rape her in a forest. Her prayers kill his desire, but he burns a hermit’s cell, strips her and hangs her by the hair from a tree. She is found by a lord called Terry, who takes her into his castle as a governess. When a knight tries to rape her, Florence beats him violently. In revenge he murders Terry’s daughter, accuses Florence and demands that she be burnt. Terry returns her to the forest, and she decides to travel to Jerusalem.

On her way, Florence rescues a thief from hanging and employs him as her page. But when they reach the port he conspires with a Burges and sells her to a mariner. When Florence is on board, the mariner tries to force himself on her, breaking her ribs: she prays Mary to preserve her virginity, and the ship is destroyed by a storm. Washed ashore, Florence makes her way to the abbey of Beuerfayre, where she lives as a nun.

When she miraculously cures one of the sisters, Florence’s fame as a healer spreads and Emere travels to the abbey, seeking relief from a festering wound. Her persecutors, all afflicted with grotesque diseases, do likewise. Florence recognises them, laughs, and encourages them to confess their sins. As they do so, they piece together her story and, after she has healed them, Emere has them burned. He and Florence return to Rome, where they finally consummate their relationship and conceive a child. The poet concludes by saying that Pope Symonde wrote the story as a moral against falsehood.

From: Carol Falvo Heffernan, ed. Le Bone Florence of Rome. Manchester: University Press, 1976.
Manuscript: Cambridge University Library, MS Ff.2.38


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Cambridge University Library, MS Ff.2.38 (folio: 239r-254v)1420-50. Unique copy. 2189 lines.

Modern Editions

C.F. Heffernan, ed., Le Bone Florence of Rome (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1976)Edited from MS Ff.2.38.
J. Ritson, ed., Ancient English Metrical Romances, 3 vols (London, 1802)Vol 3. Pp. 1-92. Edited from MS Ff.2.38.
Wilhelm Vietor, ed., Le Bone Florence of Rome (Marburg, 1899)Edited from MS Ff.2.38.


Lost French version of Florence de Rome