minstrel: "March of the Kings"

Lisa and Ken Theriot Lnktheriot at satx.rr.com
Tue Jan 27 14:51:36 PST 2009

Hey Yseulte,

[I'm hoping someone here can send me to some authoritative sources on
the history of the Provencal carol "March of the Kings" or "La Marche
Des Rois Mages" or "March of Turenne". Most sources say it's from 13th
century Provence, but some claim it was written by Lully in praise of
Turenne. Does anybody have any sources showing the tune existed prior to

That melody rocks, doesn't it?

When researching stuff from Provence, remember that the oldest info will
not be found under a French title, but under an Occitan one.  Searching
for the Occitan title "Marcho dei Rei" got me a Google Books hit for the
programme of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the 1915-1916 season,
"with historical and descriptive notes by Philip Hale" (bless him!).


They played Bizet's L'Arle/sienne Suite #1, which is pretty much
entirely ripped off from Provenc,al melodies.  Of the melody in
question, Hale writes:

The tune, given out in unison, in an old Provenc,al No"el, or Christmas
song, concerning which there is a dispute; for some, as Julien Tiersot,
say that the tune is "The March of Turenne's Regiment"; that it became
popular in Provence, and was adopted there as the national song, the
"Marcho dei Re\i; while others, as the learned J.B. Weckerlin, say this
title, "March of Turenne", was given by Castil-Blaze to a march
published by him in 1855 or 1856, and that the tune was not used by the
soldiers under Turenne.*  The tune in its original form, for Bizet made
some rhythmic changes, may be found, with the words attributed to King
Rene/, in "Lou Tamborin", by F. Vidal, the younger, published at Avignon
(pp. 258, 259).  The words by Rene/, Comte d'Anjou et de Provence, first
Duke of Lorraine and King of Sicily (1408-80) are of course much earlier
than the air, even if it had been left in Provence by Turenne's men:--

De matin
Ai rescountra lou trin
De tres grand re\i qu'anavon en via\gi.

Or as the French version has it:--

De bon matin
J'ai rencontre/ le train
De trois grands rois qui allaient en voyage...

The note marked with the * reads:
But the air itself is many years older than its title.  Bizet used more
than one Provenc,al melody in "L'Arle/sienne."  The theme of the
farandole is that of the "Danso dei Chivau-Frus": "the flute weds itself
to the pan, pan, pan, of the tambourine."  He again references "Lou
Tambourin" given above, PP. 246, 248.


So, that should get you further down the road.  If the lyrics are
attributed to King Rene/, there's probably a MS citation for them
somewhere, and it may or may not mention the intended melody.  You might
want to track down a copy of "Lou Tambourin" and see what it says.

Besides the "rhythmical changes" Hale notes that Bizet introduced, he
probably also introduced the accidental, if the melody truly dates from
the 13th century.  If the melody is later, the accidental becomes more
likely, especially where it is (at the 7th).

Tunes in general are often hard to date.  "Old" is a very frustrating
descriptive.  I'm still trying to chase down an actual date for the
Catalan melody "El Cant dels Ocells (Carol of the Birds)" which is
"traditional" and "hundreds of years old" but so far not traceable to a
nice manuscript somewhere.  Sigh.

Hope that helps!


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