David Auberts Croniques et Conquestes de Charlemagne were produced in a very specific context for a particular readership. It was written in the court of Philippe le Bon, Duke of Burgundy and ruler of diverse collection of territories under both the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire. In the text, Charlemagne is both French king and Roman Emperor. Auberts text reveals a profound ambivalence to a Charlemagne who is claimed as an ancestor to the current duke, but who also occupies the thrones of that dukes overlords. In this context, tales of rebellious barons may be read as a reflection of the restless urban politics with which Philippe had to contend but they can also be seen as representations of Philippes own ambitions to free himself from his royal superiors. Auberts text is in part a study of rulership. His Charlemagne does not always appear to be a good ruler by modern standards. He is prone to anger and what appear to be emotional outbursts, but there is evidence that this was expected in the representation of monarchy in the fifteenth century, and does not in itself constitute a criticism. However, when we consider the grisaille illustrations by Jean Tavernier in the luxury manuscript from Philippes library, a more ambivalent figure appears. The illustrations support a reading which is critical of Charlemagne in his handling of rebellion. Always associated with the dual monarchies of France and the Empire, and placed in authoritative postures, Charlemagne is
positioned within the illustrations to signals moments when the emperor loses his authority. Read together, text and image portray an ambiguous king to a complex contemporary readership.