borrowed from French beauseant, beauceant
, altered, probably by false etymology, from Old French bauceant, baucent
, literally, “piebald (of a horse)”
The spellings beauseant or beauceant are modern corruptions of medieval French bauceant, the locus classicus for which is a passage in the Historia Hierosolymitana (“History of Jerusalem”) of Jacques de Vitry/Jacobus Vitriacus, written ca. 1216-24: “ … Leones in bello, agni mansueti in domo: in expeditione, milites asperi; in ecclesia, velut eremitae & monachi: inimicis Christi duri & feroces; Christianis autem, benigni & mites: vexillum bipartitum ex albo & nigro, quod nominant Bauceant, praeuium habentes: eo quod Christi amicis candidi sunt, & benigni; nigri autem & terribiles inimicis” - “The Templars were] lions in war, mild as lambs at home; on campaign they were fierce soldiers, in church like hermits and monks; they were harsh and savage to the enemies of Christ, but to Christians kind and gentle; they had a black and white banner, which they called Bauceant, borne ahead of them, signifying that they were well-disposed (literally, “white”) to their friends, but black and terrible to their enemies” (chapter 65). The Latin text is from the edition by the French scholar and diplomat Jacques Bongars, in the collection Gesta Dei per Francos, siue Orientalium expeditionum et Regni Francorum Hierosolimitani Historia, tomus primus, Hanover, 1611, p. 1084 (the passage is nearly identical in an earlier edition by François Mosch or Moschus, Iacobi de Vitriaco … Libri duo, Douai, 1597, p. 118). An early version of the corrupt spelling is contained in a book on the military orders by the Flemish clergyman Frans Mennens, Deliciae equestrium, siue Militarium ordinum (Cologne, 1613), in which the relevant passage reads “ … quod nominant Beauceant (quasi Beauseant) praeuium habentes” (p. 76). A further variation is contained in various 19th-century French and English books dealing with the Templars, e.g., Charles Greenstreet Addison’s The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple (London: Longman, 1842), p. 50: “ … quod nominant Beau-seant id est Gallicâ linguâ Bien-seant” - “ … that is, in the French tongue, Bien-seant … ” This appears to be a late marginal note mistakenly incorporated in the text of a manuscript, but the exact source is not cited. Note that bauceant was correctly entered and analyzed in the 17th century by Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange, in his Glossarium mediae et infimae Latinitatis (see the searchable on-line edition by the École Nationale des Chartes, ducange.enc.sorbonne.fr).