Jean Froissart.

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Photogravure from the original painting by F. Bauer, exhibited in the
Paris Salon of 1900.

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IN reading the chronicles of the immortal Froissart, it would
seem necessary, as a means to the proper understanding
of his time and consequently of the chronicles, to con-
sider first the history of the writer, and secondly the institution
of chivalry.

Jean Froissart was born at Valenciennes in the year 1337.
Being destined for the Church, he received a liberal education,
but soon displayed a passion for poetry and the charms of
knightly society. At the age of twenty he began to write a
history of the wars of his time, and made several journeys to
examine the theatre of the events he was about relate. The
composition of this work, which forms the first part of his
chronicles, occupied him about three years (1357-60). On
its completion he went over to England, where he was received
with great favor by Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III.
In 1362 she appointed him clerk of her chapel and secretary.
Two years afterward he visited Scotland, where he became
the guest of King David Bruce, and also of William, Earl of
Douglas. Everywhere the gay, poetical, quick-witted, and
shrewdly observant Frenchman was welcomed and honored.
In 1366 he accompanied the Black Prince to Aquitaine and
Bordeaux. He afterward went with the Duke of Clarence to
Italy. Froissart, together with Chaucer and Petrarch, was
present at the marriage of this prince, at Milan, with the daugh-
ter of Galeazzo Visconti, and directed the festivities given by
Amadeus VI, of Savoy, in honor of the duke. On the death of
his protectress Philippa, Froissart gave up all connection with
England, and, after many adventures, entered the service of
Wenceslaus, Duke of Brabant, as private secretary. The duke
himself was a poet, and the chronicler made a collection of his
master's verses, to which he added some of his own, and en-
titled the whole " Meliador, or the Knight of the Golden Sun,"




On the death of Wenceslaus he entered the service of Guy,
Count of Blois, who encouraged him to continue his chronicles.
He now took a journey to the court of Gaston Phoebus, Count
de Foix, that he might hear from the lips of the knights of
Beam and Gascony an account of their exploits. In 1394 he
obtained the canonry and treasurership of the collegiate
church of Chimay; in the following year visited England,
where he was courteously and generously entertained by King
Richard II; and on his return spent the remainder of. his life
in completing his great work. He died at Chimay in 1410.

And, now as to chivalry. Chivalry as an institute, however,
was not confined to any one country, but pervaded the whole
of Western Europe ; and, when at its height, it had everywhere
its settled orders, rules, and customs. The warriors of chiv-
alrous times, both in England and elsewhere and all who had
any pretensions to rank or character were then aspirants to
military fame underwent a long initiation, and had to pass
through the several stages of page, squire, and knight, each
office having requirements, duties, and responsibilities peculiar
to itself. Valor, love, and religion were said to be the three
leading features of the knightly character; but if all which
contributed to true knighthood is to be included in this three-
fold category, the terms must be taken in a most comprehensive
sense ; under valor must be included loyalty, generosity, a love
of independence; not merely a stout heart in meeting dangers
when dangers arise, but a decided inclination to court danger
wherever it might be found the love of danger, not perhaps
for its own sake, but for the glory of surmounting it. To do
honor to his knighthood by some gallant deed was the first
thought of everyone on whom that distinction was conferred ;
indeed, he was scarcely considered to have deserved the name
of a knight who performed no signal feat of arms the very
first time his banner was displayed. If no more fitting oppor-
tunity presented itself, the knight was required to go abroad in
search of adventures; diligently to inquire where there were
wrongs to be redressed, or a cause in which his strength and
prowess might be shown.

Love was the second ingredient in this singular admixture,
and, perhaps, not the least essential of all its component quali-
ties. Without its devotion to the fair sex, chivalry would


have lost a very abundant portion of its life and spirit. Its
very motto was, " For God and the Ladies ; " and the true
knight never drew his sword with more animation, or with a
better assurance of success, than when he fought for the ac-
complishment of some vow which he had made to her whose
love he was anxious to obtain. It was, we may almost say,
a rule of the order, that every youthful aspirant to chivalrous
distinction should select some fair object for the concentra-
tion of his affections, whose cause he was to advocate, whose
honor and good name he was ever ready to protect, whose
smiles and caresses would enliven the intervals of his more
arduous service, and the thought of whom made danger sweet
and victory more glorious. Indeed, a knight, squire, or page,
without such an empress of his heart, was looked upon as a
poor helpless being, and, in the common phraseology of the
times, compared to a horse without a bridle; to a ship with-
out a rudder; and a sword without a hilt. Cervantes says,
" A knight without a mistress is like a tree without leaves or
fruit, or like a body without a soul." The well-known con-
versation between the little page Jean de Saintre and the Dame
des Belles Cousines presents a lively, and, we are bound to
believe, an accurate description of the requirements of chivalry
on this interesting topic.

The Dame des Belles Cousines, having cast her eyes upon
a little page, Jean de Saintre, demanded of him on whom his
affections were set. The poor boy replied that the first object
of his love was his lady mother, and the next his sister,
Jacqueline. " We do not talk now," said the lady, " of the
affection due to your mother and sister, but I desire to know
the name of the lady whom you love par amours." " In faith,
madam," said the page, " I love no one par amours." " Ah !
false gentleman, and traitor to the laws of chivalry," returned
the lady, " dare you say that you love no lady ? Well may we
perceive your falsehood and craven spirit by such an avowal.
Whence were derived the great valor and the high achieve-
ment of Lancelot, of Gawain, of Tristran, of Giron the Cour-
teous, and of other heroes of the Round Table? whence
those of Panthus, and of so many other valiant knights and
squires of this realm, whose names I could enumerate?
whence their exaltation, except from their animating desire


to maintain themselves in the graces and favor of their
ladies ? " At this the simple page, to avoid further reproaches,
replied, that his lady and love, par amours, was Matheline de
Coucy, a child of ten years old. When the Dame des Belles
Cousines had sufficiently expressed her amusement at the re-
ply, she proceeded to lecture her young pupil on the subject,
and to explain to him the principles on which his choice should
be regulated. " Matheline," said the lady, " is a pretty girl,
and of high rank and better lineage than appertains to you.
But what good, what profit, what honor, what comfort, and
what counsel for advancing you in the ranks of chivalry can
you derive from such a choice ? Sir, you should choose a lady
of high and noble blood, who has the talent and means to
counsel and aid you at your need ; and her you ought to serve
so truly and love so loyally, that she must be compelled to ac-
knowledge the true and honorable affection which you bear
to her. For, believe me, there is no lady, however cruel and
haughty, but through length of faithful service will be brought
to acknowledge and reward loyal affection with some portion
of pity, compassion, or mercy." The lecture is continued at
some length upon the seven mortal sins, and the way in which
the true amorous knight may eschew commission of them.
And when poor little Saintre, in despair, asked, " How is it
possible for me to find a lady such as you describe? " his pre-
ceptress made him this reply : " And why should you not find
her ? Are you not gentle born ? Are you not a fine and proper
youth? Have you not eyes to look on her ears to hear her
a tongue to plead your cause to her hands to serve her
feet to move at her bidding body and heart to accomplish
loyally her commands ? And having all these, can you doubt
to adventure yourself in the service of any lady whatsoever? "
Nor is it to be wondered at that gallantry formed so essen-
tial a feature in the character of good knighthood. From his
earliest years, the knight, as we have already observed, was
brought up at the castle of some great lord or baron, and great
lords and barons in those days were little sovereigns, and their
castles the courts where all the beauty of the age assembled ;
where politeness, civility, courtesy in short, everything that
favored gallantry and love, was scrupulously cared for and
maintained. Nature would have done violence to her own



principles if the circumstance of the opposite sexes, thus
brought together under all the excitements of court splendor
and martial exercises, had not fostered love, and awakened
within the female bosom the conscious possession of a power
which was to yield only to the long and well-tried service of
her generous assailant.

With regard to religion, the last-named of the three quali-
fications of chivalry, it appears to have been that which more
than any other distinguished this singular institution from
everything that went before it. It is no easy matter to ascer-
tain the precise time when religious and military ardor became
first blended. There is nothing in Christianity which, inde-
pendent of other causes, would originate this union. Its pre-
cepts are of a contrary tendency ; they speak of peace, meek-
ness, patience, good-will toward men. We must not, how-
ever, be misunderstood; if there be nothing in Christianity
which would originate this union, there is at the same time
nothing which, under certain circumstances, and especially
for purposes of self-defence, would condemn it. What Chris-
tian heart in England cannot sympathize with the struggles of
our Saxon ancestors against the heathen Danes? Who has
not, in imagination at least, become a warrior when reading of
the ravages of Pagan tribes over countries once converted to
the fold of Christ? Who has not reckoned among the most
glorious achievements of the Carlovingian dynasty, that it
checked the growing power of the imperious Saracens, and
depressed the Crescent while it upheld the Cross ?

In its religious aspect chivalry presents us with some of its
most interesting features. The whole ceremony of the initia-
tion of knighthood partook of a devotional character; and
though the religion of the times might be debased by error,
it still was enabled to infuse such a spirit into the institution
of chivalry as to render it worthy of our respect and regard.
The holy enthusiasm with which knight and squire entered
upon their office ; the readiness with which they bound them-
selves to defend the Church ; the zeal, energy, and self-denial
with which they abandoned home, friends, and relatives, and
went through much peril, and labor, and suffering, to struggle
in Palestine for what they believed to be the cause of God
these cannot but awaken our admiration and love, whatever


errors and exaggerations may have been mixed up with

Instead of that habitual indulgence, which gave rise to
polygamy and all its baneful consequences, chivalry imposed
those wholesome restraints and forbearances which, at an
earlier period, had produced such beneficial results among the
Germanic tribes ; * it taught the youth of both sexes to set
marriage before them as an honorable and holy estate, to be
entered upon after a series of trials had proved that the youth-
ful warrior was worthy of the object of his choice, and his fair
one faithful. And though some may cavil at the romance by
which love was nurtured and led on, there are few persons,
we believe, who would wish to rend the silver cords with which
beauty and valor were united in chivalry, and who cannot enter
into its spirit.

In recounting some of the chief influences of chivalry, we
must not omit to mention its effect upon science and litera-
ture. Before its time, whatever learning existed was confined
to the cloister; but when chivalry arose, it was carried forth
to the world, to take root and increase in society. In the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries upward of one hundred and
eighty chroniclers appeared to record the history of their
times. And, in addition to these, there arose also a crowd of
minor poets, under the title of bards, minstrels, " gai chan-
teurs," and troubadours, who celebrated in their verses his-
torical as well as imaginary events. These chronicles are
valuable to us, as being in general graphic and living pictures
of the times they undertake to record ; and in many instances
they throw light upon questions of general interest and im-
portance, which can be gleaned from no other source. The
very circumstance of their being simple representations of
events as they occurred, with very little admixture of senti-
ment or opinion, renders them extremely important as his-
torical documents. Nor can we suppose that these were with-
out their influence at the time in which they were written. It
is true, there were then but few opportunities of circulation ;
but the very recording of events was a movement in a right
direction, and calculated to aid the great work of civilization.

*" Marriage," says Tacitus, " is considered as a strict and sacred institution. In the
national character there is nothing so truly commendable. To be contented with one
wife is peculiar to the Germans." De Mor. Germ, c. 18.


Froissart's chronicles embrace the events occurring 1326-
1400. They are of special importance in illustrating the charac-
ter and manners of his age. The pageantry of feudal times
brightens his pages ; the din of arms, the shouting of knights, and
the marshalling of troops, is ever and anon heard ; while " visions
of fair women " rise before us as we read. The gorgeous feasts
and spectacles in which he so much delighted are set forth in
copious details; and though he is no philosopher, his shrewd
observations and richly minute descriptions have helped others
to philosophize. Froissart's chronicles first appeared at Paris
about the end of the fifteenth century, under the title of
Chroniques de France, d'Angleterre, d'Ecosse, d'Espagne, de
Bretagne, de Gascogne, Flanders et lieux d'alentour. In
English there are two versions: one executed in 1523-25 by
Bourchier Lord Berners (reprinted in 1812) ; and the other
in 1803-5 by Thomas Johnes, of which the latter is the more




Sir John Froissart Undertakes to Write the History of the Reign of
Edward III i

Invasion of Brittany by Edward III, and the Battle of Poitiers 28


Liberation of David of Scotland New Campaign in Brittany, and
the Death of King John of France 66


War between Castille and France, and the Tragical End of Don
Pedro 91


Provoked by French Challenge, Edward Invades France Death of
Queen Philippa, and Sickness of the Black Prince 114


Affairs in Aquitaine and in Spain Death of Edward III, and of the

Black Prince, and Coronation of Richard II 137"


Alliance Between France and Scotland Rivalry for the Popedom,
and Wars in Flanders 151


Concerning Affairs in Brittany Death of Du Guesclin and of the

King of France 174





Siege of Ghent and Troubles in Portugal Rising in England of

John Ball, Wat Tyler, and Jack Straw 202


More Troubles in Flanders and in Portugal After Conquering
Flanders, the French Determine to Leave It 231


City of Ghent in Revolt King of France Assists the Earl of Flan-
ders against the English, and also Invades Scotland 264


Arrival of French Admiral in Edinburgh, and Ultimate Failure of
the French Expedition 282


Froissart Visits the Count de Foix Wars of Castille and Portugal,
and Battle of Aljubarota 301


Siege of Brest and Appeal from the King of Armenia against the
Turks 333


Duke of Lancaster Aids Portugal and is Proclaimed King of Castille
France Prepares to Invade England 353


Hostilities Between France and England, and Treachery of the Duke
of Brittany 373


Details of the Expedition into Castille, and of the Sufferings of the
Duke of Lancaster's Army 403



LA CIGALE'S REVENGE . . . . . Frontispiece
Photogravure from the original painting by F. Bauer

SONGS OF SPRING . . . . . . . 300

Photogravure from the original painting by William Adolfe



Sir John Froissart Undertakes to Write the History of the Times of
Edward III Early Years and Coronation of King Edward Message
of Defiance from King Robert of Scotland to Edward Scots Under
Sir James Douglas Invade England English, in Pursuit, Enter Scot-
land Marriage of King Edward Death of King Robert His Com-
mission on his Death-bed to Lord James Douglas Its Event, and the
Death of Lord James Philip of Valois Proclaimed King of France
Dispute Concerning Berwick-upon-Tweed Dissensions in Flanders
Jacob von Artaveld English Expedition into Flanders King of
France Prepares to Oppose the English Challenges Route of the
English Army, and Sieges Sir Walter Manny Lord Henry of Flan-
ders Knighted Story of the Abbot of Hennecourt Meeting of the
Armies of France and England Their Respective Forces Separate
Without a Battle Edward Assumes Arms and Title of King of
France, and Returns to England Ship Christopher Duke of Nor-
mandy Carries on the War Edward Again Repairs to Flanders
Solemn Treaty Between Flanders, Brabant, and Hainault Siege of
Tournay Truce, and Return of King Edward Scots Again Invade
England Bold Action of Sir William Douglas Death of the Duke
of Brittany Disputes About Right of Succession between Charles
de Blois and the Duke de Montfort Scots Advance to Newcastle,
and Destroy Durham Wark Castle Besieged Countess of Salis-
bury Edward Pursues the Scottish Army.

TO encourage all valorous hearts, and to show them
honorable examples, I, John Froissart,o will begin to
relate the actions of the noble King Edward of Eng-
land, who so potently reigned, and who was engaged in so
many battles and perilous adventures, from the year of grace

a For the first twenty years of his his- Le Bel, formerly Canon of St. Lam-
tory, Froissart's authorities are the belt's, at Liege.
documents and papers of Master John

VOL. I. i I


1326, when he was crowned King. Although he and all those
who were with him in his battles and fortunate rencounters, or
with his army when he was not there in person, which you shall
hear as we go on, ought to be accounted right valiant ; yet, of
these, some should be esteemed super-eminent such as the
Prince of Wales, the King's son, the Duke of Lancaster, Sir
Reginald Lord Cobham, Sir Walter Manny of Hainault, Sir
John Chandos, Sir Fulke Harley, and many others who are re-
corded in this book for their worth and prowess. In France,
also, was found good chivalry, strong of limb, and stout of
heart, in great abundance such as King Philip of Valois, and
his son, King John ; also John, King of Bohemia, and Charles,
Count of Alen9on, his son; the Count of Foix, and others
that I cannot now name. The better to understand the hon-
orable and eventful history of King Edward we must remark
a common opinion in England, of which there have been
proofs since the time of King Arthur, that between two
valiant kings there is always one weak in mind and body ;
and most true it is, that this is apparent in the example of
the gallant King Edward, of whom I am now to speak; for
his father, King Edward II, was weak, unwise, and cowardly,
while his grandfather, called the good King Edward I, was
wise, brave, very enterprising, and fortunate in war.

King Edward II had two brothers ; one was the Earl Mar-
shal, of a wild and disagreeable temper ; the other Lord Ed-
mund of Kent, who was wise, affable, and much beloved.
This King had married the daughter of Philip the Fair, King
of France, who was one of the greatest beauties of her time ;
and by her had two sons and two daughters. The elder son
was our noble King, Edward ; the other, named John, died
young. Of the two daughters, Isabella, the elder, was mar-
ried to King David of Scotland ; and the younger to the Count
Reginald, subsequently called Duke of Guelderland. His-
tory tells us that Philip the Fair had three sons, besides his
beautiful daughter, Isabella, who, as we have said, was mar-
ried to King Edward II of England. These all in turn be-
came kings of France, and died without male issue. Where-
upon the princes and barons of France, holding the opinion
that no woman ought to reign in so noble a kingdom, de-
termined to pass by Queen Isabella and her son, and to con-


fer the government on Philip of Valois ; which exclusion of
Isabella from the right of succession to the throne of France
became the occasion of the most devastating wars, as well in
France as elsewhere ; and the real object of this history is to
relate the great enterprises and deeds of arms achieved in
these wars.

It has been remarked that Edward II was a weak and un-
wise king. Having no head for government, he suffered the
kingdom to be ruled by one Sir Hugh Spencer, a favorite.
This Sir Hugh so managed matters, that his father and him-
self were the great masters of the realm. By his overbearing
conduct, however, he soon contracted the hatred of the
barons and nobles; and on one occasion, when he found it
necessary to check the opposition which these were raising
against him, he informed the King that they had entered into
an alliance, and that unless he caused certain of them to be
arrested, they would very shortly drive him from his king-
dom. Whereupon, such was the influence of Sir Hugh, that
twenty-two of the chief barons of England were seized in one
day, and had their heads struck off without any cause or rea-
son being assigned. He also succeeded, by his wicked coun-
sels, in fomenting variance between the King and Queen,
until the latter was compelled secretly to retire to France, in
company with her young son, Edward, the Earl of Kent, and
Sir Roger Mortimer. The Queen embarked by night from
Winchelsea, and having a fair wind, landed the next morn-
ing at Boulogne, where she was handsomely entertained by
the governor of the town and the abbot, and on the third day
after her arrival continued her route to Paris. Here her
brother, the noble King Charles, most graciously received
her, and after listening to her lamentation and distress " Fair
cousin," he said, " be appeased ; for, by the faith I owe to
God and to St. Denis, I will provide a remedy." To this
the Queen, on her knees, replied, " My dear lord and brother,
I pray God may second your intentions." Charles then, tak-
ing his sister by the hand, conducted her to an apartment
which had been richly furnished for her reception, and gave
orders that everything becoming her state should be provided
for her from his own treasury. Very shortly after this,
Charles assembled his great lords and barons to consult what


was best to be done in the business of the Queen of England,
his sister; and their advice was, that she should be allowed
to purchase friends and assistance in France, and that Charles
should provide her with gold and silver for that purpose ;
secretly, however, so as not to bring a war with England upon
his own country.

The pride of Sir Hugh had now become so intolerable that

Online LibraryJean FroissartChronicles of England, France, Spain and the adjoining countries (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 43)