Jean Froissart.

Honour & arms : tales from Froissart online

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Page 32.


Tales from Froissart



Author of " Stpries from the Faerie Queene,
" The Book of King Arthur," &c.




214-220, EAST 23rd STREET




How the War began between France

and England I

"Knights of the Hare" . ... 6

The Great Sea-Fight at Sluys . . 14
How Twelve Men took Edinburgh

Castle 19

King Edward in Normandy ... 25

The Passage of the Ford ... 32

The Battle of Crecy .... 36

The Siege of Calais 49

The Battle of Poitiers .... 62

How a Servant saved his Master . 79





The Sad Story of the Count de Foix's

Only Son 91

The Magic Messenger . . . 107

A Child-Queen 120

The Heart of King Robert Bruce . 129


"Ah, Sire and noble King,
what are you about to
do?" .

They perceived by his banner
that the King of England
was on board

They tied him to a cart, with
some of their harness


To face page l6


Grappling with the squire, flung him to
the ground

" My lord, you show but little confidence
in the honour of my brother, the
King of Navarre" ....

"I will send you a champion that you
will be more afraid of" .






How the War began between France
and England

HISTORY tells us that Philip, King of France,
surnamed " the Handsome," had three sons,
besides his beautiful daughter, Isabella, who
was married to King Edward II. of England.
Those three sons were also very handsome.
The eldest was called Louis; the second,
Philip the Long (or Tall) ; and the third,
Charles. All these were Kings of France after
their father King Philip, in lawful succession,
and died without leaving any sons of their
own to succeed them.

When the youngest brother, Charles, died,
the twelve peers and barons of France did
not give the kingdom to Isabella, the sister,
for they held the country was so noble that


no woman was worthy to govern it ; neither
did they give it to her son, who was now
Edward III. of England, for they said the son
could have no claim where the mother had
none. For these reasons they gave the king-
dom of France to Philip of Valois, nephew
of King Philip the Handsome. Thus, as it
seemed to many people, the succession went
out of the right line, and this gave rise to the
long and bitter wars between France and
England in the fourteenth and fifteenth

King Edward III. thought he had a right-
ful claim to the throne of France, and was
not disposed to give it up lightly. He there-
fore asked his Privy Council what they ad-
vised him to do. They all agreed it was too
great a matter for them to decide, and coun-
selled King Edward to consult the Earl of
Hainault, whose daughter he had married.
Ambassadors were accordingly sent over to
Holland and Flanders, and the Earl of
Hainault and many other rich and power-
ful lords said that if Edward would attack
the French King Philip, they would stand


by him and bring a large army to help

It was agreed that this should be done the
summer following, after the Feast of St. John
the Baptist, which is June 24. When, there-
fore, winter was over, and summer come, and
the Feast of St. John the Baptist drawing near,
the lords of England and Germany made pre-
parations to invade France. The King of
France also made his preparations to meet
them, for he was well acquainted with part of
what they intended, though he had not yet
received any challenge. King Edward col-
lected his stores in England, and as soon as
St. John's Day was passed, took them across
the sea to Vilvorde, a small town in Brabant,
between Brussels and Mechlin, on the river
Senne. Here he remained till September,
waiting for the German lords to bring up
their troops as they had promised, but they
kept on making constant excuses for delay.
At last, in obedience to his summons, they
came to Mechlin, where, after many debates
they agreed that the King ought to be able to
march in a fortnight, when they would be quite


ready; and in order that their cause might
have a better appearance they determined to
send challenges to King Philip. These chal-
lenges were given in charge to the Bishop of
Lincoln, who carried them to Paris, and did
his message so justly and well that he was
blamed by no one.

A week after the challenges had been sent,
and when he imagined the King of France
had received them, a gallant English knight,
Sir Walter Manny, collected about forty men
on whom he knew he could rely, and rode
night and day till he came to the borders of
France. This he did because he had made
a promise in England in the presence of
nobles and ladies that he would be the first
to enter France, and take some castle or
strong town, and perform some gallant feat
of arms.

A little before sunrise, Sir Walter Manny
and his followers came to a town called
Mortaigne, where luckily they found the
wicket open. Sir Walter alighted, with some
of his companions, and having passed the


wicket in silence, and placed a guard there,
he then with his pennon marched down the
street before the great Tower, but the gate
and the wicket of the Tower were close shut.
The watchman of the castle heard their
voices, and seeing them from his post began
to cry out " Treason ! Treason ! " This awak-
ened the soldiers and inhabitants, but they
did not make any sally from the fort. Sir
Walter on this retreated into the street, and
after setting fire to some of the houses, which
greatly alarmed the townsfolk, he marched
away with his little band. After this he took
two or three other strong castles, and then
he returned to Brabant, to King Edward,
whom he found at Mechlin, and to whom
he related all he had done.

When King Philip received the challenges
from King Edward and his allies, he collected
men-at-arms and soldiers from all quarters.
As soon as they knew war was declared, a
band of corsairs Genoese, Bretons, Nor-
mans, Picards, and Spaniards whom King
Philip supported at his own cost to harass


the English, landed one Sunday morning
in the harbour at Southampton, whilst the
inhabitants were at church. They entered
the town, pillaged it, killed many, and injured
more, and having loaded their vessels with
booty, made sail for the coast of Normandy.
They landed at Dieppe, and there divided the

Thus began the long and bitter war be-
tween France and England.

The Knights of the Hare

In the meanwhile there were many skir-
mishes in Flanders where King Edward was,
for all the different States were quarrelling
with each other, and some took side with the
English, and some were against them. The
old Earl of Hainault died, and the young
Earl William consented to fight for King
Edward only as long as he remained on
Flemish ground; Earl William said the
moment the King crossed the border into
France he would have to leave him, for the
French King, his uncle, had sent to him to


request his aid, and he did not wish to
incur his ill-will.

When, therefore, they came to the river
Scheldt, which was the boundary between the
two countries, the young Earl took his leave,
and turned back with all his troops. King
Edward crossed the Scheldt, and entered the
kingdom of France, and his people began
to over-run the country and lay it waste.
News soon came to him that Philip, the
French King, was coming after him, with
an army of a hundred thousand men. King
Edward counted his own men, and found
they amounted to more than forty thousand,
so he resolved to wait for King Philip and
offer him battle.

The King of France now advanced to
within two leagues of the English, where he
halted his army, in readiness to fight. Earl
William of Hainault hearing news of this,
pushed forward at once to join him, with
about five hundred fighting men. When he
presented himself before his uncle, King
Philip did not receive him very graciously,
because he had been fighting in Flanders


on the side of his adversary. Earl William,
however, managed to excuse himself so hand-
somely that the King and his counsellors
were well enough satisfied, and the marshal
who had the arranging of the forces posted
him not far from the English lines.

The King of England and the King of
France were now both encamped on a great
plain, so that neither had any advantage of
ground. In the memory of man there had
never been seen so fine an assembly of great
lords as were there gathered together. For
the King of France was there in person, and
he had with him King Charles of Bohemia,
the King of Navarre, and the young King
David of Scotland, who was brother-in-law
to King Edward III., but then at war with
him, for there was constant strife between
Scotland and England in those days. Dukes,
counts, barons, and knights without number
were also with the French King, and they
were daily increasing. The King of England
also had with him a gallant array of noble
lords and warriors.

When the King of England knew that the


King- of France was within two leagues of
him, he summoned the chiefs of his army,
and asked what was the best way to preserve
his honour, for it was his intention to fight.
The lords looked at each other, and requested
the Duke of Brabant to give his opinion.
The Duke replied that he was for fighting,
as they could not depart in honour without
it, and he advised that a herald should be
sent to the King of France to offer him battle,
and to have the day fixed.

A herald who could speak French well
was chosen for this commission. King Philip
willingly accepted the challenge, and ap-
pointed the following Friday for the battle,
this being Wednesday. The herald returned
to the English host, well clad in handsome
furred mantles, which the French King and
lords had bestowed on him for the sake of
the message he bore. The day being thus
fixed, the captains of both armies were told
what had been arranged, and every one made
his preparations accordingly.

When Friday morning came, the two
armies got themselves in readiness, and heard


mass, each lord among his own people, and
in his own quarters.

The English army was drawn out on the
plain and formed three battalions of infantry.
The first battalion was commanded by the
Duke of Gueldres and other Flemish lords,
the second by the Duke of Brabant, and the
third, which was the greatest, by the King in
person. King Edward had with him many
gallant lords, and he created many knights
on the field of battle, as was the custom
of the times. When everything had been
arranged, and each lord under his proper
banner as had been ordered by the marshals,
King Edward mounted an ambling palfrey,
and attended only by Sir Robert d'Artois, Sir
Reginald Cobham, and Sir Walter Manny,
rode along the lines of his army, and en-
treated the lords and their companions to aid
him to preserve his honour, which they
all promised. He then returned to his own
division, set himself in battle array, as became
him, and ordered that no one should advance
before the banners of the marshals.

In the French army there were four kings,


six dukes, twenty-six earls, upwards of five
thousand knights, and more than forty thou-
sand common men. The French were formed
in three large battalions, each consisting of
fifteen thousand men at arms, and twenty
thousand men on foot.

Strange to say, after all these preparations
there was no battle at all !

It was a matter of much wonder how two
such fine armies could separate without fight-
ing. But the French could not agree among
themselves, and began to argue and dispute,
each speaking out his thoughts. Some said
it would be a great shame and very blame-
worthy if King Philip did not give battle
when he saw his enemies so near, and drawn
up in his own kingdom in battle array to
fight with him according to his promise.
Others said it would be a signal token of
madness to fight, as they were not certain
that some treachery was not intended. Be-
sides, they said, if fortune went against them,
King Philip ran a great risk of losing his
kingdom, while even if he conquered he would
be no nearer gaining possession of England.


Thus the day passed till nearly twelve
o'clock in dispute and debate. About noon,
it happened that a hare was started in the
plain and ran among the French army, who
began to make a great shouting and noise.
Those in the rear imagined that fighting had
begun in the front, and many put on their
helmets and made ready their swords. In
preparation for the coming battle, some
of the French leaders began making fresh
knights ; in especial, the young Earl of Hain-
ault, who in the excitement of the moment
knighted fourteen of his followers. These
were always known afterwards as "the
Knights of the Hare."

In this situation the two armies remained
all Friday, without moving, except as has
been told. In the midst of the debates of the
French King's council, letters were brought
to King Philip from Robert, King of Sicily.
This King was said to be a great astrologer,
and full of deep and strange knowledge. He
had often studied the influence of the stars
on the lives of King Philip and King Edward,
and according to his belief he found by astro-


logy that if ever the King of France fought
with the King of England in person, the
French King would surely be defeated. In
consequence of this, he as a wise king, and
much fearing the danger and peril of his
cousin, King Philip, had long before sent
letters most earnestly to beg King Philip
and his council never to give battle to the
English when King Edward should be there
in person.

This letter from the King of Sicily, and
the doubts they already felt, sorely disheart-
ened many of the French lords. The King
was told of this, and notwithstanding was
very eager for the combat, but he was so
strongly dissuaded from it that the day passed
quietly, and each man retired to his quarters.

When the Earl of Hainault saw there was
no likelihood of a battle he departed with
all his people, and returned to Flanders.
Then the King of England, the Duke of
Brabant, and the other lords began to prepare
for their return, packed up their baggage,
and went that Friday night to Avesnes in
Hainault, where they took up their quarters.


The King of France retired to his lodgings,
very angry that the battle had not taken
place. But his councillors told him he had
acted very rightly, and had valiantly pursued
his enemies, insomuch that he had driven
them out of his kingdom, and that the King
of England would have to make many such
expeditions before he could conquer the
kingdom of France. The next day King
Philip gave permission for all to depart
dukes, barons, knights, and so on, most
courteously thanking the leaders for having
come so well equipped to serve and assist
him. Thus ended this great expedition, and
every man returned to his own house.

The Great Sea^Fight at Sluys

King Edward III. arrived back in England
about St. Andrew's Day, 1339, and was joy-
fully received by his subjects, who were
anxious for his return. Great complaints
were made to him of the ravages which the
Norman, Picard, and Spanish corsairs, under
Sir Hugh Quiriel, had committed at South-


hampton; upon which he answered that
whenever it came to his turn, he would make
them pay dearly for it and he kept his word
before a year was out.

In the summer of the following year, 1340,
King Edward again embarked for Flanders, in
order to help his brother-in-law, Sir John
Hainault, in his war against France, for the
Duke of Normandy, eldest son of the King
of France, had invaded his territory. Sir
Hugh Quiriel, with a fleet of over a hundred
and twenty large vessels, lay at anchor just
outside Sluys, by order of the King of France,
waiting the return of the King of England,
to dispute his passage.

When the King's fleet had almost got
to Sluys, they saw so many masts standing
before it that they looked like a wood. The
King asked the commander of his ship what
they could be, and he answered that he
thought they must be the band of Normans
which the King of France kept at sea, which
had so often done the English damage, had
burned the good town of Southampton, and
captured the large ship the Christopher.


"I have long wished to meet with them,"
said the King, "and now, please God and
St. George, we will fight with them; for in
truth they have done me so much mischief
that I will be revenged on them if possible."

King Edward then drew up all his vessels,
placing the strongest in the front, and his
archers on the wings. Between every two
vessels there was one with men-at-arms.
He stationed some detached vessels as a
reserve, full of archers, to aid such as might
be damaged. There were in this fleet a
great many ladies from England, countesses,
baronesses, and knights' and gentlemen's
wives, who were on their way to Ghent to
attend the Queen. These the King had
guarded most carefully by three hundred
men-at-arms and five hundred archers.

When the King of England and his
marshals had properly divided the fleet, they
hoisted their sails to have the wind on their
quarter, as the sun shone full in their faces,
which they considered might be of disadvan-
tage to them, and stretched out a little, so
that at last they got the wind as they wished.


Page 17.


The Normans, who saw them tack, could
not help wondering why they did so, and
said they took good care to turn about, for
they were afraid of meddling with them.
They perceived, however, by his banner, that
the King of England was on board, which
gave them great joy, as they were eager
to fight with him ; so they put their vessels
in proper order, for they were expert and
gallant men on the seas. They filled the
Christopher, the large ship which they had
taken the year before from the English,
with trumpets and other warlike instru-
ments, and ordered her to fall upon the
English. The battle then began very fiercely ;
archers and cross-bowmen shot with all their
might at each other, and the men-at-arms
engaged hand to hand. There were many
valiant deeds performed, many prisoners
made, and many rescues. The Christopher,
which led the van, was re-captured by the
English, and all in her taken or killed. Then
there were great shouts of rejoicing, and the
English manned her again with archers, and
sent her to fight against the Genoese.


This battle was very terrible. Fights at
sea are more destructive and obstinate than
upon land, for it is not possible to retreat or
flee every one must abide his fortune, and
exert his prowess and valour. Sir Hugh
Quiriel and his companions were bold and
determined men, had done much mischief
to the English at sea, and destroyed many
of their ships. This fight, therefore, lasted
from early in the morning until noon, and the
English were hard pressed, for their enemies
were four to one, and the greater part men
who were used to the sea. The King, who
was in the flower of his youth, showed himself
on that day a gallant knight, as did many of
the nobles who were with him. They fought
so valiantly that, with some assistance from
Bruges, the French were completely defeated,
and all the Normans and others killed or
drowned. This was soon known all over
Flanders, and when the news came to the
two armies, the Hainaulters were as much
rejoiced as their enemies were dismayed.

When King Philip of France heard of the
defeat of his fleet, and that the King of


England was quietly landed in Flanders, he
was much enraged, but as he could not amend
it, he immediately decamped and retreated
towards Arras.

A fresh plan occurred to him, however, by
which he might drive King Edward back to
his own country.

How Twelve Men took Edinburgh

England and Scotland had long been at
war, and the Scotch King David had entered
into an alliance with the King of France, and,
as we have seen, fought with him against
King Edward.

The English had taken possession of a
large portion of Scotland, but there was still
a remnant that remained unconquered, and
this was under the governance of Sir William
Douglas, the Earl of Moray, Earl Patrick of
Dunbar, the Earl of Sutherland, Sir Robert
Keith, Sir Simon Fraser, and Alexander
Ramsay. During the space of seven years
they had secreted themselves in the Forest


of Jedworth, in winter as well as in summer,
and from there had carried on a war against
all the towns and fortresses where King
Edward had placed any garrison, in which
many perilous and gallant adventures befel
them, and from which they won much honour
and renown.

Now it occurred to the King of France that
if he could stir up the Scotch to active warfare
at this moment, King Edward would be
forced to come back from Flanders to protect
his own country. He therefore sent over
some forces to Scotland, which arrived safely
in the town of Perth, and entreated these
Scotch nobles to carry on so bitter a war
that King Edward would be obliged to desist
from his present enterprise, promising them
every aid if they did so. These lords,
therefore, collected their forces and made
themselves ready. They left the Forest
of Jedworth, traversed Scotland, retook as
many fortresses as they were able, passed
by Berwick, and crossing the river Tyne,
entered Northumberland, which was formerly
a kingdom of itself, where they found plenty of


fat cattle. Having- raided the whole country
as far as Durham and beyond, they returned
to Scotland and gained all the fortresses
which the King of England held, except the
good town of Berwick and three other castles,
which they were much annoyed not to be
able to secure.

These castles were so strong that one
could scarcely find their equal for strength in
any country ; one was Stirling, another Rox-
burgh, and the third, which may be termed
the sovereign castle of Scotland, Edinburgh.
This last is situated on a high rock, com-
manding a view of the country round about ;
the mountain has so steep an ascent that few
can go up it without stopping once or twice.
The Governor of Edinburgh Castle at that
time was a gallant English knight, called
Sir Walter Limousin.

A bold thought came into Sir William
Douglas's mind, which he mentioned to his
companions, the Earl of Dunbar, Sir Robert
Eraser (who had been tutor to King David
of Scotland), and Alexander Ramsay, who all
agreed to try to carry it out. They collected


upwards of two hundred Highlanders, armed
with lances, purchased oats, oatmeal, coal,
and straw, went to sea, and landed peacably
at a port about three miles from Edinburgh
Castle, which had made a stronger resistance
than all the other castles. When they had
armed themselves they issued forth in the
night time, and having chosen ten or twelve
from among them in whom they had the
greatest confidence, they dressed them in old
threadbare clothes, with torn hats, like poor
pedlars, and loaded twelve small horses, each
with a sack filled with oats, meal, or coal.
They then placed the rest of their troop in
ambush in an old abbey, ruined and unin-
habited, close to the foot of the mountain
where the castle was situated.

At daybreak these merchants, who were
secretly armed, took the road with their
horses the very best way they could to the
castle. When they had got about half-way
up the hill, Sir William Douglas and Sir
Simon Fraser went on before the others,
whom they ordered to follow in silence, and
came to the porter's lodge. They told this


man that, with many risks and fears, they
had brought coal, oats, and meal, and if there
were any want of such things in the castle,
they would be glad to dispose of them at
a cheap rate.

The porter replied that the garrison would
thankfully have them, but it was so early

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