Monday, July 10, 2006

How Jean de Verchin, seneschal of Hainault, sent his letters to diverse countries to do arms, 1402

At the beginning of this year Jean de Verchin, a knight of great renown and seneschal of Hainault, sent by one of his heralds many letters to knights and squires in diverse countries to provide for certain deeds of arms that he undertook to do. These letters were of the following import:

“To all knights, squires and gentlemen of name and arms without reproach, I Jean de Verchin, seneschal of Hainault, make known to all that, with the aid of God, Our Lady, my lord Saint George and my lady, I will be, on the first Sunday of this coming August, unless prevented by legitimate unforeseen difficulty, at Coucy to do arms as afterwards described before my redoubted lord, my lord the duke of Orleans who has agreed to provide a place for it.

If there is any gentleman, as described above, who will agree to my enterprise:

First, we will be mounted on horseback in a war saddle without trickery, and we will armor our bodies as it pleases us, and will have targes without covering or reinforcement of steel or iron, and we each will have a lance of war without graper or rondel, and a sword. We will come together one time with the lances, and whether or not we hit with the lances we will put aside the shield and draw our sword without assistance. We will then strike twenty strokes without intermission (reprinse).

And I, to give honor to the company and for the pleasure the gentleman has given me in the fulfillment of my said enterprise, I will swiftly deliver him of arms on foot unless prevented by bodily injury. Neither of us may add or remove pieces of the harness we wore for swords on horseback, except that either of us may change his visor and lengthen his plates (ralonger ses plates) if he wishes. The number of sword strokes shall be as he wishes to devise, and likewise for daggers, when he agrees to accomplish my enterprise, provided that the number of strokes that are provided for the day, and the number of intermissions (reprinses), and the number of strokes with axe shall be as I devise. But for the axes each may arm himself as he wishes.

And should it happen, an adventure that I do not desire, that one or the other of us is wounded so that the day’s arms cannot be completed as we have undertaken to complete them, then the other will not in any way require them to be completed, and consider themselves acquitted of them.

And when I have accomplished what is described above and the day is past, I with the aid of God, Our Lady, my lord Saint George and my lady will leave that town, unless prevented by bodily injury, to go to Santiago in Galicia. And all the gentlemen of the condition described above who find me on my outward journey or returning to the said town of Coucy if they wish may do me the honor and grace of delivering me of similar arms on horseback to those devised above. And they are to provide me a reasonable judge, without requiring that I depart more than twenty leagues from my path, nor go backwards in my journey. And they are to affirm that the pleasure of the judge will be such that the said arms will be begun within five days of my arrival in the town where the arms are to be done.

And I, with the aid of God, Our Lady, my lord Saint George and my lady, unless prevented by true bodily injury, once my enterprise is accomplished will quickly deliver him on foot in the manner devised above of such a number of strokes with sword axe and dagger as he would have me devise at the beginning of the accomplishment of my said enterprise.

And if it happens that a gentleman and I make an agreement to do the said arms, and he has given me a judge as previously devised, and while going forward to that judge another is found who wishes to do arms similarly and gives me a judge closer than the first, I will always go first to deliver the one who gives me the closest judge, and once I have requited him I will return to the other to provide what we had earlier agree upon, unless I am prevented by bodily injury. And no gentleman may demand more than one deed of arms with me during my travel. And we will have weapons of equal length to do the said deed of arms, and I will give the length upon request. And all the blows of the deed of arms will be struck from the bottom of the plates upwards.

And so that all gentleman who might wish to deliver me may know my itenary, I have the intention, if it please God, to pass from the realm of France to Bordeaux, and then to the territory of the Count of Foix, to the realm of Castile and then to Santiago. And on the return, if it please God, I will return through Portugal, the realm of Valencia, Catalonia, Avignon and then return through the realm of France, provided that I can pass through the said countries safely and without hindrance while carrying out my enterprise, excepting the realm of France and the territory of Hainault.

And to confirm the truth of this enterprise I have put the seal of my arms upon these present letters to accomplish what is written above and signed them by my hand. This was done in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord 1402, the first day of the month of July.”

The aforesaid seneschal went to Coucy to provide and accomplish his enterprise according to the content of the above letter and there he was very joyously received by the Duke of Orleans. But on the appointed day no man appeared to do arms with him. And so he left to go on his voyage to Santiago a few days later as he had promised. During his voyage he did arms in seven places and by seven combats before his return. Each time he carried himself so valiantly and honorably that all of the princes who were judges of those arms were content with his person.


From: Monstrelet, Enguerrand de, (La) Chronique d'Enguerran de Monstrelet. Paris 1857, Vol. I Chapter viii p. 39-43
Translation copyright 2006 Will Mclean

1 comment:

Miles Non Strenuis said...

Lengthen his plates? Interesting. I'm used to thinking of jousters removing plates when dismounting for foot combat.

All dressed up, and nobody to fight! Or, What if there was a Deed of Arms and nobody came... That would have taken the mickey out of me! Apparently this fellow was not so easily daunted.