Friday, June 22, 2012

Victory of Seven French against Seven English in a Private Combat 1402

Although every private combat which does not have the goal of the public interest may be accused of temerity, there are, however, men who engage in these sorts of enterprises, solely to make themselves a reputation for valor. There were these that did so: Sir Arnaud Guillain, Sir du Chatel, Bataille, Archambaud de Villars, Clignet de Brabant, Jean called Champagne, and a certain Carius, all brave French gentlemen. Desiring to give splendor to their enterprise, they sent to England a herald of arms to courteously provoke an equal number of English to swordplay. The issue of this fight would be to establish, they said, the superiority of French knights over English knights and therefore show which of the two nations ought to be considered the bravest. The herald, admitted into the presence of the King of England, added that the French had chosen a closed field near the city of Bordeaux, where they proposed to fight to the finish and that they would agree on each side that whoever admitted themselves vanquished would pay a diamond for their entire ransom.

This unlooked-for provocation stung the pride of the English. Whether from resentment, hate or from shame of refusing such combat, Lord Scales, Sir Aymant Chotet, John Heron, Richard Boutevale, John Fleury, Thomas Tile and Robert de Scales, all brave and valiant men, accepted the challenge with the consent of the king of England.

The Duke of Orleans, brother to the King, having learned that none of the conditions had been refused, and considering that the champions were all of his household, resolved to do abundant alms in many holy places. He did the same at the church of St. Denis, and asked the monks to pray with fervor for them. Although wise men disapproved of this combat as unreasonable, and justifying in the eyes of foreigners the proverb which accused the French of being the most presumptuous of all people, the matter for which he made the offerings turned out successfully in the end.

They returned on one side and the other to the place designated. So that all would pass without tumult and without disorder, two noble knights, the Breton Lord Harpedanne and the English Earl of Rutland were charged to lead and conduct the champions of both sides with a very large escort of armed men. On the 19th of May they conducted them to the lists as had been arranged. They dismounted and entered armed at all points into the field, encouraged by the cries of their assistants. They gave the signal for combat. Before coming hand to hand, the English had resolved to direct their first attack against Sir du Chatel, Breton, who they knew to be the most redoubtable of their adversaries; so they sought to knock him down. They directed at him two vigorous blows with the lance, but he threw them back on either side with great force. On both sides all arms were put in use; each was animated by the hope of victory.

I leave it to courtiers and captains to describe the address and the agility each displayed in this circumstance, the eagerness and valor with which they aided each other, and the fear that seized the spectators, as they saw the blood cover those on both sides and the victory indecisive. I will content myself with saying that the combat was long and fierce, and they each were mutually weighed down with injuries. The English, all striking redoubled strokes with the arm of Hector, sent the French back in need of a healing broth, and on their side the French reproached their adversaries with the ignominious end of their King Richard. Finally an English knight was killed, and the others, who were gravely injured, surrendered.

So, with victory complete, the Lord of Harpedanne, Breton, led the victors to Paris, where the lords of the court received them with all sorts of marks of friendship, and many presents, as they had sustained the dignity and honor of France. The others returned to England humbled and troubled. This reverse ought to have taught them to abstain from similar hazards. But they did not leave off, during the next two years, to attempt the same proceedings against new adversaries, sometimes of a greater number, sometimes of a lesser number, and , what merits amazement, with such eagerness, in spite of how the fight had gone against them. I remember that during that time many people sought to understand how the French showed such an extraordinary animosity. I apprehend that they had conceived an implacable hate against the English because of the horrible murder of their king and the injurious banishment of the queen, daughter of the king of France, and that they did not venture to rise up openly against them, or be seen as having violated the truce, and so they sought an honorable opportunity for revenging their intolerable injuries.

Chronique du Religieux de Saint-Denys, ed. M.L. Bellaguet, v. 3 Paris: 1842. p.30-35

In this year, a valiant knight from the marches of Guyenne, named Sir Jean de Herpedenne, Lord of Belleville and of Montegue, who was seneschal of Saintonge for the King, on which marches he often had fine encounters, and feats of war, made known at Paris at the court of the King, that he had there some nobles of England, desiring to do arms for the love of their ladies, and if there were any French who wished to come, they would receive them with the aforesaid intention. When certain nobles who were near Paris, particularly at the court of the Duke of Orleans, heard of this they lifted up their ears, and came to the said Duke of Orleans and begged him to give them leave to go resist the enterprise of the English, intending to fight the said English, which were on one side and the other renowned as valiant men in England and Guyenne. The names of the English were Lord Scales, Sir Aymon Cloiet, John Heron, Richard Witevalle, John Fleury, Thomas Trays, and Robert de Scales, valiant men, strong and powerful in their body and used to arms.

The names of the French were Sir Arnaud Guillon, Lord of Barbasan, Sir Guillaume de Chastel of lower Normandy, Archambaud de Villars, Sir Colinet de Brabant, Sir Guillaume Bataille, Carouis and Champagne, who were all valiant gentlemen, and the Duke of Orleans gave them leave, confident in their prowess and their valiance. There was some difficulty made over Champagne, because he had never been at war nor at such work, but he was one of the best wrestlers that you could find. And because of this the Lord of Barbasan said to the Duke of Orleans: "My lord, let him come because as soon as he holds his enemy in his hands and comes to grips with him, he will, by wrestling, throw him down and discomfit him."And so leave was given to Champagne like the others. They left for Paris in good order and equipped with armor and other things necessary in such matters, and they went very diligently in Guyenne to the said seneschal of Saintonge, and the chief of those seven French was the Lord of Barbasan, and of the English the Lord Scales.

And the combat was arranged for the 19th day of May. On this day the parties came together well arrayed, armed and dressed appropriately. In the morning they heard mass with great devotion, and received each one the precious body of Jesus Christ. Grandly and notably the Lord de Barbasan exhorted them to do well, and to guard their welfare and honor. Showing them the true and reasonable quarrel which the king had against this ancient enemies of England, without having regard to fighting for the ladies nor to acquire the grace of the world, and only to defend themselves against the enterprise of their adversaries, with many other good teachings. As for the English, it's not rightly known what they did, but some say that while arming themselves they drank and ate very well. And they came to the field eager to fight well and to show their valor. And they were haughty and grand , showing proud courage. And the French showed good signs of having a great will to defend themselves. And the English were equipped with targes and pavises for the throwing of the lances.

Then the herald made his cry, at the command of the seneschal of Saintonge, judge ordained with the consent of the parties, that each was to do his duty. So they approached each other, and threw their lances without having any effect, and came to axes. And because it seemed to the English, that if they were able to strike down Sir Guillaume de Chastel, who was large and strong, they would be more easily able to accomplish their intention, they decided to go with two against him. And because they did this, Archambaud found himself alone without anyone facing him, so that he came to the one who was having to do with Carouis, who was the first that he found, and gave him a stroke of the axe on the head so that he fell to earth. This was the said Robert de Scales, who died. And as for Champagne, it was as they said it would be. When he joined with his man, he gave him a wrestling fall so that he fell beneath him and so surrendered. Archambaud went to aid Sir Guillaume de Chastel who had much to do. Soon one of the English near him was constrained to leave de Chastel and to take on Archambaud. There were many fine arms done on side and the other, and at last the English surrendered. Sir Guillaume Bataille had much to do, so that he fell and was thrown to earth by the English, but he was rescued by some of the French . And to make a long story short, the English were discomfited.

Jean Juvenal des Ursins Histoire de Charles VI, Roy de France in Nouvelle Collection des Memoires pour Servir a l'Histoire de France Paris 1836 Vol. 2 p.421-423

Copyright Will McLean, 2003

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