Deeds of Arms

A Collection of Accounts
of Formal Deeds of Arms of the Fourteenth Century

edited by Steven Muhlberger

Excerpts from "Le Livre des fais du bon Messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut" (translated from the edition of Denis Lalande, Geneva, 1985).

Translated by Steven Muhlberger.  Translation copyright 2001

Deeds of Arms Index -- Historical Materials on Knighthood and Chivalry -- KCT Library

Book 1, c. 14


When the winter was past and the renewal of sweet spring had come again, in the season in which everything takes joy and during which wood and field endow themselves with flowers and the earth turns green, when the little birds make great noise in the groves, when the nightingales sing, the time when Love makes gentle loving hearts feel his force and embraces them with pleasant recollection which gives birth to a desire which pleasantly torments them in the sweet languor of the agreeable malady, when the merry month of April was at its most beautiful, the gracious and noble knight Messire Boucicaut went to the court of the king, where feasts and dances often took place.

So he was merry and cheerful, richly accoutered and in all thing so pleasant that no one surpassed him.   When love distributed his great treasures and his very sweet joys,  if I am right he did not at all forget Boucicaut, his loyal servant, who merited all good things.   Thus Love nourished him with his sweet dishes, while he had time and ease to see his sweet lady.  But Valor, who did not long allow him to be at rest, turned his pleasure into great bitterness, when the beautiful lady went away.   So Sweet Hope guided him and told him  that on her return he would be sweetly welcomed by his pleasant mistress, for the love of whom he would do such a thing so that she should hear great news of it; and so after he had had some good love in the said pleasant season, the better to deserve it again Boucicaut wished to labor in arms on the frontier of the land of Picardy.

It happened that there had been a knight of England there, Messire Peter de Courtenay, who had been in France and gone about boasting that he had crossed the whole realm of France but  he had found no knight who dared to joust with him with a steel lance, so he had taken on the duty to seek it out. When Messire Boucicaut had heard of this boastfulness, he had great contempt for it.   And then he let him know through a herald that he had no wish to be the cause of his complaining thus about the knights of France, namely that they had failed in such a little thing as jousting with him with a lance of steel, and he who was one of the younger and smaller of those knights would not fail to do something greaterIf Courtenay wished to inform him of all the types of combat that pleased him, Boucicaut would fulfill them for him  very willingly.  This Courtenay, who thought himself a good jouster did not want to assay any other types of combat, but only jousting a certain number of blows with a steel lance, so that affaur was very quickly arranged.  It appeared to this said Courtenay, who was a very valiant knight and was well renowned, that against Boucicaut he would surely come out on top.

So the two knights came together to joust; but without lengthening my account by describing how each delivered his blows, I will be brief: all their blows were completed, but this was so well and so greatly to the good of Boucicaut that he had raised himself to a position of very great honor and praise.

Sometime after, in connection with the same affair, on account of the envy another knight of England named Thomas Clifford, sent to him requiring him to do certain specified deeds, which he accepted very willingly. And even though the law and custom of arms should be that the challenger goes and ought to go before whichever judge the challenged man chooses, Messire Boucicaut, being afraid that he might be stopped by the king or others of the lords of France, if this thing came to their knowledge, or that the judge which he might choose would not take it up, he went to accomplish the said deed of arms at Calais before William de Beauchamp, then captain of Calais and uncle of the same Messire Thomas.   When they were at the field at came to the joust they both faultlessly and most valiantly performed it.  And at the end of their blows, Messire Boucicaut bore Messire Thomas to the earth with a stroke of the lance, and he and his horse fell all in a heap.    So Boucicaut dismounted and they took up their swords.   And without prolonging any further the story of the deed of arms which they did on foot, namely, combat with sword, dagger and axe, Messire Boucicaut performed without fault and did so well that all said he was a very valiant knight and thus rose to great honor.

Book 1, c. 15



So [the duke of Bourbon] passed on his return through the county of Foix.   There Messire Boucicaut
often found himself in the company of Englishmen, and they ate and drank together as the occasion
offered itself.   And then, because those Englishmen noticed some abstinences that Messire Boucicaut was
practicing, they asked if this had anything to do with fighting; and if it did, he would son find someone to
release him from that vow.   Boucicaut replied to them that truth these abstinences indicated willingness to
fight to extremity, but that he had a companion, a knight named Renaut de Roye, without whom he could
do nothing; however, if there were any of them who wished combat, he would allow them to have it, and
that at their will they should set the day as long as he was able to inform his companion.   And moreover if
they wished to make up a greater number, he would gather the strength to match a party as large as they
wished,  from two to twenty.   They went so far with these discussions that an English lord of the
country, named the lord of Chastiauneuf, and who was a relative of the said count of Fois, accepted this
engagement, namely, twenty against twenty, and that he would be the chief of the English, and Messire
Boucicaut of the French.

So it was agreed by the two parties, and it was given to Boucicaut to seek a judge.   So he chose the duke
of Bourbon and he went to him to ask that he would agree to do that; and for the love he had for him he
wished to give good hostages to secure the field of combat. But I do not know if the English found in this
their excuse to abandon the affair, and whether they repented of this undertaking, for they did not wish to
accept as judges either the duke of Bourbon or many others whom Messire Boucicaut presented.   When
Messire Boucicaut saw that, it much weighed upon him, because he saw very well that they already had
repented of it.  Because he wished above all to perform the combat, in order that they should not be able
to excuse themselves from it, and not know what more to say, he offered to them that the battle should be
before the count of Foix, but the said count did not at all wish to accept or secure the field of combat for
them.    So the affair remained to the great honor of Boucicaut.

Book 1, c. 17


You should know that Messire Boucicaut had been in his youth commonly on journeys with the good
duke of Bourbon, who for the good will that he had seen in him right from his first beginnings, had kept
him in his household and with him, as has been said before.   It happened that when the king was at
Cluny, as it was said, that because of the great good which he saw increasing every day  in Boucicaut, he
loved him more than any, as much as if the love had begun in early childhood.   So he wished to have him
always in his company and in fact asked for him from the duke of Bourbon, who was content for the
advancement of Boucicaut, and thus he became completely one of the court of the king, and he went with
him in that journey to Languedoc.

As Love and chivalric Valor often counsel the hearts of the good to venture honorable things to increase
their worth and their honor, during this journey it happened that Boucicaut planned a very high
undertaking, the most gracious and honorable which a knight had ventured in Christendom for a long
time.   And it should be noticed and seen in the deeds of this valiant man, how without doubt just as  the
proverb says, that it is by works, and not at all by words, that the spirits of valiant, gallant men show
themselves, for there is no doubt that the man who has the spirit and desire to reach and attain honor
never thinks but to consider how and in what way he ought to do such deeds, that he should deserve being
called valiant; nor ever should it seem to him that he has done enough, whatever good thing he should do,
to acquire praise for his valour and prowess.  And that this  is true, we see demonstrated by the works of
this valiant knight Boucicaut; because of the great desire which he had to be valiant and to acquire honor,
he had no other care except to think how he could spend his beautiful youth in chivalrous pursuits. And
because it appeared to him that he was not able to do enough, he took no rest; for immediately that he had
achieved some good deed he attempted another.  Such was the endeavor which, after which he had been
given leave by the king, he had  proclaimed in many realms and Christian countries, namely in England,
Spain, Aragon, Germany, Italy and others. He made it known to all princes, knights and squires that he,
accompanied by two knights, one named Messire Renault de Roye, the other the lord of Sampy, would
hold the field of combat for the space of thirty days, without leaving, if no reasonable excuse should come
to them, namely from the twentieth day of April, at the place called St. Inglevert, between Calais and
Boulogne.   There would the three knights await all comers, ready and equipped to joust with all knights
and squires who required it of them, without missing a day excepting Fridays; and it should be known that
each one of the said knights would give five strokes of a steel lance or a rochet to all those who should be
enemies of the realm, who required the strokes from one of them, and who would give to each one having
any other need such good care that everything, before the thirty days began, should be so well and so
beautifully prepared that nothing should be lacking.

When the first day of the said undertaking had come, the three knights were all armed and ready in their
pavillions awaiting whoever might come.   Messire Boucicaut was especially richly equipped. And because
he thought it a good thing -- since before the end of the game an abundance of foreigners, Englishmen and
others would come there -- that each should see that he was ready and equipped, if anyone required
anything from him, to release them and do such deeds of arms as anyone wished to require and ask of
him, for this reason he took then the motto that he never after let go of, which is this:   "Whatever you
wish."   He had it put on all his badges, and there he carried it for the first time.

The English who always had had animosity toward the French and who willingly took pains at all times to
do them harm and surpass them in all things, if they were able, had well heard and understood the
announcement of this abovesaid honorable undertaking.   So most of them, and the higher ranking among
them said  that the game should certainly not take place without them.   So they did not forget, as soon as
the first day of the undertaking was come, to be there in a good company of the greatest men of England,
as one may presently hear in detail.

On the first day, as Messire Boucicaut was waiting all armed in his pavilion, and also his companions in
theirs, then there came Messire John  Holland, brother of king Richard of England, who, with a very fine
company, all armed on his destrier, the minstrels sounding horns before, took himself onto the field.   And
there he stood, in a very exalted manner, and in the presence of a great abundance of noble men who
attending, went all over the field; and then, when he had done this, he went from corner to corner in a
very exalted manner, and after one laced his bascinet on him, which was strongly buckled. Then he went
to strike on Boucicaut's shield of war, which choice he had well considered.  After this blow, the noble
knight Boucicaut did not delay at all; holding himself straighter than a rush, on his good destrier, the lance
at his neck, minstrels before him, and well attended by some of his people, you should have seen how he
leaped from his pavilion and went and placed himself at the line; and there he stopped a little, then
lowered his lance and put it in rest, and spurred towards his adversary who was a very valiant knight and
who also spurred back towards him.   They did not fail to meet, so that they gave each other very great
blows on the shields which made both their backs bend, and the lances flew into pieces.  The crowd
loudly cried out their names; so they took their turn, and new lances were given to them, and once again
they ran against each other and likewise they struck against each other.  And thus they completed their
five strokes seated,  all with steel lances, both of them so valiantly that neither of them ought to have
reproach.   It should be noted that  at the fourth blow, after  the lances were broken in pieces, because of
the great fervor of the good destriers who were running strongly, the two knights crashed into each other
in such a collision that the horse of the Englishman fell to the earth on its hindquarters and he would have
fallen without fail if the strength of the man had not held him up.   And Boucicaut's horse wavered but did
not fall at all.

After this joust and the number of blows was achieved, the two knights went back in the pavilions; but
Boucicaut was not allowed to rest there for very long, for there were many other valiant English knights
who, like the first, required him to joust with the lance of steel.   In that same day he delivered two others
and performed his fifteen seated blows so well and so valiantly that of all he acquitted himself with very
great honor.  While Boucicaut jousted, just as has been said, do not think that his companions were at all
idle, for they had found that they had attracted many to joust with them, and all with steel lances.   So
they both did so well and so fine that the honors went to their side.

I do not know why I should prolong my account by describing the details of all the blows delivered by
each of them, which would bore my listeners; but keep things brief, I tell you that the principal ones who
jousted with Boucicaut while the thirty days lasted were, first the one of whom we have already spoken,
and then the earl of Derby who you will hear claims to be Henry, king of England (who jousted with him
ten strokes with a steel lance, for when he had jousted the five strokes according to the proclamation, the
duke of Lancaster, his father, wrote to Boucicaut that he had sent his son to him to learn from him, for he
knew him to be a very valiant knight, and he entreated him that he should agree to joust ten strokes with
him), the Earl Marshal, the lord of Beaumont, Messire Thomas de Percy, the lord of Clifford, the lord of
Courtenay, such knights and squires of the said realm of England to the number of twenty-six , and of
other countries, such as Spaniards, Germans and others, more than forty.   And they all jousted with the
steel lance.   And to all Boucicaut and his companions provided the number of blows, except some who
were not able to achieve them because they were wounded; for many of the English were borne to the
ground, riders and horses, and were badly wounded by the stroke of the lance.  And the same Messire
John Holland spoken of above was so badly wounded by Boucicaut that he was not far from death, and
similarly some other foreigners; but the valiant and noble Boucicaut and his good and proven companions,
thanks to God, suffered no harm or wound.   And thus the good knights continued their noble undertaking
each day until the term of thirty days was accomplished.  And thus he leaped up to very great honor in the
eyes of the king and chivalry of France, and he received such great praise for him and his companions that
it always will be spoken of.  So Boucicaut left there with his people, and returned to Paris where he was
very joyously received by the king and all the lords and he was also feted and honored by some ladies, for
he deserved it.