Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Death of Sir Robert Salle in the Peasant Revolt.

Peasants from Norfolk are marching on London, following one William Lister.

Book II, ch. 76. In their road they stopped near Norwich, and forced every one to join them, so that none of the commonalty remained behind. The reason they stopped near Norwich was, that the governor of the town was a knight called sir Robert Salle: he was not by birth a gentleman, but, having acquired great renown for his ability and courage, king Edward had created him a knight: he was the handsomest and strongest man in England.

Lister and his companions took it into their heads they would make this knight their commander, and carry him with them, in order to be the more feared. They sent orders to him to come out into the fields to speak with them, or they would attack and burn the city. The knight, considering it was much better for him to go to them than they should commit such outrages, mounted his horse, and went out of the town alone, to hear what they had to say.

When they perceived him coming, they showed him every mark of respect, and courteously entreated him to dismount, and talk with them. He did dismount, and committed a great folly: for, when he had so done, having surrounded him, they at first conversed in a friendly way, saying, "Robert, you are a knight, and a man of great weight in this country, renowned for your valour: yet, notwithstanding all this, we know who you are: you are not a gentleman, but the son of a poor mason, just such as ourselves. Do you come with us, as our commanders, and we will make so great a lord of you that one quarter of England shall be under your command."

The knight, on hearing them thus speak, was exceedingly angry; he would never have consented to such a proposal; and, eyeing them with inflamed looks, answered, "Begone, wicked scoundrels and false traitors as you are: would you have me desert my natural lord for such a company of knaves as you? would you have me dishonour myself? I would much rather you were all hanged, for that must be your end."

On saying this, he attempted to mount his horse; but, his foot slipping from the stirrup, his horse took fright. They then shouted out, and cried, "Put him to death." When he heard this, he let his horse go; and drawing a handsome Bordeaux sword, he began to skirmish, and soon cleared the crowd from about him, that it was a pleasure to see.

Some attempted to close with him; but with each stroke he gave, he cut off heads, arms, feet or legs. There were no so bold but were afraid; and sir Robert performed that day marvellous feats of arms. These wretches were upwards of forty thousand; they shot and flung at him such things, that had he been clothed in steel instead of being unarmed, he must have been overpowered: however, he killed twelve of them, besides many whom he wounded. At last, he was overthrown, when they cut off his legs and arms, and rent his body in piecemeal. Thus ended sir Robert Salle, which was a great pity; and when the knights and squires in England heard of it, they were much enraged.

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