Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The English plunder Champagne.

The expedition led by the Earl of Buckingham penetrates into Champagne. The French do their best to starve the invaders.

Book II, ch. 52 (Johnes, v. 1, pp. 608-10). Everything had been driven or carried into the towns and strong places, the king of France having abandoned to his own men at arms whatever they could find in the open country: the English, therefore, suffered great distress for want of food. They determined to send a herald to Rheims, to open a treaty with the inhabitants, for them to send provisions to the army, such as cattle, bread, and wine. The inhabitants refused to enter into any negotiation, and, in their reply, said, they must make the best of it. This answer so much enraged them that, in one week, the light troops burnt upwards of sixty villages dependent on Rheims.

The English heard that the people of Rheims had secured six thousand sheep in the ditches of the town, thinking them safe there: the vanguard advanced thither, and made their men descend into the ditches and drive out the sheep, without anyone daring to issue from the town to prevent them, or even appearing on the bulwarks; for the archers, being posted on the banks of the ditch, shot so sharply that no one ventured to show himself: the English gained several thousand head of sheep.

They sent to inform the townsmen, they would burn all the corn in the field, unless they ransomed it by sending them bread and wine. The inhabitants were frightened by this threat, and sent the army from ten to sixteen loads of bread and wine: by this means, the corn and oats were saved from being burnt.

[The English advanced to Vertus.] The earl of Buckingham was lodged in the abbey. During the night, the town was burnt, except the abbey, which, from the earl lodging in it, was saved; otherwise it would infallibly have suffered the same fate, for the townsmen had retreated into the castle, and would not ransom it.

[ As the army continued to advance, some skirmishers rode out ahead.] The lord de Chateauneuf and John de Chateauneuf his brother, with Remond St. Marsin, Gascons, and some English, about forty spears in the whole, rode from the army to seek adventures, but met with none, which vexed them much. On their return, they saw in the plain a body of men at arms riding towards Troyes: it was the lord de Hangest and his men: the English and Gascons immediately spurred their horses to come up with them. The lord de Hangest had well observed them, and doubting they were in greater numbers than they appeared, said to his men, "Make for Plancy and save yourselves; for these English have discovered us, and their main army is not far off: let us put ourselves in safety in the castle of Plancy." They rode in that direction, and the English after them.

There was a valiant man at arms from Hainault in the troop of the lord Delawarr, called Peter Berton, who fixing his lance in its rest, and being well mounted, came up with the lord de Hangest, who was flying before him, and gave him such a blow on the back with his lance that he almost drove him out of the saddle; but the lord de Hangest neither lost his seat nor stirrups, though Peter Berton, kept the iron hard at his back; and in this manner did they arrive at Plancy.

Straight at the entrance of the castle the lord de Hangest leaped from his horse, and got into the ditch. Those within it were anxious to save him, and ran to the barriers, where there was a grand skirmish; for the garrison kept shooting briskly, being very good cross-bowmen; and several valiant deeds were done on each side. With great difficulty the lord de Hangest was saved. He fought gallantly on entering the castle; for reinforcements from the van-guard were continually arriving.

The lord Delawarr, sir Thomas Trivet, sir Hugh Calverley, came thither, and the conflict was great: there were upwards of thirty of the French killed and wounded, and the lower court of the castle burnt. The castle itself was warmly attacked on all sides, but well defended: the mills of Plancy were burnt and destroyed. The whole army then retired, passed the river Aube at Pont à l'Ange, and marched towards Valant sur Seine. The lord de Hangest had a very narrow escape.

This same day the captains of the van-guard, sir Thomas Trivet, sir Hugh Calverley, the lord Delawarr, the bastard his brother [Fierabras], Peter Berton and many others, made an excursion from the army, and met sir John de Roye, with about twenty spears of the duke of Burgundy who were going to Troyes. The English, on seeing them, spurred their horses; for the French were making off, as not in sufficient numbers to wait for them. The greater part did escape; and sir John de Roye, with others, got within the barriers of Troyes, which at the time chanced to be open.

On their return, they captured four of his men who could not save themselves, among whom was a squire to the duke of Burgundy, called Guion Goufer, an expert man at arms. His horse was much heated, so that he had dismounted, and, having placed himself against a walnut-tree, fought valiantly two Englishmen, who pressed him hard, crying out to him in English to surrender; but he understood them not. Fierabras, on his return from the pursuit, arriving at the spot, said to the squire in French, "Surrender thyself." On hearing this, he replied, "Art thou a gentleman?" The bastard rejoined, he was. "I then surrender myself to thee," presenting him his sword and gauntlet; for which the English would have killed him when he was in the bastard's hands, and they told him he was not very courteous thus to carry from them their prisoner, but the bastard was stronger than they.

Nevertheless this affair was, in the evening, brought before the marshals, who, having well considered it, determined he should remain to the bastard, who that evening ransomed him, taking his word for the payment, and sent him on the morrow to Troyes.

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