Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The Ransom of Bertrand du Guesclin

During the Prince of Wales' successful invasion of Castile on behalf of Pedro the Cruel (1367), the formidable French captain, Bertrand du Guesclin was captured.

Book I, ch. 244. We will now relate how sir Bertrand du Guesclin obtained his liberty. After the prince was returned to Aquitaine, his brother the duke of Lancaster to England, and all the other barons to their different homes, sir Bertrand du Guesclin remained prisoner to the prince and to sir John Chandos; for he could not by any means obtain his ransom; which was highly displeasing to king Henry [the deposed king of Castile], but he could not remedy it.

Now it happened (as I have been informed) that one day, when the prince was in great good humour, he called sir Bertrand du Guesclin, and asked him how he was. "My lord," replied sir Bertrand, "I was never better: I cannot otherwise but be well, for I am, though in prison, the most honoured knight in the world."

"How so?" rejoined the prince.

"They say in France," answered sir Bertrand, "as well as in other countries, that you are so much afraid of me, and have such a dread of my gaining my liberty, that you dare not set me free: and this is my reason for thinking myself so much valued and honoured."

The prince, on hearing these words, thought sir Bertrand had spoken them with such good sense; for in truth, his council were unwilling he should have his liberty, until don Pedro had paid to the prince and his army the money he had engaged to do: he answered, "What, sir Bertrand, do you imagine that we keep you a prisoner for fear of your prowess? By St. George, it is not so; for my good sir, if you will pay one hundred thousand francs, you shall be free."

Sir Bertrand was anxious for his liberty, and now havIng heard upon what terms he could obtain it, taking the prince at his word, replied, "My lord, thorugh God's will, I will never pay a less sum."

The prince, when he heard this, began to repent of what he had done. It is said, that some of his council went farther, and told him; "My lord, you have acted very wrong, in thus granting him so easily his ransom." They wanted to break through the agreement; but the prince, who was a good and loyal knight, replied, "Since we have granted it, we will keep to it, and not act any way contrary; for it would be a shame, and we should be blamed by every one for not agreeing to his ransom, when he has offerd to pay so largely for it as one hundred thousand francs."

From the time of this conversation, sir Bertrand was taking great pains to seek the money, and was so active that by the assistance of the king of France and the duke of Anjou, who loved him well, he paid in less than a month the hundred thousand francs, and went to the aid of the duke of Anjou, with two thousand combatants, in Provence, where the duke was laying siege to Tarascon, which held out for the queen of Naples.

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