Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Three chamberlains of the king of France propose a deed of arms

After the truce with England, members of the young French king's court look for worthy deeds to do.

Book IV, ch. 7 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 411-16).  The king of France resided at Montpellier upwards of twelve days, because the respect and amusements he enjoyed there from the citizens, ladies and damsels, pleased him greatly. Indeed, the king was at this time young and giddy: he therefore danced and carolled with these frisky ladies of Montpellier all night. He entertained them with handsome suppers and banquets, and presented to those most in his favour rings and clasps of gold. He acquired so greatly the love of the Montpellier ladies that some wished he had made a longer stay, for it was one continued revel and pastime the whole time he was there. You know, or must have heard it noticed, that the intercourse of young gentlemen with the fair sex encourages sentiments of honour, and a love of fame. I mention this, because there were with the king of France three gentlemen of great enterprise and valour, which they were probably induced to display from that intercourse, as I shall relate.

The names of these three knights were, sir Boucicaut the younger, sir Reginald de Roye, and the lord de Saimpi. These knights were chamberlains to the king, and were much esteemed by him for their worth, for accoutring him so ably with his arms, and in other services, such as good knights owe to their lord. While they were at Montpellier amusing themselves with the ladies and damsels, they were called upon to answer a challenge in the course of the ensuing summer: the principal cause of this, as I was informed, was as follows.

During the reign of king Charles V of happy memory, an English knight of high birth and great renown, called sir Piers Courteney, came from England to Paris to challenge sir Guy de la Tremouille, in a combat before the king and lords of France, and whoever else might wish to be spectators of it. Sir Guy de la Tremouille accepted the challenge; and the king, with the, duke of Burgundy and many of the great barons, were present at this combat. I believe they only ran one course with the lance; for the king would not suffer more to be done, to the great discontent of the English knight, who seemed desirous of pushing the combat to extremities. He was, however, appeased by fair speeches, saying, he ought to be satisfied, for he had done enough; and he was presented with very rich gifts by the king and the duke of Burgundy.

Perceiving he could do nothing more, sir Piers Courteney set out on his return to Calais; and the lord de Clary, who at that time was a gay and lively knight, was ordered to escort him. They rode on until they came to Lucen, where the countess de St. Pol, sister to king Richard of England, resided. The countess was rejoiced to see sir Piers Courteney; for before her marriage with the count de St. Pol, she had been united to his cousin the lord Courteney, but he had died young, and the English called her lady Courteney rather than countess of St. Pol.

While there, the countess, in the course of conversation, asked sir Piers what he thought of the kingdom of France: he replied,?" Certainly, madam, France is very extensive, rich and plentiful, and well guarded. In our country we do not form a true estimate of it."

"And are you pleased with the reception the lords of France have given you? have they not entertained you handsomely ?"

"To be sure, madam, I am perfectly contented as to the reception I have had; but, in regard to the cause of my having crossed the sea, they have but shabbily acquitted themselves: and I must say, that if the lord de Clary, who is a French knight, had come to England, and challenged any one, however high his rank, it would have been accepted, and the terms faithfully fulfilled to his utmost pleasure; hut this has been refused me. True it is, that sir Guy de la Tremouille and myself were brought into the lists; but, when we had run one course with the lance, I was stopped, and ordered from the king to attempt nothing more, for that we had done enough. I therefore say, madam, and shall say and maintain it wherever I go, that I have not met any one able to oppose me in arms; and that it has not been my fault, but rests solely with the knights of France."

The lord de Clary, who was present; marked this speech in his memory, and with great difficulty held his tongue, on account of having the English knight under his care. The countess of St. Pol replied,?" My lord, you will leave France with much honour, having complied with the request of the king of France, not to proceed further in your combat; for you would have been unable to do more contrary to his will. You cannot incur any blame in this matter; and all those on each side of the sea that shall hear it told, will give you more praise than blame: I therefore beg of you to rest satisfied."

"Lady," said the knight, "that I will do, and not give myself any further care or trouble about it."

Here the conversation on this matter ended; and other subjects were discoursed on, during the day and night they remained. On the morrow, sir Piers Courteney took leave of the countess de St. Pol, who presented him with a handsome clasp of gold, and another to the lord de Clary, as being his companion, and because the English knight was under his care and escort. They left Lucen early in the morning, and took the road to Boulogne, where they lay that night, and the next day rode through Marquise to Calais. Between Boulogne and Calais there are but seven short leagues, and a good road; and at the distance of two leagues from Calais you enter on the territory of Mole, Oye, and Guisnes, which then belonged to the king of England. When they were near to Calais, sir Piers Courteney said: "Lord of Chary, we are now on the territories of the king of England: you have handsomely acquitted yourself, in escorting ins; and I give you many thanks for your company."

The lord de Chary had not forgotten the speech of sir Piers to the countess St. Pol, in the presence of many persons; for it had made him sulky and full of anger, which although at the time he had not noticed as he thought it deserved, he was unwilling it should pass off unanswered; for he considered it as presumptuous, and dishonourable to the chivalry of France. Sir Piers had publicly declared, that he had purposely left England to seek deeds of arms in France, and had not found any one in that country willing to oppose him. The lord de Clary' had therefore determined, in his own mind, that such expressions should not remain unnoticed.

He therefore, on taking leave, said,?" Sir Piers, you are now on the lands of the king of England, whither I have escorted you, by orders of my king and my lord of Burgundy. You may recollect that, the day before yesterday, when we were in the apartment of the countess do St. Pol, who entertained us handsomely, you spoke with too great latitude, as it seemed to me, and too much to the blame and prejudice of the French chivalry for you said, you had come to the court of the king of France, and had found none willing to oppose you in arms: and you seemed to have it understood, that there was not a knight in France who dared to tilt with you three courses with a lance. I wish you therefore to know, that I (who am one of the smallest knights of the realm) offer myself, to maintain that France is not so devoid of knights, but that you may find many willing to accept your challenge; and if you will accept of me to this intent, either this day or to-morrow, I will meet you without hatred or any ill-will. It is solely with a view to defend our honour, andthat you may not return to Calais or England, and boast you have defeated the chivalry of France without striking a blow: now, say whether you will accept my challenge or not."

Sir Piers Courteney was ready with his answer, and said,?" Lord de Clary, you speak well:  I accept your challenge, and propose that you be at this place to-morrow, armed as you please. I will be so likewise; and we will tilt three courses with the lance, by which you will recover the honour of France, and give me much satisfaction."

"Agreed," replied the lord de Chary: "I will be here at the hour you shall appoint." The two knights then pledged their faith to each other for this tournament, and separated: the lord de Clary went to Marquise, which was not far distant, where he provided himself with armour, a shield, and lance. He was not long in doing this; for the knights on the frontier of Boulogne and Calais take care to have ample supplies. He did it all, however, as secretly as he could; for he was unwilling that too many should know and speak of it.

In like manner, sir Piers Courteney, on his arrival at Calais, was not unmindful of the engagement he had made. He had no occasion to seek either for armour or arms, for he had brought with him from England his own proper arms, which were good and strong.

At this time sir John Warnes was governor of Calais, to whom he told the engagement he had made with the lord do Chary. Sir John replied, that he would accompany him, with some other knights of Calais. On the ensuing morning, the two knights met at the appointed place; but the English knight was better accompanied than the lord de Clary, for he had with him the governor of Calais. On their meeting there was not much conversation, for each knew what he was to do.

Both of them were strongly and completely armed, to abide the event, such as the fortune of arms should decide, and they were well mounted. They had their targets fast buckled on, and their lances given them, which were of sharp, well-tempered Bordeaux steel. Having taken their distance, they spurred their horses full gallop, against each other, hut missed their strokes, which seemed to vex them greatly. On the second course, they met full; and the lord de Clary gave sir Piers so severe a blow with his stiff and well-tempered lance, that it pierced the target, and, entering deeply into the shoulder, struck him off his horse. The lord de Clary, having so ably tilted, passed on, and finished his career as an accomplished knight should, and remained quiet; but seeing the English knight was unhorsed, surrounded by his friends as he lay on the ground, and thinking that he might have wounded him, for his lance with the blow was shivered in pieces, rode towards him. The English advanced to meet him, saying he was not a courteous tilter.

"Why so?" replied the lord de Clary.

"Because you have thrust your lance into sir Piers' shoulder:  you ought and could have tilted more liberally."

"It was not my part to be over courteous; for I was ready prepared to meet with such an accident, or perhaps a worse, if it had so happened: but since he had such pleasure in justing, ask him, or I will for you, if he be satisfied, or wish for more."

Sir John Bernes, upon this, said,?" No, sir knight: you may depart, for you have done enough." The lord de Clary went away with his company, and the English carried sir Piers Courteney to Calais, that his wound might be attended to and cured. The lord de Clary returned to France, expecting to receive great praise for the goodly act he thought he had done: but I will tell you how it turned out.

When it was made known to the king of France, the duke of Burgundy, and their council, that the lord de Clary, in accompanying sir Piers Courteney, had fought with, and so dangerously wounded him, that he was in danger of his life, they were highly enraged against him, and in particular sir Guy de la Tremouille. They declared his conduct deserved at least confiscation of his hands, and perpetual banishment from the kingdom of France. Others, who were his enemies, said he had acted like an infamous traitor, in challenging and fighting a knight that had been placed under his guard by the king and the duke of Burgundy; that he was guilty of an unpardonable crime, and ought to suffer death.

The lord de Clary was summoned to appear, which summons he obeyed, and when brought before the king, the duke of Burgundy, and the council, was sharply reprimanded, for having dared to   injure a knight who had come from foreign countries to the court of France to perform a deed of arms and gain renown, and had left that court with perfect satisfaction to all, and under his safeguard; notwithstanding which, he had on his return, at the boundary of the two kingdoms, challenged him to mortal combat, without having demanded permission of his sovereign, on whose territories he was: that this was a crime deserving the severest punishment, by which others might take example.

The lord de Clary, on hearing this bitter reproof was thunderstruck, for he thought what he had done deserved a contrary treatment. Having paused awhile, he said,?" My lords, it is indeed true that you intrusted to my care sir Piers Courteney, with orders to escort him as far as Calais or to the borders of the kingdom. Of this I have acquitted myself loyally and faithfully, which, if necessary to prove, I can readily do so from himself. It is also true, that on our road we visited the countess de St. Pol at Luzieuz, who received us very kindly. While there, the following conversation passed: The lady asked sir Piers, if he were contented with the lords of France, and what he thought of the country? The knight courteously replied, 'Madam, the state of France is rich, extensive, and plentiful. With respect to its lords, I am perfectly satisfied with the reception and entertainments I have had from them, excepting one thing. I have put myself to very great expense in my preparations and journey to Paris, to perform a deed of arms, but, when arrived there, found none willing to accept of my challenge.'

"My lords, when I heard this speech before such a lady as the countess of St. Pol, sister to the king of England, my blood boiled within me; but, with much difficulty I kept silence, because you had entrusted him to my care and protection; and I never gave him the least cause to suspect I was any way hurt by what he had said, so long as we continued together in France. But true it is, that when we were about to separate on the borders of the country of Guisnes, I reminded him of his expressions to the countess de St. Pol, which, I said, were neither civil nor honourable, as he seemed to wish it to he understood, that the chivalry of France was so much debased that he could not meet with any one who dared to fight with him: that I, as a knight of France, if such were his meaning, offered to prove the contrary, being unwilling that, on his return to England, he should have the power of renewing his boastings: that I was ready and desirous to afford him the pleasure of tilting three courses with a lance, either that or any future day. Certainly, my lords, I made this offer for the honour of the kingdom of France and its chivalry, who are here present: and it seemed to me, that he accepted my challenge with much joy, and fixed the meeting for the morrow, on the spot where we were speaking.

"He then went to Calais, and I returned to Marquise, where I provided myself with the necessary arms, as he was to do at Calais. On the morrow, according to our appointment, we met. He came well attended by some of the garrison of Calais, and some of the knights and squires of the borders came with me, such as the lord de Montcarel and sir John de Longvilliers. When we met, we had but a short conversation, and then tilted with spears of war, for we were both completely armed, to the best of our abilities. The fortune of the combat fell to me, for at the second course I drove my lance into him, and threw him on the ground I then went to see what situation he was in, and if lie wished to continue the combat. The governor of Calais told me that what had been done was sufficient, and that I might depart. This I did. You have ordered me hither, and here I am. I thought I had acted properly in support of the honour of the kingdom and its chivalry, and have related to you the exact truth. If I am to be punished for what I have tone, I shall submit myself to the judgment of my lord the constable, and the marshals of France, and also to the evidence of sir Piers Courteney himself, with whose consent I have
fought this duel, and to the discretion of all knights and squires of honour in France or England, who may wish to attend to it."

The lord de Clary, having thus clearly exculpated himself, greatly softened the anger of those who had sent for him : but this did not prevent him from being committed to prison, where he remained a considerable time in much danger his lands were seized, and himself on the point of banishment from France, when the lord de Coucy and the duke of Bourbon, who loved him, interfered, and with great difficulty made his peace, by means of the countess de St. Pol, who testified to the truth of what be had said, of the conversation that had passed at her house.

On obtaining his liberty, he was addressed,?" Lord de Clary, when you challenged sir Piers Courteney to fight, instead of acting, as you thought, very gallantly, you behaved infamously; for he was under this protection of the king, and you had orders to conduct him in safety to Calais. You committed a great outrage, when you noticed, in the manner you have yourself declared, the conversation he held in joke at the countess de St. Pol's. Before you had proposed this combat, you ought to have returned hither to my lords, and have told them, that sir Piers Courteney had held such and such insolent language against the honour of the knights of France in your presence. They would then have ordered you how to act. Because, therefore, you have not done this, you have been thus punished. Be another time more discreet; and return thanks for your deliverance to my lord of Bourbon and the lord de Coucy: they have exerted themselves much to serve you, as has the countess de St. Pol; for that good lady took great pains that you should be acquitted." The lord de Clary replied,?" Many thanks, my lords;" adding, " I certainly thought I was deserving more praise than blame, when I acted as I did."

During the stay of the king of France at Montpellier, he gave a grand banquet to many ladies and damsels of that town; during which, all I have just related was talked over, and the cause was, that the three knights, who were desirous of holding the lists against all comers, wished to avoid falling under like blame to the lord de Clary.

Sir Boucicaut the younger, sir Reginald de Roye, and the lord de Saimpi, offered to hold a field of arms on the frontier of Calais, in the course of the ensuing summer, against all foreign knights and squires, for the space of thirty days, and to tilt with blunt lances or others. The king of France, as well as those present, thinking this proposal was rather presumptuous, remonstrated with them, and desired they would put down their challenge on paper, that if any improper language were made use of, it might be corrected; for the king and his ministers wished to examine it, being unwilling that any improper or unusual terms should be used. The three knights agreed that this would be right, and, in reply to the king, said they would instantly obey his commands. They ordered a clerk, with pens, paper, and ink, into another apartment, and dictated to him as follows:

"From the great desire we have to become acquainted with the nobles, gentlemen, knights, and squires bordering on the kingdom of France, as well as with those in the more distant countries, we propose being at St. Ingelvere the twentieth day of May next ensuing, and to remain there for thirty days complete; and on each of these thirty days, excepting the Fridays, we will deliver from their vows all knights, squires, and gentlemen, from whatever countries they may come, with five courses with a sharp or blunt lance, according to their pleasure, or with both lances if more agreeable.

"On the outside of our tents will be hung our shields, blazoned with our arms; that is to say, with our targets of war and our shields of peace. Whoever may choose to tilt with us has only to come, or send any one, the preceding day, to touch with a rod either of these shields, according to his courage. If he touch the target, he shall find an opponent ready on the morrow to engage him in a mortal combat with three courses with a lance : if the shield, he shall be tilted with a blunted lance; and if both shields are touched, he shall be accommodated with both sorts of combat. Every one who may come, or send to touch our shields, must give in his name to the persons who shall be appointed to the care of them. And all such foreign knights and squires as shall be desirous of tilting with us, shall bring with them some noble friend, arid we will do the same on our parts, who will order what may be proper to be done on either side.

"We particularly entreat, such noble knights or squires as may accept our challenge, to believe that we do not make it through presumption, pride, or any ill will, but solely with a view of having their honourable company, and making acquaintance with them, which we desire from the bottom of our hearts. None of our targets shall be covered with steel or iron, any more than those who may tilt with us; nor shallthere be any fraud, deceit, or trick made use of, but what shall be deemed honourable by the judges of the tournament. And that all gentlemen, knights, and squires, to whom these presents shall come, may depend on their authenticity, we have set to them our seals, with our arms, this twentieth day of November, at Montpellier, in the year of grace l389." Underneath was signed, Reginald de Roye, Boucicaut, Saimpi.

The king of France was well pleased with this courageous challenge of his three knights, and declared it should have his consent, if, on examination by his ministers, there was no fault found with the terms it was couched in. It was objected to by some, that it was wrong to fix the place for this tournament so near to Calais, as the English might think it was arrogantly and particularly aimed at them; and that all occasions of quarrel should be avoided, for a truce had been agreed to for three years between France and England. The king's ministers were one whole day considering the matter, without coining to any conclusion. Some of the most prudent said, it ought not to be allowed, nor the whims of wild young knights to be acceded to, for more evil than good might ensue from them. The king, however, who was young himself, greatly inclined towards them, and said,?" Let them perform their enterprise: they are young and courageous, and, besides, have vowed to do so before the ladies of Montpellier. We are desirous they should undertake it and bring it to the happiest end they can."

When the king had thus declared his mind to the council, no one made further opposition, to the great joy of the knights. The challenge having been agreed to in the manner the knights had drawn it out, the king called them into his closet, and said,?" Boucicaut, Reginald, and Saimpi, be attentive in this your enterprise, to guard well your own honour and that of our kingdom : let nothing be spared in the state you keep; for I will not fail to assist you as far as ten thousand francs." The three knights cast themselves on their knees and returned the king their warmest thanks.

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