Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Challenges Fought at Vannes (1380)

After the French arrive at Vannes, a series of challenges takes place.

Book II, ch. 63 (Johnes, v. 1, pp. 631-33).  On the morrow, they made preparations for the combat, as it behooved them to do, and advanced to a handsome space which was large and even, on the outside of the town.  Afterwards came the earl of Buckingham, the earl of Stafford, the earl of Devonshire, and other barons, with those who were to engage in this deed of arms:  the lord de Vertain against sir Reginald de Touars, lord de Pousanges; sir John d'Ambreticourt against Tristan de la Jaille; Edward Beauchamp against the bastard Clarius de Savoye.  The French took their places at one end of the lists, and the English at the other. Those who were to tilt were on foot completely armed, with helmets, visors, and provided with lances of good steel from Bordeaux, with which they performed as follows:

First, the lord de Pousanges and the lord de Vertain, two barons of high renown and great courage, advanced towards each other on foot, each holding their sharp spears in their hands, with a good pace: they did not spare themselves, but struck their lances lustily against each other in pushing. The lord de Vertain was hit without being wounded; but the lord de Pousanges received such a stroke that it pierced through the mail and steel breastplate, and everything underneath, so that the blood gushed out, and it was of great wonder that he was not more seriously wounded. They finished their three courses and the other deeds of arms without further mischief, when they retired to repose themselves, and to be spectators of the actions of the others.

 Sir John d'Ambreticourt, who was from Hainault. and Sir Tristan de la Jaille from Poitou, next advanced, and performed their courses very valiantly, without hurt to either, when they also retired.

 Then came the last, Edward Beauchamp and Clarius de Savoye. This bastard was a hardy and strong squire, and much better formed in all his limbs then the Englishman. They ran at each other with a hearty good will: both struck their spears on their adversary's breast; but Edward was knocked down on the ground, which much vexed his countrymen. When he was raised up, he took his spear. and they advanced again to the attack; but the Savoyard drove him backward to the earth, which more enraged the English: they said, Edward's strength was not a match for this Savoyard, and the devil was in him to make him think of tilting against one of such superior force. He was carried off among them, and declared he would not engage further. When Clarius saw this, wishing to finish his course of arms, he said, "Gentlemen, you do not use me well: since Edward wishes not to go on, send me someone with whom I may complete my courses."

 The Earl of Buckingham would know what Clarius had said, and when it was told him, replied, that the Frenchman had spoken well and valiantly. An English squire then stepped forth, who was since knighted, and called Jannequin Finchley, and coming before the Earl, kneeled down and entreated his permission to tilt with Clarius, to which the Earl assented.

Jannequin very completely armed himself on the spot: then each, seizing his spear, made thrusts at the other, and with such violence that their spears were shivered, and the stumps of them flew over their heads. They then began their second attack, and their lances were again broken: so were they in the third. All their lances were broken, which was considered by the lords as spectators as decisive proof of their gallantry.

They then drew their swords, which were strong, and in six strokes, four of them were broken. They were desirous of fighting with battle-axes, but the Earl would not consent to more being done, saying they had sufficiently showed their courage and abilities.

Upon this they both retired; when Sir John de Châtelmorant and Jannequin Clinton advanced. This Jannequin was a squire of honor to the Earl of Buckingham, and the nearest about his person, but he was lightly made and delicate in his form. The Earl was uneasy that he should have been matched with one so stout and renowned in arms as John de Châtemorant: notwithstanding, they were put to the trial, and attacked each other most vigorously: but the Englishman could not withstand his opponent, for, in pushing, he was very roughly struck to the ground: on which, the Earl said, they were not fairly matched. Some of the Earl's people came to Jannequin and said "Jannequin, you are not sufficiently strong to continue this combat: and my Lord of Buckingham is angry with you for having undertaken it: retire and repose yourself."

 The Englishman having retired, John de Châtelmorant said, "Gentlemen, it seems your squire is too weak: choose another, I beg of you, more to your liking, that I may accomplish the deeds of arms that I have engaged to perform; for I shall be very disgracefully treated if I depart hence without having completed them."

 The constable and marshall of the army replied, "You speak well, and you shall be gratified."

 It was then told to the surrounding knights and squires that one of them must deliver the lord de Châtelmorant. On these words sit William Farrington immediately replied,- "Tell him, he shall not depart without combating: let him go and repose himself a little in his chair and he shall soon be delivered; for I will arm myself against him." This answer was very pleasing to John de Châtelmorant, who went to his seat to rest himself. The English knight was soon ready and in the field. They placed themselves opposite to each other, when taking their lances, they began their course on foot to tilt with their spears within the four members; for it was esteemed disgraceful to hit any part but the body.

 They advanced to each other with great courage, completely armed, the visor down and helmet tightly fixed on. John de Châtelmorant gave the knight such a blow on the helmet that sir William Farrington staggered some little, on account of his foot slipping: he kept his spear stiffly with both hands, and, lowering it by the stumble he made, struck John de Châtelmorant on the thigh; he could not avoid it; and the spear passed through and came out the length of one's hand on the other side. John de châtelmorant reeled with the blow but did not fall.

 The English knights were much enraged at this, and said, it was infamously done. The Englishman excused himself by saying, "He was extremely sorry for it: and if he had thought it would have so happened at the commencement of the combat, he would never have undertaken it: but that he could not help it, for his foot slipped from the violence of the blow he had received." Thus the matter was passed over. The French, after taking leave of the earl and other lords, departed, carrying with them John de Châtelmorant in a litter, to château Josselin, whence they had come, and where he was in great danger of his life from the effects of this wound.

 These deeds of arms being finished, each retired to his home; the English to Vannes, the French to château Josselin.

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