Book One, Chapters 12-16; Book Two, Chapters 1-9

This document is linked toORB: The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies. Use this link to reach the project’s home page.



[Negotiations between the King and the lords]
THE negotiations for peace between the King and the count of Charolais were pursued more seriously than any others because they were the strongest parties. The lords’ demands were considerable, especially because the duke of Berry wanted Normandy for his share, which the King did not want to grant. The count of Charolais wanted to have the towns situated on the Somme — Amiens, Abbeville, Saint-Quentin, Péronne and others — which the King had repurchased for four hundred thousand crowns from Duke Philip only three months59previously, and which the latter had held by the terms of the peace of Arras from King Charles VII. Charolais said that during his [father’s] lifetime the King should not have bought them back. He reminded the King how much he owed the Burgundians, because when he was a fugitive from his father, King Charles, he had been received and maintained for six years, being given money for his needs, and then brought by them to Reims and Paris for his coronation. For this reason the count had taken great offence at the repurchasing of these lands.

However, these peace negotiations proceeded so well that one morning the King came by water to a point opposite our army, followed by a large troop of cavalry on the riverbank. There were only four or five people in his boat apart from the oarsmen. These included my lords Lau, Montauban (at that time Admiral), Nantouillet and others. The counts of Charolais and Saint-Pol were on the riverbank awaiting the King.

The King shouted to Charolais, ‘My brother, do you guarantee my safety?’ (He called him brother because the count had once been married to his sister.)60 The count replied, “Yes, my lord.’ I heard him and so did many others. The King stepped ashore with his companions. The counts paid him every honour as was his due and he, not lacking in courtesy, began to speak, saying, ‘My brother, I know that you are a nobleman and of the royal house of France.’ Charolais asked him, ‘Why, my lord?’ ‘Because,’ he said, ‘when I sent my envoys to Lille a short time ago to my uncle, your father, and you, and that fool Morvilliers spoke so kindly to you, you informed me through the archbishop of Narbonne (who is a nobleman and shows himself such by common consent) that I would repent of the words Morvilliers spoke to you before a year was out. And,’ the King continued, ‘you’ve kept your promise and that well before the end of the year.’ He said this openly, laughing, knowing Charolais’s temperament was such that he would be pleased by these words, and indeed they did please him. ‘I would deal with men who keep their promises,’ he added, disowning Morvilliers and saying that he had not charged him with saying any such words as he had used.

In fact the King walked up and down between the two counts for a long time whilst large numbers of armed men watched them from close by. There they asked for the duchy of Normandy, the river Somme and several other demands made by each one of them, and also some of the matters already discussed for the welfare of the realm, but that had become the least important question because the Public Weal had been turned into private interest. The King would not listen to any suggestion about Normandy but agreed to the count of Charolais’s requests, offered the count of Saint-Pol the office of Constable as a favour to Charolais and then very graciously bade them farewell. He got back into his boat and returned to Paris and the others went to Conflans.

So the days passed, some in truce, others in war. But all the promises which had been made between deputies of both sides at the usual meeting-place, La Grange-aux-Merciers, were broken. Yet the negotiations between the King and the count of Charolais continued and men were sent from one side to another, even though they were at war. One of the envoys was called Guillaume Bische and another Guyot d’Usie. Both were on Charolais’s side but had nevertheless previously received favours from the King because Duke Philip had banished them and the King had sheltered them at the count’s request.

These transactions did not please everyone, and already the lords had begun to distrust each other and to become weary. They would all have departed shamefully had it not been for an event which happened a few days later. I saw them hold three separate councils in one room where they all gathered, and one day I saw that the count of Charolais was much displeased by this because it had already happened twice in his presence. It did not seem right to him to hold a council in his room without including him when his forces were the largest in the army. In speaking of this to the lord of Contay, that very wise man about whom I told you previously, Contay told him to bear it patiently because if he upset them they would make a better agreement with the King than he could; as he was the strongest it behooved him to be the wisest and prevent them from splitting up. He should hold them together with all his might and conceal his feelings. But in truth, Contay said, many were amazed, including his own servants, that such insignificant men as those two previously mentioned should be in charge of such an important affair. It was moreover a dangerous matter dealing with a King who could be as liberal as this one. Contay hated Guillaume Bische. Nevertheless he only said what many others were saying. I believe it was not his suspicions that made him speak thus but only the importance of the matter. This counsel pleased Charolais and he joined the other lords more cheerfully and with better heart than before and had more to do with them than he had been accustomed to. In my opinion this was extremely necessary as there was a danger of them separating.

A wise man serves well in such company but he must be believed and he cannot be bought too dearly. But I have never known a prince who could distinguish between men until he found himself in need or very busy. If they did recognize them they ignored them and divided their authority among those who were more agreeable to them or of the same age as themselves or concurred with their opinions. Sometimes they are managed by those who know how to gratify their small pleasures. But those have understanding pull themselves together when they need to do so. I have seen the King do this, as well as the count of Charolais at that time, King Edward of England, and others likewise. I have seen these three in such critical hours that they needed those whom they had formerly despised. After the count of Charolais had been duke of Burgundy for some time, and his fortune had reached higher then that of his predecessors and was so great he had no fear that any prince could equal himself, God allowed him to fall from this glory and so diminished his senses that he forsook all other wordly counsel save his own. Almost immediately afterwards his life ended miserably with the lives of a great number of his men and subjects and his family was ruined as you perceive.

  •  All MSS. read trois mois but it was nearer two years, see Book One, Chapter 2.
  • Catherine, d. 1446.

[Events in Normandy; negotiations continue]
BECAUSE I have here spoken much about the dangers which are inherent in negotiations and advised princes, especially the prince who has the worst of the situation, to be very careful and fully informed about the men who conduct them, now I shall demonstrate what caused me to dwell so long on this subject.

Whilst these negotiations were being conducted in assemblies and it was possible for both sides to communicate with each other, instead of treating for peace, some arranged that the duchy of Normandy should be put into the hands of the duke of Berry, the King’s only brother, and that he should have his apanage61 there and leave Berry to the King. This bargain was struck in such way that the widow of the Grand Seneschal of Normandy and several of her servants and relations allowed Duke John of Bourbon into Rouen castle and from there he entered the town. The citizens agreed to this because they wanted very much to have a prince who would live in Normandy. All except a few towns in Normandy did likewise, for the Normans always thought, and still do, that a great duchy such as theirs needed a duke. To tell the truth it is worth a great deal and produces considerable revenue. I have seen 950,000 francs there [in a year], and some say more.

When the town of Rouen had come over all the inhabitants took an oath to the duke of Bourbon, who represented the duke of Berry, except Houaste (de Montespedon), the bailiff,62 who had been brought up by the King as a chamber valet whilst he was in Flanders and was very close to him, and one Guillaume Picard, later financial administrator- general of Normandy. The present Grand Seneschal63 of Normandy also did not want to take the oath but withdrew to the King against the wishes of his mother, who had organized the surrender as has been said.

When the news of this revolution in Normandy reached the King, he decided to conclude peace since he could not remedy what had already happened. Immediately he let my lord of Charolais, who was with his army, know that he wanted to speak to him and signified the time when he would go to the field before the army near Conflans. He rode out at the appointed hour with few men apart from about a hundred horse, the majority of whom were Scotsmen from his bodyguard. Charolais brought scarcely any and came without any great ceremony, yet so many followed him that soon he had more on his side than the King. He made them stay a little way off and the two of them walked together for a while. The King told him how peace had been made and what had happened at Rouen, of which the count was ignorant. The King said that he would not willingly have given his consent to deliver such an apanage to his brother but since the Normans had engineered this change themselves he was happy with it and would ratify the treaty in the form which had been proposed some days earlier. There was little else to be settled. Charolais was very pleased at this because his army was in very great need of supplies, and especially of money, and if agreement had not been reached all the lords there would have had to disperse ignominiously. Neverthelss that day or a few days later reinforcements arrived for the count which his father, Duke Philip of Burgundy, had sent under the leadership of my lord of Saveuses. There were a hundred and twenty men-at-arms, fifteen hundred archers and 120,000 crowns carried by ten pack horses, and a great quantity of bows and arrows, which greatly strengthened the Burgundians who were anxious lest the other princes reached accord [with the King] without them.

This agreement between the King and Charolais pleased both of them so much that I heard they were talking together so affectionately in settling the remaining differences that they did not notice where they were walking. They had moved towards Paris and had gone so far that they entered a large earthwork built of soil and wood. The King had ordered this to be made some distance outside the town at the end of a trench by which one could enter the town. There were only four or five people with the count. When they found themselves inside it they were astounded. However the count looked as unconcerned as he could. It may be believed that neither of the two lords obtained any pleasure from this although neither received any injury.

When the army received news that the lord of Charolais had gone into the earthwork there was great consternation. The count of Saint-Pol, the Marshal of Burgundy, the lords of Contay and Hautbourdin and several others blamed Charolais and the others in his company for this indiscretion. They remembered the unfortunate episode concerning his grandfather at Montereau-Faut-Yonne in Charles VII’s presence.64 Immediately they ordered all those who were walking about outside in the fields to return to camp. [Thibaud de] Neufchâtel, Marshal of Burgundy, said, ‘If this mad, headstrong young prince gets lost, let us not ruin his family, his father’s cause or ours. Let everyone go back to his quarters and get ready for anything which might happen without losing hope, for we are strong enough, if we keep together, to retreat in safety to the marches of Hainault, Picardy or Burgundy.’

So saying, together with the count of Saint-Pol, he mounted his horse and rode out of the camp to see if anyone was coming from the direction of Paris. After some time they saw forty or fifty horsemen, including the count of Charolais and royal troops, archers and others, who were bringing him back. When Charolais saw them approaching he dismissed those who were accompanying him. He spoke to Marshal Neufchâtel, whom he feared because he was used to being spoken to roughly by him. Neufchâtel was a good and loyal knight of his party and had dared to say to him, ‘I am only on loan to you as long as your father lives.’ The count’s words were, ‘Don’t reprimand me further. I recognize my great folly but I only perceived it when I was close to the earthwork.’ The Marshal then rated him more soundly in his presence than previously in his absence. Charolais hung his head, gave him no answer and returned to the army, where everyone was pleased to see him again and praised the King for keeping faith. Yet never again did the count put himself in his power.

  •  An endowment of lands, jurisdictions or money given to a prince for maintenance (from Latinad panem).
  • Bailli: see Glossary.
  • Jacques de Brézé, son of Pierre and Jeanne de Bec-Crespin, d. 14 August 1494.
  • A reference to the assassination of John the Fearless in 1419.

How the agreement called the treaty of Conflans was reached between the King and the lords
FINALLY, everything was settled, and the next day the count of Charolais held a general muster to find out how many men he had and how many he had lost. Without warning the King suddenly arrived with thrity or forty horse and went to look at all the companies one after the other, except that of the Marshal of Burgundy, who did not like the King. Some time before the King had given him Épinal in Lorraine and then he had withdrawn the gift to give it to Duke John of Calabria, which caused the Marshal great harm. Little by little the King was reconciling the good and notable knights whom he had dismissed on his accession, who had served his father. This was one of the reasons they were in this company. He recognized his errors. It was announced that the King would be at the castle of Bois de Vincennes the next day and all the lords who held lands of him should go to do homage. For everybody’s safety he would deliver the castle to the count of Charolais.

Next day the King and all the princes, without exception, were found there and the gateway was well guarded by the count of Charolais’s armed men. This was the place where the peace treaty was concluded. My lord Charles [of France] did homage for lands in Picardy, and others for whatever lands they held. The count of Saint-Pol took the Constable’s oath.

However good the feast someone always dines badly! Some got what they wanted, others got nothing. Some honest but only moderately wealthy men joined the King, but the greater number stayed with the new duke of Normandy and the duke of Brittany who went off to Rouen to take up their possessions. Departing from the castle of Vincennes all took their leave of each other and retired to their quarters. All the necessary letters, pardons and other things required to complete the peace were produced. Then on the same day the dukes of Normandy and Brittany set off for Brittany and Charolais for Flanders, and when the count was just starting the King came and escorted him as far as Villiers-le-Bel, which is a village four leagues from Paris, showing that he wanted very much to remain on friendly terms with the count. They stayed there together that night. The King had brought few men with him, but he had ordered two hundred men-at-arms to accompany him back again. Their arrival was reported to Charolais just as he was going to bed. Immediately he was very suspicious and ordered a large number of his men to arm. So you can see that it is almost impossible for two great lords to agree because of the reports and rumours which they receive at every hour. Two princes who wish to remain on friendly terms should never see each other but send good and wise men to one another, and these should maintain their friendship and amend any faults.

The next morning the two lords took leave of one another with a few well-chosen words. The King returned to Paris in the company of those who had come to fetch him and any suspicions entertained about their arrival were dispersed. The count of Charolais took the road for Compiègne and Noyon. Every town was open to him by the King’s command. From Noyon he went to Amiens, where he received the citizens’ homage, that of the Somme towns and the territories of Picardy, which had been restored to him by this peace treaty, although the King had paid four hundred thousand crowns for them not nine months previously.65

Quickly he passed on and went towards Liège, because the citizens had already been at war with his father in the region of Namur and Brabant for five or six months during his absence. The Liègeois had already pillaged the counties and becasue it was winter he could not make great progress. A large number of villages were burned and a number of small destructive raids were made on the Liègeois. So they made a peace66 which they were obliged to keep on pain of a great fine. The count then returned to Brabant.

  •  And incorrectly, see Chapters 2 and 12.
  • At Saint-Trond, December 1465.

How the duke of Normandy went to take possession of Normandy in the company of the duke of Brittany and what happened afterwards
LET us return to the dukes of Normandy and Brittany, who had gone to take possession of the duchy of Normandy. As soon as they entered Rouen they began to fall out over the division of their booty, because they had with them those knights, whom I have mentioned, who used to have great possessions and honours from King Charles. They thought that their enterprise had come to an end and they did not trust the King; each wanted the best possible position. The duke of Brittany, for his part, wanted a large share because he had borne the greatest costs and expenses. Their arguments became so serious that the duke of Brittany, fearing for his safety, withdrew to Mont-Sainte-Catherine near Rouen and the quarrel reached such a pitch that the duke of Normandy’s men and the citizens of Rouen were ready to go there to attack the duke of Brittany. So he was forced to retreat directly towards Brittany.

Hearing of this discord the King marched straight to the borders of the duchy. You can well imagine that he understood the matter and helped to bring it about because he was a master of this craft! A number of those who held the strong places began to deliver them to him and came to terms with him. I do not know anything about this except what I have been told by him because I was not there. He had a meeting with the duke of Brittany, who held a number of places in lower Normandy, hoping to make him abandon his brother completely. They were together for a few days at Caen(67) and made a treaty by which Caen and the other towns were to remain, with a few mercenary troops, in the hands of my lord of Lescun.(68) But this treaty was so difficult to interpret that I think neither of them understood it very well. The duke of Brittany returned home and the King marched towards his brother.

When the duke of Normandy saw that he could not resist and the King had taken Pont-de-l’Arche and some other places from him he decided to flee to Flanders. The count of Charolais was still at Saint-Trond, a small town in the district of Liège, but he was heavily engaged with the Liègeois, with his army broken up and disbanded and it was winter time. He was very upset to hear of this quarrel, because the thing which he most desired in this world was to see a duke of Normandy because he thought that by this means the King’s strength would be weakened by a third. He gathered troops in Picardy to put into Dieppe. But before they were ready the man holding Dieppe had come to terms with the King. So the whole duchy of Normandy returned to the King, except for those places which remained in my lord of Lescun’s hands by the agreement made at Caen.

  •  20-30 December 1465.
  • Odet d’Aydie, lord of Lescun, 1428-98.

[The retreat of Charles of France to Brittany]
THE duke of Normandy, as I said, had suddenly thought of fleeing to Flanders, but soon afterwards he and the duke of Brittany were reconciled. Both recognized their error and that by quarrels all good things of this world are lost. It is almost impossible for many great people together and of like estate to agree among themselves for any length of time, unless there is someone over them all, and he would need to be very wise and well respected to keep their obedience. I have often seen examples of this myself and do not speak from hearsay. We are all as likely to fall out to our own cost, without having great regard to the consequences. I have seen this happen almost everywhere and I think that a shrewd prince with ten thousand men at his command and the means to sustain them is more to be feared and respected than ten who each have six thousand and are allied together. For there are so many things for them to sort out and agree upon mutually that half the time is lost before they have decided upon anything.

So the duke of Normandy withdrew to Brittany, poor, dejected and abandoned by all the knights who served King Charles and had made their peace with the King, and were better provided for by him than they had ever been by his father. The two dukes were wise after the event (as the Bretons say) and stayed in Brittany. The lord of Lescun, the most important of their subjects, had many embassies coming and going to the King, to the dukes, from the King to the dukes, to the count of Charolais (since called the duke of Burgundy) and from him to the dukes, from the King to the duke of Burgundy and from him to the King. Some went to obtain news, some to seduce men and to make bad bargains under the cover of good faith. Some went with good intentions expecting to pacify things. But it was foolishness on their part to think that they themselves were so clever and wise that their mere presence could pacify such great and subtle princes as these were, so set on their objects, and especially considering that neither one side nor the other would offer reasonable terms. But there are some good men, so vain, that they think they can accomplish things of which they understand nothing, for sometimes their masters do not tell them their secrets at all. Many of this type, as I said before, are often only sent to adorn the feast and often at their own expense. There is always some hanger-on who has a bargain to strike. At least I saw this happen everywhere at this time. And also, as I have said before, all princes ought to be very careful which men they entrust with their business, and all those who go abroad should think carefully how to execute these affairs. He who can excuse himself and get out of the affair is a wise man, unless he sees that he can do it well and is enthusiastic about the job. I have known many worthy men who have found themselves sorely hindered and troubled by such matters.

I have seen princes of two kinds; those who are so subtle and so very suspicious that one does not know how to live with them and they think everyone betrays them; and the others, who are so confident of their servants and so deaf and inattentive to their affairs that they never know who is doing them a service or an injury. The former are fickle, moving from love to hatred and from hatred to love. And among all of the two sorts there are few good ones to be found and where they are found there is no great steadfastness or security. Yet I would always rather live under wise men than under fools, because there are more ways and means of excusing oneself and getting their favour. For with ignorant people one never knows how to do this because one does not deal with them but with their lackeys. Yet is is necessary to serve and obey them in their own countries, for one is obliged and constrained to do so. But, all things being considered, our sole hope should be in God, for in Him lies all our security and good fortune which cannot be found in any wordly thing. But each one of us recognizes this too late and after we have need of Him. Yet it is better late than never!


The beginning of the wars between the duke of Burgundy and the men of Liège
SEVERAL years passed during which the duke of Burgundy was at war with the Liègeois. Whenever the King saw he was occupied he tried some new attack on the Bretons or gave some small aid to the Liègeois. Sometimes the duke of Burgundy would turn against him in order to help his alllies, alternatively they would make some treaty or truce with each other.

In 1466, just before the death of his father, Dinant was captured by the duke of Burgundy. It was a remarkably strong town for its size and very rich because of its trade in copperware, called Dinanterie, in effect pots, pans and similar objects. It was situated in the province of Liège. Duke Philip died in June 1467, but in his extreme old age he had been brought to the siege in a litter because he hated the inhabitants so much for the cruelty which they had meted out to his subjects in the county of Namur, especially the men of Bouvignes, a small town a quarter of a league from Dinant, separated from it by the river Meuse. Not long before the men of Dinant had besieged the place on the other side of the river for eight months, committing atrocities in the surrounding districts. They had continually fired two bombards and other large guns into the houses of Bouvignes during this time and forced the poor people to hide themselves in their cellars and to live there.

The hatred between these two towns is unbelievable, yet their children married each other frequently because there were no other towns in the neighbourhood. The year before the destruction of Dinant, when the count of Charolais had just returned from Paris where he had been with the other lords of France, as you have heard, they made an agreement and peace with that lord, giving him a certain sum of money. They had deserted the city of Liège and made their peace independently. When those who ought to keep together separate and abandon each other this is a sure sign of the disintegration of a country. I maintain that the same holds for princes and lords allied together as for towns and communities, but because I think that everyone can see and read about these examples I will say no more. Yet I would like to point out that our master, King Louis, understood this art of dividing men better than any other prince I have known. He spared neither money, goods, nor efforts to gain not only the masters but also their servants.

But the men of Dinant soon began to repent of the agreement and cruelly killed their chief burgesses who had made the treaty. War broke out again in the county of Namur for these reasons and because of the complaints of the men of Bouvignes. The siege was laid by Duke Philip but the command of the army was given to his son. The count of Saint-Pol, Constable of France, also came to help them there, having left his home not by the King’s order nor with his men-at-arms, but taking those he had gathered on the marches of Picardy. The besieged sallied out over-confidently, much to their own cost. A week later they were overwhelmed by assault after being heavily bombarded. Their friends had not had time to decide whether to help them. The town was burnt and raised to the ground. Eight hundred prisoners were drowned before Bouvignes at the specific request of the inhabitants. I do not know whether God allowed this because of their great crimes but this was a cruel revenge.

The day after the town was taken the Liègeois arrived in large numbers to help. This was contrary to their promise because the Liègeois and the men of Dinant had mutually agreed to dissociate themselves from each other’s affairs. Duke Philip withdrew because of his old age and his son and all the army drew up before the Liègeois. We met them sooner than expected because by chance our vanguard had lost its way through the guides’ fault and we encountered them with the main body of our army, where the principal leaders were. It was already late, but nevertheless preparations were made to attack them. Thereupon, some men, whom they had deputed, came to Charolais and pleaded with him for the honour of the Virgin Mary, whose eve it was,1 to have pity on those people and they excused their faults as best they could.

But quite contrary to the words of their ambassadors, the LièGeois appeared to be ready for battle. Yet after coming and going for two or three times they agreed to fulfil the treaty of the previous year and to deliver a certain sum of money. For the better keeping of this agreement in the future than in the past, they promised to hand over three hundred hostages named in a roll drawn up by the bishop of Liège and some of his servants who were in the army. They were to be delivered before eight o’clock the next morning. The Burgundian army was very anxious that night because it was not enclosed securely but was encamped in scattered positions in an area favourable to the Liègeois, who were all foot soldiers and knew the country better than we did. Some of them would have liked to attack us and in my opinion, if that had, they would have got the better of us. But those who had drawn up the treaty put an end to this scheme.

As soon as day broke all our army assembled and the battles were carefully formed; there was a grand total of about three thousand men-at-arms both good and bad, twelve or thirteen thousand archers and many foot soldiers from neighbouring regions. We marched up to them in order to receive the hostages or to fight them if they defaulted. We found them already disbanded. They were leaving in small groups and in a disorderly way like badly led men. It was already practically midday and they had not delivered the hostages.

The count of Charolais asked the Marshal of Burgundy, who was present, if he ought to attack them or not. The Marshal said he should and that he would defeat them without any trouble, and he need make no pretence about this, since they were at fault. Afterwards he also asked the lord of Contay, whom I have mentioned several times, who was of the same opinion. Contay added that never would there be a better opportunity, pointing out to him that they had already separated into bands as they were leaving and urging him strongly not to delay. He then asked the Constable, the count of Saint-Pol. He was opposed to an attack, saying that it would be contrary to his honour and his promise since so many men could not possibly agree so quickly to such a matter as the delivery of the hostages, especially in such large numbers, and he advised sending to them to find out their intentions. The discussion between these three and the count on this difference of opinion was long and serious. On one side the count could see his powerful old enemies defeated and incapable of resistance, and on the other there was the matter of his promise. In the end a trumpeter was sent to them. He met the hostages who were being brought to Charolais. So the affair was brought to a close and everyone returned to his post. The Constable’s advice displeased the men-at-arms because they had the prospect of great booty before their very eyes. An embassy was immediately sent to Liège to confirm this peace. The inhabitants, who are fickle, said to them that the count had not dared to fight them and fired their culverins at the envoys and insullted them in several ways. The count of Charolais returned to Flanders. Then his father died,(2) and he gave him a very grand, solemn funeral service and burial at Bruges(3) and sent word of his death to the King.

  • 7 September.
  • 15 June 1467.
  • 16 August 1467.

[The campaign of Charles the Rash against the men of Liège]
ALL this time intrigues were being hatched by the princes. The King was exceedingly angry with the dukes of Burgundy and Brittany. The two dukes had great difficulty communicating with each other because their messengers were often intercepted and, in wartime, they had to go by sea; or at least it was necessary to go from Brittany across to England then by land to Dover across to Calais because, if they went directly by land, they proceeded at their peril. In all these years, and in other subsequent ones, God favoured this realm of France in that the dissensions which lasted for about twenty years or more, some spent at war, others in truces and prevarications (and each of the princes used to include his allies), the wars and divisions of England also continued, although they had begun fifteen years before. There had been great and bloody battles in which many worthy men died. All were said to be traitors because there were two houses contending for the English crown, the houses of Lancaster and York. It cannot be doubted that if the English had been in the same condition as they had been previously, this realm would have had many more difficulties.

The King was still attempting above all else to bring Brittany to heel because he thought that it could be done more easily and it would resist less than Burgundy. Furthermore the Bretons had sheltered his enemies, his brother and others, who had contacts inside this kingdom. For this reason he contrived very hard to get Duke Charles of Burgundy to abandon them by consenting to various offers and bargains, agreeing in return to desert the Liègeois and his other enemies. But the duke of Burgundy would not agree to this and set out against the Liègeois once more. They had broken the peace treaty with him and taken the town of Huy, driving out his troops and pillaging it, in spite of the hostages which they had given in the previously year who would be killed if they broke the treaty, as well as the large monetary indemnity. He gathered his army round Louvain in Brabant and on the marches of Liège.

The count of Saint-Pol, Constable of France, arrived to see him there. He was by then reconciled to the King on all issues and kept company with him. With Cardinal Balue4 and other envoys he announced to the duke of Burgundy that the Liègeois were the King’s allies and included in his truce, warning him that the King could give them aid if the duke of Burgundy attacked them. Nevertheless they offered that if the duke would consent to allow the King to make war on Brittany the King would allow him to fight the Liègeois. Their audience was short and in public and they stayed only one day. The duke of Burgundy excused himself by saying that the Liègeois had attacked him and that it was they, not he, who had broken the truce and he would not abandon his allies on such a pretext. The ambassadors were dismissed. When they wanted to ride off the day after their arrival he called out to them to tell the King not to undertake any action against Brittany. The Constable spoke forcefully to him, ‘My lord, you don’t choose, but you take all and make war at your own pleasure on our friends and you want us to sit still, not daring to attack our enemies as you do yours. This state of affairs cannot continue, nor will the King tolerate it any longer.’

The duke bade them farewell saying, ‘The Liègeois are in arms and I expect to fight them in the next three days. If I lose I believe you’ll do as you please, but if I win you’ll leave the Bretons in peace.’ With this he mounted and the ambassadors went to their lodgings to prepare for their departure. He left Louvain in arms and with a very large company to lay siege to a town called Saint-Trond. His army was huge, since everyone who could came from Burgundy to join him. I had never before seen him with so many men at once.

A short while before his departure there was some discussion as to whether he should kill the hostages or what else he should do with them. Some said he should kill them all. The lord of Contay especially urged this and I had never heard him speak so bitterly or cruelly as he did then. For this reason it is necessary for a prince to have several men in his council because even the wisest can err far too often. This is because they become emotional in discussion, through love or hatred, or because they want to contradict someone else, or simply because of their state of health; nor should anything said after dinner be taken for counsel. Some might say that men committing these faults ought not to be in a prince’s council. But in reply to that I say we are all human and he who would seek out those who never fail to speak wisely, or who are never moved more on one occasion than on another must look for them in heaven, for he will not find them amongst men. But also, to compensate for this, there are those who will speak wisely and well in council who are usually unaccustomed to doing so often and so they redress the balance.

Returning to these deliberations two or three supported this opinion because they admired the authority and judgement of Contay — for in such a council there are found many who only speak after others, barely understanding the discussion and wishing only to please any powerful man who has spoken. Afterwards my lord of Humbercourt,5 who was born near Amiens and was one of the wisest and most intelligent knights I have ever known, was asked his view. His opinion was that the duke, in order to have God entirely on his side and show everyone he was not cruel and vindictive, should release the three hundred hostages, seeing that they had delivered themselves in good faith, hoping that the peace would be kept. But on their release they should be informed of the duke’s grace towards them, and told to use every effort to bring this people back to peace and, in case they did not want to do this, at least they should recognize their good fortune and desist from the war against him and their bishop who was in his company. This opinion was agreed upon and the hostages promised to do this when they were released. They were also told that if any of them took part in the war and were caught they would lose their heads. So they departed.

I think I ought to say that after the lord of Contay had given his harsh advice which you heard against the poor hostages (of whom a number had come in voluntarily and were present at the council), a companion whispered in my ear, ‘You see that man? Although he’s quite old, he’s still healthy, yet I’ll bet you anything he won’t be alive in a year’s time.’ He said this because of his terrible advice. And so it happened, for he lived only a short while afterwards. But before he died he served his master well in one battle which I shall tell you about later.

Returning again to our account: you heard how the duke, after leaving Louvain, laid siege to Saint-Trond and set out his artillery. Inside the town were some three thousand Liègeois under the command of a very fine knight,6 who had negotiated the peace which we made the previous year when we were drawn up ready for battle with them. Three days after we laid siege the Liègeois, in very large numbers — 30,000 or more all told and all infranty except for some five hundred cavalry, with a large number of guns — advanced to break up the siege. At ten o’clock in the morning they found themselves in a fortified village called Brusthem, partly surrounded by marshes, half a league from us. In their company was François Royer, bailli of Lyon, at that time the King’s ambassador to the Liègeois. The alarm was quickly sounded in our army. But to be honest it must be said that it had been a poor decision to send good scouts into the fields for we were only warned by our foragers who were fleeing. I was never anywhere with the duke of Burgundy where I saw him give good orders except that day. Immediately he ordered all the troops into the field except those whom he told to remain at the siege. Amongst whom he left there were five hundred Englishmen. He placed more than twelve hundred men-at-arms on both sides of the village and he remained facing the village, further off than the others, with a good eight hundred men-at-arms. There were a large number of gentlemen on foot with the archers and very many men-at-arms. My lord of Ravenstein led the duke’s vanguard, who were all on foot, both men-at-arms and archers, with some guns up to the edge of the enemy’s ditches which were wide, deep and full of water. There under the hail of arrows and gunshots they were repulsed and we captured their trenches and artillery. When our men shot and missed the Liègeois rallied and with their long pikes (very useful weapons) they charged our archers and their leaders in one mass and killed four or five hundred men in a moment. At that point all our standards began to give way almost as if routed. Immediately the duke ordered up the archers of his company, under the leadership of Philip de Creèvecoeur, lord of Cordes, and several other noblemen, who with a loud cry attacked the Liègeois, who were likewise defeated almost instantaneously.

The cavalry, about which I spoke, was stationed on both sides of the village and could not attack the Liègeois. Nor could the duke of Burgundy from his position because of the marsh; they were there only to stop the Liègeois if they defeated the vanguard and crossed their trenches in order to gain the open country. The Liègeois took flight through the marshes and could only be chased by the infantry. Some of the cavalry who were with the duke of Burgundy were sent by him to give chase. But they had to make a detour of two leagues before they could find a crossing and night fell upon them, allowing many Liègeois to escape with their lives. The others he sent to the town where he heard much noise, and he feared a sally. In fact they sallied out three times but each time they were repulsed; the English who had been left there fought very bravely.

The Liègeois, after their defeat, rallied for a short time around their baggage train. But they did not hold it long. More than six thousand men died. This seems a lot to men who do not want to lie, but since my birth I have seen in many places that where one man has really been killed it has been reported that a hundred have died in order to please someone, and with such lies many masters have been deceived. Had it not been, however, for the night, more than fifteen thousand would have been killed.

When this business was over, by which time it was already very late, the duke of Burgundy and all the army withdrew to camp, except for a thousand or twelve hundred cavalry who had been sent two leagues away to pursue the fugitives, because otherwise they would not have been able to reach them, for there was a small river between them. The night prevented them from achieving any great success. Yet they captured and killed some fugitives. The rest and greater part of the army took refuge in the city. The lord of Contay served well that day in ordering the battle but a few days later at the town of Huy7 he died, having made a very good end. He had been both valiant and wise, yet he lived but a short time after giving his harsh advice against the hostages of the Liजgeois as you have heard previously. As soon as the duke had disarmed he called a secretary and made him write a letter to the Constable and others who had left him at Louvain. It was only four days before that they had come as ambassadors, and he notified them of this victory and requested that nothing should be done against the Bretons.

Two days after the battle the pride of the stupid Liègeois was seriusly damaged, although they had lost little. But, whoever he is, it is well for a man to beware of placing his whole fortune on the hazard of a battle if he can avoid it, because the loss of a few men often causes an incredible change in the courage of the losers, both through fear of the enemy and through their mistrust of their master and his private advisers. They begin to grumble and plot and demand more brazenly than they are wont to, and they are more resentful when these demands are refused. Three crowns will not do as much now as one had done before. And if he who has lost is wise he will not attempt anything more this season with troops who have just fled, but will hold himself at the ready and try to find an enemy easy to defeat, where his troops can be the victors and restore their morale and banish their fear.

In any case a battle always has serious consequences for the loser. However it is true that the victors should seek opportunities for battle in order to complete their work more quickly especially those, like the English or Swiss as we might say today, who have better infantry than their neighbours. I don’t say this to deprecate other nations, but these two nations have had remarkable victories and their men are not content to take the field for long without undertaking some exploit, unlike the French and Italians, who are more understanding and easier to lead. On the other hand the victor increases his reputation and standing with his people far above what it was before. His subjects obey him more readily, they give him whatever he asks for and his men become more courageous and daring. Sometimes these princes think so highly of themselves and become so proud that they come to grief later on. I speaking from experience.8 All such good fortune comes from God alone who changes things according to the merits or failings of men.

When those who were at Saint-Trond saw that the battle was lost and that they were not surrounded on all sides, they surrendered the town, thinking that the defeat was more serious than it was. They left their arms behind and allowed the duke of Burgundy to select ten men to dispose of it at his will. He had them decapitated; amongst them were six of the hostages who had been released only a few days before on the conditions you heard about. He struck camp and marched to Tongeren, where the inhabitants expected to be besieged. But the town was not very strong and without waiting to be attacked the inhabitants made a similar agreemnt with the duke, giving him ten men, including another five or six hostages. All ten were executed like the others.

  •  Jean Balue, bishop of Évreaux, 1465-7, and of Angers 1467-91, created cardinal 18 September 1467.
  • Gui de Brimeu, lord of Humbercourt, executed 1477.
  • Regnaut de Rouvroit.
  • In fact he died at Brussels on 19 December 1467.
  • Following MMS. A., B., and P. in this and the next sentence.

[Capture of Liège}
FROM Tongeren the duke marched towards the city of Liège which was in great turmoil. Some inhabitants wanted to defend the city, saying that they had plenty of men; a knight called Sir Raez de [Heers, lord of] Linter especially advocated this course. Others, on the contrary, who could see the burning and destruction of all their homeland, wanted peace at all costs. So as the duke approached the city a few unimportant men, mainly fishmongers,9 made some small peaceful overtures. However these matters were taken in hand by some of the hostages who had acted very differently from those I told you about previously. These recognized the favour which they had received and led out three hundred of the chief citizens, clothed only in their shirts, with their legs and heads bare. They brought the duke the keys of the city and delivered themselves and the city to him unreservedly to do with as he wished, only begging him not to burn or pillage it. There were also present that day as ambassadors my lord of Moy,10 and a secretary of the King called Master Jean Prevost, who had come to deliver similar demands and others to those the Constable had brought a few days before.

The same day that city capitulated11 the duke, expecting to enter it, sent the lord of Humbercourt there to go in first because he knew the city intimately since he had helped to adminster it during the years when there had been peace. Nevertheless he was refused entry that day and he had to stay at a small abbey next to one of the gates. He had with him fifty men-at-arms and there were perhaps about two hundred soldiers in all of whom I was one. The duke of Burgundy sent word to him not to leave if he felt secure, but if the place was not strong to withdraw towards him, for since the area was very rocky it was very difficult to send help to him. Humbercourt decided not to leave because his position was strong and he kept by him in order to use them, as you will hear, five or six wealthy citizens who had come to deliver the keys of the city. At nine o’clock in the evening we heard their town clock strike, at which the citizens assembled, and Humbercourt feared that they were going to attack us because he had been accurately informed that Sir Raez de [Heers, lord of] Linter and several others did not want to consent to the peace. His suspicion was well founded; for this was their purpose and they were ready to sally out.

‘If we distract them till midnight,’ Humbercourt said, ‘we’ll escape because they’ll be tired and want to sleep. Those who are our enemies will flee, thinking that their enterprise has failed.’ So in order to achieve this end he dispatched two of the burgesses whom he had retained, as I told you, giving them certain very friendly proposals. He did this only to give them a reason for calling the citizens together and to gain time because they had a custom, as they still do, of bringing all the people together at the bishop’s palace when there is any news. They are summoned there by the sound of a bell from within. So our two honest burgesses who had been hostages proceeded to the gate, which was only two bow-shots away, and there found large numbers of armed men. Some wanted to attack them, others did not. They cried out to the mayor of the city that they had brought certain favourable proposals from the lord of Humbercourt, lieutenant of the duke of Burgundy in this district, and it would be a good thing to go to the palace and examine them. This was done. Immediately we heard the bell sounded in the palace which informed us clearly that they were fully occupied.

Our two burgesses did not return, but after an hour we heard a rather greater noise at the gate than before. Many people had gathered there and they shouted insults over the wall at us. Then Humbercourt, realizing that we were in greater danger than before, dispatched the four remaining hostages to carry letters which said that he, being governor of the city for the duke of Burgundy, had treated them in a friendly manner and would not consent in any way to their destuction since it was but recently that he had been made a freeman of one of their gilds, that of the Blacksmiths, and had worn their livery. For this reason they could trust what he said to them. In short, if they wanted to benefit from the peace and to save their homes it was necessary for them, after delivering the town, to do what they had promised to do in a memorandum. When he had fully instructed these four men, like the previous ones, they went up to the gate, which they found wide open. Some welcomed them with gross libels and threats but others were content to hear their message and returned again to the palace. So once more we heard the bell of the palace and were very relieved; the noise at the gate died down. They were, indeed, a long time at the palace — until two in the morning. There they decided to maintain the agreement which they had made and that in the morning they would open one of the gates for the lord of Humbercourt. They all then went to bed as the lord of Humbercourt had predicted. Straight away Sir Raez de [Heers, lord of] Linter and his followers fled the town.

I would not have spent so much time describing these things, since it is scarcely an important matter, had it not been to demonstrate that sometimes men drawing on their great experience, and using such ruses and expedients, are able to avoid great danger, damage, or loss.

Next day at dawn many of the hostages came to speak to the lord of Humbercourt and entreated him to go to the palace where all the citizens were assembled, so that he could swear to the two points which worried them, that is to say, the clauses concerning fire and pillage. Afterwards, they said, they would deliver a gate to his keeping. He wrote to the duke of Burgundy telling him of this and went. Once the oath was taken he returned to the gate and made the garrison on it come down and replaced them by twelve men-at-arms and archers. He put one of the duke of Burgundy’s banners on the gate. Then he went to another walled-up gate and placed it in the hands of [Anthony] the Bastard of Burgundy, who was encamped before it. Another he gave to the Marshal of Burgundy and a fourth he delivered to one of the noblemen who were still with him. In this way all four gates were strongly garrisoned by the duke of Burgundy’s troops and flew his banners. For you must realize that Liège at this time was one of the most powerful cities in the country — only four or five others exceeded it — and it was more heavily populated than others, particularly so because many people had sought refuge there from the neighbouring countryside. The losses in the battle were hardly noticeable. They lacked for nothing although it was the very depth of winter, and the rainfall was indescribably heavy and the ground itself incredibly muddy and soft. We were in desperate need of supplies and money. The army had almost broken up and even if the duke of Burgundy had wanted to besiege them he could not have done so. If they had waited two more days before surrendering he would have had to retreat.

For this reason I conculde that the great glory and honour which he won in this campaign proceeded solely from God’s grace towards him, contrary to all expectation, because he would never have dared ask for the success which he achieved. In the judgement of men he received those honours because of the grace and favour he had shown toward the hostages which you heard about before. I say this more readily because princes and others sometimes complain bitterly to themselves and regret that when they have done some good to someone it often rebounds to their disadvantage. They tell themselves that in the future they will not be so lenient, nor pardon so easily nor do any generous thing nor grant a favour, although these are all things inherent in their office. In my opinion it is badly argued and proceeds from an evil mind to say and do this. For a prince, or any other man who is never mistaken, can only be a beast knowing not the difference between good and evil. Moreover, men are not all from the same mould. For which reason the wickedness of one or two should not prevent us doing good turns to many when there is the time and opportunity. It would be well for all to have good judgement of character, for all men are not equally deserving. I can hardly believe that a wise person would not be grateful for some great benefit which he has recieved from another. Here princes often err, for an association with fools is never profitable for long. In my opinion one of the wisest qualities a lord can display is a close acquaintance and relationship with virtuous and honest men. For others will judge him by the type of man with whom he associates most closely.

To conclude this chapter, I think that one should never fail to do good, because just one man, or the meanest of those to whom you have once done good, may by chance do you a good turn or service which will recompense you for all the knavery and ingratitude which others would have done in a similar circumstance. Thus you have seen how the hostages acted, some well and gratefully, the majority badly and ungraciously. Yet five or six alone sufficed to conclude this exploit to the duke of Burgundy’s satisfaction.

  •  Following MS.P. MS.D. reads prisoniers.
  • Colard, lord of Moy.
  • November 1467.

[The entry of Charles the Rash into Liège and Ghent]
THE day after the gates had been handed over, the duke entered the city of Liège triumphantly after a hundred and twenty feet12 of the wall had been knocked down and the moat filled up to the level of the main street. Over two thousand fully armed soldiers and ten thousand archers marched on foot behind the duke yet many men remained in the camp. The duke was on horseback and so were his household and the most important men in the army who were decked out as finely as possible, and thus he rode up to the cathedral where he dismounted. But to be brief, he stayed for some days in the city. There he had five or six of the former hostages executed, amongst them the town’s messenger whom he hated greatly. He imposed various new laws and customs on them and taxed them heavily for the money which he said was owing to him because they had broken the peace agreements of previous years. He carried off all their artillery and arms and had all the fortifications of the city razed. Then he went home where he was received with great acclimation and loyalty, particularly by the men of Ghent who, with some other towns, a little before he entered the bishopric of Liège, had been in rebellion against him. But at this moment they welcomed him as a conqueror and all the town’s banners were carried before him as far as Brussels by the most notable citizens. Those who carried them came on foot.13 This was because after his father’s death he had made his entry into Ghent before any other town in his country, as he thought it was the town which loved him most and that the rest would follow its example.14 This was true.

Next morning, after his entry, the citizens armed themselves and gathered in the market place carrying a statue of a saint, who they called St. Lievin. They ran the carriage carrying the reliquary of the saint against the walls of a small house, calledla maison de la Cuillette, where certain corn dues were levied to pay off the debts the town had contracted towards Duke Philip of Burgundy when they made peace with him, since they had been at war for two years with the duke. This meant, they said, that the saint wanted to go straight through the house without deviating from his path and instantly they knocked it down.

The duke went to the market place and went to the upstairs of a house to talk to them. Many important people acknowledged him as he went by and offered to accompany him. He made them wait in front of the town hall for him, but slowly the rabble forced them to go to the market place. When the duke arrived there he ordered them to take the reliquary back to the church. Some lifted it up to obey him but others made them put it down again. They complained to him about some of those who administered the town’s finances and he promised them justice. When he saw that the could not make them disperse he withdrew to his lodgings and they remained in the market place for a week.

Next day they brought him documents in which they demanded the return of all that Duke Philip had confiscated from them by the Peace of Gavere.15 These included a demand that each of the seventy-two gilds should have its own banner as it used to do. Because he could see what a desperate situation he was in he was forced to give in to all their demands and allow them such privileges as they wanted. As soon as he gave his word, after much coming and going, they planted all the banners, which had already been made, in the market place, showing that they would have done the same against the duke’s wishes even if he had not agreed to let them.

He was right to say that the other towns would do as Ghent did on his entry for many rebelled, killed his officers and committed other excesses. Had he believed his father’s dictum that the Gantois loved their prince’s son but never the prince, he would not have been so deceived. To be quite honest, after the people of Liège there are none so fickle as the Gantois. However despite their villainy they are honest in one thing; they will never harm the person of their prince and the burgesses and other leading citizens are very good people and much displeased by the madness of the common people.

The duke was forced to ignore all these acts of disobedience in order to avoid war with both his own subjects and the Liègois at the same time. But he reckoned that if the campaign he had undertaken turned out well he would soon bring them back to obedience. And so it happened. For as I have already said they carried all the banners before him on foot to Brussels, together with all the privileges and other letters which they had made him sign on his departure from Ghent. At an impressive assembly in the Great Chamber at Brussels, in the presence of many ambassadors, they presented to him the banners and all the privileges to do with as he saw fit.

His heralds and pursuivants at his command took the banners off the lances to which they were attached and sent them to Boulogne-sur-Mer, ten leagues from Calais. Those which had been taken away from them in his father, Duke Philip’s time, after his wars with them when he had defeated and subjugated them were also kept there. The duke’s Chancellor16 took all their privileges and annulled the one they had relating to their law for in all the other Flemish towns the prince appointed new magistrates every year and heard their accounts. But in Ghent, by this privilege, he had only been able to appoint four men and the rest, twenty-two, since there were twenty-six échevins in all, were nominated by the city. When the magistrates of the towns favour the count of Flanders there is peace in that year and they willingly agree to his demands. But if on the contrary the magistrates are not good there are many disturbances. Above all this, the Gantois paid thirty thousand florins to the duke and six thousand to his officers and some men were banished from the town. All their other privileges were restored. The other towns made their peace by offering the duke money, which he accepted because they had openly attacked him.

From all these things you can well see the good which accrues to the conqueror and the losses which the vanquished suffer. For this reason one ought to be very wary about allowing oneself to be drawn into the chance decision of a battle when not constrained to fight and, if forced to do so, to consider all the possibilities before fighting. Often those who readily do these things cautiously take good precautions and win, when those who proceed arrogantly achieve nothing. But when God interposes man’s efforts are worthless.

The Liègeois had been excommunicated for five years for their quarrels with their bishop whom they dispised and they continued in their folly and hateful opinions without knowing what moved them to do so (in fact it was greed and pride). King Louis said a very wise thing, to my way of thinking, when he remarked that pride comes before a fall. But he had not the least trace of this vice himself.

When these disturbances were over, the duke left for Ghent where his entry was very expensive. He entered the town in arms. The citizens had come out to him in the fields so that he could put men out of the city or in to it at his pleasure. Several of the King’s ambassadors came to him there and also went from him to the King. Similarly he exchanged envoys with Brittany. So that winter passed. The King was trying very hard all the while to get the duke to consent to allow him to do as he wished in Brittany, offering him certain proposals in recompense. But the duke would not agree, which was displeasing to the King, especially when he saw what happened to his allies, the Liègeois.

  •  MS. reads xx brasses. A brasse is the length of a man’s outstretched arms, thus about six feet.
  • Commynes confuses the events of 1467 and 1469 at Ghent where he was an eye witness on both occasions.
  • Charles made his joyeuse entrée into Ghent in June 1467.
  • 1453.
  • Pierre de Goux, Chancellor of Burdungy, 1461-71.

How the King made war in Brittany on the duke of Brittany and the duke of Normandy, his brother, who had retired to the duchy; and the agreement which followedFINALLY, when summer came, the King could not remain patient any longer and he entered Brittany, or at least his men did, and captured two small castles. Chantocé and Ancenis. Immediately the news was brought to the duke of Burgundy. The dukes of Normandy and Brittany implored his aid and with all speed he raised his army and wrote to the King telling him not to persist in this enterprise because they were his allies and were included in his truce. Receiving no satisfactory answer the duke took the field close to the town of Péronne with a large number of men. The King was at Compiègne and his army remained in Brittany.

When the duke had been there for three or four days Cardinal Balue come to him as an ambassador on the King’s behalf for a short stay during which he made certain proposals, saying to the duke that those in Brittany could well come to an arrangement wihtout him. The King’s purpose, as always, was to divide the allies. Soon the cardinal, after receiving all due honours and entertainment, was dismissed. He returned with this answer; that the duke had not taken to the field to injure or make war on the King but only to help his allies. Both sides sugared their words.

Shortly after the cardinal’s departure a herald called Brittany arrived before the duke, bearing letters to him from the dukes of Normandy and Brittany, containing the news that they had made peace with the King17 and renounced all their alliances, especially with him, and that in a final settlement the duke of Normandy was to have an income of sixty thousand livres and renounce his share of Normandy, which had only recently been given him. This did not greatly please my lord Charles of France but he was forced to conceal his resentment.

The duke of Burgundy was very astounded by this news, seeing that he had only taken the field in order to help those dukes. The herald was in very great personal danger because the duke thought that since he had come via the King he had forged these letters. Nevertheless, he received similar letters from another source. The King thought he had achieved his ends and that he would easily bring Burgundy to abandon the other dukes as they had abandoned him. Secret messengers began to pass between them and eventually the King gave the duke of Burgundy a hundred and twenty thousand gold crowns, half of which were paid before he left the field, for the expenses which he had incurred in raising the army.

The duke sent a valet of his chamber, Jan Boschuse, with whom he was very intimate, to the King. This gave the King great confidence and he wanted to speak to the duke, hoping thereby to win him over to his way of thinking in all things, seeing the dirty way in which the other two dukes had treated him and the large sum of money which he had given him. He thus informed the duke of this by Boschuse and also sent with him Cardinal Balue, for the second time, and Sir Tanguy du Chastel, governor of Roussillon, who intimated by their words that the King really wanted this interview to take place. They found the duke at Péronne but he was not very anxious for such a meeting because the Liègeois once more showed signs of revolt, since two envoys had been sent by the King in order to incite them to do this a few days before the truce had been agreed with the two dukes and their allies. The Liègeois had replied to the ambassadors that they dared not revolt because the duke had defeated them and destroyed their walls the year before and when they saw this truce, even if they had any such wishes, they would have forgotten them. Nevertheless it was finally agreed that the King should come to Péronne as he desired. The duke wrote in his own hand a letter giving the King a safe conduct to come and go freely. So the ambassadors departed and went to the King, who was at Noyon. The duke, in the meantime, hoping to settle affairs in Liège, sent there the bishop of Liège, who was the cause of the disputes, and he was accompanied by the lord of Humbercourt, lieutenant of the county, and several others.

  •  Treaty of Ancenis, 10 September 1468.

how the King came to Péronne to see the duke of Burgundy, how he was arrested there and how the duke forced him to accompany him to Liège
YOU have heard how it had been decided that the King should come to Péronne. So he came there and brought no guards but depended entirely on the assurances given him by the duke. He only wanted my lord of Cordes, who was then in the ducal service, to come to meet and accompany him with some ducal archers. This was done. Few men came with him. Nevertheless amongst them were some important figures, like the duke of Bourbon and his brother, the cardinal of Bourbon and the Constable, the count of Saint-Pol, who was not concerned at all with this interview and he was not now so respectful of the duke as he had once been. For this reason there was little love lost between the two of them. Cardinal Balue, the governor of Roussillon, and others were also there. When the King approached Péronne the duke, well accompanied, came out to meet him and brought him into the town, lodging him with the receiver, who had a fine house close to the castle, because the rooms of the castle were few and poor.

War between two great princes is very easy to start but very difficult to end because of the things which happen and their consequences. On each side many schemes are formed to harm the enemy which cannot be quickly countermanded. In this case these two princes had agreed to this interview suddenly without informing their own men in distant regions, who continued to execute fully all the orders which their masters had previously sent them. The duke of Burgundy had sent for the Burgundian army which at that time included a large number of the nobility. With them were three brothers, my lord of Bresse, the bishop of Geneva and the count of Romont,18 who were all scions of the house of Savoy, several other Savoyard subjects19 (the Savoyards and the Burgundians have always loved each other a great deal), and also some Germans who lived on the borders of Savoy and the county of Burgundy. You may remember that the King had previously held the lord of Bresse in prison20 because he had had two knights killed in Savoy. There was no love lost between them! Also in the army were my lord of Lau (whom the King had likewise held prisoner for a long time21 after he had been friendly with him; he had then escaped from prison and fled to Burgundy), Sir Poncet de Rivière, and the lord of Ufré, later chief squire of the household of France.

All this company drew near to Péronne when the King went to the town. The lord of Bresse and the other three I have mentioned entered the town wearing the cross of St. Andrew, thinking that they had arrived just in time to accompany the duke of Burgundy to meet the King, but they were a little late. They went straight to the duke’s chamber, paid their respects to him and, with my lord of Bresse acting as spokesman, asked the duke that the three should be given safeguard, notwithstanding the King’s arrival, as he had granted it to them up to the moment of their arrival there. They said that they were also ready to serve him against all. The duke thanked them and granted their request by word of mouth. The rest of the army, which the Marshal of Burgundy had brought, was camped in the open as it had been commanded to do so. The Marshal had as many grievances against the King as the others, over the town of Épinal, situated in Lorraine, which Louis had previously given to the Marshal and then later taken from him to give to Duke John of Calabria; this has been mentioned often enough earlier in these present memoirs.

Soon the King was informed of the arrival of all these men and the uniforms they were wearing. He became very frightened and sent to ask the duke of Burgundy if he could stay in the castle because all those who had just come were his enemies. The duke was very pleased by this and gave him his lodgings and told him to have no fears.

It is great folly on the part of a prince to submit himself to the power of another, especially when they are at war, and it is very advantageous to princes to have read history in their youth in which they learn much about such meetings and the great frauds, deceptions and perjuries which some of the ancients have committed against each other, taking and killing those who have trusted them in such sureties. Not all have acted in this way but one example is enough to make many wise and warn them to mind what they are doing.

This, it seems to me (and for eighteen years or more I have seen this with my own eyes when I was with princes, and had full knowledge of the highest and most secret affairs of state dealt with in this kingdom of France and neighbouring lordships), one of the surest ways of making a man wise, by reading ancient history and learning how to conduct and to undertake one’s affairs safely and wisely by the history and examples of our predecessors. For our life is so brief that it is not possible to have very many kinds of experience. In addition to this, as our lives are shorter than the lives of men used to be and our bodies are not so strong, so we are weaker in faith and loyalty towards one another. I do not know by what ties men can bind themselves to each other, especially the great, who are inclined to follow their own wishes without regard to reason, and, what is worse, are more often than not surrounded by men who have an eye for nothing except to please their masters and to praise them for all their acts whether good or bad. If anyone is found who wants to do things better, everyone gets upset. Again I cannot forbear from blaming ignorant princes. Around all lords are readily to be found clerks and lawyers, as is only right and proper when they are good men. But they are very dangerous when they are otherwise. For every occasion they have some precedent on the tip of their tongues or a story which they distort in order to present it in the best light. But wise princes and those who have read widely are never deceived by them nor are their councillors so foolhardy as to attempt to make them swallow lies. Believe me, God did not establish the office of King or of any other prince to be exercised by ignoramuses or by those who glory in saying, ‘I am not a clerk, I leave my council to take care of such matters, I trust them,’ and then, without more ado, go off to have a good time. If they had been properly educated in their youth, they would think differently, and they would earnestly desire to be esteemed for their character and virtue.

I do not want to say that all prnces are served by such badly educated men, but the majority of those whom I have known have not been entirely free of them. In times of need I have seen some wise princes who have known how to use the best and to take the advice without complaint. And amongst all the princes whom I have known our master, the King, knew best how to do this and how to hold gentlemen of wealth and worth in the highest honour. He had read quite widely. He liked to ask about and understand all things. He had a natural good sense which was worth more than all the knowledge one could learn in this world. All books are valueless unless they bring a recollection of things past. Then one can learn things from a single book in three months which could not be seen or experienced by twenty men of rank living one after another. So that, to conclude this digression, I think God cannot send a greater plague on a country than an untintelligent prince, because from this all other ills proceed. First come division and war because he always gives away to other men the authority which he wought to want to keep more than anything else. From this division proceed famine and epidemics and other ills which spring from war. Just look and see whether a prince’s subjects do not have good reason to be sad when they see his children badly educated by men of poor character.

  •  Respectively, Philippe, Jean-Louis and Jacques de Savoie.
  • This phrase added from MSS. M. and P.
  • 1464-6.
  • 1466-8.

[The revolt at Liège and the interview at Péronne]
NOW you have been told about the almost simultaneous arrival of the Burgundian army and the King at Péronne, for the duke had not been able to countermand his orders to the army since they were already well advanced into Champagne when the interview with the King was being arranged. Their arrival aroused suspicions which disturbed the meeting. Nevertheless these two princes deputed councillors to assemble and negotiate together in as friendly a manner as was possible in the circumstances. These then got down to business and had already spent three or four days arranging matters when some amazing news came from Liège which I shall tell you about.

The King, on his way to Péronne, had quite forgotten that he had sent two ambassadors to Liège to seek their aid against the duke. The ambassadors had been so conscientious that they had already stirred up a great mob. The Liègeois had gone directly to capture the town of Tongeren where the bishop of Liège and the lord of Humbercourt were staying with two thousand soldiers or more. They captured the bishop and Humbercourt, killing some of the bishop’s servants. The rest had fled leaving all that they had as if they had been routed. The Liègeois then set off straight back to their city which was close to Tongeren. On the way back Humbercourt arranged to be ransomed by a knight called Sir Jean22 de Wildt (in French we would say ‘le sauvage’). He saved Humbercourt from the mob, which would have killed him, and received his word of honour but he did not keep it long because he was killed shortly afterwards.

The mob was very pleased with the capture of the bishop who was lord of Liège. They hated several of the canons whom they had captured that day and they killed five or six of them as a preliminary gesture. Amongst them was a certain Master Robert,23 a close confidant of the bishop, whom I have seen several times riding fully armed with his master, for such is the practice of German bishops. They killed Master Robert in the bishop’s presence and cut him into little pieces which they threw at each other’s heads in great derision. Before they had gone the seven or eight leagues which they had to travel, they killed up to sixteen canons and other notable men who were almost all servants of the bishop. For already there were rumours that negotiations for peace had begun, and they were content to say that they were only quarreling with their bishop whom they led prisoner to their city.

The fugitives I have mentioned spread alarm wherever they went and the news came quickly to the duke. Some said all had been killed, others contradicted them. When such events occur there is seldom only one account. Several people came, some of whom said that they had seen the canons carried off and that they thought that the bishop and Humbercourt were with them and all the rest were dead. They swore that they had seen the King’s ambassadors, whom they named, with the mob. The duke was told all this and he immediately believed it and became extremely angry, saying that the King had come to Péronne to trick him. Straight away he gave orders for the town and castle gates to be shut on the rather poor pretext that a box containing valuable rings and money had been lost.

The King was alarmed when he saw that he was shut up in the castle, which was only small, and that archers were posted at the gate. He realized that he was lodged close to a large tower where a count of Vermandois had a king of France, one of his predecessors,24 put to death. At that time I was still one of the duke’s chamberlains and slept in his room when I liked, because it was customary to do so in that house. The duke, when he saw that the gates were closed turned most of his men out of his room and told those of us who were left that the King had come there to betray him, that he had strenuously avoided the interview and it had been arranged against his wishes. He related the news from Liège and what the King had achieved through his ambassadors and how all his men had been killed. He was terribly incensed and uttered savage threats against the King and I truly believe that if at this moment he could have found men who would have supported him or counselled him to commit some violent deed against the King, he would have done it, or at the very least he would have imprisoned him in that great tower. With me were only two chamber valets, one of whom was a native of Dijon, called Charles de Visen, an honest man and well trusted by his master. We did not inflame him further but tried with all our might to calm him down. Soon afterwards he spoke in a similar manner to several people and the news spread around the town, eventually reaching the King himself. He was extremely afraid. Indeed so was everyone else as they foresaw some disaster, considering how many things had to be arranged in order to resolve a difference which had arisen between two such great princes and the mistakes which they had both made in not telling their servants, who were far away from them engaged on their business, so that something was bound to happen unexpectedly.

  •  MS. reads Guillaume.
  • Robert de Morialme, archdeacon of St. Lambert’s, Liège.
  • Charles the Simple, d. 929 from illness, not at the hands of his captor, Herbert of Vermandois.

[The dangers of princely interviews]
IT is very imprudent for two great princes, of equal power, to meet each other, unless they are both very young, at which time they have no other thoughts but for their pleasures. But when they reach the age when all they want to do is increase their power at each other’s expense yet at no danger to themselves — which is almost impossible — their malevolence and rivalry only increase. For this reason it would be better if they settled their differences by the mediation of wise and loyal servants, as I have said at some length elsewhere in these memoirs. But I will describe some examples of this which I myself have seen and learned about in my time.

A few years after our King was crowned, before the [War of the] Public Weal, there took place an interview25 between the King and the king of Castile, who were the most closely allied princes in Christendom. For they were obliged to each other, king to king, realm to realm and subject to subject, to keep the alliance by oaths of a most fearful severity. King Enrique of Castile came well accompanied as far as Fuenterrabía to this meeting and Louis was at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, four leagues away. Both were at the extreme borders of their realms. I was not there but the King told me about it, as did my lord of Lau and several Castillian lords, who were there with the king of Castile, including the Grand Master of the Order of Santiago26 and the archbishop of Toledo,27 the leading Castilians of their day. He was also accompanied in great splendour by the count of Ledesma, his favourite, with all his guard of three hundred horsemen, who were Moors of Granada and included several Negroes.28 The truth is that King Enrique cared little about his person and gave all his property away, or at least allowed it to be taken away from him by those who wanted it or were able to take it. Our King was also well attended as you have seen and as was his custom. His bodyguard was especially fine. The queen of Aragon29 also attended the interview because of some dispute which she had with the king of Castile over Estella and a few other places in Navarre. Louis was to arbitrate. To continue my argument that princely interviews are unnecessary; these two kings had never had any dispute nor was there any difference between them and they saw each other only once or twice on the banks of the river [Bidassoa] which separates the two realms, near to the small castle of Urtubie. The king of Castile crossed over it. But they did not get on very well together. Our King soon realized that the king of Castile could scarcely do anything unless it pleased the Grand Master of Santiago and the archbishop of Toledo, so he sought their acquaintance and they visited him at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, where he struck up a great friendship and understanding with them and despised their king. The majority of the followers of the two kings was lodged at Bayonne and from the start they quarrelled violently. Whatever alliance there was, their languages were different. The count of Ledesma crossed the river in a boat which had a sail made of golden cloth and he was wearing hose studded with precious stones when he went to meet the King. The French said he had borrowed the cloth from a church. But this ws not true as he was quite wealthy and I have seen that he has since become duke of Albuquerque and possessor of wide demenses in Castile.

Each nation began to mock the other. The king of Castile was ugly and his clothing was displeasing to the French, so they made fun of him. Our King was dressed in short clothes as poorly made as possible, and sometimes of the cheapest cloth, and he wore an unfashionable hat, different from all the others, decorated with a leaden image. The Castillians made fun of him and said it as due to his stinginess. As it happened this meeting broke up and all departed full of derision and contempt for each other. Never thereafter did these two kings like one another and great differences of opinion occurred between the servants of the king of Castile, which lasted a long time after his death. I saw him abandoned by all his servants, the poorest king I have ever seen.

The queen of Aragon was upset by the judgement which Louis gave in favour of the king of Castile. She disliked the King intensely for this as did the king of Aragon [Juan II], although a little while later in their need they used his aid against Barcelona. Yet this friendship was not long-lasting and the bitter war which broke out between the King and the king of Aragon has lasted sixteen years and still continues.30 But I must tell you about other cases. Since then Charles, duke of Burgundy, at his own urgent request had an interview with the Emperor Frederick, who is still alive, and put himself to great expense to show off his magnificence. They talked about several things at Trier where the meeting was held [in 1473] and, amongst other things, about the marriage of their children which later took place. When they had been together for several days the Emperor left without saying farewell, to the great shame and humiliation of the duke. Never since have they or their subjects liked each other. The Germans were offended by the pompous and ceremonious language of the duke which they took for pride; the Burgundians were offended by the Emperor’s mean entourage and poor clothes. These disputes developed so much that they led to the war over Neuss.

I was present also when the same duke of Burgundy met King Edward of England at Saint-Pol in Artois [in 1471]. He had married Edward’s sister and they were members of each other’s Order.31 They met for two days. The King’s subjects were very quarrelsome and two factions appealed to the duke. He listened more to one side than to the other, whose anger increased. Nevertheless he helped the king and his kingdom by giving him men, money and ships because he had been driven out by the earl of Warwick. But notwithstanding this service by which he recovered his kingdom never afterwards did they love or speak well of one another.

I was present when the Count Palatine of the Rhine came to visit the duke.32 He was at Brussels for several days where he was richly fêted, welcomed, honoured and lodged in sumptuous rooms. The duke’s men said that the Germans were dirty and that they threw their boots on the richly furnished beds and that they were not as polite as we were. They thought much less of them than they had done before meeting them. The Germans also complained and spoke contemptuously about the Burgundians because they were envious of such pomp. In effect, never since have they liked or helped each other. I also saw Sigismund, Duke of Austria, meet the duke [in 1469], when he sold him the county of Ferrette, which lay close to the county of Burgundy, for a hundred thousand gold florins, because he was unable to defend it against the Swiss. These two princes did not get on well together and later Duke Sigismund made his peace with the Swiss and ousted the duke from the county of Ferrette and kept all the money. From this sprang infinite misfortunes for the duke of Burgundy. At this same time the earl of Warwick visited the duke and, likewise, neither were friends thereafter.33 I was also present at the meeting at Picquigny [in 1475] between our King and King Edward of England, which I shall say more about in due course. Few of the promises made there were kept. They did business hypocritically. It is true that they were not at war any more and that the sea was between them, but they never achieved perfect amity.

In conclusion, I think that great princes should never see each each other if they want to remain friends, as I have said before. Troubles can arise for the following reasons; their servants cannot refrain from speaking about past events — one or other is sure to not be better off than the other, which results in mockery, which is very offensive to those who are mocked, and when there are two different nations, their languages and clothes are different and that which pleases one does not please the other. Of two princes, one is bound to be more polite and personable to men than the other, from which he will derive fame and take pleasure that he is praised, and this can only reflect badly on the other. The first few days after they have gone all these good points will be whispered about quietly. Afterwards, through familiarity, they will be discussed at dinner and supper time. Then they will be reported to both parties (for few things remain secret in this world, especially those that are discussed). So here are a few of my views on this subject, which have been drawn from my own experience.

  •  In 1463.
  • Either Beltran de la Cueva, count of Ledesma, or Juan Pacheco, marquis of Villena.
  • Alonso Carillo d’Acuna.
  • This clause from MS. P.
  • Juana Enriquez, second wife of Juan II of Aragon.
  • cf. Introduction, for significance of this remark.
  • Charles sent the Order of the Golden Fleece to Edward in 1468 and became a member of the Order of the Garter in 1469.
  • February 1467.
  • April 1469.

[The Treaty of Péronne]
I HAVE set out my reasons at length in order to tell princes what I think about such interviews before returning to my account of the King at Péronne where he thought he was a prisoner, as I said earlier. The gates were closed and the guards remained on duty there for two or three days. In the meantime the duke of Burgundy did not see the King and only a few royal servants entered the castle by a wicket gate. None of the King’s men was taken away from him but few, if any, of the duke’s men, especially if they were influential, were allowed to speak to the King or enter his chamber. The first day the town was in consternation and uproar. The second day the the duke was a little calmer. He held a council for most of the day and into the night. The King made an effort to approach all of those he thought might be able to help him and made many promises. He ordered the distribution of fifteen thousand gold crowns but the man34 who was responsible for this kept some of them for himself and acquitted himself badly, as the King learned later. The King was frightened of his former servants who had come with the army from Burgundy and who were already declaring themselves supporters of his brother, the duke of Normandy.

At the council, which I mentioned, many differing opinions were expressed. The majority said that the safe-conduct which the King had been given should be honoured, seeing that the King agreed readily enough to the peace proposals which had been drawn up in writing. Others wanted his immediate imprisonment without further ado, and yet others wanted my lord of Normandy, his brother, to be summoned without delay and a peace most advantageous for all the French princes to be concluded. And it seemed good to those who made this suggestion that if it were approved the King should be held captive and a strong guard set over him, because when such a mighty prince has been captured he can never be released, or only with difficulty, after receiving such an affront. This advice was so nearly accepted that I saw a messenger, with his boots on ready to depart, with several letters addressed to my lord of Normandy, who was in Brittany, waiting only for one from the duke. Nevertheless this advice was rejected.

The King made some suggestions. He offered to deliver the duke of Bourbon, the cardinal (his brother), the Constable and several others as hostages, so that when peace had been concluded he could return to Compiègne. He also offered straight away to order the Liègeois to set all to rights; otherwise he would declare against them himself. The hostages the King named offered themselves willingly, at least in public. I do not know whether they said anything privately; I think not, and truly believe that the King would have left them there and he would never have returned. The third night the duke never undressed. He lay down two or three times on his bed and then got up and walked about as was his custom then he was disturbed. That night I slept in his chamber and walked up and down with him several times. By the morning he was more furious than ever, making threats and ready to do some mighty deed. Nevertheless he quietened down and decided that if the King would swear to the peace and go with him to Liège to help him to take vengeance for the bishop of Liège, who was his closest relative, he would be content. Instantly he left to go to the King’s room to announce his decision. The King was warned of this by a friend35 who assured him that no harm would befall him if he agreed to these two propositions, but that if he refused he would place himself in such extreme jeopardy that nothing more serious could ever happen to him. When the duke entered his voice shook, so disturbed was he and ready to fly into a rage again. He bowed humbly enough but his gestures and voice were rough as he asked the King whether he would swear to this. The King said he would. In truth nothing, or very little concerning the duke of Burgundy was modified from the peace made previously at Paris. As far as the duke of Normandy was concerned much was changed because it was declared that he should renounce the duchy of Normandy and have Champagne, Brie and some other neighbouring districts for his interitance. After this the duke asked the King if he would accompany him to Liège to help avenge the treason which the Liègeois had committed against him at the King’s instigation. He reminded the King of the close relationship between the King and bishop of Liège, because he was a Bourbon. The King assented, saying that when the peace had been sworn (which he desired) then he would be quite happy to go with him to Liège and take there as many or as few men as seemed good to the duke. This reply greatly pleased the duke and immediately the peace treaty was brought in and a piece of the True Cross, called the Cross of Victory, which Charlemagne used to carry about with him, was taken out of the King’s coffer and they swore to keep the peace. Then the town bells were rung and everybody was very joyful. On another occasion the King graciously honoured me by telling me that I had rendered very great service at this pacification.

Immediately the duke dispatched this news to Brittany and sent a copy of the treaty to show that he had not dissociated himself from nor deserted his allies. So my lord Charles got a good apanage, especially since the treaty, which they had made in Brittany a short time before, left him with only a pension, as you have heard.

  •  Cardinal Balue.
  • Probably Commynes himself.

Text copyright © [1972], Michael Jones. This edition is still a work in progress. We are grateful to Professor Jones for permission to place this edition online while he completes a review of the text, and will correct any errors found by Professor Jones on completion of this review.