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As soon as the earl of Warwick, who was in the north with all his army, heard this news, he hurriedly returned to London, hoping to arrive there first. He expected the city in the meantime to remain loyal to him but the opposite happened, because on Maundy Thursday King Edward was very joyfully received by the whole city. This was completely contrary to what most people thought would happen as everyone thought he was lost. Indeed if they had shut the gates against him his fate would have been sealed, since the earl of Warwick was only a day’s journey behind him.
From what I have been told three factors helped to make the city change its mind: first the men, who were in the sanctuaries, and his wife, the queen, who had given birth to a son; secondly the great debts he owed in the city, which made his merchant creditors support him; thirdly several noblewomen and wives of the rich citizens with whom he had been closely and secretly acquainted won over their husbands and relatives to his cause.
Edward only spent two days in the city because on Easter Saturday31 he left with the troops he had been able to gather and marched out to meet the earl of Warwick, who he encountered next morning, that is Easter Day.32 When they found themselves face to face, the duke of Clarence, King Edward’s brother, deserted to him with more than twelve thousand troops, which greatly distressed the earl of Warwick and greatly reinforced the king who had few men.
You have already heard how this bargain was struck with the duke of Clarence; yet in spite of all this the battle was most bitterly and strenuously fought. Both sides were on foot. The king’s vanguard was heavily engaged and the earl of Warwick’s main force joined battle with the king’s, so closely that the king of England personally fought as much, or more, than anyone on either side. The earl of Warwick was not used to dismounting to fight for after bringing his men into battle he used to mount his horse. If the battle was going well for him he would throw himself into the fray but if it was going badly he would make an early escape. This time however he was constrained by his brother, the marquis of Montague, who was a very courageous knight, to dismount and send away his horses. So it happened that the earl of Warwick was killed this day with the marquis of Montague and a large number of men of noble birth. The slaughter was exceedingly heavy because King Edward decided when he left Flanders he would no longer adhere to his custom of shouting that the common soldiers should be saved and that the nobles should be killed, as he had done in his earlier battles, because he had conceived a deep hatred against the people of England for the great favour which he saw the people bore torwards the earl of Warwick, and also for other reasons. So they were not spared this time. On King Edward’s side fifteen hundred men died and the battle was well fought.
On the day of the battle the duke of Burgundy was before Amiens. He received letters from the duchess, his wife, saying that King Edward had written to her about these events. He did not know whether he ought to be happy or not. He thought that King Edward was not pleased with him because the aid which he had given him had been given with bad grace and much regretfulness and that little kept him from abandoning him. Indeed they were never such good friends afterwards. Yet the duke made the best of it and had the news widely published.
I have forgotten to say that King Henry was taken to this battle, for King Edward had found him in London. King Henry was a very ignorant and almost simple man and, unless I have been deceived, immediately after the battle the duke of Gloucester, Edward’s brother, who later became King Richard, killed this good man with his own hand or at least had him killed in his presence in some obscure place.
The prince of Wales, about whom I have spoken previously, had already landed in England at the time of the battle. He had been joined by the dukes of Exeter and Somerset, several other members of his family and his former supporters. Those who were present told me that there were more than forty thousand people with him. Had the earl of Warwick waited for him it seems very likely that they would have remained lords and masters of the situation. But his fears of the duke of Somerset, whose father and brother he had killed, and also of Queen Margaret, the prince’s mother, made him fight on his own without waiting for them. You can see, therefore, how ancient divisions survive, how much they are to be feared and how great are the losses they can cause.
As soon as King Edward had won the battle he marched towards the prince of Wales and there was another very big battle33 because the prince had more troops than King Edward. But again the king was victorious and the prince of Wales was killed on the battlefield, together with several other great lords and a very large number of the common soldiers. The duke of Somerset was captured; next day he was beheaded.
In eleven days the earl of Warwick had won all of England, or at least got it under his control. In twenty-one days King Edward reconquered it, though there were two desperate and bloody battles. Such, as you can see, were the changes in England. In several places King Edward had many people executed, especially those who had banded together against him. Of all the people in the world the English are the most inclined to such battles. After this King Edward reigned peacefully in England until his death, although not without some anxieties and a disturbed conscience.
The duke of Burgundy always pretended that he wanted to entertain these, though he really did not want to, but he continued to listen to everyone, as I said. He also remembered the stratagem which they had tried to use to force him to consent to the marriage. The Count of Saint-Pol, Constable of France, still wanted to be the mediator of this match, and the duke of Brittany also wanted it to be carried out but through his mediation. On the other hand the King was very anxious to break off the match although there was no need for him to be so, for the two reasons which I have advanced elsewhere; that the duke did not want such a powerful son-in-law and that he wanted to use this marriage for bargaining with everyone. So the King was expending his energies for nothing, though he could not have known the duke’s thoughts. Nor is it remarkable that he was afraid because his brother would have become so powerful if this marriage had taken place, and if the duke of Brittany had allied with them, that the power of the King and his children would have been imperilled. Meanwhile in connection with this many ambassadors came and went both secretly and in public.
It is not very safe to have ambassadors coming and going so much because they often discuss evil things. Yet it is necessary to send and receive them. Those who read this chapter might ask what remedies I would propose for this and say that it is impossible to provide any. I fully recognize that there are many who know better than I how to answer, but this is what I would do: for those who come from genuine friends and where there is no reason to be suspicious, I would advise that they be made very welcome and have permission to see the prince frequently, depending on the type of person he is. This is when he is wise and honest, for when he is not, the less he is seen the better. And, when it is necessary to see him, he should be tidily dressed and well briefed on what he should say and he should retire from there quickly, for the friendships of princes never last long. If the ambassadors come secretly or publicly on behlf of princes between whom the hatred is such as I have continually seen manifested by all these lords about whom I have been speaking, and whom I have known and lived with, then at no time is there any great security. My advice is that it is both politer and safer that they should be treated well and honourably welcomed by sending men to meet them, by giving them good lodgings and by ordering trusty and wise servants to attend them. For by this means it is possible to find out who goes to see them and to prevent malcontents from taking them news — for at no court are all content. Moreover, I would listen to them and dispatch them quickly because it seems to me a very stupid thing to keep enemies in one’s own house. To feast them, to defray their expenses and give them presents is only polite. Again it seems to me that once war has begun one should not rebuff any peaceful overture because one never knows when it might be useful. They should all be welcomed and all the messengers who have anything to do with them should be heard. A good watch, although as secret as possible, should be kept on those who go to speak to them both day and night. For every messenger or ambassador sent to me I would send two in return, and if the princes become bored with them and say no more should be sent I would still send them whenever I had a chance or the means. For no better or safer way is known of sending a spy who has the opportunity to observe and find things out. And if you send two or three people it is impossible to remain on guard so constantly that one or other cannot have a few words, either secretly or otherwise, with someone. That is, I mean, if they conduct themselves appropriately as one should towards ambassadors. It is also to be supposed that a wise prince is always at pains to obtain a friend or friends in his adversary’s party and to protect himself from him as best he can, for in such matters one cannot always do what one wishes. It might be said that this will puff up the pride of your enemy. But that does not bother me. I shall know more about his plans. In the final reckoning he who has the profit also had the honour. Although others might do the same to me I would not fail to return embassies. I would listen to all propositions without rejecting any of them so that I would have an excuse for sending embassies. Then, again, some princes are not as clever as others nor so knowledgeable nor have had so much experience of these affairs nor have they had such need to be. In these cases the wisest always win.
I will demonstrate this to you by clear example. There has never been a set of negotiations between the French and the English where the intelligence and cleverness of the French has failed to outshine that of the English. The English have a saying which they told me once when I was treating with them, that in all their battles, or nearly all, with the French, they have won; but in all the treaties they have concluded with them they have come away the losers. Certainly, at least in my opinion, I have known men in this kingdom more capable of conducting serious negotiations than any others I have known in this world, especially those trained by the King. For in such matters men who do not easily take offence, who disregard all things and words to achieve their purposes, are required and, as I said, these were the types he wanted. I have spoken a little too much about ambassadors and how one ought to keep an eye on them but this has not been without reason because I have seen so many deceptions and evil designs carried out under this guise that I could not keep silent nor speak less of it than I have done.
The proposal that the duke of Guyenne and the daughter of the duke of Burgundy should marry, which I spoke about earlier, had been carried so far that not only had verbal promises been made but some had also been put in writing. But I had already seen things progress as far with Duke Nicholas of Calabria and Lorraine, son of Duke John of Calabria, whom I mentioned earlier, likewise with the late Duke Philbert of Savoy34 and later with Duke Maximilian of Austria,35 the present king of the Romans and only son of Emperor Frederick. The latter had received a diamond and letters in the princess’s own hand, written at her father’s command. All these promises had been made in less than three years and I am quite sure that he would not have consented to keep any of them as long as he lived. But Duke Maximilian, king of the Romans, used this promise for his own ends, as I shall later describe. I do not recount these matters to criticize anyone whom I have mentioned, but only to describe things as I saw them happen. I know, too, that blockheads and idiots will not amuse themselves by reading these memoirs, but princes or courtiers may find useful warnings here, I think.
Whilst continuing to arrange this marriage they also discussed a new attack on the King. The lord of Ufré, Poncet de Rivière and several other lesser figures were at the duke of Burgundy’s court or came and went on embassies for the duke of Guyenne. The abbot of Bßgar, later bishop of [Saint-Pol-de-] Léon, also resided there on the duke of Brittany’s behalf. He pointed out to the duke of Burgundy that the King was intriguing with some of the duke of Guyenne’s servants and by affection or force wanted to seduce them. He had already knocked down a castle belonging to my lord of Estissac,36 a retainer of the duke of Guyenne, and several other violent acts had been initiated. The King had also suborned several of his household. From this they concluded that he wanted to recover Guyenne as he had previously recovered Normandy after he had given it as an apanage, as you have heard.
The duke of Burgundy often sent messengers to the King about this. He replied that it was his brother, the duke of Guyenne, who wanted to extend his boundaries and had begun all these intrigues, and that he did not want to touch his brother’s apanage.
Now you may see briefly how great (for such they can be called at any time) are the convolusions of this kingdom when there is discord and how very difficult and tiring to suppress and how far from being finished they are at the outset. Even if these disturbances were begun by only two or three princes or lesser persons, before jollifications had lasted two years all their neighbours would have been involved. Yet when these things begin everyone thinks they will finish in a short time, but they are much to be feared for the reasons which will become apparent as I continue this account.
At this very moment the duke of Guyenne or his advisers and those of the duke of Brittany requested the duke of Burgundy not to ask for any thelp from the English, who were enemies of the realm, because all that they were doing was for the good and alleviation of the realm and that when he was ready they would be strong enough as they already had a very good understanding with several captains and others. On one occasion I was present when the lord of Urfé spoke in this manner to the duke, asking him to raise his army with all speed, and the duke called me to a window and said, ‘Look at the lord of Urfé who is urging me to build my army as large as I can and is telling me that we’ll achieve much for the good of the kingdom. Do you think that if I enter France with the company which I’ll be leading I’ll do any good there?’ Laughing, I replied that I didn’t think so and he said to me, ‘I love the welfare of the kingdom of Francee better than my lord of Urfé he thinks because instead of the one King there is, I would like there to be six!’
At this time King Edward of England, who actually thought that the marriage which had been mentioned would take place (he was deceived in this), schemed as vigorously as our master the King, in order to frustrate it. He pointed out to the duke of Burgundy that the King our master had no son37 and that if he should die, the duke of Guyenne would inherit the crown. Thus if this marriage was completed England would be placed in great danger of destruction, seeing the number of lordships which would be reunited with the crown. King Edward became unneccesarily worked up about this, as did all the English council; nor would they believe any of the excuses which the duke of Burgundy made.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the request of the dukes of Guyenne and Brittany that he should call for no foreign assistance, the duke of Burgundy wanted the king of England to play some part in the war and to do so without the duke appearing to know anything about it and without the duke being involved. But the English would not do so and wanted rather to help the King at that moment, so much did they fear that the house of Burgundy would be joined to the French crown by this marriage.
From my account you can see how involved with each other all these lords were. They were surrounded by so many clever men and those who could see so far ahead that their lives were not long enough for them to see more than half of their prognostications come true, as indeed it quickly became apparent, for all of them died in anxiety and misery one after another in a very short space of time. Each was very pleased at the death of his companion as if it was the thing he desired most, and they all soon followed after and left their successors deeply involved, except for our King who reigns today,38 who found his kingdom at peace both internally and with all its neighbours. His father had done better for him than he had ever wanted to or been able to do for himself, for in my time he was never without a war, except for a very short time before his death.
The duke of Guyenne fell sick at this time. Some said he was in danger of dying and others said it was nothing. His advisers pressed the duke of Burgundy to come into the field because the time was propitious. They said the King had an army in the field and his troops were beseiging Saint-Jean-d’Angely or Saintes and thereabouts. They prevailed upon the duke of Burgundy so effectively that they marched to Arras and there gathered his army before marching on towards Péronne, Roye and Montdidier. It was the most powerful and finest army he ever had because he had twelve hundred lances of regular troops with three archers for each man-at-arms, and all were well armed and mounted. There were, besides, ten extra men-at-arms in each company, without counting the lieutenant and those who were standard bearers. The nobles of his lands were there all well turned out because they were well paid and led by famous knights and esquires; his lands were very rich at this time.
The duke, made despondent by this death and urged by several other mourners, wrote letters to several towns blaming the King; this did little good because nothing happened. But I believe that had the duke of Guyenne not died the King would have had his hands full, since the Bretons were ready and had more support in the realm than they had ever had before. Yet it all came to nothing as a result of his death. In his anger the duke took the field and marched towards Nesle in Vermandois and began to wage a more vicious and evil type of war than he had ever used before — he set fire to everything he passed. His vanguard laid siege to Nesle, which was not a very valuable town, where there were a number of franc-archers. The duke camped three leagues away. The besieged killed a herald who had gone to summon them. Their captain came out with a safe-conduct, hoping to reach an agreement. He was unable to do this and as he returned to the town there was a truce because of his mission. All the garrison were exposed on the walls without being shot at. Yet they killed two other men. For this reason the truce was terminated and the duke sent word to the lady of Nesle, who was inside the town, to come out with her domestic servants and goods. She did so and immediately the town was attacked and captured and the majority of its inhabitants killed. Those who were taken alive were hanged, except for a few whom the men-at-arms allowed to escape out of pity, and a large number had their heads chopped off. It upsets me to recount this cruelty but I was on the spot and I must say something about it. It must be said that the duke of Burgundy was incensed with anger to do such a cruel thing and that some great reason moved him to do it. Two causes were alleged: according to some the first was that he was speaking with suspicion about the duke of Guyenne’s death, secondly, there was another thing which displeased him, about which you have already heard a little, he bitterly resented losing Amiens and Saint-Quentin.
At that time when the duke had been collecting the army about which I have been speaking the lord of Craon and the Chancellor of France, Master Pierre d’Oriole,40had been to him two or three times. Before this particular exploit and Guyenne’s death they had been secretly discussing a final peace which they could never have agreed upon because the duke wanted to re-possess those two towns and the King would not release them. But the King, seeing the duke’s preparations, agreed to release them in the hope of achieving certain ends about which you will learn.
The conditions of the peace were that the King would deliver Amiens and Saint-Quentin, which were in dispute, to the duke and would abandon the counts of Nevers and Saint-Pol, Constable of France, and all their lands to the duke’s pleasure to deal with them, if he could, as his own subjects. Likewise, the duke was to abandon the dukes of Brittany and Guyenne and their lordships for the King to do with them as he liked.
I was present when the duke of Burgundy swore to keep this peace. The lord of Craon and the Chancellor of France swore to it on the King’s behalf. They then left the duke after counselling him not to disband his army but to advance with it so that the King, their master, would be more inclined to deliver the two places promptly. When they departed they took with them Simon de Quingey who was a witness to the King’s swearing and confirming all that his ambassadors had done. Matters were delayed for some days and in the meantime the duke of Guyenne’s death occurred. As a result the King sent Simon back again with very lame excuses, not wishing to swear to anything. Burgundy felt himself completely fooled and scorned and was extremely upset.
The duke’s men, in levying war, as much as for this reason as for others which you have already heard enough about, uttered very villainous and incredible threats against the King, and his own men scarcely hesitated to do likewise. It could appear in future to those who see this either that I speak libellously of these two princes or that there was no great trust between them. I would not like to speak ill of one or the other, and as everyone knows I am very beholden to our King. But to continue the task which you, my lord archbishop of Vienne, have set me it is necessary that I say what I know, however it occurred. But, when one compares them with other princes, one finds them outstanding. Our King was very wise, leaving his kingdom increased in size and at peace with all her enemies. Yet let us see how each of these two lords tried to deceive his companion, lest in the future these memoirs should fall into the hands of some young prince who has to deal with a similar situation, so that he will be better trained for having seen this and able to save himself from deception. For although neither enemies nor princes will be the same yet their business is and it is good to be informed about past events. To give them my opinion, I am sure that these two princes were both trying to deceive each other and that their purposes were very similar, as you shall hear.
Both had their armies ready in the field. The King had already taken several places and whilst negotiating this peace he tightened his grip on his brother considerably. The lord of Curton, Patrick Folcart,41 and several others had already left the duke of Guyenne and joined the King, whose army was in the neighbourhood at La Rochelle. He had many supporters in the town and they were busily intriguing, both because of rumours of peace and because of the duke’s illness. I suspect that the King’s intention was such that if he had achieved his ends, or nearly so, or if his brother happened to die, he would never swear to the peace, but that if he found strong opposition he would swear to it and implement his promise in order to extricate himself from danger. He timed his actions perfectly and accomplished them with a marvellous dexterity. You have heard how he prevaricated to Simon de Quingey for a week and how during that time the duke died. He well knew that the duke of Burgundy so wanted possession of those two towns that he dared not anger him and that he could easily make waste fifteen or twenty days as he did, and in the meantime he could plan his next move.
Since we have spoken about the King and the plans he had devised to deceive the duke of Burgundy, we must also explain what the duke was planning against the King and what he would have done if the duke of Guyenne had not died. Simon de Quingey was commissioned by him and at the King’s request to go to Brittany after he had witnessed the swearing of the peace and received letters of confirmation of what the King’s ambassadors had done, to inform the duke of Brittany of the contents of the peace as well as the duke of Guyenne’s ambassadors, who were there also, so that they could report to their master, who was at Bordeaux. The King wanted to do this in order to shock the Bretons very much. They would see themselves abandoned by their chief hope of support.
In Simon de Quingey’s company there was an equerry from the duke’s stables called Henry, a native of Paris, a clever man and well respected, who had a letter of credence addressed to Simon, written in the duke’s own hand. But he received instuctions not to deliver it to Simon until he had left the King and arrived at the ducal court at Nantes. There he was to deliver it to him and publish his credence, which was that Simon should tell the duke not to be afraid nor to worry that his master would desert the duke of Guyenne or himself. He would help them in person with all his strength and what he had done was in order to recover the two towns of Amiens and Saint-Quentin, which the King had snatched away from him in peacetime and against his word. Simon was also to tell him that the duke, his master, would send important ambassadors to the King as soon as he had regained possession of what he was asking for; this he could do without difficulty. The ambassadors were to ask him to desist from the war and the other actions which he had begun against these two dukes, and he himself would not be bound by the oaths he had taken because he had decided to keep them no longer than the King had kept the treaty made before Paris, that is the treaty of Conflans, or the one which he had sworn to at Péronne which he had confirmed a long time afterwards. The King well knew that he had taken these two towns by breaking his promise and in peacetime. For this reason he ought to allow the duke to recover them in similar fashion. Concerning the counts of Nevers and Saint-Pol, the Constable of France, whom the King had handed over to him, he was prepared to declare that, notwithstanding that he had good cause to hate them, he would ignore their offences and let them enjoy their possessions freely. He requested the King to do likewise to the two dukes whom the duke of Burgundy had abandoned to him and that it might please him to let everyone live in peace and security in the way which had been promised at Conflans, when all were together. He would tell him that if the King did not wish to do this, he would go to the aid of his allies and that the duke ought to be already in the field at the moment this commission was delivered.
Yet things turned out otherwise. Man purposes, God disposes; for death, which divides all things and changes all decisions, brought other work to do as you have heard and will hear, because the King did not deliver these two towns and yet he got the duchy of Guyenne on his brother’s death, as was only right.
After leaving that district he planned to march to Normandy. But passing close to Beauvais, with the lord of Cordes leading the vanguard, he attacked it. Led by a very avaricious Burgundian, Sir Jacques de Montmartin, who had a hundred lances and three hundred archers from the duke’s standing army, they immediately captured a suburb which was opposite the bishop’s palace. The lord of Cordes attacked on the other side, but his ladders were too short and he did not have enough of them. He had two cannons which with two shots made a great hole in the gate, and if he had had enough stones to continue firing he would certainly have captured the town. But he had not come prepared or equipped for such an eventuality. The garrison at the beginning only consisted of the inhabitants of the town, except for Louis [Gommel lord of] Balogny, captain of the town, who had a few troops from the arrière-ban. Yet despite this they could not have saved the town had not God wanted the town to be saved from such a fate, as he made abundantly clear, for the lord of Cordes’s men were fighting hand-to-hand through the hole which had been made in the gate. He sent several messengers to the duke of Burgundy asking him to come and telling him that the town would certainly be his. Whilst the duke was preparing to set out, some of the garrison took it into their heads to bring lighted faggots to throw in the faces of those who were trying to break the gate down. They put so many there that the gate caught alight and the assailants had to retire until the fire had been put out. The duke arrived. He, too, thought that the town would be captured, provided the fire could be extinguished, because it was very fierce and the whole gateway was ablaze. If the duke had placed part of his army on the Paris side of the town, it could not have escaped falling into his hands because no one would have been able to enter it. But God made him cautious where there was no reason for it. He became worried about crossing a small rivulet. Later when there was a much larger garrison inside he wanted to cross it, and would have put all this army in danger. It was only with great difficulty that he was dissuaded from doing so. The fire about which I was speaking happened on 27 June 1472 and lasted all day. In the evening ten lances only from the ordonnance companies entered the town, as I have been told, since I was still with the duke of Burgundy. They were not spotted because everyone was so busy camping down and also there was no one on that side. At dawn the duke’s artillery began to advance and soon afterwards we saw a strong reinforcement of about two hundered men-at-arms enter the town. I believe that had they not come the town would have needed little persuasion to capitulate. But, as you have heard before, the duke in his fury wanted to take the town by force. Doubtless he would have burnt it had that happened. That would have been a great loss, and it seems to me that it was preserved by nothing less than a real miracle.
After these new troops had entered the town the duke’s artillery fired continually for about a fortnight. The town was bombarded as heavily as any other place has ever been until it was ready for assualt. Yet there was water in the moat and we had to make two bridges on the side where the gate had been burnt down. On the other side we were able to approach the wall without any danger except from a single cannon emplacement which we did not know how to destroy because it was set very low. It is very dangerous and foolish to attack so many men. Besides, above all, the Constable was there, I believe (camped close to the town, I’m not certain where) with Marshal Joachim, Marshal Lohéac, the lord of Crussol, Guillaume de Vallée, Meri de Couhé, [Jean de] Salazar and Estevenot [de Talauresse] surmaned Vignoles, all of whom had at least a hundred lances from the ordonnance companies, a large number of infrantry and many fine soldiers accompanying them. Nevertheless the duke decided to attack but found himself alone, for no one else supported his plan. In the evening, when he was lying on his camp bed fully clothed or as near as makes no difference, as was his custom, he asked some people if they thought the garrison was expecting to be attacked. Yes, he was told, especially considering the number of men who were there. Even if they had only a hedge in front of them there were more than enough to defend it. He laughed at this and said, ‘Tomorrow you’ll find no one there.’
At daybreak the attack was very vigorously and bravely pressed and even better fended off. A large number of men crossed the bridge and my lord of Épiry, an old Burgundian knight, was suffocated in the crush. He was the most notable man killed that day. On the far side some managed to scale the walls but some did not return. They were fighting hand to hand for a long time and the attack was prolonged. Other troops were ordered to attack after the first ones but, seeing that they were achieving nothing, the duke withdrew them. Those within did not sally out. They could see that there were many troops ready to welcome them if they did so! In this attack about a hundred and twenty men were killed, of whom the most notable was my lord of Épury. Some said more had died and there more than a thousand wounded.
The following night the garrison made a sortie but their numbers were small. Most of them were on horseback and got tangled up in our tent ropes so that they gained nothing and lost two or three gentlemen. They wounded a very brave and worthy man, Sir Jacques d’Orsans, master of the duke’s artillery, who died a few days later. Seven or eight days after this attack the duke wanted to go and camp before the gate leading to Paris and to divide his army in two. He found no one else approved his idea because of the nubmer of troops in the town. He should have done this at the beginning for now it was no longer the time to do it. Seeing that there was no other course open to him and, maintaining good order, he raised the siege. He fully expected the defenders to pursue him closely and cause him injury. But they did not come out. From there he marched into Normandy because he and the duke of Brittany had promised to meet each other at Rouen. But the latter had changed his plans because of the duke of Guyenne’s death and he did not move from his duchy.
The duke of Burgundy approached Eu, which was delivered to him, and Saint-Valéry. He burnt the countryside up to the gates of Dieppe. He then took Neufchâtel, burning it and all or the major part of the district of Caux as far as the gates of Rouen, up to which he marched in person. He often lost his foragers and his army endured very great hunger. Then he withdrew because winter was drawing on. As soon as he had turned his back the King’s troops recaptured Eu and Saint-Valéry and took seven or eight prisoners from the garrisons that had been put there by virtue of the surrender agreements.
ABOUT this time in 1472 I came into the King’s service.43 He had also made the majority of the servants of his brother, the duke of Guyenne, welcome. He was at Ponts-de-Cé, where he had marched, and was making war on the duke of Brittany. There some ambassadors from Brittany had come to see him and he had sent some of his own to the duchy. Among those who came were Philippe des Essars, the duke’s servant, and Guillaume de Souplainville, servant to my lord of Lescun, who had retired to Brittany when he realized that his master, the duke of Guyenne, was close to death. He had left Bordeaux by sea for fear of falling into the King’s hands, for which reason he had made an early escape. He brought with him the duke of Guyenne’s confessor and an esquire of the stable,44 who were suspected of causing the duke’s death and who were held prisoner in Brittany for many years.
The embassies to and from Brittany lasted only a short while. In the end the King decided to conclude a peace and give the lord of Lescun so much that he would win him back as his servant and wipe out any thoughts he might have had of doing him down. Nothing sensible or virtuous was done in Brittany unless Lescun had a hand in it and the King thought that so powerful a duke, manipulated by such a man, was much to be feared but, provided that he treated with him, the Bretons would do their best to live in peace. Indeed, most of the people there asked for nothing more, for there have always been some of them in this kingdom, who have been fairly treated and honoured and in turn have served well in times gone by. I also find the treaty which our King made a very wise one, although some, whose understanding was not so penetrating as his, have sought to blame him. He had a great regard for the character of Lescun, saying that he saw no danger in committing the things he did to his care. He considered him a man of honour because never in the recent troubled times had he had any understanding with the English or consented to the delivery of places in Normandy to them. This was the principal reason for his later success because he alone would not agree to that.
For all these reasons he told Souplainville to put in writing all that his master, the lord of Lescun, asked for both on the duke’s behalf and his own. He did this and the King agreed to all the points. His demands were a pension of eighty thousand francs for the duke; for his master, six thousand francs’ pension, the governorship of Guyenne, the two seneschalcies of the Landes and Bordelais, the captaincy of one of the two castles in Bordeaux, the captaincies of Blaye, the two castles of Bayonne, Dax and Saint-Sever and twenty-four thousand crowns in cash, the King’s Order and the county of Comminges. All the conditions were agreed upon and fulfilled, except for the duke’s pension which was cut in half and paid for two years only. Moreover the King gave Souplainville six thousand crowns, that is, I mean, the ready cash owing both to him and his master and paid over four years. Souplainville also had twelve thousand francs’ pension, the mayoralty of Bayonne, the bailiwick of Montargis and some other small offices in Guyenne and both he and his master enjoyed all their benefits until the King’s death. Philippe de Essars was made bailli of Meaux, Master of the waters and the forests of France and had twelve thousand francs’ pension and four thousand crowns. From then until the King, our master’s, death they enjoyed possession of these offices. Also my lord of Comminges remained a good and loyal servant to the King.
Having settled matters in Brittany the King marched soon afterwards towards Picardy. The King and the duke of Burgundy always had a custom that when either came they made a truce to last six months, a year or longer. So following their habit they made one,45 and the Chancellor of Burgundy,46 together with some others in his company, came to draw up the terms of it. The final peace which the King agreed upon with the duke of Brittany, in which the duke renounced the alliances he had formed with the English and the duke of Burgundy, was there rehearsed because the King no longer wanted the duke of Burgundy’s ambassadors to name the duke of Brittany amongst their allies. They did not want to agree to this and said that it was up to him to declare himself for the King or for them in the usual length of time. They said that the duke of Brittany had previously abandoned them in writing but even then he had not left their company and friendship. They maintained that the duke of Brittany was a prince more influenced by other opinions than his own but that he always returned in the end to the side which served him best. All this happened in 1473.47
WHILST this treaty was being arranged, there were complaints on both sides against the count of Saint-Pol, Constable of France. The King and his closest advisers had conceived a great hatred of him. The duke of Burgundy hated him even more and with better cause, for I was informed about the true reasons of both sides. The duke had not forgotten that the Constable had brought about the capture of Amiens and Saint-Quentin, and he suspected him of being the instigator and fomentor of this war between the King and himself. For in truce this time he had spoken to him the fairest possible words but as soon as fighting began he became his mortal enemy and had wanted to constrain him to marry off his daughter as you have heard before. He had yet another quarrel with him. When the duke was beseiging Amiens, the Constable led a raid into Hainault where, amongst other exploits, he burnt the castle of Solre which belonged to a knight called Sir Baudouin de Lannoy. At that time it was not usual for either side to lay waste by burning but the duke took this act as an excuse for retaliating with fire as he did throughout the summer. So began the intrigues leading to the Constable’s overthrow. On the King’s side negotiations were opened by men who got in touch with the Constable’s enemies in the duke’s service. The King was no less suspicious of the Constable than the duke and everyone said he had caused the war. They began to uncover and hurried forward with plans for his elimination.
Some might ask in the future whether the King could not have done this alone. I say not, because Saint-Pol was equally placed between the King and the duke. He held Sanit-Quentin in Vermandois, which was a very large and powerful town. He also had Ham and Bohain and other very strong places close to Saint-Quentain and he could put men in there at any moment and from any party he liked. He had four hundred well-paid men-at-arms from the King, of whom he himself was the commissary. He could take the muster and thereby obtain a great deal of money, for he never kept the full number. Besides all this he received ordinary wages of forty-five thousand francs and took a crown on every pipe of wine which crossed his territorial borders on its way to Flanders or Hainault. He had his own very exclusive lordships and many supporters both in the kingdom of France and in the duke’s lands, where he had many relatives.
Throughout the year that this truce lasted the discussions over the Constable continued and the King’s men got in touch with one of the duke’s knights called my lord of Humbercourt, about whom you have heard me speak elsewhere in this book. He had always hated the Constable very much and this hatred had been recently stirred up again. At an assembly which had been held at Roye, where the Constable and others had come on the King’s behalf and where the Chancellor of Burgundy, the lord of Humbercourt and others represented the duke, in speaking together about their business, the Constable twice contradicted the lord of Humbercourt very rudely. Humbercourt made no other reply except to say that in suffering this insult the Constable was not to attribute this to Humbercourt’s respect for him, but rather to his respect for the King, on whose surety he had come there as an ambassador, and also for his master whom Humbercourt represented and to whom he would report this affair.
This single piece of insolence and insult so quickly spoken cost the Constable his life and loss of his goods, as you shall see. For this reason those who are in high authority and princes should be very wary of doing or saying such outrageous things and mind whom they talk to. For the greater they are, the greater the injury, because they think they are more dishonoured by the greatness and authority of the person who has outraged them and if it is their master or lord they despair of receiving any further honour or favour from him. More men serve in the hope of future reward rather than for what they have already received.
To return to my account, advances were still being made to the lord of Humbercourt and to the Chancellor, since he had taken part in the discussions at Roye and he was a very good friend of the lord of Humbercourt. Matters advanced so far that a meeting about these proposals was held at Bouvignes, close to Namur. The lord of Curton, governor of the Limousin, and Master Jean Héberge, later bishop of Évreux, were there for the King and the Chancellor and the lord of Humbercourt represented the duke. This was in [May] 1474.
The Constable was warned that they were discussing how to get the better of him and he hurriedly sent messengers to both princes. He informed them that he knew everything and he did this so cleverly that he aroused a suspicion in the King’s mind that the duke wanted to deceive him and win the Constable from his party. For this reason the King, with all possible speed, sent word to his ambassadors at Bouvignes not to conclude anything against the Constable for the reasons he told them; they were to proplong the truce according to their instructions for six months or a year, I do not know which.
When the messenger arrived he found that ll had been concluded already and the sealed documents had been exchanged the previous evening. But the ambassadors knew each other so well and were such good friends that they returned the documents. These contained clauses declaring that the Constable, for the reasons they alleged, was a criminal and an enemy of both princes. They had promised and sworn to one another that the first of them to lay his hands on him would have him killed within a week or deliver him to his companion to do with him what he liked and that, at the sound of a trumpet, he, as well as those who served him or gave him any favour or help, should be declared an enemy of both parties. Moreover the King had promised to deliver to the duke the town of Saint-Quentin, about which enough has already been said, and to give him all the money and other goods belonging to the Constable which could be found in the kingdom, with all the lordships held of the duke. Amongst others he gave him Ham and Bohain, which are very strong places, and on a certain specified day the King and the duke with their troops were to assemble before Ham to besiege the Constable. Yet for the reasons which I have told you this agreemnt was quashed and a day and a place were appointed where the Constable would come to speak to the King in safety, because he was afraid for his life, as if he knew all about the decisions take at Bouvignes.
The appointed meeting-place was three leagues from Noyon on the way to La Fére over a small river. On the Constable’s side the ford had been made impassable. On a causeway which crossed there a strong barrier had been erected. The Constable arrived first and he had with him all, or most, of his troops, for he had mustered there three hundred men-at-arms, and he wore his breastplate under a loose coat. With the King were more than six hundred men-at-arms, including my lord of Dammartin, Grand Master of the royal household, who was the Constable’s mortal enemy. The King sent me on ahead to make excuses to the Constable for keeping him waiting for so long. Soon afterwards he arrived, and they spoke together in the presence of five or six men from both sides. The Constable excused himself for coming all armed by saying that he had done so for fear of the count of Dammartin. It was decided, in effect, that all past deeds should be forgotten and never mentioned again. The Constable came over to the King’s side and a settlement was reached between him and Dammartin. He then came to lodge with the King at Noyon and next day returned to Saint-Quentin, fully reconciled as he said himself.
When the King had thought about this more fully and heard the grumbles of his men, he recognized it had been madness to go to speak to his subject had to have found him, with a barrier erected in front of him, well attended by troops who were all his own subjects and paid at royal expense. So if the hatred he had before was great it was now even greater, and on the Constable’s part his pride had not been diminished in the least.
Many men have thought that fear and dread made him act thus. But many who thought this have discovered their mistake when they let themselves act against him, like the count of Armagnac and others who came to a sticky end. For the King well recognized whether it was time to be afraid or not. I praise him for this. I do not know if I have said it elsewhere or when, if I did, but it is worth repeating; I have never known a wiser man when faced by adversity.
To continue my account of the Constable, who perhaps wanted the King to fear him, at least I think so, for I would not accuse him or speak about this except to warn those, in the service of great princes, who do not all equally understand the business of this world; I would counsel a friend of mine, if I had one, to exert himself to gain his master’s affection but not to make him fear him for I never saw a man who possessed great authority from his lord by holding him in dread who was not ruined, and that with his master’s consent.
There have been many such cases in our own times or a little earlier; in France, for example, my lord of Trémoïlle48 and others. In England there was the earl of Warwick and all his followers, and I could cite examples from Spain and elsewhere. But probably those who read this will know more of this than I do. Their arrogance often proceeds from having performed some great service. They think boastfully that their merits are such that one should put up with much more from them and that they are indispensable. But princes, on the other hand, hold the opinion that all are bound to do them good service, like to be told this and desire to be rid of those who rebuke them.
Again, I must quote at this point two remarks our master once made to me, speaking of those who have done some great service (and he told me the person from whom he got the sayings), that to have served too well somtimes ruins people and often great services are rewarded by great ingratitude. But that could arise as much from the faults of those who have done the service, wanting to use their good fortune too arrogantly against their master or companions, as from the prince’s lack of recognition. He told me, further, that in his opinion to obtain a good position at court it is more fortunate for a man to be promoted by the prince whom he serves to some great office which he little deserves, for which he will remain very obliged to him, than to have done such good service that the prince was very obliged to him for it. He said that princes most naturally like those who are obliged to them rather than those to whom they are obliged. So in all walks of life there are difficulties in living well in this world and God grants a great favour to those to whom he gives a natural common sense.
The interview between the King and the Constable took place in 1474.49
AT this time1 the duke of Burgundy had set out to capture the province of Guelders, basing his claims on a quarrel about which some account will not be out of place as an indication of the works and powers of God.
There was a young duke of Guelders called Adolphe who had married one of the Bourbon daughters, the sister of my lord Pierre of Bourbon who is the present duke.2 The marriage had taken place at the Burgundian court and for this reason they received various favours from it. But Adolphe committed a dreadful deed because he had taken his father (Duke Arnold) prisoner one evening just as he was going to bed and taken him to within five leagues of Germany without leggings on a very cold night. He then put him inside the bottom of a tower where he got no light except what came through a very small skylight, and he kept him there five years.3From this arose a serious war between the duke of Clèves, whose sister the imprisoned duke had married, and this young duke, Adolphe. On several occasions the duke of Burgundy had wanted to persuade them to conclude a treaty but he was not able to achieve this. In the end the Pope and the Emperor came down with a heavy hand and the duke of Burgundy was ordered on pain of very serious penalty to get Duke Arnold out of prison.
This he did because the young duke dared not refuse to deliver him to Charles, seeing so many important people were taking a serious interest, and also Adolphe feared the armed might of the duke of Burgundy. Many times I saw them both together in the duke of Burgundy’s chamber before the great council assembly, pleading their cases, and I have seen the good old man throw down his gage of battle to his son. The duke of Burgundy very much wanted to reconcile them and he favoured the young man, who was offered the title of governor or ‘mambourg’of the country which with all its revenues would belong to him except for a small town situated close to Brabant called Grave which with its revenues was to remain the father’s together with three thousand florins’ pension. So all this would have been worth six thousand florins to him and, as was only right, he would keep the title of duke. Together with wiser men than me, I was commissioned to carry these offers to the young duke. He replied that he would rather have thrown his father head first into a well and then to have thrown himself in afterwards than have made this settlement, and that his father had been duke for forty-four years and it was about time that he was. However, Adolphe, amongst other very ill-advised things that he said, very willingly agreed to allow his father three thousand florins a year on condition that he ever entered the duchy.
All this happened exactly at the moment the King took Amiens from the duke of Burgundy, who was with these two men about whom I have been speaking at Doullens.4 The duke found himself deeply involved and left suddenly to retreat to Hesdin, forgetting all about this matter. The young duke disguised himself as a Frenchman and left with only one companion to go back to his own country. Whilst crossing a river near Namur he paid a florin for his passage. A priest who saw it became suspicious, mentioned it to the ferryman, stared at the man who had paid the florin and recognized him. So he was captured there and led to Namur, where he remained a prisoner until the duke of Burgundy’s death when the men of Ghent released him. They wanted to force him to marry the lady who has since become the duchess of Austria5 and they took him with them to the siege of Tournai, where he was killed miserably and in poor company, as if God had not yet been satiated with vengeance for the outrage he had inflicted on his father. The father had died before the duke of Burgundy and whilst his son was still in prison. He had left the succession to the duke of Burgundy because of his son’s ingratitude. It was on account of this that the duke of Burgundy conquered the duchy of Guelders at the time I am speaking about, though he met with some resistance. But he was powerful and had a truce with the King. So he held it until his death and even today his descendants still do and they will do so as long as it pleases God. Now, as I said at the beginning, I have merely recounted this story to demonstrate how such cruelties and evils do not go unpunished.
The duke of Burgundy returned to his own land and his pride was inflated by his acquisition of the duchy. He began to get interested in German affairs because the Emperor was very timid and would endure anything in order to avoid having to spend money. Also, on his own, without the help of other German lords, he could not do anything significant. For this reason the duke prolonged his truce with the King, despite the opinion of several royal counsellors that the King ought not to extend it or to allow the duke’s property to increase. Good sense made them offer this advice but because of lack of experience and personal knowledge they did not understand this affair. There were some, with a better grasp of the situation then they had, and with a greater understanding from having been to these places, who advised our master, the King, to agreed boldly to the truce and allow the duke to go and exhaust himself by attacking the Germans (a task which is almost unbelievably great and daunting). They said when the duke had taken one place or brought one quarrel to an end he would undertake another. He was not the man ever to be satisfied with one exploit (being in this respect quite different from the King, for the more entangled he was the more he got himself entangled) and that there was no better way of revenging himself on him than by allowing him to get on with it, even giving him some small assistance; he should give him no cause to suspect that he might break the truce. For given the size and strength of Germany it was impossible that he would not quickly consume all his forces and ruin himself in every way, for even though the Emperor was not a man of great valour, the princes of the Empire would see to that. And so it happened in the end.
In the dispute between the two claimants to the [arch-] bishopric of Cologne, one of whom was the brother of the landgrave of Hesse and the other a relative of the count-palatine of the Rhine, the duke of Burgundy took the side of the palatine and undertook to place the claimant in office by force, hoping thereby to capture several places. He besieged Neuss near Cologne in 1474.6 The landgrave of Hesse and some soldiers were inside the town. The duke had so many great schemes in his mind that he was submerged by their weight, because at this same time he wanted to persuade King Edward of England to bring over the great army which he had prepared at the duke’s urgent request; he did his utmost to finish off this German enterprise. This involved garrisoning Neuss, if he were able to take it, and another town or two above Cologne. The city would be forced to capitulate. Then after leaving there he would travel up the Rhine as far as the county of Ferrette, which he then held, so that all the Rhine, from there to Holland, where there were more powerful towns and castles than in any other realm in Christendom except for France, would be his. The truce which he had with the King had been extended for six months and already most of this period had elapsed. The King urged him to prolong it still further so that he could do as he liked in Germany, but the duke did not want to do this because of his promise to the English.
I would gladly have omitted to mention the siege of Neuss as it is not strictly relevant to our story, for I was not present, but I am forced to speak about it because of the things which stemmed from it. The landgrave of Hesse and many of his relatives and friends, with up to eighteen hundred horsemen as I have been told, had stationed themselves inside the town of Neuss. All of them were fine soldiers, as they were to demonstrate. They also had as many infantry as were necessary. The landgrave was brother of the elected bishop who was the opponent of the man supported by the duke of Burgundy. So the duke besieged Neuss in 1474.
He had the finest army he had ever had, especially his cavalry, because on the pretext of certain projects he had in mind in Italy he gathered some thousand Italian men-at-arms, both good and bad; these had as their leader a man of most perfidious and dangerous character from the kingdom of Naples, called the count of Campobasso. There was also Giacomo Galeotto, a very worthy Neopolitan nobleman, and several others whom I pass over for brevity’s sake. Likewise he had more than three thousand fine English soldiers, as well as very large numbers of his own subjects who were well mounted and armed and who were already well trained in warfare. The artillery was very numerous and powerful. All this force he held ready to join the English on their arrival; these were rapidly preparing in England.
But this type of preparation takes a long time because the king cannot undertake such an exploit wihtout assembling his Parliament, the equivalent of our Three Estates, which is a very just and laudable institution, and on account of this the kings are stronger and better served when they consult parliament in such matters. When these Estates are assembled, the king declares his intentions and asks for aid from his subjects, because he cannot raise any taxes in England, except for an expedition to France or Scotland or some other such comparable cause. They will grant them, very willingly and liberally, especially for crossing to France. There is a well-known trick which these kings of England practise when they want to amass money. They pretend they want to attack Scotland and to assemble armies. To raise a large sum of money they pay them for three months and then disband their army and return home, although they have received money for a year. King Edward understood this ruse perfectly and he often did this. This army took more than a year to get ready and he then sent word to the duke of Burgundy, who was besieging Neuss at the beginning of the summer; he thought that within a few days he would be able to place his candidate in possession of the [arch-] bishipric and that several places, including Neuss, would remain his so that he could achieve his ends which I have told you about.
I consider that this was God’s own doing, out of pity for this kingdom, because the duke’s army was already very experienced by several years’ campaigning in this kingdom without anyone offering it battle or taking the field in strength against it, unless they were defending the towns. But it is also true that this resulted from the King’s actions, because he did not want to place anything in jeopardy. He did this not only because he was frightened of the duke of Burgundy but also because he feared the disaffection which could arise in his kingdom if he should lose a battle. For he knew he was not well thought of by all his subjects, especially the great lords. If I dare speak the whole truth, he has told me many times that he knew his subjects well and this would happen if his affairs went badly. For this reason when the duke of Burgundy invaded he did no more than strongly reinforce the towns on his route. So in a short time the duke of Burgundy’s army broke itself up without the King imperilling his state. This, it strikes me, is to proceed intelligently.
Nevertheless, with the strength of the duke of Burgundy’s army which I have told you about, and if the king of England’s army had come, as doubtless it would have done, by the beginning of the campaigning season, had not the duke of Burgundy made the mistake of staying so obstinately before Neuss, it cannot be doubted but that this kingdom would have borne very serious hardships. For never before had an English king brought across such a powerful army at one time as this one of which I am speaking, nor one so well prepared to fight. All the great English lords, without exception, were there. They probably had more than fifteen hundred men-at-arms, a great number for the English, all of whom were very well equipped and accompanied. There were fourteen thousand mounted archers, all of whom carried bows and arrows, and plenty of other people, on foot serving their army. In all this army there was not a single page. Besides this the king of England was to send three thousand men to land in Brittany to join the duke’s army. I saw two letters written by my lord of Urfé ([later] chief esquire of France). He was then a retainer of the duke of Brittany. One was addressed to the king of England and the other to Lord Hastings, Lord Chamberlain of England, and amongst other things, they said that the duke of Brittany would achieve more in a month by his intrigues than the armies of the English and the Burgundians would achieve in six, however powerful they were. I believe that what he said would have been true had things been pushed ahead further. But God, who still loves this country, managed things as I shall show subsequently. These letters I mentioned were bought from an English secretary for sixty silver marks by the King, our late master.
THE duke of Burgundy was already deeply committed before Neuss, as I told you, and was finding things more difficult than he anticipated. The citizens of Cologne, which lay four leagues higher up the Rhine, spent a hundred thousand gold florins a month because of their fears of the duke of Burgundy. They and the other towns above them on the Rhine had already put fifteen or sixteen thousand foot soldiers in the field. These, with their heavy artillery, were camped on the edge of the river Rhine opposite the duke of Burgundy. They were attempting to disrupt his food supplies, which came upstream by water from Guelders, and to sink the boats by cannon-shots.
The Emperor and the electoral princes of the Empire had assembled to discuss this affair and had decided to gather an army. The King had already sent them several messengers to urge them to do this. So, in return, they sent to him a canon of Cologne, belonging to the house of Bavaria, and another ambassador with him. They took to the King a detailed list of the army, which the Emperor intended to assemble if the King, for his part, was willing to be involved in it. They did not fail to get a favourable answer and promise for everything they demanded. Moreover, in sealed documents the King promised, both to the Emperor and to several of the princes and towns, that as soon as the Emperor arrived at Cologne and was in the field the King would send twenty thousand men under the command of my lord of Craon and Slazar to join him.
So the German army, which was almost unbelievably large, got ready. All the German princes, both temporal and spiritual, the bishops and the towns sent a great number of men to it. I was told that the bishop of Munster, who was not amongst the most powerful, led there six thousand infantry and fourteen hundred horsemen, all clothed in green, besides twelve hundred carts. But, of course, his bishopric lay close to Neuss. The Emperor took more than seven months to gather this army and at the end of that period he went to camp about half a league from the duke of Burgundy. Several of the duke’s men have told me that his army, together with that of the king of England, did not amount to more than a third of the one I have just been speaking about, in the number either of men or of tents, both large and small. Besides the Emperor’s army, there was also that other army I mentioned on the other side of the river opposite the duke of Burgundy, which was harrassing his army severely and intercepting his supplies. As soon as the Emperor and the imperial princes were before Neuss they sent a doctor, who had great authority amongst them, to the King. He was called Dr. Hesler and later became a cardinal, and he came to request the King to keep his promises and send the twenty thousand men as he had agreed, otherwise the Germans would come to terms with Burgundy. The King made him very hopeful, had given him four hundred crowns, and sent back with him to the Emperor a certain Jean Tiercelin, lord of Brosse. Nevertheless the doctor did not go home entirely satisfied. Amazing negotiations were carried out during this siege because the King sought to make peace with the duke of Burgundy, or at least to prolong the truce so that the English would not come. The king of England, on the other hand, strove with all his might to force the duke of Burgundy to leave Neuss and to make him keep his promises to help him in the war in this kingdom, saying that they were in danger of wasting the campaigning season. Lord Scales, nephew of the Constable and a very fine knight,7and several others, were twice sent as ambassadors about this matter. But the duke was perverse, and indeed God had troubled his senses and understanding, because all his life he had laboured to get the English to cross the Channel and, at the very moment when they were ready and everything arranged to their liking, both in Brittany and elsewhere, he obstinately pursued an impossible objective.
With the Emperor there was an apostolic legate8 who every day went from one army to the other trying to arrange a peace. Likewise to the king of Denmark,9 who was staying in a small town close to the two armies, worked for the same end, so the duke of Burgundy could easily have arranged an honourable settlement which would have allowed him to withdraw to meet the king of England. But he did not know how to do it and sent excuses to the English, alleging that his honour would be slighted if he raised the siege, and making other feeble excuses. Yet these were not the Englishmen of his father’s day and the former wars with France. They were inexperienced and raw soldiers, ignorant of French ways, so he proceeded very unwisely because if he had wanted to use them in the future he should have guided them step by step in the first campaign.
While the duke was in this obstinate mood war broke out against him in two or three other places. One began when the duke of Lorraine, who was at peace with him, sent a defiance to the duke at Neuss at the instigation of my lord of Craon. Craon wanted to use the occasion to serve the King, and he did not fail to promise Lorraine that he would become an important figure. Immediately they took to the field and caused much damage in the duchy of Luxembourg, and razed a place in the duchy, called Pierrefort, two leagues from Nancy. Moreover, it was arranged by the King and some of his servants, whom he charged with this, that an alliance should be made for ten years between the Swiss and the towns of the Upper Rhine, Basle, Strasbourg and others, which had formerly been at loggerheads. A peace was also made between Duke Sigismund of Austria and the Swiss so that Duke Sigismund could recover the county of Ferrette which he had pledged to the duke of Burgundy for a hundred thousand Rhenish florins. All was agreed except for one difference between Sigismund and the Swiss, who wanted to have the right of passage through four towns in the county of Ferrette whenever they wanted, either with or without their forces. This dispute was submited to the King, who decided in favour of the Swiss. From all this you can appreciate the troubles which the King secretly stirred up for the duke. All these things were executed as they had been planned, for one fine knight Sir Pierre de Hagenbach, governor of the county of Ferrette for the duke of Burgundy, together with his force of eight hundred men, was captured. His men were released without obligation but he was taken to Basle where he was charged with committing certain excessess and acts of violence in the county of Ferrette. In the end he had his head chopped off10 and Ferrette was handed over to Duke Sigismund of Austria. The Swiss began to fight in Burgundy and took Blamont, which belonged to the Marshal of Burgundy, who was himself a member of the house of Neufchâtel. The Burgundians went to his aid but were defeated and the Swiss caused much havoc in that region before retiring again after this attack.
About then the King sent Jean Tiercelin, lord of Brosse, to the Emperor, to prevent him from coming to terms with the duke of Burgundy and to make excuses for the fact that he had not sent his troops as he had promised, and to assure him he would do so, and to exaggerate the exploits and the injuries which he was causing the duke, both in Picardy and in Burgundy. Besides this, he made a new proposal that they should promise each other not to make a peace or truce without each other, that the Emperor should take all the lordships which the duke held in the Empire and which should rightly be held of him, that he should declare them forfeit to himself and that the King should likewise take those which were held of the crown, such as Flanders, Artois, Burgundy and several others.
Although the Emperor was never noted for great bravery he was a man of some judgement, and as a result of his long life he had accumulated a wealth of experience. When these intrigues between us and him had lasted a long time he became tired of the war, although it was costing him nothing, because all the German lords had come at their own expense, as was usual when it was an imperial matter. The Emperor thus replied that close to a certain German town lived a great bear who caused a lot of damage. Three drinking companions from the town went to the taverner to whom they owed money and pleaded with him to allow them credit just once more and said that within two days they would pay him back everything, because they were going to capture this bear which caused so much harm. Its skin would be worth a great deal of money, not to speak of the presents which everyone would give them. The landlord agreed to their demand and when they had eaten they set off for the place where the bear lived. They came across the bear’s den more quickly than they had expected. Becoming frightened they took to their heels. One climbed a tree, one fled towards the town but the third was caught by the bear who trampled him to the ground and pushed its snout close to his ear. The poor man, prostrate and pressed against the ground, feigned death because by its nature this animal will leave whatever it is holding, whether it is man or beast, when it no longer moves, thinking it is dead. So the bear left this poor man, have scarcely injured him, and went back to its den. As soon as the man realized that he was safe he jumped up and set off back to the town. His friend who was in the tree, and who had seen this strange occurrence, climbed down and ran after him shouting to him to wait for him. He turned and waited for him. When they met, the man who stayed in the tree asked his friend to say truthfully what counsel the bear had given him, after it had kept its snout close to his ear for so long. He replied, ‘It told me never to sell a bear skin before catching the bear.’ With this story the Emperor reproached the King and gave no other reply to our ambassador. It was as if he has said, ‘Come here as you’ve promised and we’ll kill this man if we can, and then we’ll share out his properties.’
YOU have heard how Sir Jacques de Saint-Pol and others had been captured before Arras. This capture displeased the Constable considerably because Sir Jacques was a very good brother to him. This was not the only misadventure to befall him because at the same time his son, the count of Roussy, who was the duke’s governor of Burgundy, was also captured.(11) The Constable’s wife, a lady of great merit and sister to the Queen who protected and favoured her, also died whilst the intrigues, which had begun against him (as you have heard) and which had been brought to a successful conclusion at Bouvignes, were still in progress. Ever since that time the Constable had felt insecure and suspicious about both sides and especially he was fearful of the King. It clearly seemed to him that the King repented having withdrawn his consent to the documents agreed at Bouvignes. The count of Dammartin and others were quartered with the men-at-arms close to Saint-Quentin. The Constable feared them as his enemies and kept himself shut up in Saint-Quentin where he had just three hundred infantry from his own lands, because he was not entirely sure of the reliability of the men-at-arms [of the royal ordonnance companies which he commanded]. He was very troubled because the King urged him several times to take the field to serve him in Hainault, and to lay siege to Avesnes at the moment when the Admiral, with the other force, was wasting Artois with fire, as I told you. Eventually he did so but in great dread, as he was very afraid. He was only there a few days and kept a strong bodyguard about him. He then retired to his own places and sent word the the King that he had raised the siege. I know all about this because the King ordered me to listen to his messenger. He justified himself by saying that he had been reliably informed that there were two men in the army who had been ordered by the King to assassinate him. He mentioned so many pieces of incriminating evidence that people were almost beginning to believe him and to suspect one of the two of having told him something about which they should have kept quiet. I do not want to name anyone or speak further about this affair.
The Constable sent frequent messages to the duke of Burgundy’s army. I believe he was trying to get him away from this foolish expedition. When his messengers had returned he sent some news to the King which he thought would please him and let him know some of the small matters why he had sent to the duke. He thought that by doing this he would satisfy the King. Sometimes he sent word that the duke’s affairs were progressing well, in order to frighten the King a little. But he was himself so frightened that he might be attacked that he asked the duke to send him his brother, Sir Jacques de Saint-Pol (who was at Neuss, prior to his capture), also the lord of Fiennes(12) and other of his relatives whom he could put into Saint-Quentin with their men, and who would not have to wear the St. Andrew’s cross. He promised the duke he would hold Saint-Quentin for him and restore it to him some time later and would give him his sealed undertaking. This the duke agreed to do. When Sir Jacques, the lord of Fiennes and his other relatives twice found themselves within a league or two of Saint-Quentin and ready to enter it, the Constable found that his fear had evaporated, repented of his decision and sent them away. He did this three times, so much did he want to remain in this state of balance, steering between the two, because he was extremely afraid of both of them. I learnt these things from many people, especially from Sir Jacques de Saint-Pol himself. He told the King about them when he had been brought a prisoner before him; I was the only other person present. His willing replies to the King’s questions did him a lot of good. The King asked him how many men he had to get into the town with. He replied that on the third occasion he had about three thousand men. The King also asked him whether, if he had found himself the stronger, he would have held it for the King or the Constable. Sir Jacques replied that on the first two occasions he came only to reinforce his brother but on the third occasion, seeing that the Constable had twice deceived both his master and himself, if he had got the upper hand he would have kept the town for his master without doing anything violent or prejudicial to the Constable, except that he would not have sallied out at his command. Consequently, shortly afterwards, the King released Sir Jacques de Saint-Pol from prison and gave him men-at-arms and fine possessions. He employed him up to his death and this good fortune was the result of his replies.
Since I began to speak about Neuss I have touched upon several matters one after another. All these happened at this time because the siege lasted a year. Two things in particular put extreme pressure on the duke of Burgundy to raise the siege; one was the war which the king was waging on him in Picardy, where he had burnt three small towns and wasted a quarter of the flat countryside of Artois and Ponthieu, and the other was the great and urgent request — the army which the duke had been striving all his life to lure across the Channel and which he had never succeeded in doing up to then. The king of England and all the nobles of his realm were highly discontented by the duke of Burgundy’s delays. Besides the pleas which they sent to him they also issued threats, because of the great expense they had been put to and because the season was passing. The duke of Burgundy greatly delighted in opposing the huge German army composed of contingents from any princes, prelates and towns. This was the biggest army within living memory, or indeed for a long time before that. Yet all of them together did not succeed in making him leave his position. But he paid dearly for this piece of vanity because he who has the profits of war has the honour. All the time, this legate, whom I mentioned, had been coming and going from one side to the other and finally a peace was agreed between the Emperor and the duke. The town of Neuss was placed in the legate’s hands, to be disposed of according to papal decree. But to what kind of a dilemma must the duke have been reduced when he saw himself pressed by the war which the King was waging against him as well as by the requests and menaces of his friend, the king of England? For on the other hand he could see that the town of Neuss was reduced to such a state that within fifteen days he would have a stranglehold upon it because of famine (and this could have happened in as few as ten days, as I have been told by one of the captains who was in the town, whom the King took into his service). So for these reasons the duke of Burgundy raised the siege in 1475.
Text copyright © , 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.