Book Two, Chapters 10-15; Book Three, Chapters 1-6

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



[The expedition against Liège]
WHEN the peace had been thus concluded, the King and the duke departed next morning and marched towards Cambrai and from there to the province of Liège. It was the very beginning of winter and the weather was dreadful. The King had with him his Scottish bodyguard and a few men-at-arms but he ordered another hundred to join him.

The duke’s army was divided in two, part led by the Marshal of Burgundy, to whom you have already been introduced, and with him were the Burgundians and Savoyards and also a large number of men from the territories of Hainault, Luxembourg, Namur and Limbourg. The other part was with the duke. As they approached the city [of Liège] a council was held in the duke’s presence, where some advised that it would be better to disband part of the army since the city had had its walls and gates razed the previous year and there was no hope of them receiving any support. Also the King was there in person against them and had made certain proposals on their behalf which were almost the same as had been put to them.

This view did not please the duke, which was lucky for him because no man was ever so close to losing everything as he was. His suspicions of the King made him choose the wiser course, and he was extremely ill advised by those who spoke thus and thought that the army was too strong. It was a very good example of pride or folly and I have heard such opinions many times. Sometimes captains speak in this way in order to be thought brave or because they do not sufficiently understand what has to be done. But when princes are wise they take no notice. The King, our master (may God have mercy on him), was well aware of this truth. For he was slow and timorous in beginning a project but when he had begun it he did everything in his power to bring it to a successful conclusion so that he scarcely ever failed to gain complete mastery.

So it was decided that the Marshal of Burgundy and all those whom I have spoken about who were in his company should go to take up quarters in the city, and if they were refused entry they were to force their way in if they could. For already men from the city were coming and going in an attempt to make a settlement. The Marshal’s division reached Namur and the next day, when the King and duke arrived, they left the town. As they approached the city the foolish populace sallied out to attack them and quite a considerable number were easily routed. The rest withdrew, but their bishop escaped and joined us.

A papal legate had been sent to pacify them and to investigate the differences between the bishop and his flock who were still under the ban of excommunication for the offences and reasons I listed earlier on. This legate exceeded his powers and, hoping to make himself bishop of the city, sided with the citizens, ordered them to take up arms and defend themselves and gave them other stupid pieces of advice. But seeing the city’s peril, he rushed out hoping to escape. He was captured together with his men, about twenty-five in all, who were all well mounted. As soon as the duke heard this news he sent to tell those who had caught the legate to carry him off somewhere without telling him anything about it and to sell him like a merchant for their own profit because, if he was publicly informed, he would not be able to keep him but would have to release him out of respect for the apostolic see. They did not know how to follow his advice but fell out amongst themselves, and publicly, at dinner-time, those who claimed a share in him came to speak to the duke. Immediately he sent word for him to be handed over to him, gave him back all his belongings and paid him every respect. The great bulk of the vanguard under the leadership of the Marshal of Burgundy and the lord of Humbercourt marched directly to the city, expecting to enter it. Moved by great avarice they would rather have pillaged it than have accepted the terms which they were offered. They did not think there was any need to wait for the King and the duke of Burgundy who were seven or eight leagues behind them. They advanced so far that by nightfall they reached the outskirts and entered a street which led directly to a gate which the citizens had partially repaired. They held a conference but could not agree. The night, which was very dark, surprised them before they made their camp; nor was there a suitable place for this and they were in great disorder. Some paced up and down, others called their masters or their company or the names of their captains.

Sir Jean de Wildt and the other captains of the Liègeois saw their mistake and their disorder and plucked up courage. Their misfortune, the destruction of their walls, now served them well because they poured out wherever they liked through the breaches in the walls and fell upon the first ranks. By using the vineyards and small hillocks for cover, they fell on the pages and valets who were at the end of the suburb where they had entered and where a great number of the horses were loose, and killed a large number of them. Many men took to flight, for the night knows no shame.

They exploited the situation so well that they killed nearly eight hundred men, including a hundred men-at-arms. The experienced and courageous men in the vanguard banded together (they were nearly all men-at-arms and came from good families). They marched with their standards right up to the gate for fear the attackers would sally out by it. The mud there was deep because of the continual rains and the men-at-arms, all on foot, were ankle-deep in it. At one stage the rest of the citizens were thinking of sallying out of the gate by torchlight with much shouting. Our men, who were close by, had four good guns and they fired two or three rounds along the main street and killed many people. That made them withdraw and close the gates. All the while, in the fight throughout the suburb, those who sallied out used some carts which they had captured as defences, because they were close to the town, and stayed outside it from two until six in the morning. Nevertheless, when it was broad daylight and men could see each other, they were repulsed. Sir Jean de Wildt was wounded there and he died two days later in the town, as did one or two of the other leaders.

[Charles the Rash and Louis XI at Liège]
ALTHOUGH it is sometmes necessary to make sorties they are always very dangerous for the defenders of a place, since the loss of ten of their men is more damaging than the loss of a hundred beseigers, because their numbers are not equal and they cannot obtain reinforcements when they want. If they lose a commander or leader it often happens that the rest of his companions and the soldiers only want to abandon their position. This very serious affray came to the duke’s notice when he was camped four to six leagues from the town. First he was told that everyone had been completely routed. Nevertheless he and the whole army mounted and he ordered that the King was to be told nothing. On approaching the city from another direction he received news that things were going better and that there were not so many dead as was first thought and no one of any importance had been killed except my lord of Sengneur, a Flemish knight. But the gentlemen of the vanguard who were there found themselves hard pressed because they had been standing all night in the mud close to the enemy’s gate. In addition, some of the fugitives had returned (I am speaking about the foot soldiers) but were so discouraged that it seemed improbable that they would be in a condition to put up any stern resistance. The duke and his men were implored for God’s sake to hurry up so that some of the citizens would be forced to return to their own particular part of the defences. He was also asked to send them food because they did not have any at all. Rapidly he dispatched two or three hundred horsemen to ride to reinforce and encourage them with as much food as their horses could carry, although he could only find them a small amount. It was two days and a night since they had eaten or drunk, except for those who had taken a bottle with them, and they had experienced the most appalling weather. There were a large number of wounded including the prince of Orange,36 whose name I have forgotten to mention and who showed himself a man of honour since he would not yield. My lords of Lau and Urfé both conducted themselves bravely even though during the night more than two37thousand men fled from them.

It was almost night when the duke heard this news and, having dispatched the supplies, he went back to his standard and told the King everything, which made him very pleased for a different outcome could have caused him harm. Immediately they approached the suburb the noblemen and men-at-arms, including the Bastard of Burgundy, who had been given important responsibilities by the duke, the lord of Ravenstein, the count of Roussy,38 the Constable’s son, and several others, dismounted in large numbers to accompany the archers in an attempt to capture the suburb and take up quarters there. These were easily occupied in the suburb close to a gate which the citizens had repaired just like the other one. The duke camped in the middle of the suburb and the King spent the night in a large well-built farmhouse a quarter of a league from the town and many soldiers, both his own and ours, camped around him.

The city, which is about as large as Rouen, is situated in a very fertile region, amongst hills and valleys through which the river Meuse flows. It was for these times densely populated. From the gate where we were camped to that where our vanguard was lodged it was only a short distance through the town, yet it was more than three leagues by a route outside the walls. This was full of holes and had a poor surface. It was also the depth of winter. Their walls were broken down and they could sally out wherever they liked. There was only a small moat and this had never been dug out because the bottom was very sharp and hard rock.

The first evening the duke of Burgundy spent in their suburb our vanguard was very relieved because the defenders had already had to divide their forces in two. About midnight we were seriously alarmed. The duke of Burgundy immediately went out into the street and the King and Constable joined him there shortly afterwards. They had really exerted themselves to come so far so quickly. Some shouted, ‘They’re sallying out of such and such a gate.’ Others uttered equally alarming things, and the weather was so bad and it was so dark that men became very frightened. The duke of Burgundy never lacked courage but he was often remiss in giving proper orders. Certainly, he did not behave, at this moment I am talking about, as well as his men might have wished, seeing the King was present. The King himself took control and ordered the Constable, ‘Take the men you’ve got with you to such and such a spot, for if they come out they’ll come that way.’ And hearing him speak and seeing his appearance you could see that he was a King of great merit and intelligence and one who had much previous experience of such affairs. But nevertheless nothing happened, so the King returned to his lodgings, as did the duke of Burgundy.

Next morning the King moved his quarters to a small house in the suburbs close to the duke of Burgundy’s. He had with him his guard of a hundred Scots. His men-at-arms were billeted in a village next to him. The duke of Burgundy became very suspicious either that the King would enter the city, or that he would flee before he had taken the town, or that he would even cause him some personal injury, since he was so close. Nevertheless between the two houses there was a large barn into which he put three hundred men-at-arms, including the pick of his army. They broke the walls down in order to be able to sally out more easily. Those stationed there kept an eye on the King’s house close by. These junketings lasted for a week for on the eighth day the town was taken and during that time neither the duke nor anyone else disarmed. The evening before the capture it was decided to assault the town on the following morning, which was a Sunday 30 October 1468 and we arranged with our vanguard that when they heard a bombard and then two large serpentines39 being fired immediately afterwards, followed by no other shots, they would attack vigorously because the duke would likewise be leading the attack on his side. This was to take place at eight in the morning. In the evening after this had been decided the duke of Burgundy disarmed, which he had not done before, and ordered all men, especially those who were in the barn, to do the same, in order to rest themselves. Soon afterwards, when the citizens had been informed of this, they decided to make an attack on our side as they had previously done on the other.

  •  Guillaume VIII (d. 1475) or, more probably, his son Jean.
  • All MSS. read dix but this is corrected to deux by most editors. It is still too high an estimate.
  • Antoine de Luxembourg, died c. 1515.
  • A form of small cannon.

[The attack by the Liègeois]
NOW note how a great and powerful prince can very suddenly fall into difficulties through very few enemies and that for this reason all enterprises ought to be very carefully weighed and considered before they are executed.

Within this city every single soldier was a native of the place. They did not have with them any knight or gentleman, for the few that were with them had been killed or wounded two or three days before. They had neither gates nor walls nor ditches nor a single piece of artillery of any value. There were none but the citizens and seven or eight hundred infantry from the hilly region behind Liège called the district of Franchimont, who had always been renowned for their bravery by the Liègeois. Seeing themselves without hope of help because the King was there against them in person, they decided to make an all-out attack and place all their hopes on the outcome of this gamble, since they recognized that otherwise they were lost. It was their aim to send out six hundred men of the Franchimont district, the best men that they had, through the holes in their walls which were behind the duke of Burgundy’s quarters. Their guides were to be the owners of the houses where the King and the duke were lodged, and they could approach through a deep gully in the rock very close to the houses of these two princes before being discovered, provided that they made no noise. Although there were some scouts along the route they thought that they would kill them or reach the quarters as soon as they could. They hoped that the two guides would lead them straight to their houses where the two princes were and that they would not be delayed elsewhere. In this way they would surprise them so quickly that they would kill or at least take them before their men were mustered and they would not have far to retreat. If the worst came to the worst and they were to be killed in carrying out this exploit, then they would willingly face death bravely because, as I have said, they saw no other alternative to their own destruction. Besides, they ordered that with a great hue and cry the whole of the town’s population should attack through the gate which led directly to the main street of our suburb, hoping thereby to rout those who were quartered there. They were not without hope of achieving a great victory or at least, if the worst happened, a very glorious end. Had they had a thousand well equipped men-at-arms with them, their plans would have succeeded. Even so they almost did.

So, as it had been decided, the six hundred men from Franchimont sallied out through the breaches in he walls; I think it was just before ten in the evening. They caught the majority of the scouts and killed them and others, including three gentlemen from the ducal household. And if they had marched directly without being heard up to the spot where they wanted to get to they would have killed the two princes without difficulty whilst they lay in their beds. Behind the duke’s house there was a tent where the present duke of Alençon was quartered40 with my lord of Craon.41 They stopped there a short while and thrust their pikes in and killed a valet. This gave the alarm to the whole army; thus few men had time to arm themselves but immediately got up and left their tents and went straight to the two houses where the King and duke of Burgundy were. In the barn, which was closest to the two houses, as I said, the duke had placed three hundred men-at-arms, and there they got into a fight and gave the garrison several hard pike blows through the holes which had been made for the men to sally out of. All the noblemen had disarmed themselves just two hours before, as I have described, in order to refresh themselves for the following morning’s assault. So they found all but a few unarmed. Yet some had put on their breastplates on hearing the noise coming from my lord of Alençon’s tent and they fought them through the holes and the doors. By this action these two great princes were certainly saved, for the delay enabled several of their men to arm and get out into the street.

I was sleeping in the duke of Burgundy’s room, which was very small, with two other gentlemen of his chamber. Below us there were only twelve fully equipped archers on guard who were playing dice. The duke’s main watch was some distance away from him near the town gate. In fact the owner of the house brought a band of the Legiègeois to attack his house with the duke still inside. All this happened so suddenly that it was only with great difficulty that we were able to put on the duke’s breastplate and his helmet on his head. Immediately we went downstairs, hoping to get out into the street. We found our archers hard pressed to defend the door and the windows against the Liègeois and there was a fantastic noise in the street. Some were crying, ‘Burgundy,’ and others ‘Long live the King,’ and ‘Kill.’ We were there for two paternosters before the archers could break out of the house and we with them. We did not know how the King was nor on whose side he was, which worried us a great deal. As soon as we were out of the house, carrying two or three torches, we were able to find some other torches and saw men fighting all around us. But this did not last long because men poured in from all sides, coming to the duke’s quarters.

Their first man killed was the owner of the duke’s house, who did not die quickly because I heard him speaking. Almost all of them were killed. At the same time they attacked the King’s house and its owner entered and was killed there by the Scots, who showed themselves true men because they did not move an inch from their master and fired their bows so rapidly that they wounded more Burgundians than Liègeois. The citizens who were ordered to attack through the gate did so, but they found a large number of the watch already assembled there, who soon repulsed them, and they did not show themselves such keen soldiers as the others.

As soon as these men were driven back in this manner, the King and the duke conferred and, since many dead bodies could be seen, they feared that they were their own men. But few of them turned out to be so, although there were many wounded. And there is no doubt that if the Liègeois had not been delayed at the two places I have been speaking about, they would have killed the King and the duke of Burgundy, and I believe, routed the rest of the army. Both of these lords withdrew to their quarters very alarmed by this bold attack and immediately went into conference to decide what ought to be done the following morning about the attack which had been planned. The King became very fearful because if the duke failed to take the city by assault blame might fall on him and he would be in danger or, indeed, strictly imprisoned because the duke would be afraid that if he departed he would only make war on him from some other direction.

So you can see the miserable state of these two princes, who were unable to reassure themselves about the other’s motives. The two of them had made a final peace only fifteen days before and sworn most solemnly to maintain it loyally. Nevertheless trust could not be established between them at all.

  •  René du Perche, duke of Alençon 1476-92.
  • Georges de la Trémoïle, lord of Craon, d. 1481.

[The capture and sack of Liège]
THE King in order to dispel his fears, an hour after he had withdrawn to his quarters and after this attack, about which I spoke, sent word to some of the closest ducal servants, who were then at the council, in order to ask them what had been decided. They told him that they had already decided to attack the town on the following day in the way it had earlier been agreed upon. The King made known to him his great fears and made very wise suggestions which were very agreeable to the duke’s men, for each of them greatly feared the outcome of the attack because of the huge number of people in the city, and also because of the great courage which they had seen displayed only a couple of hours earlier. They would have been very content to wait a few days longer or to negotiate some agreement with the Liègeois. They came to the duke to make this report; I was present. They told him of all the fears which the King had, as well as their own, but they said these were all the King’s, fearing the duke would take it badly from them.

The duke did take it badly and he replied that the King said this in order to save the Li&3232;geois. He said the outcome was not in doubt, seeing that those inside could not mount a bombardment and that they no longer had any walls. Those which they had repaired around the gates were already destroyed and it was unnecessary to delay longer. He would not hold up the planned attack in the morning. But if it pleased the King to go to Namur to await the capture of the town, he said he would be quite happy but he would not leave there until the matter had been resolved.

This reply did not please anyone who was present because everyone feared for the success of this attack. The King was told about this not bluntly, but as truthfully as possible. He understood clearly and said that he did not wish to go to Namur but would be with the rest on the following day. My opinion is that if he had wanted to escape that night he could easily have done so, since he had a hundred archers of his bodyguard and some gentlemen of his household, besides nearly three hundred men-at-arms stationed close by. But without a shadow of a doubt, because his honour was at stake, he had no wish to be accused of cowardice. Everybody rested a little whilst waiting for the day; we were all fully armed and some examined their consciences because the enterprise was very hazardous. When it was broad daylight and the appointed hour of eight o’clock approached (when the attack was to be launched, as I have explained) the duke ordered the bombard and two rounds from the serpentines to be fired in order to alert the vanguard, which was on the other side far away from us (that is by the route outside the walls, but only a short way through the town, as I said). They heard the signal and immediately prepared to attack. The duke’s trumpets began to sound and the standards approached the wall accompanied by those who had to follow them. The King was in the middle of the street, well attended because all his three hundred men-at-arms, his bodyguard and some of the lords and gentlemen of his household were there. We expected to engage in hand-to-hand fighting but we met no resistance and there were only two or three men on watch because the rest had gone off to their dinner thinking that they would not be attacked simply because it was Sunday. In every house we found the table set. There is seldom need to fear a mob of people unless it is led by some captain whom all hold in respect and dread, although there are times in their fury when they ought to be feared. Even before this attack the Liègeois were dispirited (not only because of their losses in their two sorties, when all their leaders were killed, but also because of the great hardships which they had borne for eight days, as everyone had to be on watch because on every side they were defencesless, as you have heard.) I suppose that they thought that they could rest on this day as it was a Sunday. But the opposite happened to them and, as I was saying, hardly anyone was to be found defending the town on our side and there were even fewer on the side where our Burgundian vanguard and the others, whom I have mentioned, were. They entered before we did. They killed few people because the populace had fled over the Meuse bridge towards the Ardennes and from there to places beyond where they thought they would be safe. On our side I only saw three dead men and one woman and I believe no more than two hundred people died in all and the rest either fled or hid themselves in churches or houses.

The King advanced leisurely because he could see plainly that there was no resistance and the whole army, which numbered about forty thousand men, entered by two routes. The duke had advanced further into the city but turned back directly to conduct the King to the palace. Then immediately he returned to the great church of St. Lambert, where his men wanted to force their way in to capture prisoners and booty. And although he had already deputed a guard from his household, they could not control the soldiers who were attacking those two doors. I know that when he arrived he killed a man with his own hands because I saw him. The rest fled, and the church was not plundered, but in due course all the men and goods inside were captured. As for the other churches, which were numerous — I have heard my lord of Humbercourt, who knew the city well, say that as many Masses were said there in a day as at Rome — the majority were pillaged on the pretext of catpuring prisoners. I entered no churches except the cathedral, but I was rold this and saw the evidence. A long time afterwards the Pope pronounced severe censures on those who had anything belonging to the churches of that city unless they restored it, and the duke appointed commissioners to travel throughout his territories to execute the papal sentence.

So, about midday, when the city had been captured and sacked, the duke returned to the palace. The King, who had already dined, showed great signs of pleasure at its capture and praised highly the duke’s courage and bravery. He knew well that it would be reported to him. But he had only one desire — to return to his own kingdom. After dinner the duke and the King were seen making merry together and, as the King had praised the duke’s achievements behind his back, so he praised him still more which greatly pleased the duke.

But I must digress a little to tell you about the poor people who had fled from the city, in order to confirm some things I said at the beginning of these memoirs, when I spoke about the misfortunes which I had seen happen to men after losing a battle or after some other less serious loss. The miserable people were fleeing through the Ardennes with their women and children. A knight living in that region, who had supported them up to that time, ambushed a large crowd of them. In order to gain credit with the conqueror, he wrote to the duke of Burgundy exaggerating the number of dead and captured (even though this was already a large number) and in this way made his peace with the duke. Others fled to Mezières-sur-Meuse which is in the kingdom of France. Two or three of their ringleaders were arrested there, including one called Madoulet. They were brought to the duke who had them executed. Some of these people died from hunger, cold and sheer exhaustion.

[The destruction of Liège]
FOUR or five days after the catpure [of Liège] the King began to use those close to the duke whom he held to be his friends to obtain permission to leave. He himself spoke about it to the duke very discreetly, saying that if he had any further need of him he would gladly help him, but if he did not need him he would like to go back to Paris to register their agreement in the court of the Parlement because it is a French custom to publish all agreements there. Otherwise they are held to be invalid, even though the kings can still do a great deal there. Moreover he entreated the duke to meet him in the following summer to discuss things in Burgunday and to enjoy themselves together for a month. Finally the duke agreed to this, despite a little grumbling. He wanted the peace treaty to be read out again in the King’s presence to find out whether he repented of agreeing to anything, offering to remove it or leave it as he wished. He made some small excuse to the King for bringing him there. In addition he asked the King to agree to the insertion of a clause in the treaty in favour of my lords of Lau and Urfé and Poncet de Rivière ordering the restitution of their lands and offices to the state they were before the war. This demand displeased the King, for none of them was on his side, and should not have been included in the peace as they served his brother, Lord Charles, and not him. However he said he was content to agree, provided that the duke agreed the same conditions for my lords of Nevers42 and Croy. So the duke kept quiet and the King’s answer appeared a very clever one because the duke hated the others so much, and held so many of their possessions, that he would never have consented. Otherwise the King replied that he did not want to change anything in the treaty and confirmed all that had been sworn at Péronne. His departure was agreed upon and he took his leave of the duke, who conducted him about half a league on his way. At the moment of separation the King made on further request, ‘If by chance my brother, who is in Brittany, isn’t satisfied with his share which I’ve given him out of respect for you, what do you want me to do?’ The duke replied unthinkingly on the spur of the moment, ‘If he won’t take it, but you can arrange things so that he’s happy, I’ll fall in with both of you.’ From this request and its answer stemmed very important results as you shall hear presently. So the King set off in good spirits, and my lords of Cordes and Aimeries,43 the grand-bailiff of Hainault, conducted him to just beyond the duke’s lands.

The duke stayed in the city which, in truth, was very cruelly treated in all respects. But Liège had similarly used all manner of excesses against the duke’s subjects ever since his grandfather’s day, without ever faithfully keeping promises or the treaties made between them. This was now the fifth44 year that the duke had gone there in person, and each time peace was made and then broken by them in the following year. They had already been excommunicated for many years because of the atrocities they had committed against their bishop. They had never respected nor obeyed any of the church’s orders concerning these differences.

As soon as the King had departed, the duke, with a few men, decided to go to the Franchimont district, which was a little way beyond Liège, in a very hilly and wooded area whence came the best fighters they had, including those who had made the sorties I described above. Before he left the city a large number of poor prisoners, who had been hidden in the houses at the time the city was captured, were drowned. Further, he decided to burn the city, which at all times had been heavily populated and it was said that it would be burnt three times. Three or four thousand infantry from the county of Limbourg, who were their neighbours and similar to them in dress and language, were ordered to destroy everything, except for the churches which they were to guard. First, a wide bridge over the Meuse was destroyed, and then a large body of troops was detailed to defend the houses of the canons living round the cathedral, in order that they might stay there to continue celebrating divine services. Similar measures were taken to defend the other churches. When this was done the duke left for Franchimont. As soon as he was out of the city he could see a large number of houses alight from his side of the river, where he went to camp about four leagues from the city. The noise which the houses made as they fell and tumbled down in the town was a terrible sound to hear in the night because we had been on the spot. I do not know whether it was because the wind blew the sound from there or because we were camped at the riverside. Next day the duke continued his march and whose who were left in the town continued the work of destruction as the duke had commanded them. All but a few of the churches were saved, together with more than three hundred houses for the clergy. This was the reason why the city was repopulated so soon afterwards, because many people returned to live with the priests. Because of the great frosts and cold the majority of the duke’s men had to go on foot to Franchimont, which was a district with no walled towns, only villages. The duke camped for five or six days in a small valley at a village called Polleur. His army was split in two in order to destroy the countryside more quickly. He burnt all the houses and destroyed all the iron-forges which were there and which formed the basis of their livelihood. They sought out all the inhabitants among the deep forests where they had hidden themselves and their possessions. Many were killed or captured and the soldiers took much booty. I saw the incredible effects of the cold. One gentleman, who lost the use of his foot, never recovered it and a page had two fingers drop off. I also saw there a woman and her newly-born child die of cold. For three days the wine, which was given to anyone who asked for it from the duke, had to be hacked out with an axe because it was frozen in the barrels. It was necessary to break the ice, which was whole, into pieces which the servants could then put in their hats or in a basket just as they liked. I could tell many other strange stories which would take a long time to write down. But hunger made us flee from there in great haste after staying for a week. The duke then marched to Namur, and from there to Brabant, where he was made very welcome.

  •  Jean de Bourgogne, count of Nevers, 1415-91, cf. Introduction.
  • Antoine Rolin (died c. 1497-8), son of the famous Chancellor of Burgundy, Nicholas Rolin.
  • In fact, the third.

How the King left Liège to return to France and about the agreement which was made afterwards by the King with my lord Charles of France, his brother, to whom he delivered the duchy of Guyenne
THE King, after leaving the duke, returned very joyfully to his own kingdom, and did not complain at all about the duke and the terms which he had been forced to accept at Péronne and Liège, seeming to bear them patiently. Yet, despite this, serious wars later broke out between them, though not immediately. They were not caused by what I have mentioned already, although this could have contributed to them, because the peace was almost the same as that which the King would have made at Paris. But the duke of Burgundy, on the advice of his officers, wanted to extend the bounds of his lands and some preparations were made to revive the disputes about which I shall speak at the proper time.

My lord Charles of France, the King’s only brother and formerly duke of Normandy, who had been informed of the treaty made at Péronne and of the apanage which was owing to him by it, immediately sent to the King to ask him to fulfil the treaty and to deliver to him what he had promised. The King sent messengers to him about this affair and there was much coming and going. The duke of Burgundy also sent ambassadors to my lord Charles requesting him not to accept and territories but Champagne and Brie, which he had obtained for him. He reminded him of the affection which he had shown towards him when he himself had abandoned the duke and the duke had not wanted to do likewise, as could be seen. He had even named the duke of Brittany as his ally in this peace. Further, he sent to tell him that the position of Champagne and Brie was very favourable for both of them, for if, by chance, the King ever wanted to resume his gift, Charles could obtain help from Burgundy in less than a day because the two regions were adjacent to one another. He could even have the full value of his inheritance, because he could take the taxes and subsidies there and the King had nothing but homage and ultimate jurisdiction. My lord Charles was a man who did little or nothing of his own accord but was governed and managed by others in everything, even though he was more than twenty-five years old.45

So the winter passed, which was already well advanced when the King left us, with messengers coming and going on business concerning this partition because the King had resolved not to allow his brother to enjoy what he had promised him. He just did not want him and the duke to be such close neighbours. The King negotiated with his brother to make him take Guyenne with La Rochelle, which was almost all of Aquitaine, and was worth a great deal more as an inheritance than Brie and Champagne. My lord Charles was afraid of displeasing the duke of Burgundy, but he was also frightened that, if he agreed and the the King did not keep his promise, he would lose both his friend and his fortune and be left in a very sorry plight.

The King who was by far the ablest prince of his day in conducting such negotiations, saw that he would waste time unless he could win over those who had influence with his brother. He got in touch with Odet d’Aydie, lord of Lescun and later count of Comminges, a Gascon by birth and marriage. He asked him to ensure that his master would accept this settlement, which was much larger than he had asked for, and that they should become good friends and live like two brothers; he and his servants would gain thereby, and especially Odet. The King fully assured them that he would not let them down in handing over the possession of the duchy. In this way my lord Charles was won over and he took Guyenne, to the great displeasure of the duke of Burgundy, and of his ambassadors who were on the spot. And the reason why Cardinal Balue, bishop of Angers, and the bishop of Verdun46 were imprisoned was because the cardinal had written to my lord of Guyenne exhorting him not to take any other inheritance than that which the duke of Burgundy had procured for him by the peace made at Péronne, which had been sworn to and promised in his presence. He remonstrated with him over several other matters concerning this case which he considered necessary but which were contrary to the King’s wishes and intentions. So my lord Charles became duke of Guyenne in 1469 and had firm possession of the duchy, together with the government of La Rochelle, and the King and he met and stayed with each other for a long time.

  •  Charles of France, born 28 December 1446, was thus about twenty-two.
  • Guillaume de Harancourt was arrested with Balue on 23 April 1469.


How the King began war against the duke of Burgundy and what caused the war to start
IN 1470 the King wanted to revenge himself on the duke of Burgundy. He thought it was an opportune moment and he and others began to negotiate secretly so that the towns on the Somme — Amiens, Saint-Quentin and Abbeville — would rebel against the duke and call in his men-at-arms to garrison with them. Great princes, or at least the wisest, always like to look for some good pretext which will seem more or less plausible for their actions. In order that you may recognize the subterfuges which were used in France, I shall recount how this affair was handled, because both the King and the duke were deceived. War broke out again, lasting a full thirteen or fourteen years, and became in its later stages very cruel and bitter.

It is true that the King very much wanted the towns to make trouble and he justified his position by declaring that the duke of Burgundy was extending the limits of his territories further than the treaty allowed. As a result of this ambassadors passed from one side to the other, going time and time again through these ungarrisoned towns, discussing this matter. But there was peace throughout the kingdom both on the Burgundian duke’s side and on the Breton duke’s. My lord of Guyenne was very friendly with the King, or so it seemed. Yet the King would not have wished to start the war again merely to take one or two of these towns. He intended to raise a great rebellion through all the lands of the duke of Burgundy, and by this means he hoped to obtain a complete mastery.

In order to please him many men busied themselves with this bargaining and told him that things had advanced much further than they had in reality. One boasted that he had gained one town and others said that they would cause the leading figures at the ducal court to desert and turn against the duke. There was something in all of this. But if the King had only thought what might happen he would not have broken the peace or started the war again, although he had good reason to be unhappy with the terms he had been forced to agree to at Péronne, but all the same he had had the peace published in Paris three months after his return to the realm. He began this diversion in some trepidation but his desire spurred him on to action.

These are the false arguments which they put forward. The count of Saint-Pol, Constable of France, a very clever man, some servants of the duke of Guyenne and certain others, desired war rather than the peace between these two princes for two reasons: first, they feared that the very great revenues which they enjoyed would only be reduced if peace continued. The Constable had four hundred men-at-arms, who were paid at each muster without a [royal] controller, as well as more than thirty thousand francs ever year, besides the wages of his office and the income of several fine preferments which he held. Secondly, they wanted to divert the King. They said amongst themselves that his nature was such that if he did not have some foreign dispute against powerful enemies he would necessarily have such disputes with his servants, domestics and officers, as his mind would never rest.

For these specious reasons they tried very hard to embroil the King in the war. The Constable offered to take Saint-Quentin any day they wished since his lands lay all around the town. He further said that he had very good connections in Flanders and Brabant and that he would cause several towns to rebel against the duke. The duke of Guyenne, who was there, and all his principal advisers pressed their services on the King in this quarrel and promised to bring with them four or five hundred men-at-arms from the ordonnance companies which the duke of Guyenne had. But their purposes were not what the King believed them to be; quite the contrary, as you will hear.

The King always wanted to observe the proper procedure, so he held the Three Estates at Tours in March and April 1470, a thing which he had not done before or since, but he summoned there only certain individuals by name who he thought would not oppose his wishes.1 There he exposed several of the moves which the duke of Burgundy was making against the crown. He summoned the count of Eu2to appear as a plaintiff. The count alleged that the duke was keeping from him Saint-Valéry and other lands which he held of Charles, depending on Abbeville and the county of Ponthieu, and that the duke would not give him any redress for this. The duke was doing this because a small warship from the town of Eu had taken a merchant ship from Flanders, although the count of Eu offered reparation for this. Besides this, the duke wanted to force the count to do him exclusive homage against all others, which he would on no account consent to do becasue it would be against the King’s authority. At this assembly there were several lawyers both from Parlement and elsewhere, and it was concluded, as the King wished, that the duke should be summoned to appear in person in the Parlement of Paris. The King knew well that he would reply disdainfully or do something else contrary to the authority of the court, and that this would serve as an even greater pretext for levying war against him.

The duke was in Ghent and was on the way to Mass when he was summoned by a sergeant of Parlement. He was astounded and very offended. Immediately he imprisoned the sergeant and for several days he was kept under guard. In the end he was allowed to go free. Thus you can see how things were planned for the attack on the duke who, when he was warned of this, raised a large number of men. They were paid house wages, as they were called, because they received a small amount to hold themselves ready at home. Yet they were mustered every month where they lived and received their money. This situation lasted for three or four months until the duke became weary of the expense. He dismissed these troops, and banished all his fears because the King frequently communicated with him; then he departed for Holland. He did not have standing ordonnance companies ready for any eventuality nor garrisons in these frontier towns. This caused him great injury because3 he did not realize that intrigues were being carried on at Amiens, Abbeville and Saint-Quentin to place these towns in the King’s hands once more.

Whilst he was in Holland he was informed by the late Duke John of Bourbon4 that war would soon be declared against him in Burgundy and Picardy and that the King had many informers both there and in his household. The duke, who found himself poorly provided with men (because he had dismissed the force which I have just mentioned and sent them all home), was very amazed at this news. Immediately therefore he went by sea to Artois and marched straight to Hesdin. There he became suspicious of many of his servants and about the intrigues in those towns, which I have spoken about. But it was quite a long time before he was fully aware of this because he did not believe all that was said. He sent for two of the chief citizens of Amiens whom he suspected of having a part in these negotiations. They excused themselves so cleverly that he let them go. Immediately some of his servants, including the Bastard Baudouin, and others, left his household and went over to the King, which frightened him in case more should follow them.5 He ordered that all should appear in arms but few got ready because it was the beginning of winter and he had come from Holland only a few days before.

  •  Commynes conflates into one assembly of the États held at Tours in April 1468 and the Assembly of Notables at Tours in 1470.
  • Charles d’Artois, c. 1393-1472.
  • Rest of the sentence from MS. P.
  • Bourbon died on 1 April 1488.
  • Baudouin (d. 1501) was a natural son of Philip the Good. Guillaume Rolin, lord of Beauchamp, Colas de Gorle, lord of Monsures, and Jean de Chassa, ducal pantler, have also been identified in this flight.

[Seizure of the Somme towns and the marriage project between Charles of France and Mary of Burgundy]
TWO days after the flight of the duke’s servants in December 1470, the Constable entered Saint-Quentin and made the citizens take an oath to the King. By then the duke recognized that his affairs were going badly for he had no army with him, but he had sent men to enlist troops in his lands. Yet with the few men he could raise and with only four or five hundred horse he marched to Doullens, with the intention of preventing Amiens from defecting. He had not been there five or six days when the men of Amiens began to negotiate, because the King’s army was near by and presented itself before the town. But he did not dare to enter it, being so poorly accompanied, although several people in the town urged him to do so. When his opponents saw his prevarication and that he was not there in strength they carried out their plan and let in the King’s men. The citizens of Abbeville thought they could do likewise but my lord of Cordes entered the town for the duke and reinforced it. Amiens was only five small leagues6 from Doullens and so the duke was forced to withdraw as soon as he learnt that the King’s troops had entered Amiens. He rushed to Arras in great alarm fearing that many other places would do likewise because he saw that he was surrounded by friends and relatives of the Constable. On the other hand, because of the Bastard Baudouin’s defection, he also suspected the Great Bastard of Burgundy, [Anthony] his brother. Yet slowly but surely men were joining him. The King thought he was now master of the situation. He was relying on what the Constable and others had told him from the information which they had received. If he had not had this encouragement he would never have begun this attack.

It is time that I finished explaining what prompted the Constable, the duke of Guyenne and his principal servants to act in this way, seeing the good turns, help and great kindness which the duke of Guyenne had received from the duke of Burgundy; and what they would gain by provoking these two great princes to war whilst they and their lordships were at peace. I have already said something about it; that it would maintain more securely their position and stop the King stirring them all up if he was at peace. But that was still not the principal reason. The duke of Guyenne and the others very much wanted the said duke of Guyenne to marry the only daughter and heiress of the duke of Burgundy, who had no son. Several times the duke had been approached about this marriage. He had always agreed to it in principle but never wanted to conclude it and still continued to hold discussions about it with others. Now see to what lengths these men went in the hope of achieving their ends and forcing the duke to hand over his daughter! As soon as the two towns were captured and the duke had returned to Arras, where he gathered all the troops he could, the duke of Guyenne sent a man to him in secret bearing a three-line letter, written in his own hand, folded up very small and hidden in a ball of wax, containing these words, ‘Do your best to reconcile your subjects. Don’t worry, you’ll find friends.’

The duke of Burgundy, who was very frightened to begin with, sent a man to the Constable to ask him not to do him the harm that he could well do and not to prosecute the war ruthlessly as it had been started against him without a formal defiance or any other warning. The Constable was very heartened by these words and he thought that he had the duke at his mercy when he appealed to him in this anxious way. So he sent him this reply, that he could see that he was in a very dangerous position and that he knew one remedy which would enable the duke to escape – he shoud give his daughter in marriage to the duke of Guyenne. In so doing he would receive help from a large number of men and the duke of Guyenne and my other lords would declare for him. Then he, the Constable, would return Saint-Quentin to him and change to his side. But without this marriage and without seeing the duke’s declaration he would not dare to change sides because the King was too powerful, had prepared his plans very carefully, and had many collaborators in the duke’s lands. The Constable said many similar frightening things.

I have never known a man come to a good end if he has wanted to frighten or hold in subjection his master or any other great prince with whom he has dealings, as you shall hear about the Constable. For although the King was then his master, the larger part of his possessions and his children were in the duke’s lands. He always used these tactics to frighten them and keep them in fear of one another. This eventually had serious consequences for him. Although everyone tries to escape from subjections and fear and hates those who hold him to this there are none who do this more readily than princes, for I have never known any of them who did not have a mortal hatred of those who wished to hold them in subjection.

After the duke of Burgundy had heard the Constable’s reply he clearly recognized that he would find no friendship with him and that he was the principal instigator of this war. He thus conceived an incredible hatred towards him which never left his heart thereafter, principally because of his fears that the Constable wanted to force him to marry off his daughter. Already his morale was a little higher and he had got many troops together. You can now see from what the duke of Guyenne, and then the Constable, had written, that this action had been planned between them, because the duke of Brittany afterwards likewise sent similar or even more frightening messages and allowed my lord of Lescun to lead one hundred Breton men-at-arms in the King’s service. You can thus deduce that this war was waged in order to force the duke to consent to the marriage, that the King was being deceived when he was counselled to make war and all that he was told about the understanading of those in the duke’s lands was untrue and for the most part all lies. Yet throughout the expedition the Constable served the King very fatihfully and manifested a great hatred of the duke since he knew what the duke’s feelings were towards him. Similarly the duke of Guyenne, well accompanied, serverd loyally in this war and things were very perilous for the duke of Burgundy. But if, as soon as this difference had arisen about which I have been speaking, the duke had agreed to the marriage of his daughter to the duke of Guyenne, he, the Constable, and several others, with all their followers, would have changed their attitude towards the King and tried to make him powerless if it had been possible. But whatever things men plan in such affairs, God always disposes of them at his own pleasure.

  •  About thirty km.

[Operations in Picardy and Burgundy]
YOU have been told at length about the causes of this war and how the two princes, at the outset, were deceived and made war without understanding each other’s motives. This was a result of the ingenious skill of those who were manipulating this affair and, as the proverb truly expresses it, one half of the world doesn’t know what the other half is doing. Yet all these things which I have just mentioned happened in a very few days. For in less than a fortnight after the capture of Amiens, the duke took the field close to Arras, because he did not retreat any further, and then marched towards the river Somme and straight to Picquigny. On the way he received a messenger, who was only a footman, from the duke of Brittany, who told the duke on his master’s behalf that the King had told him about a number of things including the sympathizers he had in several of the large towns, naming, amongst others, Antwerp, Bruges and Brussels. Also he warned the duke that the King had decided to beseige him in whatever town he found him even if he was in Ghent. I believe that the duke of Brittany sent all this information on the duke of Guyenne’s behalf in order to expedite the marriage.

But the duke of Burgundy was very upset by these warnings which the duke of Brittany sent him, and replied to the messenger on the spur of the moment that it was his master who was ill-informed by wicked servants of his who wanted to inspire these fears in him so that he would not do his duty and send the duke the help which he was obliged to send by their alliance. It was he who was ill-informed about Ghent and the other towns which the King said he would beseige, for they were too large to beseige. He should tell his master about the company with whom he found the duke and that things were very different from what he thought, because Charles had decided to cross the river Somme and to fight the King if he found him barring his route. He wished his to ask the duke, his master, to declare himself in his favour against the King and to act towards him as the duke of Burgundy had acted in agreeing to the treaty of Péronne.

Next day the duke of Burgundy approached a very strong position on the Somme called Picquigny. He decided to construct a bridge near by in order to cross the river. But it so happened that there were four or five thousand franc-archers and a few gentlemen quartered in the town of Picquigny. These, when they saw the duke of Burgundy passing by, sallied out to ambush him along an extended causeway. But they advanced so far from their base that Burgundy’s men were given an opportunity to pursue them. They followed so close behind that they killed a few of them before they could regain the town and captured the suburb at the end of causeway. Then four or five pieces of artillery were brought up, although on that side the town was impregnable because the river separated from it. Yet because a bridge was being made the franc-archers were frightened in case they were beseiged from the other side. So they abandoned the town and fled. The castle resisted for two or three days and then all the garrison left it only in their doublets.7

This petty exploit somewhat encouraged the duke of Burgundy and he proceeded to camp around Amiens. He moved his camp two or three times saying that he was taking the field to see if the King would come to fight him. In the end he approached very close to the town, so close in fact that his artillery shot into it at random. He held this position for six weeks. In the town there were more than fourteen hundred royal men-at-arms and four thousand franc-archers, including the Constable and all the great officers of the kingdom, the Grand Master of the household, the Admiral, the Marshals, the seneschals and many other worthy people.

The King meanwhile, was at Beauvais where he raised a large force.8 There with him were the duke of Guyenne, his brother, Duke Nicholas of Calabria (oldest son of Duke John of Calabria and Lorraine and only heir to the house of Anjou), and the nobles of the kingdom, called out by the arrière-ban.9 And there is no doubt, as I have since been informed, that those who were with the King were very eager to fight. But the King was already beginning to realize the danger of this expedition. He saw that it was far from finished and he was more deeply involved in the war than ever.

The garrison at Amiens planned to attack the duke of Burgundy in his camp, provided that the King would send the army which he had at Beauvais to join them. The King, warned about this, sent word forbidding them to do so and completely scotched their plans, for even though the King seemed likely to gain the advantage it was still hazardous, especially for those who were to sally out of the town. They all had to come out through two gates, one of which was close to the duke of Burgundy’s camp, and if they failed to defeat the enemy, at the first encounter, as they were on foot, they would be in danger of being killed themselves and of losing the town.

Meanwhile, the duke of Burgundy sent a page called Simon de Quingey, who later became bailli of Troyes, to the King, with a message of six lines written in his own hand, humbly excusing himself and saying that he was very sorry that he had attacked him at the instigation of others and that if he had been better informed about everything he would not have done it. For the army which the King had sent to Burgundy had completely defeated all the Burgundians who had taken the field, and captured several prisoners. The number of dead was not large but the effects of the defeat were serious. The army had already beseiged and taken several places, which somewhat surprised the duke. All the same he informed his own army to the contrary saying that his troops had got the upper hand. When the King saw the letter which the duke of Burgundy had written to him he was very pleased, for the reasons which you have just heard and because long-drawn-out affairs bored him. He sent a reply and gave authority to some of those at Amiens to agree to a truce and they made two or three lasting four or five days. In the end a truce was agreed for a year,10 I seem to remember, which displeased the Constable, the count of Saint-Pol, because, without doubt, whatever people thought or whatever opinions they held to the contrary, he was then a mortal enemy of the duke of Burgundy and never thereafter were they friends with one another, as you know from what happened later. But they continued to send envoys to one another to pursue their intrigues and to take advantage of each other.

Whatever the duke did he did it with the aim of recovering Saint-Quentin. Similarly when the Constable was anxious about or feared the King, he would promise to deliver it to the duke. There were several occasions when troops of the duke of Burgundy, at the Constable’s wish, approached to within tow or three leagues of the town to enter it. But when it came to letting them in the Constable’s courage failed and he sent them back. This was a cause of his final undoing because he thought that with his position and the large number of troops, for whom he received pay from the King, he could keep both sides in suspense by encouraging the discord that already existed between them. But his plan was very dangerous since both the King and the duke were too powerful, strong and clever.

After these armies had broken up the King left for Touraine,11 the duke of Guyenne went to his own duchy and the duke of Burgundy to his. For a while things remained like this. The duke of Burgundy held a great assembly of the Estates of his lands12 to explain to them the damage which he had suffered at the hands of the men-at-arms which the King always had at the ready and to say this if he had had five hundred men-at-arms permanently on duty guarding the frontiers the King would never have undertaken this war and they would have remained at peace. He outlined to them the harm that was likely to happen to them in the near future and urged them strongly to grant him oney to employ eight hundred lances. Finally they gave him 120,000 crowns over and above that which they had granted him before. Burgundy was not to contribute to this grant. But for several reasons his subjects were very afraid of allowing themselves to be oppressed, as they observed [their neighbours in] the kingdom of France to be, because of the French men-at-arms. And, in truth, their great anxieties were not without foundation, because when he got five hundred men-at-arms he wanted more and he schemed more rashly against all his neighbours. The 120,000 crowns increased to 500,000 and the number of men-at-arms grew enormously, causing his lands much hardship. Truly, I believe that regularly paid men-at-arms may be very usefully employed under the direction of a wise king or prince, but when he is not and he [dies] leaving young children the uses to which their advisers put them are not always profitable either to the King or to his subjects.13

The feud between the King and the duke of Burgundy did not diminish but continued as before. The duke of Guyenne, once back in his own lands, often sent to the duke of Burgundy and continued to press for marriage with his daughter. The duke humoured him over this as he did everyone who asked him about the marriage. I believe that he had no wish for a son-in-law nor for his daughter to marry whilst he lived. He always used her as a lure for men whom he wanted to use, because he planned so many great projects he could never have lived long enough to bring them all to a successful conclusion — and all these schemes were almost impossible to realize and half of Europe would not have contented him. He had enough personal courage to undertake anything and his physique could easily have borne the weight of work that was necessary to his plans. He had sufficient men and money but he did not have enough sense or cunning to carry out his schemes for, if everything else is propitious for making conquests, unless there is great wisdom all is lost. You can be sure that such wisdom comes from God. If anyone could have taken some of the qualities of the King, our master, and some of the duke’s, he could have made a perfect prince, for without a shadow of a doubt the King had much more judgement than Charles had and he showed this in the end by his achievements.

  •  Péronne was taken about 25 February 1471.
  • Between 19 March and 10 April 1471.
  • Arrière-ban; see Glossary.
  • On 10 April 1471 for three months in the first place and prolonged several times.
  • The King left Ham after the middle of June 1471.
  • At Dijon in April and May 1471 and at Abbeville 22 July 1471.
  • Scarcely veiled references to the minority of Charles VIII.

Here I digress about the wars in England at this time
I HAVE forgotten, in speaking about these matters, to tell you about King Edward [IV] of England. These three lords, Louis, the duke of Burgundy and King Edward, were all powerful at the same time. I shall not follow the usual order used in historical writings nor specify the years nor exact moment at which things happened not recount for you14 any earlier historical examples, because you know enough about these and it would be like speaking Latin to the Franciscans, but I shall tell you generally about what I have seen, learnt or heard of the princes I named. These things all happened in your lifetime, for which reason there is no need to remind you more precisely about the actual times when they occurred.

As I remember, I have spoken elsewhere about the reasons which led the duke of Burgundy to marry King Edward’s sister. He did it princiaplly to strengthen his position against the King [of France]. Otherwise he would not have done so, because of the great affection he had for the house of Lancaster to which he was closely related through his mother, who was a Portugese Infanta, but her mother was a daughter of a duke of Lancaster.15 He loved the Lancastrians as much as he hated the Yorkists. Yet at the same time when the marriage took place the house of Lancaster had been totally destroyed and no one spoke about the Yorkists anymore because King Edward was both King and duke of York and everything was peaceful. During the wars between these two houses there had been seven or eight memorable battles in England and sixty to eighty princes and lords of the blood royal had died violently, as I have mentioned earlier in these memoirs.16 Those who were not killed, all young lords, were fugitives at the court of the duke of Burgundy because their fathers had died in England. Before his marriage the duke had made his Lancastrian relatives welcome at his court. I have seen some of them before the duke knew of their plight in such great poverty that beggars could not have been poorer. I once saw a duke of Exeter walking barefooted behind the duke’s train, begging his livelihood from house to house without revealing his identity. He was next in line of succession to the Lancastrian family and had married a sister of King Edward.17 When he was recognized he was given a small pension for his sustenance. Amongst others there were members of the Somerset family. All have since been killed in battle. Their fathers and their followers had pillaged and destroyed the kingdom of France and possessed the greater part of it for many years. But they killed each other and those who were still alive with their children in England were finished off as you have seen. And yet people say ‘God doesn’t punish men like he used to in the time of the Children of Isreal and he puts up with wicked princes and men’! I firmly believe that he no longer speaks to men as he used to do because he has left sufficient examples in this world to instruct us. But in reading about these things and from your own experience moreover, you can see that of the wicked princes and other people who have authority and use it cruelly or tyrannically in this world, few if any escape unpunished although it is not always on the day or hour desired by those who suffer.

Returning to the King of England; the leading supporter of the house of York was the earl of Warwick, whilst the duke of Somerset18 was the leading Lancastrian supporter. The earl of Warwick could almost be called the king’s father as a result of the services and education he had given him. Indeed he had made himself a very great man, for in his own right he was already a great lord and besides that he held extensive lordships at the king’s gift, both from the crown lands and from confiscations, as well as being captain of Calais and holding other great offices. He had, as I have heard it estimated, an income of eighty thousand crowns a year from these alone without his patrimony.

The earl of Warwick began to fall out with his master about a year before the duke of Burgundy besieged Amiens. The duke encouraged this because he disliked the great influence which the earl of Warwick exercised in England and they did not get on well together because the earl of Warwick was always hand in glove with the King, our master. Indeed, at that time, or a little before, the earl of Warwick was so powerful that he captured his master and had Lord Scales,19 father of the Queen, and two of his children executed, and his third child was in great danger; all of whom were much liked by King Edward. He also had certain English knights executed. For some time he kept his master under guard but treated him honourably and gave him new servants in order to make him forget his former ones. He considered that his master was a little simple. The duke of Burgundy was very worried by this occurrence. He intrigued secretly to enable King Edward to escape so that he could have an opportunity to speak to him. As it turned out King Edward did escape. He gathered some men together and routed a force of Warwick’s supporters. The king was very fortunate in his battles because he won no less than nine serious encounters, all of which were fought on foot.

The earl of Warwick now found himself very weak. He told his intimate friends what to do and put out to sea in his own time with the duke of Clarence,20 who had married his daughter and was supporting his cause, despite the fact that he was King Edward’s brother. They took their wives, children and a large number of people and appeared before Calais [on 16 April 1470]. In the town was Warwick’s lieutenant, Lord Wenlock,21 and several of his domestic servants. Instead of welcoming him, they fired several cannon shots at him. Whilst they lay at anchor before the town the duchess of Clarence, the earl of Waarwick’s daughter, gave birth to a son. It was only with a great deal of difficulty that Lord Wenlock and the others could be persuaded to allow two flagons of wine to be brought to her. This was great harshness for a servant to use towards his master for it must be presumed that earl was expecting to be equipped from this place, which was England’s greatest treasure store and the world’s, or at least Christendom’s finest captaincy, in my opinion. I went there several times during these quarrels and I was told for certain by the mayor that, at the time about which I am speaking, he would have given the king of England fifteen thousand crowns for the farm of the [wool] Staple at Calais, because the captain took all the profit from what there was on this side of the channel, including safe-conducts, and himself employed the majority of the garrison.

The king of England was very pleased with Lord Wenlock’s refusal to his captain and sent him letters appointing him personally to hold the office because he was a very experienced and mature knight and was already a member of the Order of the Garter. The duke of Burgundy, who was then at Saint-Omer, was also very pleased with him and sent me to Lord Wenlock and gave him a pension of a thousand crowns, requesting him to remain steadfast in the love which he had shown to the king of England.

I found he was very determined to do this and he swore an oath at the Staple house in Calais, placing his hands in mine, to be true to the king of England against all others; so did all those of the garrison and town. For two months I was employed going backwards and forwards keeping him to this agreement and for most of the time I stayed with him, whislt the duke of Burgundy was at Boulogne. There a large naval force was collected to oppose the earl of Warwick, who took several ships belonging to the duke of Burgundy’s subjects on his departure from before Calais. This capture was instrumental in bringing us into another war because they sold their booty in Normandy. As a result the duke of Burgundy captured all the French merchants who had gone to the fair at Antwerp.

I want to expose here a deception or ruse (as one might like to call it) since it was cleverly done and because it is necessary to be as well informed about the deceptions and evil practices of this world as about the good things, not in order to use them but in order to protect onself against them. I also want everyone to hear about the deceptions of our neighbours as well as our own to show that there is good and evil everywhere.

When the earl of Warwick stood off Calais, hoping to enter the town as his principal place of refuge, Lord Wenlock, who was very clever, sent him word that if he entered he would be lost, for he had all of England against him as well as the duke of Burgundy, the people of the town and several of the garrison of Calais, including my lord of Duras,22 the king of England’s Marshal and some others, who all had men in the town. The best thing he could do was to withdraw to France. He told him that he should not worry about Calais because he would give him satisfaction at the right time. He served his captain very well in giving him this counsel, although he served his king very badly. No man ever served the earl of Warwick so loyally, considering how the king of England had made him captain and what the duke of Burgundy had given him.

  •  Presumably Angelo-Cato, cf. Introduction.
  • Above, Book One, Chapter 5.
  • cf. above, Book One, Chapter 7.
  • Henry Holland (1430-1473), married to Anne, whom he divorced in November 1472.
  • Edmund Beaufort, executed 1471.
  • Commynes confuses Lord Scales, brother of Elizabeth Woodville, with his father, earl Rivers, and his brother John, who were executed in 1469.
  • George, murdered 1478.
  • John, lord Wenlock (c. 1390-1471).
  • Gaillard de Durfort, d. 1487.

[The flight of Edward IV]
THE earl of Warwick followed this advice and landed in Normandy where he was very well received by the King, who gave him large sums of money for the expenses of his troops. The King ordered the Bastard of Bourbon, Admiral of France, with a large following to help protect these English against the duke of Burgundy’s naval force which was so powerful that no one dared put to sea in the face of it. The duke was making war on the King’s subjects and threatening them on land and sea. All this happened just before the King took Saint-Quentin and Amiens, as I have explained, and these two places were taken in 1470.23 The duke of Burgundy’s force was much stronger at sea than those of the King and the earl combined because he had taken at the port of Sluys a large number of Spanish and Portugese vessels, two Genoese ships, and several flat-bottomed German ships.

King Edward was not an outstanding man but a very handsome prince, more handsome in fact than any other I ever saw at that time, and he was very courageous. He did not concern himself as much about the earl of Warwick’s landing as did the duke of Burgundy, who was aware of the movements in England in favour of the earl and often warned King Edward about them. But he was not afraid. It seems to me that it was a very great piece of folly not to fear his enemy and not too want to believe anything, considering the preparations which he saw. For the King brought all the ships he had and could find, and placed large numbers of troops in them. All this force was ready to descend on England. He arranged a marriage between the prince of Wales and the earl of Warwick’s second daughter. The prince was the only son of King Henry of England, who was still alive and imprisoned in the Tower of London. This was a strange marriage! Warwick had defeated and ruined the prince’s father and then made him marry his daughter. He also wanted to win over the duke of Clarence, brother of the rival king, who ought to have been afraid lest the Lancastrians regained their position. Such events can never happen without dissimulation!

Now I was at Calais negotiating with Lord Wenlock whilst this fleet was being prepared and until that time I was not aware of his deception which had been going on for three months already. I asked him, seeing that he had heard some news, to banish from the town twenty or thirty domestic servants of the earl of Warwick, since I had been assured that the army of the King and the earl was about to leave Normandy where it already was. For if the earl of Warwick suddenly landed in England there could be a rising in Calais because of his servants, and Wenlock might risk losing control of the place by accident. I implored him to put them out of the town immediately. Up till then he had always agreed with me, but now he drew me aside and told me that he would indeed remain master of the town but he also wished to tell me something else to warn the duke of Burgundy. It was that he counselled him, if he wished to be a friend of England, not to spare himself in making peace rather than war. He said this because of the force opposing the earl of Warwick. He told me moreover that it would be easy to reach a settlement because that day a lady had passed through Calais, on her way to my lady of Clarence in France. She was bearing an offer from King Edward to open peace talks. He spoke the truth, but as he deceived others he himself was deceived by this lady, for she was going to carry out a series of negotiations which in the end were prejudicial to the earl of Warwick and all his supporters.

Assuredly you will never learn more from anyone than from me about all the secret schemes or ruses which have been carried out in our countries on this side of the channel since then, or at least about those which happened in the last twenty years. This woman’s secret business was to persuade my lord of Clarence not to be the agent of ruin of his family by helping restore the Lancastrians to authority, and to remind him of their ancient hatreds and quarrels. He should consider very carefully whether Warwick would make him king of England when the earl had married his daughter to the prince of Wales and had already done homage to him. This woman exploited the situation so well that she won over the duke of Clarence who promised to join his brother, the king, as soon as he came back to England.

This woman was not a fool and she did not speak lightly. She had the opportunity to visit her mistress and for this reason she was able to go sooner than a man. And however cunning Lord Wenlock was this woman deceived him and carried out this secret assignment which led to the defeat and death of the earl of Warwick and all his followers. For such reasons it is not shameful to be suspicious and to keep an eye on all who come and go, but it is very shameful to be deceived and to lose because of one’s own fault. Yet one should only be moderately suspicious because to be too suspicious is not good.

I have told you before how the earl of Warwick’s force and the one which the King had got ready to accompany him were ready to embark and the duke of Burgundy’s, which lay at anchor ahead of them, was prepared to fight them. God arranged things that during the night such a great storm arose that the duke of Burgundy’s fleet had to run before it. Some ships reached Scotland and others Holland. A few hours later the wind was right for the earl and he crossed to England without any danger.

The duke of Burgundy had informed King Edward clearly about the port where the earl would land and was keeping men with him expressly to remind him to look after his own interests, but he paid no attention and only continued his hunting. No one was closer to him than the archbishop of York24 and the marquis of Montague,25 brothers of the earl of Warwick, who had given him very solemn undertaking to serve him against their brother and all others. He had confidence in this.

When the earl of Warwick landed [at Dartmouth] a great number of men joined him and he was in a strong position. King Edward, as soon as he recognized the danger, began to look to his own affairs, although it was too late. He sent to the duke of Burgundy imploring him to keep his fleet at sea so that the earl could not return to France. On land, he said, things would turn out well. These words did not please the duke very much because he thought that it would have been better to have prevented the earl from landing in England than to be forced to bring him to battle. Five or six days after his landing the earl of Warwick found himself very powerful and camped about three leagues from King Edward. The king had more troops, had they all remained loyal, and he was expecting to fight Warwick. Edward was quartered in a fortified village, or at least in a building which could only be entered by a bridge. This was very useful to him, as he told me himself. The rest of his men were camped in nearby villages. When he was dining someone came to him suddenly and said that the marquis of Montague, the earl’s brother, and some others, had got on their horses and had made all their men shout, ‘Long live King Henry.’ To begin with he did not believe it, but immediately he sent out several messengers, armed himself and placed men on the walls of his quarters to defend them. He had with him a very experienced knight called Lord Hastings, Lord Chamberlain of England, who was his chief adviser and was married to the earl of Warwick’s sister.26 Yet he remained faithful to his master and contributed more than three thousand horsemen to the army, as he told me himself. Another man there was Lord Scales, brother of King Edward’s wife. There were several good knights and esquires who all recognized that things were going badly, because the messengers reported that what the king had previously been told was true and that men were gathering to attack him.

By divine providence the king was camped close to the sea and some ships were following him, bringing victuals. These included two flat-bottomed merchant ships from Holland. He just had time to take refuge in them. His chamberlain remained behind a little longer and told his leading retainer and several others in the army to go to meet the enemy but he asked them to remain faithful towards himself and the king and then he went aboard the ship with some others who were ready to sail.

It is a custom in England that the victors in battle kill nobody, especially none of the ordinary soldiers, because everyone wants to please them as they are the strongest [part of the army] and no one is put to ransom. For this reason none of these men suffered any injury once the king had gone. Even King Edward told me that, in all the battles he had won, as soon as he could sense victory, he rode round ordering the saving of the common soldiers, though he ordered the killing of all the nobles, few if any of whom escaped.

So in 1470 King Edward fled with these two flat-bottomed boats and one of his own small ships, with seven or eight hundred followers who possessed no other clothes than the ones they were fighting in; they did not have a penny between them and scarcely knew where they were going. It was very strange for this poor king (as he can rightly be called) to run away in this manner and to be persecuted by his own servants. He was already by then accustomed, after twelve or thirteen years, to more luxuries and pleasures than any prince of his day because he thought of nothing else but women (far more than is reasonable), hunting, and looking after himself. During the hunting season he would have several tents brought along for the ladies. All in all he had made a great show of this and also he had a personality as well suited to these pursuits as any I have ever seen. He was young and more handsome than any man then alive. I say he was at the time of this adventure because later he became very fat.

It may be seen how this king came in for some of the misfortunes of this world. He fled straight to Holland. At this time the Easterlings27 were enemies of both the English and the French and had several warships at sea. The English were very frightened of them and not without cause, for they were good fighters. Already that year they had caused them great loss and captured several ships. The Easterlings espied the ships in which the king was fleeing from a great distance and seven or eight ships began to give chase. But he was too far ahead of them and reached Holland or rather a little further up the coast because he landed close to a small town called Alkmaar in Frisia. He anchored his ship because the tide was out, and they could not enter the harbour but they came close to the town as they could. The Easterlings did the same, anchoring close to him with the intention of boarding him at the next tide.

Misfortune and dangers never come singly. The king’s fortunes and preoccupations had been turned upside down. Less than a fortnight before he would have been astounded if anyone had said to him, ‘The earl of Warwick will chase you out of England and make himself master in eleven days’ (since it didn’t take him any longer to bring it under his power). Besides, he had poked fun at the duke of Burgundy for spending his money in trying to defend the sea, saying that he wished Warwick was already in England, but what excuse could he find after suffering this great loss through his own fault except to say, ‘I didn’t think that such a thing would happen’?

Any prince (if he is of age) should blush to offer such an excuse, which is completely out of place. This man is a fine example for princes who are never afraid or suspicious of their enemies and who think that such thoughts are shameful. The majority of their servants flatter their opinions merely to please them. They think that they will be well esteemed and men will talk about their courageous way of speaking. I do not know what men say in their presence, but wise men will hold such words to be very foolish. There is nothing dishonourable in fearing when one should and taking effective safeguards against danger. It is a great advantage for a prince to have in his retinue a wise man who is secure in his position and whom the prince believes, and that man should be allowed to speak the truth.

By chance my lord of Gruthuse,28 the duke of Burgundy’s governor of Holland, was then at the place where King Edward wanted to disembark. He was immediately told about this, for they had landed some men, and about the danger they were in from the Easterlings. Straight away he sent word to the Easterlings forbidding them to attack Edward, and went aboard the ship the king was in to welcome him. Edward then landed together with fifteen hundred men, including the duke of Gloucester, his brother, who later became King Richard. The king was completely penniless and gave the ship’s master a robe lined with fine marten’s fur, promising to reward him better in the future. There never was such a beggarly company. But my lord of Gruthuse dealt honourably with them, because he gave them several robes and paid all their expenses for the journey to the Hague in Holland, where he took them, and then informed the duke of Burgundy about the event. The duke was extremely alarmed by this news and would rather the king had been dead, since he was very uneasy about the earl of Warwick who was his enemy and now had mastery of England. The latter had found a vast number of supporters soon after his landing because the army which King Edward had left declared themselves all Warwick’s men through either love or fear, and every day more joined him. So he marched to London. A great number of good knights and esquires who later served King Edward well fled to the sanctuaries of London, as did his wife, the queen, who gave birth to a son in great poverty there.

  •  Saint-Quentin was taken at the beginning of January and Amiens on 2 February 1471, n.s.
  • George Neville.
  • John Neville, killed at Barnet, 1471, cf. Book Three, Chapter 7, Footnote 31.
  • William, lord Hastings (c. 1430-83), married to Catherine Neville.
  • In French Osterlins, in English, literally, the Easterlings, who were the merchants of the German Hanseatic league.
  • Louis de Bruges, d. 1492, rewarded for his services to Edward IV by the earldom of Winchester.

[Charles the Rash, Henry VI and Edward IV]
WHEN the earl arrived in London he went to the Tower and released King Henry from where he had imprisoned him on another occasion a long time before, proclaiming before him that he was a traitor and guilty of treason. Yet at this moment he called him king and led him to his palace at Westminster where he restored all his royal prerogatives in the presence of the duke of Clarence, who was not at all pleased by this.29 Immediately he sent to Calais three or four hundred men, who invaded the region around Boulogne and were made very welcome by Lord Wenlock, whom I have spoken about earlier. His unswerving affection towards his master, the earl of Warwick, then became conspicuous.

The day when the duke of Burgundy heard the news of King Edward’s arrival in Holland, I had just joined him from Calais at Boulogne and I knew nothing about this nor about the king’s flight. The duke of Burgundy had first been informed that Edward was dead. This did not disturb him greatly because he had always had more affection for the Lancastrian family than for the Yorkist. He then had at his court the dukes of Exeter and Somerset and several other partisans of King Henry, and for this reason he thought it would be easy to come to some agreement with this family. But he was more scared of the earl of Warwick and did not know how he would be able to come to terms with King Edward, who had fled to him and whose sister he had married. They were also members of each other’s Order, the king wearing the Golden Fleece and the duke the Garter.

The duke sent me back to Calais almost at once with one or two gentlemen of Henry’s new party. He gave me fresh orders as to what I should do in this changed situation and strongly urged me to go, saying that he required good services in this matter. I went as far as Tournehem, a small castle close to Guines, but dared not go further because I found people fleeing from the English, who were in the field and overrruning the countryside. Immediately I wrote to Calais asking for a safe-conduct from Lord Wenlock — previously I had been accustomed to going there without any formalities and had always been honourably recieved because the English are very courteous. All this was a new experience for me for I had never before seen the ups and downs of this world. That night I again warned the duke of the fears which I had about going on, without telling him that I had sent for a safe-conduct, because I was very uncertain about the reply that I would get. He sent me a signet ring which he wore on his finger and told me to go on, for even if they captured me he would ransom me. He was not afraid to place one of his servants in danger if it was necessary for achieving his own purposes! But my safety was well provided for by the surety and the very gracious letters which Lord Wenlock sent, stating that I could proceed as I had been accustomed to doing. I went to Guines and found the captain outside the castle. He gave me a drink without offering to take me inside as he usually did, and he treated the gentlemen of King Henry’s party, who were with me, most handsomely. I went on to Calais where no one came out to meet me as they had done previously. Everyone was wearing the earl of Warwick’s livery. On the doors of my lodgings and room there had been put for me more than a hundred white crosses and a number of rhymes stating that the King of France and the earl of Warwick were acting as one man. I found all this very strange and I sent word of the off-chance to Gravelines (which is about five leagues from Calais) ordering the arrest of all the English merchants and their goods because of the damage caused by their expeditionary force. Lord Wenlock, who was well attended, invited me to dinner and he had on his hat the emblem of a golden ragged staff, which was the earl’s token; so did all the others, and those who could not afford a golden one had one made of cloth. They told me at this dinner that after the traveller who had brought them the news had arrived from England, within less than a quarter of an hour everyone was wearing that livery, so hasty and sudden was the change. It was the first time I ever realized that things are not very stable in this world. Lord Wenlock just spoke plainly to me and made few excuses for his captain, the earl, from whom he had received some rewards. But as for the others who were with him, never were they so uninhibited because those whom I thought were the king’s loyallest servants were those who threatened him most violently; I truly believe that while some of them did so out of fear, others were speaking their minds truthfully. The domestic servants of the earl, whom I had previously wanted banished from the town, had at this moment much influence. Yet they never knew that I had spoken to Wenlock about them.

I replied to their questions that King Edward was dead and that I had full confirmation of this, although I knew the contrary for certain. I also said that, even if he was not, the duke of Burgundy’s alliances were with the king and kingdom of England so that they could not be invalidated by what had happened. Whoever they took to be their king we would accept, because as a result of past revolutions these words, ‘With the king and kingdom,’ had been included in the alliances and they had pledged the four principal towns in England to us as a guarantee. The merchants were eager for my arrest because of the seizure of many of their goods at Gravelines, on my orders as they said. Eventually we agreed that they should either pay for all the animals which they had taken or return them, because they had an agreement with the Burgundians to use certain pastures, which were specified, and they could take cattle for the provision of the town on payment of a fixed fee which they did pay. They had not captured any prisoners. For this reason we agreed that the alliances which we had with the kingdom of England would remain fully in force, except that we should insert King Henry’s name instead of Edward’s.

This agreement was very pleasing to the duke of Burgundy because the earl of Warwick was sending four thousand Englishmen to Calais specifically to attack him and no way of appeasing him could be found. Nevertheless the great merchants of London (several of whom were at Calais) dissuaded Warwick from this course because the town was their wool staple and an almost unbelievable amount of money was produced there by it twice a year. The wools are stored there until the arrival of the merchants and they are sold principally to Flanders and Holland. So these merchants helped to arrange this agreement and stopped my lord of Warwick sending his troops. All this turned out very fortunately for the duke of Burgundy because it was just at this same time that the King took Amiens and Saint-Quentin. If the duke had been a war with both kingdoms as once he would have been overwhelmed. He worked as hard as he could to appease the earl of Warwick. He said that he did not want to oppose King Henry in any way, and that he was a member of the Lancastrian family and he used other such phrases to achieve his purpose.

Now to return to King Edward; he came to the duke of Burgundy at Saint-Pol30and strongly urged him to assist his return, assuring him that he had much support in England, and, for God’s sake, not to abandon him, seeing that he had married his sister and they were brothers in each other’s Order. The dukes of Somerset and Exeter advocated exactly the opposite course on King Henry’s behalf. The duke did not know which side to favour; he feared he would alienate both parties, and he already had a dangerous war on his hands. Finally he favoured the duke of Somerset and the others and extracted from them certain promises against the earl of Warwick, whose old enemies they had been. When King Edward, who was present, saw this he was disturbed. Yet he was given such assurances as were possible. He was told that these dissimulations were being practised so that the duke would not be at war with both kingdoms simultaneously, because if the duke were defeated he would not be able to help him afterwards as he wished. Yet the duke, seeing that he could no longer stop King Edward going to England (and for several reasons he dared not anger him over anything), pretended to publicly to give him no aid and made a proclamation that no one should go to his help. But privately and secretly he gave him fifty thousand St. Andrew’s Cross florins and hired three or four great ships for him, which he equipped in the free port of Veere in Holland, and he secretly paid for fourteen well-armed Easterling boats which promised to serve him until he had crossed over the England and been there a fortnight. This help was very expensive considering the general situation.

  •  6 October 1470.
  • 7 and 8 January 1471.

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.