Prologue; Book One, Chapters 1-11

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MY lord archbishop of Vienne,1 you graciously requested that I should write an account for you about what I know of the acts of our master and benefactor, Louis XI (may God pardon him), a prince whom we both ought to remember. In order to comply I have done this as truthfully as my memory allows.

I can say nothing of his youth except what I have heard from him; but from the time when I came into his service until the hour of his death, when I was present, I resided continually with him longer than anyone else, serving him at least in the capacity of a chamberlain and often being occupied in his most important business. In him, and in all other princes whom I have known or served, I have recognized good and evil for they are men just like ourselves and to God alone belongs perfection. But when a prince’s virtues and laudable qualities exceed his vices, he deserves great praise, since princes are more inclined to act arbitrarily than other men. This is due to deficiencies in their education and lack of discipline in their youth, and because, when they reach maturity, the majority of mankind accommodate themselves to their caprices and position in life.

Nevertheless, I do not claim in praising him here to detract at all from the honour or good name of others but send you a record of that which sprang promptly to my mind, hoping you asked for this in order to put it into a work which you have planned to write in Latin, which you do so proficiently. This work will demonstrate the greatness of this prince of whom I tell you, and also your own learning. Where my account is defective my lord of Bouchage2 and others can inform you about it and express matters in better language than I, yet for the honour, great familiarity and kindness he ceaselessly showed to me, there is no man who has more reason to remember him than myself. Furthermore the losses and misfortunes which I have suffered since he died only serve to remind me of his favours, even though it is customary for momentous changes to occur after the death of so great and powerful a prince. Some lose, others, gain, because the gifts and honours are never distributed according to the wishes of the suppliants.

In order to inform you of the time during which I knew this man, about whom you inquire, I must begin my story before I came into his service and then, in an orderly fashion, I will continue my account up to the time at which I became his servant and will continue up to his death.


  •  Angelo Cato, see Introduction.
  • Ymbert de Batarnay, lord of Bouchage, c. 1438-1523.


[Commynes enters the service of Charles the Rash]
WHEN I left my childhood behind me and at an age when I could ride, I was taken to Lille to Charles, duke of Burgundy, then called count of Charolais;1 he took me into his service. This was in 1464.

Some three days later the King’s2 ambassadors, the count of Eu, [Pierre de] Morvilliers, Chancellor of France, and the [arch]bishop of Narbonne arrived at Lille. In the presence of Duke Philip of Burgundy,3 the count of Charolais and all their council, the ambassadors were heard in open court. Morviliers spoke most arrogantly, saying that the count of Charolais, whilst he was in Holland, had taken a small warship from Dieppe carrying the Bastard of Rubempré that he had imprisoned Rubempré after accusing him of coming there to capture him and that he had the charge published everywhere, especially at Bruges where people of all nations gather, by Sir Olivier de la Marche,4 a Burgundian knight. For these reasons the King finding himself accused, unjustly he declared, of responsibility for this plot demanded from Duke Philip that Sir Olivier de la Marche should be sent prisoner to him at Paris for punishment as the case deserved.

At this point Duke Philip replied to the ambassadors that Sir Olivier de la Marche, master of his household, had been born in county of Burgundy and was not subject to the crown at all. However, if he had said or done anything contrary to the honour of the King which could be proved by investigation Philip would punish him accordingly. With regard to the Bastard of Rubempré it was true that he had been captured because of his own and his men’s strange actions and behaviour near the Hague in Holland, where his son, the count of Charolais, was at that time, and that if the count was supicious he did not inherit that characteristic from his father, because he was never suspicious, but from his mother,5 who was the most distrustful woman Philip had ever known. But even though he himself had never been suspicious, if he had been in his son’s position at the time Rubempré was in those parts he, too, would have had him taken. If the Bastard were not to be charged with having intended to capture Charolais, as it was alleged, he would release him immediately and send him to the King as the ambassadors required.

After this Morvilliers started again and greatly maligned Francis, duke of Brittany,6by saying that the duke and Charolais there present had given each other sealed letters making themselves brothers-in-arms when Charolais was at Tours, where he had gone to see the King. The sealed letters were delivered by Sir Tanguy du Chastel, who has since become governor of Roussillon, and a great figure in this kingdom. Morvilliers magnified this incident so enormously and criminally that he did not omit to mention anything which could be alleged against this prince to shame and denigrate his name.

Several times the count of Charolais wanted to reply to this speech, being incensed by the injury which had been done to his friend and ally. But Morvilliers continually interrupted him by saying, ‘My lord of Charolais, I’ve not come to speak to you but to my lord your father.’ Several times the count pleaded with his father to let him reply. But he said to him, ‘I have answered for you as it seems to me a father ought to reply on behalf of a son. Nevertheless if you really feel so strongly, think it over today and tomorrow say whatever you wish.’ Then Morvilliers continued, saying that he could not possibly think what had moved the count to conclude this alliance with the duke of Brittany unless it was the withdrawal of a pension which the King had given him together with the government of Normandy.

Next day at the assembly and in the same company as before the count of Charolais, kneeling on a velvet cushion on the ground, spoke primarily to his father, beginning with the affair of the Bastard of Rubempré, and saying he would show by due process of law that the reasons for his arrest were just and reasonable. Yet as far as I know nothing was ever found against him, although the suspicions were very great, and I saw him released from prison where he had been for five years. After this Charolais began to exonerate himself and the duke of Brittany. It was true, he said, that Brittany and he had made an alliance and pact of friendship with each other and that they had become brothers-in-arms. However they did not intend this alliance to be in any way prejudicial to the King and his realm but to serve and support him when necessary. About the pension which had been withdrawn from him, he said that he had only ever had one quarterly payment of nine thousand francs and that he had never asked for the pension or for the government of Normandy and that as long as he had the goodwill of his father he could well do without all other benefits. But I believe that if he had not feared his father, who was present and to whom he addressed his speech, he would have spoken much more sharply. Duke Philip’s concluding remarks were very modest and wise, requesting the King not to believe lightly things alleged against him and his son and to hold him in his good favour.

Afterwards wine and sweetmeats were brought in and the ambassadors took their leave of father and son. When the count of Eu and the Chancellor had just taken their leave of Charolais, who was standing apart from his father, he said to the archbishop of Narbonne, whom he saw last, “Commend me very humbly to the goodwill of the King and tell him that he has given me a good dressing down here by this Chancellor, but that before a year is out he will be sorry for it.’ The archbishop fo Narbonne delivered this message on his return to the King, as you will hear later on.

These interviews, together with the fact that it was very recently that the King had repurchased the towns on the Somme, for four hundred throusand crowns, aroused great hatred in Charolais against the King. By the treaty of Arras [1435] the towns of Amiens, Abbeville, Saint-Quentin and others had been handed over by King Charles VII to Duke Philip of Burgundy for his own use and for his male heirs. But since the duke was in in his dotage all his affairs were directed by the brothers my lords of Croy and Chimay7 and their family. So he took his money from the King and restored the lands. This upset the count, his son, for they were frontier posts and boundaries of their lordships and they lost with them many good and potential warriors. Charolais blamed the house of Croy for this business and as his father, Duke Philip, became very senile, he banished all the Croy family from his father’s territories and seized all their lands and possessions.

  •  Charles, eldest son of Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, born 1433.
  • Louis XI, king of France 1461-83.
  • Philip the Good, who reigned from 1419 to 1467.
  • The famous chronicler.
  • Isabella of Portugal.
  • Francis II, duke of Brittany 1458-88.
  • Antoine and Jean de Croy.

[The start of the War of the Public Weal]
A VERY few days after the departure of the ambassadors, John, duke of Bourbon,8 who died recently, came to Lille pretending he had come to visit his uncle, who loved the house of Bourbon above all others. This duke of Bourbon was the son of Duke Philip’s sister, who had long been widowed. She, with several of her children, three daughters and a son, lived with the duke her brother. Yet the purpose of Bourbon’s visit was to win over and persaude the duke of Burgundy to consent to raise an army in his land, saying that all the other princes of France would do likewise to remonstrate with the King over his disorderly and unjust government. They wished to be strong enough to force him to rememdy matters if he would not willingly do so. This war, undertaken on the pretext that it was for the public benefit of the kingdom, has since been labelled that of the Public Weal.

Duke Philip, who since his death has been called Duke Philip the Good, consented to raise troops, but the real purpose of this affair was never revealed to him nor did he expect that it would lead to direct action. Immediately men were enlisted. The count of Saint-Pol,9 later Constable of France, came to Charolais, who was at Brussels10 with his father. He joined him there together with the Marshal of Burgundy, who belonged to the house of Neufchâtel.11 The count of Charolais assembled his father’s councillors and other advisers in the bishop of Cambrai’s palace. He there declared all members of the Croy family mortal enemies of his father and himself, notwithstanding the fact that the count of Saint-Pol had, a long time previously, given his daughter in marriage to the lord of Croy. He said that he had been obliged to do so. In short all of them had to flee from the lordships of the duke of Burgundy and they lost many goods.

All this was most displeasing to Duke Philip whose first chamberlain, a very well-educated young man later known as my lord of Chimay,12 was a nephew of the lord of Croy, and he left without saying farewell to his master because he feared for the safety of his person. Otherwise as someone warned him, he might have been killed or imprisoned. Duke Philip’s extreme old age forced him to endure this patiently. The declaration against his servants was made because of the restitution of the lordships situated on the river Somme, which Duke Philip had returned to King Louis for four hundred thousand crowns.13 The count of Charolais blamed the house of Croy for inducing Duke Philip to consent to this restitution.

Charolais reconciled himself with his father as best he could. Then immediately he put his troops into the field and the count of Saint-Pol accompanied him as his chief adviser and the general commander of his army. He had more than three hundred men-at-arms and four thousand archers under his command and there were many good knights and esquires of Artois, Hainault and Flanders under the count by order of Charolais. My mord of Revenstein,14 brother of the duke of Clèves, and Sir Anthony, Bastard of Burgundy,15 were put in command of similar brigades and equally large forces. There were other commanders but I will not mention their names for brevity’s sake. But amongst the others were two knights who were highly esteemed by the count of Charolais. One was the lord of Hautbourdin, an old knight and bastard brother of the count of Saint-Pol,16 who had been schooled in the former wars between France and England at the time when Henry V of England, with whom Duke Philip had formed an alliance, lived in France. The other was called the lord of Contay,17 and was of a similar age: both were very valiant and wise knights and were of the highest command in the army.

There were plenty of young men, including among others the renowned Sir Philip de Lalaing. He came from a family whose members were almost all valiant and courageous and nearly all died in the active wartime service of their lords. That army totalled fourteen hundred poorly armed and inexperienced men-at-arms, for these lordships had been at peace for a long time and since the treaty of Arras had seen little prolonged warfare. I think that they had been at peace for more than thirty-six years, except for some small wars against the men of Ghent which did not last long. The men-at-arms were very well mounted and well attended, and you would not have seen more than a handful who did not have five or six great horses. There may have been eight or nine thousand archers. These were the best selection for when the muster was taken there was more to do in dismissing men than in enrolling and the best were chosen.

At that time the subjects of the house of Burgundy were very rich because of the long peace which they had enjoyed and the great moderation of the prince under whom they lived, who taxed his subjects little. It seems to me that then his territories could well have been described as the Promised Land, more so than any others on earth. They were overflowing with wealth and they had a peace which they have not since experienced during the last twenty-three years. Men and women spent free and wore extravagant clothes. The parties and banquets were more lavish and more prodigal than anything which I have experienced anywhere else; there were even bathing parties and other entertainments with women of a disorderly and often immodest kind: I speak of women of low condition. All in all, it seemed to the subjects of this house that no prince was great enough for them or was capable of reducing them to powerlessness. But today I do not know in this world a people so desolate, and I fear that the sins of the time of their prosperity have brought them their present adversity; most of all because they did not recognize that all these favours came from God who distributes them as it pleases him.

The army, as I have described it, was mobilized immediately and the count of Charolais marched forward with it. All were mounted except for those who brought up his guns which were very fine and strong for those times, and there was such a number of wagons that his alone could enclose the greater part of his host. He drew towards Noyon and beseiged a small castle at a place called Nesle where there were some soldiers. In a few days he took it. Marshal Joachim [Rouault] of France, who had come from Péronne, was always shadowing him but he did not do him any damage because he had so few men and eventually he withdrew to Paris when the count approached.

All along the route the count refrained from acts of war and his men never took anything without paying for it. The towns of the Somme as well as all the others allowed his men to enter them in small numbers and gave them what they wanted for their money. The towns seemed to be waiting to hear which party would get the upper hand, the King or the lords. The count pressed ahead so far that he came to Saint-Denis, near Paris, where all the lords of the realm should have been as they had promised; but they were not there. The duke of Brittany had previously sent [Jean de] Rouville, Vice-Chancellor of Brittany, as envoy to the count and he had several blank letters signed by his master which he used to send news and information when necessary. He was a Norman, a very clever man, and he needed to be, to keep all his wits about him, considering the number of people complaining about him.

The count led a demonstration before Paris and there was a great skirmish right up to the gates, somewhat to the disadvantage of the beseiged. They only had the men-at-arms of Joachim and my lord Nantouilett,18 later chief steward of the household. He served the King as well in this year as any subject ever served a king of France in his need. But if in the end he was badly recompensed it was more by the malice of his enemies than by the King’s default, yet neither the one nor the other can be entirely excused. Some of the common people were very frightened that day as I have learned since and, as many later told me, they cried, ‘They have got in.’ But this rumour was unfounded. Nevertheless my lord of Hautbourdin, of whom I have spoken before, was of the opinion that we should storm the city. He had been brought up there and it was not as strong then as it is now. The soldiers also wanted to do so, all holding the citizens in contempt since the skirmishes had reached right up to the gate. Yet it is possible that it would not have been captured. The count returned to Saint-Denis.

The next morning a council was held to decide whether they ought to march to meet the dukes of Berry19 and Brittany, who were close by according to the Vice-Chancellor of Brittany, who showed letters from them. But he had written them himself on the signed blanks and did not know anything about them otherwise. It was conlcuded that they should cross the Seine as well. Great doubts were voiced by some about this, seeing that they had nowhere behind them to retire if necessary.

The whole army seethed with discontent against the count of Saint-Pol and the Vice-Chancellor. Yet Charolais crossed the river and lodged at the bridge of Sant-Cloud. The day after he arrived news was brought to him from a lady of this realm,20 who wrote to him in her own hand, saying that the King was leaving the Bourbonnais and that he was making forced marches to encounter him.

A short explanation why the King had gone to the Bourbonnais is necessary. Realizing that all the lords of the kingdom had declared against him, or at least against his government, he decided to strike first against the duke of Bourbon who seemed to him to be more deeply committed than the other princes and his province was weak and could be reduced speedily. He took several places from him and would have captured the remainder had not help, brought by the lord of Coudres,21 [Philip], marquis od Rothelin, the lord of Mantaigu and others, including in arms the present Chancellor of France, my lord Guillaume de Rochefort, a man of great merit, arrived from Burgundy. These troops had been gathered together in Burgundy by the count of Beaujeu22 and the cardinal of Bourbon,23 brother[s] of Duke John of Bourbon and they threw them into Moulins. From another direction, too, came help for the duke from the duke of Nemours,24 the count of Armagnac25and the lord of Albret,26 with a large number of men. Many of these fine soldiers from their lands had left the ordonnance companies27 and gone over to their side. Most were badly equipped for they had not yet been paid and they had to live off the people. Yet despite this force the King harrassed them severely so that they treated for peace, especially the duke of Nemours. He swore an oath to the King, promising to serve him. Later he did exactly the opposite and, as the King often told me, he conceived that lasting hatred which he held against him.

Yet the King saw that he could not finish there as quickly as he wished, and that Charolais was approaching Paris; he also feared that they would admit him, his brother and the duke of Brittany, on his way from Brittany, all of whom were joining together on the pretext of the public welfare of the realm. He also feared that whatever Paris did the other towns would do. So he decided to make a forced march in order to enter Paris and hold it before those two great armies could join up. He had no intention of fighting, as he often told me when speaking of these things.

  •  John, duke of Bourbon, c. 1427-88.
  • Louis de Luxembourg, executed 1475.
  • All MSS. read Cambrai, but he was in fact at Brussels; see Grunzweig in Le Moyen Age, lxxii, 1966.
  • Thibault de Neufchâtel, d. 1469.
  • Philippe de Croy, d. 1492.
  • In September 1463.
  • Adolphe de Clèves, d. 1493.
  • Anthony (1421-1504), call the Great Bastard, illegitimate son of Philip the Good.
  • Jean de Luxembourg, cousin not brother of the count of Saint-Pol, 1400-1466.
  • Guillaume le Jeune, d. 1467.
  • Charles de Melun, executed 20 August 1468.
  • Charles, younger brother of Louis XI, d. 1472.
  • Marie de Clèves, duchess of Orléans.
  • From MSS.M. and B.
  • Pierre de Bourbon, lord of Beaujeu, later married to Anne, daughter of Louis XI.
  • Charles de Bourbon, archbishop of Lyon 1444-88.
  • Jacques d’Amagnac, executed 1477.
  • Jean V, murdered 1473.
  • Charles II, d. 1471.
  • Ordonnance companies: see Glossary.

[The beginning of the battle of Montlhéry]
AS I said before, when the count of Charolais knew that the King had departed from the Bourbonnais and that he was approaching directly (at least so he thought) he also decided to advance to meet him. He then divulged the contents of the letter without naming his informant and said that all should resolve to conduct themselves well as he had decided to chance his arm. He then marched forward and lodged at Longjumeau, a village close to Paris and the Constable, with all his advance guard, camped at Montlhéry,28 which was three leagues further on. They sent out spies and scouts into the countryside to learn of the King’s arrival and his route. In the presence of the count of Saint-Pol a place was chosen for battle at Longjumeau and it was agreed between them that Saint-Pol would withdraw there when the King approached. The lords of Hautbourdin and Contay were also present. However it must be made plain that my lord of Maine29 with seven or eight hundred men-at-arms was in the path of the dukes of Berry and Brittany. They had in their company many wise and famous knights whom King Louis had dismissed at the time of his accession, even though they had served his father well in the recovery and pacification of the realm. Later he repented many times of treating them thus, recognizing his error. Amongst them were the count of Dunois, highly esteemed in all matters, Marshal Lohéac, the count of Dammartin, the lord of Bueil and many others. They had left the King’s ordonnance companies with over five hundred men-at-arms. These had all withdrawn to the duke of Brittany, whose subjects they were by birth; they were the flower of that army.

The count of Maine did not feel strong enough to fight them and continually shifted his camp before them and came closer to the King. They tried to unite with the Burgundians. Some said that the count of Maine was in private communication with them, but I never discovered that this was so nor do I believe it.30 When the count of Charolais was at Longjumeau and his vanguard at Montlhéry, he was warned by a prisoner, who was brought to him, that the count of Maine had joined the King and that they had with them all the ordonnance companies of the kingdom, which could well total about 2,200 men-at-arms, the feudal levy of the Dauphiné and about forty or fifty fine Savoyard noblemen.

The King held council with Maine, [Pierre de] Bréze, Grand Senschal of Normandy, [Jean de Montauban], the Admiral of France, who belonged to the house of Montauban, and others. He decided, in short, whatever views had been expressed to him, not to give battle but simply to enter Paris without ever coming near to where the Burgundians were encamped. In my opinion his view was wise.

He was suspicious of the Grand Seneschal of Normandy and demanded that he should tell him if he had given his seal or not to the princes who were opposed to him. To this the Grand Seneschal replied jokingly in his customary manner, ‘Yes, but if his seal belonged to them his body belonged to the King.’ The King was satisfied by this and put him in charge of the vanguard and of the scouts, as he wished to avoid this battle, as has been said. The Grand Seneschal, wanting his own way, said then to some of his confidants, ‘I’ll bring the armies so close to one another today that it will be an able man who can separate them.’ And so he did; the first man to die was himself and his men with him. The King himself reported these words to me, because at that time I was with Charolais.

In fact, on 27 July 1465 31 this vanguard found itself close to Montlhéry where the count of Saint-Pol was encamped. He speedily informed Charolais, who was three leagues32 away at the place set for the battle, of its arrival and asked him to come to his aid quickly for already men-at-arms and archers had dismounted and enclosed themselves with his baggage train. If he were to retire towards him as he had been ordered to, which seemed impossible to him, it would appear that he was taking flight, which would be very dangerous for the whole army. Charolais sent Anthony, Bastard of Burgundy, and the large force he had under his command to join him with all haste. He even debated whether he should go himself and in the end he marched after the others and arrived there about seven in the morning. Five or six royal standards had already been placed on the side of the great ditch which was between the two armies.

Rouville, Vice-Chancellor of Brittany, was still in the count of Charolais’s army together with an old soldier called Madré, who had surrendered the bridge at Saint-Maxence. They were very frightened by the complaints against them, seeing that they were drawn up in battle order and the men on whom they were depending for their strength had not joined them. Both took flight before the fight began along the road where they expected to find the Bretons.

Charolais found the count of Saint-Pol on foot and the rest drew themselves up in line as they arrived. We found all the archers with their boots off and with a stake driven into the ground before them, and there were many barrels of wine broached for them to drink. From the small amount I saw I have never seen men more willing to fight, which seemed a good sign and was very comforting. At first all without exception were warned to dismount. Then the plan was changed for almost all the men-at-arms mounted. Many good knights and squires were ordered to remain on foot, amongst whom were my lord of Cordes and his brother.33

Sir Philip de Lalaing dismounted because it was then the most honourable practice amongst the Burgundians that they should dismount with the archers, and always a great number of gentlemen did so in order that the common soldiers might be reassured and fight better. They had learnt this method from the English, with whom Duke Philip had fought in his youth in France for thirty-two years without truce. But the principal burden was borne by the English, who were rich and powerful. At that time they had the wise, handsome and very brave King Henry;34who had wise and brave captains like the earl of Salisbury, Talbot and others about whom I shall keep silent since they were before my time, even though I have seen the results of their work. For when God was tired of favouring them this wise king died at the Bois de Vincennes.35 His imbecile son was crowned king of France and England at Paris. Thus the nobility of England grew restless and divisions sprang up which have lasted until today or almost so with the house of York usurping the kingdom. Whether they had a good title I do not know, for such things are decided in heaven.

Returning to my story, the Burgundians dismounting and then re-mounting had inconvenienced themselves and lost a great deal of time. And that courageous knight, Sir Philip de Lalaing, who was poorly armed, was killed there. The King’s men came in single file through the forest of Torfou and there were no more than four hundred men-at-arms when we arrived. If we had marched immediately it seemed to many that they would offer little resistance, for those behind them could only some up in single file as I said. Yet their numbers were still increasing. Seeing this the wise knight my lord of Contay came to speak to his master, my lord of Charolais, saying that if he wanted to win this battle it was time for him to march, giving his reasons and saying that if he had done so already his enemies would have been beaten for he had found them in small numbers, which grew as he looked and in truth it was so.

Then all the previous orders and plans were changed as everybody began to give their advice, and already a large and serious skirmish was beginning at the end of the village of Montlhéry between archers of both sides. Those on the King’s side were commanded by Poncet de Rivière and were all archers of the ordonnance companies, with gold-embroidered uniforms, and in good condition. Those on the Burgundian side were disorderly and without a commander as frequently happens when skirmishes start. On foot with them were Sir Philip de Lalaing and Jacques du Mas, a highly renowned man, who late became first squire of Duke Charles of Burgundy. There were more Burgundians and they captured a house, then taking two or three doors, they used them as shields and entered the street and fired a house. The wind helped them by blowing the fire in the direction of the King’s men, who began to break up in confusion and ride away in flight.

Hearing this noise and shouting the count of Charolais began to march, abandoning, as I have said, the previously devised plan. He had said that we should march in three stages because of the long distance between the two battles.36 The King’s men were near the castle of Montlthéry and had a large hedge and moat before them, and beyond were open fields full of corn, beans and other very ripe cereal crops, for the land there was rich.

All the count’s archers marched on foot before him in poor order, although in my opinion archers are the most necessary thing in the world for an army; but they should be counted in thousands, for in small numbers they are worthless. Also they should be poorly mounted, men who would not mind losing their horses or not even provided with them. Further those who have never had a day’s experience of their job are more valuable than those who are well trained; this is the opinion of the English, who are the world’s best archers.

It had been said that we should rest twice en route to give the foot soldiers time to catch their breath, because the way was long and crops so tall that they impeded their progress. Yet the contrary happened as if one wanted intentionally to lose. In this God showed that battles are in his hand and he disposes of victories at his pleasure. I think no man’s wisdom can guide or give order to such a great number of men and that things in the field seldom turn out as they have been planned indoors. He who thinks they do does not understand God, mistaking him for a man. Although each should do what he can and his duty to his master, he should recognize wars as one of the methods God uses to achieve his will, commencing them on occasion by small means and movements and giving the victory sometimes to one side and sometimes to the other. This mystery is so great that realms and great lordships sometimes come to an end and desolation whilst others grow or come into existence.

To return to my story, the count marched at full speed without giving his archers and foot soldiers time to draw breath. The royal troops, all men-at-arms, emerged from the two ends of the hedge and when they were so close that the lances should have been dropped into the arrêt,37 the Burgundian men-at-arms broke through their own archers, who were the pride and joy of the army, without giving them time to shoot. But I do not believe that amongst the twelve hundred men-at-arms or thereabouts who were there fifty knew how to lay a lance in the arrêt. There were no more than four hundred armed men with breastplates and there were no armed valets, because of the long peace and because in Burgundy no mercenaries were kept so that the tax burden of the people might be lightened. And ever since that day that region has not had peace even up to the present when it is worse than ever.

Thus they themselves forfeited their chief hope of victory. But God who ordains such a mystery allowed the count on his side of the field, on the right towards the castle, to win without finding any resistance. That day I was with him all the time, less frightened than I have ever been anywhere since, because of my youth and because I had no fear of danger. But I was amazed that none dared resist this prince with whom I was and I thought that he was greater than all the others. Thus do men of little experience judge whence it happens that they sustain many poorly founded arguments with little reason; which justifies the use of the saying that one never regrets speaking too little, but often of speaking too much.

On the left were the lord of Ravenstein and Sir Jacques de Saint-Pol and many others who thought they did not have sufficient men-at-arms to withstand those whom they had before them; but by then they were so close that it was not possible to give new orders. In effect, they were soundly beaten and driven back to the wagon train, where some Burgundian foot soldiers rallied, but the majority fled as far as the forest, which was about half a league away. The principals in the pursuit were the nobles of the Dauphiné and the Savoyards and also many men-at-arms. They thought that they had won the battle. On this side there was a great flight from the ranks of the Burgundians, including some important figures, and they fled for the most part towards Pont-Saint-Maxence, which they thought was still held for them. In the forest many stopped, and amongst others who had retired there was the Constable who was well attended. The baggage train was quite close to the forest. Later Saint-Pol showed that he did not think the battle lost.

  •  Montlhéry, dép. Seine-et-Oise, arr. Corbeil, cant. Arpajon.
  • Charles d’Anjou, 1414-72.
  • But he was.
  • Actually 16 July 1465.
  • Leagues: see Glossary.
  • Philippe and Antoine de Crèvecoeur.
  • Henry V, king of England 1413-22.
  • 31 August 1422.
  • Battles: see Glossary.
  • The arrêt was a pike or hook on the breatplate designed to prevent the lance being thrust back on impact.

[The end of the battle of Montlhéry]
ON the side of the field where he was in command, the count of Charolais pursued the enemy half a league beyond Montlhéry with a very small company. He found large numbers of men, but no one resisted and he thought he had carried the day. But an old nobleman from Luxembourg, Anthony le Breton, sought him out and told him that the French had rallied on the field and that if he chased any further he would lose. Yet Charles would not stop for him even though he repeated his advice two or three times. Then unexpectedly my lord of Contay arrived and spoke to him so emphatically in similar terms to those used by the nobleman that Charles heeded his words and reasoning and turned round at once. If he had gone for another two bow-shots distance, I believe that he would have been captured like some who had gone ahead of him. On the way back, passing by the village he found a large troop of foot soldiers in flight. He pursued them even though he did not have more than a hundred horse in all. Only one foot soldier stood his ground and he gave Charles such a blow in the stomach with his pike that the mark could be seen in the evening. Most of the others fled to safety through the gardens, but this man was killed on the spot.

When we passed close to the castle we saw drawn up before the gate archers of the King’s guard, who did not move. Charles was astonished by this because he did not think that there would be any more resistance and, as he turned aside to march to the field, fifteen or sixteen men-at-arms fell upon him, just when a party of his own troops had left him. Right away they killed the esquire who carved for him, Philip d’Olignies, who was carrying a pennant bearing the count’s arms. Charles was in very great danger and received several blows, amongst them a sword cut in the throat, the scar of which remained with him for the rest of his life. This happened because he was not wearing his beaver which had been carelessly attached in the morning and, as I saw myself, fell off. Hands were laid upon him and there were cries of, ‘My lord, deliver yourself! I recognize you! Don’t let yourself be killed!’.

Yet he continued to defend himself and at this point the son of a Parisian doctor, Master Jean Cadet, a large, heavy, fat man who was with him, riding a horse of a similar type to himself, rode between them and drove them off. All the King’s men now retired to the side of the moat where they had been in the morning because they were frightened by some men whom they saw marching towards them. Charles, all blood-stained, withdrew towards these in the middle of the field. There the Bastard of Burgundy’s standard was so torn to pieces that it was reduced to a foot in length, and the same thing had happened to the standard of the count’s archers. There were not forty men in all and we, who numbered less than thirty, joined them in great anxiety. Hurriedly the count changed his horse and he was given that of his page, Simon de Quingey, who has since become well known.

The count rode about the field rallying his men. But I saw such a half an hour that those of us who were there would have thought only of flight if a hundred men had marched towards us. Ten men joined us, then twenty, either on foot or on horseback; the foot soldiers were tired and wounded both by the demands we had made on them in the morning and by the enemy’s attacks. They came in small groups. Our field, where only half an hour before the corn stood strongly, was so flattened that in an hour it became the most terrible dust in the world. All the field was strewn with dead men and horses and the dead could not be recognized for the dust.

Unexpectedly we saw the count of Saint-Pol emerge from the wood, together with more than forty men-at-arms and his standard. He marched directly towards us and his numbers increased. But to us they still seemed a long way off. Three or four times a message was sent to him to ask him to hurry, but he only advanced slowly and picked up the lances of his men who had fallen. Then he came on in good order giving great comfort to our men, joining together with a large number and coming to the spot where we were so that we found that we now had eight hundred men-at-arms. But there were few or no infantrymen which prevented the count from winning a complete victory because there was a ditch and a great hedge between the two armies.

On the King’s side the count of Maine and many others and more than eight hundred men-at-arms, fled. Some wanted to say that the count had an agreement with the Burgundians, but of the truth of this I beleive there is no evidence. Never was there a greater flight on both sides. Yet the two princes in particular, stayed on the field. On the King’s side one man of some importance fled as far as Lusignan without stopping for refreshment and on the count’s side another gentleman fled as far as Le Quesnoy. They took care not to bite each other!

The two armies being drawn up in front of each other, several cannon shots were fired which killed men on both sides. But no one wanted to fight on. Our force was larger than the King’s. But his personal presence was very important, as were his words of encouragement to the men-at-arms. I truly believe from what I learned of it that had it not been for him alone all would have fled. Some of our men wanted to begin fighting again, especially my lord of Hautbourdin, who said that he could see a column of men fleeing and if he could have found a hundred archers to shoot over the hedge all would have been won for our side.

Whilst we were still considering these propositions and ideas without any skirmishing night began to fall. The King retired to Corbell but we thought that he stayed and made camp. By chance a fire was started in a barrel of powder where the King had been, and several carts and the whole of the hedge caught alight and we thought it was their camp fires.

The count of Saint-Pol, who appeared to be a warrior, and my lord of Hautbourdin, an even greater one, ordered all wagons to be brought to the place where we were in order to surround us. This was done. As we were there drawn up in ranks and orders, many royal troops who had given chase returned thinking that they had won. They were forced to pass through our camp and some escaped but the majority were killed. The royalists of note who died included Sir Geoffrey de Saint-Belin, [Pierre de Brézé] the Grand Seneschal, and Captain Floquet. On the Burgundian side Sir Philip de Lalaing died, as did many infantrymen and common people, more than on the King’s side, but of horsemen, more of the King’s party were killed.

Of important prisoners, the King’s men had the best of those who fled. On both sides at least two thousand men died and it was well fought. On both sides, too, were brave men and cowardly ones. But it was a notable achievement in my opinion, to rally on the field and to confront one another for three or four hours. The two princes should have taken good note of those who kept them company in this crisis. But they conducted themselves as men not angels. Some lost their offices and estates for fleeing, yet these were given to others who had fled ten leagues further. One of our men lost authority and was banished from the presence of his master; a month later he had greater authority than before.

Enclosed as we were by the wagons everyone bedded down as best he could. We had a great number of wounded and the majority were disheartened and frightened, fearing that the Parisians, with Marshal Joachim, the King’s lieutenant in the city, and the two hundred men-at-arms who were with them, would come out and we would be attacked on two sides. When it was quite dark fifty lances were ordered to see where the King was lodged. By chance only twenty went. There should have been the distance of three bow-shots between our position and where we thought the King was. Meanwhile my lord of Charolais drank and ate a little and each of us did likewaise where we were and he had his neck wound dressed.

At the place where he dined it was necessary to move four or five dead men to make room for him, and there were two trusses of straw. On moving them one of those poor naked men began to cry for a drink and a little infusion which the prince had been drinking was poured into his mouth; his heart revived and he was recognized as a well-known archer called Savarot, of the bodyguard of this lord, and he was taken care of and cured.

A council was held to decide what to do. The count of Saint-Pol spoke first, saying that we were in danger, and he counselled that at the break of day we should take the road back to Burgundy, having burnt that part of the baggage train and saved only the artillery, and that no one with less than ten lances should use a wagon. It was impossible, he said, to stay there between the King and Paris without victuals. Afterwards my lord of Hautbourdin gave a similar opinion, except that they should wait and hear the report of those who had been sent scouting. Three or four others expressed a similar view. Finally my lord of Contay said that as soon as this rumour reached the army all would flee and that they would be captured before they had gone twenty leagues. He gave several good reasons why his advice was that each one should prepare as best as possible that night, and that in the morning at daybreak we should attack the King and live or die then. He considered this way more certain than taking to flight.

About midnight those who had been sent out returned — and you might well know that they had not been very far — for they reported that the King was camped by the fires which had been seen. Immediately others were sent and an hour later everyone got ready for battle. The majority would have preferred to flee. When day came those who had been sent out of the camp met one of our prisoners who had been captured on the previous day, when he was carrying a flagon of wine from the village. He told them that all had gone away. They sent the news to the army and went to the place, where they found what he said was true and they returned to tell the news. The company was greatly pleased by this and there were many people who then said that it was necessary to follow after them, yet an hour before they had been decidedly downcast. I had an extremely tired old horse. He drank a pail full of wine into which by chance he had put his muzzle. I left him to drink it: never did I find him so strong and fresh!

When it was fully day all mounted and the battles were sorted out. Further still more men who had hidden in the wood returned. The lord of Charolais forced a friar to come on his orders to tell us that he come from the Breton army and that they would be there this day, which comforted the army well enough. But not everyone believed him. Soon afterwards, at about ten o’clock, Rouville, Vice-Chancellor of Brittany, and Madré with him, of whom I spoke before, came and brought two archers of the duke of Brittany’s bodyguard, wearing his livery, which greatly reassured the host. Rouville was questioned and praised for his flight in spite of the murmurings which there had been against him, and praised still more for his return; everybody treated him kindly.

All this day my lord of Charolais remained very joyfully on the field, thinking the glory his. This has since cost him dearly because never afterwards did he heed the counsel of anyone except himself. Up to that time he had little use for war and liked nothing to do with it, but subsequently his attitude changed because he continued fighting until his death. By it his life was ended and his house destroyed and if it has not been entirely destroyed, at least is is very desolated.

Three great and wise princes, his predecessors, had raised his house very high and there were few kings, except the King of France, more powerful than he was; no one had finer or larger towns. No one ought to think too highly of himself, especially a great prince. It is necessary to remember that all favours and good fortunes come from God. Two more things I will say of Charolais: I believe that never has any man been able to accomplish more work than him in all situations where it is necessary to exert oneself. The other is that, in my opinion, I have never known a braver man. I never heard him say that he was tired nor saw him appear frightened, and I was in his entourage for seven years on end during wartime, for the summer at least, and sometimes both in winter and summer. His thoughts and decisions were momentous but no man could have accomplished them if God had not lent his power.

The following day, which was the third day of the battle, we went to sleep at the village of Montlhéry. The inhabitants had fled from there to the church tower and some to the castle. Charolais made them return and they did not lose a pennyworth because everyone paid his way as if he were in Flanders. The castle still held out and was not attacked. When the third day had passed the count, following the counsel of the lord of Contay, left for Étamps which was a good large town in a fertile part of the country, in order to be there sooner than the Bretons, who were coming by this route and in order to put tired and wounded men under cover and the rest into camp. This good resting place and our stay there saved the lives of many of his men.

How my lord Charles of France, duke of Berry, only brother of the King, the dukes of Brittany and Calabria and other lords of the realm, joined with the count of Charolais in the town of Étamps for the enterprise which they called the Public Weal
THEN my lord Charles of France, duke of Berry, only brother of the King, the duke of Brittany, my lords Dunois, Dammartin, Lohéac, Beuil and Chaumont and Sir Charles d’Amboise, his son, who has since become a great man in this kingdom, arrived at Étamps. The King had dismissed them and deprived all of them of their property when he succeeded to the crown, despite their good service to the King, his father, and the realm in the conquest of Normandy and in several other wars.

My lord of Charolais and the greatest men in his company welcomed them and going on before them conducted them to their lodgings in the town of Étamps, where their rooms had been prepared. Their men-at-arms remained in the open. In their company they had eight hundred well-equipped men-at-arms, mainly Bretons, who had just left the ordonnance companies as I have said here and elsewhere, who greatly strengthened their army. They also had a great number of archers and other soldiers armed with good brigandines38 and could well have numbered six thousand very well-equipped men on horseback. Seeing this company it appeared that the duke of Brittany was a very great lord because all were paid from his coffers.

The king, who had withdrawn to Corbell, did not forget what he had to do. He marched into Normandy to gather men and out of fear lest that region should rebel. He also sent a troop of his men-at-arms to the outskirts of Paris where he saw that this was necessary.

The first evening after all these nobles had reached ftamps they exchanged news with each other. The Bretons had taken prisoner some of those who were fleeing from the King’s side and had they been a litte closer they would have captured and routed a third of the army. They had held to their resolution to send men out to scout, thinking that the armies were close to each other; yet some censured them. But notwithstanding, Sir Charles d’Amboise and several others advanced further forward than their army in order to see if they could meet anyone. They took some prisoners and captured some of the artillery. The prisoners told them for certain that the King was dead; they thought this because they fled as soon as the battle had begun.

These reported the news to the Breton army which was very joyful thinking it was so and they anticipated rewards which they would have when my lord Charles [of France] was king. They held a council, as a man of great worth who was present has since told me, in order to decide how they would rid themselves of the Burgundians and it was the opinion of almost all that they should despoil those whom they could. Their joy was short-lived, but by this you can see what intrigues there are in this kingdom during all disturbances.

To return to my account of the army at Étamps; when all had supped and there were many men walking about the streets, my lords Charles of France and of Charolais were at a window talking to each other very intimately. In the Breton force there was a poor man who took pleasure in throwing squibs into the air which, when they had fallen, jumped about amongst the men and gave off a little flame. He was called Master Jean Bouttfeu or Master Jean des Serpens. He threw two or three fireworks into the air from high up in a house so no one could see him. These dropped amongst some men, but one fell against the window frame where the two princes had their heads so closely together that there was not a foot between them. Both started and were surprised and looked at each other and a suspicion dawned on them hat this had been done expressly to cause them harm. The lord of Contay came to speak to Charolais his master, and as soon as he had had a word in his ear he went downstairs to arm all the household troops and archers of his bodyguard and others.

Immediately the lord of Charolais spoke to the duke of Berry, who likewise armed the archers of his bodyguard, and there were soon two or three hundred men-at-arms fully equipped and on foot at the door and a great number of archers. A search was made everywhere to find where the fire could have come from. The poor man who had done this threw himself on his knees before them and told them what had happened and tossed three or four others. In doing this he removed many men’s suspicions and we began to laugh. Everyone went away to disarm and to sleep.

Next morning a very large and splendid council was held where all the lords and their principal advisers were present and they deliberated what to do. Since they came from many parts and were not obedient to one alone, as is necessary in such an assembly, they had many differing opinions. Among many speeches that were well received and noted down was one by my lord of Berry, who was very young and had never seen such exploits. He seemed by his words to be bored already. He claimed that he had seen that my lord of Charolais had a great number of wounded, thus showing by his speech that he was sorry for them and that he would rather that these matters had never been started than see such misfortunes already coming from his actions and cause.

These remarks displeased my lord of Charolais and his men, as I shall relate. Yet at this council it was decided to march to Paris in order to try, if they could, to induce the town to agree to help us for the good of the public welfare of the realm for which they said they had all assembled. It seemed likely to them that if those there listened to them all the other towns of the kingdom would do likewise.

As I said, the words spoken by my lord Charles [of France] in the council led my lord of Charolais and his men to a state of doubt where they could say, ‘Have you heard this man speak? He was horrified by seven or eight hundred wounded men-at-arms whom he saw when coming to the town, who were nothing to him nor did he recognize them. He will indeed be astounded if the matter concerns him personally and he’ll be the man to agree lightly to any agreement leaving us stuck in the mud. And because of the former wars between his father, King Charles, and my father, the duke of Burgundy, these two parties will together readily turn on us. For this reason we must provide ourselves with friends.’

And with this single thought, Master Guillaume de Cluny, the protonotary, who died bishop of Poitiers, was sent to King Edward of England.39 who was reigning then, with whom my lord of Charolais had always been at loggerheads. He had supported the house of Lancaster against Edward because he was descended from it through his mother.40 By his instructions Cluny was ordered to enter marriage negotiations with Margaret, sister of the king of England. He was not to conclude the bargain but only, knowing that the king of England wanted it very much, to do the least that seemed necessary to him so that Edward would do nothing against the count. If Edward responded Charolais would gain what he wanted. And, although it was not the count’s sole wish to conclude this bargain and the thing he most hated in his heart of hearts was this house of York, yet this matter was so concluded that some years later the marriage was completed. Charolais, moreover, took the Order of the Garter41 and wore it all his life.

Many such arrangements are made in this world, as I have said before, especially between great princes. They are much more distrustful than other people because of the doubts and rumours which they receive, often by flattery, without there being any need for it.

  •  Brigandines: see Glossary.
  • Edward IV, king of England 1461-83.
  • Charles was the great-grandson of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster.
  • On 4 February 1469.

[i Crossing the Seine and the arrival of John of Calabria]
SO as it had been decided all the lords left Étamps, after staying there a few more days, and they marched to Saint-Mathurin de Larchant and Moret [-sur-Loing] in the Gâtinais. Lord Charles and the Bretons stayed in these two small towns. The count of Charolais camped in a large meadow on the edge of the river Seine and ordered everyone to bring a post to which to tie his horse. He had seven or eight small boats brought on carts and many wine-barrel staves to make a bridge over the Seine because the lords had no other way of crossing it. My lord of Dunois accompanied him in a litter because his gout prevented him from riding; his standard was carried behind him. As soon as they came to the river they launched the boats which they had brought and reached a small island which was about in the middle. Some archers landed and skirmished with horsemen who were defending the passage on the other side where Marshal Joachim and [Jean de] Salazar were present. The place was very disadvantageous for them since it was very steep and covered with vines. There was a considerable amount of artillery on the Burgundian side under the care of the famous gunner Master Girault [de Samien] and others, who had been captured in the battle of Montlhéry fighting on the royal side. In the end it was necessary for Joachim and Salazar to abandon the passage and they withdrew to Paris. That evening a bridge was built as far as the island, and immediately the count of Charolais had a large tent erected and slept the night in it with fifty household troops.

At daybreak a large number of coopers were set to work to make barrels from the wood which had been brought and before midday the bridge was completed to the other side of the river. Immediately the count of Charolais crossed to the other side and had his many large tents pitched there. He ordered all his army and artillery across the bridge and camped on a hill sloping towards the river, and his army made a very fine sight for those who were still behind.

All day only his troops were able to cross. Next day at dawn the dukes of Brittany and Berry crossed with all their army; they found the bridge very fine even though it had been constructed quickly. They passed on a little further and camped on the same raised ground. As soon as night came we perceived just in sight, a large number of fires a long distance away from us. Some thought it was the King. But before midnight we were informed that it was Duke John of Calabria, only son of King René of Sicily, and he had with him nine hundred men-at-arms from the duchy and county of Burgundy, well accompanied by cavalry but with few infantrymen. For the few men which the duke had, I have never seen so fine a company nor any so seemingly well disciplined in martial affairs. He probably had some hundred and twenty full armed soldiers, Italians or others, schooled in his wars in Italy. Amongst them was Giacomo Galeotto, the count of Campobasso and the lord of Baudricourt, now Governor of Burgundy. All his men-at-arms were very skilled and, in truth, almost the flower of our army, at least in comparison with similar numbers. He had four hundred crossbowmen furnished for him by the Count Palatine,42 all well mounted men who carried themselves like true soldiers, and five hundred Swiss infantry troops, who were the first to be seen in this realm. They were ones whose reputation prepared the way for those who came afterwards, because they conducted themselves very bravely in every situation where they found themselves.

This company approached in the morning and they spent the day crossing over our bridge. One could say that all the might of the kingdom of France was seen crossing the bridge except for those with the King. And I assure you that it was a very fine and great company with many noble and well-turned-out men. One could have wished that both the friends and well-wishers of the kingdom and their enemies could have seen them and could have had by this a true estimation of its strength, for there would never have been a time when they would have been more frightened of the King and kingdom.

The Burgundian commander was my lord of Neufchâtel, Marshal of Burgundy, and with him were his brother, the lord of Montaigu, the marquis of Rothelin and many knights and esquires, some of whom had been in the Bourbonnais, as I said at the beginning of this account. All had joined together in order to come more safely with my lord of Calabria, who seemed as brave a prince and warrior as any I had seen in the army. He soon struck up a great friendship with Charolais.

ii How the lords laid seige to Paris for the enterprise they called the Public Weal

WHEN all this company, taking the good with the bad, numbered by some at a hundred thousand horses I believe, had crossed, the lords decided to set out for Paris and they placed all their vanguards together. The count of Saint-Pol led the Burgundians; Odet d’Aydie, later count of Comminges, and Marshal Lohéac led the troops of the dukes of Berry and Brittany, I think, and so they marched. All the princes stayed with the main army. The count of Charolais and the duke of Calabria took great care to command and keep order in their armies. They rode fully armed and seemed willing to fulfil their duties well. The dukes of Berry and Brittany rode at their ease on small palfreys wearing lightly armed brigandines. Some said that they only had little gilded nails sewn on the satin so they weighed less. But I do not know the truth of this. Thus all these companies rode up to the bridge at Charenton, only two small leagues from Paris, which was quickly captured from a few franc-archers43 who were on it. The whole army crossed it and the count of Charolais camped between the bridge and his house at Conflans nearby, along the river, and enclosed a great stretch of country with his baggage train and artillery, putting all his army inside the enclosure. With him was the duke of Calabria. The dukes of Berry and Brittany camped at Saint-Maur-les-Fossés with a number of their men, whilst the rest were sent to camp at Saint-Denis, which was also two leagues from Paris. All this company was there for eleven weeks, and I will describe what happened later.

The next day skirmishes began up to the gates of Paris where my lord of Nantouillet, Grand Master [of the household], was stationed, who served so well, as I have said before, together with Marshal Joachim. The common people were very concerned and some of them wanted to let the lords in, thinking to themselves that this enterprise was good and profitable for the realm. There were others, who came from their lordships and were mixed up in their affairs, who hoped by their efforts to obtain some office or preferment; these are more desired in this city than in any other in the world. For those who hold offices make them worth as much as they can, not what they should. There are offices without wages which sell for eight hundred crowns and others with very small wages which are sold for more than the total of fifteen years’ wages. Seldom is anyone dismissed and the court of Parlement44 rightly upholds this principle, but almost everyone is affected by it. Amongst the councillors are always found numerous good and notable persons, but also some bad ones, yet it is so in all levels of society.

  •  Frederick the Victorious, 1425-76.
  • Franc-archers: see Glossary.
  • Parlement: see Glossary.

[Events in England]
I SPEAK about these offices and positions of trust becaue they cause a desire for change, and not only in our times. From the time when the wars began in he days of King Charles VI which lasted until the peace of Arras, the English meddled in the affairs of this realm. So much so that in negotiating the treaty of Arras there were four or five princes, dukes and counts, five or six bishops and ten or twelve Parliamentary councillors representing the King; on Duke Philip’s side there were as great people as on the other and many more of them; for the pope, two cardinals acted as mediators and there were great English representatives, and these negotiations lasted two months. The duke of Burgundy strongly desired to fulfil his obligations towards the English before separating from them, because of the allilance and promises he had with them. For these reasons the duchies of Normandy and Guyenne were offered to the king of England and his heirs, provided that he did homage to the King as his predecessor had done and handed over all that he possessed in the kingdom except the duchies. The English refused as they did not wish to do homage, things went badly for them afterwards for they were abandoned by the house of Burgundy and having lost their contacts in this realm they began to lose ground and weaken. The duke of Bedford, brother of King Henry V, who had married the sister45 of Duke Philip of Burgundy, was then regent of France for the English. He lived at Paris and took at the very least twenty thousand crowns a month for the performance of this office. The English lost Paris and then, bit by bit, the rest of the kingdom.

When they returned to England no one wanted to reduce his way of living. But there was not enough wealth in the realm of England to satisfy all. War for power, which lasted many long years, broke out amongst them. King Henry VI, who had been crowned King of France and England at Paris,46 was declared a traitor, guilty of treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London where he spent the greater part of his life and was finally killed. The duke of York, father of the late King Edward, proclaimed himself king. A few days later he was beaten and killed in battle and afterwards had his head cut off, as did the dead earl of Warwick,47 who died recently and who had so much authority in England. Warwick took the earl of March, later called King Edward, by sea to Calais with a few men after fleeing from the battle. The earl of Warwick supported the Yorkists and the duke of Somerset supported the Lancastrians. The wars lasted so long that all the members of the houses of Warwick and Somerset had their heads cut off or were killed in battle. King Edward had his brother, the duke of Clarence, put to death in a pipe48of malmsey49 because, it is said, he wanted to make himself king. On the death of Edward his second brother the duke of Gloucester50 killed Edward’s two sons, declared his daughters bastards and had himself crowned king.

Immediately afterwards the earl of Richmond,51 at present king, having been a prisoner for many years in Brittany, crossed to England. He defeated and killed in battle the cruel King Richard who shortly before had had his nephews murdered. Thus, within my memory, more than eighty members of the English royal family, some of whom I knew, were killed in these disturbances in England. The English, who were living with the duke of Burgundy when I was there, told me about the rest.

So it is not only in Paris or in France that men strive for the wealth and honours of this world. Princes or those who rule great lordships ought to be wary of allowing rivalries to develop in their households. For from there this fire spreads through the whole countryside. But my belief is that it only happens because of divine intervention, for when princes and realms are very prosperous and rich they forget from where these fortunes come. God sets up for them an unexpected enemy or enemies, as you may observe from the kings in the Bible and by what, in the recent past, you have seen and see every day in England, Burgundy, and other places.

  •  Anne of Burgundy, d. 1433.
  • On 17 December 1431.
  • Commynes means Richard, earl of Salisbury, father of Warwick the Kingmaker, who was beheaded after the battle of Wakefield in 1460.
  • A cask of wine, or sometimes a measure of capacity, usually equal to half a tun or two hogsheads or four barrels.
  • 1478.
  • Richard, later Richard III, king of England 1483-5.
  • Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, king of England 1485-1509.

[The War of the Public Weal: events at Paris]
I HAVE been digressing too much and I must return to my story. As soon as the lords arrived before Paris all began to intrigue there and offer positions and rewards and anything which could serve their cause. After three days there was a great assembly in the town hall of Paris. There were important and lengthy speeches and after hearing the requests and demands which the lords made in public, for the great good of the realm as they said, it was decided to send to them to treat for peace.

A great number of important citizens then came to the princes at Saint-Maur, and Master Guillaume Chartier, a very great man who was then bishop of Paris, acted as their spokesman. The count of Dunois spoke for the lords. The duke of Berry, the King’s brother, presided, sitting on a throne with all the other lords standing around him. On one side was the lord of Charolais, fully armed except for his helmet52 and his gauntlets. He was wearing a small very rich cloak covering his breastplate, for he had just come from Conflans, and the Bois de Vincennes was held for the King and there were many men there; so it was necessary for him to come well accompanied. The requests and aims of the lords were to be admitted to Paris and to have friendly negotiations with the citizens over the reform of the realm, which they said was badly ruled, levelling several serious charges against the King. The citizens’ answers were very sympathetic, yet given only after some delay. After that the King was not pleased with the bishop nor with those with him.

Thus they returned whilst important intrigues continued, for everyone spoke to them individually. And I believe that it was decided in secret by some that the lords, without attendants, might enter the city and their men could pass through in small numbers at a time if they liked. This agreement would not only have gained the town but the aims of the whole enterprise, because the people for many reasons would easily have come over to their side and as a result all the rest of the kingdom would have followed their example.

God gave wise counsel to the King and he executed it skilfully. Warned of all these matters, even before those who had gone to meet the lords had returned to make their report, he arrived in the town all prepared to comfort the people because he came with a very large company. He placed more than two thousand men-at-arms in the town, all nobles of Normandy, as well as a large force of franc-archers, his household troops and other men of quality, who are to be found with such a king in similar affairs. Thus the stratagem was defeated and all the people changed their opinions, so that there was no longer any man of those who had previously been to see us who dared any longer to speak about these bargainings; and some suffered for it. Yet he did not use any cruelty in this affair. Some lost their offices and others he exiled. I praise him for not using any other revenge because if what had been started had been accomplished the best he could have hoped for would have been to have fled the country. Many times later he told me that if he had not been able to enter Paris and he had found it lost, he would have fled to the Swiss or to Francesco [Sfroza], duke of Milan, whom he looked upon as a great friend — as indeed he showed by the help he sent him. This was led by his eldest son, Galeazzo, later duke, and consisted of five hundred men-at-arms and three thousand infantry who had come as far as Forez where they were making war on my lord of Bourbon. But they later went home because of the death of Duke Francesco.53 He also showed his friendship by the advice which he gave him whilst the peace, known as the treaty of Conflans, was being negotiated. In order to break up the confederacy he told him to refuse nothing which was asked of him but only keep his own men with him.

As far as I can remember we had not been before Paris for more than three days54when the King entered the town. Soon afterwards he began to fight us vigorously, especially our foragers because they were forced to go long distances to forage and many men were necessary to guard them. But it must be said that the Île de France and Paris are well placed to maintain two such powerful armies. For never were we without victuals and those within Paris scarcely realized that there were men there. Nothing became dearer except for bread, which rose a penny in price. For we did not occupy the three rivers above the city, the Marne, Yonne and Seine, and the several small streams which flowed into them. All in all I have never seen a city surrounded by more fertile and verdant country than Paris and it is almost unbelievable what goods arrive there. I have since been there with King Louis for six months without moving, staying at the Tournelles, normally eating and sleeping with him, and after his death I was held unwilling prisoner in his palace for twenty months when I saw from my window all that came up the Seine from Normandy.55From upstream came incomparably more than I could ever have believed possible if I had not seen it.

So every day troops of men sallied out of Paris and there were serious skirmishes. Our watch was fifty lances strong and was posted near La Grange-aux-Merciers. Scouts went as close to Paris as possible but were very often driven back, and it was often necessary for them to turn tail and flee back to our wagon train, sometimes retiring in an orderly fashion, sometimes at the run. And then others were sent out again and often they were driven back by the enemy from the gates of Paris. This happened at all hours because in the town there were more than two thousand five hundred well-equipped men-at-arms, with good quarters, a great number of Norman nobles and franc-archers. Every day the soldiers saw the ladies of Paris, who inspired them to show off.

On our side there were a large number of men but not so many horsemen because there were only the Burgundians, numbering good and bad about two thousand lances, who were not so well armed as those within the city because of the long peace which they had experienced, as I have said previously. Again, some two hundred men-at-arms of this number were at Lagny with the duke of Calabria. We had a large number of good infantry. The Breton army was at Saint-Denis and they committed warlike acts whenever they could. The other lords were scattered for provisions. Finally the count of Armagnac, the duke of Nemours, and the lord of Albret arrived, but their men stayed a long way off because they had not been paid and they would have deprived our army if they had taken goods without payment. I know full well that the count of Charolais gave them five to six thousand francs in cash and it was decided that their men should not advance further. They had more than six thousand cavalry which did very considerable damage.

  •  MS. reads teste.
  • 8 March 1466.
  • Eight in fact.
  • See Introduction.

[Events around Paris]
TO continue with affairs at Paris, there is no doubt that scarcely a day passed without some loss or gain on one side or the other. But nothing important occurred because the King did not wish his men to sally forth in large numbers nor to stake all on the outcome of a battle. He wanted peace and to break up this gathering wisely. Yet one morning four thousand franc-archers, Norman nobles and a few men-at-arms came to camp opposite the Hôtel de Conflans along the riverbank. Other men-at-arms from the ordonnance companies lodged a quarter of a league further off in a village, and between them and their infantry there was only a rich plain. The Seine was between us and them. The King’s men then began a trench close to Charenton, where they made an earthwork of wood and soil towards the front of our army. This trench passed in front of Conflans, with the river between the two places as has been said. And a large amount of artillery was placed there which immediately drove all the duke of Calabria’s men out of the village of Charenton; they were forced to come quickly to lodge with us. Some men and horses were killed. Duke John stayed in a small building right in front of the house of my lord of Charolais and facing the river.

This artillery first began to fire on our army and terrified the company because it killed men from the start. Two shots were fired, while he was dining, through the room where Charolais was staying and they killed a trumpeter carrying a plate of meat upstairs. After dinner the count of Charolais came down to the ground floor and decided that he would not move his lodgings but fixed them up as best he could.

In the morning all the lords held a council. This was always held, moreover, in the count’s quarters and always after the council they dined together. The dukes of Berry and Brittany sat on a bench next to the wall and the count of Charolais and Duke John of Calabria sat facing them. So the count gave them all due honour and invited them to his table, as he ought to have done to one and all since it was in his quarters.

They resolved to collect together all the army’s artillery, of which Charolais had a very large amount. The duke of Calabria also had some fine pieces, as did the duke of Brittany. Large holes were made in the wall on the side facing the river behind the Hôtel de Conflans, and all the best pieces were placed there, except for the bombards and some other large pieces which were not fired. The rest were placed where they could serve best. The lords had much more artillery than the King. The trench which the King’s men had made was very long, stretching towards Paris, and all the time they were pressing ahead, throwing up earth up on our side to protect themselves from the artillery, because all were hidden in the ditch and no one dared show his head. They were in a fine flat meadow bare as a man’s hand. I have never seen so much firing in so few days because on our side we intended to drive them off by the force of our artillery. On the other side supplies came every day from Paris which supported them valiantly, and they did not spare the powder. Many of our men dug ditches in the ground right outside their lodgings, yet there were others who had them already because they were lodged in a quarry. So everyone protected himself and three or four days passed. The fear on both sides was much greater than the losses, because no man of note was killed.

When the lords saw that the royal troops were not tiring it seemed to them shameful and dangerous; they thought it would hearten the Parisians, because on truce-days so many people came out of the town that it seemed that no one was left there. It was decided in council that a very strong large bridge should be built on large boats by cutting off the ends and laying down a gangway of planks across the middle, whilst on either end there would be great anchors to throw on to the the land. Thereupon several big Seine boats were brought up which would enable a large number of infantrymen to cross at a time: so it was resolved to cross the river. To Master Girault the gunner was given the task of completing this work. He thought it would be a great advantage to the Burgundians that the others had thrown up a trench on our side, because when they crossed the river the King’s men would find their trench well below their assailants and they would not dare to sally out of the ditch for fear of the artillery.

These remarks put great heart into our men to cross and the bridge was all completed, except for the last two boats which were to one side ready to finish it, and all the other boats were brought up. As soon as it was completed a royal officer of arms came to say that building it was an infringement of the truce, because that day and the day before had been truce-days, and that he had come to see what was going on; by chance he met my lord of Bueil and several others to whom he spoke on the bridge. That evening the truce ended. Three men-at-arms with their lances lowered could easily cross the bridge abreast, while six large boats each carrying more than a thousand men at a time, and some smaller ones, could cross over. The artillery was deployed to help guard the crossing and troops muster lists were drawn up of those who were to cross. The count of Saint-Pol and the lord of Hautbourdin were in charge.

As soon as midnight had passed those who were to cross began to arm themselves and were all armed before daybreak. Some heard Mass whilst waiting for the dawn and did what good Christians do in such circumstances. That night I found myself in a large tent which was in the middle of the army where the guard was kept, and I was on guard because no one was excused. My lord of Châteauguion,56 who later died at the battle of Morat, was in command of the guard; and we were waiting there to see the diversion when we suddenly heard those who were in the trenches begin to shout, ‘Farewell, neighbours, farewell,’ and immediately they set fire to their camp and withdrew their artillery. Day began to break. Some of those ordered to undertake this enterprise were already on the river, and they saw the others a long way off retiring to Paris. So everyone disarmed and rejoiced at their departure.

But in truth the King had sent the men there with no intention of fighting but only to bombard us with his artillery, because he did not wish to risk anything, as I said elsewhere, even though his power was as great as that of the princes put together. His intention was, as he plainly demonstrated, to treat for peace and disperse the company without placing his own position as King of this great and obedient realm of France in peril by a thing so uncertain as a battle.

Every day there were petty intrigues aimed at winning men from one side to the other and several days were truce-days when both sides assembled for the purpose of making peace. These meetings were held at La Grange-aux-Merciers close to our army. On the royal side the count of Maine and several others attended. The count of Saint-Pol and others, as well as all the lords, attended on their side. Many times they met without achieving anything. Meanwhile, the truce was prolonged and many men from both armies conversed together across a large ditch which was midway between them, some standing on one side, some on the other, because by the truce no one could cross it. There was hardly a day when through these interviews not less than ten or twelve men on the princes’ side, and sometimes more, changed side. On other days as many came over to us and for this reason the place was later called the Market because such bargains were struck there.

To be honest, such meetings and communications held in this way are very dangerous, especially for the side which seems to be visibly declining in strength. Naturally the majority of men have an eye for a chance either to advance or to help themselves, which easily leads them to side with the stronger. There are some who are so upright and firm that they have none of these failings, but they are few in number. There is special danger when princes seek to win men over. It is a very great favour when God grants a prince the ability to do this and it is a sign that he is not tainted with this foolish vice of pride, which stirs up harted against all people. For this reason, as I have said, when one comes to such issues as the negotiation of peace it ought to be undertaken by the most faithful servants of the prince and men of mature years, so that their weaknesses do not led them to make some dishonest bargain or to frighten their master on their return more than there is need. He should employ those who have received some favour or benefit from him rather than others, but above all wise men, for a fool never brought a man any profit. And he ought rather to conduct his negotiations from a distance than from close by, and when the ambassadors return he ought to hear them alone or in a small company in case their words are frightening. Then he can tell them the sort of language which they must use to answer those who inquire of them. For everyone wants to know news from them when they come from such negotiations and many say, ‘So and so will not hide anything from me.’ But if the appointed ambassadors are such as I have described, they will do so and know they have a wise master.

  •  Louis de Chalon, prince of Orange, killed at Granson, 1476.

[Louis XI]
I HAVE entered upon this discourse because I have seen many deceptions in this world and many servants set against their masters. I have seen that haughty princes and lords who seldom listen to their servants are more often deceived than those who are humble and listen gladly. And of all those whom I have ever known, the wisest in extricating himself from a tricky situation in an adverse time was our master, King Louis XI, and he was the humblest in word and attire and one who ever worked to win over a man who could serve him or do him harm. He was never put off by being refused once by a man whom he was attempting to win but continued in his endeavours, promising grandiosely and giving actual money and offices which he knew would please him. Those whom he had expelled and banished in time of peace and prosperity he would repurchase dearly when he had need of them. He made use of them and did not hold any grudge against them for past deeds.

He was by nature a friend of men of middling estate and enemy of all the great who were able to do without him. No man ever lent his ear so readily to others or inquired about so many things as he did, nor wanted to know so many men. For, truthfully, he knew all the powerful and influential men in England, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the lordships of the duke of Burgundy and in Brittany, as well as he knew his own subjects. And these manners and qualities which he had, which I have just mentioned, saved his crown for him, seeing the enemies which he had acquired at his accession to the kingdom.

But above all his great generosity has served him because wisely as he conducted himself in adversity, as soon as he thought he was safe, on the other hand, even if it was only a truce, he would begin to upset men by petty ways which served him ill and he was scarcely able to endure peace. He spoke lightly of men both in their presence and in their absence, except of those whom he feared, who were legion, for he was somewhat fearful by nature. When, indeed, by his manner of speaking, he had harmed himself or suspected that he had and he wished to repair the damage, he spoke these words to the person concerned, ‘I’m well aware that my tongue has caused me great damage, but sometimes it has brought me much pleasure. Nevertheless it is right that I should make amends.’ And he never used these words without recompensing the person to whom he was speaking and that he did in no small way.

Yet God grants a great favour to a prince when he recognizes good and evil, and especially when the good exceeds the evil as in the case of our master. For in my opinion, it was the hardship which he experienced in his youth, when he was a fugitive from his father and fled to Duke Philip of Burgundy with whom he lived for six years,57 that stood him in good stead because he was constrained to humour those of whom he had need. Adversity taught him this lesson which was no mean thing. When he found himself powerful and a crowned King, he first of all thought only of revenge but soon this caused him injury and he felt quite as much repentance. He set right this folly and error by winning back those whom he had wronged, as you will hear later. If he had only had the education of other lords whom I have seen brought up in this kingdom, I do not believe that he could have recovered again. For they were only brought up to make fools of themselves in dress and speech. They have no knowledge of letters, not a single wise man is found in their company, they have governors to whom one speaks about their business, not to them, and these latter dispose of all their business. Such lords, who have not thirteen livres in rents, puff themselves up and say, ‘Speak to my men,’ thinking that by these words they imitate the very great. I have often seen their servants make their own profit, giving their masters to understand that they were fools. And so if by chance one of them regains control of his own affairs and wants to find out what belongs to him, it is so late that it scarcely matters, because it is necessary to realize that all famous men, who have achieved great things, begin very young and their success springs from their education or from God’s grace.

  •  From 1456 to 1461.

[Conclusion of the War of the Public Weal]
NOW I have dwelt for a long time on this subject but it is such that I could not leave it when I wanted to. To return to the war; you have heard how the King’s men, who had taken up their position in the trench along the Seine, decamped at the very hour we should have attacked them. The truces seldom lasted more than a day or two. On the other days the war was prosecuted as vigorously as possible and skirmishes lasted from morning to evening.

No large bands sallied out of Paris, yet often they repulsed our watch and then we reinforced it. I do not recollect there being a day without a skirmish, however small it was. And I truly believe that they could have been much larger if the King had wished; but he was very wary of many people, though not without cause. He has on another occasion told me that he found the field-gate of the Saint-Antione bastille open one night, which made him very suspicious of Sir Charles de Melun, because his father was in charge of the place. I will say nothing more of Sir Charles than I have said already, except that the King had no better servant that year.

One day it was decided in Paris to come and fight us (this was not, I believe, the King’s decision but the captains’) and to attack us on three sides — on the first side from Paris, where the main force was to be, secondly via the bridge at Charenton (and those there would scarcely have caused any harm) and [thirdly] two hundred men-at-arms were to come through the Bois de Vincennes. This decision was made known to the army about midnight by a page who shouted from the opposite bank of the river that some good friends of the lords, whom he named, warned them of the enterprise, which you have heard about, and then he disappeared immediately.

Just at daybreak Sir Poncet de Rivière came up to the bridge at Charenton, whilst my lord of Lau58 and others came from the Bois de Vincennes up to our artillery and killed a gunner. The alarm was very great. Everyone thought that this was the attack of which the page had warned us in the night. My lord of Charolais was soon armed, but not as quickly as Duke John of Calabria, for at every alert he was the first man to be fully armed and his horse was always fully equipped. He wore the uniform which all condottieri wear in Italy and appeared a worthy prince and leader. He always rode right up to the front line of our army in order to prevent men from sallying out. He received as much obedience as my lord of Charolais. All the army willingly obeyed him, for in truth he was worthy of being honoured.

In a moment all the troops were in arms and drawn up on foot inside the line of the wagons, except for some two hundred horsemen who were outside on watch. This day excepted, I never knew a day when there was hope of battle, but this time everyone was expecting it. Hearing this noise the dukes of Berry and Brittany, whom I only ever saw armed on this day, arrived. The duke of Berry was fully armed. They had few men with them. Thus they passed through the camp and went a little way outside to find my lords of Charolais and Calabria and spoke together. The scouts, who were reinforced, went very close to Paris and saw many [royal] scouts who had been sent out to learn the reason for this disturbance in our army.

Our artillery fired heavily as soon as my lord of Lau’s men had come close to us. The King had good artillery on the walls at Paris which fired several shots as far as our army, which was a remarkable feat for it was two leagues away. But I am pretty sure that they had elevated the muzzles of the cannons very high. The sound of this artillery convinced everyone on both sides that some great enterprise was afoot. It was very gloomy and cloudy and our scouts, who had got very close to Paris, saw several scouts and further off apparently a great number of lances upright, and they thought that it was all the royal troops in the field, together with all the people of Paris; this illusion was caused by the darkness of the weather.

They retired straight away to the lords who were outside the camp and told them the news and assured them about the army. The scouts who had come out of Paris came closer on seeing the withdrawal of ours and this made their report more credible. Then the duke of Calabria came up to the place where the standard of the count of Charolais was set up and where the majority of his leading retainers were ready to accompany it and to display his banner and his coat of arms, as was the custom of his house. Then Duke John said to us all, ‘Well then, we have now all got what we have wanted. Look there, the King and all the people have sallied from the town, and they are coming on as our scouts report! For this reason may all take courage and as they march out we shall measure them by the measure of the town, which is a great measure!’ So he went about encouraging the company.

Our scouts had cheered up a little on seeing that the others were few, and they approached the town again and found the troops still at the place where they had left them, which caused them to think again. They approached them as closely as they could. The day had brightened up a little by this time and become clearer. They found that the ‘troops’ were huge thistles, and they went right up to the gates and they did not find anyone outside. They sent to tell the lords who went off to hear Mass and dine. Those who had brought the news were ashamed, but they were partly excused by the weather and by what the page hd said in the night.

  •  Antoine de Castelnau, d. 1484.

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.