Thursday, March 28, 2013

The other account of the deeds at Vannes – a treat for my faithful readers

I have been too busy and distracted to do much with this blog recently. For those who have been checking this space in vain, I offer the other account of the famous deeds of arms at Vannes, so well known in the version by Froissart. There is a second version, told through an intermediary by one of the French combatants at the deed. It's a somewhat less friendly account of competition between English and French knights. Just because a participant tells the story, we do not necessarily have to take it at face value. The story is being retold 50 years after the event! Eventually this translation, which is mine, will appear in a book called Will a Frenchman Fight? The book will discuss how chivalric deeds of arms fit into practical warfare in the 1380s. (I have also discussed these events in my book Deeds of Arms.) In the meantime the truly dedicated can compare this account with the more famous one.

Deeds of Arms at Vannes (From the Chronicle of the Good Duke)

XLIII How the earl of Buckingham raised the siege of Nantes and how the fifteen English did not perform their arms with fifteen Frenchmen.

 Charles King of France in honor of his coronation made many knights of whom he had many in Nantes who grandly held steady with their companions against the English. The earl of Buckingham who saw this weakness among his people and no advantage to continuing his siege of Nantes, had the intention to raise his siege for this reason; but he delayed it somewhat because fifteen men at arms of the household of the duke of Bourbon had proposed a battle on an island near Nantes with another fifteen English men at arms in the household of the earl of Buckingham, to fight to the end with no judges but only two heralds, one of France, the other of England. And this was promised and sworn, but failed on account of English as you have heard. And this enterprise cost the duke of Bourbon three thousan francs in harness and equipment that he had sent to his people every day for the space of three weeks; and the fifteen in the household of the duke of Bourbon did nothing but insist that the English hold this fight, but the English led them on by words, and told them "wait, wait, we will tell you right away." Thereupon, the earl of Buckingham seeing a great loss of his English from dysentery, one evening decamped with all his people and the next day in the morning, the fifteen English sent by a herald to the fifteen French of the household of the duke of Bourbon that they would not hold the battle there, but if they wished to come to Vannes, where their master the earl had come, they would accomplish their arms. The fifteen of the duke of Bourbon gave no other response except to say to the herald that if the duke of Brittany wanted to give them good security that they would come and accomplish them there. And so the earl of Buckingham left the siege of Nantes without having done anything to his advantage, and his Englishmen rode towards Vannes. And after them sallied out the French captains, Messire Jean de Chastelmorand, Messire le Barrois, Messire Pierre de Bueil, and the marshal of Savoy, who were a good eight hundred men at arms who harassed and held the English close and took much of the baggage train before they got to Vannes. And the French retired to Chastel-Josselin, where the Lord of Clisson, the new constable of France, had come, and asked him leave to depart for those of the garrison of Nantes to go to their masters. The Constable told them no, insisting that they should wait until the English embarked on the sea and in the meantime the fifteen of the household of the duke of Bourbon who had turned back to Nantes in the garrison with the others sent to the English fifteen that they should appear to fulfill their promise and that thereupon they should send them good guarantees from the earl of Buckingham their master and from the duke of Brittany and they would willingly come there. So a herald carried the safe conducts to Messire Jean de Chastelmorand, to Barrois and their companions, and that with them they would be able to bring forty gentlemen to accompany them and gave willingly the safe conducts believing that the fifteen French ought not go there at all; but notwithstanding the safe conduct the fifteen sent Cordellier de Gironne, a squire of the household squires of the king of France, to the earl of Buckingham and to the duke of Brittany for the guarantee, and he brought it and the fifteen companions went with Cordellier to Vannes to the duke of Brittany and to the earl of Buckingham there presents, and to notify them that they had come all ready to accomplish that which had been promised, the next day after their mass.

 XLIV How five noble Frenchmen performed arms at Vannes against five noble Englishmen and what happened.

The earl of Buckingham, seeing that this was in earnest had great counsel with the duke of Brittany to about what should be done. And the response which the earl of Buckingham made was that his people were not up to the mark, and it had been a year since he left England and also that he and his people had been at siege before Nantes for three months, for which reason their harness was very deteriorated. For this reason he was not in favor of performing arms especially to extremities but he had thought to give his advice to some of his servants that if there was any from the household of the duke of Bourbon who wished to perform specified arms, to this he agreed willingly. So the companions of the agreement were much amazed and infuriated thinking that they would not fight at all. So they decided that they should not hold to them but it would be good to do something of the sort for which they had come there and they should take what the English were offering. The arms which the English wished to do were five blows of the lance, five of the sword, five of the axe, five of the dagger, all on foot; and it was granted to them. And the next day early in the morning there were but five Englishmen who wished to perform arms and from the people of the duke of Bourbon another five: namely Jean de Chastelmorand, Messire le Barrois, the bastard of Glarains, the viscount of Aunay, Messire Tristan de la Jaille; and the five English were Messire Walter Cloppeton, Edward de Beauchamp, Messire Thomas de Hennefort, Brisselai, and Messire Jehan de Traro. All the companions standing on the field where the duke of Brittany and the earl of Buckingham were accompanied by their people. The first to perform arms from the French was Jean de Chastelmorand against Walter Cloppeton Cloppeton, an Englishman, of which they were not able to do more than three blows of the lance on foot, four for Messire Walter Cloppeton was wounded by the lance right through, between the lames and the piece, and it passed through as he fell to the earth and of those two there were only these three blows, for Cloppeton was carried off. Messire le Barrois, who was armed, entered the field to perform arms against his companion, Thomas de Hennefort, who entered the field likewise and they did their five blows with the lance very chivalrously; and when it came to swords, when they attacked at the first blow of the sword Le Barrois wounded the Englishman between the piece and the gardebras and damaged the mail and pierced the shoulder completely so that it was necessary to lead off the Englishman without doing more arms. Then came the bastard of Glarains and Edward Beauchamp and when it came to combat with lances Edward Beauchamp turned his shoulder a little and so much that the bastard of Glarains twice knocked him to the ground with two blows of the lance, notwithstanding that he was large of body and a good gentleman and then the Englishmen said that Beauchamp was dronch, that is to say, drunk. They picked him up and led him away. Then came Messire Tristan de la Jaille to his English companion and they accomplished all of their arms up to the axes; and when this came to strike Messire Tristan knocked down his Englishman with the second axe blow, and badly wounded him and that was it. The Viscount d’Aunay came into the field to his companion who performed his arms beautifully, but the Viscount wounded the Englishmen with last blow of the lance, between the avant-bras and the garde-bras, and pierced the arm right through, so that he did no more. And so were the arms accomplished that day in which the five noble men, the French companions, had the better of it, and the five noble Englishmen the worse as you have seen above.

XLV How the arms having been accomplished Messire Guillaume Farintonne, an Englishmen and Jean de Chastelmorand fought and what happened; and how the knight was put in prison and how Chastelmorand said some fine words.

The Duke of Brittany and the Earl of Buckingham, who had seen these arms, retired to their houses, and the French disarmed themselves; and because it was almost night the duke of Brittany sent one of his knights, maître d' hôtel, to summon them 's to to supper with him. They conceded it to him as they had been in his city and all those who had performed arms came to supper and the duke of Brittany highly honored them, making them all sit at his table and serving them very grandly. And on the removal of the table came a knight, fair and grand, named Guillaume Farrington, who urged Chastelmorand to perform arms that Messire Walter Cloppeton, his cousin German, had hardly been able to accomplish. So Chastelmorand agreed with him that if it pleased the duke of Brittany, but he did not wish to allow it and it infuriated him most feloniously against his English knight, who had come to make demands at his table. But Chastelmorand begged so much to the duke of Brittany that the next day at sunrise he was armed in the field against the one who had demanded it, to accomplish this, and more which he had not demanded, because it was necessary for his companions to mount up the next day. And when they were together in the field the English knight had no armor at all on his legs for he had a disease in one knee, on account of which he was not able to arm himself there, and they sent via Cordellier de Gironne to urge Chastelmorand that they should not have more armor on the legs and they should guarantee not to strike at uncovered areas. This having been done the two knights in the field struck lances and with that stroke did their duty well; at the second blow they came strongly together, and the Englishmen, Messire Guillaume, struck Messire Jean de Chastelmorand on the arms and Chastelmorand struck the Englishmen under the cincture and so much so that Messire Guillaume Farrington fell to one knee, and put a hand to the ground; and the third blow of the lances they came in contact strongly against each other but when it came to the clash Messire Guillaume lowered his lance and crouched a little from which he pierced Messire Jean de Chastelmorand right through the thigh, and it was advisable to carry him to his hôtel; on account of this blow there was a great cry from the company present seeing that the English knight had promised not to make an attempt by arms on uncovered areas, especially in the legs. And then the duke of Brittany and the earl of Buckingham who had seen this impropriety had the Englishman Messire Guillaume taken, and disarmed to his little pourpoint and went to have him hurled in prison and they said to le Barrois cousin german of Chastelmorand: "Go to Chastelmorand and tell him that we are very unhappy and indeed infuriated that this knight has failed to do what he had promised and we are delivering him to Chastelmorand to be his prisoner, to put him to such ransom as pleases him and between you his friends if Chastelmorand dies you can do what you like to that knight." This was considered very just on the part of the lords to maintain their sureties and safe conducts. So Chastelmorand heard the response from Le Barrois and Cordellier de Gironne, to which Chastelmorand answered that he thanked heartily the earl of Buckingham and the duke of Brittany for the good reason and justice which he found in their lordships and that he would prefer that Farrington had damaged his honor over him than that he, Chastelmorand, should have damaged his over him. "And when you inform me that he ought to be my prisoner I thank you humbly and please you to know that when we came from our side before you to perform arms with your surety and safe conduct neither my companions nor I came motivated by avarice nor covetousness and it would turn to my dishonor to wish take ransom from your knight for which I beg you to let him out from prison and do what you please, for the deed of arms involves risk. And you well know that Messire the duke of Bourbon to whom we belong gives us what we need and he, who sends us out in the world to acquire honor, would be discontented with this covetousness." And the Englishmen and the Bretons found these words to be very honorable and the earl of Buckingham sent to Chastelmorand a goblet of gold and 150 nobles; but Chastelmorand returned the gold coins to him, letting him know that he had enough money for his affairs. So he kept the goblet to drink from for the sake of his honor. At that time Chastelmorand told his companions that they should not delay riding back for him. For he did not think himself in such bad shape that he could not follow their trot. 

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