Thursday, May 11, 2017

A memorable time in the life of Jean de Chateaumorand

I love the Chronicle of the Good Duke.

The Chronicle is a biography of Duke Louis of Bourbon, who was a close relative of the French kings during the Hundred Years War. In 1429, when bad dukes had prostrated France before the English invaders, it became useful to remember what Good Dukes were like, and this text was commissioned. The writer was no genius, but he had access to an old French soldier, Jean de Chateaumorand, who fifty years earlier (!) had fought as part of Duke Louis' military household, and who remembered well what it was like in the Golden Age of Chivalry, which I have no doubt he thought the wars he fought next to the Good Duke were. I have been translating the Chronicle for a good long time, and I am almost done. As I review my translation, I keep running across passages that remind me of why I like this book. The Chateaumorand sections are particularly evocative. Here are a couple of passages that show the ups and downs of late 14th century warfare. We begin with a short notice of the death of Jean de Chateaumorand, bastard. The brother of the other Chateaumorand? Perhaps. But this tragedy did not overwhelm the memory of Jean the squire, who as banner-bearer for the Good Duke, played an important leadership role in the taking of the strategic castle of La Roche Senadoire, which was held by Englishmen who ravaged the countryside.
Chapter XXXII Then the duke went before Amburs, a very fine place, where there were a good 80 combatants, and on arrival he fought a big skirmish, for those inside came out, and there was a fine skirmish with lances and swords between the two sides; and there Sir Girart de Grantvau, a good man of his body, was wounded and Jean the bastard of Châteaumorand was killed. But in this skirmish there were /(95)taken eight men at arms from those of the fort who had more authority, and four killed; and the duke of Bourbon on the morrow had those eight led before him to have their heads cut off, if they did not surrender the place, and they were quite able to do it, for they had it under guard and preferred to live than to die in such a manner. So they surrendered Amburs to the duke of Bourbon, both their bodies and the place.

Inside of one hour the duke of Bourbon and his men made to leave and go to Tracros; and those men who he sent before encountered the English of Tracros, great adventurers who had come to defeatethem and were overthrown by the duke's men, who came in haste before the place, and it was late when they arrived there. That night the duke of Bourbon, who had come there, set the guard from the men of his household and said to Jean de Châteaumorand: 'Take my pennon, and go all around the place so that no one sallies out." He carried out his order, and that night had many a talk between the dukes people and those of the fort that they should surrender, or when they were taken they would be hanged by the neck because they were men of evil renown.

So they talked until Gourdinot warden of the Place surrendered to Jean de Châteaumorand, squire, who carried the pennon of the duke of Bourbon; and at this hour, which was not the day, it was announced to the duke, so it please him, the treaty which the men of his household had made; and he answered that it pleased him well, because he still had great deeds to do. The one who spoke about this to the duke was Châteaumorand, who asked him to be willing to give the movable goods in the fortress to the people of his household, which the duke did freely and that/(96) Gourdinot, who had surrendered to him, should remain his prisoner and this he granted to him. On the morrow Gourdinot and his men of Tracros, who were not but 16 men at arms, were all prisoners. Inside were 200 marks of silver, of which 100 were in chalices from churches which they had thoroughly robbed. So the duke said that he wished to have the chalices, and he would generously recompense the companions. The duke of Bourbon moved by pity sent the chalices to the city of Clermont and had it announced to all the churches which had lost their chalices, that someone should come to Clermont, and they would be given back, and it was done.

... Chapter XXXIII There the duke of Bourbon seeing his knights and the squires of his household and country, and all the men at arms, who were ready to undertake any risk, destroy the palisade and garrison and proceed in force triumphantly, was overjoyed. During this melee, the pennon of the duke of Bourbon continually carried by Jean de Châteaumorand passed through the breach in the palisade, with those who followed him. Then the English who saw this, did not know what to do, outside of retreating into the fort/(102) and while they retreated the pennon rushed forward with the valiant men; and in this retreat of the English, who ran away, there were killed and taken a good fourscore of the better men at arms from inside, for the captains, of whom in one of the two places Nolimbarbe retreated on the right-hand and the other on the left-hand which was stronger, led to retreat the captain Sir Robert Chennel, Jacques Bardenay, the son Sir Jehan Jouel, Thomelin Maulevrier, Sir Richard Credo, son of the mayor of London. While they retreated from certain lodgings which were high up, to go to their fort, the pennon of the duke of Bourbon and the people of his household charged them so close that as they entered the tower, the pennon of the duke of Bourbon rushed among them very well accompanied, so that those Englishman were not able to close the door of the tower, and so they surrendered to the one who carried the pennon of the duke of Bourbon. The prisoners who surrendered to him were Sir Robert Chennel, captain, and so that very strong place was delivered.

In this way the pennon of the duke of Bourbon with his companions namely Sir le Barrois, Bonnebault, Sir Gaulchier de Passac, the lord of Cordebeuf, the Borgne de Veaulce, Sir Odin de Rollat, Sir Phelippe Choppart, the lord of Billy, Jehan lord of Chaugy, Phelippe Berault, Michaille, the bastard of Glarains and five or six others of the household of the duke of Bourbon, with his pennon, headed over to one of the other /(103) towers where they found already before it a great party of people of Auvergne who were climbing up there, and the Lord of Montmorin who was a valiant knight, and who had a fine company, and Geraud, Lord of Laqueuilhe, accompanied by good people and who was a valiant man, the Lord de Lafayette and others who were advanced by the advice of the lords who had held very close to the English when they had arrived there so that the English could not flee.

But when the English saw the pennon of the duke of Bourbon approach them, the captain Nolimbarbe surrendered with all of his companions to the duke of Bourbon. So was La Roche Senadoire taken without a word of a lie.

Leaving there, the duke of Bourbon sent to Clermont six English captains to hold them as prisoners in the tower of Monnoye, about which the people of Clermont were very happy and joyful and the Duke and his people and those of Auvergne rode to Saint Angel, a place which had done much evil. They remained there a day, thinking to treat with them, but those in the castle did not want to listen. Then it was noticed that the abbey was covered by wooden shingles, thereupon they fired several incendiaries, so that it spread throughout its buildings, and all the English horses were burned up and some of their valets. The men at arms retreated into a tower that was there, where they had nothing to eat. It was impossible to take it by force, for it was very well built; in which attempt a young knight, whom the Duke of Bourbon loved well, was killed: Messire Jean de Digoine, who hailed from Clermont. In the end, those of the Tower surrendered to the Duke of Bourbon on the condition of keeping their lives. So the Duke vouchesafed them, sending Châteaumorand with his pennon to the tower, and each of the English came out with their weapons in hand.
Note how Jean -- who later on became quite an important man -- identifies himself with the Duke and the Duke's pennon. He still is enormously proud of his association with the Good Duke.

Image: This is NOT Jean de Chateaumorand with the Good Duke's pennon.

No comments:

Post a Comment