The king of France having recieved information of the expeditions and conquests that the earl of Derby had made in Gascony, issued a special summons for all nobles, and others, that were capable of bearing arms, to assemble in the cities of Orleans and Bourges, and in that neighbourhood, by a certain day. In obedience to that summons, there came to Paris, Eudes duke of Burgundy, and his son the earl of Artois and Boulogne: they presented themselves before the king with a thousand lances. Next came the duke of Bourbon, the earl of Ponthieu and his brother; then the earl of Eu and of Guines, constable of Franceattended by a numerous body of men at arms. the earl of Tancarville, the dauphine of Auvergnethe earl of Foréts, Dammartin, Vendôme; the lords of Coucy, of Craon, of Sully, of Fresnes, of Beaujeu, of Roye, the bishop of Beauvais, the lord John of Châlons, and many others, assembled at Orleans; and all those from the west side of the Loire; those from the eastern side and beyond Poitou, Saintongue, la Rochelle, Quercy, Limosin, Auvergne, assembled in the neighbourhood of Toulouse. These all advanced towards Rouergue, where they foud great multitudfes collected in the coty of Rodez, and on the borders of Auvergne and Provence. At last these lords were all assembled, with their men, in and near Toulouse, for they were too great in numbers to be lodged in the city; they amounted, in the whole, to upwards of a hundred thousand persons. This was the year of grace 1345. Soon after the feast of Christmas, the duke of Normandy, who was the commander in chief of this army, set out to join it, and ordered his marshals, the lord of Montmorency, and the lord of St. Venant, to advance with the van. they came first to the castle of Miraumont, which the English had conquered in the summer, and most vigorously assaulted it. There were within it about a hundred Englishmen for its defense, under the command of John Briscoe.
With the French were the lord Lewis of Spain, and a number of Genoese cross-bowmen, that spared none; those within could not defend themselves against so superior a force, but were taken, and the greater part of them slain, even their captain. The marshals, having recruited their battalion with fresh men, advanced further, and came before Villefranche, in the county of Agenois. The army halted there, and surrounded it on all sides. Sir Thomas Cook, the governor, was not there, but at Bordeaux, whither the earl of Derby had sent for him. However, those within made a vigorous defense: but, in the end, they were taken by storm, and the greater art of the garrison put to the sword. The army then marched towards the city of Angoulême, leaving the town and castle of Villefranche undemolished, and without any guard, the city of Angoulême was closely besieged; and the governor of it for the king of England was sir John Norwich.
The earl of Derby, who was at Bordeaux, heard of the arrival of this great army from France, and that they had already recaptured Miraumont, and Villefranche, which they had plundered and burnt, except the citadel. Having sent for four of his knights, in whom he placed much confidence, he ordered them to take sixty men at arms and three hundred archers, and set out for Villefranche to gain possession of the castle, which was empty, and put it, as well as the gates of the town, into good repair: if the French should come to attack them, to make a good defence, for he should hasten to their assisstance, let it cost what it would. These knights did according to their orders, and their names were sir Stephen Tombey, sir Richard Heydon, sir Richard Hastings, and sir Normant de Finefroide. The earl then requested the earl of Pembroke, sir Walter Manny, sir Frank van Halle, sir Thomas Cook, sir John Touchet, sir Richard Beauvais1, sir Philip Radcliffe, sir Robert Neville, sir Thomas Bisset, and many other knights and squires, that they would immediately set off to defend Aiguillon, for he should be much displeased if he lost that town. They departed, in number about fourty knights and squires, and three hundred men at arms and archers. They got into the castle of Aiguillon, where they found about six score brother soldiers, whom the earl of Derby had left there. They laid in a sufficient stock of meal, and other sorts of provisions. As the four first-mentioned khights were on their road to Villefranche, they collected a quantity of cattle, sheep, corn, and all other provision, which they drove before them to Villefranche. They entered the castle, and repaierd its walls, as well as those of the town, and were upwards of fifteen hundred fighting men, well supplied, with provisions for six months.
The duke of Normandy was a long time before Angoulême; and, when he found that he made no impression by his assaults, so well was it defended, but he lost may of his people every day, he ordered them to cease from their attacks, and to take up their quarters nearer the city. One day during this siege, the seneschal of Beaucaire came to the duke, and said, "Sir, I am very well aquainted with all this country and, if you will let me have six hundred men at arms, I will make an excursion, in search of cattle and provision; for very shortly, if we remain here, we shall be in need of both." This was very agreeable to the duke and his council; and on the morrow morning, the senescal took those knights and squires who were desirous of advancement. Among those who placed themselves under his command were the duke of Bourbon, his brother the earl of Ponthieu, the earls of Tancarville, Foréts, the dauphine of Auvergne, the lords of Pons, of Partenay, of Coucy, of Daubigny, of Aussemont, of Beaujeu, sir Guiscard d'Angle, the lord of Saintré, and many others, to the amount of nine hundred lances. Towards the evening they mounted their horses, and riding all night, came about dawn to a large town called Athenis2, which had but lately surrendered to the English. A spy came to the seneschal, and informed him that in the town there were six score men at arms, Gascons and English, and three hundred archers, who would defend themselves well, if they were attacked; "but," added the spy, "I have observed that their cattle are without the town; and in a medow underneath it are two hundred large beasts feeding." The seneschal then addressed himself to his companions, and said, "Gentlemen, I think it most adviseable that you should remain in this valley; I will go, with sixty men, to collect the booty, which I will drive this way; and I am mistaken, if the English do not sally out, thinkking to rescue them, which will throw them into your power." This was executed; and the seneschal, accompanied by sixty companions well mounted, rode through the bye roads round the town, until he came to the fine meads, where the cattle were pasturing. He then separated his companions, for them to collect the beasts together, and drive them under the walls of the town by a different road.
The watch on the walls and on the castle, seeing this, began to make a great noise, and to sound the alarm to awaken their fellow-soldiers and the townsmen; for, as it was very early, many were asleep: they immediately began to stir, and, saddeling their horses, assembled in the market-place. They came there as well armed as they could, and left none in the town but servants. the English were very eager in the pursuit, to recover their cattle, crying out to the French, "You must not think to get off so." The seneschal hastened the more, so that the English fell into the ambuscade, which attacked them; and, through their disorder they were in by their two great eagerness, in the space of an hour they were all overcome. Their captain, sir Stephen Lacy, was made a prisoner, as well as though who, through apoint of honour, were around him: the rest were slain. the french then made for the town, which they entered fy storm; for there were none to defend it. The first battalion which entered was that of the duke of Bourbon. These lords took possession of it; and, having placed a new garrison and governor, and they set out with all their booty and prisoners, and returned next day to the army before Angoulême. Notwithstanding there were many greater lords in this expedition than the seneschal of Beaucaire, he had all the honour and glory of it.