Soon after the deliverance of the king of Navarre out of prison, a marvellous and great tribulation befel the kingdom of France, in Beauvoisis, Brie, upon the river Marne, in the Laonnois, and in the neighbourhood of Soissons. Some of the inhabitants of the country towns assembled together in Beauvoisis, without any leader: they were not at first more than one hundred men. They said, that the nobles of the kingdom of France, knights, and squires, were a disgrace to it, and that it would be a very meritorious act to destroy them all: to which proposition every one assented, as a truth, and added, shame befal him that should be the means of preventing the gentlemen from being wholly destroyed. They then, without further council, collected themselves in a body, and with no other arms than the staves shod with iron, which some had, and others with knives, marched to the house of a knight who lived near, and breaking it open, murdered the knight, his lady, and all the children, both great and small; they then burnt the house.
After this, their second expedition was to the strong castle of another knight, which they took, and, having tied him to a stake, many of them violated his wife and daughter before his eyes: they then murdered the lady, her daughter, and the other children, and last of all the knight himself, with much cruelty. They destroyed and burnt his castle. They did the like to many castles and handsome houses; and their numbers increased so much, that they were in a short time upwards of six thousand: wherever they went, they received additions, for all of their rank in life followed them, whilst every one else fled, carrying off with them their ladies, damsels, and children, ten or twenty leagues distant, where they thought they could place them in security, leaving their houses, with all their riches in them.
These wicked people, without leader and without arms, plundered and burnt all the houses they came to, murdered every gentleman, and violated every lady and damsel they could find. He who committed the most atrocious actions, and such as no human creature would have imagined, was the most applauded, and considered as the greatest man among them. I dare not write the horrible and inconceivable atrocities they committed on the persons of the ladies.
Among other infamous acts, they murdered a knight; and having fastened him to a spit, roasted him before the eyes of his wife and his children, and, after ten or twelve had violated her, they forced her to eat some of her husbandís flesh, and then knocked her brains out. They had chosen a king among them, who came from Clermont in Beauvoisis: he was elected as the worst of the bad, and they denominated him James Goodman1. These wretches burnt and destroyed in the country of Beauvoisis, and at Corbie, Amiens, and Montdidier, upwards of sixty good houses and strong castles. By the acts of such traitors in the country of Brie and thereabout, it behoved every lady, knight, and squire, having the means of escape, to fly to Meaux, if they wished to preserve themselves from being insulted, and afterwards murdered. The duchess of Normandy, the duchess of Orleans, and many other ladies, had adopted this course to save themselves from violation. These cursed people thus supported themselves in the countries between Paris, Noyon, and Soissons, and in all the territory of Coucy in the county of Valois. In the bishoprics of Noyon, Laon, and Soissons, there were upwards of one hundred castles and good houses of knights and squires destroyed.