The knights and squires who had taken the lord of Gomegines and overthrown all those who had followed him out of the village, did not wish to lose time, but, putting spurs to their horses, galloped into the above-mentioned village, calling out, “Roye, for the lord of Roye!” Those who were there were much alarmed at this cry, and surprised to find their enemies so near them, as they were chiefly disarmed and scattered about so that they could not rally nor collect together. The French made prisoners of them at their pleasure, in houses, barns, and ovens: and the canon de Robersart had many who surrendered themselves to him, because his banners were better known than those of the others. It is true, indeed, that some of them retreated to a small fortified house, surrounded by a moat, which is situate in this village of Harcigny, and consulted among themselves whether to defend it until the king of England, who was before Rheims, might hear of their disaster, (for the mansion could very soon be made strong enough to enable them to hold out,) when they thought, that as soon as he should know of their situation, he would without doubt send forces to relieve them. Some, however, hesitated, as the house was in an open country, and they were surrounded by their enemies. Whilst they were thus debating, the lord of Roye and his companions came before it, and said to them: “Listen, gentlemen; if you force us to make the slightest assault, we will not suffer any one of you to escape death; for, if we begin, we will continue the attack until we take it.” These and such-like words threw them into confusion; and even the boldest were alarmed: they surrendered, therefore, on having their lives spared. They were all made prisoners, and sent to the castle of Coucy, and the other garrisons from whence the French had marched. This disaster happened to the lord of Gomegines and his party about Christmas, 1359. When the king of England was informed of it, he was mightily enraged; but he could not amend it.
We will now return to the siege of Rheims, and speak of an adventure which happened to sir Bartholomew Burghersh, who had laid siege to the town and castle of Cormicy, in which there was a knight of Champagne, whose name was sir Henry de Vaulx; he wore black armour, and bore for arms five almonds argent on a field sable: his war-cry was “Viane2.”
During this siege of Rheims, the earls, barons, and great lords were quartered in the neighbourhood, as you have before heard, in order to prevent any provision being carried into that city. Among them was sir Bartholomew Burghersh, a great baron of England: he and his suite, with his company of archers and men at arms, were lodged near Cormicy, where there is a very handsome castle belonging to the archbishop of Rheims, who had put into it the knight before-mentioned, with many good companions, to guard it against their enemies. They were far from fearing any attack; for the castle had a large square tower, whose walls were very thick, and it was well furnished with arms of defence.
When sir Bartholomew had surrounded this castle, and, by well reconnoitering its strength, found he could not take it by assault, he ordered a number of miners, whom he had with him in his pay, to get themselves ready and do their duty in undermining the fortress, when he would reward them handsomely: upon which they replied, they would cheerfully undertake it. The miners immediately broke ground, and, having lodged themselves in their mine, worked night and day; insomuch that they advanced far under the great tower; and, as they pushed forward, they propped up the work, that those within knew nothing of it. When they had thus completed their mine so that they could throw down the tower when they chose, they came to sir Bartholomew Burghersh, and said to him: “Sir, we have carried our works so far that this tower, great as it is, shall be thrown down whenever you please.” “It is well,” replied sir Bartholomew, “but do nothing more without my orders:” to which they willingly consented. The knight immediately mounted his steed; and taking John de Guistelles3 with him, who was one of his companions, they advanced to the castle, and sir Bartholomew made a signal that he wished to have a parley with those within. Upon this, sir Henry came forward on the battlements, and demanded what he wanted. “I want you to surrender,” replied sir Bartholomew, “or you will be all infallibly destroyed.” “By what means?” answered the French knight, who began to laugh; “we are perfectly well supplied with every thing; and you wish us thus simply to surrender: certainly it shall not be to-day,” added sir Henry. “Certainly,” said the English knight, “if you were truly informed what your situation is, you would surrender instantly, without more words.” “Why, what is our situation?” demanded sir Henry. “If you will come out, upon my assurance of your safety, I will show you,” replied sir Bartholomew. Sir Henry accepted the condition, and came out of the fortress, with only three others, to sir Bartholomew and John de Guistelles, who immediately conducted them to the mine, and showed them that the great tower was only supported on props of wood.
When the French knight saw the peril he and his garrison were in, he told sir Bartholomew, that he had very good reasons for what he had said, and that his proceedings were truly gallant and noble: “We shall therefore surrender ourselves to your will.” Sir Bartholomew took them all his prisoners, made them leave the tower one after the other with their baggage, and then set fire to the mine. The timber was soon on fire; and when the props were burnt, the tower, which was extremely large, opened in two places, and fell on the opposite side to where sir Bartholomew was standing, who said to sir Henry and the garrison of the fortress, “Now, see if I did not tell you the truth.” “We own it, sir,” replied they, “and remain prisoners at your pleasure. We also return you our best thanks for you kindness to us; for if the Jacquerie, who formerly overran this country, had had the same advantage over us that you have, they would not have acted so generously.” Thus were all the garrison of Cormicy made prisoners, and the castle thrown to the ground.
The king of England remained before Rheims for upwards of seven weeks, but never made any assault upon it, as it would have been useless. He began to tire; and as his army found great difficulties in obtaining forage and provision, their horses perished. He broke up his camp, and marched off towards Châlons, in Champagne, in the same order as before. The king and his army passed very near to Châlons, and sat down before Bar-sur-Aube, and afterwards before the city of Troyes. He took up his quarters at Mery-sur-Seine4.
The whole army lay between Mery and Troyes, which is reckoned to be eight leagues distant from each other. Whilst he was at Mery-sur-Seine, his constable5, who commanded always the van battalion, advanced and came before St. Florentin6, which was under the command of sir Odoart de Rency; and, after having displayed his banner, (which was blazoned, or and azure, a chief pally, and at each of the two corners girons, and an escutcheon argent in the midst of the shield,) before the gate of the fortress, made a fierce attack on it, but in vain. The king of England and his whole army came and took up their quarters at Saint Florentin and the neighbourhood, on the banks of the river Armançon7. When they marched from thence, they came before Tonnerre8, which was so briskly attacked, the town was won, but not the castle. The English, however, found in that town upwards of three thousand butts of wine, which were of great service to them.
At this period, the lord de Fiennes, constable of France, was in the city of Auxerre9 with a number of men at arms.