About this period, a Franciscan friar, full of knowledge and understanding1, was at Avignon: his name was John de Rochetaillade: and Pope Innocent VI. kept him a prisoner in the castle of Baignoux, not only on account of the great prophecies he made of the times to come, chiefly and principally relating to the heads and prelates of the holy church, by reason of their pride and the expensive life they led, but also concerning the kingdom of France, and the great lords of Christendom, for their heavy oppressions on the common people. The above-mentioned John was willing to prove all he said from the Apocalypse, and by the ancient books of the holy prophets, which were opened to him through the grace of the Holy Ghost, by which he uttered things that were difficult to be credited. Some of the predictions he had made were seen to come to pass within the time, which he never could have foretold as a prophet but by means of the ancient Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit, that had given him the power of understanding these ancient prophecies, and of announcing to all Christians the year and time when they were to be fulfilled.
He made many books, full of much science and learning. One was written in the year 1346, which contained many marvellous things, difficult of belief, but of which some had come to pass already. When he was questioned concerning the war against France, he answered, that what they had seen was nothing, to what was to happen; for there would be no peace until the realm of France was destroyed and ruined from one end to the other2. This indeed happened afterwards; for that kingdom was completely spoiled at the time the friar had fixed, in the years 1356, 1357, 1358, and 1359; insomuch that none of its princes or gentlemen dared to show themselves against those of the low estate collected from all parts, and who had arrived, one after the other, without leader or chief, whilst the country had not any means of resisting them. They elected (as you have before seen), in different parts of the country, captains from among themselves, to whom they paid obedience. The captains, when they enrolled any man in their companies, made certain agreements with them respecting their shares of booty and the ransoms of prisoners: they found so much pillage, that all the leaders became rich from the great wealth they amassed.
King Edward was lodged at Bourg-la-Reine, two short leagues from Paris, and his army in different parts between that and Montlhery3. He sent from thence his heralds to the Duke of Normandy in Paris, who had with him a great number of men at arms, to offer him battle: but the duke would not accede to it. His messengers, therefore, returned without having done anything. When the king found that his enemies would not venture out of Paris, he was mightily enraged: upon which that good knight, sir Walter Manny, stepped forth and besought his lord that he would permit him to make an excursion and assault as far as the barriers of Paris. The king consented to his request, and named himself those knights that should accompany him. He made also many new knights on the occasion; among whom were the lord Delawarre, the lord de Silvacier, sir Thomas Banaster4, sir William Torceaux, sir Thomas le Despensier, sir John Neville, sir Richard Dostmay, and many others. Colart d’Ambreticourt, son of sir Nicholas, would have been of the number; for the king was desirous of it, as he was attached to his person and squire of his body; but the young man excused himself, by saying he could not find his helmet.
Sir Walter Manny set out on his enterprise, and carried with him these new knights to skirmish and make an attack on the barriers of Paris. Many hard blows were given and received; for there were within the city several valiant knights and squires, who would willingly have sallied forth, if the duke of Normandy had given his consent. They, however, guarded the gates and barriers so well that no damage was done to them. This skirmish lasted until twelve o’clock, and many were killed on both sides. Sir Walter then retreated with his people to their quarters, where they remained together that day and the following night. On the morrow, the king dislodged, and took the road to Montlhery.
When the camp was breaking up, some English and Gascon knights planned the following enterprise. They thought, that as there were so many knights in Paris, some of them would sally out after them; and some young adventurers would endeavour to gain, by their valour, both honour and booty. They therefore placed two hundred picked men, well armed, in an old empty house, three leagues from Paris. The chiefs of the Gascon party were, the captal de Buch, sir Aymery de Pommiers, and the lord de Courton: on the English, the lord Neville, the lord Mowbray, and sir Richard de Pontchardon. These six knights were the leaders of this ambuscade.
When the French who were within Paris perceived that the king of England was decamping, some young knights collected together, and said among themselves: “It will be a good thing for us to sally out secretly, and follow a while the army of England, to see if we cannot gain something.” They were all instantly of this opinion, so that sir Raoul de Coucy, sir Raoul de Ravenal, the lord de Monsault, the lord de Helay, the constable of Beauvais, le bègue de Villaines, the lord de Beausiers, the lord of Ulbarin, sir Gauvain de Valouel, sir Flamant de Roye, sir Azelles de Cavilly, sir Peter de Fermoises, Peter de Savoisies, and upwards of a hundred lances with them, sallied out well mounted, with a thorough good will to do something; but they must first find the occasion. They took the road to Bourg-la-Reine, which they passed, and gained the open fields, when they followed the track of the cavalry and army of England, and rode beyond the ambuscade of the captal and his company.
They were no sooner passed than the English and Gascons marched out of it, after them, with their lances in their rests, shouting their war-cry. The French turned about, wondering who they could be: but they soon found they were their enemies. They immediately halted, and drew themselves up in battle array, and, with couched spears, prepared to meet the English and Gascons, who soon joined them. At this first onset many were unhorsed on each side, for both parties were well mounted. After this tilting-bout, they drew their swords and attacking each other more closely, many hard blows were given, and many gallant deeds performed. — This attack lasted a considerable time, and the ground was so well disputed, that it was difficult to say which of the two would be conqueror. The captal de Buch shone particularly, and did with his hand many deeds worthy so good a knight. In the end, however, the English and Gascons fought so valiantly, that the field remained to them: they were more than half as many again as the French.
The lord of Campreny showed himself a valiant knight on the side of the French, and fought gallantly under his banner, the bearer of which was slain: his banner was argent, a buckle gules, between six martlets sable, three above and three below. The lord of Campreny was made prisoner. The other French knights and squires, who saw the ill success of their attempt, and that they could not recover themselves, took the road toward Paris, fighting as they retreated, and the English pursuing them most eagerly. In this retreat, which continued beyond Bourg-la-Reine, nine knights, as well bannerets as others, were made prisoners; and, if the English and Gascons who pursued them had not been afraid that others might sally out of Paris to their assistance not one would have escaped being killed or taken. When this enterprise was finished, they returned towards Montlhery, where the king was. They carried their prisoners with them, to whom they behaved very courteously, and ransomed them handsomely that same evening, allowing them to return to Paris, or wherever else they chose, taking readily their word of honour as sufficient security for their ransom.
The intention of the king of England was to enter the fertile country of Beauce, and follow the course of the Loire all the summer, to recruit and refresh his army in Brittany until after August; and as soon as the vintage was over, which from all appearances promised to be abundant, he meant to return again and lay siege to France, that is to say Paris; for he wished not to return to England, as he had so publicly declared, on setting out, his determination to conquer that kingdom, and to leave garrisons of those who were carrying on the war for him in France, in Poitou, Champagne, Ponthieu, Vimeu, Valguessin5, in Normandy and throughout the whole kingdom of France, except in those cities and towns which had voluntarily submitted to him.
The duke of Normandy was at this time at Paris with his two brothers, their uncle the duke of Orleans, and all the principal councillors of state, who, well aware of the courage of the king of England, and how he pillaged and impoverished the whole realm of France, knew also that his situation could not last, for the rents both of the nobles and clergy were generally unpaid. At this period, a very wise and valiant man was chancellor of France, whose name was sir William6 de Montagu, bishop of Therouenne: by his advice the kingdom was governed: every part of it profited from his good and loyal counsel. Attached to him were two clerks of great prudence; one was the abbot of Clugny, the other friar Symon de Langres, principal of the predicant monks, and doctor in divinity. These two clerks just named, at the request and command of the duke of Normandy and his brothers, the duke of Orleans their uncle, and of the whole of the great council, set out from Paris with certain articles of peace. Sir Hugh de Geneve, lord of Autun, was also their companion. They went to the king of England, who was overrunning Beauce, near to Gallardon7.
These two prelates and the knight had a parley with the king of England, when they began to open a treaty of peace with him and his allies. To this treaty the duke of Lancaster, the prince of Wales, the earl of March8, and many other barons were summoned. However, this treaty was not concluded, though it was discussed for a long time. The king of England kept advancing into the country, seeking for those parts where was the greatest abundance. The commissioners, like wise men, never quitted the king, nor suffered their proposals to drop; for they saw the kingdom in such a miserable situation, that the greatest danger was to be apprehended if they should suffer another summer to pass without peace. On the other hand, the king of England insisted on such conditions as would have been so very grievous and prejudicial to France, that the commissioners, in honour, could not assent to them: so that their treaties and conferences lasted seventeen days, the two prelates and the lord of Autun constantly following the king of England: this last was much listened to at the court of the king. — They sent every day, or every other day, their treaties and minutes to the duke of Normandy and his brothers at Paris, that they might see what state they were in, and have answers thereto; as well as to know in what manner they were to act. All these papers were attentively examined and considered privately in the apartments of the duke of Normandy, and then the full intentions of the duke were written down, with the opinions of his council to these commissioners; by which means, nothing passed on either side without being fully specified and examined most cautiously. These aforesaid Frenchmen were in the king’s apartments, or in his lodgings, as it happened, in the different places he halted at, as well on his march towards Chartres as otherwise; and they made great offers, to bring the war to a conclusion; but the king was very hard to treat with: for his intention was, to be in fact king of France, although he had never been so, to die with that rank, and also to put Brittany, Blois, and Touraine in the same situations as those other provinces where he had garrisons. If his cousin, the duke of Lancaster, whom he much loved and confided in, had not persuaded him to give up such ideas, and advised him to listen to the offers of peace, he never would have come to any terms. — He very wisely remonstrated with him, and said: “My lord, this war which you are carrying on in the kingdom of France is wonderful to all men, and not too favourable to you. Your people are the only real gainers by it; for you are wasting your time. Considering every thing, if you persist in continuing the war, it may last you your life; and it appears to me doubtful if you will ever succeed to the extent of your wishes. I would recommend therefore, whilst you have the power of closing it honourably, to accept the proposals which have been offered to you; for, my lord, we may lose more in one day than we have gained in twenty years.” These prudent and sensible words, which the duke of Lancaster uttered loyally, and with the best intentions, to advise the king of England to his good, converted the king to his opinion, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, who also worked to the same effect: for an accident befel him and all his army, who were then before Chartres, that much humbled him, and bent his courage.
During the time that the French commissioners were passing backwards and forwards from the king to his council, and unable to obtain any favourable answer to their offers, there happened such a storm and violent tempest of thunder and hail, which fell on the English army, that it seemed as if the world was come to an end. The hailstones were so large as to kill men and beasts, and the boldest were frightened.
The king turned himself towards the church of Our Lady at Chartres, and religiously vowed to the Virgin, as he has since confessed, that he would accept of terms of peace. He was at this time lodged in a small village, near Charters, called Bretigny; and there were then committed to writing, certain rules and ordinances for peace, upon which the following articles were drawn out. To follow up this, and more completely to treat of it, the counsellors and lawyers of the king of England drew up a paper called the Charter of Peace, with great deliberation and much prudence, the tenor of which follows.