The king of Cyprus, who was now returned from Aquitaine to France, went to meet the king, who had before borne the title of duke of Normandy. His two brothers, the duke of Anjou, and the lord Philip, since duke of Burgundy, were with the duke waiting for the corpse of their father, which was on the road from England. The king of Cyprus very cordially condoled with them on the subject of their loss, and was himself much affected by the death of the king of France, because his expedition would be retarded by it: he clothed himself in black for his mourning1.
When the body of the king of France, which had been embalmed and put into a coffin, approached near to Paris, attended by the lord John d’Artois, the earl of Dampmartin, and the grand prior of France, the duke of Normandy, his brothers, the king of Cyprus, and the greater part of the clergy of Paris, went on foot beyond St. Denis, to meet it. On being brought thither, it was buried with great solemnity; and the archbishop of Sens said mass on the day of interment. After the service was over, and dinner ended, (which was very magnificent), the great lords and prelates returned to Paris. There were then held many councils on the state of the kingdom, which could not any longer do well without a king; and it was determined by the prelates and nobles, that they should immediately go for Rheims. The duke of Normandy (for such was still his title) wrote to his uncle, Winceslaus duke of Brabant2 and Luxemburgh, and also to his cousin the earl of Flanders3, to request their attendance at his coronation, which was fixed for Trinity-day next ensuing4.
Whilst these things were going forward, and the nobles were making preparations for the coronation, the French and Navarrois were advancing towards each other in Normandy: the captal de Buch was already in the city of Evreux, collecting his men at arms and soldiers from every place he could get them. We will speak of him and of sir Bertrand du Guesclin, as well as of a famous battle which was fought the Thursday preceding Trinity Sunday, the day the duke was to be crowned king of France (as indeed he was) in the cathedral of the city of Rheims.
When the lord John de Greilly, known by the appellation of the captal de Buch, had completed his numbers of archers and foot-soldiers in the city of Evreux, he made his final arrangements, and appointed as governor of it a knight called the lord Michael d’Orgery. He sent to Conches5 the lord Guy de Graville, to defend that place as a sort of frontier. He then marched with all his men at arms and archers; for he had heard that the French were abroad, but was not certain in what quarter.
He took the field, very desirous of finding them; and, having mustered his army, he found he had seven hundred lances, and full three hundred archers, with five hundred other serviceable men. There were among them several good knights and squires; especially a banneret of the kingdom of Navarre, named the lord Saulx; but the greatest and most expert, with the largest company of men at arms and archers in his train, was an English knight, called sir John Jouel. There were also the lord Peter de Saque-ville, the lord William de Gaville, the lord Bertrand du Franc, Basque de Marneil, and many others, who were eager to meet sir Bertrand du Guesclin, to give him battle. They marched towards Passy6 and Pont de l’Arche, thinking the French would pass the Seine there, if in truth they had not already crossed it.
It chanced that, as on the Whitsun-Wednesday, the captal and his companions were riding through a wood, he met a herald, whose name was Faucon7, and who had that morning left the French army. As soon as the captal saw him, he recognized him, for he was one of the king of England’s heralds, and asked him from whence he came, and if he could give them any intelligence of the French army. “Yes, that I can, in God’s name, my lord,” replied he; “for I only left them this day: they are seeking after you, and are very anxious to meet with you.” “Where are they?” asked the captal, “on this or on the other side of Pont de l’Arche?” “In the Lord’s name,” answered Faucon, “they have passed Pont de l’Arche and Vernon, and are, as I believe, at this moment very near to Passy.” “Tell me, I pray thee,” said the captal, “what sort of people they are, and who are their captains?” “In God’s name,” replied Faucon, “they are full fifteen hundred combatants, and all good men at arms. Sir Bertrand du Guesclin is there, who has the largest company of Bretons: there are the earl of Auxerre, the viscount de Beaumont, the lord Lewis de Châllons, the lord of Beaujeu, the lord Baudoin d’Ennequin, grand master of the cross-bows, the archpriest, the lord Odoart de Renty. Some lords from Gascony, your own countrymen, are likewise among them, with the men at arms of the lord d’Albret; as also the lord Aymon de Pommiers and the lord Souldich de la Trane.”
When the captal heard the names of these Gascons, he was marvelously astonished, and turned red with anger: recovering his speech, he said, “Faucon, Faucon, is it indeed true what thou hast just told me of these Gascon lords being in the French army? and the men attached to the lord d’Albret?” “Yes, in good faith, it is really as I have said,” answered the herald. “And where is the lord d’Albret himself?” asked the captal. “In God’s name,” answered Faucon, “he is at Paris, with the regent-duke of Normandy, who is making preparations for going to Rheims, to be crowned; for it is commonly reported that that ceremony is to take place on Sunday next.” The captal then put his hand to his head, and cried out in anger: “By the head of St. Anthony, Gascons against Gascons will make mischief enough.”
Then Faucon spoke concerning Prie (a herald whom the archpriest had sent thither), and said to the captal, “My lord, there is a herald hard by waiting for me, whom the archpriest has sent to you, and who, as I understand from the herald, would willingly speak to you.” The captal made answer, saying, “Ha, Faucon, Faucon, tell this French herald, that he need not come nearer: and let him say to the archpriest, that I do not wish to have any parley with him.” Sir John Jouel, upon this, stepped forward, and said, “Why, my lord, will you not see the archpriest? perhaps he may give us some information that we may profit by.” The captal replied, “John, John, it will not be so; for the archpriest is so great a deceiver, that if he were to come among us, telling his tales and his nonsense, he would examine and judge of our strength and numbers, which would turn out probably to our disadvantage: therefore I do not wish to hear of any parleys.” Faucon, king at arms, upon this, returned to the herald Prie, who was waiting for him at the end of the hedge, and made such good and sensible excuses for the captal that the herald was perfectly satisfied, went back to the archpriest, and related to him all that Faucon had told him.
By the reports of the two heralds, both armies were acquainted with each other’s situation. They therefore made such dispositions, as would speedily force them to meet. When the captal had heard from Faucon the numbers the French army consisted of, he immediately despatched messengers to the captains who were in the city of Evreux, with orders for them to send him as many recruits and young gallants8 to his assistance as they could possibly collect: they were to meet him at Cocherel9, for, supposing that he should find the French in that neighbourhood, he had determined to fight them wherever he should meet them. When the messengers came to Evreux, the lord Michael d’Orgery had it publicly cried, and strictly ordered all those who were horsemen to join the captal. Upon this, there immediately set out one hundred and twenty young companions from that town.
On the Wednesday the captal de Buch took up his quarters, about two o’clock, on a mountain, and encamped his army. The French, who were wishing to meet them, marched straight forwards until they came to a river, called Yton, in that country, which runs towards Evreux, having its source near Conches, and encamped themselves at their ease, this same Wednesday, in a handsome meadow, through which this river runs. On the morrow, the Navarrois decamped, and sent their scouts out, to examine whether they could learn any news of the French. The French also sent out their scouts on the same errand. Before they had gone two leagues, each brought back to his army such intelligence as could be depended upon.
The Navarrois, conducted by Faucon, marched straight by the way he had come, and, by four o’clock in the morning, found themselves in the plains of Cocherel, with the French in front of them, who were already drawing up their army in battle-array. There were a great many banners and pennons flying; and they seemed to be in number more than half as many again as themselves. The Navarrois directly halted on the outside of a small wood. The captains assembled together, and began to form their men in order of battle.
They first formed three battalions well and handsomely on foot, sending their baggage and attendants into the wood. Sir John Jouel commanded the first battalion of English, which consisted of men at arms and archers. The captal de Buch had the second battalion, which, one with another, was about four hundred combatants. With the captal, there were the lord of Saulx in Navarre, a young knight who had a banner, the lord William de Gaville, and the lord Peter de Saque-ville. The third battalion had three knights; the lord Basque de Marneil10, the lord Bertrand de Franc and the lord Sauseloppins, and were in the whole about four hundred men under arms.
When they had formed their battalions, they marched them not far distant from each other, taking advantage of the mountain which was on their right, between them and the wood, posting their front upon this mountain facing their enemies, and fixing, by orders of the captal, his banner in the midst of a large thorn bush. He commanded sixty men to remain there, to guard and defend it. They had so placed it to serve as a standard for them to rally round, if by chance of war they should be dispersed or separated; and they strictly ordered, that no one should, on any pretence, descend the mountain; but if their enemies wished to fight, they must come to seek them.