At this period1, those companies of freebooters were so much increased in France that the government did not know what to do with them, since the wars in Brittany and those with the king of Navarre were now put an end to. These companies having been brought up to arms, and taught to live on pillage and plunder alone, neither could nor would abstain from it. Their great resource was France; and these companions called the kingdom of France their domain. They dared not, however, make any attempts on Aquitaine, for the country would not have suffered it; besides, to say the truth, the greater number of their captains were Gascons and English, or persons attached to the king of England or prince of Wales. Some lords of Brittany were among them, but they were few in number. On this account, many of the inhabitants of France murmured much, and complained secretly of the king of England and the prince, that they did not act well towards the king of France in not assisting him to drive these bad people out of the realm. They were better pleased to see them with their neighbours than among themselves. The wisest of the kingdom declared, that if something were not speedily done in this business, either by fighting or getting rid of them out of the country, by a handsome present in money, they would destroy the noble kingdom of France.
There was at the time a king in Hungary who was desirous of having their assistance, and would have given them full employment against the Turks, with whom he was at war, for they had done him much mischief. He wrote, therefore, to pope Urban V. (who was then at Avignon, and who would gladly have seen France delivered from these companies), and also to the king of France and to the prince of Wales. He wished to enter into a treaty with their leaders, and offered large sums of money to them and a free passage; but they would not listen to it, saying, that they would not go so far to make war. It was told them by their oldest captains, who were well acquainted with the country of Hungary, that there were such narrow passes, if they should in any combat be engaged in them, they would never be able to get out, but must infallibly be cut off. This report frightened them so much, that they had not any desire to go thither. When pope Urban and the king of France found these wicked people were not likely to come into their plan, and would not quit the kingdom, but, on the contrary, multiplied daily, they thought upon another method to free the country from them.
There was in these times a king of Castille, of the name of Don Pedro2, whose mind, full of strange opinions, was very rebellious and refractory to all the regulations and commands of the church: he wanted to subdue his Christian neighbours, more especially the king of Arragon, of the name of Peter3, who was a good Catholic: he had even taken from him part of his possessions, and was preparing to seize the remainder.
This king, don Pedro of Castille, had three bastard brothers, children of the good Alphonso his father and a lady called la Riche Done4. The eldest was named don Henry; the second, don Tello; the third, don Sancho5. Don Pedro hated them mortally; and, could he have laid hands on them, he would have had them beheaded. They had been, however, much loved by their father, who in his lifetime had given to Henry, the eldest, the county of Trastamare; but the king, don Pedro his brother, had taken it from him by force, and every day was harassing him. This bastard Henry was a very valiant and worthy knight: he had been a long time in France, where he followed the profession of arms, and had served under the king of France6, whom he loved much.
The king don Pedro, as common report told the story, had by different means caused the death of their mother, which, as was natural, gave them great displeasure. He had banished and murdered many of the greatest barons of the realm of Castille. He was withal so cruel, and of such a horrid disposition, that all men feared, suspected and hated him, but dared not show it. He had also caused the death of a very good and virtuous lady, whom he had married, the lady Blanche, daughter of duke Peter de Bourbon, and cousin-german to the queen of France and to the countess of Savoy. All her relations, who are of the noblest blood in the world, were most exceedingly irritated by the manner of her death7. There was also a report current among the people, that king Peter had even formed an alliance with the kings of Benamarine8, Granada and Tremeçen9, who were enemies to God, and infidels. Many were uneasy at wrongs he might do to his country, and lest he should violate the churches: for he had seized their revenues, and detained the priests of holy church in prison, where he vexed them with all sorts of tyranny.
Great complaints of these proceedings were sent daily to the pope, entreating him to put a stop to them. Pope Urban received and attended to these complaints. He sent ambassadors to the king, Don Pedro, ordering and enjoining him to come forthwith in person to the court of Rome, to purge and clear himself from all the villanous actions he was charged with.
Don Pedro, proud and presumptuous as he was, not only refused to obey the mandate, but even received with insults the ambassadors from the holy father, for which he felt grievously under his indignation. This wicked king still persevered in his sin. It was then considered how or by what means he could be corrected; and it was determined that he was no longer worthy to bear the title of king, or to possess a kingdom. He was therefore publicly excommunicated, in full consistory, held in the apartments of the pope, at Avignon, and declared to be a heretic and infidel. They thought they should be able to punish him by means of the free companies who were in France. They requested the king of Arragon, who hated very much this don Pedro, and Henry the bastard of Spain, to come immediately to Avignon. The holy father then legitimated the birth of Henry the bastard, so that he might be in a condition to obtain the kingdom from don Pedro, who had been cursed and condemned by the sentence of the pope.
The king of Arragon offered a free passage through the kingdom, with a supply of men at arms, and all sorts of provision and aid, to whoever should enter Castille, and attack don Pedro to deprive him of his throne. The king of France was much pleased with this intelligence, and took great pains that sir Bertrand du Guesclin, whom sir John Chandos held as his prisoner, should be ransomed. This was fixed at one hundred thousand francs10. The king of France paid one part, the pope and Henry the bastard the other. Soon after his liberty was obtained, they entered into a treaty with the chiefs of those companies, promising them great advantages if they would go into Castille. They readily assented to the proposal by means of a large sum of money, which was divided among them.
The prince of Wales was informed of this intended expedition, as well as his knights and squires, but particularly sir John Chandos, who was solicited to be one of the leaders of it, in conjunction with sir Bertrand du Guesclin. He excused himself, and said he could not go. This, however, did not put a stop to it: many knights who were attached to the prince, among whom were Sir Eustace d’Ambreticourt, sir Hugh Calverly, sir Walter Huet, sir Matthew Gourney, sir Perducas d’Albret, and several others, were of the party. The lord John de Bourbon, earl of March, took the chief command, in order to revenge the death of his cousin the queen of Spain: but he was under the advice and control of sir Bertrand du Guesclin, as he was at that time a very young knight.
In this expedition were also the lord of Beaujeu, whose name was Anthony, and many worthy knights: such as lord Arnold d’Andreghen, marshal of France, the lords the bègue de Villaines, d’Antoin in Hainault, de Brisnel, John de Neufville11, Guimars de Bailheul, John de Bergutes, the German lord de St. Venant, and others whom I cannot name. All these men at arms assembled together in order to begin their march at Montpellier in Languedoc.
These men at arms might be about thirty thousand. They all passed through Narbonne, in their march to Perpignan, in order to enter Arragon by that town12. All the leaders of these companies were there: the lords Robert Briquet, John Carsneille, Nandon de Bagerant, La Nuit, le petit Meschin, le bourg Camus, le bourg de l’Esparre, Battiller, Espiote, Aymemon d’Ortige, Perrot de Savoye, and numbers more: all of one mind and accord, to dethrone don Pedro from his kingdom of Castille, and to place there in his room the bastard Henry, earl of Trastamare.
Don Pedro had received information that this army was marching against him: he collected his troops, in order to meet them, and fight boldly on their entering Castille. When they were about to enter Arragon, they sent to him, in order to cover and mask their real intentions, to ask a free passage through his country, and that provision might be supplied to some pilgrims of God, who had undertaken, through devotion, an expedition into the kingdom of Granada, to revenge the sufferings of their Lord and Saviour, to destroy the infidels, and to exalt the Cross. Don Pedro laughed at this request, and sent for answer, that he would never attend to such beggarly crew. When the men at arms and companions heard this reply, they thought him very proud and presumptuous, and made every haste to do him as much mischief as they could.
They marched through the kingdom of Arragon, where every accommodation was prepared for them, and they found all sorts of provision plenty and cheap; for the king of Arragon was very joyful on their arrival, because this army would soon re-conquer from the king of Castille the whole country which he had taken from him, and kept by force. Whenever they won any towns, castles, cities or fortresses, which don Pedro had seized from Arragon, sir Bertrand and his army gave them back to the king of Arragon, who declared, that from that day forward, he would assist Henry the bastard against don Pedro. All the men at arms passed the great river13 which divides Castille from Arragon, and entered Spain.
News was brought to the king of Castille, that French, English, Bretons, Normans, Picards and Burgundians had crossed the Ebro, and entered his kingdom: that they had reconquered every place on the other side of the river that separates Castille from Arragon, which had cost him so much trouble to gain. Upon hearing this, he was in a great rage, and said things should not go on thus. He issued a special ordinance throughout his kingdom, ordering all those to whom it was addressed to meet him without delay, as he was determined to combat these men at arms, who had entered the kingdom of Castille.
Too few obeyed his mandate; for, when he thought to have assembled a large force, scarcely any came to the rendezvous. All the barons and knights of Spain fell off from him, in favour of his brother the bastard. This event forced him to fly, or he would have been taken; and so much was he hated by his subjects and enemies, that not one remained with him, save one loyal knight called Ferdinand de Castro14. He was determined never to quit don Pedro, whatever ill-fortune might happen to him. The king of Castille went to Seville, the handsomest city in Spain; but, not thinking himself in security there, he ordered all his treasures and other things to be packed up in large coffers, which he embarked on board of ships, leaving Seville with his wife, his children, and Ferdinand de Castro. Don Pedro arrived that same evening15 (like a knight that had been beaten and discomfited) at a town called Corunna, in Galicia, where there was a very strong castle. He immediately flung himself into it, with his wife and children; that is to say, two young damsels, called Constance16 and Isabella17. None of his courtiers followed him, nor had he any of his council with him except the above-mentioned Ferdinand de Castro.
We will now return to his brother, Henry the bastard, and related how he persevered in his designs. I have before said, that don Pedro was much hated by all his subjects, for the great and numberless acts of injustice he had committed, and for the various murders by which he had cut off many of the nobility, some of them even by his own hands; so that, as soon as they knew his brother the bastard had entered Castille with a powerful army, they all joined him, acknowledged him for their lord; and, having increased his army, caused all the cities, towns, and castles to open their gates to him, and the inhabitants to do him homage. The Spaniards shouted with one voice, “Long live king Henry! down with don Pedro, who has treated us so cruelly and wickedly.” Thus they conducted Henry throughout the kingdom of Castille; that is to say, the lord Gomez Garilz18, the grand master of the order of Calatrava19, and the master of the order of St. James, making all the people obey him. They crowned him the king in the city of Burgos, where all the prelates, earls, barons, and knights paid him their homage, and swore they would serve and obey him as their king for evermore, and if there should be occasion, would sacrifice their lives for him. King Henry then passed from city to city, all the inhabitants of which treated him as their king.
Henry made large presents and gifts to the foreign knights who had put him in possession of the kingdom of Castille. They were so magnificent, that he was considered as a most generous and bountiful lord: the Normans, French, and Bretons, who had been partakers of his bounty, said he was deserving of a large fortune, and that he ought to reign with great prosperity. Thus the bastard of Spain found himself master of Castille. He created his two brothers, don Tello and don Frederick, earls, and gave them large estates, with other revenues. He continued king of Castille, Galicia, Seville, Toledo and Leon, until the forces of the Prince of Wales deprived him of them, replacing the king, don Pedro, in the possession of these realms, as you will find related in the following history.
When king Henry saw himself thus situated, and the business completed, so that all obeyed him, both nobles and serfs, as their king and lord; that there was not any appearance of opposition to his crown; he imagined it would add luster to his name, if he made an irruption into the kingdom of Granada with those free companies that had come from France, as a means of giving them employment. He mentioned it therefore to several of the knights who were about him, when they consented to it. He retained constantly near his person those knights who were attached to the Prince of Wales; namely, sir Eustace d’Ambreticourt, sir Hugh Calverly and others, showing them the most marked attentions and kindness, in expectation of being aided by them in his intended expedition to Granada, which he was desirous of undertaking.
Soon after his coronation, the greater number of French knights took their leave, and departed. On their going away, he made them very rich presents. The Earl de la Marche, sir Arnold d’Andreghen, the lord de Beaujeu and many more returned to their own country. However, sir Bertrand du Guesclin, sir Olivier de Mauny and the Bretons, as well as the free companies, remained in Castille until other news arrived. Sir Bertrand du Guesclin was made constable of Castille by Henry, with the assent of all the barons of the realm. We will now return to don Pedro.