You have heard how don Pedro had cast himself into the castle of Corunna near the sea, with only his wife, his two daughters, and don Fernando de Castro; whilst in the mean time, his brother, the bastard, through the assistance of the men at arms, whom he had drawn from France, was conquering Castille, to whom the whole country had surrendered. All this much alarmed him; and he did not think himself in perfect safety in the castle of Corunna; for he had a great dread of his brother the bastard, and well knew that, if he were informed where he was, he would come and seek him with his forces, to besiege him in the castle. He would not wait this danger, but embarked on board a vessel, with his wife, his daughters, don Fernando de Castro, and whatever he had amassed of money and jewels, and put to sea in the night. The wind, however, was so contrary, that they could not clear the coast, but were obliged to return, and again to enter the castle of Corunna. Don Pedro then demanded from his knight, don Fernando de Castro, complaining of his evil fortune, which was so much against him, what was best to be done. “My lord,” replied the knight, ’before you leave this place, I think it would be proper that you send some person to your cousin the prince of Wales, to know if he will receive you, and to entreat of him, for God’s sake, that he would attend to your distress. He is in a manner bound to it, from the strong connection that has subsisted between the king, his father, and yours in former times. The prince of Wales is of such a noble and gallant disposition that, when he shall 344 be informed of your misfortunes, he will certainly take compassion on you: and, if he should determine to replace you on your throne, there is no one, sir, that could oppose him, so much is he redoubted by all the world, and beloved by soldiers. You are now safe where you are; for this fortress will hold you out until some intelligence shall be brought you from Aquitaine.”
Don Pedro immediately assented to this: a letter, in a most lamentable and piteous strain, was written: and a knight, with two squires, having been instructed to undertake this employ, cheerfully accepted it, directly put to sea, and made sail for Bayonne, a city dependent on the king of England, where they safely arrived. They made enquiries after the prince, and learnt that at that time he was at Bordeaux. Upon this, they rode to Bordeaux, and took up their quarters at an inn. Soon afterward they made for the monastery of St. Andrew, where the prince resided.
The knight and squires who had come from Spain informed the knights of the prince, that they were Spaniards, and ambassadors from don Pedro, of Castille. The prince, when informed of it, wished to see them, and to know what business had brought them. They were, upon this, introduced, and after having cast themselves on their knees, saluted him according to their custom, recommending the king their lord to him, as they presented him his letter. The prince made them rise: having taken the letter, he opened it, and afterwards read it more at his leisure. He found that don Pedro had written a most melancholy account of himself, informing him of his hardships and distress, and in what manner his brother the bastard, by means of the great alliances he had made, first with the pope, then with the kings of France and Arragon, and the free companies, had driven him out of his inheritance, the kingdom of Castille. In that letter, he entreated the prince, for the love of God, and for pity’s sake, that he would attend to his situation, and find some remedy to it; for it was not a Christian-like act, that a bastard, through force, should disinherit a legitimate son, and seize his possessions.
The prince, who was a valiant and wise knight, having folded up the letter in his hands, said to the ambassadors, who had remained in his presence, “you are welcome to us from our cousin the king of Castille: you will stay here in our court, and will not return without an answer.” The knights of the prince were already prepared; for they well knew what was proper to be done, and took with them the Spanish knight and his two squires to entertain them handsomely. The prince had remained in his apartment, thinking much on the contents of the letter from the king of Castille. He immediately sent for sir John Chandos and sir William Felton, the chiefs of his council: one was high steward of Aquitaine, and the other constable.
When they were come, he said, smiling, “My lords, here is great news from Spain. The king, don Pedro our cousin, complains grievously of Henry his bastard brother, who has seized his kingdom, and driven him out of it, as perhaps you may have heard related by those who are come hither. He entreats of us help and assistance, as his letter will more fully explain to you.” The prince then again read it over, word for word, to the knights, who lent a willing ear. When he had read it, he said: “You, sir John, and you, sir William, who are my principal counsellors, and in whom I have the greatest confidence and trust; tell me, I beg of you, what will be the most advisable for us to do in this business.” The two knights looked at each other, but uttered not a word. The prince again appealed to them, and said, “Speak boldly, whatever be your opinion.” The prince was then advised by these two knights, as I have heard it told afterwards, to send a body of men at arms to king don Pedro, as far as Corunna, where he was, and whence he had dated his letter; to conduct him to Bordeaux, in order more fully to learn what were his wants and intentions: that then they should be better informed from his conversation how they were to act.
This answer pleased the prince. Sir William Felton was ordered to take the command of the expedition; and the prince asked sir Richard Pontchardon, sir Nêle Loring, sir Simon Burley1 and sir William Trousseaux to accompany it into Galicia, to escort from Corunna the king, don Pedro, and the remnant of his army. The armament for this expedition was to consist of twelve vessels, which were to be filled with archers and men at arms. The 345 above-named knights made proper purveyances for the occasion, and set out from Bordeaux, accompanied by the ambassadors from don Pedro. They continued their journey to Bayonne, where they remained three or four days, waiting for a favourable wind, and to load the ships. On the fifth day, as they were on the point of sailing, don Pedro, king of Castille, arrived there. He had left Corunna in great suspense, being afraid to stay there longer, and had brought with him a few of his people, and as much of his treasure as he could carry away.
This was great news for the English. Sir William Felton and the other knights waited on him, on his landing, and received him handsomely. They informed him, that they had prepared themselves, and were on the point of sailing to Corunna, or farther, had it been necessary, to seek for him, by orders from the prince their lord. Don Pedro heard this with great joy, and returned his warmest thanks to the prince, as well as to the knights then present. Sir William Felton immediately sent the prince information of the arrival of the king of Castille at Bayonne, who was much pleased thereat. These knights did not make any long stay at Bayonne, but, taking the king with them, made for the city of Bordeaux, where they safely arrived.
The prince, who was anxious to see his cousin the king, don Pedro, and also to do him the more honour, rode out of Bordeaux, attended by his knights and squires, to meet him. When they met he saluted him very respectfully, and paid him every attention by speech and action; for he knew perfectly well how so to do: no prince of his time understood so well the practice of good breeding. After their meeting, when they had refreshed themselves as was becoming them to do, they rode towards Bordeaux. The prince placed don Pedro on his right hand, and would not suffer it to be otherwise. During their return, don Pedro told the prince his distresses, and in what manner his brother the bastard had driven him out of the kingdom of Castille. He complained bitterly of the disloyalty of his subjects; for all had deserted him except one knight, don Fernando de Castro, then with him, and whom he pointed out to the prince. The prince comforted him by a most courteous and discreet answer: he begged of him not to be too much cast down; for, if he had lost everything, it was fully in the power of God to give him back what he had lost, and more, as well as vengeance upon his enemies.
Conversing on this subject, as well as on other topics, they rode on to Bordeaux, and dismounted at the monastery of St. Andrew, the residence of the prince and princess. The king, don Pedro, was conducted to an apartment which ha been prepared for him. When he had dressed himself suitably to his rank, he waited on the princess and the ladies, who all received him very politely. I could enlarge much on the feasts and entertainments which were made; but I will briefly pass them over, and relate to you how don Pedro conducted himself towards his cousin the price of Wales, whom he found courteous and affable, and willing to attend to his request of aid, notwithstanding some of his council had given him the advice I will now mention.
Before the arrival of don Pedro at Bordeaux, some lords, as well English as Gascons, who had much wisdom and forethought, were of the prince’s council, and by inclination as well as duty, thought themselves bound to give him loyal advice, spoke to the prince in words like the following: — “My lord, you have often heard the old proverb of ‘All covet, all lose2.’ True it is, that you are one of the princes of this world the most enlightened, esteemed, and honoured, in possession of large domains and a handsome principality on this side of the sea, and are, thank God, at peace with every one. It is also well known, that no king, far or near, at this present moment dares anger you; such reputation have you in chivalry for valour and good fortune. You ought, therefore, in reason, to be contented with what you have got, and not seek for enemies. We must add, likewise, that this don Pedro, king of Castille, who at present is driven out of his realm, is a man of great pride, very cruel, and full of bad dispositions. The kingdom of Castille has suffered many grievances at his hands: many valiant men have been beheaded and murdered, without justice or reason; so that to these wicked actions, which he ordered or consented to, he owes the loss of his kingdom. In addition to this, he is an enemy to the church, and excommunicated by our holy father. He has been long considered as a tyrant, who, without any plea of justice, has always made war upon his neighbours; such as the kings of Arragon and Navarre, whom he was desirous 346 to dethrone by force. It is also commonly reported, and believed in his kingdom, and even by his own attendants, that he murdered the young lady, his wife, who was a cousin of yours, being daughter to the duke of Bourbon. Upon all these accounts, it behoves you to pause and reflect before you enter into any engagements; for what he has hitherto suffered are the chastisements of God, who orders these punishments as an example to the kings and princes of the earth, that they should never commit such like wickedness.”
With similar language to this was the prince also addressed by his councils, on the arrival of the king of Castille at Bordeaux: but to this loyal advice they received the following answer: — “My lords, I take it for granted and believe that you give me the best advice you are able. I must, however, inform you, that I am perfectly well acquainted with the life and conduct of don Pedro, and well know that he has committed faults without number, for which at present he suffers: but I will tell you the reasons which at this moment urge and embolden me to give him assistance. I do not think it either decent or proper that a bastard should possess a kingdom as an inheritance, nor drive out of his realm his own brother, heir to the country by lawful marriage; and no king, or king’s son, ought ever to suffer it, as being of the greatest prejudice to royalty. Add to this, that my lord and father and this don Pedro have for a long time been allies, much connected together, by which we are bounden to aid and assist him, in case he should require it.” These were the reasons that instigated the prince to assist the king of Castille in his great distress, and thus he replied to his council. No one could afterwards make the smallest change in his determination, but every day it grew firmer.
When don Pedro arrived at Bordeaux, he humbled himself to the prince, offering him many rich presents, and the promise of further advantage; for he said, he would make his eldest son, Edward, king of Galicia, and would divide among him and his people the great riches he had left in Castille, where it was so well secured and hidden that no one could find its situation except himself. The knights paid a willing attention to these works; for both English and Gascons are by nature of a covetous disposition. The prince was advised to summon all the barons of Aquitaine to an especial council at Bordeaux, so that there might be a grand conference held; when the king don Pedro might lay before him his situation, and his means of satisfying them, should the prince undertake to conduct him back to his own country, and to do all in his power to replace him upon his throne. Letters and messengers were therefore sent to all parts, and the lords summoned: first, the earl of Armagnac, the earl of Comminges, the lord d’Albret, the earl of Carmaing, the captal de Buch, the lord de Tande, the viscount de Châtillon, the lords de l’Escut, de Rosem, de l’Esparre, de Chaumont, de Mucident, de Courton, de Pincornet, and other barons of Gascony and Guienne. The earl of Foix was requested to attend; but he would not come, and excused himself, having at the time a disorder in one of his legs, which prevented him from mounting on horseback: he sent, however, his council in his stead.