The king of France, all this time, was secretly and ably gaining over several of the captains of the free companies, and others attached to the party of the English, who had ascended the river Loire, and were on the confines of Berry and Auvergne, where the king of France had given his permission for them to reside. Not one of the companies of France was in motion; for the king did not wish that his name should yet be made use of in this war, lest it might do his affairs harm; and lest he should lose the county of Ponthieu, which he was very anxious to regain.
Had the king of England perceived that the king of France had intended war, he would easily have prevented the loss of Ponthieu by reinforcing the garrisons of Abbeville with English, and others attached to him; so that he would have been master of the whole country; and in the like manner would he have done to all the other garrisons dependent on that county. The king of England had at this time, for high steward of Ponthieu, a good English knight called sir Nicholas Louvain, in whom the king had great confidence, and with justice; for, sooner than commit any cowardly or unworthy deed, he would have had his limbs torn from him.
At this period, the king of France sent to England the earl of Saltzburg and sir William des Dormans, to remonstrate with the king and his council, and to complain that part of the country of France had been, and still was, much harassed, as well by the daily incursions of the free companies, who had for these last six years made war upon France, as by other oppressors, of which the king of France and his council had had information, and were very ill satisfied that the king of England and his eldest son the prince of Wales should act in such a manner as to countenance them. These two personages remained in England for the space of two months: and during this time, they proposed various agreements and reasons to the king, which made him frequently out of humour and in a passion; but they did not pay much attention to this, for they had received instructions from the king of France and his council how to act and what to say.
When the king of France had received such information as he could depend on, that the inhabitants of Abbeville were in their hearts Frenchmen; that the war was begun in Gascony; that all the men at arms in the kingdom of France were prepared, and eager to wage war upon the prince of Wales and to enter his territories; he was anxious that no reproach might be cast on him, either at the present moment, or in times to come, for having ordered an army into the territories of the king of England, or the prince of Wales, to take cities, castles, towns or fortresses, without having sent them a challenge: he therefore resolved to defy the king of England; which he did by sealed letters. One of his valets, who was from Brittany, carried them. He met at Dover the earl of Saltzburg and sir William des Dormans, who were returning from England to France, having accomplished the business they had been sent on. The Breton, according to the orders he had received, told them what he was going about; which they no sooner heard than they set off as quickly as possible, and crossed the sea. They were very happy when they found themselves in the town and fortress of Boulogne.
About this time, sir Guiscard d’Angle, marshal of Aquitaine, had been sent by the prince of Wales to pope Urban V. at Rome, on affairs relating to Aquitaine. He had found the pope very polite in complying with the requests he had to make to him. On his return, he first heard the news of war being made on the prince, and that the French had entered the principality. he was very much surprised at this, and dubious how he should be able to continue his journey. He went, however, to the gallant earl of Savoy, whom he found at the town of Pignerol, in Piedmont, engaged in war with the marquis de Saluces. The earl of Savoy received sir Guiscard and his company with great pleasure: he entertained them for two days with much magnificence, and presented them with handsome gifts, particularly sir Guiscard, who had the larger share: for the gallant earl respected him greatly, on account of his hardy knighthood.
When sir Guiscard and his companion had left the earl of Savoy, the nearer they approached the boundaries of France and Burgundy the worse news they heard, and more disagreeable to their feelings. Sir Guiscard having well considered all the information he could gain, saw that it would be impossible for him to return to Guyenne in the state he travelled. He therefore delayed as much as he could, and gave the command of his whole army and attendants to a knight called sir John Shore, who had married his daughter. Sir John came from Brittany, and spoke very good French: he took the command of all the attendants and baggage of his father-in-law: when coming to the estate of the lord of Beaujeu, he crossed the rive Saône, and became so well acquainted with the lord of Beaujeu that he conducted him and his whole company to Rion in Auvergne, to the duke of Berry: he there offered to become a true Frenchman, proved he were suffered to return peaceably to his house in Brittany, as it had before been settled between him and the lord of Beaujeu.
In the meantime, sir Guiscard, under the disguise of a poor chaplain, ill mounted and badly equipped, passed through France, Burgundy, and Auvergne, and with great difficulty entered the principality. On his arrival at Angoulême, he was heartily received by the prince of Wales. Another knight, whose name was sir William de Sens, who had accompanied him on this embassy to Rome, took refuge in the abbey of Clugny in Burgundy, from whence he never stirred for five years, and at last turned Frenchman.
We will now return to the Breton who was the bearer of the challenge from Charles king of France to Edward king of England.