Intelligence was brought to sir Bertrand du Guesclin and the army before St. Severe, that the English, Poitevins, and their allies were fast approaching with a great force, in order to oblige them to raise the siege. When the constable heard this, he was no way alarmed, but ordered every one to arm and to march directly to the assault. No one disobeyed this command, but French and Bretons advanced to the fort armed and well covered by their shields, when they began a vigorous attack, each lord under his own banner and surrounded by his people. It was a handsome sight to look at, for at this assault there were forty-nine banners, and numbers of pennons. The constable and the marshal lord Louis de Sancerre were there at their proper posts, labouring hard to encourage the men to conduct their attack with greater valour. Knights and squires of all nations were eager to gain honour and advancement, and performed many gallant exploits. Several crossed the ditches, which were full of water, with their shields on their heads, and marched up to the walls. In doing this, they never retreated, notwithstanding the things which were thrown down on them, but advanced the nearer to the fort. The dukes of Berry and Bourbon, the count d’Alençon, and the dauphin d’Auvergne, with several other great lords, were on the ditch encouraging their men, who, on account of such spectators, advanced boldly, fearless of death and danger.
Sir William Percy and the two squires of honour, who were governors of the castle, perceiving how briskly the attacks were made, and that they never cooled nor ceased, were sensible, that, if it thus continued, they could not long resist, and, according to their imagination, no aid was coming to them from any part; for, if they had suspected that a reinforcement was within ten leagues, they would have taken courage, and have held out until they should have been relieved: but, being ignorant of this, they opened a treaty with the constable, to avoid further loss. Sir Bertrand, who had had certain intelligence that before evening he should see or hear of the English, eagerly concluded the negotiation, granting them their lives: on which he made great rejoicings. He then ordered the army to march into the plain, and draw up in order of battle, saying to the chief commanders: “Gentlemen, look to yourselves, for the enemy is advancing, and I hope that we may have a battle before night.” Each made ready, upon hearing this, as well for the attack as to defend himself. The English, however, were in no hurry to march further, when they learnt for certain that St. Severe was taken. We will, therefore, speak of what was passing in Poitou.
At this time there were great dissentions in Poitiers, for three parts of the town wished to turn to the French; but John Regnault, the mayor, and a part of the commonalty, wanted to remain with the English. Notwithstanding this, the richest citizens and the churchmen, of whom there were more than plenty, would, whatever might be the consequences, have the constable sent for: indeed they secretly advised him to make haste and take possession of the city, for on his approach they would open to him the gates. The constable was much rejoiced, and told it to the dukes of Berry and of Bourbon, who determined that he should leave the army with three hundred men at arms, mounted on the fleetest coursers they had. They rode that day and the following night, with scarcely any repose, upwards of thirty leagues by another road than that the English had taken, and by day-break arrived at Poitiers. They found the gates ready opened, and their party prepared to receive them. Had they but delayed one half hour, they would have lost the opportunity; for John Regnault and his friends, having learnt the intention of the others, had sent off in great haste to sir John Devereux and lord Thomas Percy, who, with a hundred spears and as many archers, were within one short league of the city.
The barons and knights of Poitou were thunderstruck at the capture of Poitiers, as well as those from Gascony and England, who were collected in Poitou, to the amount of eight hundred lances and four hundred archers. They called a council to consider in what manner they should act, for they saw themselves in great difficulties, and were doubtful in whom they could put confidence. The barons and knights of Poitou therefore, the better to re-assure the English, thus addressed them: “Certainly, gentlemen, it is exceedingly disagreeable for us to see the affairs of this country in such a state that we cannot bring any remedy to them; but depend upon it, that as long as we exist, and there shall remain any house or fort in Poitou to receive us, we will always remain steadily and loyally attached to our natural lord the king of England and to you.” The English knights replied, “We place our entire confidence in you, and you will find in us companions and friends to death.” There were very long debates, when it was at last resolved, that the Poitevins should march off one way, and the English to a different quarter. They parted from each other in the most amicable manner; that is to say, the lord de Partenay, the lords de Thouars and de Rousillon, sir Aimery de la Rochechouart, sir John d’Angle. Sir Louis de Harcourt, sir Percival de Coulonge governor of Thouars, Hugh de Brionne, Reginald de Thouars, William de Crupenac, James de Surgeres, and other knights and squires of Poitou, who took the road to Thouars. The English, such as sir John Devereux, lord Thomas Percy, sir Richard de Pontchardon, the earl of Angus, sir Geoffry d’Argenton, sir Matthew Foulkes, sir Thomas Gournay, sir Walter Hewett, sir John Creswell, and others, took the road to Niort*, which they intended to enter without halting; but, when they arrived there, they found the gates shut and the draw-bridge raised, and were told by the inhabitants they should not have admittance. The English lords immediately called a council, and declared such an insult was not to be suffered: they drew up in good array, and attacked the town with great courage, which was defended by the inhabitants: but there was not any gentleman or knight within it to order or lead them, only mechanics, who knew not what it was to make war: so they were conquered by the English. Could they have held out until vespers, they would have been assisted, for the constable had ordered Thibaut du Pons, with two hundred combatants, to reinforce the garrison. They did not, however, arrive in time, for the town was taken by assault, and pillaged, while men and women were promiscuously put to the sword. The English took up their quarters in Niort, waiting for intelligence.