Sir John Arundel, who had remained at Southampton with his two hundred men at arms and four hundred archers, received information from some prisoners who had been taken in a Norman vessel, that the duke of Lancaster had well scoured the ports of Normandy, so that none of the French dared to put to sea. He directly ordered his vessels and four large ships to be got ready, laden with provisions, in which he embarked, and made sail for Cherbourg, where he was joyfully received. The castle remained under the guard of the English, on the departure of the Navarrois; but sir Peter de Basle, the governor, did not leave it. I must inform you, that Cherbourg is only to be conquered by famine; for it is one of the strongest castles in the world: the garrison made many profitable excursions on those of Valognes. Sir John Arundel, after he had garrisoned Cherbourg with English, remained there but fifteen days to re-victual it, and returned to Southampton, of which he was governor.
We will now speak of the siege of St. Malo. When the English entered the harbour, they found therein a number of vessels from La Rochelle, laden with good wines; the merchants were soon eased of them, and their vessels burnt. The siege of St. Malo was directly commenced, for they were in sufficient numbers to undertake it: they overran the country, and did much damage. Those who were most active in this business were sir Robert Knolles, and sir Hugh Broc his nephew, who were ell acquainted with those parts. These two made excursions daily, and the canon de Robesart in company with them. Some days they lost, and at others gained: they, however, burnt and destroyed all round St. Malo.
The army of the duke of Lancaster had plenty of provision, for they had brought with them large quantities from England. Many severe assaults were made on St. Malo, and the attacks as ably resisted, for there were several men at arms within it not easily to be conquered. The lords of the army caused the carpenters to make sheds, under which they could with greater ease carry on their attacks; they had four hundred cannons pointed against the different parts of the town, which very much harassed its inhabitants. Among the various assaults, there was one which was particularly severe, for it lasted a whole day, and many English were killed and wounded: those within made so prudent a defence as not to lose a man: a knight from England called sir Peter l’Escume, was slain, for whose death the duke and the earl were sorely vexed. We will now return for a while to the siege of Mortain-sure-mer in Poitou, and to Evan of Wales.
Evan of Wales had closely blockaded Mortain in Poitous, of which place the souldich de l’Estrade was governor, and had erected four block-houses: the first was built on the edge of a rock before the castle, on the Garonne, and Evan had posted himself within it: the second was built between the water and the lower castle, opposite to a postern gate, from which none could issue without the certainty of being taken: the third was on the opposite side of the castle: the fourth was the church of St. Leger, near half a league from the fort. The inhabitants of Mortain were long sorely harassed by these means, for the blockade lasted upwards of a year and a half, in which time they were hardly pushed for provision and other necessaries, having neither stockings nor shoes to their feet; but what was the most grievous, they did not see any appearance of succour being sent to them.
During the time of this siege, there came out of England, and from the borders of Wales, a Welsh squire named John Lambe, who was scarcely a gentleman; and indeed he showed it, for no gentleman would ever have practised such base wickedness. It was said, that on his departure from England, he had been instigated by some English knights to perform the treason he did; for Evan of Wales was greatly hated in England and Gascony, on account of the captal de Buch, whom he had made prisoner before Soubise in Poitou, and whose ransom could never be obtained either by exchange of the count de St. Pol or by any other, nor for any sum of money that could be offered: this caused his death, through melancholy, in the Temple at Paris, to the very great regret of all his friends.
About this time John Lambe arrived in Brittany, and continued his journey until he came to Poitous: he was honourably received everywhere, by calling himself one of Evan’s friends and speaking very good French. He said he was come from Wales to visit Evan, and was too lightly believed. For these reasons he was escorted by the men of Poitou to Mortaion, where the siege was going forward. John Lambe advanced towards Evan, when, falling, on his knees, he said in his country language, that he had left Wales to see and serve him. Evan, not harbouring the least suspicion, received him kindly, thanked him for coming, and accepted his offers of service: he then asked the news from Wales. He told him enough of true and false, and made him believe that the whole principality was desirous of having him for their lord. This information gained so much the love of Evan (for every one naturally would wish to return to his own country) that he immediately appointed him his chamberlain. John won daily on the affection of Evan: there was no one in whom he had so great a confidence. Evan’s regard increased so fast that evil befel him, for which it was a great pity, for he was a valiant knight, a good man, and the son of a prince of Wales whom king Edward had caused to be beheaded, but on what account I am ignorant.
The king of England had seized his lands in Wales; and this Evan, in his infancy, having come to France, explained his situation to king Philip, who willingly listened to him, retained him near his person, and as long as he lived was one of the pages of his chamber, with his nephews d’Alençons and several other young nobles. He was also retained by king John, under whom he bore arms, and was at the battle of Poitiers, but fortunately escaped, otherwise death would soon have followed his captivity. On the peace between France and England, he went to Lombardy, where he continued to bear arms; and, on the renewal of the war, he returned to France, and conducted himself so well that he was much praised and loved by the king of France, and by all the great lords. I will now tell his end, which I shall do unwillingly; but it is necessary to show to posterity what became of him.
Even of Wales had a custom during the siege of Mortain, as soon as he was risen, if it were a fine morning, to seat himself before the castle, when he had his hair combed and plaited for a considerable length of time, during which he viewed the castle, and the surrounding country, for he had not the smallest dread from any quarter: it was not usual for any one to attend him as a guard but this John Lambe. Very often it happened that he there completely dressed himself; and, if any one had business with him, they went there to seek him. On his last visit it was early morn and fine clear weather, and the heat of the night had prevented him from sleeping: he went thither all unbuttoned, with only his jacked and shirt, and his cloak thrown over him,when he seated himself as usual, attended by John Lambe. “Go and seek my comb, for that will refresh me a little.” He answered, “Willingly, my lord.” On his way to seek for the comb, or when returning with it, the devil must have entered the body of this John; for with the comb he brought a short Spanish dagger that had a broad point, to accomplish his evil intentions: he struck this dagger into Evan, whose body was almost naked, and pierced him through, so that he fell down dead. After he had performed this deed, he left the dagger in the body, set off, and went slowly to the barriers of the castle, wherein he was received by the guards, to whom he made himself known, and was conducted to the souldich de l’Estrade. “My lord,” said he to the souldich, “I have delivered you from one of the greatest enemies you ever had.” “From whom?” replied the souldich. “From Evan of Wales,” answered John. “By what means?” demanded the souldich. “By such means,” said John, and then related to him the circumstances you have just heard. When the souldich heard this, he shook his head, and, eyeing him with anger, replied, “Thou hast murdered him; but know from me, that if we did not reap much advantage from thy wicked deed, I would have thy head cut off: what is done, however, cannot be undone; but such a death is unworthy of a gentleman, and we shall have more blame than praise for it1.”
Thus was Evans of Wales killed by a wicked and treasonable act, to the great grief of the army and all manner of people. King Charles of France particularly lamented is loss, but he could not help it. Evan of Wales was buried in the church of St. Leger, which he had converted into a fort, half a league distant from the castle of Mortain, and all the gentlemen of the army attended his obsequies, which were very grandly performed.
The siege of Mortain was not, however, discontinued for this loss. There were very good knights from Brittany, Poitou, and France, who had resolved never to quit it unless forced by superior numbers; and they were more eager than before to conquer the castle, by way of revenge for the death of Evan. They remained in the same position, without making any assaults, for they knew the garrison were exceedingly straightened for provision, and that none could enter the place. We will leave this siege for a short time, and return to that of St. Malo; but we will first mention how those who had besieged Evreux persevered in it.