Home  »  The Chronicles of Froissart  »  The Battle of Otterburn

Jean Froissart (c.1337–1410?). The Chronicles of Froissart.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The Battle of Otterburn

How Sir Matthew Redmen Departed from the Battle to Save Himself; and How Sir James Lindsay Was Taken Prisoner by the Bishop of Durham; and How after the Battle Scurrers Were Sent Forth to Discover the Country

I SHALL shew you of sir Matthew Redman, who was on horseback to save himself, for he alone could not remedy the matter. At his departing sir James Lindsay was near to him and saw how sir Matthew departed, and this sir James, to win honour, followed in chase sir Matthew Redman, and came so near him that he might have striken him with his spear, if he had list. Then he said: ‘Ah, sir knight, turn; it is a shame thus to fly: I am James of Lindsay: if ye will not turn, I shall strike you on the back with my spear.’ Sir Matthew spake no word, but strake his horse with the spurs sorer than he did before. In this manner he chased him more than three miles, and at last sir Matthew Redman’s horse foundered and fell under him. Then he stept forth on the earth and drew out his sword, and took courage to defend himself; and the Scot thought to have stricken him on the breast, but sir Matthew Redman swerved from the stroke, and the spear-point entered into the earth. Then sir Matthew strake asunder the spear with his sword; and when sir James Lindsay saw how he had lost his spear, he cast away the truncheon and lighted afoot, and took a little battle-axe that he carried at his back and handled it with his one hand quickly and deliverly, in the which feat Scots be well expert, and then he set at sir Matthew and he defended himself properly. Thus they tourneyed together, one with an axe and the other with a sword, a long season, and no man to let them. Finally sir James Lindsay gave the knight such strokes and held him so short, that he was put out of breath in such wise that he yielded himself, and said: ‘Sir James Lindsay, I yield me to you.’ ‘Well,’ quoth he, ‘and I receive you, rescue or no rescue.’ ‘I am content,’ quoth Redman, ‘so ye deal with me like a good companion,’ ‘I shall not fail that,’ quoth Lindsay, and so put up his sword. ‘Well, sir,’ quoth Redman, ‘what will you now that I shall do? I am your prisoner, ye have conquered me. I would gladly go again to Newcastle, and within fifteen days I shall come to you into Scotland, whereas ye shall assign me.’ ‘I am content,’ quoth Lindsay: ‘ye shall promise by your faith to present yourself within this three weeks at Edinboro, and wheresoever ye go, to repute yourself my prisoner,;’ All this sir Matthew sware and promised to fulfil. Then each of them took their horses and took leave each of other. Sir James returned, and his intent was to go to his own company the same way that he came, and sir Matthew Redman to Newcastle.

Sir James Lindsay could not keep the right way as he came: it was dark and a mist, and he had not ridden half a mile but he met face to face with the bishop of Durham and more than five hundred Englishmen with him. He might well escaped if he had would, but he supposed it had been his own company, that had pursued the Englishmen. When he was among them, one demanded of him what he was. ‘I am,’ quoth he, ‘sir James Lindsay.’ The bishop heard those words and stept to him and said: ‘Lindsay, ye are taken: yield ye to me.’ ‘Who be you?’ quoth Lindsay. ‘I am,’ quoth he, ‘the bishop of Durham.’ ‘And from whence come you, sir?’ quoth Lindsay. ‘I come from the battle,’ quoth the bishop, ‘but I struck never a stroke there: I go back to Newcastle for this night, and ye shall go with me.’ ‘I may not choose,’ quoth Lindsay, ‘sith ye will have it so. I have taken and I am taken; such is the adventures of arms.’ ‘Whom have ye taken?’ quoth the bishop. ‘Sir,’ quoth he, ‘I took in the chase sir Matthew Redman.’ ‘And where is he?’ quoth the bishop. ‘By my faith, sir, he is returned to Newcastle: he desired me to trust him on his faith for three weeks, and so have I done.’ ‘Well,’ quoth the bishop, ‘let us go to Newcastle, and there ye shall speak with him.’ Thus they rode to Newcastle together, and sir James Lindsay was prisoner to the bishop of Durham.

Under the banner of the earl de la March and of Dunbar was taken a squire of Gascoyne, called John of Chateauneuf, and under the banner of the earl of Moray was taken his companion, John de Cantiron. Thus the field was clean avoided, or the day appeared. The Scots drew together and took guides and sent out scurrers to see if any men were in the way from Newcastle, to the intent that they would not be troubled in their lodgings; wherein they did wisely, for when the bishop of Durham was come again to Newcastle and in his lodging, he was sore pensive and wist not what to say nor do; for he heard say how his cousins the Percies were slain or taken, and all the knights that were with them. Then he sent for all the knights and squires that were in the town; and when they were come, he demanded of them if they should leave the matter in that case, and said: ‘Sirs we shall bear great blame if we thus return without looking on our enemies.’ Then they concluded by the sun-rising every man to be armed, and on horseback and afoot to depart out of the town and to go to Otterburn to fight with the Scots. This was warned through the town by a trumpet, and every man armed them and assembled before the bridge, and by the sunrising they departed by the gate towards Berwick and took the way towards Otterburn to the number of ten thousand, what afoot and a-horseback. They were not gone past two mile from Newcastle, when the Scots were signified that the bishop of Durham was coming towards them to fight: this they knew by their spies, such as they had set in the fields.

After that sir Matthew Redman was returned to Newcastle and had shewed to divers how he had been taken prisoner by sir James Lindsay, then it was shewed him how the bishop of Durham had taken the said sir James Lindsay and how that he was there in the town as his prisoner. As soon as the bishop was departed, sir Matthew Redman went to the bishop’s lodging to see his master, and there he found him in a study, lying in a window, and said: ‘What, sir James Lindsay, what make you here?’ Then sir James came forth of the study to him and gave him good morrow, and said: ‘By my faith, sir Matthew, fortune hath brought me hither; for as soon as I was departed from you, I met by chance the bishop of Durham, to whom I am prisoner, as ye be to me. I believe ye shall not need to come to Edinboro to me to make your finance: I think rather we shall make an exchange one for another, if the bishop be so content.’ ‘Well, sir,’ quoth Redman, ‘we shall accord right well together, ye shall dine this day with me: the bishop and our men be gone forth to fight with your men, I cannot tell what shall fall, we shall know at their return.’ ‘I am content to dine with you,’ quoth Lindsay. Thus these two knights dined together in Newcastle.

When the knights of Scotland were informed how the bishop of Durham came on them with ten thousand men, they drew to council to see what was best for them to do, other to depart or else to abide the adventure. All things considered, they concluded to abide, for they said they could not be in a better nor a stronger place than they were in already: they had many prisoners and they could not carry them away, if they should have departed; and also they had many of their men hurt and also some of their prisoners, whom they thought they would not leave behind them. Thus they drew together and ordered so their field, that there was no entry but one way, and they set all their prisoners together and made them to promise how that, rescue or no rescue, they should be their prisoners. After that they made all their minstrels to blow up all at once and made the greatest revel of the world. Lightly it is the usage of Scots, that when they be thus assembled together in arms, the footmen beareth about their necks horns in manner like hunters, some great, some small, and of all sorts, so that when they blow all at once, they make such a noise, that it may be heard nigh four miles off: thus they do to abash their enemies and to rejoice themselves. When the bishop of Durham with his banner and ten thousand men with him were approached within a league, then the Scots blew their horns in such wise, that it seemed that all the devils in hell had been among them, so that such as heard them and knew not of their usage were sore abashed. This blowing and noise endured a long space and then ceased: and by that time the Englishmen were within less than a mile. Then the Scots began to blow again and made a great noise, and as long endured as it did before. Then the bishop approached with his battle well ranged in good order and came within the sight of the Scots, as within two bow-shot or less: then the Scots blew again their horns a long space. The bishop stood still to see what the Scots would do and aviewed them well and saw how they were in a strong ground greatly to their advantage. Then the bishop took counsel what was best for him to do; but all things well advised, they were not in purpose to enter in among the Scots to assail them, but returned without doing of anything, for they saw well they might rather lose than win.

When the Scots saw the Englishmen recule and that they should have no battle, they went to their lodgings and made merry, and then ordained to depart from thence. And because that sir Ralph Percy was sore hurt, he desired of his master that he might return to Newcastle or into some place, whereas it pleased him, unto such time as he were whole of his hurts, promising, as soon as he were able to ride, to return into Scotland, other to Edinboro or into any other place appointed. The earl of March, under whom he was taken, agreed thereto and delivered him a horse litter and sent him away; and by like covenant divers other knights and squires were suffered to return and took term other to return or else to pay their finance, such as they were appointed unto. It was shewed me by the information of the Scots, such as had been at this said battle that was between Newcastle and Otterburn in the year of our Lord God a thousand three hundred fourscore and eight, the nineteenth day of August, how that there were taken prisoners of the English party a thousand and forty men, one and other, and slain in the field and in the chase eighteen hundred and forty, and sore hurt more than a thousand: and of the Scots there were a hundred slain, and taken in the chase more than two hundred; for as the Englishmen fled, when they saw any advantage they returned again and fought: by that means the Scots were taken and none otherwise. Every man may well consider that it was a well fought field, when there were so many slain and taken on both parties.