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

The Battle of Poitiers

How the Cardinal of Perigord Treated to Make Agreement between the French King and the Prince before the Battle of Poitiers

WHEN the French king’s battles was ordered and every lord under his banner among their own men, then it was commanded that every man should cut their spears to a five foot long and every man to put off their spurs. Thus as they were ready to approach, the cardinal of Perigord came in great haste to the king. He came the same morning from Poitiers; he kneeled down to the king and held up his hands and desired him for God’s sake a little to abstain setting forward till he had spoken with him: then he said: “Sir, ye have here all the flower of your realm against a handful of Englishmen as to regard your company, and sir, if ye may have them accorded to you without battle, it shall be more profitable and honourable to have them by that manner rather than to adventure so noble chivalry as ye have here present. Sir, I require you in the name of God and humility that I may ride to the prince and shew him what danger ye have him in.’ The king said: ‘It pleaseth me well, but return again shortly.’ The cardinal departed and diligently he rode to the prince, who was among his men afoot: then the cardinal alighted and came to the prince, who received him courteously. Then the cardinal after his salutation made he said: ‘Certainly, fair son, if you and your council advise justly the puissance of the French king, ye will suffer me to treat to make a peace between you, an I may.’ The prince, who was young and lusty, said: ‘Sir, the honour of me and of my people saved, I would gladly fall to any reasonable way.’ Then the cardinal said: ‘Sir, ye say well, and I shall accord you, an I can; for it should be great pity if so many noblemen and other as be here on both parties should come together by battle.’ Then the cardinal rode again to the king and said: ‘Sir, ye need not to make any great haste to fight with your enemies, for they cannot fly from you though they would, they be in such a ground: wherefore, sir, I require you forbear for this day till tomorrow the sun-rising.’ The king was loath to agree thereto, for some of his council would not consent to it; but finally the cardinal shewed such reasons, that the king accorded that respite: and in the same place there was pight up a pavilion of red silk fresh and rich, and gave leave for that day every man to draw to their lodgings except the constable’s and marshal’s battles.

That Sunday all the day the cardinal travailed in riding from the one host to the other gladly to agree them: but the French king would not agree without he might have four of the principallest of the Englishmen at his pleasure, and the prince and all the other to yield themselves simply: howbeit there were many great offers made. The prince offered to render into the king’s hands all that ever he had won in that voyage, towns and castles, and to quit all prisoners that he or any of his men had taken in that season, and also to swear not to be armed against the French king in seven year after; but the king and his council would none thereof: the uttermost that he would do was, that the prince and a hundred of his knights should yield themselves into the king’s prison; otherwise he would not: the which the prince would in no wise agree unto.

In the mean season that the cardinal rode thus between the hosts in trust to do some good, certain knights of France and of England both rode forth the same Sunday, because it was truce for that day, to coast the hosts and to behold the dealing of their enemies. So it fortuned that the lord John Chandos rode the same day coasting the French host, and in like manner the lord of Clermont, one of the French marshals, had ridden forth and aviewed the state of the English host; and as these two knights returned towards their hosts, they met together: each of them bare one manner of device, a blue lady embroidered in a sunbeam above on their apparel. Then the lord Clermont said: ‘Chandos, how long have ye taken on you to bear my device?’ ‘Nay, ye bear mine,’ said Chandos, ‘for it is as well mine as yours.’ ‘I deny that,’ said Clermont, ‘but an it were not for the truce this day between us, I should make it good on you incontinent that ye have no right to bear my device.’ ‘Ah, sir,’ said Chandos, ‘ye shall find me to-morrow ready to defend you and to prove by feat of arms that it is as well mine as yours.’ Then Clermont said: ‘Chandos, these be well the words of you Englishmen, for ye can devise nothing of new, but all that ye see is good and fair.’ So they departed without any more doing, and each of them returned to their host.

The cardinal of Perigord could in no wise that Sunday make any agreement between the parties, and when it was near night he returned to Poitiers. That night the Frenchmen took their ease; they had provision enough, and the Englishmen had great default; they could get no forage, nor they could not depart thence without danger of their enemies. That Sunday the Englishmen made great dikes and hedges about their archers, to be the more stronger; and on the Monday in the morning the prince and his company were ready apparelled as they were before, and about the sun-rising in like manner were the Frenchmen. The same morning betimes the cardinal came again to the French host and thought by his preaching to pacify the parties; but then the Frenchmen said to him: ‘Return whither ye will: bring hither no more words of treaty nor peace: and ye love yourself depart shortly.’ When the cardinal saw that he travailed in vain, he took leave of the king and then he went to the prince and said: ‘Sir, do what ye can: there is no remedy but to abide the battle, for I can find none accord in the French king.’ Then the prince said: ‘The same is our intent and all our people: God help the right!’ So the cardinal returned to Poitiers. In his company there were certain knights and squires, men of arms, who were more favourable to the French king than to the prince: and when they saw that the parties should fight, they stale from their masters and went to the French host; and they made their captain the chatelain of Amposte, who was as then there with the cardinal, who knew nothing thereof till he was come to Poitiers.

The certainty of the order of the Englishmen was shewed to the French king, except they had ordained three hundred men a-horseback and as many archers a-horseback to coast under covert of the mountain and to strike into the battle of the duke of Normandy, who was under the mountain afoot. This ordinance they had made of new, that the Frenchmen knew not of. The prince was with his battle down among the vines and had closed in the weakest part with their carriages.

Now will I name some of the principal lords and knights that were there with the prince: the earl of Warwick, the earl of Suffolk, the earl of Salisbury, the earl of Oxford, the lord Raynold Cobham, the lord Spencer, the lord James Audley, the lord Peter his brother, the lord Berkeley, the lord Bassett, the lord Warin, the lord Delaware, the lord Manne, the lord Willoughby, the lord Bartholomew de Burghersh, the lord of Felton, the lord Richard of Pembroke, the lord Stephen of Cosington, the lord Bradetane and other Englishmen; and of Gascon there was the lord of Pommiers, the lord of Languiran, the capital of Buch, the lord John of Caumont, the lord de Lesparre, the lord of Rauzan, the lord of Condon, the lord of Montferrand, the lord of Landiras, the lord soudic of Latrau and other that I cannot name; and of Hainowes the lord Eustace d’Aubrecicourt, the lord John of Ghistelles, and two other strangers, the lord Daniel Pasele and the lord Denis of Morbeke: all the prince’s company passed not an eight thousand men one and other, and the Frenchmen were a sixty thousand fighting men, whereof there were more than three thousand knights.