Tales from Froissart
edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University
Lord James Audley at the Battle of Poitiers.
Just before the battle of Poitiers, Lord James Audley asks Edward Prince of Wales for a boon.
Book I, ch. 161. The lord James Audley remained also a considerable time near him [Edward]; but when he was that they must certainly engage, he said to the prince: "Sir, I have ever served most loyally my lord your father, and yourself, and shall continue so to do, as long as I have life. Dear sir, I must now acquaint you, that formerly I made a vow, if ever I should be engaged in any battle where the king your father or any of his sons were, that I would be the foremost in the attack, and the best combatant on his side, or die in the attempt. I beg therefore most earnestly, as a reward for any services I may have done, that you would grant me permission honourably to quit you, that I may post myself in such wise to accomplish my vow."
The prince granted this request, and, holding out his hand to him, said; "Sir James, God grant that this day you may shine in valour above all other knights."
The knight then set off, and posted himself at the front of the battalion, with only four squires whom he had detained with him to guard his person. This lord James was a prudent and valiant knight; and by his advice the army had thus been drawn up in order of battle. Lord James began to advance, in order to fight with the battalion of the marshals [of the French].
...[Because of the archers' fire] this battalion of the marshals could never approach that of the prince: however, there were some knights and squires so well mounted, that, by the strength of their horses, they passed through, and broke the hedge, but, in spite of their efforts, could not get up to the battalion of the prince. The lord James Audley, attended by his four squires, had placed himself, sword in hand, in front of this battalion, much before the rest, and was performing wonders. He had advanced, through his eagerness, so far, that he engaged the lord Arnold d'Andreghen, marshal of France, under his banner, when they fought a considerable time, and the lord Arnold was roughly enough treated. The battalion of the marshals was soon after put to the rout by the arrows of the archers, and the assistance of the men at arms, who rushed among them as they were struck down, and seized and slew them at their pleasure. The lord Arnold d'Andreghen was there made prisoner, but by others than the lord James Audley or his four squires; for that knight never stopped to make any one his prisoner that day, but was the whole time employed in fighting and following his enemies.
The lord James Audley, with the assistance of his four squires, was always engaged in the heat of the battle. He was severely wounded in the body, head and face; and as long as his strength and breath permitted him, he maintained the fight, and advanced forward: he continued to do so until he was covered with blood: then, towards the close of the engagement, his four squires, who were as his body-guard, took him, and led him out of the engagement, very weak and wounded, towards a hedge, that he might cool and take breath. They disarmed him as gently as they could, in order to examine his wounds, dress them, and sew up the most dangerous.
Chapter 164. [After the battle] the prince...inquired from those knights who were about him of lord James Audley, and asked if any one knew what was become of him: "Yes, sir," replied some of the company, "he is very badly wounded, and is lying in a litter hard by."
"By my troth," replied the prince, "I am sore vexed that he is so wounded. See, I beg of you, if he be able to bear being carried hither: otherwise I will come and visit him." Two knights directly left the prince, and coming to lord James, told him how desirous the prince was of seeing him.
"A thousand thanks to the prince," answered lord James, "for condescending to remember so poor a knight as myself." He then called eight of his servants, and had himself borne in his litter to where the prince was.
When he was come into his presence, the prince bent down over him, saying; "My lord James, I am bound to honour you very much; for by your valour this day, you have acquired glory and renown above us all, and your prowess has proved you the bravest knight."
Lord James replied; "My lord, you have a right to say whatever you please, but I wish it were as you have said. If I have this day been forward to serve you, it has been to accomplish a vow that I had made, and it ought not to be thought so much of."
"Sir James," answered the prince, "I and all the rest of us deem you the bravest knight on our side of the battle; and to increase your renown, and furnish you withal to pursue your career of glory in war, I retain you henceforward, for ever, as my knight, with five hundred marcs of yearly revenue, which I will secure to you from my estates in England."
"Sir," said lord James, "God make me deserving of the good fortune you bestow upon me." At these words he took leave of the prince, as he was very weak, and his servants carried him back to his tent..."
Chapter 166. When the lord James Audley was brought back to his tent, after having most respectfully thanked the prince for his gift, he did not remain long before he sent for his brother sir Peter Audley, the lord Bartholomew Burghersh, sir Stephen Coffington, lord Willoughby of Eresby, and lord William Ferrers of Groby: they were all his relations. He then sent for his four squires that had attended upon him that day, and addressing himself to the knights, said: "Gentlemen, it has pleased my lord the prince to give me five hundred marcs as a yearly inheritance; for which gift I have done him very trifling bodily service. You see here these four squires, who have always served me most loyally, and especially in this day's engagement. What glory I may have gained has been through their means, and by their valour; on which account I wish to reward them. I therefore give and resign into their hands the gift of five hundred marcs, which my lord the prince has been pleased to bestow on me, in the same form and manner that it has been presented to me. I disinherit myself of it, and give it to them simply, and without a possibility of revoking it."
The knights present looked on each other and said. "It is becoming the noble mind of lord James to make such a gift;" and then unanimously added: "May the Lord God remember you for it! We will bear witness of this gift to them wheresoever and whensoever they may call on us." They then took leave of him...
Chapter 168. During this march the prince of Wales was informed how lord James Audley had made a present of his pension of five hundred marcs to his four squires. He sent for him: lord James was carried in his litter to the presence of the prince, who received him very graciously, and said to him: "Sir James, I have been informed, that after you had taken leave of me, and were returned to your tent, you made a present to your four squires of the gift I presented to you. I should like to know if this be true, why you did so, and if the gift were not agreeable to you."
"Yes my lord," answered lord James, "it was most agreeable to me, and I will tell you the reasons which induced me to bestow it on my squires. These four squires, who are here, have long and loyally served me, on many great and dangerous occasions; and until the day that I made them this present, I had not any way rewarded them for all their services; and never in this life were they of such help to me as on that day. I hold myself much bound to them for what they did at the battle of Poitiers; for, dear sir, I am but a single man, and can do no more than my powers admit, but, through their aid and assistance, I have accomplished my vow, which for a long time I had made, and by their means was the first combatant, and should have paid for it with my life, if they had not been near to me. When, therefore, I consider their courage, and the love they bear to me, I should not have been courteous nor grateful, if I had not rewarded them. Thank God, my lord, I have a sufficiency for my life, to maintain my state; and wealth has never yet failed me, nor do I believe it ever will. If, therefore, I have in this acted contrary to your wishes, I beseech you, dear sir, to pardon me; for you will be ever as loyally served by me and my squires, to whom I gave your present, as heretofore."
The prince answered: "Sir James, I do not in the least blame you for what you have done, but on the contrary, acknowledge your bounty to your squires whom you praise so much. I readily confirm your gift to them; but I shall insist on your accepting of six hundred marcs, upon the same terms and conditions as the former gift."