Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The Constable Remains in His Office (1382)

In making preparations for the battle of Rosebecque, the king has arranged to replace the constable, Oliver de Clisson, with the lord of Coucy.

Book II, ch. 122 (Johnes, v. 1, pp. 741-42). After the supper which the king had given on the Wednesday to these lords, and when they had retired, the constable of France remained to converse with the king and his uncles. It had been arranged in the council with the king, that the constable, sir Oliver de Clisson, should resign his constableship for the morrow (as they fully expected a battle) and that, for the day only, the lord de Coucy was to take his place, and sir Oliver remain near the king's person: so that when the constable was taking his leave, the king said to him, as he had been instructed, in a courteous and agreeable manner, "Constable, we will that you resign to us, for to-morrow only, your office; for we have appointed another, and you shall remain near our person."

These words, which were new to the gallant constable, surprised him so much, that he replied, "Most dear lord, I well know that I can never be more highly honoured than in guarding your person; but, dear lord, it will give great displeasure to my companions, and those of the van-guard, if they do not see me with them: and we may lose more than we can gain by it.

" I do not pretend that I am so valiant, that the business will be done by me alone; but I declare, dear lord, under the correction of your noble council, that for these last fifteen days, I have been solely occupied how I could add to your honour, to that of your army, and to my own office. I have instructed the army in the manner in which they were to be drawn up: and if to-morrow, under the guidance of God, we engage, and they do not see me; or, if I fail in giving them advice and support, I who have always been accustomed in such cases so to do, they will be thunderstruck; some may say that I am a hypocrite, and have done this slily, in order to escape from the first blows.

"I therefore entreat of you, most dear lord, that you would not interfere in what has been arranged and ordered for the best, for I must say you will gain the more by it." The king did not know what answer to make to this speech, any more than those present who had heard it. At last the king said, very properly, "Constable, I do not mean to say that it has been any way thought you have not, on every occasion, most fully acquitted yourself, and will still do so; but my late lord and father loved you more than any other person, and had the greatest confidence in you: it is from this love and confidence which he reposed in you that I should wish to have you on this occasion near to me, and in my company."

"Very dear lord," replied the constable, "you will be so well attended by such valiant men, all having been settled with the greatest deliberation, that it cannot any way be amended, so that you and your council ought to be satisfied with it. I therefore beg of you, for the love of God, most dear lord that you will permit me to execute my office: and to-morrow your success shall be such that your friends will be rejoiced, and your enemies enraged."

To this the king only answered, "Constable, I will it be so: in God's name, and in the name of St. Denis, act as becomes your office. I will not say one more word to you on the subject; for you see clearer in this business than I do, or those who first proposed it. Be to-morrow at mass."

"Willingly, sir," replied the constable. He took leave of the king, who saluted him, and returned to his quarters, with his attendants and companions.

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