Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The capture of Casseres by the Armagnacs.

Sir Espaign du Lyon continues to tell stories to Froissart as they travel to Foix.

Book III, ch. 5 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 78-9).  Thus rode we on to Montesquieu, a good inclosed town belonging to the count de Foix. which the Armagnacs and Labrissiens took by surprise, but held it only three days; in the morning we left Montesquieu, and rode towards Palaminich, another inclosed town, situated on the Garonne, and belonging to the count de Foix. When we were close to it, and thought of entering it by the bridge over the Garonne, we found it impossible; for the preceding day it had rained so heavily in the mountains of Catalonia and Arragon, that a. river, called the Saluz, which rises among them, and falls into the Garonne with great rapidity, was so much swelled as to carry away one of the arches of the bridge, which was of wood. We were therefore forced to return to Montesquieu to dinner, and remain there the whole day.

On the morrow, the knight was advised to cross the Garonne, opposite the town of Casseres, in a boat; we therefore
rode thither, and by our exertions the horses passed, and we ourselves afterwards with some difficulty and danger; for the boat
was so small that only two horses and their men could cross at a time with those who managed the boat. When we had crossed,
we made for Casseres, where we staid the whole day.

While our servants were preparing the supper, sir Espaign du Lyon said, "Sir John, let us go and see the town."

"Come then," replied I. We walked through the town to a gate which opens towards Palaminich, and, having passed it, went near the ditches.
The knight, pointing to the walls; said, "Do you observe that part of the walls?"
"Yes, sir: why do you ask?"

"I will tell you: because it is newer than the rest."

"That is true," answered I.

"I will relate to you how this happened ten years ago. You have heard of the wars between the count d'Armagnac and the count de Foix, which took place in the country of Béarn, that appertains to the count de Foix: the count d'Armagnac overran it, though at present he is quiet on account of the truces made between them. I must say, the Armagnacs and Labrissiens gained nothing, but had often great losses. On the night of the feast of St. Nicholas, in the winter of the year 1362, the count de Foix made prisoners, near to Montmarsen, the count d'Armagnac and his nephew the lord d'Albreth, and many nobles with them, whom he carried to Orthez, and confined them in the tower of the castle; by which capture he received ten times told one hundred thousand francs.

"It happened afterwards that the count d'Armagnac, father of the present, called, sir John d'Armagnac, set on foot an
armament, with which he came and took Casseres by scalado: they were full two hundred men at arms, who seemed resolved
to keep the place by force. News was brought to the count de Foix, at Pan, that the Armagnacs and Labrissiens had taken his
town of Casseres. He, who was a prudent and valiant knight, and prepared for all events, called to him two bastard brothers
whom he had among his knights, sir Arnault Guillaume and sir Peter de Béarn, and ordered them to march instantly to Casseres,
telling them he would send men from all parts, and in three days would be there in person.

" 'Be careful therefore,' added he, 'that none get out of the town without being fought with, as you will have strength enough; and on your arrival at Casseres make the country people bring you plenty of large pieces of wood, which you will fix strongly round the gates, and completely bar them up; for I am resolved that those now in the town shall be so shut up in it, that they never pass through the gates: I will make them take another road.'

"The two knights obeyed his orders, and marched to Palaminich, accompanied and followed by all the men at arms in
Béarn. They encamped before the town of Casseres; but those within paid no attention to them, nor observed that they were so
completely shut in, they could not pass through the gates. On the third day the count de Foix came with five hundred men at
arms, and on his arrival had the town encompassed with fortifications of wood, as well as by his army, that no sally might be
made from it in the night.

"In this state, without making any attack, he blockaded them until their provisions began to fail; for though they had wine in plenty, they had nothing to eat, and could not escape by fording the river, which was then too deep. They therefore thought it better to surrender themselves as prisoners, than shamefully perish with hunger. The count de Foix listened to their offers. He had them informed, that as they could not pass through any of the town-gates, he would make a hole in the wall through which the garrison, one by one, must pass, without arms, in their common dress. They were forced to accept of these terms, otherwise the business was at an end: and, if the count de Foix had not been thus appeased, all within were dead men.

"He had a hole made in the wall, which was not too large, through which they came out one by one. The count was there, with
his forces drawn up in battle-array; and as they came out of the town they were brought before him, and sent to different castles
and towns as prisoners. He took there his cousin, sir John d'Armagnac, sir Bertrand d'Albreth, sir Manaut de Barbasan, sir
Raymond de Benach, sir Benedict de la Corneille, and about twenty of the most respectable, whom he carried with him to
Orthez, and received from them, before they gained their liberty, one hundred thousand francs, twice told. For this, my fair sir,
was this wall broken down; as a passage for those of Armagnac and Albreth: afterwards it was rebuilt and repaired."

When he had finished his history we returned to our lodgings, and found the supper ready.

On the morrow we mounted our horses, and riding up the side of the Garonne, passed through Palaminich, and entered
the lands of the counts de Comminges and d'Armagnac. On the opposite side, fronting us, was the Garonne, and the territories
of the count de Foix. As we rode on, the knights pointed out to me a town, which appeared tolerably strong, called Marteras le
Toussac, which belongs to the count de Comminges; and on the other side of the river, two castles of the count de Foix, seated
on a mountain called Montaural and Monclare.

As we were riding among these towns and castles, in a beautiful meadow by the side of the Garonne, the knight said,-"Sir John, I have witnessed here many excellent skirmishes and combats between the Armagnacs and the Foixiens; for there was neither town nor castle that was not well garrisoned with men at arms, who engaged with and pursued each other. Do you see yonder those ruins? they are the remains of a fort which the Armagnacs raised against these two castles, and which they filled with men at arms, who did much damage to the lands of the count de Foix, on the other side of the river; but I will tell you how they paid for it. The count de Foix one night sent his brother, sir Peter de Béarn, with two hundred lances and four hundred peasants, laden with faggots, and as much wood as they could cut front the hedges, which they piled around this fort and set on fire, so that the fort was burnt with all in it, for none received quarter; and since that time no one has dared to rebuild it."

The tales of Espaign du Lyon continue.

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