Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The strength and wealth of the count of Foix

Sir Espaign du Lyon has been telling Froissart how the count of Foix had men-at-arms in every castle in Béarn.

Book III, ch. 6 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 84).  "The duke of Anjou having gained possession of Malvoisin, and freed the country, and all Lane-bourg, of the English and other pillagers, laid siege to the town and castle of Lourde. The count de Foix, seeing him so near his territories, began to be very doubtful what his intentions might be. He therefore issued his summons to his knights and squires, and sent them into different garrisons. He placed his brother, sir Arnaut William, with two hundred lances, in Morlens; his other brother, sir Peter de Béarn, with the same number of lances, in Pan; sir Peter de Cabesten, with the like number, in the city of l'Estrade; sir Mouvant de Novalles in the town of Hertillet, with one hundred lances; sir Crual Geberel in Montgerbiel with the like number; sir Fouquat d'Orterey in the town of Sauveterre with the same; and I, Espaign du Lyon, was sent to Mont-de-marsen with two hundred lances. There was not a castle in all Béarn that was not well provided with men at arms: he himself remained to guard his florins in the castle of Orthez."

"Sir," said I to the knight, "has he a great quantity of them?"

"By my faith," replied he, "the count de Foix has at this moment a hundred thousand thirty times told; and there is not a year but he gives away sixty thousand; for a more liberal lord, in making presents, does not exist."

Upon this I asked, "To whom does he make these gifts?" He answered, "To strangers, to knights and squires who travel through his country, to heralds, minstrels, to all who converse with him: none leave him without a present, for he would be angered should any one refuse it."

"Ha, ha, holy Mary! " cried I, "to what purpose does he keep so large a sum? where does it come from? Are his revenues so great to supply him with it? I should like to know this, if you please."

"Yes, you shall know it," answered the knight, "but you have asked two questions: if you wish them answered, I must
begin with the first. You ask, for what purpose he keeps so large a sum of money: I must tell you, that the count de Foix is
doubtful of war between him and the count d'Armagnac, and of the manúvres of his neighbours the kings of France and of
England, neither of whom he would willingly anger; and hitherto he has not taken any part in their wars, for he has never borne
arms on either side, and is on good terms with both.

"I tell you, (and you yourself will agree with me when you have made acquaintance with him, and have conversed together, and seen the establishments of his household,) that he is the most prudent prince living, and one whom neither the king of France nor king of England would willingly make an enemy. With regard to his other neighbours, the kings of Arragon and Navarre, he thinks but little of them, for he could instantly raise more men at arms (so many friends has he made by his gifts, and such power has his money,) than these kings could ever do. I have heard him say, that when the King of Cyprus was in Béarn and explained to him the intended expedition to the holy sepulchre, he was so anxious to make that valuable conquest, that if the kings of France and England had gone thither, he would have been the most considerable lord after them, and have led the largest army. He has not yet given up this idea, and it is for this reason also he has amassed such wealth.

"The prince of Wales, likewise, when he reigned in Aquitaine, and resided at Bordeaux, induced him to collect large sums; for the prince menaced him in regard to his country of Béarn, and said he would force him to hold it from him: but the count de Foix declared he would not, for Béarn was free land, and owed no homage to any lord whatever. The prince, who was then very powerful and much feared, said he would make him humble himself; for the count d'Armagnac and the lord d'Ahbreth, who hated the count de Foix for the victories he had gained over them, poisoned the prince's mind. The expedition of the prince into Spain prevented hostilities; and sir John Chandos, who was the principal adviser and much beloved by the prince, strenuously opposed this intended war. The count de Foix and sir John Chandos loved each other for their gallant deeds.

"The count, however, was suspicious of the prince, whom he knew to be powerful and warlike, and began to amass large
sums to aid and defend himself should he be attacked. He imposed heavy taxes on the country and on all the towns, which now
exist, and will do so as long as he lives: each hearth pays two francs per annum, one with the other; and in this he has found and
finds a mine of wealth, for it is marvellous how cheerfully his subjects pay it. With this, there is not any Englishman, Frenchman,
nor pillager, who rob his people of a single farthing: his whole country is protected and justice well administered, for in matters
of justice he is the most severe and upright lord that exists."

With these words we found ourselves in the town of Tournay, where our lodgings were prepared: the knight, therefore, ceased speaking; and I made no further enquiries, for I had well remarked where he had left off, and could again remind him of it, as we had yet to travel together. We were comfortably lodged at the hotel of the Star. When supper was served, the governor of Malvoisin, sir Raymond de Lane, came to see us, and supped with us: he brought with him four flagons of excellent wine, as good as any I drank on the road. These two knights conversed long together, and it was late when sir Raymond departed and returned to his castle of Malvoisin.
 

The tales of Espaign du Lyon continue.

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