Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

How the duke of Anjou attempted to win the castle of Lourde

Froissart asks his travelling companion, Sir Espaign du Lyon, to tell him more about the campaign of the duke of Anjou against Lourde.

Book III, ch. 7 (Johnes, v. 2, p. 87-90).  While this was relating, we crossed the pass of Larre, and leaving the castle of Marteras, where the battle was fought, passed very near the castle of Barbasan, which is handsome and strong, a league distant from Tarbes. We saw it before us, and had a good road, easy to be travelled, following the course of the river Leschez, which rises in the mountains. We rode at our leisure, not to fatigue our horses; and he pointed out to me, on the other side of the river, the castle and town of Montgaillard, and the road which goes straight to Lourde. It then came into my mind to ask the knight about the duke of Anjou, when the castle of Malvoisin had surrendered to him, and how he had acted on his march to Lourde. He very cheerfully told me as follows:

"When the duke of Anjon marched his army from before Malvoisin, he crossed the river Leschez by the bridge of Tournay, and lodged at Bagn~res, (where there is a handsome river which runs by Tarbes: for that of Tournay takes a different course, and falls into the Garonne, below Moutmillion) in his way to lay siege to Lourde. Sir Peter Arnaut de B~am, with his brother John, Peter d'Anchin, Ernauton de Restin, Ernauton de Sainte Colombe, and le Meugeant, who was then alive, Ferdinand de Miranda, Oliver Barhe, le bourg de Cornillac, le bourg Camus, and the other companions within Lourde, had good information of his arrival, and had much strengthened the place, in all respects, against his coming. Lourde held out, in spite of all the attacks they could make on it, for sixteen days consecutively. Many gallant deeds were done, and much mischief to the town by the machines which the duke brought to bear against it, so that at length it was conquered; but the garrison suffered nothing, nor lost man, woman, nor child, for they had all retreated to the castle, as they knew well the town could not always hold out, being only fortified with palisadoes.

"When the French had won the town of Lourde they were much pleased, and, having fixed their quarters in it, they surrounded the castle, which was impregnable but by a long siege. The duke was there upwards of six weeks, and lost more than he gained; for the besiegers could not hurt those within the castle, as it is situated on a perpendicular rock, and can only be approached by ladders, or by one pass. There were at the barriers several handsome skirmishes and deeds of arms, when many squires of France were killed and wounded from having advanced too near. The duke of Anjou, seeing he could not gain the castle of Lourde by force, opened a negociation with the governor, offering him large sums of money if he would surrender his garrison.

The knight was a man of honour, and excused himself by saying, 'the garrison was not his; and that he could neither sell, give, nor alienate the inheritance of the king of England, unless he were a traitor, which he scorned to be, and would remain loyal to his natural lord. When the fort was intrusted to him, it was on condition that he swore solemnly on his faith, in the hands of the prince of Wales, to guard and defend the castle of Lourde until death, against every man whatever, unless he were sent to him from the king of England.' No other answer could be had from him, in reply to all the offers and promises they made; so that, when the duke and his council saw they could not gain anything, they broke up the siege of the castle of Lourde; but, on their decamping, they burnt the town to the guound.

"The duke retreated with his army along the frontiers of B~arn towards Montmarsen: he had heard that the count de Foix had reinforced all his garrisons with men at arms. This did not displease him so much as that the B~arn men should bold out Lourde against him; but he could never obtain anything satisfactory on this head.

"The count de Foix, as I have mentioned before, was very suspicious of the intentions of the duke, who did him no harm, though the count d'A.rmagnac and the lord d'Albreth wished him to act otherwise; but he was not so inclined. While he was encamped between Montmarsen and the high lands ot Albreth, he sent sir Peter de Benil to Orth~s, where on his arrival he was handsomely received by the count de Foix and lodged in the castle. He entertained him splendidly, and presented him with fine horses and mules, and to his people gave other gifts: he sent by him to the duke of Anjou four beautiful horses and two Spanish greyhounds, so handsome and good there were none like them. Some secret negociations passed between the count and sir Peter de Beuil, of which we knew nothing for a long time; but, from circumstances which shortly happened, we suspected what I will now tell you, and by that time we shall arrive at Tarbes.

"Soon after the duke of Anjou had ended his expedition and was returned to Toulouse, the count de Foix sent letters by a trusty messenger to his cousin sir Peter Arnaut de Béarn at Lourde, for him to come to Orth~s. The knight on receiving these letters and noticing the bear~r, who was a man of high rank, became very thoughtful and doubtful whether to go or not: however, on full ~onsideration, he said he would go, for he was unwilling to offend the count do Foix.

"When on the point of departure, he called his brother, John do J3~arn, and said to him, in presence of the garrison: 'My lord, the count de Foix has sent for me; on what account I know not, but since he is desirous I should come to him, I will go. I suspect very much that I shall he required to surrender this castle; for the duke of Anjou has marched along the frontiers of his country without entering it, and the count de Foix has long wished for the castle of Malvoisin, in order to be master of Lane-bourg and the frontiers of Bigorre and Comminges. I am ignorant if any treaties have been made between him and the duke of Anjou; but I declare, that as long as I live, I will never surrender the castle of Lourde but to my natural lord the king of England. I therefore order you, brother John, should I appoint you to the command of it, that you swear to me, upon your faith and gentility, you will hold it in the same manner as I do, and that you will never fail in so doing for life or death.'

John took the oath as his brother required, who then set out for Orth~s, where on his arrival he dismounted at the hotel of the Moon.

"When he thought it was decent time to wait on the count, he went to him at the castle, who received him most amicably, made him sit at his table, and showed him every mark of attention. Dinner being over, the count said, 'Peter, I have many things to talk with you upon: therefore, you must not go away without my leave.'

"The knight answered, 'My iord, I will cheerfully stay until I have your permission to depart.' The third day the count addressed him, in the presence of the viscount de Gousserant, his brother, the lord d'Anchin in Bigorre, and several knights and squires, and so loud that all heard him:

"'Peter, I have sent for you, to acquaint you, that my lord of Anjou is very angry with me on account of the garrison of Lourde which you command. Through the good offices of some friends I have in his army, my territories have narrowly escaped being overrun; and it is his opinion, and others in his company who hate me, that I support you, because you are of B~arn. Now I do not wish to incur the anger of so powerful a prince as the duke of Anjon: I therefore command you, under pain of my displeasure, and by the faith and homage you owe me, to give up the castle of Lourde to me.'

"The knight was thunderstruck on hearing this speech, and thought awhile what answer to make: for he perceived the count had spoken in a determined manner. Having fully considered, he said, 'My lord, in truth I owe you faith and homage, for I am a poor knight of your blood and country; but, as for the castle of Lourde, I will never surrender it to you. You have sent for me, and you may therefore do with me as you please. I hold the castle of Lourde from the king of England, who has placed me there; and to no other person but to him will I ever surrender it.'

"The count do Foix, on hearing this answer, was exceedingly wroth, and said, as he drew his dagger, 'Ho, ho! dost thou then say no? By this head, thou hast not said it for nothing.' And, as he uttered these words, he struck him foully with the dagger, so that he wounded him severely in five places, and none of the barons or knights dared to interfere.

The knight replied, 'Ha, ha, my lord, this is not gentle treatment: you have sent, for me hither, and are murdering me.' Having received these five strokes from the dagger, the count ordered him to be cast into the dungeon, which was done; aisd there he died, for he was ill cured of his wounds."

"Ha, holy Mary," said I to the knight, "was not this a great act of cruelty?"

"Whatever it was," replied he, "so it happened, and ill betide him who angers the count, for then he pardons none. He kept his cousin-german the viscount de Chdteaubon, even though he is his heir, eight months prisoner in the tower of the castle of Orth~s, and then ransomed him for forty thousand francs."

"What, sir," said I, "has not the count de Foix any children ?"

"Eh, in God's name, not in lawful marriage; but he has two young knights, bastards, sir Jenuain and sir Gracien, whom you will see, and whom he loves as well as himself."

"And was he never married?"

"Yes, and is so still, but madame de Foix does not live with him."

"Where does she reside?" "She lives in Navarre, for the king of Navarre is her brother: she was daughter of king Louis of Navarre."

"The count de Foix, had he never any children by her?"

"Yes; a very fine son, who was the delight of his father and of the country: through him the country of B~arn, which is in dispute. would have been settled, for his wife was sister to the count d'Armagnac."

"And pray, sir, may I ask what became of this son?"

"Yes," replied he; "but the story is too long at present, for we are, as you see, arrived at the town."

At these words I left the knight quiet; and we soon after entered Tarbes, where we were very comfortable at the hotel of the Star. We remained there the whole of that day, for it was a commodious place, to refresh ourselves and horses, having good hay, good oats, and a handsome river.

The tales of Espaign du Lyon continue.

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