Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

A challenge is fought before the Earl of Buckingham

During a campaign in the Gatinois and the Beauce, a challenge arises between a French and English squire.

Book II, ch. 54 (Johnes, v. 1, pp. 613-15). When the earl of Buckingham and his army had reposed themselves at Maillerois-le-Vicomte, they determined to advance into the Gatinois:  they crossed, in consequence, the river Yonne, and their light troops went even to the suburbs of Sens.  The next day they quartered themselves at St. Jean de Nemours and thereabouts, and afterwards at Beaune in Gatinois, where they remained three days, on account of its fertile and rich country.  There they held a council, whether to follow the road into the plains of Beauce, or keep to the course  of the river Loire:  they resolved on the first, and marched towards Toury in Beauce.   In this castle were the lord de Saimpi, sir Oliver de Mauny, sir Guy le Baveux, and numbers of men at arms.  There were besides, at Geneville in Beauce, the lord de Volainnes, le Barrois des Barres,  with others to the amount of three hundred spears; and in all the castles and fortresses of Beauce were posted men at arms to defend the country.

Those of the van-guard skirmished with the garrison of Toury, when there were some slain on both sides.  The earl of Buckingham and his whole army were quartered at Toury in Beauce, and in the environs, where they found plenty of provisions.

During the skirmish at Toury, a squire from Beauce, a gentleman of tried courage, who had advanced himself by his own merit, without any assistance from others, came to the barriers, and cried out to the English, "Is there among you any gentleman who for the love of his lady is willing to try with me some feat of arms?  If there should be any such, here I am, quite ready to sally forth completely armed and mounted, to tilt three courses with the lance, to give three blows with the battle axe, and three strokes with the dagger.  Now look, you English, if there be none among you in love."

The squire's name was Gauvain Micaille.  His proposal and request was soon spread among the English, when a squire, an expert man at tournaments, called Joachim Cator, stepped forth and said, "I will deliver him from his vow: let him make haste and come out of the castle."

Upon this, the lord Fitzwalter, marshal of the army, went up to the barriers, and said to sir Guy de Baveux, "Let your squire come forth: he has found one who will cheerfully deliver him; and we will afford him every security."

Gauvian Micaille was much rejoiced on hearing these words.  He immediately armed himself, in which the lords assisted, in putting on the different pieces, and mounted him on a horse, which they gave to him.  Attended by two others, he came out of the castle; and his varlets carried three lances, three battle-axes, and three daggers.  He was much looked at by the English, for they did not think any Frenchman would have engaged body to body.   There were besides to be three strokes with a sword, and with all other sorts of arms.  Gauvain had had three brought with him for fear any should break.

The earl of Buckingham, hearing of this combat, said he would see it, and mounted his horse, attended by the earls of Stafford and Devonshire.  On this account, the assault on Toury ceased.   The Englishman that was to tilt was brought forward, completely armed and mounted on a good horse.  When they had taken their stations, they gave to each of them a spear, and the tilt began; but neither of them struck the other, form the mettlesomeness of their horses.  They hit the second onset, but it was by darting their spears; on which the earl of Buckingham cried out, "Hola hola!  It is now late."

He then said to the constable, "Put an end to it, for they have done enough this day: we will make them finish it when we have more leisure than we have at this moment, and take great care that as much attention is paid to the French squire as to our own; and order some one to tell those in the castle not to be uneasy about him, for we shall carry him with us to complete his enterprise, but not as a prisoner; and that when he shall have been delivered, if he escape with his life, we will send him back in all safety."

These orders of the earl were obeyed by the marshal, who said to the French squire, "You shall accompany us without any danger, and when it shall be agreeable to my lord you will be delivered."

Gauvain replied, "God help me!"   A herald was sent to the castle, to repeat to the governor the words you have heard.

The following day, they marched towards Geneville in Beauce, always in expectation of having an engagement with the enemy; for they well know they were followed and watched by the French, in greater numbers than themselves.   True it is, that the French dukes, counts, barons, knights, and squires, eagerly wished for a battle, and said among themselves, that it was very blamable and foolish not to permit them to engage, and suffer the enemy thus to slip through their hands.   But, when it was mentioned to the king, he replied, "Let them alone: they will destroy themselves."   The English continued their march, with the intent to enter Brittany.

You before heard, that there were three hundred spears in Geneville, so the whole army passed by it.  There was indeed at the barriers some little skirmishing, which lasted not long, as it was time thrown away.  Without Geneville a handsome mill was destroyed.  The earl came to Yterville, and dismounted at the house of the Templars.   The van-guard went forwards to Puiset, where they heard that sixty companions had posted themselves in a large tower: they marched to the attack, for it was situated in the open plain without any bulwarks.  The assault was sharp, but did not last long, for the archers shot so briskly that scarcely any one dared to appear on the battlements: the tower was taken, and those within slain or made prisoners.  The English then set fire to it, and marched on, for they were in the utmost distress for water.

From thence they went to Ermoyon, where they quartered themselves, and then to the forest of Marchenoir.  In this forest there is a monastery of monks, of the Cistertian order, which is called the Cistertian Abbey, and has several handsome and noble edifices, where formerly a most renowned and noble knight, the count de Blois, received great edification, and bequeathed to it large revenues; but the wars had greatly diminished them.  The earl of Buckingham lodged in this abbey, and heard mass there on the feast of our Lady in September.   It was here ordered, that Gauvain Micaille and Joachim Cator should on the morrow complete their enterprise.  That day the English came to Marchenoir: the governor was a knight of that country, called sir William de St. Martin, a prudent and valiant man at arms.  The English, after having reconnoitred the castle, retired to their quarters.

In another part, the lord Fitzwalter came before the castle of Verbi, not to attack it, but to speak with the governor at the barriers, with whom he was well acquainted, having been together formerly in Prussia.  The lord Fitzwalter made himself known to the lord de Verbi, and entreated him, out of courtesy, to send him some wine, and in return he would prevent his estate from being burnt or spoiled.   The lord de Verbi sent him a large quantity, and thirty great loaves with it; for which the lord Fitzwalter was very thankful, and kept his promise.

On the day of the feast of our Lady, Gauvain Micaille and Joachim Cator were armed, and mounted to finish their engagement.  They met each other roughly with spears, and the French squire tilted much to the satisfaction of the earl: but the Englishman kept his spear too low, and at last struck it into the thigh of the Frenchman.  The earl of Buckingham as well as the other lords were much enraged by this, and said it was tilting dishonorably; but he excused himself, by declaring it was solely owing to the restiveness of his horse.   Then were given the three thrusts with the sword; and the earl declared they had done enough, and would not have it longer continued, for he perceived the French squire bled exceedingly: the other lords were of the same opinion.  Gauvain Micaille was therefore disarmed and his wound dressed.

The earl sent him one hundred francs by a herald, with leave to return to his own garrison in safety, adding that he had acquitted himself much to his satisfaction.  Gauvain Micaille went back to the lords of France: and the English departed from Marchenoir, taking the road to Vendôme; but before they arrived there, they quartered themselves in the forest of Coulombiers.

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