Tales from Froissart
edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University
The Haze de Flandres Leads a Foolish Expedition
The French are assembling an army to invade Flanders.
Book II, ch. 112. Whilst these preparations were going forward, and during the residence of the king of France at Arras, great bodies of men at arms were assembling in the Tournesis, Artois, and castelwick of Lille and its neighbourhood. Some knights and squires, who resided at Lille and thereabout resolved to perform feats of arms that should gain them renown, chiefly through the exhortations of the Haze de Flandres.
They collected about six score knights and squires, and crossed the rive Lis at Pont-Amenin, which was not then broken down, two leagues from Lille. They rode for the town of Harle, which they surprised; and, after slaying many in the town and environs, they drove the remainder out of the town. Their cries were heard in the neighbouring villages; the inhabitants of which sounded their alarm bells, and marched towards Harle and Pont-Amenin, whence the cries seemed to come.
When the Haze, sir John Jumont, the constable de Vuillon, sir Henry Duffle, and the other knights and squires, had sufficiently alarmed the country, they thought it was time for them to retreat, and set out on their return, intending to repass the bridge, but they found it strongly occupied by Flemings, who were busily employed in destroying it; and, when they had broken down any parts, they covered them with straw, that the mischief might not be perceived. The knights and squires at this moment arrived, mounted on the best of horses, and found upwards of two thousand peasants drawn up in a body without the town, prepared to advance upon them.
The gentlemen, on seeing this, formed, and having fixed their lances on their rests, those best mounted instantly charged this body of peasants, with loud shouts. The Flemings opened their ranks through fear, but others say through malice; for they well knew the bridge would not bear them; and they said among themselves, "Let us make way for them, and we shall soon see fine sport."
The Haze de Flandres, and his companions, desirous to get away, for any further stay would be against them, galloped for the bridge, which was now too weak to bear any great weight: however the Haze, and some others, had the courage and good luck to pass over: they might be about thirty: but, as others were following, the bridge broke down under them. Horses and riders were overthrown, and both perished together.
Those behind, seeing this misfortune, were thunderstruck, and knew not whither to fly to save themselves. Some leaped into the river, intending to swim, but they were not able thus to escape. There river was deep, and the bank so high and steep that the horses could not land. Great slaughter ensued; for the Flemings fell upon them and killed them easily, and without pity. They made several leap into the water, and they were drowned.
Sir John de Jumont narrowly escaped, for the bridge broke under him, but, by great agility of body, he saved himself; he was, however, badly wounded on the head and body by arrows, and it was six weeks before he recovered. At this unfortunate action were killed, the constables de Vuillon, de Bouchars, de St. Hilaire, and more drowned: sir Henry Duffle was slain. Including drowned and killed, there were upwards of sixty; and very fortunate were those who escaped. Great numbers returned wounded from this enterprise.
News was carried to the lords of France at Arras, of their countrymen having lost the day: and that the Haze de Flandres had conducted this foolish expedition. He was pitied by some, but by others not. Those who had been most accustomed to arms said, they had acted ill, to cross a river that was not fordable, attack a large town and enter an enemy's country, and return the way they had come, without having established guards on the bridge. It was not an enterprise planned by prudent men at arms, who were desirous of success; but since they planned their enterprise with so much self-sufficiency, they had suffered from the consequence.