Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

How the castle of Lourde dominated a wide area in France and Spain

When war broke out in 1369,  Lourde becomes an important strongpoint for the English.

Book III, ch. 3 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 74-5).  I, sir John Froissart, make mention of all these things, because when I visited Foix and Béarn, I travelled through Bigorre, and made enquiry after all that had passed, and what I had not heard before. I there learnt that the prince of Wales, during his residence at Tarbes, had a great desire to see the castle of Lourde, three leagues distant, among the mountains. When he had fully examined that castle and country, he was much pleased, as well with the strength of the place, as its situation on the frontiers of several countries; for those of Lourde can overrun the kingdom of Arragon to a great extent, and as far as Barcelona in Catalonia.

The prince called to him a knight of his household, named sir Peter Arnaut, of the country of Béarn, who had loyally served him, and in whom he had great confidence: he was an expert man at arms and cousin to the count de Foix. "Sir Peter," said the prince, I nominate and appoint you governor and captain of Lourde, and regent of the country of Bigorre: now guard well this castle, so as to give a good account of it to my lord and father, and to myself."

"My lord," replied the knight, " that I will cheerfully do; " and he instantly did homage and pledged his faith, when the prince put him in possession of it.

Now, you must know, that when the war was renewed between the kings of France and England, as has been before related, the count Guy de St. Pol, and sir Hugh de Chastillon, master of the cross-bows in France, besieged and took the town of Abbeville, and the whole country of Ponthieu: about the same time, two great barons of Bigorre, whose names were sir Marnaut Barbasan and the lord d'Anchin, turned to the French interest, and seized the town and castle of Tarbes, for they were weakly guarded. The castle of Lourde was under the command of sir Peter Arnaut, of Béarn, who would not surrender on any terms, but carried on a sharp contest against France.

He sent to Upper Gascony and Béarn for some knight adventurers to assist him in the war; and many able men came to him, he had six captains, each of whom had fifty lances or more under his command: his brother, John de Béarn, a gallant squire, Peter d'Anchin de Bigorre, brother-german to the lord d'Anchin, who would never turn to the French, Ernauton de Sainte Colombe, Ernauton de Montagu, de Sainte Basile, and le bourg de Carnela.

These captains made many excursions into Bigorre, the Toulousain, the Carcassonois, and on the Albigeois; for the moment they left Lourde they were on enemy's ground, which they overran to a great extent, sometimes thirty leagues from their castle. In their march they touched nothing, but on their return all things were seized, and sometimes they brought with them so many prisoners, and such quantities of cattle, they knew not how to dispose of, nor lodge them. They laid under contribution the whole country except the territory of the count de Foix; but there they dared not take a fowl without paying for it, nor hurt any man belonging to the count, or even any who had his passport; for it would have enraged him so much that they must have been ruined.

These companions in Lourde had the satisfaction of overrunning the whole country wherever they pleased. Tarbes, which is situated, as I have said, hard by, was kept in great fear, and was obliged to enter into a composition with them. Between Tarbes and their castle is a large village, with a handsome abbey, called Guyors, to which they did much mischief, but they also compounded with them.

On the other side of the river Lisse is a goodly inclosed town called Bagneres, the inhabitants of which had a hard time of it for they were much harassed by those of Malvoisin, which is situated on a mountain, the river Lisse running at the foot of it, in its course towards Tournay, an enclosed town. This town of Tournay was the common pass for those of Lourde and Malvoisin, to which they did no harm, because they had a free passage, and the townspeople had good bargains of their pillage: they were, therefore, forced to dissemble with them, if they were desirous of living, for they did not receive aid or succour from any one. The governor of Malvoisin was a Gascon, called Raymonet de l'Espée, an able man at arms. Those of Lourde and Malvoisin put under contribution the merchants of Arragon and Catalonia equally with those of France.

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