Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Oudenarde is retaken (1384)

Despite the truce between England and France, war continues in Flanders.

Book II, ch. 151 (Johnes, v. II, pp. 23-24). You have before heard how Francis Atremen took by scalado the town of Oudenarde, while the treaties for a truce were negotiating before Bergues and Bourbourg, to the great surprise of Tournay and the adjacent towns.

The garrison of Oudenarde, during this time, had overrun the country: and done much mischief to the territories of Tournay: the whole estate of the lord Destournay was under their subjection. They had at the feast of Christmas collected his rents and duty-fowls, from the towns belonging to him, for their own use, which displeased him and his friends exceedingly. He therefore declared, that whatever truce or respite there might be between the kings of France and England with the Flemings, he should not pay any attention to it, but would exert himself in doing them as much damage as he was able, for they had so grievously oppressed him that he was become a poor man.

The lord Destournay turned his whole attention to retake Oudenarde, and succeeded through the friendship of some knights and squires from France, Flanders and Hainault, who assisted him in it. When he sent to these friends, several were ignorant of his intentions. The expedition was undertaken on the 17th day of May 1384; for the lord Destournay learnt by his spies, that Francis Atremen was gone to Ghent, trusting to the truce which had been made with the French: by so doing he committed a fault, and was no longer attentive to guard Oudenarde, as I shall relate.

The lord Destournay formed a considerable ambuscade of four hundred knights, squires and good men at arms, whom he had entreated to assist him. These he posted in the wood of Lart, near to the gate of Oudenarde. There were among them sir John du Moulin, sir James de ha Trimouille, sir Gilbert and sir John Cacquelan, sir Roland de l'Espierre, sir Blanchart de Calonne, and the lord d'Estripouille, who was created a knight.

I will now relate their stratagem, and how those of Oudenarde were deceived by it. They filled two carts with provision, which they put under the charge of four hardy and determined men dressed as carters, clothed in grey frocks, but armed underneath. These carters drove the carts to Oudenarde, and gave the guards to understand that they had brought provision from Hainault to victual the place. The guards not thinking but all was right, drew up the portcullis, and allowed them to advance on the bridge. The carters knocked out the pins which held the traces of the horses, and flung them into the ditch.

Upon this, the guards cried out to them, "Why do not you drive on ?" and taking hold of the horses, drove them before them, and thus left the carts standing, for, as I said, they were unharnessed. The guards then found out that they had been deceived and betrayed, and began to strike the carters, who defended themselves ably: for they were well armed under their frocks, and were men of tried courage. Having killed two of the guards, they were instantly reinforced; for the lord Destournay followed them so close with his men, that the guards fled into the town, crying out, "Treason, treason!" but, before the townsmen could be awakened, the men at arms had entered it, and killed all who put themselves on their defence, shouting out as they came to the square, "Victory!"

Thus was Oudenarde won. Of the Ghent men, full three hundred were killed or drowned. A large sum was found in the town belonging to Francis Atremem, which I heard amounted to fifteen thousand francs. News was soon spread abroad, that Oudenarde had been taken during the truce, which angered the Ghenters much, as was natural, for it nearly affected them. They held a meeting on this subject, and resolved to send to the duke of Burgundy to remonstrate with him on the capture of Oudenarde during the truce, and to say, that if it were not delivered back to them they should consider the truce as broken.

But the duke excused himself, declaring he had not interfered any way in the business, and that as God might help him, he was entirely ignorant of this expedition of the lord Destournay: he added, that he would willingly write to him, which he did, and order him to give back Oudenarde, for it was neither honourable to him nor agreeable to the duke to capture any towns, castles, or forts during a truce.

The lord Destournay acknowledged the letters from the duke, and in answer said, that the garrison of Qudenarde had always made war on his lands, whether truce or no truce, and had seized on his inheritance, and that he had never consented to any truce with them; that he had conquered Oudenarde in fair war, and that he would keep possession of it as his own proper inheritance until Flanders and Ghent should be completely re-united, for his other property had been ruined by the war.   Things remained in this state, for nothing better coud be done.

Francis Atremen was very much blamed for not having better guarded the place, and especial by the lord de Harzelles, insomuch that Francis was wroth with the knight, and high words ensued, adding, whatever he might have done in regard to Odenarde, he had always acquitted himself loyally towards Ghent.  This provoked answers, and the lie was given on both sides.
Shortly after, the lorde de Harzelles was killed; and some say that Francis Atremen and Peter du Bois were the authors of it.

About this time, the Ghent men requested the king of England to send them a valiant man for governor, and one who was connected with the crown by blood.  In consequence, the king sent to Ghent one of his knights, a gallant man of sufficient prudence to govern the town:  his name was sir John Bourchier, who remained governor of Ghent upwards of a year and a half.

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