Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The Scots and English each invade the other country


Book II, ch. 171 (Johnes, v.2, pp. 52-55) The army of the king of England, which consisted of seven thousand men at arms and sixty thousand archers, kept advancing: none had remained behind, for it had been confidently reported through England that sir John de Vienne would give them battle. Indeed, such were his intentions, and he had in a manner told this to the barons of Scotland, when he said, "My lords, make your army as considerable as you can; for, if the English come as far as Scotland, I will offer them combat." The Scots replied, "God assist us!" but they afterwards changed their mind.

The king and his army advanced beyond Durham, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and through Northumberland to Berwick, of which sir Matthew Redman was governor. He received him with all due respect; but the kind did not stay there long: he continued his march, and the whole army crossed the river Tweed, which comes from Roxburgh and the mountains in Northumberland, and took up his quarters in the abbey of Melrose. This monastery, in all the preceding wars of England and Scotland, had been spared, but it was now burnt and destroyed; for it had been determined by the English to ruin everything in Scotland before they returned home, because the Scots had allied themselves with the French.

The admiral of France, on learning that the king of England and his army had crossed the Tyne and Tweed, and were now at Lambir Law, said to the Scottish barons, " Why do we remain here, and not reconnoitre our enemies to fight them? You told us, before we came into this country, that if you had a thousand, or thereabouts, of good men at arms from France, you would be sufficiently strong to combat the English. I will warrant you have now a thousand, if not more, and five hundred cross-bows; and I must tell you, that the knights and squires who have accompanied me are determined men at arms, the flower of knighthood, who will not fly, but abide the event, such as God may please to order it."

The barons of Scotland, who well knew the strength of the English army, and had not any desire of meeting it, answered, " Faith, my lord, we are convinced that you and your companions are men of valour, and to be depended on; but we understand that all England is on its march to Scotland, and the English were never in such force as at present. We will conduct you to a place from whence you may view and consider them: and if, after this, you should advise a battle, we will not refuse it, for what you have repeated as having been said by us is true."

"By God, then," said the admiral, " I will have a battle."

Not long afterwards, the earl of Douglas and the other Scots barons carried the admiral of France to a high mountain, at the bottom of which was a pass through which the English would be forced to march with their baggage. From this mountain, where the admiral was stationed, with many of the French knights, they clearly saw the English army, and estimated it, as nearly as they could, at six thousand men at arms, sixty thousand archers and stout varlets. They allowed they were not in sufficient force to meet them in battle, for the Scots were not more than one thousand lances, with about thirty thousand others badly armed.

The admiral said to the earls of Douglas and Moray," You were in the right in not wishing to fight the English; but let us consider what must be done, for they are numerous enough to overrun your whole country and ruin it. Since we are not able to combat them, I request you will lead us by unfrequented roads into England, and let us carry the war into their own country, as they have done here, if such an enterprise may be practicable." The barons told him, it was very practicable Sir John de Vienne and the Scots barons resolved in council, to quit that part of the country and suffer the English to act as they pleased in it, and to make an inroad on Cumberland, near Carlisle, where they should find a plentiful country, and amply revenge themselves.

This resolution was adopted. They marched their rnen in an opposite direction the English, through forests and over mountains, and laid waste the whole country on their line, burning towns, villages and houses. The inhabitants of Scotland carried their provisions to their retreats in the forests, where they knew the English would never seek for them. The Scots barons marched hastily through their own country; and the king, not being well enough in health to accompany them, retired into the highlands, where he remained during the war, and left his subjects to act as well as they could. The French and Scots passed the mountains which divide Cumberland from Scotland, and entered England, when they began to burn the country and villages, and to commit great devastations on the lands of Mowbray, belonging to the earl of Nottingham, on those of the earl of Stafford, as well as on the lands of the baron of Grisop and of the lord Musgrave, and then continued their march to Carlisle.

ch. 172.  While the admiral of France and those with him, such as the count de Grand Pré, the lord de Sainte Croix, sir Geoffry de Charny, sir William de Breune, sir James de Boenne, the lords de Peigny, de Hees, de Marnel, sir Valeran de Rayneval, the baron d'Ivry, the baron de Fontaines, the lord de Croy, sir Braque de Bracquemont, the lord de Lendury, amounting to a thousand lances at least, of barons and knights of France, with the lords of Scotland .and their army, were thus overrunning the northern parts of England, burning and destroying the towns, houses and country; the king of England, with his uncles, barons and knights, had entered Scotland, wasting the country as they advanced. The English had quartered themselves at Edinburgh, where the king remained for five days. On their departure, everything was completely burnt to the ground except the castle, which was very strong and well guarded. During the residence of king Richard at Edinburgh, the English overran the whole country in the neighbourhood, and did great mischief; but they found none of the inhabitants, for they had retreated into forts and thick forests, whither they had driven all their cattle. In the king's army there were upwards of one hundred thousand men, and as many horses: of course, great quantities of provision were wanted; but, as they found none in Scotland, many stores followed them from England by sea and land.

When the king and his lords left Edinburgh they went to Dunfermline, a tolerably handsome town, where is a large and fair abbey of black monks, in which the kings of Scotland have been accustomed to be buried. The king was lodged in the abbey, but after his departure the army seized it, and burnt both that and the town. They marched towards Stirling and crossed the river Tay, which runs by Perth. They made a grand attack on the castle of Stirling, but did not conquer it, and had a number of their men killed and wounded: they then marched away, burning the town and the lands of the lord de Versy.

The intention of the duke of Lancaster and of his brothers, as well as of several knights and squires, was to lay waste all Scotland, and then pursue the French and Scots (for they had had information of their march to Carlisle), and by this means inclose them between England and Scotland, so that they should have such advantage over them, not one would return, but all should be slain, or made prisoners. In the mean time, their army overran the country at their pleasure, for none ventured to oppose them, the kingdom being void of defence, as the men at arms had all followed the admiral of France. The English burnt the town of Perth, which is on the banks of the Tay, and has a good harbour, from whence vessels may sail to all parts of the world. They afterwards burnt Dundee, and the English spared neither monasteries nor churches, but put all to fire and flame. The light troops of the English, and the van-guard, advanced as far as the city of Bredane, which is situated on the sea, at the entrance into the highlands, but they did no harm to it, though the inhabitants were exceedingly alarmed, supposing they should be attacked, and that the king of England was coming.

Just in the same manner as the English conducted themselves in Scotland, did the French and Scots in Cumberland, and on the borders of England, where they burnt and destroyed large tracts of country. They entered Westmoreland, passing through the lands of Greystock, and of the baron Clifford, and burnt on their march several large villages where no men at arms had before been. They met with no opposition, as the country was drained, for all men at arms were with the, king in his expedition. They came at length before Carlisle, which is well inclosed with walls, towers, gates and ditches: king Arthur formerly resided here more than elsewhere, on account of the fine woods which surround it, and for the grand adventures of arms which had happened near it . There were in the city of Carlisle, sir Lewis Clifford, brother to sir William Neville, sir Thomas Musgrave and his son, David Hollgrave, the earl of Angus, and several others from that neighbourhood; for Carlisle is the capital of that part of the country; and it was fortunate to have such men to defend it. When the admiral of France and his army arrived, he made a very severe attack with ordnance, which lasted some time, but there were within those capable of making a good defence, so that many handsome feats of arms were performed before Carlisle.

ch. 173.  The king's uncles and the other lords supposed the admiral of France and the Scots would continue their march, and that they would do as much mischief as they could on the borders and in Cumberland. They therefore thought they could not do better, when their stores were all arrived, than to follow their line of march until they should overtake and fight them; for, as they could not any way escape, they must be attacked to a disadvantage. Of this opinion was the duke of Lancaster, his brothers, several of the nobles of the realm, and the greater part of the army. Their stores were now all arrived by sea or land, and the king had, in the presence of his uncles, ordered this plan to be adopted.

But in one night, Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk who at that time was the heart and sole council of the king, and in whom he placed his whole confidence, undid the whole business. I know not what his intentions were for so doing; but I heard afterwards, he should say to the king, "At, ah, my lord, what are you thinking of? You intend then to follow the plan your uncles have devised. Know, that if you do so; you will never return, for the duke of Lancaster wishes for nothing more earnestly than your death, that he may be king. How could he dare advise your entering such a country in the winter? I would recommend you not to cross the Cumberland mountains, where are thirty passes so narrow, that if once you be inclosed within them, you will run into the greatest danger from the Scots. Never engage in such a perilous expedition, whatever they may say to you; and if the duke of Lancaster be so desirous to go thither, let him, with that division of the army under his command: for never, with my consent, shall you undertake it. You have done enough for one time: neither your father, nor your grandfather Edward, have been so far in Scotland as you have now been. This, I say, should satisfy you. Take care of your own person, you are young and promising; and there are those who profess much, but who little love you."

These words made so strong an impression on the king, he could never get them out of his head, as I shall hereafter relate. On the morrow morning, when the lords of England are preparing for their march towards Carlisle, in search of the French, and to fight with them, as had been resolved in council the preceding night, the duke of Lancaster waited on the king, ignorant of what had passed between his nephew and lord Suffolk. When the king saw him, being peevish and choleric from the preceding conversation, he said, harshly," Uncle, uncle of Lancaster, you shall not yet succeed in your plans. Do you think that, for your fine speeches, we will madly ruin ourselves? I will no longer put my faith in you nor in your councils, for I see in them more loss than profit, both in regard to your own honour and to that of our people: therefore, if you be desirous of undertaking this march, which you have advised, do so, but I will not, for I shall return to England, and all those who love me will follow me."

"And I will follow you," replied the duke of Lancaster: " for there is not a man in your company who loves you so well as I do, and my brothers also. Should any other person, excepting yourself, dare say the contrary, or that I wish otherwise than well to you and to your people, I will throw him my glove." No answer was made by any one. The king was silent on the subject. He only spoke to those who served him, on different matters, and then gave orders for returning to England by the way they had come.

The duke left the king quite melancholy, and went to make other preparations; for he had concluded they were to pursue the French and Scots who had advanced beyond the borders; but, as this was altered, they took the direct road to England. Thus did the earl of Suffolk, who governed the king, break up this expedition. Some lords said, the king had been badly advised, not to pursue the Scots, as they bad all their stores with them, and it was still in their way home. Others, afraid of the difficulties, said that, considering all things, as well the quantity of provision necessary for so large an army, as the hardships they would be exposed to in the winter season, when crossing the Cumberland mountains, they might lose more than they could gain. Thus were affairs managed.

The English army returned, with the king and barons, by the way they had entered Scotland, but not before they had destroyed the greater part of that country. News was brought to the admiral of France that the. English were retreating homeward. They called a council to determine how to act, when it was resolved that, as their provision began to fail, they would return to Scotland, for they were now in a poor country, having ruined all round Carlisle, and the lands of lord Clifford, lord Mowbray and the bishop of Carlisle; but the city of Carlisle they could not conquer. The French said among themselves, they had burnt in the bishopricks of Durham and Carlisle more than the value of all the towns in the kingdom of Scotland.

The French and Scots marched back the way they had come. When arrived in the lowlands, they found the whole country ruined; but the people of the country made light of it, saying, that with six or eight stakes they would soon have new houses, and find cattle enow for provision: for the Scots had driven them for security to the forests.

You must, however, know, that whatever the French wanted to buy, they were made to pay very dear for; and it was fortunate the French and Scots did not quarrel with each other seriously, as there were frequent riots on account of provision. The Scots said, the French had done them more mischief than the English: and when asked, "In what manner?" they replied, "by riding through their corn, oats and barley, on their march, which they trod under foot, not condescending to follow the roads, for which damages they would have a recompense before they left Scotland and they should neither find vessel nor mariner who would dare to put to sea without their permission." Many knights and squires complained of the timber they had cut down, and of the waste they had committed to lodge themselves.

This story continues.

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