Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The French receive bad treatment from their allies, the Scots

France and Scotland are once again allied against the English, and a French army is sent.

Book II, ch. 160 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 35-37).  The French army that was bound for Scotland had very favourable winds, for it was in the month of May, when the weather is temperate and agreeable. They coasted Flanders, Holland, Zealand, and Friesland, and advanced until they approached so near Scotland as to see it; but before they arrived there an unfortunate accident befel a knight of France and an expert man at arms, named sir Aubert d'Angers. The knight was young and active, and to show his agility he mounted aloft by the ropes of his ship completely armed; but, his feet slipping, he fell into the sea, and the weight of his armour, which sunk him instantly, deprived him of any assistance, for the ship was soon at a distance from the place where he had fallen. All the barons were much vexed at this misfortune, but they were forced to endure it, as they could not any way remedy it.

They continued their voyage until they arrived at Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, where the king chiefly resides when he is in that part of the country. The earls of Douglas and Moray, from the information they had received, were waiting for them in Edinburgh and as soon as they were come, hastened to meet them at the harbour, and received them most amicably, bidding them welcome to their country. The Scots barons instantly recognized sir Geoffry de Charny, for he had resided full two months with them last summer in Scotland. Sir Geoffry made them acquainted, as he very well knew how, with the admiral- and the barons of France. At that time the king was not at Edinburgh, but in the Highlands of Scotland: his sons received them handsomely, telling them the king would shortly be there.

They were satisfied with this information, and the lords and their men lodged themselves as well as they could in Edinburgh, and those who could not lodge there were quartered in time different villages thereabout. Edinburgh, notwithstanding it is the residence of the king, and is the Paris of Scotland, is not such a town as Tournay or Valenciennes ; for there are not in the whole town four thousand houses. Several of the French lords were therefore obliged to take up their lodgings in the neighbouring villages, and at Dunfermline, Kelson, Dunbar, Dalkeith, and in other villages.

News was soon spread through Scotland, that a large body of men at arms from France were arrived- in the country. Some began to murmur and say, "What devil has brought them here? or who has sent for them? Cannot we carry on our wars with England without their assistance? We shall never do any effectual good as long as they are with us. Let them be told to return again, for we are sufficiently numerous in Scotland to fight our own quarrels, and do not want their company. We neither understand their language nor they ours, and we cannot converse together. They will very soon eat up and destroy all we have in this country, and will do us more harm, if we allow them to remain among us, than the English could in battle. If the English do burn our houses, what consequence is it to us? we can rebuild them cheap enough, for we only require three days to do so, provided we have five or six poles and boughs to cover them."

Such was the conversation of the Scots on the arrival of the French: they did not esteem them, but hated them in their hearts, and abused them with their tongues as much as they could, like rude and worthless people as they are. I must, however, say that, considering all things, it was not right for so many of the nobility to have come at this season to Scotland: it would have been better to have sent twenty or thirty knights from France, than so large a body as five hundred or a thousand. The reason is clear. In Scotland you will never find a man of worth : they are like savages, who wish not to be acquainted with any one, and are too envious of the good fortune of others, and suspicious of losing any thing themselves, for their country is very poor. When the English make inroads thither, as they have very frequently done, they order their provisions, if they wish to live, to follow close at their backs; for nothing is to be had in that country without great difficulty. There is neither iron to shoe horses, nor leather to make harness, saddles or bridles: all these things come ready made from Flanders by sea; and, should these fail, there is none to be had in the country.

When these barons and knights of France, who had been used to handsome hotels, ornamented apartments, and castles with good soft beds to repose on, saw themselves in such poverty, they began to laugh, and to say before the admiral, "What could have brought us hither? We have never known till now what was meant by poverty and hard living. We now have found the truth of what our fathers and mothers were used to tell us, when they said,-'Go, go, thou shalt have in thy time, shouldst thou live long enough, hard beds and poor lodgings:' all this is now come to pass." They said also among themselves, "Let us hasten the object of our voyage, by advancing towards England: a long stay in Scotland will be neither honourable nor profitable." The knights made remonstrances respecting all these circumstances to sir John de Vienne, who appeased them as well as he could, saying,- " My fair sirs, it becomes us to wait patiently, and to speak fair, since we are got into such difficulties. We have a long way yet to go, and we cannot return through England. Take in good humour whatever you can get. You cannot always be at Paris, Dijon, Beaune or Châlons: it is necessary for those who wish to live with honour in this world to endure good and evil."

By such words as these, and others which I do not remember, did sir John de Vienne pacify his army in Scotland. He made as much acquaintance as he could within the Scottish barons and knights: but he was visited by so very few it is not worth speaking of; for, as I have said before, there is not much honour there, and they are people difficult to be acquainted with. The earls of Douglas and Moray were the principal visitants to the lords of France. These two lords paid them more attention than all the rest of Scotland.

But this was not the worst, for the French were hardly dealt with in their purchases; and whenever they wanted to buy horses, they were asked, for what was worth only ten florins, sixty and a hundred : with difficulty could they be found at that price. When the horse had been bought there was no furniture nor any housings to be met with, unless time respective articles had been brought with them from Flanders. In this situation were the French: besides, whenever their servants went out to forage, they were indeed permitted to load their horses with as much as they could pack up and carry, but they were way-laid on their return, and villanously beaten, robbed, and sometimes slain, insomuch that no varlet dared go out foraging for fear of death. In one month the French lost upwards of a hundred varlets: for when three or four went out foraging not one returned, in such a hideous manner were they treated. -

With all this the king required many entreaties before he would come forward: the knights and squires of Scotland were the cause of this, for they declared, they would not at this season wage war with England, that time French might pay more dearly for their coming. Before the king would come to Edinburgh, it was necessary to pay him a large sum of money for himself and his courtiers. Sir John de Vienne engaged, under his seal, that he would never quit Scotland until the king and his people were perfectly satisfied: for, had he not done so, he would not have had any assistance from the Scots. He was obliged to make this bargain or a worse; but however advantageous it was for them, and whatever affection he gained by it, they made the war solely profitable for themselves, as I shall relate in this history.
 

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