Book II, ch. 159 (Johnes, v. II, p. 33-35). On the duke's arrival at Niort, he found plenty of men at arms impatient for his arrival. His cousin the count de la Marche, with a large body, the viscount de Tonnerre, sir Henry de Thouars, seneschal of Limousin, the lords de Pons, de Partenay, de Tomars, de Pousanges, and many other barons of Poitou and Saintonge were there. Sir William de Lignac came thither to wait on the duke, having conquered the castle de l'Aigle, for which the duke felt himself obliged to him. When all these men at arms were mustered, they amounted to full seven hundred lances, not including the Genoese and the lusty varlets: in the whole, two thousand combatants.
They then held a council whither they should turn their arms; to Bertueil, Taillebourg , or Monthieu. After having well considered each situation, they determined to march to Montlieu, because it was a strong castle near the moors of Bordeaux; and, if they should succeed in taking it, the others would be weakened, and none able to quit Bordeaux without their knowledge.
They marched through the Angoumois, and on arriving at Montlieu prepared
for the siege. Sir James Poussart and John Bonnelance were the leaders
of the duke of Bourbon's men at arms, and of the whole army. They were
not long besieging Montlieu before they made ready their ladders and other
things, necessary for an attack. They surrounded the castle and
began tine assault, but those within defended themselves vigorously. The combat was very sharp, long continued, and many gallant deeds were done; for the French mounted their ladders witln rapidity, and fought hand to hand on the battlements within their daggers: in short, they exerted themselves so much that the castle was fairly won by storm, and most within perished.
When the lords of France had got possession of Montlieu, they reinforced
it within a new garrison and stores, and then took the road to Taillebourg
on the Charente. Dinandon de la Perate, a Gascon, was governor of this
fortress, an able man at arms, who held the French cheap. When they came
before Taillebourg, the duke of Bourbon and his company took two small
forts which had much harassed the borders of Poitou and Limousin, la Froncette,
and Archac: the garrisons were slain, and the castles
given up to those of the adjacent countries, who instantly razed them to the ground.
The siege of Taillebourg was now formed, and four block-houses were erected before it. Near Taillebourg was a bridge over the Charente, which the English and Gascons had fortified, so that no vessels from la Rochelle or Saintonge could pass without great danger, unless by paying toll. The French lords determined to gain this bridge, to facilitate their other attacks and to be in greater security in their block-houses.
They ordered vessels ready prepared and armed to ascend the Charente
from la Rochelle, in which they had placed large bodies of cross-bows and
Genoese, to skirmish with those at the bridge. The attack was severe, for
the English and Gascons had well fortified the bridge, and they defended
it with spirit, is it behoved them to do, for they were vigoriously attacked
by land and water. The eldest son of the count de Harcourt, named John,
was made a knight at this assault, by his uncle the duke
of Bourbon, and displayed his banner.
This attack on the bridge of Taillebourg was long continued: many gallant
actions were performed; but the cross-bows and Genoese in the vessels shot
so ably, that those on the bridge scarcely dared to appear and defend themselves.
Why should I make a long tale of this? The bridge was carried by storm,
and all found there slain or drowned: not one escaped. Thus did the French
gain the bridge of Taillebourg. Their siege was carried on more eagerly
for this. Taillebourg is situated three
leagues from St Jean d'Angely, and two from Saintes, in the finest country in the world.
Dinandon, and those in the castle, were much astonished and vexed at the capture of the bridge; and they had reason, for they lost by it the passage of the river. However, they would not surrender; for they felt themselves in a strong place, and expected succours from Bordeaux, as it had been currently reported on the borders of the Bordelois, and onfirmed by all the English and Gascon garrisons, that the duke of Lancaster or the earl of Buckingham, was to arrive at Bordeaux with two thousand men at arms and four thousand archers, to combat the French and to oblige them to raise all their sieges: in this they placed great hopes, but it turned out otherwise, as I shall tell you.
In truth, before the army under the command of the admiral of France
was prepared to sail for Scotland, it had been ordered in England that
the duke of Lancaster, sir John holland, brother to the king, sir Thomas
Percy, sir Thomas Trivet, the lord Fitzwalter, sir William Windsor, sir
John Silbain, and other barons and knights to the amount of a thousand
lances amid three thuounsand archers, should sail for Bordeaux, and remain
there the whole summer, to reinforce Mortaigne, Boutevilie, and
those castles which held out for them in Gascony and Langiactioc: they were to fight within the French, should they find them in the country; and after having remained there a season, they were to march to Castille by way of Bayonne and Navarre, for there was a treaty between them and the king of Navarre. All this had been settled in the imaginations of the English, but it proved a disappointment; for, when they learned for a truth that the admiral of France with a thousand lances of chosen
knights and squires were preparing to sail for Scotland, their counsels were changed, and none dared to think of quitting
their country, nor of weakening their forces : for they much dreaded the consequences of this junction of the French with the Scots.
There was also a report at this time, that England was to be attacked
in three different parts by the French. One expedition was from Brittany,
as it was said that the duke of Brittany was become a good Frenchman; another
from Normandy, where the constable of France was making his preparations
at Harfleur, Dieppe, and all along the coast as far as St. Valery and
Crotoy; the third from Scotland. From fear of this, the government of England would not allow any knights or squires to quit the country, but attended to the fortifying of their harbours. At this season Richard, earl of Arundel, admiral of the English sea, was cruising with sixty or fourscore large vessels, armed and fitted with men at arms and archers: he had, besides, nine light vessels off Normandy to gain intelligence.
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