Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

French knights face danger in Zealand

A Scots ambassador has been at the English court, to see if the truces between England and France will hold between England and Scotland, too.

Book II ch. 150 (Johnes, v. II, pp. 21-22).  At the end of two days, the council agreed on an answer. Sir Simon Burley, chamberlain to the king, drew it up: and by these means all disputes were settled. To say the truth, the lords of England who had been at the conferences at Bolinghen had not acted very honourably when they had consented to order their men to march to Scotland and burn the country, knowing that a truce would speedily be concluded: and the best excuse they could make was, that it was the French, and not they, who were to signify such truce to the Scots. The herald was told, that in God's name he was welcome, and that it was the intention of the king of England, his uncles and council, to keep and maintain what they had sealed and sworn to, and that they would no ways infringe it, but, on the contrary, would preserve it, for those who had been most active had lost the most.

The herald demanded all this to be put in writing, that he might the more readily be believed. They made him rich presents, and in such quantity that he was well contented, and greatly thanked the king and his nobles.

Having left London, he continued his journey until he arrived in Scotland, where the ambassadors from France were waiting to know his answer, for they were anxious to learn how the English would conduct themselves. When they saw the answers from the king and his uncles, in the sealed letters which were delivered to them, they were well satisfied and much rejoiced thereat. Thus was the truce continued for this year between England and Scotland, and for greater security it was proclaimed throughout the two kingdoms.

The French ambassadors returned to their own country, through England, without any accident, and related to the king of France and his uncles what they had done, and the opposition they had met with: in short, they recounted every thing you have just heard.

When sir Geoffry de Charny and the French knights in his company found that the truce was to be established between Scotland and England, they took their leave of the barons of Scotland, more especially of the earls of Douglas and Moray, who had shown them much kindness.

These barons of Scotland, as well as some other knights, said to them, joking, "Gentlemen, you have seen the condition and manner of our country, but you have not seen its whole strength and power. Know that Scotland is the country of the world most dreaded by the English; for we can, as you have seen, enter England at our pleasure without any danger from the sea: if we were in greater numbers, we should do them more mischief than we are now able to do. Be so good therefore, when you are in France, to tell this to your knights and squires, who shall be eager for renown, to excite them to come hither in search of deeds of arms. We can assure you, that if we had a thousand lances from France, with the good people here, we would give such a considerable blow to England that it should be visible for forty years to come. Have tine goodness to remember this when you shall be on the other side of the water."

The French knights replied they would not fail to do so, for it was not a thing to be forgotten.

Upon this, they embarked on board a vessel they had engaged to carry them to Sluys; but they had contrary winds when at sea, which obliged them to run for a port in Zealand called la Virille When they landed there, they thought they were in a place of safety, but were disappointed, for the Normans had lately visited that coast, and had done, as it was said, much mischief to the Zealanders. These knights and squires were in great danger; for, while a different language was held in the town, their vessel was seized, their trunks broken open, and their arms taken away, and they themselves in risk of losing their lives.

At that time there was in the town a squire of the count de Blois, whose name was Jacob, an agreeable man, who assisted them in all things. He talked with the principal people of the town, and with such good effect that a part of their baggage was restored to them. In order to save them from their peril, for he knew the people were much enraged against them, and had intentions of attacking them on the sea, as they had sent notice of their plans to the neighbouring towns, and were in sufficient force to do so, he showed them much courtesy, and, out of affection to them, explained how greatly the country was exasperated against them, but that, out of regard to his lord and the realm of France, he would counteract it. They warmly thanked him for his kind intentions.

Well, what did Jacob do? He went to a mariner and hired a vessel to carry him and his company wherever me pleased, saying his intentions were to go to Dordrecht. The mariners having agreed to this proposal, he and his company embarked on board the vessel, and at first made for Dordrecht; but, when Jacob saw it was time to alter their course, he said to the sailors, "Now, mind what I am going to say: I have hired with my money this vessel to carry me whithersoever I shall please: turn, therefore, the helm for Strueghene, as I want to go thither."

The sailors refused to do so, saying they had been only engaged to sail, to Dordrecht.

"Attend to me," replied Jacob: "do what I have ordered you, if you do not wish to be put to death." The sailors dared not make any reply, for they were not the strongest; so they at once turned the helm and set the sails, and made for the town of- Estrimohee where they arrived without fear of danger, for it belonged to the count de Blois. After they had refreshed themselves, they departed and returned through Brabant and Hanault to their own country, thanking Jacob for the kindness he had done them.

When sir Geoffrey de Charny, sir John de Plaissy and the other knights and squires who had been in Scotland, returned to France, they were interrogated as to news from that country. They related all they had seen and heard from. the barons and knights of Scotland. Sir John de Vienne, admiral of France, conversed on the subject with sir Geoffry de Charny,- who was surprised, as well as other barons of France, to hear that the French, through Scotland, could gain an easy entrance into England. Sir Hemart de Massé continued the conversation, and added, the Scots could not any way love the English; and he had been directed to say this by order of the Scots council, that the king of France and his uncles might have information of it. The French instantly determined, as soon as the truces should be expired, to send a powerful army to Scotland to lay waste England. This was planned by the dukes of Berry and Burgundy, who at that time governed the realm at their pleasure, and the constable of France; but the whole was kept very secret.

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