Wednesday, 25 June 2014

100 Years War - Bertrand du Guesclin III

Fighting over Burgundy
Philip the Bold
By 1363 Bertrand was Captain General of Normandy. This rapid ascent had been made possible by King Jean’s decision to take over the Duchy of Burgundy following the death of its hereditary duke Philip in 1361. Jean made himself duke[i] and then two years later handed the duchy over to his youngest son Philip.
At this point King Jean discovered that Louis of Anjou, tiring of life as a hostage awaiting payment of Jean’s ransom, had slipped away from his captors and refused to return. Jean decided that the only honourable thing was to return to captivity in England; he never returned, dying on 8th April 1364, to be succeeded by Charles V.

The decision to give the duchy of Burgundy to Philip provoked Charles of Navarre[ii] into outright hostility; he considered the duchy his by right of primogeniture. Edward III looked the other way while Charles allied with the Gascons and members of the Great Company[iii] to carry on the war against France by proxy.
 Battle of Cocherel
On 13th May 1364 the two sides clashed at the battle of Cocherel; the Captal de Buch[iv] leading the forces of Charles of Navarre. The nobility and the captains all agreed with Froissart’s verdict that;
‘The best knight on the field, who had fought the most with his own hand, and who knew best how such things must be managed, was messire Bertrand du Guesclin.’[v]
Bertrand’s leadership brought victory to the French.

The End of the Civil War in Brittany
Jean de Montfort
The struggle for control of Brittany was now in its third decade. Jean, the current de Montfort claimant, was the son of Count Jean[vi]. Jean laid siege to the town of Auray and Charles of Blois sent Bertrand and his men. Most of the French knights in Normandy were summonsed to defend the town.
Bertrand was divested of his captaincy of Normandy by Charles V in a show of neutrality in the vexed Brittany dispute. The two sides lined up and at the battle of Auray, Bertrand fought with the Count of Auxerre and his brother and Charles of Blois against an army that included such famous knights as Sir John Chandos[vii], Sir Robert Knolles and Sir Olivier de Clisson. Froissart informs us that Charles of Blois[viii]

‘Disposed his battalions according to the advice of my lord Bertran du Guesclin, who was one of the principal captains there.’[ix]
The English reserve under Sir Hugh Calveley, surprised the French rear; one of the many French casualties was Charles of Blois[x]. Bertrand fell prisoner to Olivier de Clisson. The de Montforts moved quickly to overcome any towns and chateaux that remained loyal to Jeanne de Penthièvre. Charles V suggested to Jeanne that she come to terms with her enemy; she retained her County of Penthièvre and received a large cash indemnity.

Battle of Auray
Bertrand and his fellow prisoners were held at various strongholds in Poitou. Bertrand was held at Niort and was paroled when Charles V agreed to pay 40,000 gold florins for his ransom[xi]. Bertrand was not able to take up arms again until May 1365, when he was redeemed. According to Froissart the Pope, Charles V and Henry of Trastamare paid one third of his ransom each.
During the peace between the English and the French following the Treaty of Brétigny, many of the combatants travelled to Spain, fighting in the dispute over the crown of Castile. The two candidates were Pedro the Cruel[xii], supported by the Black Prince and his troops, and Pedro’s bastard half brother, Henry of Trastamare[xiii]. Henry was supported by the French led by du Guesclin.

Pedro the Cruel
Pedro had already been married twice, the second time in 1353 to Blanche of Bourbon[xiv]. This second marriage was bigamous and Pedro immediately deserted Blanche, returning to his legal wife. Blanche was imprisoned at Arevalo for which slight Jean II of France demanded Pope Innocent VI have Pedro excommunicated; Innocent ignored this demand. From 1356-66 Pedro was involved in a war with Aragon with his English allies.
Blanche died in 1361 and it was rumoured that Pedro had her murdered, allegedly upset because her dowry had not been paid. Furthermore the rumour was set about that the Jews had instigated the queen’s murder, which gave Henry the chance to tap into popular anti-Semitism. Pedro’s treatment of his nobility set him on a crash trajectory with them; like many other medieval rulers Pedro aimed to consolidate the power of the crown at the expense of the feudal nobility. To that end he had a number of them killed

Pedro’s rule suffered a brief hiatus in 1366-7 when Henry, supported by French troops led by du Guesclin, took the throne from Pedro[xv], Pedro fled Castile on 28th March 1366 and in the ensuing celebrations Bertrand was made Duke of Trastamare by the new king of Castile.
Henry of Trastamare
Henry retained a number of the mercenaries in his service including;
‘Mossen Bertran de Claquin and the Bretons of his company, Mossen Hugo de Calviley, and some Englishmen, in all, foreign companies numbering 1,500 lances[xvi].’[xvii]
At the end of the summer Henry moved against a supporter of Pedro’s and besieged the walled town of Lugo[xviii]. It is believed that Henry used his retained mercenaries including Bertrand to undertake the siege, although there is no record of this.

The siege came to nothing as on 23rd September Pedro signed Treaty of Libourne, an alliance with the Black Prince and the King of Navarre. Pedro promised to pay 500,000 gold florins[xix] and give the Black Prince the fief of Biscay; in addition the prince’s supporters were to also receive large sums of money. The alliance between France and Castile threatened communications between England and Aquitaine. This was a blow to Henry’s hopes of retaining his newly won crown.

Battle of Najera
Pedro’s throne was regained at the Battle of Nájera[xx] fought on 3rd April. Bertrand’s reluctance to face the English was apparently overruled and he was taken captive. Pedro’s promise to pay the English enormous sums of money was renewed on 2nd May in a treaty signed in Burgos. He departed to raise the sums in question, promising to meet the Black Prince and his entourage at Valladolid. The English waited in vain. Famine struck the waiting army and the Black Prince seized several towns and allowed his soldiers to rampage across the countryside to forage for food.
Around 25th June the Black Prince sent Pedro a reminder of his obligations under the treaty. He was informed that while the companies roamed through Castile Pedro was unable to raise the required monies. The Spanish climate was taking its toll on the English soldiers and the Black Prince himself appears to have picked up dysentery which then gave way to dropsy[xxi].
Joanna of Naples
According to Froissart Bertrand’s ransom of 100,000 francs[xxii] was paid by Charles V and the Duke of Anjou.
‘The prince [Edward], on hearing these words, thought sir Bertrand had spoken them with such good sense; for in truth, his council were unwilling he should have his liberty, until don Pedro had paid to the prince and his army the money he had engaged to do: he answered, "What, sir Bertrand, do you imagine that we keep you a prisoner for fear of your prowess? By St. George, it is not so; for my good sir, if you will pay one hundred thousand francs, you shall be free."’[xxiii]
Bertrand then fought for the Duke of Anjou in his war against Queen Joanna of Naples.

Edward III – Bryan Bevan, The Rubicon Press 1992

The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005
Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Books Ltd 1968

Edward III – WM Ormrod, Tempus Publishing Ltd 2005
The Monks of War – Desmond Seward, Folio Society 2000

A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Pan MacMillan Publishers Ltd 1989
The Flower of Chivalry – Richard Vernier, The Boydell Press 2003

[i] Philip was a nephew of the Queen of France
[ii] He was a grandson of Louis X, brother of the dowager Queen and Jean’s son-in-law. Charles had already got away with murder of a Constable of France Charles d’Espagne; not to mention his involvement in the Jacquerie and a number of other murders. Charles was a vassal of both Edward and Jean
[iii] Formed from soldiers left without means of support after the Treaty of Brétigny
[iv] Considered by Froissart as epitomising the ideals of chivalry
[v] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[vi] Who died in 1345
[vii] Constable of Aquitaine and a close friend of the Black Prince. His herald, known as Chandos Herald, was the author of a poem about the exploits of the Black Prince.
[viii] In overall control of the Breton army
[ix] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[x] There were over 1,000 French dead and 1,500 prisoners, a list that included Bertrand’s brother Olivier and the Count of Auxerre.
[xi] Worth in 2011 £20,700,000.00 using the retail price index or £275,000,000.00 using average earnings
[xii] The name was probably foisted on him by his successor
[xiii] Henry revolted against Peter on several occasions and fought for the King of Aragon against his brother
[xiv] In whose trousseau 11,794 squirrel skins were used, mostly imported from Scandinavia
[xv] Peter fled and appealed to the Black Prince for aid; while in exile he ordered the murder of Suero, the Archbishop of Santiago and his Dean
[xvi] 4,500 men in all – a lance was made up of three men.
[xvii] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[xviii] In Galicia
[xix] In 2011 worth £299,000,000.00 using the retail price index £3,350,000,000.00 using average earnings  
[xx] Bertrand’s Dukedom of Trastamara was taken from him at some point after Pedro’s restoration
[xxi] Accumulation of fluid under the skin and in cavities of the body including the lungs
[xxii] In 2011 worth £58,400,000.00 using the retail price index or £680,000,000.00 using average earnings

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

100 Years War - Bertrand du Guesclin II

A Knighthood at Last
Effigy of Sir Hugh Calveley
In 1353 Robert du Guesclin died, leaving Bertrand as Seigneur de Broons; Bertrand’s mother having died in 1350. There is some dispute about Bertrand’s knighting. A 17th century source informs us that the deed was done by the Marshal of France, Arnoul d’Audrehem at the chateau of Montmuran[i] on 10th April 1354. Bertrand had allegedly saved d‘Audrehem from an ambush by an English condottiere Hugh Calveley.
Cuvelier in his Chanson claims that Bertrand was knighted by his overlord Charles of Blois, released by the English in 1356, after payment of part of his ransom of 500,000 eçus[ii], following the second siege of Rennes[iii]. This second siege was conducted by Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster[iv], who had brought an expeditionary force over from England.

Battle of Poitiers
Henry led a force to the aid of the Black Prince who had overreached himself in an ambitious raid from Gascony; his small force likely to be overwhelmed by the larger French army. But Prince Edward was able to defeat the larger French army at the battle of Poitiers, in September 1356. Bertrand was not present at this battle, which dealt a devastating blow to the French. King Jean II[v] and his youngest son were taken prisoner[vi].
‘The King answered, or probably answered: ‘I surrender to you’ and gave him his right hand glove. The knight took it with delight. By there was still a great commotion around the King…..and neither the King nor his young son Philip[vii] could move a step forward.’[viii]

Capture of Jean II
The Siege of Rennes
The second siege of Rennes commenced on 3rd October 1356; although of no strategic value it was one of the two ducal capitals and fiercely loyal to Charles of Blois. Lancaster had about 2,500 men to besiege the city but no siege equipment. Rennes was poorly defended; two relief columns were sent by the Dauphin, Charles[ix]; the first was captured by the English troops and the second settled in Dinan[x] from where they harassed the besiegers to such effect that Lancaster laid siege to that town too.

Bertrand was able to fool the English into thinking that the soldiers in Dinan were coming to the relief of Rennes and he led a raid on the English camp while the English marched out against an ephemeral army;
‘They believed that the army of France was upon them.’[xi]
The camp’s attackers liberated the English provisions which were distributed to the citizens of Rennes. It is at this stage of the Chanson that we learn that Bertrand was illiterate;

‘He could neither read, nor write nor reckon.’[xii]
having to have others read him an invitation from Lancaster to parley.

Henry of Lancaster
During the siege Bertrand killed the English knight William Bamborough, who challenged him to a duel; the Chanson also refers to a second duel in Dinan to rescue his younger brother Olivier du Guesclin. The siege dragged on for nine months and was only ended following intervention by Edward III, ordering Lancaster to end the siege. The siege ended on 5th July 1357 after nine months; the starving citizens[xiii]  agreeing to
‘Consented to be delivered from the siege on payment of one hundred thousand crowns[xiv].’[xv]
A Short Lived Peace

A two year truce between the warring parties was signed on 23rd March 1357 at Bordeaux. This did not ease the French problems; the war in Brittany continued and there was much fighting in Navarre; not to mention the revolt of the Jacquerie[xvi] in 1358.
‘Never did men commit such vile deeds. They were such that no living creature ought to see……I could never bring myself to write down the horrible and shameful things they did to the ladies….they killed a knight and put him on a spit, and turned him at the fire and roasted him before the lady and her children. After about a dozen of them had violated the lady, they tried to force her and the children to eat the knight’s flesh before putting them cruelly to death.’[xvii]
The young Dauphin was unable to exert much authority and companies of soldiers[xviii] roamed through France, devastating communities and lands, taking chateaux and pillaging at will.
The first Treaty of London was signed in May 1358; Aquitaine was to revert to the English crown[xix] and Edward agreed to abandon his claim to the throne of France in return for an enormous ransom for King Jean[xx]. This treaty did not pass the scrutiny of the English parliament and Charles of Navarre also objected.

A second Treaty of London was signed in March 1359; the proposals were weighted in favour of the English, returning the lost Angevin possessions. But this time it was the turn of the French government to object to the agreement. Edward now planned in detail a great campaign in inland France, which would require skill in keeping his army provisioned. A great wagon train was prepared and carried over to Calais.

Edward III
The campaign started in October with Edward’s arrival in France. He intended to make straight for Rheims where he would have himself crowned. Either before or after his coronation he would dispose of the Dauphin in a pitched battle. Charles did not oblige Edward and the French followed a scorched earth policy that left the English exhausted.
The following spring the weather was appalling and on 13th April 1360 the English army was discommoded by a storm so great that Froissart described it;

‘It fell from the sky upon the King’s army such thunder and lightning, such a storm, such a tempest, such wind, and hail so great, so wonderful and so horrible that it looked as if the heavens were going to split and the earth to open up and swallow everything.’[xxi]
Edward felt this was a sign that he should be treating with the French and the Treaty of Brétigny was signed on 25th May 1360. King Jean was released on promise of payment of three million gold crowns and Louis Duke of Anjou[xxii] was handed over as a hostage in Jean’s place.

A Man of Substance
Bertrand had caught the King’s eye and in 1357 was made castellan at Pontorson[xxiii]; he made the Dauphin’s acquaintance in March or April 1358, when he rode to demand payment of his soldier’s arrears of pay. Charles immediately ordered this;

‘So that for lack of it they [the soldiers] will not leave the country and the said knight [Bertrand] shall not come back and complain to us.’[xxiv]
Bertrand appears to have fought at the battle of Melun[xxv] in 1359 and afterwards helped take the towns of Mantes and Meulan and the chateau of Rolleboise. By 1362 Bertrand was styling himself Sire de la Roche-Tesson[xxvi]. He was also Castellan of Sens[xxvii] and a conseiller du roi. The three royal princes of Anjou, Orléans and Alençon named Bertrand as their lieutenant in their respective fiefs when they entered captivity as hostages for their king.

Bertrand had his own company of sixty men-at-arms and sixty archers. Among the members of this band were his brother Olivier, his cousins Olivier de Mauny, Sylvestre Budes and Jean de Beaumont, his brother-in-law Fraslin-Husson and his friend Yves Charruel.
Medieval Nantes
In the summer of 1363 Bertrand was one of those deemed valuable enough to stand as a hostage during a negotiated truce in the ongoing fight for the dukedom of Brittany. Under the belief that he was meant to stay hostage for one month only Bertrand walked away from captivity. The other side claimed he was meant to stay in captivity until the surrender of Nantes.
It was sometime in 1363 or 4 that Bertrand was married to Tiphaine Raguenel, the daughter of Robin Raguenel[xxviii], one of the first families of Dinan. The marriage was arranged by Jeanne de Penthièvre, Duchess of Brittany, as a reward for her champion.

Edward III – Bryan Bevan, The Rubicon Press 1992

The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005
Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Books Ltd 1968

Edward III – WM Ormrod, Tempus Publishing Ltd 2005
The Monks of War – Desmond Seward, Folio Society 2000

A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Pan MacMillan Publishers Ltd 1989
The Flower of Chivalry – Richard Vernier, The Boydell Press 2003


[i] In the Ille-et-Vilaine department of Brittany
[ii] Tuchman informs us that an eçu was worth about one pound; therefore in 2011 £500,000 would be worth £294,000,000.00 using the retail price index or £3,690,000,000.00 using average earnings
[iii] As a prisoner on parole Charles was unable to take up the fight against the English himself
[iv] A friend of Edward’s and future father-in-law of John of Gaunt
[v] Philip VI died in August 1350
[vi] Charles Duke of Normandy, later king of France, was made regent.
[vii] Later Duke of Burgundy
[viii] Chronicles - Froissart
[ix] The future Charles V
[x] Thirty miles from Rennes
[xi] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[xii] Ibid
[xiii] Lancaster cheated them; he had already been ordered by Edward to end the siege
[xiv] A crown was worth five shillings; this ransom was worth £25,000 in 1358 or in 2011 14,300,000.00 using the retail price index or £203,000,000.00 using average earnings
[xv] The Hundred Years War - Burne
[xvi] Repressed by the Dauphin’s rival, cousin and brother-in-law Charles of Navarre
[xvii] Chronicles - Froissart
[xviii] Later known as the Free Companies
[xix] Edward and his successors would no longer do homage to the King of France for Aquitaine.
[xx] Four million eçus or pounds in 2011 worth £2,290,000,000.00 using the retail price index or £32,600,000,000.00 using average earnings
[xxi] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[xxii] Second in line to the throne
[xxiii] A fortress about ten miles from Mont St Michel; the Castellan had authority over Mont St Michel, Montagu and Sacy.
[xxiv] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[xxv] South east of Paris
[xxvi] A fief granted to him by the Dauphin in his role as Duke of Normandy, la Roche-Tesson was a chateau near la Colombe
[xxvii] Near Fougères; inherited through his mother
[xxviii] A combatant in the Combat of the Thirty