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

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