Wednesday, 2 July 2014

100 Years War - Bertrand du Guesclin IV

Battle of Monteil
Return to Spain

Returning to Castile Henry took the city of Leon. Desperate for French assistance against his brother in 1368 Henry signed the Treaty of Toledo; in return for land forces he agreed to furnish the French with a naval force by the summer of 1369. Pedro meanwhile was very much aware that the Black Prince was in secret negotiations with Pedro’s other adversary Peter of Aragon.
Pedro marched his troops to the relief of Toledo; the armies of the two brothers faced off against each other on 14th March 1369 at the battle of Montiel. Henry’s forces were led by Bertrand, while Pedro led his own army. His tactics with his nobility had disgusted the Black Prince sufficiently that he threw over his erstwhile ally. No doubt the fact that Pedro had failed to pay the English costs of the 1367 campaign, as he had promised, did not help his cause with the English. His only major ally now was the Moorish king Mohammed V of Granada[i].

After suffering defeat at the hands of his brother’s army Pedro fled to the castle at Montiel. The castle was ill-prepared and had only sufficient provisions for four days according to Froissart. Accordingly Pedro and a handpicked group of supporters departed the castle in great secrecy at night. They were picked up by Pierre la Bègue de Villaines[ii] and taken to his quarters. Henry arrived shortly thereafter and Pedro attacked;
‘He got his hand to his dagger and would certainly have killed him [Henry] if the Viscount of Rocaberti[iii] had not caught hold of his foot and twisted him over so that King Peter was underneath and King Henry was on top. The latter drew a long Castilian knife……and drove it upwards into his brother’s body.’[iv]
Confirmed on his throne, on 4th May 1369 Henry made Bertrand Duke of Molina to replace his lost Duchy of Trastamara. In June and July Bertrand assisted the Castilians in repelling a Portuguese invasion.

A Turn of Fortune’s Wheel
The tide had turned against the English in France. At a skirmish near Lussac, on 1st January 1370, Sir John Chandos was killed; the Black Prince’s illness meant that he could no longer take an active role in the fighting. His irascible temper suffered and at the siege of Limoges in September, commanding the fighting from a litter, the Black Prince ordered a massacre of the inhabitants when the city fell on 9th September. When the inhabitants begged for mercy
‘He was so inflamed with ire that he took no heed to them. Neither man nor woman was heeded, but all who could be found were put to the sword, including many who were in no way to blame.’[v]
The prince’s ire had been raised by the turncoat Bishop of Limoges[vi], who had sworn fealty to the English and then swapped sides, bribed by the Duc de Berry[vii].

Edward III gives Aquitaine to the Black Prince
The Black Prince was now too ill to undergo the exigencies of rule and turned over his fief of Aquitaine to his brother, John of Gaunt, to govern; finally leaving France in January 1371. His subjects were not sorry to see him go; the cost of his rule had been extortionate even before his intervention in Spain;
‘The Prince maintained his household in such great estate and excessive spending that no king now living could have borne such costs, and because of that he levied grievous ransoms and tallages on the whole country.’[viii]
Many of the prince’s vassals had strong ties with the King of France and the Black Prince’s arrogance did much to foster resentment; even the great lords were kept waiting four or five days at a time and were then kept kneeling when granted an audience.

An appeal over the question of inheritance was referred to Charles V as suzerain lord of John, Count of Armagnac[ix]. On 2nd May 1369 Edward the Prince of Wales was cited to appear before the Paris Parlement; the envoys were arrested and thrown in prison[x].
‘When the Prince of Wales had heard this letter read, he was more astonished than before. He shook his head; and after having eyed the said Frenchmen, and considered awhile, he replied as follows:
“We shall willingly attend on the appointed day at Paris, since the king of France sends for us; but it will be with our helmet on our head, and accompanied by sixty thousand men.”’[xi]

Aveyron River
The Paris Parlement finally legally confiscated Aquitaine on the 14th May 1370. Meanwhile Edward III had resuscitated his claim to the crown of France. But Louis d’Anjou had been busy fomenting trouble in Aquitaine; fortresses commanding the Lot and Aveyron valleys were seized and more than 900 towns and castles changed their allegiance.
Constable of France

The King of Aragon was attempting to persuade Bertrand to undertake a campaign in Sardinia. But as his overlord Charles was unlikely to give permission to undertake such a mission when he needed Bertrand’s talents at home.
At the beginning of June Henry II paid Bertrand the balance of 120,000 gold doubles[xii] promised and Monteil and by the end of July Bertrand and his men had joined Louis d’Anjou northwest of Toulouse. Early autumn found Bertrand operating in Quercy and the Périgord.

On 2nd October 1370 Charles V chose Bertrand to be Constable of France[xiii], replacing the aged Robert de Fiennes who had recently retired. Charles’ choice was backed by all the royal dukes; important as the Constable was the penultimate authority on the field of battle, second only to the king if present. Bertrand was the first knight of obscure lineage to take the role; the author of the Grandes Chroniques de France pointedly noting that Bertrand was chosen;
‘Because of his valour, for he was of lesser lineage than other Constables……..before him; but by his valour he had acquired several great estates and fiefs.’[xiv]
Charles V gives Bertrand the sword Joyeuse
Froissart informs us that;
‘Sir Bertrand, finding that no excuse nor any thing he could say would be listened to, accepted the king’s offer, but it was much against his inclination. He was invested with the office of constable; and the king, to show him greater affection, made him be seated at his table, and gave him, besides his office, many rich gifts and large domains in land, for him and his heirs. The duke of Anjou was very active in forwarding this promotion.’[xv]
Bertrand was to receive a regular salary of 2,000 francs per month in gold[xvi]; when the army was mustered he was too keep a day’s pay for every soldier on the rolls. To finance the war effort the burghers of Paris and Rouen and magistrates and officers of the crown were forced to subscribe to an emergency loan to the crown.

Bertrand’s first action was to conclude a personal pact with Olivier de Clisson[xvii]. At a meeting with de Clisson[xviii] on 24th October it was decided that de Clisson was to harry Sir Robert Knolles and his soldiers.
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] He may have seen this as a chance to reverse the Moorish losses of recent times
[ii] Charles V’s Chamberlain
[iii] An Aragonese knight
[iv] Chronicles - Froissart
[v] Chronicles - Froissart
[vi] One of the few not to be massacred the Bishop was handed over to the Pope in Avignon by the Duke of Lancaster,
[vii] Brother of Charles V and for whom the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry were created
[viii] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[ix] The Black Prince was threatening to disinherit him and his family
[x] And reported to have died in suspicious circumstances
[xii] On the assumption that a gold double was roughly equivalent to the pound or eçu; in 2011 this would be worth £49,500,000.00 using the retail price index or £819,000,000.00 using average earnings
[xiv] The Flower of Chivalry - Vernier
[xv] Ibid
[xvi] In 2011 worth £825,000.00 using the retail price index or £13,600,000.00 using average earnings
[xvii] Known as the Butcher from his habit of cutting off arms and legs during battle
[xviii] De Clisson turned down an offer to join the Black Prince who offered him the Countship of Armagnac

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