But fortune, ever quick to bring down good men and raise the fortunes of the bad, had no wish to let things rest so for long; she overwhelms and destroys everyone in a trice. King Richard, who had business to attend to in many places, left that region and went straight to the Limousin, where the viscount was launching an assault on his castles. What a pity they were ever built! If only all those could have been given a good flaying on whose advice this act of prowess was devised and enacted!
Richard went to Lautron and laid siege to it, but he had not been there very long at all when a demon, a traitor, the servant of the devil, up there on the top of the castle walls, shot a poisoned bolt which inflicted such a wound on the best prince in all the world that his death was the inescapable outcome. That was a source of great grief to all. It is not the place to speak about his death here, since grief forbids it; everyone still grieves over his death, and that is why I shall say no more about it here.
As soon as he felt he had been struck, he was greatly dismayed, became slow in his movements, and feared that he could not live. So he immediately had written and addressed to the Marshal letters bearing his seal, well-constructed and eloquent, in which he gave full details of his situation and ordered him to be lord and master in charge of guarding the tower of Rouen, and to keep and safeguard his treasury and other effects, which were locked away in the tower. He also took care to inform his messenger to be most discreet and prudent and keep this matter secret, until he came to where he had to go.
The messenger was very quick, travelling at speed, and the soul of discretion: he went straight to Vaudreuil, where the Marshal was present to arbitrate in a dispute between two barons, by whom he had been asked and urged to appear. I believe there were other barons there too, who had been asked and urged as a body to arbitrate in that dispute between Engelger de Bohun and Sir Ralph D’Ardene.
The messenger rode in their direction and found them all assembled there. He did not think it fitting to speak of the calamitous events in full hearing of all and said nothing, except to the Marshal and the Archbishop. They both heard the letters read out, which caused them great sorrow and pain. After which, they did as was their duty. They impressed on the barons the fact that the King, without further delay, wished the Marshal to be the guardian, constable and keeper in Rouen and protect the tower and other of the King’s effects in the vicinity.
This was seen to without delay. But the sorrow and the suffering which will be evermore with us came swiftly on the third day following, when the noble King Richard died, a man worthy and courtly, bounteous and generous, a man of high enterprise, a conqueror, who, had he lived, would have won for himself all the renown going in this world, all dominion and power, all the honour and command in lands both Saracen and Christian, indeed amongst all men on earth. His power would have extended everywhere by now, except to the realms of France, which he had no wish to bring low; indeed his wish was to leave it in peace.
Thierry brought the news and he brought it only too quickly. When was that? It is right that it should be recorded: the eve of Palm Sunday. The marshal was on the point of retiring and was having his boots removed when the news arrived, news which struck him to the quick. He was in a state of violent grief; he put his boots back on and as quickly as possible, he made to leave. He left the tower in Rouen and went to the Archbishop, who was staying at le Pre. When he arrived there, the Archbishop was just about to retire. He was surprise that the Marshal should come to him at such an hour, and he had every apprehension of the bitter pain he was going to experience when he saw the \marshal arrive.
He said: 'Come now, give me your news!'
'I can tell you that it's not good, my dear lord,' said the Marshal, 'for this very day we have all been plunged into pain, grief and sorrow. You see here a written message that Thierry has brought concerning the death of my lord. It is a most grievous and injurious turn of events.'
The Archbishop showed his dismay and replied 'Alas! Alas! Who Could possibly not be disconsolate? Now all prowess is extinguished. What is this? The King is dead? What solace is there for us now? None, so help me God! With him gone, I can think of nobody to choose to rescue the realm or come to our aid in anything. The realm is now on the road to destruction, grief and destitution. We can be sure it won’t be very long before we see the French rush, upon us to take everything we have, because there will be nobody able to stand in their way.'
'We should be thinking of choosing quickly, my lord,' said the Marshal, 'a man to make a king.'
He replied: 'my understanding and view of the matter, and I am sure of this, is that by right we ought to make Arthur King.'
‘Oh! my lord,’ said the Marshal, 'my feeling is that that would be a bad course to take, and I do not recommend or advise it: Arthur has treacherous advisors about him and he is unapproachable and overbearing. If we called him to our side, he will seek to do us harm and damage, for he does not like those in our realm. My advice is that he should never be King. Instead, we should consider the claim of Earl John: to the best of my knowledge and belief he seems to be the nearest in line to claim the land of his father as well as that of his brother.'
The Archbishop replied: 'Marshal, is that what you want?'
'Yes, my lord, for that is right, since the son is indisputably closer in the line of inheritance than the nephew is, and it is right that it should be made clear.'
So, Marshal, that is how it shall be. But this much can I tell you, that you will never come to regret anything you did as much as what you're doing now.'
To this the Marshal replied: 'Thanks for the warning! Nonetheless, my advice is that it should be so.'
The Marshal sent an envoy to England to take possession of the land, the castles and towns, and the royal keeps. And it is right that I should tell you that sir John of Earley was that envoy; he quickly carried out everything that the Marshal had ordered. The Archbishop stayed behind, as did the worthy Marshal, who was prepared to take his advice in all matters, for he had always found him loyal. Earl John came to them, and as it happened they lost no time in making him a duke. The Normans agreed to this, but neither the Gascons nor the men of Limousin, the men of Poitou or Anjou, or the Bretons agreed to it at all, and they had no liking for his overlordship.
Duke John knew full well that they were in no way on his side, so he went to those provinces, where he put in such strenuous efforts and agreed so much to their wishes, provided they respected his own, and conceded so much to them, that ever after he regretted what he had done, and ever after they feared him less as a result, for they have no respect or affection for him, did not do their duty by him, and were often in revolt against him.
There is no need to dwell on the events. He lost no time in the crossing of the sea and was crowned in London. Many fine gifts were made, so people say; I was not present. Immediately he returned, as soon as he had a favourable sea passage. He paid homage to the King of France and as he had to, became his liegeman. But the King never behaved towards him as a liegelord should, inflicting damage on him throughout his life. I wish neither to say too much nor too little: he lost no time in going to Poitou, where he returned in pomp. The Archbishop of Bordeaux went to meet him, as well as the barons of the region. It was there that he divorced his wife, but people say that he was dealt a bad hand as a result of the separation. At this point I shall not say how.
He led a very big army into Gascony and did what he had to do very well, winning much in the way of booty. Had he allied common sense to his behaviour, he would have stayed very rich for a long time and be able to boast quietly about it. The marshal said: ‘As for the booty, it is fine by me even if I have no gain. Whatever you decide about sharing yours, I want you to have this share in mine. Here are 500 marks of silver given to me in this region, and out of my winnings I make a present of them to you; may god grant that there is a reward for this!’
The King said: ‘Marshal, in truth, you are not greedy for wealth, for you have given me all that was given to you; the gift will be well rewarded.’ So he thanked him for the gift we have named, but I do not know anything about the reward.
At that juncture, as I understand it, it so happened that the count of Angouleme had secretly abducted his daughter from the Count of Marche. The news of this reached the court, where some found it welcome and the others a crime. This did not have a favourable outcome, for the count of Marche and his men left with anger in their hearts; they did not feel it was right that the girl had been abducted and they well knew that the assembly there were those on whose devising the abduction had been carried out. I cannot give an account of everything, but suffice it to say that this was the cause of the ignominy and war that led to the King losing his lands.
The King took the girl and married her; he made her queen and lady of England, and she was crowned in London. After that the King returned to Normandy with all his barons, his queen and his entourage, but it was not long before the man who sought to wrest the land from him launched another hostile attack. The war lasted a long time, but at last they held talks and left them on good terms, the agreement being that the war between them should cease and that John should give the daughter of the King of Spain, his niece, in marriage to Louis, as a token of peace and friendship. And the truth is that so it happened. However, for all that, the excesses of the King of France never ceased, and he continued to do everything his heart told him. It would take me more than this year to tell you about the dealings and agreements between him and King John, for I would have much to deal with. The more King John furthered his interests, the more Philip harmed his and turned him upside down. No amount of land or other wealth he might obtain from John would prevent him, once they were in his possession, from launching an immediate attack on him. I cannot name the great amount of wealth – and it would be difficult to calculate it – that John bestowed on him on many an occasion. And the only reward John got for this is that, wrongly and unreasonably, Philip consistently sought the opportunity to attack his territory again and appropriated his land and castles; he did all the harm that he could.
He went to Arques and laid siege to it with his great army of knights and troop of soldiers. He launched a violent attack on it with machines which from their missiles rapidly, with catapults and mangonels which frequently, by night and by day, hurled stones at the top of the tower. However, they could not breach it, for William de Mortemer and the others inside performed well, as was their duty. If I wanted to tell about everything, it would indeed be far away from my theme. That would be a flaw in the design, and I would be considered an imbecile for doing so. And yet it would not be right if I did not point out that King John went to Mirebeau with a huge army, so huge that his was the stronger of the two. His mother was under siege there and, had he delayed, she would have soon being taken prisoner, for the force outside was a great one and the damage done would have increased; if she had not been saved so quickly, she would have been in a dire predicament. There was the most fierce encounter, and those who had come to lay siege were not spared it for they paid a heavy price. The battle there was on a very great scale, and John really made those who were fighting against him realise the extent of the arrogance which had prompted them to go there. If I were to say of each one separately how he performed, I would have a very heavy and burdensome task on my hands and I would not get to the end for a very long time. Their men, who could see very well that there was nothing for it but to defend, put up the most vigorous defence, and were loath to be taken prisoner. Before that, many a blow was dealt, returned and paid in kind, many a hauberk lost its mail, many a helmet was staved in and ventails were cut through right as far as the skull. Some struck, others hammered, others dented helmets, some took men by the bridle, others dealt blows with maces. Most of them left the field, when they could resist no longer, for it was more than they could endure.
It so turned out that day that King John won the battle by force of arms, and those of his enemies who had done him most harm were taken captive; so it was, despite those felons.
In the course of the battle Arthur, who had been badly advised to go there, was taken prisoner, and whoever was in his company was taken captive that day, held and detained in a woeful state of imprisonment. King John won so much glory and honour that day that the war would have been at an end, had it not been for ill luck and that abiding pride of his which was always the cause of his downfall.
The King was overjoyed by his achievement, for he had taken such valuable prisoners and had so overcome and trapped the pride of Poitou, Brittany and Anjou, that not a single one of them escaped. A monk rode out from there, resting neither by night or day until he reached the Marshal, and it so happened that those three counts were together of whom great account must be taken: I mean the worthy Earl Marshal, that brave, devoted, and loyal man, and the worthy Earl of Salisbury, who choose Generosity as his mother and whose banner was carried before him by supreme, untarnished Prowess. There was also the Earl of Warenne and, out of the noble generosity of his heart, had his sights on honourable deeds and deeds of prowess and never was of a mind to desist from such.
The monk, who had set off to meet them and had not rested night or day, spurring on from town to town, found them in Englesqueville. He was a wise, gracious man and he gave his message to the Marshal and those others with him. They gave him a very willing ear as he said: ‘I bring you good news, fine and authentic news, which I have heard and witnessed the truth of and I truly want it to be known. My lords, I have come from Mirebeau, and, if anything is a lie or a fairy story in the news I tell you, then you have my permission to put me to shame. Know this for absolutely certain: King John has taken Arthur prisoner, as he has Sir Geoffrey de Lusignan. The count of Marche is also a prisoner, as are all the highly renowned barons who were on Arthur’s side and waged war on his behalf; the King has them all in prison, even Savaric de Mauleon.’
The Marshal was overjoyed when he heard this news, as were the others, for it was a long time since they had heard news so welcome and so much to their liking. The Marshal said to the monk: ‘Without delay, you must take this news from Poitou to the French army, to the count of Eu; I want you to go to Arques and let him hear the news at once to cheer him up.’
‘My lord,’ replied to the monk, ‘don’t say that! If I go there and tell him the news, his pain and anger will be such that he would perhaps have me killed; send someone else in my place.’
‘Sir monk, upon the faith I owe you, the excuse you seek is in vain, for nobody will go there but you. It is not the custom in this part of the world for messengers to be killed. Make no further delay; go quickly, for you will find him with the army.’
As fast as his horse could carry him, the monk rode off, for he had no option in the matter; at full gallop he rode to Arques, and it so happened that he found the count of Eu. He had told him the well known facts of what had happened in Poitou, for he had witnessed it and heard of it; he related the news point by point and word for word, omitting not a single item.
Once the count of Eu had heard the news, which he had expected to be of a totally different nature, he turned livid and looked downcast, and nobody could get a word out of him. Because of those words spoken by the monk, his mind was quite changed, and he went to lie down in his tent. With a troubled mind, overcome and in despair, he lay on his back in bed; he did not know what to do or say, for he had no wish to repeat to anyone the news he had heard, news which was little welcome to him. Whilst he was thus steeped in thought and gripped by such emotion, letters arrived from the King of France relating the unfortunate news, news which was of such a nature but it did not get better, indeed it got worse to the point where the entire army heard that most hateful news.
The King of France was angry, never had such great misfortune befallen him before, he said. In fact greater had arisen out of his return from Jerusalem, for he incurred far greater blame for that. He was not inclined to wait a minute longer: immediately he had his tents taken down and all his machines of war cut into pieces. Had you been there you would have heard carpenters cutting, beating and hammering, knocking everything to the ground and hacking it to pieces. In a short while they had taken to pieces everything which it had taken a long time to assemble. When thoes inside saw them, they felt more joy than they have ever done before, for they saw very well that the man whose behaviour caused them so much trouble, and because of whom they were in such a bad predicament, truly intended to go on his way.
The French Knights and soldiers armed themselves, and those who were under arms formed a huge rearguard, as if they feared they would have men in pursuit of them with a view to engaging them in combat. I shall not spin out my tale further to speak of them: the counts’ spies appeared on the scene and immediately told them how the French were departing. This was pleasing and welcoming news to them, and they said: ‘Let us go and keep a watch on what they get up to.’
They had light armour on, for that was the equipment they most preferred. They lost no time in going on their way in pursuit of the army, which rode along prudently in a tight formation, for the French are very good at doing that: when they see it is not to their advantage to do otherwise, as they leaves a given place, they do so in a measured manner.
The three counts made all speed along with the great force they led. When those in the army saw them coming, not for a moment were they dismayed, for they have no reason to fear them: they had an excellent rearguard. Someone went to inform the King: ‘Sire, upon the faith I owe you, there is a great contingent of men in pursuit of us.’
‘Who are they?’ asked the King, ‘and are they close?’
‘Sire, there they are riding between those valleys.’
‘It is without doubt the Marshal in the company of the Earl of Salisbury, and if I ever recognized a man under arms, that is the Earl of Warenne with them. They are fully ready to do us mischief, if they can find the time and the opportunity. They can have little idea of what is in my mind,’ said the King, ‘but they willl very shortly, if they don’t go away.’
He asked for William des Barres who came and received the following command: ‘Go immediately, my dear lord, taking two hundred knights with you. Ride the length of the valley, without them knowing about your presence, until you are right there facing them. If God would grant you such an encounter with them that you could take one of the three prisoner, we should easily be able to have one of our precious friends back; that is what my heart tells me.’
Des Barres lost no time in doing what the King had ordered: he took three hundred knights with him and rode into the valley without the three counts’ being at all aware of their presence. The sides met. The side fully armed launched their attack, and those who were not armed immediately turned tail, for they had no protection, as they very well knew, disarmed as they were, against those armed men. But I can assure you that had they been properly armed, they would never have turned back; there would have been saddles overturned before they would have done that, with gains and losses occurring. But when it comes to a crisis, men who are too far away from their armour are overcome and hacked about.
Des Barres returned back, but he knew full well the situation of those who had taken flight, namely that they were only wearing light armour, and that, if they had had their arms, they would never have left in that fashion.
So the King made his way to France with grief and pain in his heart whilst the three counts’ returned and made their way to Rouen, sending their horses before them with their equipment and the entire body of the soldiers. The Marshal’s thoughts turned to the matter of finding lodgings as soon as possible. The burgesses and citizens, the highly prosperous and the moderately so, heard of the arrival of the earls and were full of joy at the news. They immediately mounted their horses and in a state of elation, rode to meet them. The Marshal saw them coming, and had no intention for a moment of refraining from saying what was in his mind to his companions, of whom he was fond. ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘Hear my opinion: If you wish to set your heart tonight on fine wines and luscious fruit, on presents and of having pleasure, then let me speak to them first, for there is one thing I can truly claim: if I tell them what my wishes are, you will have them all in plenty.’
The other two agreed willingly to this, and the citizens made their way without delay toward the Marshal; they greeted him first of all and then the others as they followed behind side by side. They returned their greeting graciously, spoke to them warmly and paid them high honour.
‘My lord,’ said Matthew le Gros, who was the mayor at that time, ‘In what direction has that King of France gone? We have had every fear that he would turn the direction of our town and set up camp and remain here.’
At this the Marshal replied: ‘The King of France is close by, camping in the countryside over there. We have no intention of being found wanting, if his intention is to come here, in the matter of defending the town. It is for that reason that we’re coming into the town with our equipment and our entire force.’
When the burgesses heard of this, they were overjoyed and profusely thanked the three counts and the others, saying: ‘This is the most pleasing to us. My lords, it is not surprising that you act in this way, for it is in your nature and you seek to do honourable deeds. There is not a single person in our town whom we do not willingly place entirely under your command.’
They entered the town, and I can tell you that the burgesses paid them high honour when they saw them come and gave them a rapturous welcome. The three counts, I think, who were lodged under one roof, had their meal prepared. When it was time to eat, they quickly washed and sat down. The burgesses gave great attention to the matter of preparing their gifts; each man was keen to put great effort into making the best gift possible, to please them and to be the more highly thought of. Some made a present of full bodied wines, fine wines, clear, soft on the palate and sparkling, some with cloves, some spiced, according to the preference of the giver; they were the best they could find. They took care to taste them before sending them to the counts, so that their gifts would not be misdirected. At the end of the meal came the fruit, and they all had in abundance pears, apples, and hazelnuts. In the streets you would have seen a great crowd of people carrying them, frequently banging into each other as they did so. The Marshal had indeed kept his word as regards what he had said to them earlier on, and they laughed at the sight of the great crowd before their eyes.