Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The Admiral of France is held hostage by the Scots

After their return from England, the allied French and Scots are once again on bad terms.

Book II, ch. 174 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 55-7). When the admiral, with his barons, knights and squires, were returned to the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, they suffered much from famine, as they could scarcely procure provision for their money. They bad but little wine, beer, barley, bread, or oats: their horses. therefore, perished from hunger, or were ruined through fatigue; and, when they wished to dispose of them, they could not find a purchaser who would give them a groat either for their horses or housings.

These lords remonstrated with their commander on the manner in which they were treated, a circumstance well known to himself. They said, "they could not longer endure such difficulties, for Scotland was not a country to encamp in during the winter; and that, if they were to remain the ensuing summer, they should soon die of poverty. If they were to spread themselves over the country, to better their condition, they were doubtful if the Scots, who had so villanously treated their foragers, would not murder them in their beds, when they should be divided." The admiral, having fully weighed what they said, saw clearly they were justified in thus remonstrating; notwithstanding, he had intentions of wintering there, and of sending an account of his situation to the king of France and duke of Burgundy, who, as the admiral imagined, would hasten to him einforcements of stores, provision and money with which, in the course of the summer, he would be enabled to carry on an advantageous war against the English. But having considered how ill intentioned the Scots were, and the danger his men were in, as well as himself, he gave permission for all who chose to depart. But how to depart was the difficulty, for the barons could not obtain any vessels for themselves and men.

The Scots were willing that a few poor knights who had no great command should leave the country, that they might the easier govern the rest. They told the barons of France " that their dependants, when they pleased, might depart, but that they themselves should not quit the country until they had made satisfaction for the sums that had been expended for the use of their army."

This declaration was very disagreeable to sir John Vienne and the other French barons. The earls of Douglas and Moray, who pretended to be exasperated at the harsh conduct of their countrymen, remonstrated with them, that they did not act becoming men at arms, nor as friends to the kingdom of France, by this behaviour to its knights: and that henceforward no Scots knight would dare to set his foot in France. These two earls, who were friendly enough to the French barons, pointed out the probable effect their conduct would have on their vassals; but some replied, "Do dissemble with them, for you have lost as much as we." They therefore told the admiral, they could not do any thing for him: and, if they were so anxious about quitting Scotland, they must consent to make good their damages.

The admiral seeing nothing better could be done, and unwilling to lose all, for he found himself very uncomfortable, surrounded by the sea, and the Scots of a savage disposition, acceded to their proposals, and had proclaimed through the realm, that all those whom his people had injured, and who could show just cause for amends being made them, should bring them their demands to the admiral of France, when they would be fully paid. This proclamation softened the minds of the people; and the admiral took every debt on himself, declaring he would never leave the country until everything were completely paid and satisfied.

Upon this many knights and squires obtained a passage to France, and returned through Flanders, or wherever they could land, famished, and without arms or horses, cursing Scotland, and the hour they had set foot there. They said they had never suffered so much in any expedition, and wished the king of France would make a truce with the English for two or three years, and then march to Scotland and utterly destroy it: for never had they seen such wicked people, nor such ignorant hypocrites and traitors.

The admiral wrote to the king of France and duke of Burgundy, by those who first returned, a full state of his situation, and how the Scots had acted towards him: that if they wished to have him back, they must send him the full amount he had engaged to pay the Scots, and for which he had bounden himself to the knights and squires of Scotland: for the Scots had declared, that they had at this time made war, for the king of France and not for themselves; and that the damages which the French had committed must be satisfied before they would be allowed to return, which he had promised and sworn to perform to the barons of Scotland.

It was incumbent on the king of France, the duke of Burgundy and their councils, to redeem the admiral, for they had sent him thither. They had the money instantly raised, and deposited in the town of Bruges, so that the whole demand of the Scots was paid to their satisfaction. The admiral left Scotland when he had thus amicably settled matters. For otherwise he could not have done it; and, taking leave of the king, who was in the highlands and of the earls of Douglas and Moray, was attended by them to the sea-shore. He embarked at Edinburgh, and, having a favourable wind, landed at Sluys in Flanders. Some of his knights and squires did not follow the same road, as they were desirous of seeing other countries beside Scotland, and went into different parts; but the greater number returned to France, and were so poor they knew not how to remount themselves: especially these from Burgundy, Champagne, Bar, and Lorrain, who seized the labouring horses wherever they found them in the fields.

The young king of France, and the duke of Burgundy, feasted the admiral splendidly on his return, as was but just. They made many inquiries respecting the situation of the king and barons of Scotland. He told them "the Scots would naturally incline to the English, for they were jealous of foreigners; and added, that as God may help him; he would rather be count of Savoy or of Artois, or some such country, than king of Scotland: that he had seen the whole force of that country assembled together, as the Scots had assured him, but there were never more than five hundred knights and squires together, and about thirty thousand other men, who would be unable to withstand the English archers, or a thousand men at arms."

The admiral was asked, " if he had seen the English army." He replied, be had; "for when I saw the manner in which the Scots fled from the English, I requested they would lead me to a place whence I might see and consider them. They did so, and I saw them pass through a defile, to the amount of sixty thousand archers, and six or seven thousand men at arms. The Scots said, 'that this was the whole strength of England, for none had remained behind."'

The company paused a little, and said, "Sixty thousand archers and six or seven thousand men at arms is a great force." " They may be as many as that," said the constable of France; "but I would rather combat the whole of them in their own country than one-half on this side the water, for this was the doctrine my master taught me in my youth."

"By my faith, constable," replied sir John de Vienne, "if you had been there with a good command of men at arms and Genoese, as I proposed, and as it was agreed on when I undertook this expedition, we would have engaged them when in Scotland, or destroyed them from want of provisionIn this manner did the constable and admiral converse, which excited a great desire in the duke of Burgundy to make a powerful invasion of England.

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