Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

How the ransom of the Count d'Armagnac was reduced

In connection with the castle of Lourde, Froissart recalls an incident concerning a ransom during the time of the Prince of Wales (1360s?).

Book III, ch. 3 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 73-7).   Between the county of Foix and Béarn lies the county of Bigorre, which belongs to France, and is bounded on one side by the Toulousain, and the other by Comminges, and Béarn. In this country of Bigorre is situated the strong castle of Lourde, which has always been regarded as English since the country was given up to the king of England and the prince, as part of the ransom for king John of France, according to the treaty of peace made at Bretigny near Chartres, and afterwards ratified at Calais, as it has already been mentioned in the former part of this history. When the prince of Wales left England to take possession of the duchy of Aquitaine, (which the king his father had given him to hold as a fief and inheritance under him, in which were two archbishopricks and twenty-two bishopricks), accompanied by the princess of Wales, they resided at Bordeaux about a year. They were entreated by John count d'Armagnac to come to the handsome city of Tarbes, in the county of Bigorre, to see and visit that part of the country, which the prince had never yet done.

The count d'Armagnac imagined that the count de Foix would pay his respects to the prince and princess during the time they were in Bigorre; and, as he was indebted to him two hundred and fifty thousand francs for his ransom, he thought he would try to prevail on them to request the count de Foix to release him from a part, if not the whole of it. The count d'Armagnac managed so well that the prince and princess of Wales came with their court, which, at that time, was very numerous and splendid, into Bigorre, and fixed their residence at Tarbes.

Tarbes is a handsome town, situated in a champaign country, among rich vineyards: there is a town, a city, and a castle, all separated from each other, and inclosed with gates, walls, and towers: the beautiful river Lisse, which rises in the mountains of Béarn and Catalonia, and is as clear as rock-water, runs through and divides the town. Five leagues from thence is situated the town of Morlans, in the county of Foix, at the entrance into Béarn and under a mountain. Six leagues distant from Tarbes is the town of Pau, which belongs also to the count de Foix. During the time the prince and princess were at Tarbes, the count was in his town of Pau, erecting a handsome castle adjoining to the outskirts of the town, and on the river Gave.

As soon as he was informed of the arrival of the prince and princess at Tarbes, he made his preparations and visited them in great state, accompanied by upwards of six hundred horse and sixty knights. They were much pleased at his visit, and entertained him handsomely, as he was well deserving of it, and the princess paid him the most engaging attentions. The count d'Armagnac and the lord d'Albreth were present, and the prince was entreated to request the count do Foix to release the count from all, or part of what he was indebted to him for his ransom.

The prince being a prudent as well as a valiant man, having considered a while, said, he would not do so, and added: "Count d'Armagnac, you were made prisoner by fair deeds of arms, and in open battle: you put our cousin the count de Foix, his person and his men, to the hazard of the fight; and, if fortune has been favourable to him and adverse to you, he ought not to fare the worse for it. Neither my lord and father nor myself would have thanked you if you had entreated us to give back what we had honourably and fortunately won at the battle of Poitiers, for which we return thanks to the Lord God."

The count d'Armagnac, on hearing this, was quite thunderstruck: and, notwithstanding he had failed in his expectations, he made a similar request to the princess, who cheerfully entreated the count de Foix to grant her a boon.

"Madam," replied the count, "I am but a small gentleman, and an insignificant bachelor; therefore, I cannot make large gifts; but, if the boon you request do not exceed sixty thousand francs, I grant it."

The princess was anxious to gain the whole; but the count, being a wary man, paid much attention to all his personal affairs: besides, he suspected this boon regarded the ransom of the count d'Armagnac: he therefore continued, "Madam, for a poor knight like me, who am building towns and castles, the gift I offer you ought to suffice."

When the princess found she could not gain more, she said, " Count de Foix, I request and entreat you would forgive the count d'Armagnac."

"Madam," answered the count, "I ought to comply with your request. I have said, that if the boon you solicited did not exceed sixty thousand francs, I would grant it; the count d'Armagnac owes me two hundred and fifty thousand, and at your entreaty I give you sixty thousand of them." Thus ended the matter; and the count d'Armagnac, by the princess's entreaty, gained sixty thousand francs. The count de Foix, shortly afterwards, returned to his own country.

The proper story of the castle of Lourde continues.

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