Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

An assembly of the people of Ghent chooses peace (1386)

Two citizens of Ghent who have been plotting peace prepare to rally their supporters.

Book II, ch. 176 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 60-1).  Roger Cremin and James d'Ardembourg, by whom the whole business was managed, said to sir John d'Elle :"Come hither on 'Thursday morning exactly at nine o'clock, and bring my lord of Burgundy's letters with you; we will show them, if we succeed in our intentions, to the commonalty of Ghent, and have them publicly read; by which means they will put greater confidence in them, for, at the time we mention, we shall be masters of the town, or dead men." Sir John replied, he would do as they had said; when their council broke up, and sir John left the town to consider how he was to act. These two citizens were very active to complete their plans, and constantly busy with their principal supporters, the deans of guilds. By their assiduity, they had gained 'over the greater number of the populace; and it was ordered, at eight o'clock on Thursday, they should quit their houses, the banner of Flanders displayed before them, and shout, "Flanders for the Lion ! the lord of the country grants  peace to the good town of Ghent, and pardon to all evil-minded persons.

This business could not be carried on so secretly but that Peter du Bois knew of it: the moment he had the information, he went to the lord Bourchier, who was governor-in-chief for he king of England, and said to him," My lord, Roger Cremin and James d'Ardembourg intend assembling the inhabitants to-morrow morning, at eight o'clock, in the market-place, with the banner of Flanders in their hands, and are to shout out through the streets, 'Flanders for the Lion! the lord of the country grants peace and pardon to the good town of Ghent for all misdemeanours.' What are we now to do? The king of England will no longer be obeyed in this town, if we be not beforehand with them, and drive them out of our territories."

"How shall we do this?" replied the lord Bourchier.

Peter said, "We must assemble all our people to-morrow morning in the town-house, when, after we have armed them, we will march through the town, crying out also, 'Flanders for the Lion! the king of England for the country, and lord of the town of Ghent.' When we have got to the market-place, those who are our friends will join us, and then we will kill all traitors and rebels."

" Be it so," answered lord Bourchier: "you have well imagined it, and it shall be done."

God was wondrous kind to these two honest citizens; for they had intelligence given them of the arrangement just mentioned. On hearing it, they were not dismayed, but in the evening visited their friends the deacons, and said to them, "We had fixed to be in the market-place to-morrow at eight, but we now must change it to seven o'clock." This they did to break the measures of Peter du Bois, who was on the watch with forty others, and all agreed to change the hour.  On Thursday morning, the lord Bourchier, with sixty of his men, went to the town-house.  Peter du Bois came thither within his forty, when they all armed and put themselves in good array.

Roger Cremin and James d'Ardembourg assembled their friends at the place they had fixed on, when the greater part of those who had been deans of guilds joined them.  They then displayed the banner of the earl, began their march through the town, shouting the cry before mentioned. Those that heard it, and saw the deacons of their trades and the banner of the earl, mixed with their companions and followed the banner as fast as possible. They arrived at the market- place on the point of seven o'clock, where having halted, and placed the banner of the earl before them, they were continually joined by crowds of people, who drew up among them.

News was carried to lord Bourchier and Peter du Bois, who were in the town-house mustering their men, that Roger Cremin and James d'Ardembourg had taken possession of the market-place. On hearing. this, they marched out within the banner of England displayed; and, as they advanced they shouted their cry. In this manner they arrived in the market-place, and drew up opposite to the others, waiting for more to join them;  but very few did so, for they went to those who had the earl's banner, insomuch that Roger and James had eighty from every hundred men who came thither. The market-place was full of men at arms, who kept silent, eyeing each other.  Peter du Bois was thunderstruck when he perceived that the deans of guilds, with their men, had united with Roger Cremin and James d'Ardembourg, and began to fear for his life; for he saw that those who had been used to follow him now avoided him. He therefore quietly got out of the crowd, and went to hide himself for fear of being killed.

Roger Cremin and James d'Ardembourg finding, from appearances, that almost all the inhabitants had  put themselves under their banner, were much rejoiced, and with reason, for they then well knew things were in a good train, and that the people would keep peace with their lord. They advanced, with a large detachment of their men, leaving their men, leaving the main body behind, with the banner of Flanders carried before them, towards the lord Bourchier and the English, who did not think their lives very secure.

Roger halted opposite to lord Bourchier, and said, "What have you done within Peter du Bois? We wish to know your intentions, and  whether you are friends or enemies ?" The knight replied, that he imagined Peter du Bois was there; but, when he found he was gone, said, "I know not what is become of him: I thought he had been with me: for my part, I shall be steady to the king of England, who is my right natural lord, and who has sent me hither at your own entreaties, if you will be pleased to remember it."

"That is true," they answered; " for if the good town of Ghent had not sent for you, we would have put you to death; but in honour to the king of England, who has ordered you hither at our request, neither you nor your men shall run the smallest risk. We will save you from all danger, and conduct you, or have you conducted, as far as the town of Calais. Retire now, therefore, peaceably to your houses, without stirring thence for anything you may see or hear, as we are determined to have for our lord the duke of Burgundy, and no longer to carry on the war."

The knight was much pleased with this speech, and said, " My fair sirs and good friends, since it may not be otherwise, God assist you! and I thank you for the offers you make me."

ch. 177 (Johnes, vol. 2, pp. 61-2) The lord Bourchier and his men quietly left the market-place, and those of Ghent who had been with him, slily slipt away to hide themselves, or mixed with the others, under their banner. Shortly afterwards, sir John d'Elle entered the town and rode to the market-place, bringing with him letters patent, couched in fair language, and properly sealed, from the duke of Burgundy to the town of Ghent, which were publicly read and shown to all, and gave universal satisfaction. Francis Atremen was now sent for from the castle of Gaure, who instantly came, and agreed to the whole of the treaty, saying, " It was well done."

Sir John d'Elle now returned to the duke of Burgundy, who was with his duchess at Arras: he related to him all that had passed at Ghent; that Peter du Bois had lost all power there, and would probably have been killed had he been found; that Francis Atremen had behaved gallantly and loyally in respect to the peace. The duke was much pleased with all this, and signed a truce to last until the first day of January; and ordered a day to be fixed on, in the meantime, for conferences to be holden at Tournay, to confirm the peace. With these paper properly sealed and signed, the knight returned to Ghent: which gave such joy to every one, as plainly showed peace was the unanimous wish.

The lord Bourchier, the English, and Peter du Bois, still remained in Ghent, but nothing was done against them. Peter du Bois continued in peace, because he had sworn he would never more interfere in any war with the good people of Ghent against their lord the duke of Burgundy. He was, however, much assisted in this peril by Francis Atremen, who had spoken handsomely for him to the inhabitants: and for this reason Peter remained unmolested: besides, they knew that Peter had only held similar opinions to their own and that he was a good and loyal captain. During the truce which had been made between the duke of Burgundy and the town of Ghent, they elected those who were to attend the conference at Tournay. Francis Atremen was chosen as principal, because he was well mannered, of good dispositions, and acquainted with the lords he was to treat with: Roger Cremin and James d'Ardembourg were elected with him. They arrived at Tournay during the octave of St. Andrew, escorted by fifty horse, and lodged altogether at the Salmon Inn, in the street of St. Brice.

The duke and duchess of Burgundy, with madame de Nevers, their daughter, came thither on the fifth day of December, and entered Tournay by tile gate of Lille. Tile Ghent men instantly rode out to meet them, on handsome horses: they did not dismount, but, bareheaded, saluted the duke and the ladies. The duke passed hastily through the town, to meet the duchess of Brabant, who came that same day, and entered it by the Mechlin gate: she was lodged at the bishop's palace. The conferences now began, relative to the treaty which the duke had granted to Ghent. Sir John d'Elle attended them, as he had, with much difficulty, brought this business to an end between the two parties. At last, at the entreaties of the duchess of Burgundy and madame de Nevers, the duke pardoned everything; and peace was proclaimed, after it had been drawn out and sealed by both parties, in the manner following [Froissart includes the text of the treaty.]

The story continues.

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