Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Why the Prince of Wales waged war on Henry of Trastamara.

In 1366, King Pedro the Cruel of Castile was deposed by his illegitimate half-brother, Henry of Trastamara. Pedro fled to his cousin, Edward Prince of Wales (the Black Prince), who was then ruling Aquitaine under his father Edward III. Edward committed himself to Pedro's cause. Froissart shows that there was debate about the wisdom and rightness of Edward's actions.

Book I, ch. 231 (Johnes, v. 1, pp. 343-46). [King Pedro is isolated in Corunna, with only a single supporter.]

 Don Pedro then demanded from his knight, don Fernando de Castro, complaining of his evil fortune, which was so much against him, what was best to be done. "My lord, replied the knight, "before you leave this place, I think it would be proper that you send some person to your cousin the prince of Wales, to know if he will receive you, and to entreat of him, for God's sake, that he would attend to your distress. He is in a manner bound to it, from the strong connection that has subsisted between the king, his father, and yours in former times. The prince of Wales is of such a noble and gallant disposition that, when he shall be informed of your misfortunes, he will certainly take compassion on you: and, if he should determine to replace you on your throne, there is no one, sir, that could oppose him, so much is he redoubted by all the world, and beloved by soldiers. You are now safe where you are; for this fortress will hold you out until some intelligence shall be brought you from Aquitaine."

 [The prince of Wales agrees to receive Pedro.]

 Before the arrival of don Pedro at Bordeaux, some lords, as well English as Gascons, who had much wisdom and forethought, were of the prince's council, and by inclination as well as duty, thought themselves bound to give him loyal advice, spoke to the prince in words like the following: "My lord, you have often heard the old proverb of 'All covet, all lose.' True it is, that you are one of the princes of this world the most enlightened, esteemed, and honoured, in possession of large domains and a handsome principality on this side of the sea, and are, thank God, at peace with every one. It is also well known, that no king, far or near, at this present moment dares anger you; such reputation have you in chivalry for valour and good fortune. You ought, therefore, in reason, to be contented with what you have got, and not seek for enemies. We must add likewise, that this don Pedro, king of Castile, who at present is driven out of his realm, is a man of great pride, very cruel, and full of bad dispositions. The kingdom of Castile has suffered many grievances at his hands: many valiant men have been beheaded and murdered, without justice or reason; so that to these wicked actions, which he ordered or consented to, he owes the loss of his kingdom.

 "In addition to this he is an enemy of the church and excommunicated by our holy father. He has been long considered as a tyrant, who without any plea of justice, has always made war on his neighbours; such as the kings of Aragon and Navarre, whom he was desirous to dethrone by force. It is also commonly reported, and believed in his kingdom, and even by his own attendants, that he murdered the young lady, his wife, who was a cousin of yours, being daughter to the duke of Bourbon. Upon all these accounts, it behoves you to pause and reflect before you enter into any engagements; for what he has hitherto suffered are the chatisements of God, who orders these punishments as an example to the kings and princes of the earth, that they such never commit such like wickedness."

 ...But to this loyal advice they received the following answer: "My lords, I take it for granted and believe that you give me the best advice you are able. I must, however, inform you, that I am perfectly well acquainted with the life and conduct of don Pedro, and well know that he has committed faults without number, for which at present he suffers: but I will tell you the reasons which at this moment urge and embolden me to give him assistance. I do not think it either decent or proper that a bastard should possess a kingdom as an inheritance, nor drive out of his realm his own brother, heir to the country by lawful marriage; and no king, or king's son, ought ever to suffer it, as being of the greatest prejudice to royalty. Add to this, that my lord and father and this don Pedro have for a long time been allies, much connected together, by which we are bounden to aid and assist him, in case he should require it." These were the reasons that instigated the prince to assist the king of Castile in his great distress, and thus he replied to his council. No one could afterwards make the smallest change in his determination, but every day it grew firmer.

Chapter 233 (Johnes, v. 1, pp. 349-50). ...When it was publicly known through Spain, Aragon and France, that the intentions of the prince of Wales were to replace don Pedro in the kingdom of Castile, it was a matter of great wonder to many, and was variously talked of. Some said, the prince was making this expedition through pride and presumption; that he was jealous of the honour sir Bertrand du Guesclin had obtained, in conquering Castile in the name of king Henry, and then making him king of it. Others said, that both pity and justice moved him to assist don Pedro in recovering his inheritance; for it was highly unbecoming a bastard to hold a kingdom, or bear the name of king. Thus were many knights and squires divided in their opinions.

Chapter 240 (Johnes, v. 1, pp. 368). [A letter sent by Edward on the eve of battle with Henry of Trastamara:] "Edward, by the grace of God, prince of Wales and Aquitaine, to the renowned Henry earl of Trastamare, who at this present time calls himself king of Castile: "Whereas you have sent to us a letter by your herald, in which, among other things, mention is made of your desire to know why we have admitted to our friendship your enemy, our cousin the king don Pedro, and upon what pretext we are carrying on a war against you, and have entered Castile with a large army: in answer to this, we inform you, that it is to maintain justice and in support of reason, as it behoveth all kings to do, and also to preserve the firm alliances made by our lord the king of England, with the king don Pedro, in former times. but as you are much renowned among all good knights, we would wish, if it were possible, to make up these differences between you both; and we would use such earnest entreaties with our cousin, the king don Pedro, that you should have a large portion of the kingdom of Castile, but you must give up all pretensions to the crown of that realm, as well as to its inheritance. Consider well this proposition; and know further, that we shall enter the kingdom of Castile by whatever place shall be most agreeable to us. Written at Logrono, the 30th day of March, 1367."

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