Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

How peace was plotted in Flanders (1386)

Since the duke of Burgundy succeeded to the county of Flanders, prospects for peace there have begun to look up.

Book II, ch. 175 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 57-9).   In truth, the duke of Burgundy had a strong desire to undertake a grand expedition against England in the ensuing summer of 1386, and did all he could to urge the king of France to consent to it. On the other hand, the constable of France, who in his youth had been educated in England, and was a knight of gallant enterprise and much beloved in France, advised it strongly, as did sir Guy de la Trimouille and the admiral of France. The duke of Berry was at this time in Poitou, and in the upper parts of Limousin, ignorant of these councils and this intended expedition. The duke of Burgundy was the greatest personage in France, next the king:  he had many designs, and knew that, as long as the war continued in Flanders, the invasion of England could not take place: he was therefore much softened, and more inclined to enter into a treaty with the town of Ghent; for they had allied themselves with the king of England, who had sent thither a knight, called the lord Bourchier, to advise and govern them.

The citizens of Ghent were also desirous of peace; for they had suffered so much from the war that the richest and principal persons of the town were no longer masters of their property: it was at the command of a few wicked soldiers, who governed them at their pleasure: the wisest foresaw that this could not last long without their being entirely ruined. When they were talking over their affairs among themselves, some wondered they had been thus long kept together in unity; but others knew that unity to have been the effect of force, and more through fear than love, for Peter du Bois would not desist from his wickedness, and none dared before him to speak of peace or of treating: the moment he heard of any one thus talking, he was instantly arrested, however respectable he might be, and put to death.

This war, which Ghent had carried on against its lord the earl Lewis of Flanders and the duke of Burgundy, had lasted near seven years ; and it would be melancholy to relate all the various unfortunate events which it had caused. Turks, Saracens and Pagans would have been sorrowful on hearing them, for all commerce by sea was ruined. The sea coasts from east to west, and all the north, suffered from it; for in truth the riches and merchandise of seventeen kingdoms were sent to Sluys, and the whole was unshipped at Damme or Bruges. Now consider, that if these distant countries suffered, still more bitterly must those nearer have felt it. No means of peace could be imagined. It was first thought on by the grace of God and divine inspiration, and by the prayers of devout people to the Lord, who, at their request, opened his ears, and took pity on the poor people of Flanders.

I will detail how a peace was made between them and the duke of Burgundy, as minutely as I have before related the cause of the war, which originated in the hatreds of Gilbert Mathew, John Lyon, and their accomplices, and I shall beg you will have the goodness to attend to me.  At the time I am now speaking of, the lord Bourchier governed the city of Ghent for the king of England, and Peter du Bois assisted him in maintaining Isis authority, and retaining the affections of the wicked. There were several prudent men that were disgusted with such dissensions, and who had suffered much from them: they (dared not open themselves to each: other but in secret, for if Peter du Bois heard that any person was desirous of peace, he was put to death without mercy, in like manner as he and Philip von Artaveld had slain sir Synmon Bete and sir Gilbert Gente, and latterly, in order to frighten the town of Ghent, they had destroyed many of the inhabitants.

When Francis Atremen had been driven from the town of Damme by the king of France, who, having totally burnt and destroyed the Quatre Mestiers, was returned to France, as it has been before related, the principal persons of Ghent supposed the king would, the ensuing summer, return before that town within a very powerful army. Peter du Bois and those of his party were unwilling to believe it, adding, they should be very glad to see the king come thither, for they had formed such strong alliances with the king of England as to be certain of assistance.

At this time, there were in Ghent two valiant men, of good life and conversation, of moderate birth and fortune, neither of the highest nor of the richest, who were very much vexed at this war against its natural lord the duke of Burgundy, but were afraid openly to declare their sentiments, from the examples which had been made by Peter du Bois. One of them was a mariner; the other the most considerable butcher in the market, called James d'Ardembourg. By these two men was the business first brought about. In- addition to them, I must include a worthy knight of Flanders, named sir John d'Elle, a prudent intelligent man, who interested himself much in this affair; but, if it had not been through the means of the two aforementioned persons, he would not have interfered in it so happily; nor, as it may easily be believed, could all the knights of Flanders have succeeded.

This sir John d'Elle was much beloved by many in the town of Ghent, and he went in and out at his pleasure without being suspected by any one. At the beginning he was afraid of talking either about war or peace; nor would he ever have done so, if it had been  previously mentioned by Roger de Cremin and James d'Ardembourg, and I will tell you how it happened. These two were much displeased at the continued troubles in Flanders, in so much that they conversed together on the subject, when Roger said to James, "Whoever could interfere between this our native town of Ghent, which is so much oppressed, and the duke of Burgundy our natural lord, would do a deed of great charity, and acquire by it grace from God and praise from men; for the differences and confusion which are so unbecoming would by this means be put an end to."

"You speak truly, Roger," replied James; "but it will be a difficult and dangerous thing to do, on account of Peter du Bois: no one dares talk of peace from fear of him, for if he knew of it, those who had meddled in the business would instantly be put to death."

"What!" said Roger, " shall things then remain always as they are? There must be an end to it." "Tell me how," answered James, "and I will cheerfully listen to you."

Roger replied, "You are the principal butcher in the market, the richest and most respected: you can talk secretly and boldly with your most confidential friends and brethren in trade; and when you shall find they understand you, by degrees you can draw them more forward.  I, on the other hand, who am a mariner, and well beloved by all such sort of people, whose courage I know, and who hate the war, for they have host much by it, will remonstrate with some of them on the subject, and they will induce others to incline the same way: when we shall have gained over these two trades, which are numerous and powerful, the other trades, and honest people who wish for peace, will join us."

"Very well," said James; " I will sound my people: do you the same by yours.

Each of them performed his promise; and they discoursed so prudently with their friends on the subject that, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, James d'Ardembourg found all his brother butchers well inclined to his way of thinking.  Roger, on the other hand, with his eloquence, brought the mariners, who anxious to regain the pilotage they had been so long deprived of, to the same opinion. When these two honest men were conversing on the business, and had shown how desirous they had found their people to obtain peace, they said, "We want a proper person to represent our situation to the duke of Burgundy," and instantly thought of sir John d'Elle, on whom they determined to call, as he was then in the town. This they did, and loyally told him their whole secret, saying, " Sir John, we have so effectually worked on our brethren of the trade, they are all eager for peace; but on condition that my lord of Burgundy will engage to pardon every one, and keep to us our ancient privileges, for which we can show sealed charters."

Sir John replied, "You say well, and I will cheerfully negotiate the matter between you."

The knight waited on the duke of Burgundy, who at the time was in France with the king, and related to him all he had heard. He demonstrated so well the advantages of the business, that the duke willingly listened to his proposals. In truth, he was desirous of peace with Ghent, on account of the intended expedition which he wished the king to make against England. His own council advised it, as did sir Guy de la Trimouille, sir John de Vienne, and also the constable of France and the lord de Coucy. He therefore told the knight he would assent to the terms proposed, and that he might return  with his answer to those who had sent him.

The duke inquired if Francis Atremen had been present when this matter was brought forward: he said, "No, my lord: he is governor of the castle of Gaure; and I know not if those who have sent me would like he should be made acquainted with the business."

"Tell them," answered the duke, "to speak to him boldly on the subject:  he will not do anything in opposition, for I understand he most earnestly wishes to make his peace with me."

The knight returned to Ghent with this good news, with which they were well pleased. He then went to the castle of Gaure to Francis Atremen, when he opened the whole matter to him, but under secrecy. Francis, having paused a little, replied gaily,"Since my lord of Burgundy is willing to pardon everything, and to secure to the town of Ghent its privileges, I will no longer be a rebel, but endeavour by all means to obtain my peace.

The knight left Francis Atremen in Gaure, and returned to the duke of Burgundy in France with the account how matters stood. The duke heard him with pleasure, and wrote very amicable letters to those of Ghent, sealed with his seal, and on this issue of the treaty the knight went back to Flanders and to Ghent, but he did not carry thither his letters: he, however, gave such assurances to Roger Cremin and James d'Ardembourg that he had them to produce, as to lead them to consider the affair as good as concluded. Now, consider what great peril these men and the knight were in; for, if the lord Bourchier or Peter du Bois had known of it, their lives would have paid the forfeit.

The story continues.

Return to the Tales from Froissart Main Page

Contact the editor