Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The Wars in Friesland

The Count D'Ostrevant is convinced by his father to reconquer Friesland rather than join an expedition to Hungary against the Turks.

Book IV, ch. 70 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 596-7).  News of this expedition to Hungary was spread far and near. On its being announced in Hainault, knights and squires, eager for renown, assembled together, and said,-" It would not be amiss if our lord of Hainault, who is young and promising, were to accompany his brother-in-law, the count de Nevers, in this expedition; and, should it take place, we must not fail to attend him." The count d'Ostrevant resided in Quesnoy at the time such conversations were held, and was informed what his knights and squires said. This made him the more willing to accompany his brother-in-law, having before had such intentions. Whenever the subject was mentioned in his presence, he dissembled his real thoughts, by saying little about it, meaning to consult his lord and father, duke Albert of Bavaria, count of Hainault, how he would advise him to act.

It was not many days before he set out to visit the duke and duchess of Bavaria at the Hague, where they lived. He addressed his father,--" My lord, it is currently reported that my brother-in-law of Nevers has undertaken an expedition to Hungary, and thence to Turkey, against the sultan Bajazet. There must be grand deeds of arms performed; and at this moment I am perfectly idle, knowing not whither to bear arms: I wish to learn your intentions, if it would be agreeable to you that I should accompany my brother-in-law on this honourable expedition, with one hundred of our chivalry. My lord and lady of Burgundy will thank me for so doing; and there are many knights and squires in Hainault who will eagerly go with me."

Duke Albert replied, like one who had well weighed the subject,- " William, since thou hast so great a desire to travel, and to seek for deeds of arms in Hungary and Turkey, against a people and country who have never done us any wrong, it must be caused by vain-glory alone, for thou hast not a shadow of reason to induce thee to go thither. Let John of Burgundy and our cousins of France perform their enterprise, and do thou undertake one that more nearly touches us. March to Friesland, and conquer back that country, which was our inheritance; for the Frieslanders have, by rebellion, withdrawn themselves from our obedience; and, if thou undertake this, I will assist thee." This speech from his father was very agreeable to the count d'Ostrevant, and raised his spirit: he answered, " My lord, you say well, and, if it be your opinion I should undertake such an expedition, I will do so heartily." By little and little, the matter was so long talked over between the father and son, that the invasion of Friesland was agreed upon; and a circumstance I shall relate greatly helped him in this matter.

The count d'Ostrevant had at that time, for his principal adviser, a squire of Hainault, called Fier-à-bras, or the bastard of Vertain. He was equal in prudence as in arms, so that when time count told him what his father had said, he replied,-" Sir, my lord your father gives you excellent advice. It will be more for your honour to undertake this expedition than to join that to Hungary; and, when you begin your preparations for it, you will find plenty of knights and squires in Hainault and elsewhere, ready to accompany and assist you. But if you really are in earnest to undertake it, I would recommend that you first go to England, to make known your intentions to the knights and squires of that country; and to entreat the king of England, your cousin, that he would permit you to retain knights, squires, and archers, and allow them to accept of your pay, and to accompany you from England. The English are men of valour: if you succeed in obtaining their assistance, you will go far to be successful; and if you can prevail on your cousin, the earl of Derby, to take part and come with you, there will be still greater chances of success, and your enterprise will gain more renown."

The count d'Ostrevant inclined to the council of Fier-à-bras de Vertain, for he thought it good; and, when he spoke of it to the lord de Gomegines, he likewise agreed to it, as did all who were friends to the count. News of this was whispered throughout Hainault, and a proclamation soon after issued, to prohibit all knights and squires from quitting the country, to form part of any expedition to Hungary or elsewhere, for that the count d'Ostrevant needed their services, and would, this summer, lead them against Friesland.

We will, for a while, leave this matter, and speak of others that were in greater forwardness...

ch. 77, pp. 609-10.   At this period, the duke of Gueldres came to England to visit the king and his uncles, and to offer his loyal services, for he was so bounden by faith and homage.  The juke would gladly have seen the king making preparations for war, for he disliked peace.

The duke of Gueldres had many conversations with the duke of Lancaster respecting the intended expedition of the counts of Hainault and of Ostrevant against Friesland; for at this moment Fier-a-bras de Vertain was in England, having been sent thither by the count d'Ostrevant to seek men at arms and archers.   The earl of Derby had been requested to accompany his cousins of Hainault and Ostrevant, to which he was well inclined, and had told Fier-a-bras that lie should be well pleased to go to Friesland, if it met the approbation of the king and his father. When, therefore, the duke of Gueldres came to England, the duke of Lancaster spoke to him on this subject, and desired him to say what he thought of it.

He replied, "that the expedition would be attended with much danger; that Friesland was not a Country easily conquered, and that many counts of Holland and Hainault, who in former times claimed it as their inheritance, had marched thither with great force, to bring it under their subjection, but had never returned. The Frieslanders are a people void of honour and understanding, and show mercy to none who fall in their way. They pay no respect to any lord, however great his rank; and their country is very strong, surrounded by the sea, and full of bogs, islands, and marshes, so that no persons can find their way through it but the natives. I have been much pressed to join this expedition, but I will never enter such a country; and I would not advise that my cousin of Derby go thither, for it is not suitable to him. I am satisfied my brother-in-law d'Ostrevant will undertake the expedition, for he is very eager to do so, and will lead many Hainaulters with him, but there is a chance if any of them ever come home again."

This speech of the duke of Gueldres had such an effect on the duke of Lancaster, that he resolved in his own mind the earl of Derby should not go to Friesland. He signified to him secretly his intentions, for his son did not live with him, and that, notwithstanding the engagements he had entered into, he must break them off, for neither the king nor himself would consent that he should go on this expedition. Thus did the duke of Gueldres prevent the count of Hainault and his son from having the company of the earl of Derby, in which respect he was not well advised, nor was he thanked by either; but he was by nature all
his life proud and envious.

Fier-a-bras de Vertain, notwithstanding this disappointment, was not the less diligent in collecting forces, and had engaged many knights and squires, with more than two hundred archers. But the earl of Derby excused himself, for the reasons above-mentioned. His excuses were accepted, for they plainly saw, that had not the king forbidden his going, at the request of the duke of Lancaster, he would have been of the party. The king of England, to do honour to his cousin of Hainault, ordered
vessels to be prepared in the Thames to carry, at his cost, such knights as went on this expedition to Encuse a sea-port belonging to the earl of Hainault, at the extremity of Holland, and twelve leagues by water from Friesland.

ch. 78 (pp. 612-4). You have before heard the great desire duke Albert of Bavaria and his son William count d'Ostrevant had to invade Friesland, and to employ their arms in the conquest of it. The knights and squires of Hainault, Holland and Zealand, were willing to second them, because they thought it was their lawful inheritance. To gain assistance, the count d'Ostrevant had sent one of his squires, a renowned man at arms, called Fier-a-bras de Vertain, to England, where he had been successful: king Richard, out of affection to his cousin, had sent him some men at arms, and two hundred archers, under the command of three English lords; one was named Cornewall, another Colleville, but the name of the third, who was a squire, I have forgotten. It was told me, and likewise that he was a gallant man at arms, and had long been used to war: a short time before, he had in a riot had his chin cut off, which was replaced by one of silver that was fastened by a silken cord tied round his head. This force arrived at Enchuysen in proper time. To be more particular in this matter, I must say that I was informed duke Albert held many consultations with his son, the count d'Ostrevant, and they called into their councils a noble and valiant squire, named William do Croembourg, who earnestly exhorted them to the war, for he mortally hated the Frieslanders. He had done them some mischief, and did them much more, as you shall hear.

Duke Albert of Bavaria set out from the Hague in company with his son, the count d'Ostrevant, for Hainault, and convened the states of that country at Mons, who readily obeyed the summons of their lord. He laid before them his wish to invade Friesland, and remonstrated on his right to do so, and the lawful claim he had on it. In proof of this, he had read .to them certain letters patent, apostolical and imperial, authentically sealed with lead and gold, which evidently showed his right over that country. The duke addressed the meeting," My lords, and valiant men our subjects, you know that every one ought to guard and defend his inheritance, and that man, in the defence of himself or country, has a right to make war. You know also, that the Frieslanders ought to acknowledge themselves our subjects, but they are rebellious against us, and against our rights, hike men without law or religion. Notwithstanding the justice of our claim, we cannot, my very dear lords, without your personal and pecuniary aid, attempt to make these people listen to reason. We therefore entreat your assistance in this necessity, both personal and pecuniary, that we may subjugate these disobedient Frieslanders to our will."

To this remonstrance the three estates unanimously assented; and, as they were always inclined to comply with the desires of their lord, they presented duke Albert, from the country of Hainault, the sum of thirty thousand francs in ready money, without including the town of Valenciennes. This town performed equally well its duty, for duke Albert, attended by his son, Went thither, and made a similar request, to what he had done so successfully at Mons. These two valiant princes were very joyful to see their subjects so forward to assist their war, as it assured them they were well-beloved by them. Since they had now a sufficiency of money, they resolved to inform the king of France of their intended expedition, and to request aid from him. Two prudent and valiant knights, the lord de Ligne and the lord de Jumont, were sent thither, and acquitted themselves well, for they were much in favour with the French, especially the lord de Ligne whom the king, from his partiality to him, had made one of his chamberlains. He proposed to the king of France the request of his lord, duke Albert of Bavaria, so eloquently, that he and his council promised the assistance he required. The duke of Burgundy was urgent for its being granted, because his daughter having married the duke's son. he thought, if the expedition were successful, it would be for the advantage of the count d'Ostrevant.

Many of the great barons disapproved of it, and spoke against it, saying," How can these Hainaulters come hither to solicit aid from our king, when they have already been to ask the same from the English ? Have we not lately seen that the count d'Ostrevant has accepted of the order of the Garter, which is the English device? Has he shown, by so doing, any very great affection for France?"

But others, who were better informed, replied," My fair sirs, you are wrong to talk thins; if the count d'Ostrevant has accepted the Garter, it was not to ally himself with England; for he is too strongly connected with the French. Is it not true that he has married the lady Catherine, daughter to the duke of Burgundy? and is not this a better and more valuable alliance than the blue Garter? Never, therefore, say that he will not prefer doing services to the French rather than to the English. The king will honour himself and exalt the French name, if he give him the aid he has been wisely advised to afford."

Thus did the French converse on these matters, which made a great noise in France, for nothing was talked of but the deeds of arms that were to be performed in Hungary or Turkey against Bajazet, and in Friesland against the Frieslanders. The king of France did not delay raising an army of five hundred lances, composed of Picards and French, and gave the command of them to the count Waleran de St. Pol and the lord Charles d'Albret, two knights that were well qualified for the business. They were to lead this body of men to the town of Enchuysen in lower Friesland, as that was the place of assembly for the whole army, and they were to embark there for upper Friesland, which they did.

When the two valiant knights, the lord de Ligne and the lord de Jumont, saw the good inclination of the king, and were assured that every order had been given, and the pay issued for the men at arms who were to be sent to assist the count of Hainault, they took leave of the king of France, and, thanking him for his friendship to their lords, returned to Hainault, to relate to the duke of Bavaria and the count d'Ostrevant how successful they had been. They were received with the honours they had deserved, and detailed the courteous answers they received from the king of France and the duke of Burgundy, who had feasted them grandly, and the rich presents that were given them, for which they thanked the duke and his son, as it was from affection to them they bad been shown such courtesy. The whole would be too long to relate: we will therefore pass it over, and come to the principal matter.

Duke Albert, on hearing that the king of France was to send to his assistance five hundred lances, assembled all his barons and vassals of Hainault. The assembly consisted of the lord de Vertain, séneschal of Hainault, a very valiant man and renowned in arms; the lords de Ligne and de Gomegines, whom he appointed marshals of his army; the lords de Havreth, Michelet de Ligne, de Lalain, de Hordaing, de Chin, de Cautain, du Quesnoy, de Fleron, his brother John, the lords de Bousset, de Jumont (who were knights always eager to meet their enemies, but at this time they had bleared eyes, red as crimson), Robert le Roux; the lords de Monthiaux, de Fontaines, de Seulles, the lords James de Sars, William de Hermes, and Pinchart his brother; the lords de Lens, de Verlammont, Anseaux de Trasseigines, Octes de Seaussines and his brother Gerard; the lord de Ictre, his brother John: sir Anseaux de Sars, Bridaux de Montigny, Daniaux de la Poulle, Guy de la Poulle; the lord de Masting; sir Floridas de Villiers, who was a most valiant knight, and had gained great renown for his gallant deeds of arms against the Turks and Saracens in the Holy Land; sir Eustace de Vertain, sir Fier-a-bras de Vertain, who was but just returned from England, and rejoiced his lord with the success of his mission there; the lord de Osteven, sir Rasse de Montigny, Thuq do Morse; the lord de Rorsin, sir John d'Andregines, Persant his brother, and great numbers of other gentlemen and squires, whom, having assembled in his hall at Mons, he addressed, saying, "That he hoped they would all arm, and provide themselves with followers and every necessary, each according to his power, to assist him in his intended expedition against Friesland; and that, out of affection to him, and regard to their own honour and renown, they would accompany him to his town of Enchuysen, in lower Friesland, and to Meemelie, and thence embark with him for upper Friesland, where he proposed being, if it pleased God, by the middle of August ensuing, and that he would wait for them in one or other of the two before-mentioned towns; that it was his intention to go thither beforehand to make them necessary preparations, and to receive his men at arms, and such Hollanders and Zealanders as would be induced to enter his service, and aid him to the accomplishment of his purposes. All the knights, squires and lords in Hainault instantly complied with his request, and promised him their services like loyal vassals. Duke Albert and the count d'Ostrevant found them punctual in the performance of their promises, and they made themselves speedily ready, so that about the beginning of August of the year 1396, they assembled and marched off in companies, handsomely arrayed, towards Antwerp, where they were to embark for Enchuysen, the general rendezvous...

ch. 79  (pp. 615-7). The duke of Bavaria and his son, having been so successful in Hainault and Zealand, made the same requests to the Hollanders, especially to the barons and chief towns. To say the truth, the Hollanders were much pleased to hear war was about to be made on the Frieslanders: they hated them, particularly the knights and squires, for there was a continual warfare carried on, and they mutually plundered each other on the frontiers of the two countries. When the great lords in Holland, such as the lord d'Atrel, and other gallant knights and squires, heard the supplications of their princes, duke Albert and his son count William, they immediately offered their services, and promised them every assistance. They were speedily armed, and the principal towns supplied them with a large body of cross-bows, pikemen and men at arms. It was not long before they were all assembled at Enchuysen, where vessels had been provided to carry them to Friesland. They were so numerous, they were said to be thirty thousand sailors, and that the town of Haarlem alone had supplied twelve hundred. These vessels were amply freighted with warlike stores and other necessaries.

You may imagine the grief of the ladies and damsels in Holland and Zealand was not less than those of Hainault, when they found their lovers and relations were engaged in this war. Their anger fell chiefly on the lord de Cruembourg, because they thought he had been the great adviser of duke Albert in the matter, and on the lord de Merebbede. This last was eager for revenge on the Frieslanders for the injuries they had done him : in the before mentioned battle, when count William was unfortunately slain, he had lost three-and-thirty of his relations, bearing his arms on their coats, with sir Daniel de Merebbede their leader, none of whom: would the Frieslanders ransom. These two lords, therefore were afraid to appear before the princesses and ladies of duke Albert's court.

In a short time, the whole army was assembled: the English came first, next the Hainaulters in very handsome array, under the command of the lord séneschal de Jumont, and the lord de Gomegines, who was marshal; then the Hollanders and Zealanders; but the French did not come so soon as expected, which delayed the embarkation eleven days. During this interval, there arose a quarrel between the English and Hollanders; and, bad it not been for the count d'Ostrevant, the English would have been slain. The quarrel was made up; and the French arrived, to the joy of all, for they consisted of a well-appointed body of men at arms. Every one was now ordered instantly to embark, which being done, they hoisted sail, recommended themselves to God, and put to sea. The water was smooth, and seemed to take pleasure in bearing them. There were such numbers of vessels that, had they been arranged in a line from Enchuysen to Kuynder (which is in upper Friesland, and where they intended to land), though twelve leagues distant, the whole sea would have been covered; but they sailed in one body.

We will for a while leave them, and speak of the Frieslanders, who, as I was informed, had been long acquainted with duke Albert's intention of marching against them with a powerful army. They held many councils on the subject, and determined to combat their enemies at the very moment of their landing; for they said they should prefer death with liberty, to being slaves; and would never quit the battle while alive. They also resolved not to accept of ransoms for any person, however high his rank, but to put their prisoners to death, or keep them in banishment from their own countries. Among these was a Frieslander of high birth and renown: he was of great strength and stature, for he was taller by a head than all his countrymen. His name was Yves Jouvere; but the Hollanders, Zealanders and Hainaulters called him "The great Frieslander." This valiant man had gained much reputation in Prussia, Hungary, Turkey, Rhodes and Cyprus, where he had performed such deeds of valour that he was much spoken of.

When he heard his countrymen thus readily resolve on battle, he addressed them,-" O ye noble men, and free Frieslanders, know that there is no fortune stable. If in former times you have, by your prowess, conquered the Hainaulters, Hollanders and Zealanders, those who are now about to invade us are men expert in war, and be assured they will act otherwise than their predecessors you will see they will not fly, but fight with the utmost prudence. I would therefore advise that we suffer them to land and make what progress they can into the country: let us guard our towns and fortresses, and give up to them the plains, Where they will waste themselves. Our country will not long support them. It is beside cut up with ditches and dykes, so that they cannot advance far into the interior, and they will be forced to return after having burnt ten or twelve villages. This they will the more speedily do, for they cannot ride, nor indeed without difficulty march on foot, through the country, which will wear them out. The damage they can do will be trifling, and we can soon repair it; but, if we offer them battle, I very much fear we shall be overpowered, for I have been credibly informed they are one hundred thousand men under arms." He said truly, for they were at least as many, if not more.

Three valiant Friesland knights, sir Feu de Dorekerque, sir Gerard Cavin and sir Tiny de Walturg, seconded this proposal; but the people would not listen to it, and they were supported by several of those noble men called Elins, who are gentlemen and judges of causes. They opposed what the great Frieslander had offered with such success, as to occasion it to be determined that, as soon as they should hear of the enemy landing, they were to march and offer them combat. This being resolved on, the assembly broke up, that every one might make his preparations. To say the truth, they were in general very poorly armed many had no other defensive covering than their waistcoats made of coarse thick cloth, scarcely better than horse-cloths. Some were armed in leather, others with rusty jackets of mail, which seemed unfit for service; but there were some perfectly well armed. When the Frieslanders were ready to march, they took from their churches the crosses and banners, and divided themselves into three battalions each consisting of about ten thousand men: they halted, on arriving at a pass defended by a ditch, very near to where the Hainault army was to land, and plainly saw the Hainaulters, Hollanders and Zealanders, for they were close to the shore, and preparing to disembark. It was on Saint Bartholomew's day, which this year fell on a Sunday, that duke Albert and his army landed in Friesland.

The Frieslanders, noticing the movements of their enemies, sallied forth, to the amount of about six thousand, and mounted the dykes to see if they could any way prevent their landing. Among the Frieslanders, there was a sort of mad woman dressed in blue cloth, who, quitting her countrymen, rushed forward towards the Hainaulters and Hollanders, making ready for battle. When she had approached the army within bow-shot, she turned her back, and, raising up her petticoats and shift, showed her bare rump to all who wished to see it, bawling out some words in her own language, which meant, "Take this for your welcome." Those on ship-board, seeing the wickedness of this woman, let fly such a shower of arrows and bolts that her legs and thighs were larded with them ; for it seemed a shower of snow, so many were the arrows shot at her. Several leaped into the water, and, pursuing this wretched woman with drawn swords, soon overtook her, and cut her into a thousand pieces.

In the mean time, the debarkation was taking effect; and the Hainaulters marched to the enemy, who received them courageously, with long pikes, and staves shod with iron, and repulsed them vigorously. The landing was strongly contested, and numbers were killed and wounded; but from the advantages of their bows and cross-bows, and by their superior mode of fighting, the Hainaulters gained the dyke, and remained victors on the field at this first attack. When they were all disembarked, they ranged themselves along the dyke, each under his banner, and, when thus drawn up, their line extended more than half a league. The Frieslanders, on their loss of the dyke, retreated to another pass, where they had cast up the earth in their front, and the ditch was very deep : they amounted to about thirty thousand, and as they were at no great distance, were plainly seen by the Hainaulters and their allies, from their position on the dyke. Each party remained on the ground: in the mean time, the whole army was landed, with their baggage, and some tents were pitched, under which they reposed themselves during the Sunday and Monday, observing the Frieslanders, with whom on these two days there were many skirmishes and deeds of arms.

Both armies were ready prepared for battle on the Tuesday morning: and many new knights were made of the Hainaulters, Hollanders and Zealanders, when it was resolved to attack the enemy. They drew up in handsome array, placing their archers in front, intermixed with the ranks, and, with trumpets sounding, marched to pass the ditch. The Frieslanders guarded themselves from the arrows by means of the mound of earth thrown from the ditch, which was as high as their heads; but the Hollanders leaped into the ditch, and made bridges of their pikes and lances. The enemy defended themselves valiantly, and gave such rude blows on those who attempted to mount the bank, that they drove them on their backs into the ditch. In short so many valorous deeds were done, it is impossible to recount them all ; but the Hainaulters and their allies were too strongly armed, and the Frieslanders could not otherwise hurt them than by knocking them down.

The new knights acquitted themselves honorably, but the enemy displayed great courage: they are a lusty race, though very badly armed, and some of them without shoes or stockings; notwithstanding which, they made an obstinate defense. During this skirmish, the lord de Ligne, the séneschal of Hainault and the lord de Jumont, with other Hainault knights, following the course of the ditch found a passage for their horses, and fell upon the rear of the Frieslanders, to their utter dismay. They quitted the defense of the ditch to repel this last attack; but the Hainaulters charged them so vigorously, that the enemy were broken and dispersed, and the Hollanders and Zealanders crossed the ditch and joined in the fray. The battle was now very murderous; and the Frieslanders gave destructive blows with the axes they had armed themselves with, which served them to fell timber; but the great Frieslander, Yves Jouvere, lost his life. Not long after this, the Frieslanders yielded the field, and took to flight as fast as they could. The carnage in the pursuit was horrible, for none were spared : the Hollanders, in particular, killed all they could overtake: even such as had been made prisoners by the English, French and Hainaulters, they killed while in their hands.

The lord William de Cruembourg, and his two sons, John and Henry, who had that morning been knighted, acquitted themselves gallantly, and were the most active in slaying the Frieslanders, showing clearly they loved them not. To conclude, the Frieslanders were completely defeated and the greater part killed: some, few were made prisoners, and about fifty carried to the Hague, where they remained a long time. The lord of Kuynder, who was the lord of the town where duke Albert had landed, had surrendered himself to the duke on the Monday, and himself and two sons were in the battle against the Frieslanders. They lived afterwards under the protection of duke Albert and his son count William.

After, this defeat, the Hainaulters, Hollanders, Zealanders, French and English, quartered themselves about Kuynder, and took several towns and castles; but their captures were inconsiderable, for the Frieslanders did them much harm by ambuscades and skirmishes. If they made any prisoners, they had no ransom to offer; and it was seldom they would surrender, but fought until they were, slain, saying they preferred death and liberty to being under the subjection of any lord whatever. Their friends or relations never brought any ransoms for those who were taken, but left them to die in prison. The Frieslanders offered their prisoners in exchange, man for man; but, when their enemies had none to give in return, they put them to death. When the Hainault army had been in the country about five weeks, and had destroyed and burnt many towns and villages, of little value indeed, the weather began to he very cold and to rain almost daily: there were also great tempests at sea. Duke Albert and his son, in consequence, proposed the return of the army to lower Friesland, whence they had come, and to march into Holland, the more comfortably to pass the winter, which had set in very hard. This was done; and, on their arrival at Enchuysen, the lords dismissed their men, particularly the strangers, with whom they were well contented, and paid them their full pay, thanking them at the same time for the services they had rendered. Thus was this great army disbanded, without having made any conquest; but, two years after, these noble princes, duke Albert and his son count William, returned thither a second time, and made great conquests by their excellent prowess, which, if it please God, shall be fully recounted. But for the moment we will not say more, and relate the magnificent marriage of the king of England with the princess Isabella of France.

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