Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Froissart explains his visit with the Count de Foix (1388)

At the beginning of his third book, Froissart speaks about himself and his work.

Book III, ch. 1 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 68-9).  I have been a considerable time without speaking of the affairs of distant countries. Those nearer home were at the moment so fresh in my memory, and so much more agreeable, that I have delayed mentioning others. Such valiant men, however, as were desirous of advancing themselves, whether in Castille, Portugal, Gascony, Rouergue, Quercy, Limousin, or in Bigorre, did not remain idle, but employed themselves underhand against each other, in the wish to perform deeds of arms that might surprise and conquer towns, castles, or fortresses.

And for this reason, I, sir John Froissart, having undertaken to indite and chronicle this history, at the request and pleasure of the high and renowned prince, Guy de Châtillon, count of Blois, lord of Avesnes, Beauvois, Estonnehonne, de la Gende, my good and sovereign master and lord, considered in myself that grand deeds of arms would not fall out for a long space of time in the marches of Picardy and the country of Flanders, since there was peace in those parts; and it was very tiresome to me to be idle, for I well know, that when the time shall come, when I shall he dead and rotten, this grand and noble history will be in much fashion, and all noble and valiant persons will take pleasure in it, and gain from it augmentation of profit.

And moreover, since I had, God be thanked, sense and memory, and a good collection of all past things, with a clear understanding to conceive all the facts of which I should be informed, touching my principal matters, and since I was of an age and constitution of body well fit to encounter difficulties, I determined not to delay pursuing my subject. And in order to know the truth of distant transactions, without sending upon the inquiry any other in place of myself, I took an opportunity of visiting that high and redoubted prince Gaston Phoebus count de Foix and de Béarn; for I well knew, that if I were so fortunate as to be admitted into his household, and to remain there in quiet, I could not choose a situation more proper to learn the truths of every event, as numbers of foreign knights and squires assembled there from all countries, attracted by his high birth and gentility. It fell out just as I had imagined.

I told this my intention to my very renowned lord the count de Blois, and also the journey I wished to undertake, who gave me letters of recommendation to the count de Foix. I began my journey, inquiring on all sides for news, and, through the grace of God, continued it, without peril or hurt, until I arrived at the count's residence, at Orthès in Béarn, on St. Catherine's day in the year of grace 1388. The count de Foix, as soon as he saw me, gave me a hearty welcome, adding, with a smile and in good French, that he was well acquainted with me, though he had never seen me before, but he had frequently heard me spoken of. He retained me in his household, and, by means of the letters which I had brought, gave me full liberty to act as I pleased as long as I should wish to remain with him. I there learnt the greater part of those events which had happened in the kingdoms of Castille, Portugal, Navarre, Arragon, even in England, in the Bourbonnois, and everything concerning the whole of Gascony: he himself, when I put any question to him, answered it most readily, saying, that the history I was employed on would in times to come be more sought after than any other; "because," added he, "my fair sir, more gallant deeds of arms have been performed within these last fifty years, and more wonderful things have happened, than for three hundred years before."

I was thus received by the count de Foix in his hotel, and entertained according to my pleasure. My wish was to inquire after news relative to my history, and I had at my option, barons, knights, and squires, who gave me information, as well as the gallant count de Foix himself. I will therefore illustrate, in good language, all I there learnt, to add to my materials, and to give examples to those worthies who wish to advance themselves in renown. If I have heretofore dwelt on gallant deeds, attacks and captures, of castles, towns, and forts, on hard-fought battles and skirmishses, many more will now ensue; all of which, by God's grace, I will truly narrate.

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