Jean Froissart (c.13371410?). The Chronicles of Froissart. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Campaign of Crecy
How the King of England Rode in Three Battles through Normandy
WHEN the king of England arrived in the Hogue Saint-Vaast, the king issued out of his ship, and the first foot that he set on the ground, he fell so rudely, that the blood brast out of his nose. The knights that were about him took him up and said: Sir, for Gods sake enter again into your ship, and come not aland this day, for this is but an evil sign for us. Then the king answered quickly and said: Wherefore? This is a good token for me, for the land desireth to have me. Of the which answer all his men were right joyful. So that day and night the king lodged on the sands, and in the meantime discharged the ships of their horses and other baggages: there the king made two marshals of his host, the one the lord Godfrey of Harcourt and the other the earl of Warwick, and the earl of Arundel constable. And he ordained that the earl of Huntingdon should keep the fleet of ships with a hundred men of arms and four hundred archers: and also he ordained three battles, one to go on his right hand, closing to the sea-side, and the other on his left hand, and the king himself in the midst, and every night to lodge all in one field.
Thus they set forth as they were ordained, and they that went by the sea took all the ships that they found in their ways: and so long they went forth, what by sea and what by land, that they came to a good port and to a good town called Barfleur, the which incontinent was won, for they within gave up for fear of death. Howbeit, for all that, the town was robbed, and much gold and silver there found, and rich jewels: there was found so much riches, that the boys and villains of the host set nothing by good furred gowns: they made all the men of the town to issue out and to go into the ships, because they would not suffer them to be behind them for fear of rebelling again. After the town of Barfleur was thus taken and robbed without brenning, then they spread abroad in the country and did what they list, for there was not to resist them. At last they came to a great and a rich town called Cherbourg: the town they won and robbed it, and brent part thereof, but into the castle they could not come, it was so strong and well furnished with men of war. Then they passed forth and came to Montebourg, and took it and robbed and brent it clean. In this manner they brent many other towns in that country and won so much riches, that it was marvel to reckon it. Then they came to a great town well closed called Carentan, where there was also a strong castle and many soldiers within to keep it. Then the lords came out of their ships and fiercely made assault: the burgesses of the town were in great fear of their lives, wives and children: they suffered the Englishmen to enter into the town against the will of all the soldiers that were there; they put all their goods to the Englishmens pleasures, they thought that most advantage. When the soldiers within saw that, they went into the castle: the Englishmen went into the town, and two days together they made sore assaults, so that when they within saw no succour, they yielded up, their lives and goods saved, and so departed. The Englishmen had their pleasure of that good town and castle, and when they saw they might not maintain to keep it, they set fire therein and brent it, and made the burgesses of the town to enter into their ships, as they had done with them of Barfleur, Cherbourg and Montebourg, and of other towns that they had won on the sea-side. All this was done by the battle that went by the sea-side, and by them on the sea together.1
Now let us speak of the kings battle. When he had sent his first battle along by the sea-side, as ye have heard, whereof one of his marshals, the earl of Warwick, was captain, and the lord Cobham with him, then he made his other marshal to lead his host on his left hand, for he knew the issues and entries of Normandy better than any other did there. The lord Godfrey as marshal rode forth with five hundred men of arms, and rode off from the kings battle as six or seven leagues, in brenning and exiling the country, the which was plentiful of everythingthe granges full of corn, the houses full of all riches, rich burgesses, carts and chariots, horse, swine, muttons and other beasts: they took what them list and brought into the kings host; but the soldiers made no count to the king nor to none of his officers of the gold and silver that they did get; they kept that to themselves. Thus sir Godfrey of Harcourt rode every day off from the kings host, and for most part every night resorted to the kings field. The king took his way to Saint-Lo in Cotentin, but or he came there he lodged by a river, abiding for his men that rode along by the sea-side; and when they were come, they set forth their carriage, and the earl of Warwick, the earl of Suffolk, sir Thomas Holland and sir Raynold Cobham, and their company rode out on the one side and wasted and exiled the country, as the lord Harcourt had done; and the king ever rode between these battles, and every night they lodged together.
Note 1. Froissart is mistaken in supposing that a division of the land army went to these towns: Barfleur and Cherbourg were visited only by the fleet. According to Michael of Northburgh, who accompanied the expedition, Edward disembarked 12th July and remained at Saint-Vaast till the 18th, and meanwhile the fleet went to Barfleur and Cherbourg. The army arrived at Caen on the 26th. [back]