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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Of the Battle of Caen, and How the Englishmen Took the Town
By Jean Froissart (c. 1337–1410?)
 
From the ‘Chronicles’: Translation of John Bourchier, Lord Berners

THE SAME day the Englishmen rose early and appareled them ready to go to Caen. 1 The King heard mass before the sun-rising, and then took his horse, and the Prince his son, with Sir Godfrey of Harcourt, marshal and leader of the host, whose counsel the King much followed. Then they drew toward Caen with their battles in good array, and so approached the good town of Caen. When they of the town, who were ready in the field, saw these three battles coming in good order, with their banners and standards waving in the wind, and the archers, the which they had not been accustomed to see, they were sore afraid and fled away toward the town without any order or good array, for all that the constable could do; then the Englishmen pursued them eagerly. When the constable and the Earl Tancarville saw that, they took a gate at the entry and saved themselves and certain with them, for the Englishmen were entered into the town. Some of the knights and squires of France, such as knew the way to the castle, went thither, and the captain there received them all, for the castle was large. The Englishmen in the chase slew many, for they took none to mercy.  1
  Then the constable and the Earl of Tancarville, being in the little tower at the bridge foot, looked along the street and saw their men slain without mercy; they doubted to fall in their hands. At last they saw an English knight with one eye, called Sir Thomas Holland, and a five or six other knights with him; they knew them, for they had seen them before in Pruce, in Granade, and in other viages. Then they called to Sir Thomas and said how they would yield themselves prisoners. Then Sir Thomas came thither with his company and mounted up into the gate, and there found the said lords with twenty-five knights with them, who yielded them to Sir Thomas; and he took them for his prisoners and left company to keep them, and then mounted again on his horse and rode into the streets, and saved many lives of ladies, damosels, and cloisterers from defoiling,—for the soldiers were without mercy. It fell so well the same season for the Englishmen, that the river, which was able to bear ships, at that time was so low that men went in and out beside the bridge. They of the town were entered into their houses, and cast down into the street stones, timber, and iron, and slew and hurt more than five hundred Englishmen; wherewith the King was sore displeased. At night when he heard thereof, he commanded that the next day all should be put to the sword and the town brent; but then Sir Godfrey of Harcourt said:—“Dear sir, for God’s sake assuage somewhat your courage, and let it suffice you that ye have done. Ye have yet a great voyage to do or ye come before Calais, whither ye purpose to go: and sir, in this town there is much people who will defend their houses, and it will cost many of your men their lives, or ye have all at your will; whereby peradventure ye shall not keep your purpose to Calais, the which should redound to your rack. Sir, save your people, for ye shall have need of them or this month pass; for I think verily your adversary King Philip will meet with you to fight, and ye shall find many strait passages and rencounters; wherefore your men, an ye had more, shall stand you in good stead: and sir, without any further slaying ye shall be lord of this town; men and women will put all that they have to your pleasure.” Then the King said, “Sir Godfrey, you are our marshal; ordain everything as ye will.” Then Sir Godfrey with his banner rode from street to street, and commanded in the King’s name none to be so hardy to put fire in any house, to slay any person, nor to violate any woman. When they of the town heard that cry, they received the Englishmen into their houses and made them good cheer, and some opened their coffers and bade them take what them list, so they might be assured of their lives; howbeit there were done in the town many evil deeds, murders, and robberies. Thus the Englishmen were lords of the town three days and won great riches, the which they sent by barks and barges to Saint-Saviour by the river of Austrehem, a two leagues thence, whereas all their navy lay. Then the King sent the Earl of Huntingdon with two hundred men of arms and four hundred archers, with his navy and prisoners and riches that they had got, back again into England. And the King bought of Sir Thomas Holland the Constable of France and the Earl of Tancarville, and paid for them twenty thousand nobles….  2
  The next day the King departed, brenning and wasting all before him, and at night lodged in a good village called Grandvilliers. The next day the King passed by Dargies; there was none to defend the castle, wherefore it was soon taken and brent. Then they went forth destroying the country all about, and so came to the castle of Poix, where there was a good town and two castles. There was nobody in them but two fair damosels, daughters to the Lord of Poix; they were soon taken, and had been violated, an two English knights had not been, Sir John Chandos and Sir Basset; they defended them and brought them to the King, who for his honor made them good cheer and demanded of them whither they would fainest go. They said, “To Corbie,” and the King caused them to be brought thither without peril. That night the King lodged in the town of Poix. They of the town and of the castles spake that night with the marshals of the host, to save them and their town from brenning, and they to pay a certain sum of florins the next day as soon as the host was departed. This was granted them, and in the morning the King departed with all his host, except a certain that were left there to receive the money that they of the town had promised to pay. When they of the town saw the host depart and but a few left behind, then they said they would pay never a penny, and so ran out and set on the Englishmen, who defended themselves as well as they might and sent after the host for succor. When Sir Raynold Cobham and Sir Thomas Holland, who had the rule of the rear guard, heard thereof, they returned and cried, “Treason, treason!” and so came again to Poix-ward and found their companions still fighting with them of the town. Then anon they of the town were nigh all slain, and the town brent, and the two castles beaten down. Then they returned to the King’s host, who was as then at Airaines and there lodged, and had commanded all manner of men on pain of death to do no hurt to no town of Arsyn, 2 for there the King was minded to lie a day or two to take advice how he might pass the river of Somme; for it was necessary for him to pass the river, as ye shall hear after.  3
 
Note 1. This was 26th July, 1346. Edward arrived at Poissy on 12th August; Philip of Valois left Paris on the 14th; the English crossed the Seine at Poissy on the 16th, and the Somme at Blanche-taque on the 24th. [back]
Note 2. Probably a misunderstanding by Froissart of the English word “arson”: the king’s command being not to burn the towns on the Somme, as he wanted them for shelter. [back]
 
 
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