Elizabeth Chadwick's Blog

October 6, 2014

Inventing Eleanor: the mediaeval and post-mediaeval image Eleanor of Aquitaine by Michael R. Evans.  Bloomsbury Academic ISBN 978 1 4411 6900 6
While browsing the Internet for research, I came across a reference to this book and feeling it would be a really useful addition to my shelves, I went ahead and bought it.  During my research into Eleanor of Aquitaine, I constantly come across misconceptions and false information in secondary sources including biographies. I also come across comments about Eleanor being a great feminist icon and a woman way ahead of her time, and then I want to bang my head on the desk (metaphorically speaking).  So it was great to come across a work that aims to set the record straight and that tells us just where these odd notions about Eleanor originate.
From the back of the book: ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124- 1204) Queen of France and England and mother of two Kings has often been described as one of the most remarkable women of the Middle Ages. Yet her real achievements have been embellished - and even obscured - by myths that have grown up over eight centuries. This process began in her own lifetime, as chroniclers reported rumours of  scandalous conduct on crusade, and has continued ever since. She has been variously viewed as an adulterous queen, a monstrous mother and jealous murderess, but also was a patron of literature, champion of courtly love and proto-feminist defender of women’s rights. Inventing Eleanorinterrogates the myths that have grown up around the figure of Eleanor of Aquitaine and investigates how and why historians and artists have invented an Eleanor who is very different from the 12th century queen. The book first considers the mediaeval primary sources  and then proceeds to trace the post-mediaeval development of the image of Eleanor, from demonic Queen to feminist icon, in historiography and the broader culture.’
This is exactly what the book does in a very readable form that still remains scholarly and detailed in its sources.   The contents include an introduction where the author sets out his reasons for writing the book and argues that she was ‘far from unique amongst 12th century royal and noble women.’ Professor Evans seeks to unravel how she acquired her reputation for exceptionalism. He remarks on the opening page  that Eleanor’s biographers must take some of the blame for this. ‘In the absence of hard evidence (these) biographies have often been fleshed out by speculation and the creation or perpetuation of myths.’
Following a detailed introduction, Professor Evans traces Eleanor’s reputation, through the blackening of her name during her own lifetime and the time soon after her death.  He explores too the legends surrounding Rosamond de Clifford and how both women’s reputations have suffered at the hands of myth and legend.Chapter 2 looks at Eleanor in historiography and how realistically she is portrayed. He observes that ‘historians may have striven to create (in the words of Edmond-René Labande) ‘a realistic image of Eleanor of Aquitaine’, but that image has struggled to replace that of the more colourful meta-Eleanor in the public consciousness. Hence an online author in 2013 is still able to write of Eleanor in stereotypical terms that would have been familiar to a mid-19th-century readership of popular history.’  He goes on to explore the way in which Eleanor’s reputation has been distorted to suit the ideologies of particular historical periods and historians with axes to grind. So ‘In the late 20thcentury, second wave feminist movement gave birth to a new interest in Eleanor of Aquitaine as a female hero, but often at the expense of exaggerating her deeds and influence, and reinforcing the myth of her exceptionalism.’  He also explores Eleanor’s depiction as a new-age neopagan type!  He comes the conclusion that ‘historians of Eleanor have created an image of her, and mediaeval women as a whole, that is misleading.  My thoughts exactly.The third chapter deals with Eleanor the woman of the South and very quickly puts paid to the notion of the original Eleanor as propitiating a great Southern cause.  He says that Eleanor is ‘arguably a northern as much as a  southern figure…It was Poitou, not the south-west that was the heartland of Eleanor’s realm and where the Dukes of Aquitaine held the greatest concentration of demesne lands.’  …. He also explores a suggestion from a recent set of essays about Eleanor that claims she  didn’t actually speak Occitan at all.  The courts of love and literary patronage are shown to be relatively insignificant in Eleanor’s life. He comes to the conclusion that Eleanor of Aquitaine ‘can in no way be considered a southern figure in an alien and hostile northern world. Her native duchy straddled the divide between the North and the South, and its main power centres were closer to Paris than to the Mediterranean.’  Bam, another dearly held myth bites the dust.The next chapter deals with Eleanor’s portrayal in drama before 1900 and goes into great detail via Shakespeare, operas and sundry plays and dramas. From there it’s onto Eleanor in drama post-1900, and of course the iconic Lion in Winter. TV series such as Robin of Sherwood also receive a mention for how Eleanor is portrayed in cameo roles.  Professor Evans  then takes an overview of how Eleanor is portrayed in fiction and there is a fine accolade for author Sharon Kay Penman. Jean Plaidy’s take on Eleanor is discussed too and there are some ‘interesting’ quotes from Alison Weir’s the captive Queen.  There’s also a section on Eleanor in young adult fiction. Then it’s onto Eleanor in the visual arts including mediaeval images. This was particularly interesting for me because Professor Evans discusses the mural at Chinon that is often said to portray Eleanor and Henry. Indeed many novels and biographies feature this portrait on the cover with the middle crown figure depicted as Eleanor. However, it ain’t necessarily so, and it seems,according to art historian Ursula Nielgen who has examined the work in detail and dated it to the late 12th century that the figures are all male and more likely to represent Henry II and his four sons. I was also pleased in this section to find that Evans had picked up my research on various biographer’s beliefs on Eleanor’s appearance and I receive a mention at the beginning of the chapter.
Having thoroughly explored Eleanor in the visual arts, right up to modern ‘headless’ covers in historical fiction, Professor Evans goes on to make his conclusion, which is basically that finding the real Eleanor remains an uphill struggle because of all the myths perpetuated. However, with continuing scholarship that doesn’t pander to these myths and stereotypes we may gradually begin to see a more nuanced Eleanor than of yore. During his summary he remarked that while historians may shake their heads at the likes of certain recent works of historical fiction about Eleanor, ‘historical novelists such as Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick are seeking to apply modern scholarship to their fiction, and consequently avoid the most egregious of the legends surround Eleanor.’  That’s nice!

Highly recommended for those who want to take a look under the surface and who are prepared with an open mind to have their perceptions and preconceptions challenged.

I would add that it is rather expensive - which seems to be the case with most academic books these days.
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Published on October 06, 2014 14:00 • 77 views

September 30, 2014

Just a note to say that THE HISTORY GIRLS blog where I post once a month is running a competition, open internationally, to win a copy of THE WINTER CROWN.   Ends October 7th



Here are links to a couple of recent reviews of the novel: http://forwinternights.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/the-winter-crown-by-elizabeth-chadwick/

And http://www.lep.co.uk/what-s-on/reviews/books/book-review-the-winter-crown-by-elizabeth-chadwick-1-6854304
Go here to enter the competition - it's international!
  tHE HISTORY GIRLS WINTER CROWN COMPETITION
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Published on September 30, 2014 05:22 • 56 views

September 5, 2014



SO THERE I WAS back in July, minding my own business at a writers' event bringing together both Indie and traditionally published authors when my excellent friend and fellow speaker Helen Hollick drew me aside for a gentle little chat.  She explained that she was organising an award to celebrate, recognise, and encourage the best of independently published historical fiction through the auspices of the Historical Novel Society of which we were both long-standing members. 
Helen co-ordinates the online editorial reviews for Indie historical fiction, the best of which are awarded an 'Editor's Choice' accolade. Books receiving this accolade are automatically forwarded onto a longlist for the the award.   Orna Ross, founder of The Alliance of Independent Authors had very generously offered a prize for the award winner and runner up and had agreed to read the longlist of selected novels and whittle them down to a final four.  More details of how it works here
Helen twisted my arm asked me I would read the final four and choose a winner and a runner up.  Now, those of you who know the, kind, enthusiastic and generous Helen Hollick, also know she is a force to be reckoned with when she wants something and that her lovely nature is only one facet. She outdoes John Wayne for true grit and bloody minded determination when she wants to get something done.Somehow I found myself agreeing to read the shortlist, and then wondering just what I'd let myself in for.I soon discovered that what I had let myself in for were four wonderful meaty reads, all very different that whisked me away to other times and places with such skill and involvement that while reading them, I was lost to the here and now.  
But how to choose a winner.  Helen told me that I should take presentation into account because that's one of the steep learning curves for an Indie writer to face.  You can't just write the words onto a PC and then let the publisher do the rest. You are own publisher, marketing director and Public relations person. To stand a chance in an overcrowded market your work has to be presented both inside and out in a thoroughly professional way.

All of the novels were of a high standard in this department. Some could have been tweaked, but truly they were only nitpicks.
 I organised a score sheet with 5 marks for the cover and another 5 marks for the internal presentation.  Then scores out of 10 for historical feel, characterisation, plot, language and pace.  So, a total of 60 marks.I am an avid reader and this is how I looked at these four novels. As a keen reader rather than an academic literary critic. What I wanted was something that absorbed me so completely that I couldn't put it down. I wanted the sustenance of a superb story that would transport me to another time, make me think, create wonderful paintings in my mind and keep me turning the pages until the last one, where I would feel sorry it was over but satisfied too, and most importantly for the author, make me want to dash out and buy everything else he or she had written.  I love books.  As a reader I don't care whether they are Indie or mainstream. Just give me the story already and the words to make me live with your characters.All of the novels had some of this element and I loved reading them, but when it boiled down to it, there was one outright winner, even though the second place gave it a run for its money. I must add the caveat that I am only one person and others may disagree with me.  It does come down to what each individual reader enjoys too, but since I was the individual asked to judge the contest this year, this is my choice.
THE WINNER OF THE 2014 HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY INDIE AWARD GOES TO:VIRGINIA COX for THE SUBTLEST SOUL.
The novel is set in Italy at the time of the Borgias and is based in part of events in Machiavelli's Prince.  Indeed, Machiavelli has a cameo role in the novel as does Leonardo da Vinci. It tells the story of Matteo de Fermo, a young man struggling to survive into the violent world of the closing years of 15th century Italy.Matteo's story is told with pace, panache and many intriguing twists and turns that are complex without ever being convoluted. The history felt real and right. It was an immersive experience.  It was one of those books where I needed to know what happened next and kept having to go back and pick at it - you know like when you have that opened bar of chocolate in the fridge!  How does he get out of this scrape? Oh my goodness, what's he doing now!  I don't believe what just happened! The characterisation was stunning. It was a fairly long book at 450 pages, but they flew past and although it's a pity the author's name isn't on the book's spine, the internal layout and font size made it the easiest on the eyes of all the shortlisted novels. I was also a little bit frustrated when it ended - like eating that last piece of chocolate.  I now need to go out and get another bar.  I sincerely hope that Virginia Cox is writing a sequel, and I shall be waiting in line to buy it!
RUNNER UP: A GIFT FOR THE MAGUS by LINDA PROUD
Before anyone says that I must have a fan thing for Renaissance Italy - I don't!  Honestly I don't!  It's just that the winner and runner up happen by coincidence to be set in 15thC Italy with A Gift For The Magus beings set a little earlier than The Subtlest Soul.This is the tale of the notorious Fra Filippo Lippi, an artistic friar of supreme talent and dubious morals. His mistress, a nun and the mother of his children, was the model he used for the Virgin Mary. I knew nothing of Lippi's paintings before I read A Gift for the Magus but by the end of the novel I was eager to go exploring and discover his work. I loved the humour in the novel and the scenes of everyday life that put me right there in the heart of Padua and Florence, in the household of the Medici, in nunnery, chapel and hovel. I learned a great deal about Renaissance art, and I came to be very fond of Fra Lippi, his eccentricities and human failings, and his genius.



SAMOA By ROBERT SCHAFFER
and THE JACOBITE'S APPRENTICE By DAVID EBSWORTH

were also very worthy shortlistees (mentioned here only as they enter my brain and not as 3rd and 4th, but as equals)  I loved the Mitchener-esque scope of Samoa and some of the descriptive language was breathtaking.  I enjoyed the coloured maps and the illustrations too and found them very useful for getting around in the novel.  The sense of history in The Jacobite's Apprentice was palpable and it was useful to have a glossary to refer to at the back.  It's told in first person present tense which gives it a strong sense of the here and now too, even though the characters are magnificently of their time. The book was also very professionally produced.
All opinions are obviously my own but I hope readers will take a chance on these books and enjoy the stories they have to tell. Congratulations to all four authors, but especially to Virginia Cox.And a thank you too to Helen Hollick for asking me to read the shortlist.  I may have thought about running away at the outset, but at some point over the course of the conference I am going to hug her!









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Published on September 05, 2014 14:00 • 132 views

August 30, 2014


But fortune, ever quick to bring  down good men and raise the fortunes of the bad, had no wish to let things rest so for long; she overwhelms and destroys everyone in a trice.  King  Richard, who had business to attend to in many places, left that region and went straight to the Limousin, where the viscount was launching an assault on his castles.  What a pity they were ever built!  If only all those could have been given a good flaying on whose advice this act of prowess was devised and enacted!
 Richard went to Lautron and laid siege to it, but he had not been there very long at all when a demon, a traitor, the servant of the devil, up there on the top of the castle walls, shot a poisoned bolt which inflicted such a wound on the best prince in all the world that his death was the inescapable outcome.  That was a source of great grief to all.  It is not the place to speak about his death here, since grief forbids it; everyone still grieves over his death, and that is why I shall say no more about it here.
 As soon as he felt he had been struck, he was greatly dismayed, became slow in his movements, and feared that he could not live.  So he immediately had written and addressed to the Marshal letters bearing his seal, well-constructed and eloquent, in which he gave full details of his situation and ordered him to be lord and master in charge of guarding the tower of Rouen, and to keep and safeguard his treasury and other effects, which were locked away in the tower.  He also took care to inform his messenger to be most discreet and prudent and keep this matter  secret, until he came to where he had to go.
The messenger was very quick, travelling at speed, and the soul of discretion: he went straight to Vaudreuil, where the Marshal was present to arbitrate in a dispute between two barons, by whom he had been asked and urged to appear.  I believe there were other barons there too, who had been asked and urged as a body to arbitrate in that dispute between Engelger de Bohun and Sir Ralph D’Ardene.
The messenger rode in their direction and found them all assembled there.  He did not think it fitting to speak of the calamitous events in full hearing of all and said nothing, except to the Marshal and the Archbishop.  They both heard the letters read out, which caused them great sorrow and pain.  After which, they did as was their duty.  They impressed on the barons the fact that the King, without further delay, wished the Marshal to be the guardian, constable and keeper in Rouen and protect the tower and other of the King’s effects in the vicinity.  
This was seen to without delay.  But the sorrow and the suffering which will be evermore with us came swiftly on the third day following, when the noble King Richard died, a man worthy and courtly, bounteous and  generous, a man of high enterprise, a conqueror, who, had he lived, would have won for himself all the renown going in this world, all dominion and power, all the honour and command in lands both Saracen and Christian, indeed amongst all men on earth.  His power would have extended everywhere by now, except to the realms of France, which he had no wish to bring low; indeed his wish was to leave it in peace.
Thierry brought the news and he brought it only too quickly.  When was that?  It is right that it should be recorded: the eve of Palm Sunday.  The marshal was on the point of retiring and was having his boots removed when the news arrived, news which struck him to the quick.  He was in a state of violent grief; he put his boots back on and as quickly as possible, he made to leave.  He left the tower in Rouen and went to the Archbishop, who was staying at le Pre.  When he arrived there, the Archbishop was just about to retire.  He was surprise that the Marshal should come to him at such an hour, and he had every apprehension of the bitter pain he was going to experience when he saw the \marshal arrive.
He said: 'Come now, give me your news!'
'I can tell you that it's not good, my dear lord,' said the Marshal, 'for this very day we have all been plunged into pain, grief and sorrow.  You see here a written message that Thierry has brought concerning the death of my lord.  It is a most grievous and injurious turn of events.'The Archbishop showed his dismay and replied 'Alas! Alas!  Who Could possibly not be disconsolate?  Now all prowess is extinguished.  What is this?  The King is dead?  What solace is  there for us now?  None, so help me God!  With him gone, I can think of nobody to choose to rescue the realm or come to our aid in anything.  The realm is now on the road to destruction, grief and destitution.  We can be sure it won’t  be very long before we see the French rush, upon us to take everything we have, because there will be nobody able to stand in their way.'
'We should be thinking of choosing quickly, my lord,' said the Marshal, 'a man to make a king.'
He replied: 'my understanding and view of the matter, and I am sure of this, is that by right we ought to make Arthur King.'
                ‘Oh! my lord,’ said the Marshal, 'my feeling is that that would be a bad course to take, and I do not recommend or advise it: Arthur has treacherous advisors about him and he is unapproachable and overbearing.  If we called him to our side, he will seek to do us harm and damage, for he does not like those in our realm.  My advice is that he should never be King.  Instead, we should consider the claim of Earl John: to the best of my knowledge and belief he seems to be the nearest in line to claim the land of his father as well as that of his brother.'
The Archbishop replied: 'Marshal, is that what you want?'
'Yes, my lord, for that is right, since the son is indisputably closer in the line of inheritance than the nephew is, and it is right that it should be made clear.'
So, Marshal, that is how it shall be.  But this much can I tell you, that you will never come to regret anything you did as much as what you're doing now.'

To this the Marshal replied:  'Thanks for the warning!  Nonetheless, my advice is that it should be so.'
The Marshal sent an envoy to England to take possession of the land, the castles and towns, and the royal keeps.  And it is right that I should tell you that sir John of Earley was that envoy; he quickly carried out everything that the Marshal had ordered.  The Archbishop stayed behind, as did the worthy Marshal, who was prepared to take his advice in all matters, for he had always found him loyal.  Earl John came to them, and as it happened they lost no time in making him a duke.  The Normans agreed to this, but neither the Gascons nor the men of Limousin, the men of Poitou or Anjou, or the Bretons agreed to it at all, and they had no liking for his overlordship. 
Duke John knew full well that they were in no way on his side, so he went to those provinces, where he put in such strenuous efforts and agreed so much to their wishes, provided they respected his own, and conceded so much to them, that ever after he regretted what he had done, and ever after they feared him less as a result, for they have no respect or affection for him, did not do their duty by him, and were often in revolt against him.
There is no need to dwell on the events. He lost no time in the crossing of the sea and was crowned in London. Many fine gifts were made, so people say; I was not present.  Immediately he returned, as soon as he had a favourable sea passage.  He paid homage to the King of France and as he had to, became his liegeman.  But the King never behaved towards him as a liegelord should, inflicting damage on him throughout his life.  I wish neither to say too much nor too little: he lost no time in going to Poitou, where he returned in pomp.  The Archbishop of Bordeaux went to meet him, as well as the barons of the region.  It was there that he divorced his wife, but people say that he was dealt a bad hand as a result of the separation.  At this point I shall not say how.
He led a very big army into Gascony and did what he had to do very well, winning much in the way of booty.  Had he allied common sense to his behaviour, he would have stayed very rich for a long time and be able to boast quietly about it.  The marshal said: ‘As for the booty, it is fine by me even if I have no gain.  Whatever you decide about sharing yours, I want you to have this share in mine.  Here are 500 marks of silver given to me in this region, and out of my winnings I make a present of them to you; may god grant that there is a reward for this!’
The King said: ‘Marshal, in truth, you  are not greedy for wealth, for you have given me all that was given to you; the gift will be well rewarded.’ So he thanked him for the gift we have named, but I do not know anything about the reward.
At that juncture, as I understand it, it so happened that the count of Angouleme had secretly abducted his daughter from the Count of Marche.  The news of this reached the court, where some found it welcome and the others a crime.  This did not have a favourable outcome, for the count of Marche and his men left with anger in their hearts; they did not feel it was right that the girl had been abducted and they well knew that the assembly there were those on whose devising the abduction had been carried out.  I cannot give an account of everything, but suffice it to say that this was the cause of the ignominy and war that led to the King losing his lands.
The King took the girl and married her; he made her queen and lady of England, and she was crowned in London.  After that the King returned to Normandy with all his barons, his queen and his entourage, but it was not long before the man who sought to wrest the land from him launched another hostile attack.  The war lasted a long time, but at last they held talks and left them on good terms, the agreement being that the war between them should cease and that John should give the daughter of the King of Spain, his niece, in marriage to Louis, as a token of peace and friendship.  And the truth is that so it happened.  However, for all that, the excesses of the King of France never ceased, and he continued to do everything his heart told him.  It would take me more than this year to tell you about the dealings and agreements between him and King John, for I would have much to deal with.  The more King John furthered his interests, the more Philip harmed his and turned him upside down.  No amount of land or other wealth he might obtain from John would prevent him, once they were in his possession, from launching an immediate attack on him.  I cannot name the great amount of wealth – and it would be difficult to calculate it – that John bestowed on him on many an occasion.  And the only reward John got for this is that, wrongly and unreasonably, Philip consistently sought the opportunity to attack his territory again and appropriated his land and castles; he did all the harm that he could.
He went to Arques and laid siege to it with his great army of knights and troop of soldiers.  He launched a violent attack on it with machines which from their missiles rapidly, with catapults and mangonels which frequently,  by night and by day, hurled stones at the top of the tower.  However, they could not breach it, for William de Mortemer and the others inside performed well, as was their duty.  If I wanted to tell about everything, it would indeed be far away from my theme.  That would be a flaw in the design, and I would be considered an imbecile for doing so.  And yet it would not be right if I did not point out that King John went to Mirebeau with a huge army, so huge that his was the stronger of the two.  His mother was under siege there and, had he delayed, she would have soon being taken prisoner, for the force outside was a great one and the damage done would have increased; if she had not been saved so quickly, she would have been in a dire predicament.  There was the most fierce encounter, and those who had come to lay siege were not spared it for they paid a heavy price.  The battle there was on a very great scale, and John really made those who were fighting against him realise the extent of the arrogance which had prompted them to go there.  If I were to say of each one separately how he performed, I would have a very heavy and burdensome task on my hands and I would not get to the end for a very long time.  Their men, who could see very well that there was nothing for it but to defend, put up the most vigorous defence, and were loath to be taken prisoner.  Before that, many a blow was dealt, returned and paid in kind, many a hauberk lost its mail, many a helmet was staved in and ventails were cut through right as far as the skull.  Some struck, others hammered, others dented helmets, some took men by the bridle, others dealt blows with maces.  Most of them left the field, when they could resist no longer, for it was more than they could endure.It so turned out that day that King John won the battle by force of arms, and those of his enemies who had done him most harm were taken captive; so it was, despite those felons. In the course of the battle Arthur, who had been badly advised to go there, was taken prisoner, and whoever was in his company was taken captive that day, held and detained in a woeful state of imprisonment.  King John won so much glory and honour that day that the war would have been at an end, had it not been for ill luck and that abiding pride of his which was always the cause of his downfall.The King was overjoyed by his achievement, for he had taken such valuable prisoners and had so overcome and trapped the pride of Poitou, Brittany and Anjou, that not a single one of them escaped.  A monk rode out from there, resting neither by night or day until he reached the Marshal, and it so happened that those three counts were together of whom great account must be taken: I mean the worthy Earl Marshal, that brave, devoted, and loyal man, and the worthy Earl of Salisbury, who choose Generosity as his mother and whose banner was carried before him by supreme, untarnished Prowess.  There was also the Earl of Warenne and, out of the noble generosity of his heart, had his sights on honourable deeds and deeds of prowess and never was of a mind to desist from such.The monk, who had set off to meet them and had not rested night or day, spurring on from town to town, found them in Englesqueville.  He was a wise, gracious man and he gave his message to the Marshal and those others with him.  They gave him a very willing ear as he said: ‘I bring you good news, fine and authentic news, which I have heard and witnessed the truth of and I truly want it to be known.  My lords, I have come from Mirebeau, and, if anything is a lie or a fairy story in the news I tell you,  then you have my permission to put me to shame.  Know this for absolutely certain: King John has taken Arthur prisoner, as he has Sir Geoffrey de Lusignan.  The count of Marche is also a prisoner, as are all the highly renowned barons who were on Arthur’s side and waged war on his behalf; the King has them all in prison, even Savaric de Mauleon.’The Marshal was overjoyed when he heard this news, as were the others, for it was a long time since they had heard news so welcome and so much to their liking.  The Marshal said to the monk: ‘Without delay, you must take this news from Poitou to the French army, to the count of Eu; I want you to go to Arques and let him hear the news at once to cheer him up.’‘My lord,’ replied to the monk, ‘don’t say that!  If I go there and tell him the news, his pain and anger will be such that he would perhaps have me killed; send someone else in my place.’‘Sir monk, upon the faith I owe you, the excuse you seek is in vain, for nobody will go there but you.  It is not the custom in this part of the world for messengers to be killed.  Make no further delay; go quickly, for you will find him with the army.’As fast as his horse could carry him, the monk rode off, for he had no option in the matter; at full gallop he rode to Arques, and it so happened that he found the count of Eu.  He had told him the well known facts of what had happened in Poitou, for he had witnessed it and heard of it; he related the news point by point and word for word, omitting not a single item.
Once the count of Eu had heard the news, which he had expected to be of a totally different nature, he turned  livid and looked downcast, and nobody could get a word out of him.  Because of those words spoken by the monk, his mind was quite changed, and he went to lie down in his tent.  With a troubled mind, overcome and in despair, he lay on his back in bed; he did not know what to do or say, for he had no wish to repeat to anyone the news he had heard, news which was little welcome to him.  Whilst he was thus steeped in thought and gripped by such emotion, letters arrived from the King of France relating the unfortunate news, news which was of such a nature but it did not get better, indeed it got worse to the point where the entire army heard that most hateful news.
The King of France was angry,  never had such great misfortune befallen him before, he said.  In fact greater had arisen out of his return from Jerusalem, for he incurred far greater blame for that.  He was not inclined to wait a minute longer: immediately he had his tents taken down and all his machines of war cut into pieces.  Had you been there you would have heard carpenters cutting, beating and hammering, knocking everything to the ground and hacking it to pieces.  In a short while they had taken to pieces everything which it had taken a long time to assemble.  When thoes inside saw them, they  felt more joy than they have ever done before, for they saw very well that the man whose behaviour caused them so much trouble, and because of whom they were in such a bad predicament, truly intended to go on his way.
The French Knights and soldiers armed themselves, and those who were under  arms formed a huge rearguard, as if they feared they would have men in pursuit of them with a view to engaging them in combat.  I shall not spin out my tale further to speak of them: the counts’ spies  appeared on the scene and immediately told them how the French were departing.  This was pleasing and welcoming news to them, and they said: ‘Let us go and keep a watch on what they get up to.’
They had light armour on, for that was the equipment they most preferred.  They  lost no time in going on their way in pursuit of the army,  which rode along prudently in a tight formation, for the French are very good at doing that: when they see it is not to their advantage to do otherwise, as they leaves a  given place, they do so in a measured manner.
The three counts made all speed along with the great force they led.  When those in the army saw them coming, not for a moment were they dismayed, for they have no reason to fear them: they had an excellent rearguard.  Someone went to inform the King: ‘Sire, upon the faith I owe you, there is a great contingent of men in pursuit of us.’‘Who are they?’ asked the King, ‘and are they close?’‘Sire, there they are riding between those valleys.’‘It is without doubt the Marshal in the company of the Earl of Salisbury, and if I ever recognized a man under arms, that is the Earl  of Warenne with them.  They are fully ready to do us mischief, if they can find the time and the opportunity.  They can have little idea of what is in my mind,’ said the King, ‘but they willl very shortly, if they don’t go away.’He asked for William des Barres who came and received the following command: ‘Go immediately, my dear lord, taking two hundred knights with you.  Ride the length of the valley, without them knowing about your presence, until you are right there facing them.  If God would grant you such an encounter with them that you could take one of the three prisoner, we should easily be able to have one of our precious friends back; that is what my heart tells me.’
Des Barres lost no time in doing what the King had ordered: he took three hundred knights with him and rode into the valley without the three counts’ being at all aware of their presence.  The sides met.  The side fully armed launched their attack, and those who were not armed immediately turned tail, for they had no protection, as they very well knew,  disarmed as they were, against those armed men.  But I can assure you that had they been properly armed, they would never have turned back; there would have been saddles overturned before they would have done that, with gains and losses occurring.  But when it comes to a crisis, men who are too far away from their armour are overcome and hacked about. Des Barres returned back, but he knew full well the situation of those who had taken flight, namely that they were only wearing light armour, and that, if they had had their arms, they would never have left in that fashion.
So the King made his way to France with grief and pain in his heart whilst the three counts’ returned and made their way to Rouen, sending their horses before them with their equipment and the entire body of the soldiers.  The Marshal’s  thoughts turned to the matter of finding lodgings as soon as possible.  The burgesses and citizens, the highly prosperous and the moderately so,  heard of the arrival of the earls and were full of joy at the news.  They immediately mounted their horses and in a state of elation, rode to meet them.  The Marshal saw them coming, and had no intention for a moment of refraining from saying what was in his mind to his companions, of whom he was fond.  ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘Hear my opinion: If you wish to set your heart tonight on fine wines and luscious fruit, on presents and of having pleasure, then let me speak to them first, for there is one thing I can truly claim: if I tell them what my wishes are, you will have them all in plenty.’
The other two agreed willingly to this, and the citizens made their way without delay toward the Marshal; they greeted him first of all and then the others as they followed behind side by side.  They returned their greeting graciously, spoke to them warmly and paid them high honour.
‘My lord,’ said Matthew le Gros, who was the mayor at that time, ‘In what direction has that King of France gone?  We have had every fear that he would turn the direction of our town and set up camp and remain here.’At this the Marshal replied: ‘The King of France is close by, camping in the countryside over there.  We have no intention of being found wanting, if his intention is to come here, in the matter of defending the town.  It is for that reason that we’re coming into the town with our equipment and our entire force.’
When the burgesses heard of this, they were overjoyed and profusely thanked the three counts and the others, saying: ‘This is the most pleasing to us.  My lords, it is not surprising that you act in this way, for it is in your nature and you seek to do honourable deeds.  There is not a single person in our town whom we do not willingly place entirely under your command.’
They entered the town, and I can tell you that the burgesses paid them high honour when they saw them come and gave them a rapturous welcome.  The three counts, I think, who were  lodged under one roof, had their meal prepared.  When it was time to eat, they quickly washed and sat down.  The burgesses gave great attention to the matter of preparing their gifts; each man was keen to put great effort into making the best gift possible, to please them and to be the more highly thought of.  Some made a present of full bodied wines, fine wines, clear, soft on the palate and sparkling, some with cloves, some spiced, according to the preference of the giver; they were the best they could find.  They took care to taste them before sending them to the counts, so that their gifts would not be misdirected.  At the end of the meal came the fruit, and they all had in abundance pears, apples, and hazelnuts.  In the streets you would have seen a great crowd of people carrying them, frequently banging into each other as they did so.  The Marshal had indeed kept his word as regards what he had said to them earlier on, and they laughed at the sight of the great crowd before their eyes.

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August 9, 2014

Those of you who have been acquainted with me for a few years know that I rarely give quotes or endorsements for novels.  Even so, 'rarely' does not mean 'never.'   My pact with myself and my readers is that I will only endorse novels that I have read under my own steam and that I have thoroughly enjoyed and would love to share.
A couple of years ago, I picked up a debut novel at the library called SWORN SWORD by James Aitcheson and was immediately hooked.  Here I should say that I often try out new to me authors at the library and if I love them then I go out and buy their work. This is what happened with SWORN SWORD.  I loved the rendition of post Conquest England and seeing it through the eyes of its personable hero Tancred a Dinant, an ambitious young Breton hearth knight.  I've since gone on to buy, read and love the second novel  THE SPLINTERED KINGDOM and the third KNIGHTS OF THE HAWK.

THE SPLINTERED KINGDOM is just being published in the United States by Sourcebooks and so I asked James if he would like to be interviewed on my blog and give me and other readers some insights into these fine works of historical fiction - how they came to be written and just what it entails behind the scenes. 

Over to James:
1. James, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your novels ever since picking up SWORN SWORD when it was first published and THE SPLINTERED KINGDOM was no exception.  I have become something of a fan of your hero Tancred a Dinant.  I’d love to know how his character and his story came to you in the first place?
Tancred’s evolution was a gradual thing. I didn’t start out with a fully formed protagonist in mind, but rather the sketch of an outline of an idea that then grew and developed as I began writing what later became Sworn Sword.
Right from the beginning I decided that I wanted to tell the story of the Norman Conquest from the unconventional perspective of the invaders rather than from that of the native English. My main character should be a man of action, I thought, and what better than a knight serving in William the Conqueror’s army?
Still, though, Tancred remained something of a blank canvas, and in those early drafts of the first few chapters, he wasn’t terribly well defined. It was only when I made the switch from writing in the third person to writing in the first person that I really began to probe his character and find out what made him tick.
As soon as I began writing in Tancred’s voice, things began to click. I found it easier to get inside his head and discover not just what drove him, but also his fears, doubts and dreams. Over time this intriguing individual emerged: ambitious, principled but tortured by guilt; an experienced warrior with a keen sense of honour, who nonetheless a maverick streak that often lands him in trouble.
And he continues to develop in each new book according to the various struggles and triumphs that he undergoes. Thus the Tancred we see The Splintered Kingdom, the second book in the series, is a different man in some respects to the one we saw in Sworn Sword. He’s maturing as he acquires new responsibilities but at the same time growing more ruthless in pursuit of his goals.

2. Have you written anything before and if so was it historical?
I’ve always written stories since I was very young, and for as long as I can remember I harboured ambitions of being a professional writer, although back then I never imagined myself as a historical novelist. As a teenager I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and so I used to write a lot in those genres.
It was only when I went to study History at Cambridge, where I became hooked on the Middle Ages and the Norman Conquest in particular, that I started to consider turning to historical fiction. Since then I’ve never looked back.

3. I particularly like the way you paint the characters as individuals with dilemmas that a modern reader can immediately identify with, but at the same time your people are firmly grounded in the 11th century.  Is this something you consciously thought about while writing?
One of the biggest challenges that the historical novelist faces is getting inside the heads of his or her characters. To write convincingly about the Middle Ages, you need to try to get yourself into a medieval mindset. Understanding their thought-world – that is to say, their attitudes towards religion, family and society – is vital, since all of those things will have an impact on how your characters reason, speak and behave.
Unfortunately there are no shortcuts you can take towards achieving this; I think it only comes through deep immersion into the period and extensive research into all the small details of life at the time. For me, it’s also essential that I goback to the primary sources – the original chronicles, poetry and other writings that provide us with the voices of the past – since these offer useful glimpses into the preoccupations of people living at the time.

Offa's Dyke path overlooking the Teme Valley near
Knighton, Powys, which is only a few miles to the west
of where Earnford, Tancred's fictional manor is sited.4. You have a very firm and visual sense of time and place. It’s so evocative that whatever it is, mist or moonlight, or the wide fenland marshes, it’s there with me in the room. Did you visit any of the locations or similar landscapes?
My research takes many forms, and while I love nothing more spending time in the library engrossed in the literature surrounding the subject, I also enjoy getting out in the field. When it comes to visualising and recreating landscapes in the novels, I find that there’s no substitute for going and treading the very soil that my characters would have stood upon.
My travels have taken me all over England, and I’ve used my on-the-ground research to help construct a virtual guide to the country c.1066, which you can find on my website. It’s called Tancred’s England, and it features mini-histories of several of the principal locations featured in the series, for readers who are interested in finding out more.

Members of Regia Anglorum in 11thc Norman kit
Photo courtesy of Rosemary Watson5. And you must have intensively researched the weapons, warfare and tactics of the time to be able to write such convincing battle scenes?  I got a real feel for being in the desperate thick of it that showed emotional investment that went well beyond the technical blow by blow.  These were always real people with too much to lose.  How do you do that element of your research?
To learn about the various elements of arms and armour and how they were used, I not only turn to books but also speak with re-enactors. But when it comes to trying to capture something of the feel of a medieval battle, that’s not something that can be easily recreated in today’s world, nor would anyone want to! However, reading and listening to interviews with modern soldiers are very useful for getting an insight into how individuals deal emotionally with fighting and killing. The historian John Keegan’s pioneering book The Face of Battle, an absorbing study of the psychology of battle, was also an eye-opener for me.

6. The politics of the time between the different factions was pretty complicated but you explain them very well in THE SPLINTERED KINGDOM – no mean feat.  I assume you had to do a lot of reading around the subject in order to distill it for the readers?  In broad brush strokes can you tell us about some of the factions in play at the time.
As you say, there were many different factions competing for power and territory at this time. In the wake of the Norman victory at Hastings, everything suddenly became very uncertain, and the invaders battled for several years to consolidate their hold on England and put down various waves of native risings.
Taking advantage of the uncertainty were the Welsh kings, who launched repeated raids across the border, and the Danes, who saw in the chaos an opportunity for plunder, and whose king, Sweyn Estrithsson, had long had designs on the English crown. Meanwhile, the last in the ancient Anglo-Saxon royal line, Eadgar Ætheling, who also believes he is the rightful king, is marching at the head of a Northumbrian army to which the king of Scots has also lent his support. So within a few years of their arrival in Britain, the Normans suddenly find themselves in a very precarious position, under attack on all sides.
In researching this particular episode of the Norman Conquest I had to open myself up to completely new avenues of research. My specialism until then had been largely in Anglo-Saxon and early Norman England, and so in order to write about the Welsh March where the novel is largely set, I needed to become acquainted in fairly short order with the complicated and turbulent history of early medieval Wales. Naturally only a very small fraction of all my research made it into the book, but without it I wouldn’t have felt properly equipped to begin writing.

7. You clearly have a love for language and I enjoy the light seasoning you use in your novels including THE SPLINTERED KINGDOM.  A little allied to the above question, can you explain (in short!) about the languages that would have been spoken in Britain at the time of the Norman Conquest.
As the Normans extended their reach throughout the British Isles, they found themselves in contact not just with English, but with Welsh, Norse and Gaelic speakers too. One of the key things I wanted to show in the series was how disconcertingly alien the cultures of Britain would have seemed to the Normans when they first arrived, and how strange its languages would have sounded to a French-speaker.
That’s one of the reasons I chose to refer to places by their contemporary names – Eoferwic (York), Lundene (London) and Brycgstowe (Bristol), for example – and to use old forms of personal names in favour of modern ones – thus Eadgyth instead of Edith.
In time, many of the conquerors, especially those who had been granted land under the Norman kings, did learn to speak the native tongues, if only so that in everyday life they could converse with the folk who lived on their estates without needing an interpreter. But French remained the language of the elite and continued to dominate court life for several generations after 1066.

8. If you could go back in time and do your historical research on the ground so to speak, what would be the things you would really like to know?  I know the reply is probably all of it, but could you give a couple of examples?  I know, from my own work that I would love to go back to a 12th century tournament and see just how they grabbed each other by the bridles in the thick of the fight.  What would be on your wishlist?
That’s a difficult question to answer! I think what I’d most like to see is how the Normans went about constructing the castles and cathedrals that you see across England today, and which are among their greatest legacies. They were well practised in the art of building fortifications quickly, and indeed contemporary chronicles suggest that the first castle at Dover (1066) and the second at York (1069) were thrown up in just eight days, which if true is quite incredible, given the scale of the work involved.

UK cover for Knights of the Hawk9. I understand KNIGHTS OF THE HAWK is coming to Sourcebooks next year, and Tancred has more adventures in store I am pleased to say.  Can you say a little about that?
Yes, the third book in the series, Knights of the Hawk, is due to be published by Sourcebooks in summer 2015. (It’s already out in the UK.) Set in autumn 1071, one year after The Splintered Kingdom, it sees Tancred waging war in the Fens, where a group of rebels, including perhaps the most famous outlaw of them all, Hereward the Wake, are making one final, desperate stand against the Normans.
There will be further adventures for Tancred – I’ve got plenty more ideas for where his travels might take him in future. In the long term I’d very much like to send Tancred on the First Crusade, although by that point he’d be in his mid-fifties, so perhaps a little bit old for front-line fighting.
For the time being I’m working on a new project, which is also set during the Norman Conquest but which features an entirely new set of characters. It’s slightly different in style and tone, but (I hope) equally exciting. I can’t say too much about it just yet, but I will be posting updates on my website in the following months.

10. Can you suggest a good reference book for someone to read if they wanted to find out more about the period?
Anyone seeking a general introduction to 1066 and its significance would be well-advised to try Marc Morris’s The Norman Conquest, an up-to-date and accessible study that combines a historian’s scholarship with a storyteller’s flair and narrative drive.
For a more in-depth view of life in England during this period and the changes wrought by the Conquest, I can highly recommend A Social History of England, 900–1200, edited by Julia Crick and Elisabeth van Houts.

11. And for fun, what was a fiction read you’ve recently enjoyed?  Any subject, doesn’t have to be historical.
Recently I’ve very much enjoyed reading Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon. A light-hearted, swashbuckling novel, it features Zelikman and Amram, two Jewish bandits and swords-for-hire, who are plying their trade in the Caucasus c. 950 and find themselves drawn into a campaign to restore the rightful heir to the Khazar throne. It’s a slim volume – only a couple of hundred pages long – but crammed with twists and turns, ploys and deceptions and feats of derring-do, written in a grandiose and captivating style. 
Thank you very much for those detailed and enlightening answers James.  I shall certainly be looking up Gentlemen of the Road.  The Marc Morris book is on my TBR; I'm definitely a fan of his.Everyone, do add James Aitcheson's terrific novels to your TBR pile if your interest has been piqued!

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Published on August 09, 2014 17:30 • 108 views

June 5, 2014

With the paperback copy of THE SUMMER QUEEN due any day for publication in the UK and the USA, I've had a lovely book trailer done by Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics.  I hope everyone enjoys it!


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Published on June 05, 2014 13:46 • 84 views

April 28, 2014

Osprey Books UK £12.99 $17.95
ISBN 978 1 84908 5502
As the country heads towards a date with destiny and the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 1215, it's inevitable that the movers and shakers of that age will see their history step into the spotlight, and perhaps none more so than the great William Marshal. Largely unknown outside the circles of medievalists and re-eanactors until recently, he is now beginning to enter the mainstream consciousness as evinced by a couple of recent BBC2 documentaries about his extraordinary life and some new biographies to add to the three already out there -  We have to wait until December for Thomas Asbridge's offering, but this one by Richard Brooks is available now.

Despite the title's sub-text that it's about 'William Marshal and the French invasion of 1217', the book is actually a fairly thorough biography of William's life.  It does concentrate on the pivotal campaign of 1217 for approximately the last third of the book, but that leaves plenty of room to write a substantial biography to bring William to that point. The author has plenty of scope to explore the making of the man who was destined to lead the battle against the French invaders and begin the process of reuniting the country and setting it back on its feet after years of devastating unrest during the reign of King John.  Had the Battle of Lincoln been won by the French in 1217, the country would have had a very different story today. William Marshal's victory was one of those destiny moments, something that Brooks squarely acknowledges and keeps at the forefront of his narrative.

Not including a glossary, bibliography and index, the book is 300 pages long and details William's story in succinct but never skimpy detail from cradle to grave.  There are some excellent and unusual colour plates mid book, which add value and interest to the narrative and are a cut above the usual suspects. There are some very useful tables with content such as lengths of marches undertaken, the number of campaigns William fought in, his known tournament record.  The straight narrative details of William's life are interspersed with fascinating facts. I did not know for example that soap was used as a weapon in medieval warfare - to make the decks of enemy vessels slippery,  or that a live bear was presented as a prize at at tourney in 1215.  Personally I love whimsies like this and it added enormously to my enjoyment of the work and kept me turning the pages.

I have read all of the Marshal biographies out there,including the 13th century Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal, and have studied the man in depth myself for 10 years, albeit to recreate him in novel form.  This work is a very fine addition to the oeuvre. Richard Brooks understands the Marshal and brings out facets largely ignored by his other biographers.  Brooks' Marshal is a talented military commander, shrewd, and well able to grasp the complexities of a situation from all angles. He's a statesman too.  It's not war for war's sake but he will not shirk from fighting if he must and he understands tactics very well, including subterfuge.  Reading Richard Brooks' fine, lucid and erudite prose, one is given a view of the Marshal in full, sharp clarity.  Personally I feel that this biography of the Marshal comes the closest of all of them to understanding the man. There is not a great deal about his family life, but that is perhaps a facet for another biographer to tackle. The main thrust of this book is his military and diplomatic career and it is written with vivid, insight.

It is not without its moments of questionable history, however, and outright gaffs and it is a case of being wary and not taking everything as gospel. I was irritated by Brooks' constant referral to William's father as a 'weathercock' and 'disreputable baronial backwoodsman'.  Indeed, I underlined the latter and wrote NO! in capital letters beside it. . John the Marshal changed sides just once in the war between Stephen and Matilda and in the early stages - rather like Matildine stalwart Brian FitzCount and all the others who swore to Stephen at the outset of the reign.  That's not being a weathercock.  He put his life on the line for the Empress at Wherwell and lost an eye, and then again at Newbury where he sacrificed his son in order to buy time for Wallingford. The lord of Wallingford, Brian FitzCount had vanished to become a monk, leaving John Marshal to stand alone. And as to being a backwoodsman - he was the King's Marshal.  He controlled the Kennet Valley.  Professor Crouch says of him 'He was no coarse bandit.  He was more of a baron than a robber...He played the great game of politics with talent and perception...a preudhomme or 'man of standing' in his son's eyes.' With his marriage to Sybilla of Salisbury, he became  brother in law to a French prince, the man next in line to the French throne.
There's also the perplexing remark that William spoke English at home and didn't learn French until he went to train as a squire. That's blatantly wrong. The nobility spoke a version of French - Anglo Norman and it was William's first language. How on earth would he have managed in Stephen's camp among all those French speaking nobles if it wasn't his native tongue too?  He possibly had a smattering of English but his first language was French. So that's one detail to take with a huge pinch of salt.
Brooks says that William was called William to curry favour with his more illustrious relatives on his mother's side.  He doesn't seem to have noticed that John Marshal had a brother called William, the vicar of Cheddar in Somerset who was actually Empress Matilda's chancellor, so it was a family name on both sides.  Again, it indicates that the research might have been more thorough in this area.
He also seems to think that William's father thought it a waste of time for William to learn to read and write, but that seems a strange conclusion to arrive at when William's father himself is indicated to be a literate man and would have known very well the value of literacy.
Several times it is mentioned that William spent decades as a household knight. Literally speaking that might be true, but he was much more than that. A royal marshal was more than just a household knight. He was head of his employer's military office and responsible for the logistics of transport and security. Lesser men answered to him. To all intents, William became the Young King's Marshal in 1170 and developed from there, so I feel that the idea is to emphasis William's humble beginnings in an effort to show to what heights he rose, but in fact, while not exactly graced with privilege he didn't have to work in the bilges for all that long, and he came from good money, not the 'backwoods.'
I would also say that William is not dreaming at peace in the Temple Church, although it's a nice fancy. He and his Templar colleagues are there armed and ready for battle. They are alert and on guard, waiting to fight at the Last Judgement because they are lying in a satellite of Jerusalem on earth where that battle will begin. If colour and paint remained, their eyes would be wide open.
A final item I cannot let pass even if it is a nitpick (there are others but I've let them be) is the comment that William addresses the young future Louis VIII 'amorously' by calling him a 'demoiselle.'  However, a 'demoiselle'  in Anglo Norman is just a young person - in the male case an untried bachelor knight.  So William isn't addressing him amorously.  He's an old, wise man, calling the other one a young whippersnapper - a different nuance entirely!

Despite the above caveats and nit-picks THE KNIGHT WHO SAVED ENGLAND is going straight onto my keeper shelf and will be referred to and re-read.  When Richard Brooks is on solid ground and covering the military aspects, this work shines a light into areas no other Marshal biographer has illuminated in the same way. The insights hold the ring of truth and Richard Brooks obviously understands his man very well indeed - and I would venture to say better than any of the Marshal's other biographers have done.  He recognises the Marshal as a competent, gifted soldier and statesman through to the core against whom other national heroes 'appear hollow in comparison.'  Exactly.

This is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in history and a must for the legions of William Marshal fans out there.

Disclaimer. Osprey books were kind enough to send me a review copy.  I don't usually review ARCS but I wasn't going to say no to this one - and I'm glad I did read it!







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March 26, 2014

The whereabouts of Newbury Castle Berkshire has long been a conundrum.  Did it exist, and if so, where is it?  No one knows for sure; there are only theories.  As far as my own theory goes, I would say it's staring everyone in the face, but let's explore the subject.


William Marshal's biography the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal is the only source to mention a castle at Newbury. The writer calls it 'Neubere'  in his narrative, and has this to say:  I'll quote it in full in translation:

"As it is known to all, the King besieged Newbury at the head of a mighty force of men. But he did this that so much by surprise that those inside the castle were not aware at all of it until they saw the soldiers, their archers and their scouts, indeed the whole army, which dismounted and set to pitching tents. When those within the walls saw them, they knew full well that they had been taken unawares. This is a surprise attack was particularly the disagreeable since they had little in the way of provisions. The King sent a formal request by messenger, ask in the constable whether he was prepared to surrender the castle aor wished to defend it against him. No time was lost in reaching a decision:
"We are not so beleaguered that we have no wish to put up a stout defence; we have no intention of surrendering the castle. Things have now gone so far that's there will be many a blow received, many a skull, and many otherwise wounded by blade or spear or lance, and many trampled underfoot so that all that will be needed after that are the biers."
The King had directed his anger against their side, and swore by the birth of Christ. " I'll be sure to take my revenge on the low villains, they will fall into my hands. Now to arms, my valiant squires, my valient men at arms and archers! Snarl as they might, we'll capture them. To the first man to get inside I shall give such wealth that he will never be poor again in his lifetime."
You should have seen those squires start to clamber with great daring over the ditches and up the embankments. And those within the walls defended themselves courageously and furiously; they hurled down slabs of stone, sharpened stakes, and massive pieces of timber to knock them to the ground. They made them pay a horrible price for their attempt on them; if it was in their power they would thwart them. Many could be seen to topple upside down and fall headlong onto their backs; many were wounded and many knocked unconscious. Those in the castle could not be blamed for defending themselves for they expected no immediate help.
Those outside had the worst of it. Thereupon the assault was suspended, an assault that had been very dangerous. The King was greatly troubled by events, and swore that he would not let things rest there and that he would never leave that place until he had taken the tower and punished those within.
The people in the castle decided, good folk that's they were, they would ask for a truce, and in the meantime would relay to their ord and master all the information about their situation. They asked for the truce and were given it, and as fast as they could, they informed their lord that they had only one days truce (so wherever John was, it was nearby for requests and answers to come within a day). So therefore, if he could, would he come and rescue them, for inside they had nothing to live on."

Newbury itself is in West Berkshire, a short distance from the Hampshire border. The town is situation in the flood plain of the River Kennet near the junction of the River Lambourn at a point where the Oxford to Southampton road crosses the river and the London to Bath Road passes to the north. It's a site of some strategic importance.

Saxon settlement there is known of from the 10th century with charters existing for nearby Speen and Thatcham. By the late 11th century a manor called Ulvritone was listed in the area by the Domesday book and it belonged to one Arnulf of Hesdin. The name of the town is first mentioned in a grant of 1080.  Evidence suggests that Newbury was created as a planned town on the site of Ulvritone.  The town seems to have developed steadily during the 12th and 13th centuries.  By 1204 it had a market as well as town bailiffs and in 1225 was represented at assize by its own bailiff and jury.  So, it was a developing townscape at this time, but the only mention of a castle comes from the Histoire.

Puzzled by this, archaeologists undertook excavations in Newbury between 1979 and 1990 in the course of which between 1988 and 1990 they searched for evidence of a castle at the site traditionally acknowledged to have been the most likely place. The evaluation of the area by the Trust for Wessex Archaeology in March 1990 concluded that the tradition of a stone built castle standing on the site and surviving into the late medieval period was unsupported by fact. 'The balance of evidence would tend to suggest a location other than at Newbury Wharf'  the report concluded.

That's that one put to bed then, but what of other sites?
A big favourite with historians is the site at Hamstead Marshall in south-west Berkshire, 4.7 miles from Newbury, where a manor once owned by the Marshals, has three mounds or Mottes in the grounds, and earthworks. Here is what the Heritage Gateway for West Berkshire has to say on the matter:Motte mounds at Hamstead Marshall  It's a theory but inconclusive. At least one of the mounds is Neolithic, but may have been used as part of the defensive works.

We don't know when Hamstead Marshall became a Marshal possession.  It didn't gain the name 'Marshall' until the 13th century. Before that it was simply 'Hamestede' meaning 'Homestead.'  At the time of Domesday it had land for 5 ploughs of which the lord was entitled to 2 ploughland's worth.  It had 4 villagers and 8 smallholders with 3 ploughs. It also had 10 slaves,  a mill worth 20 shillings and 6 acres of pastureland. There was sufficient woodland to fatten 10 pigs and the whole was valued at £4.  How and when did it become a Marshal possession?  The hard evidence according to the Victorian County history dates to the early 13th century.

'It is returned about 1241 as held de marescangia.  In 1270 as held by the service of the marshal's wand.  And in 1283-4 per serianciam mareschallic. In 1306, however, it is said to be held by knight service and Mr Round (historian j.H. Round) expresses a doubt as to whether the marshalship was ever really held by serjeantry in connection with the manor of Hampstead Marshall as this manor is not returned among recognised Berkshire serjeantries.
Hmpstead Marshal is first found in the possession of the Marshals in the early 13th century. That William Marshal held the manor of Hampstead Marshall seems probable, for in 1218 while he was acting as protector of the young King Henry III, the latter gave five letters patent at Hampstead Marshall, four of which were witnessed by the earl. 

Who know, perhaps the earthworks and mottes derive from that troubled period rather than the anarchy. I think it's just as likely.
What we know about Hamstead Marshall is that by 1218 they had a manor there, luxurious enough to support a king, albeit that that king was a child. And since times were precarious, that manor was clearly fortified.  But the site of Newbury Castle?  I don't believe so.

A few years ago, I was invited to lunch by the then owner of North Lodge and we walked the grounds where the Marshal manor once stood.  The owner had enjoyed my novels and had an archaeology qualification that had enabled her to excavate one of the Marshal stew ponds on the site. We examined the mounds and our opinion was that at least a couple of them were Neolithic. Naturally a medieval castle builder would use whatever he had to hand, and Neolithic mounds are as good as anything else.

Bounds of the manor at Hamstead MarshallI found it interesting that Hamstead Marshall should be pointed to as the site for Newbury Castle.  Yes, it's near Newbury - just under 5 miles away, but it doesn't really guard anything massively strategic, even if strategic roads and rivers are only the distance of a short ride.  It is as it the name says, a 'Homestead.'  Why would King Stephen want to bother with besieging it?  And his besiegers would have had to be pretty mediochre at their job to make such a dog's dinner of taking it.... Unless of course this isn't the site and really we should be looking elsewhere.  Perhaps to somewhere nearer to Newbury and on a more strategic site.

My own feeling on the site of the elusive Newbury Castle is that archaeologists and historians should be looking to a suburb of Shrewsbury called Speen, just 1.4 miles from Newbury - which might make more sense of the castle title.  There is a site now occupied by a large house (Speen House) built on the site of a dwelling that once belonged to the Bishop of Salisbury. The site is the highest point on a ridge overlooking the river Lambourn to the north and the Kennet to the south. The Roman road - Ermine Street coming from Cirencester to Speen must have been very close by.  In ancient times the site had been an iron-age hill fort and the ramparts are still there. It's also postulated that a Roman station existed there too and there have been finds. Fortifications and ramparts are regularly adapted and reused and this site would have been an utter Godsend to John Marshal. He was renowned as a cunning builder of castles and Speen would have been tailor-made for his skills, especially if he was constructing defences in a hurry.

I have been to the site and the view from the top of Speen House are commanding and spectacular.  You can see everything coming at you from here.  It's strategically brilliant.  King Stephen would have come by here on the way to try to take down Wallingford and John Marshal would now be standing directly in his path and in a commanding position. Stephen would have no choice but to batter him into submission. And while he was doing that, Wallingford remained safe.

Did the Marshals hold lands at Speen?  Yes they did. They had the Grange at Speen for the right of holding the Marshal's Rod. They also have connections with the church and William Marshal had interests there from the late 12th which are listed on the Pipe Rolls.  On the role of 1199 he his pardoned half a mark on land in Speen.

On the map, I have gone over the rampart lines in red. In purple the walking distance from Newbury centre is 1.4 miles.  Contrast that with the less strategic Hamstead Marshall nearly 5 miles away.







Showing the distances between Hamstead Marshall, Speen and Newbury. The Marshals also have strong connections with the church there, which is cited as the first church of Newbury, even though it is in Speen.  The church of St Mary the Virgin says on its website:  'a medieval church built on Saxon foundations and was the mother church of Newbury.  In 1086 it was recorded in Domesday Book.' Church of St. Mary The Virgin Speen   The church stands about 200 yards from where I purport the castle site to have been.  The Marshals had a connection with this church and there is a charter form Sandford Priory dating to 1206.

Uniuersis etc Willelmus Marescallus comes Penbr[] salutem Nouerit uniuersitas uestra me concessisse etc deo et beate Marie et fratribus militie Templi Salomonis intuitu caritatis et pro salute anime mee et Isabelle uxoris mee et puerorum meorum et antecessorum omnium et successorum meorum in liberam et puram et perpetuam elemosinam ecclesiam de Spenes cum omnibus ad eam pertinentibus et omnibus libertatibus suis habend et tenend et in usus proprios perpetuo possidendam Et ut etc Hiis testibus Edwardo abbate de Nottel 

My Latin is pretty terrible, but basically it's a salutation from William Marshal giving the proceeds of the church at Speen to the Templars for his soul, for the soul of his wife, Isabelle and for the souls of their ancestors and their heirs. 

None of this proves that there was a castle at Speen, or that it was the site of the siege mentioned in the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal. At the same time there is also no proof that Hamstead Marshall was the site of the castle the author of the Histoire named as Newbury. The Speen site more than holds its ground against any other theory, and in my opinion it's the place where's John Marshal made his stand against King Stephen.

Interestingly, when my friend with the archaeology qualification spoke to the county archaeologist on the subject, he commented that he would not be at all surprised to find that the remains of Newbury Castle were indeed at Speen.

Case set out and rested.




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Published on March 26, 2014 13:00 • 133 views

March 24, 2014


With William Marshal being in the news again via Thomas Asbridge's BBC2 documentary which is to be broadcast on the 26th March, William Marshal The Greatest Knight I thought I'd write about the famous and infamous 'Anvils and Hammers' remark made by John FitzGilbert Marshal which is so often cited as a shocking example of how not to be a father!

There are the facts, and then the underlying facts, and one can't get a true reading of the first without an awareness of the second.

So lets have a look at the facts.
In the mid 12th century there was civil war in England.  King Henry I had died and his only legitimate child was a woman, Matilda, who had but recently returned from widowhood in Germany.  Henry had promised her the throne when he died.  Indeed, he had made his barons swear to uphold her - twice.  During the period between her return from Germany and his death, he married her to the 15 year old Geoffrey, son of the count of Anjou.  The count himself was about to head off to Jerusalem to become its king. What the 26 year old Matilda, an Empress, thought about marrying such a youth is not documented, although the couple separated shortly after their marriage for a while before getting back to together. Eighteen months later, Matilda produced her first son, the future Henry II, closely followed by Geoffrey and William.
Had Henry II lived, all would have been well in the world of the medieval monarchy.  Little Henry would have grown to manhood under his grandfather's tutelage and eventually have inherited the crown.  Unfortunately for all concerned, his grandfather died when Henry was only two and a half.  Matilda was in Anjou, pregnant with her third son, and in her absence, her cousin Stephen, who had also been in Henry's pocket so to speak as a candidate for the crown, claimed England and Normandy.  Most of the barons backed this move; they had no desire to be ruled by a woman, and even those who might have stood loyal to Matilda could do nothing because she was in Anjou having a baby.
John FitzGilbert was the royal marshal at the time of Henry I's death, and he was one of the majority of barons who swore for Stephen.  John would have been around the age of 30 at this time.  His task and dignity at court marked him out as a baron of middle rank.  He was married to a local Wiltshire heiress Aline Pipard whose wardship he had purchased, and he had two sons by her, Walter and Gilbert.  Stephen favoured John, granting him privileges and the royal town and castle of Marlborough and at Ludgershall to beef up his standing.
In 1139 the Empress came to England, landing at Arundel, and made her bid to take the crown that she claimed Stephen had usurped. For whatever reason, Stephen suspected John Marshal of duplicity and besieged him at Marlborough. 
A digression into speculation here: My personal opinion is that John had fallen foul of the factions at court who thought he had been receiving too many favours, and felt that he should be put in his place. He had no strong affinities at Stephen’s court and a man isolated was a man who could be picked off and brought down. I think John jumped before he was pushed. 

Back to the facts: What is known is that John swore for the Empress and adhered to her cause for the rest of the war.  His brother William joined her entourage as her chancellor.
Unfortunately for John, the Empress’s attempt to regain the throne was not plain sailing. To cut a long story short she lost her advantage and while besieging the Bishop of Winchester at his palace of Wolvesely, she was almost captured. John was a few miles out of Winchester, dealing with a supply problem, when he heard that the troops of William D’Ypres, a Flemish mercenary in the pay of Stephen’s queen, were coming down the Andover road straight for him. If D’Ypres managed to break through, John knew Winchester would be encircled and the Empress seized.  He could either run and save his own skin, or stand hard and give the others a chance to escape. He chose to stand at Wherwell where there was a ford over the river Teste. The tranquil river Teste at Wherwell todayPictures of WherwellWhen D'Ypres arrived, fresh from sacking Andover, John engaged his troops and fought for as long as he could, but with D’Ypres’ numbers too great to withstand, John was eventually forced to retreat into the nunnery where he barricaded himself in. D’Ypres knew he couldn’t leave a man like John Marshal to create mayhem in his rear, so he ordered the nunnery to be burned along with the men inside it. There was destruction and chaos. Some of the troops fled the burning church only to meet their end on the edges of the mercenary’s swords. John barricaded himself in the tower with another knight and refused to come out. When his companion feared for their lives and wanted to surrender, John told him  he would kill him with his own hands if he mentioned that word again. They stayed put, but John paid the price when molten lead from the church roof landed on his face and burned out his eye. Once D’Ypres’ force had moved on, John staggered from the church with his companion, and the two of them made their way to safety. This must have been something of a feat because that safety was twenty five miles away at Marlborough; they were on foot, and John had suffered a terrible facial injury. Nevertheless, they made it and once recovered, John set out to recoup and regroup.John’s most powerful neighbour in the region was Walter of Salisbury, hereditary sheriff of Salisbury (nowadays called Old Sarum). When Walter died, his son William replaced him, but died not long after the battle of Wilton in 1143. The second son, Patrick became lord of Salisbury and he supported Stephen. Looking to curtail his forceful neighbour in the Kennet valley, Patrick took up arms against John. John ably defended himself, although he had fewer resources than Patrick, and even if often on the back foot, it was never defeat. Eventually Robert Earl of Gloucester stepped between the men. He offered Patrick an earldom if he would come over to the Empress and he suggested that John divorce his wife and marry Patrick’s sister to make peace between them. The men agreed and sometime between 1144 and 1145, John Marshal annulled his marriage to Aline and took Sybilla FitzWalter to wife.  Sheep grazing the Marlborough Downs not far from
John FitzGilbert's manor of Rockely.John and Sybilla swiftly began a second family. It’s perhaps telling that he only had two sons by his first wife in the course of fifteen years and six (and perhaps seven) offspring with Sybilla over the same period. The first was born within a year of the marriage and christened John for his father. The second, (the fourth over all) destined for fame and legend was William, born in either 1146 or 1147.The fighting continued and the Empress’s position grew more desperate as her adherents either gave up or died. She lost her stalwart supporter Miles of Gloucester when he was accidentally shot by one of his own men whilst out hunting. Her half-brother Robert of Gloucester died, and another mainstay Brian FitzCount retired to a monastery. The Empress herself departed England in 1148 and did not return, but her son Henry was waiting in the wings and growing up fast. For John Marshal the period covered by the late 1140’s up to 1153 was a continuing dark time when he was involved in a war of slow grinding attrition. His lands were burned and ravaged by Eustace, the son of King Stephen and the best that John could manage was to grit his teeth and endure. He was known as a man of great cunning, a builder of castles ‘designed with wondrous skill’ and a man well able to attract men to his banner.   ‘He built castles designed with wondrous skill, in the places that best suited him; the lands and possessions of the churches he brought under his own lordship, driving out the owners whatever order they might belong to.’  At some point in the early 1150’s John built a castle at Newbury. The whereabouts of this place is now unknown and there has been much speculation as to where it was, including the manor at Hampstead Marshal which contains earthworks.  As far as I’m concerned, the answer is staring everyone in the face. It’s at Speen 1.4 miles from the centre of Newbury, standing on a high ridge overlooking the River Lambourn to the north and the Kennet to the south.  The Roman Road - Ermine street coming from Cirencester to Speen would have been close, and from the ridge viewpoint one can see for miles and miles. Interestingly the site used to be occupied by a house belonging to the Bishop of Salisbury. (see above quote in italics for why I find it particularly interesting). More on that in a blog post to follow.Be that as it may, John fortified a position in the Newbury area and held it for the Empress. In the summer of 1152 King Stephen besieged it on his way to try and take Wallingford. The first assault battered John’s troops badly but they didn’t give in. Stephen didn’t want to sit down to besiege it. I suspect he knew how hard John Marshal could stand and that he would sell the castle very dearly. John in his turn, knew he was in a dire situation and couldn’t hold out for much longer. He didn’t have the men and supplies necessary.  He asked Stephen for time to gain honourable permission from the Empress to surrender the castle. Stephen agreed, but told John that he must provide hostages and pledges for his good word. John agreed to do so and handed over as one of them, his small son William, who would have been around five or six years old.With the time he had been given, John set about stuffing his keep to the rafters with men and supplies. Stephen duly came on the appointed day to demand the surrender of the castle and John refused him and told him he would fight. When threatened with the execution of little William by hanging, John uttered those by now infamous words. Il dist ken e li chaleit de l’enfant, quer encore aveit les enclumes e les marteals dunt forgereit de plus beals. ‘He said that he did not care about the child, since he still had the anvils and hammers to produce even finer ones.’   That statement, taken in modern context is utterly shocking to readers. What a callous father. What a vile parent. Who could say that about their own child!  Horrific! Stephen could not bring himself to hang the boy, although for a time William became the plaything victim of the royal camp as he was also threatened with being flung from a catapult and squashed whilst strapped to a hurdle intended to attack the castle gate. This is often not mentioned in the various secondary source narratives concerning the incident. From what I have garnered elsewhere, young squires and captive sons were frequently subjected to such torments – rather like the traditional ‘punishment details’ for youths at public school.Stephen took William into his household and John Marshal’s son seems to have settled well in his new life. He was happy and confident enough despite his ordeal to want to play a game with King Stephen, involving jousting with plaintain leaves. A servant was sent to keep an eye on William, ‘because his family had great fears that he would come to harm’ (Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal) but was caught in the act and chased away.John’s castle at Newbury eventually fell to Stephen, but John had managed to buy that extra time for Wallingford. Stephen moved up to invest the latter and Henry came from Normandy to oppose him. Eventually a treaty was agreed whereby Stephen would keep the throne in his lifetime and Henry would inherit it on his death. Althought there were a few more skirmishes, the long civil war was in essence over and little William returned to the bosom of his family where he was to remain until being sent away in his teens for military training with the great Norman magnate William de Tancarville who was a distant relative of William's mother. 

Those are the facts.  Now for the deeper facts.
1.That 'anvils and hammers' speech is only reported in a single source - The Histoire de Guillame le Mareschal.  The work is a poem of 20,000 lines detailing William Marshal's life story from cradle to grave -including some scene setting before the cradle.  It was intended as a work for the immediate family, to be read out on William's anniversary, or sung to music in the hall on appropriate occasions.  It's a pro Marshal work with members of the Marshal family all cast in a highly positive light. So there are no gasps of shock issuing from that direction concerning John Marshal's behaviour.  Rather, it's a celebration of his 'hammers and anvils' in the face of terrible odds. This was a man who had his balls and intended keeping them!

2. Since this is the only source of the story, there is no proof that it was ever actually said. The 'hammers and anvils' are symbols of the office of Marshal.  It was another word for a blacksmith.  If one  looks at charters and town ordinances you will find a plethora of Marshals involved in the blacksmith trade - so it's a pun on the Marshal name, and one that would have raised a rich chuckle as it was read out. Indeed, if you know your Marshals, the Histoire is a joy to read because it's so full of secret Marshally puns!

3. This child that John supposedly did not care about?  William is protrayed in the Histoire as a confident, chirpy, happy little chap, eager to play games with adults. Confident enough to ask a grown man (the Earl of Arundel) if he could play with his lance. No neglected, unvalued child is going to have that breeziness and confidence around men of rank and standing.  William is actively engaging with these men.  He's full of himself and he likes their weapons!

4. John Marshal had very little choice. If he'd yielded to King Stephen would have pushed through to Wallingford several weeks earlier than he did, and if Wallingford had fallen, then the entire Angevin cause would probably have toppled. Each day that John could withstand Stephen was an extra day gained for the Angevin cause. He was buying time. John Marshal hadn’t backed down at Wherwell, where his stand had allowed the Empress to escape. He hadn’t backed down before the superior strength of Patrick of Salisbury, and he wasn’t going to back down now, even if it meant gambling with his son’s life.

It's not just two sides to every story, but a case of multiple facets and complexity. First find the facts, and then dig for the facts behind the facts.  Quite often the shell is not the same as the kernel, even though both are related.



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Published on March 24, 2014 15:15 • 120 views

March 3, 2014

Next it is indeed right to tell how King Richard left Normandy, as is well known to go and try his luck with Vierzon.  We well know how he besieged it and took it by force, and how the gains made were great, and who was the first to enter the town; about the latter nobody should have doubt.  With him there was the Marshal, who directed him to many a good place.  Later King Richard sent him to count Baldwin of Flanders, whose fame was to spread far and wide, and then, without delay, he sent him to count Reginald of Boulogne the son of the count of Damartin.  These men came to him in short because of the wrongs that the King of France, in his arrogance, was doing to them, and became liegemen tot the king of England in good faith.  When the King of France heard of this, he was not a bit pleased, indeed he was surely hurt by it.  He arranged talks with King Richard between eVernon and Boutavant, since he had no wish to go further.  On the appointed day, when they were duly assembled for the talks, King Richard arrived in fine style, very well attended, bringing with him, so God save me, Count Reginald of Boulogne.  I can vouch for the fact that they both appeared hand in hand.  On one side of the river was the King France with his entire force, and on the other the King of England, who now had little fear of his aggression.  And when he came to the talks, he most gracefully led the two counts by the hand, for that is what he had undertaken to do.  When he saw them arrive together, the King of France did not find it in the least to his liking, indeed he was very angry.  He began by addressing these words to King Richard:
‘My  lord, where are you taking these men? I had in mind that the talks were with you alone.  I am very displeased and I want nothing to do with talks involving them.’‘My lord,’ replied the King of England ‘you have been taking their land just as much as you have mine.  They have become my allies, for I can tell you that I have given my word that you will never be free of war as long as you continue to appropriate the land of us three.’When the King of France heard this, he was sad, aggrieved, and annoyed to the extent that he left in a rage.  After the talks had disbanded, neither King Richard or the two counts took any notice of his anger.  The two counts took their leave of the king they loved, and made their way to their own regions and lands and prepared themselves for war.  Then the King of England arranged to send the counts some of the most worthy men in his land and those whose reputations were high. They were chosen as was rigfht, and I shall tell you who they were.  The first was the Marshal, William, who most readily went without much persuading, for it was the way with him that he would never need begging to do anything which he knew would turn out for the good without setting about it instantly.  There was Peter de Preaux, a fine, handsome knight, Sir Alan Basset, a fine, handsome and honest knight, and Sir John the Marshal, a noble, amiable, worthy and loyal man.  These were the ones chosen to go. A man who delights in doing good is of great worth, for a good story is always retold when it comes to recalling good deeds.  They went straight on their journey until they reached the counts, who were very happy to see them and gave them a joyous welcome.  The count of Flanders set out in splendid array with a big army of knights, a huge contingent of soldiers, with troops keen to fight, most proud and bold.  He set out because of a castle which had been taken from him and fortified by the man who had learned how to take a castle with ease.  And the count, who was going there with such a mighty force, thought he could easily relieve him of it and bring him to grief.  The King of France had very quickly summoned an exceedingly large army to go to the assistance of the castle, for thought he could very easily save it.  The count of Flanders heard what the king of Frances plan was, and he sought the advice of the high ranking men whom he knew to be there and the barons in his company, and they advised him as men who were in great fear.  Different advice was given in different ways by each according to his lights, for such men as I recall are not all of one mind, since some often find fitting and to their pleasure what is not to the liking of the others.  The barons of the land put forward between them the advice that defensive barriers should be made out of carts, of which there was no shortage since they came with the rank and file. Many agreed with that advice and planned that the men of the rank and file should be inside them and that knights should go into the open and engage, when God willed it, with the King of France, and let each man take his chance.  The Marshal then got to his feet, for he found such advice perturbing.  He said to the count of Flanders: ‘My lord, if what I wish to say pleases you, I shall give my opinion.  I do not accept or advise that any such barrier should ever be made, for, by doing so, we would appear to lack heart and men at one and the same time.  My advice and I hope you find it acceptable, is to do what I would do if I were in charge of the operation.  I would never look to the rank and file or think of constructing a single barrier.  My sole consideration would be to defend ourselves out on the open field with no ruses or trickery employed.  Let the carts be strung out in front of the town, that I do advise, so that they do not come out to do our men any harm or play tricks on them and do not do injury to our rank and file when they advance one after the other.  And you yourself undertake to issue forth tomorrow completely armed ready for combat, and to humble their pride, with your troops and battalions in full battle order, so that we are ready to withstand them out on the field and defend ourselves. Foresight, common sense, and right are often the partners of physical prowess.’
Once the Marshal had spoken these words, all agreed with them, and finally they all said ‘Blessed be the advice given by a man of worth!’  It was a great honour paid to the Marshal that all agreed that day with his opinion, and all the high ranking men present gave him high praise, for he was intent on winning honour for them and yet he was not from their country. So they came out the next day fully armed and did as the man had directed them, who knew full well how to arrange such things. There were many knights under arms and a great number of the rank and file, and whatever anyone may tell you, it was apparent that here was a troop of courageous men, who had sworn and showed their intention to fight.  Any man who had attacked them that day would not have wanted for a fight, for they were much intent on it themselves, as they had been taught.  But you must know this for a fact, that the King of France had there his spies, who saw very well what the men on the other side were doing. They returned to the king and reported to him how the men of Flanders were armed and in battle-formation to fight against him, and this piece of news greatly troubled him.  Afterwards, he spoke with his advisors and one of them said: ‘ I’I advise you to postpone this encounter, for the men on the other side will not flee.  Indeed, I can tell you that they will stand their ground, if they can, and defend themselves.’That day passed, and then the King of France, wise man that he was, seeing that there was no advantage in it for him, was forced to turn back.  And he had a good reason for doing this, for a man who does not go back will not see his home again, and he is wiser therefore to return.  Moreover, he never wished to put himself in a place where he thought he would have to fight.  When those in the Flemish army saw the favour done to them by the French, who had left generously without so much as even looking at them, they were truly grateful, as indeed they might be.  Then very quickly they arranged, on the general advice of those in the army, to send a messenger to King Richard to inform him of their circumstances.  Those who were a party to his advice chose John the Marshal for the task.  They escorted him as far as the sea across which they sent him to the King.  He journeyed by sea and by land until he found what he was looking for: I mean King Richard of course, who was in the French marches where he had just taken the town of Courcelles.  In the course of that action the lord of the castle was captured, along with his men inside.  King Richard garrisoned a large force there.  It is well known that this happened on the feast day of St Peter, on the first of August, and that there arrived Sir John the Marshal and gave news to the king which gave him much pleasure, news of the counts and their circumstances, and how the Kin of France had turned back without being asked or agreed to do so, no sons waiting a single moment for their fathers. And the day after the feast of St Peter news reached King Richard, which delighted him and gave him great pleasure: the King of France, with a great troop of men was riding straight for Gisors.  Immediately the King of England mounted along with all his men.  He crossed the river below Dangu with a fine, bold company.  It is a fact that he sent Mercadier to spy on the movements of the French army, and Sir Hugh de Corny, a wise and valiant knight, who knew the countryside very well since he was a native of those parts. Mercadier spotted them and did not spy on them properly before returning to the King, telling him that the King of France had a huge force with him, a marvel to behold, and that he was ridings straight for Gisors.  Sir Hugh de Corny said: ‘Sire, in Christ’s name please hear me, for my assessment of their numbers is an accurate one and I can tell you that they are not a great force. If you engage with them today, great honour will be yours, for they will be routed or taken captive. Sire, enhance your reputation this very day.’The King knew in his heart that Sir Hugh de Corny was a shrewd, wise and worthy man, for he had been raised in war.  Towards his men he turned his bold, fierce face and said: ‘Go back to the ford, now I have what is welcome to me.’I do not think they were annoyed by this; they all went straight back to the ford, and Sir John de Preaux who was most brave and valiant and very much of a heart to perform high deeds, made to approach the ford.  And, whatever anyone might say, the worthy king, riding on a horse from Lombardy, galloped up to a vantage point.  Once at the top he saw before him the King of France’s army; he was little impressed by their might.  One he had spotted them for sure, the King called for his men to come bearing pennants and banners but they had been left a long way behind.  And yet, far away though they were, never before had men made such haste in a critical situation, for they were anxious and keen to engage with their enemies.  But I believe King Richard did not wait for all his men to arrive, and rode forward in first position.  And once his men had reached his side, vying to be first there, as was their duty, he said to John de Preaux‘Now we shall see who will be swift on his horse today.’ He then added ‘God is with us! Let us attack them!’Having said this, he immediately rode at them, just as a ravening lion, starved of food, runs at its prey and finds it, seeking for nothing else but the moment when it can catch up with it.  From now on it was inevitable that one side or the other would snatch victory, for never at a market or a fairground have I seen such a crowd or throng.  Each man strove with might and main, seeking to be the first to make contact with the other side, and not one of all those under arms was to be seen holding back, indeed they performed as was expected of them.The King, the first to arrive, performed so well that the French were routed, and were soon on their way.  They found men enough prepared to pursue them, and many of them were taken prisoner, for each took as many as he could of those he caught up with from behind.  And, had it not been for a dense cloud of dust from ground dried by the summer’s heat, the King of France himself would have been in danger of being taken captive.  His reputation would have taken a great fall that day, had it not been for the dust and the press of battle, and for Fate which does not allow what is not to be to happen.  They gave chase to left and right and eventually drove him back to the gates of Gisors, where they captured many of the most respected. As you well know, it is the way that the bravest remain behind when it comes to a rout, whereas the others, who have no taste for that, set their mind on self-preservation and take flight as fast as their horses can carry them.  Anyway, the King of France had the misfortune to fall in a ford, and he was helped up by a clerk of his, who had a very hard time of it since there was little else in the way of help.  He was the son of William de Mello.  However, in the end other people came running up to help him.  When they had pulled the king out of the water – he had been extremely frightened for his life – he declined to stay in Gisors, even though it had a very strong castle, for he feared his enemies so much that he thought he would be besieged inside the town; he had no wish to be hemmed in there. When a fox allows itself to be trapped in its den, it runs the risk of being caught, and that is why King Philip took great trouble and pains to escape, for he had no wish to be trapped in there.  He prepared to return to France, whilst King Richard returned with his mighty army straight to the fortress of Les Andelys.  There is no doubt that he took with him as prisoners ninety one of the King of France’s knights, and there was no justice about that.  I shall spare you the account of the other troops he took, not wishing to get bogged down by numbers; there were so many of them that, at this point, I have no wish to saddle myself with enumerating them.  And I can tell you that the bravest among the French became so cowed as a result that, from that time on, there was no combat in which thirty of our side did not charge forty of the French which was not as it used to be.  I wish you now to hear this, that men who are the subjects of a worthy lord take heart and show a marked improvement in feats of great valour.King Richard, a man of noble heart, would never, at any price tolerate any evil power, nor had he any time for it, for such was his way that he never ceased to promote the good while destroying the bad.  And may God in his grace grant that those who harm the King be vanquished, so that all his men take heart and grow in courage at the sight of his prowess, and that he has yet the opportunity to regain what is his and gain theirs as well. The war waged after the engagement at Gisors was a hard fought one on a very large scale; it lasted long, and still goes on.  However, I cannot tell of each event one by one; it is not a matter for me, nor is it part of my theme.  But if I could give a good account of what is the part of my theme, without putting in too much or too little in anything I said, I would consider myself very well satisfied.  I have seen and experienced for myself that those who weave a prolix story often depart from the point and often relate things which are extraneous to their theme, and which should not be said, for nobody seeking to make a living from writing should put in his work anything which is not strictly necessary off which is extraneous to the matter in hand.  But it was true, and I know it for a fact, that King Richard was in Gournay, and had secretly sent for provisions and men, and a huge force of knights, soldiers and mercenaries.  Covertly and quietly they came to him in Gerberoy.  Once they had arrived, there was a great army assembled, for those who sought to perform great deeds and serve and please their lord had set out from many a place.  The King rode in the direction of Milly, and Mercadier, after going to Semilly, went through the Beauvais; there were many throughout that region who found they had acquired a cruel neighbour as became all too apparent that day.King Richard and his huge force of men rode proudly to Milly.  The bailiff and the others inside were completely unaware of their presence until the moment they saw thy were in a sorry plight.  Richard attacked them from all sides.  He ordered the ladders he had brought with him to be brought to the walls and put in position, and he and his men launched a very fierce attack.  Those inside did all within their power to put up a keen defence, sending down an incessant rain of arrows.  Those outside, willing to take on anything, climbed up the walls on the ladders, whilst those inside defended with huge blocks of wood, stakes, bolts, great forks and flails.  Anyone who had the opportunity to witness the sight, could have seen contingents of men most fierce in attack and defence.  So many knights and soldiers present climbed up one particular ladder that it became greatly overloaded and they were thrust back by those inside and fell to a man in the ditch.  I do not believe there were three who, following their fall into the ditch did not break arms, and that in itself is an understatement.Sir Walter Scudamore a knight from Wales, was there.  He considered himself tobe  one of the most unfortunate since he had broken a thigh.  At this point to many of those involved in the attack began to retreat, for they were much dismayed and in fear.  Left behind on one of the ladders was sir Guy de la Bruyere, a knight from Flanders who did his all with intense vigour, to perform great deeds.  Those defending the town had caught him with their spiked pikes between his chin and his chest, so overpowering him that he could in no way help himself with either hand.  The Marshal, fully armed, was on the moat, and he was filled with pity and anger about the plight of the knight whom he saw in such torment, so, fully armed as he was, he jumped down into the bottom of the ditch and climbed, I assure you, fully armed as he was, sword in hand, up the other side, and kept his footing and he reached the latter on which the knight was held by those who sought to kill him.  He dealt them such blows with his sword as to fully repay each of them individually for the harm they had done to the knight.  He dealt so many blows right and left with the sword that he held in his right hand that those inside fell back and left him sole occupant of the battlements.  Those men who had no taste for the games he played, left him in sole charge of the field as they all went on their way.  The Marshal did not care who witnessed it.  And when the King saw him leap forward to climb the wall and mount an attack, he was very angry and wanted to do likewise, without delay, but the high ranking men present advised against this course and prevented it.  Once the Marshal had entered the castle by force, our  men was so filled with glee that they all shouted out as one man: ‘The castle is taken, let’s help him!’Those in the castle took fright as our men leapt up on to the battlements.  This did not appear to be a laughing matter to Sir William de Monceaux, the constable of the castle.  He would not stand still anywhere, but ran straight at the Marshal with the intention of doing all in his power to do him harm and injury but he was unable to do so, the Marshal proving too much for him now that he had freed himself from the others as a result of the blows he had dealt them, blows which had cost him so much effort that he was somewhat out of breath.The constable came at him with might and main, making every effort to do him injury by  means of mighty blows at him with his sword. The marshal dealt such a blow at him that he cut through his helmet, separating the coif from the hauberk and piercing his flesh so that all he could do was to come to a halt.  He fell down quite unconscious, battered and stunned by the blow he had received from the marshal, and he stayed motionless on the ground.  The Marshal, now weary, and who had done more than enough, sat on him to hold him firm.Then those began to arrive who had got into the castle thanks to the Marshal’s exploits. He was the one who took the town.  The King entered the town as did all those who had gone there with him.  Those who had mounted the siege made great gains, and those inside lost all; many prisoners were seen to be taken.  The King by now had the castle and the garrison, as was his due.  Immediately the Marshal came to the King’s side holding the knight he had taken captive by the hand, and he said: ‘Take this prisoner, I bring him for you to hold.’The King replied ‘my Lord Marshal, this is not right, indeed it is wrong for a man of such eminence and such great valour to have to do this: leave that to the younger knights who still have to win their reputation.  As for you, it is a fact well known that you have for so long pursued fame that you now hold it in the palm of your hand.  That knight you have taken, even if he were worth 100 fold what he is, I would still concede him to you and say that you have well deserved him, and it is right that he should be yours.  I appoint you as his lord and warder.’The Marshal gave him warm and generous thanks for this.Thereupon Mercadier arrived.  He had the luck of the dice, and so much so that he captured the Bishop of Beauvais that day, at the same time taking Sir William de Mello.  There was no shortage of other prisoners being led along by the mercenaries; they had bound them in ropes like greyhounds on leashes, and there was such a crowd of them in the town that it was impossible to move a step either backwards or forwards. Mercadier presented to the King his Bishop, a man who had often caused great harm for him in war and much ransacked his lands.  The King was full of joy, for I can tell you simply this that he was one of the men that he hated most in the whole world; and that was abundantly obvious, since he was given harsh treatment in prison.  I do not know what to say further except that the men in the army were full of joy, because of the castles and prisoners taken.  Someone said that it was a mistake that he did not ride on to take Beauvais, for there was nobody there to defend it, but the King said: ‘Be patient a while; we have done very well up until now in capturing this castle and some of our strongest enemies.  However strong they might be, right is on our side and the wrong on theirs.  God will yet show them that they are wrong to be hostile towards us.’The King did not stay there at all but returned to Gournay full of joy and in very high spirits, taking with him the booty he had acquired that day.  He very nobly shared out his gains, but those who were captured and had lost, had a very bad throw of the dice.  So it was, there was nothing they could do to improve matters, for that is what happens to all in war: some come out on top, some are beaten.The war was waged long, and it still goes on.  It was a fierce and dangerous war while King Richard was alive, for the French were very jealous of him; however, it did them no good at all, for not one of them was able to overcome him.  They tried on many an occasion, and yet their dismay grew the more they put him to the test, for they reaped a very poor return: frequently some of their most high born and important knights were taken captive, and never, following their escape from him, did they fail to take good care not to fall into his hands again.  The war had hung in the balance for such a long time that it became a source of concern for the King of France, for there he was spending all his wealth and all he did was lose.  That a man who had no care for idle leisure so hemmed him in that he did not know any place to turn to from which he would not be forced to retreat, for all the time that man was there to face him with whom he had engaged in many a magnificent encounter, in which there were gains and losses.  And those were in a sorry plight who left the field ignominiously, and who had lost their equipment there.  Time and again it happened that all they could do was lose the fight, so much so that the French grew tired of the situation and many of them transferred their allegiance to King Richard; I am sure of this, for it was widely seen and heard of.  As a result the King of France suffered much harm and vexation, so much so that he sent in secret for his barons and other high ranking men to give him advice as to how he might bring things to a conclusion.  One of them replied in these terms: ‘Unless you go through the court of Rome, he will wear you down to the point of defeat.  You will never defend yourself against him.’The King of France was wily and more cunning than a fox, and he could well see that it could not be otherwise.  Immediately he called one of his clerks and handed him the relic which is indispensable in Rome for successfully concluding business, for it is always necessary to grease palms at the court of Rome; there is no need to sing any of the litanies.  The relics of Saint Gold and Saint Silver, were the martyrs in the eyes of Rome and are held in great esteem there.  Without these, whatever laws for lawyers say, is not worth a fig.  Such is the custom and attitude of those in Rome that any man not bearing such relics with him will experience immense difficulties getting through the door.  It is written in the account that is my source that the consistory decided to do the King of France a favour and send him a cardinal who would do what was necessary for him effectively and without delay.  The cardinal who came was called Peter, a man who was wily, skilful and deceitful with words, for he had been raised in a school which had taught him the way to turn things back to front.  And when he arrived in France, he was given a most joyous welcome by the King and all his barons, for they felt he was cunning and wise and thought him to be very honest.  For that they gave him a rapturous welcome.  The King summoned him to his presence, informed him of his secret plans, disclosed to him in every detail his circumstances and put him completely in charge of things, whether by giving or promising further gifts, for he knew very well how to go about his business always in the right way and bring matters to the right conclusion. Peter the cardinal, whose word was not to be trusted, told him that he would have to negotiate a peace of sorts, or else a truce which would be for the long term.  The King abided by his advice since he saw clearly that he had to do so and that, otherwise, he could not achieve his ends.  He sent messengers to King Richard who had a way with words and were courtly and wise.  His forthright message was that he should come to him for talks, without delay or contestation between Le Goulet and Vernon.  Once they had given him the contents of their message, they informed him of the day set for the Kings to come together and hold talks.  King Richard graciously told them that he had agreed to the talks.  He arrived in Le Goulet on the day set, and I can tell you what happened in a brief word: I think Richard, who sought to perform no outrage, as is well known, but merely to claim his own land, came to Le Goulet with a large contingent of barons.  That wily King Philip, who knew only too well how to play the high and mighty, did not deign to attend the talks at all.  Instead he stayed behind in order to demonstrate his importance and to teach a man who knew he was being tricked better than Philip could teach him.  However, patience, forbearance and moderation are very valuable attributes.  King Richard waited until he knew for a proven fact that King Philip, acting out of arrogance, would not attend the talks.  Instead, the legate came on his behalf, a man who, when it came to trickery and subterfuge, was incredibly adept.  He knew all there was to be known about standing an argument on its head, when he had a mind to do so.  His face was more yellow than a kite’s claw; in a pantomime of hypocrisy he played at being saintly when he appeared before Richard, his behaviour seeming very unexpected.  What he did was to greet the King in God’s name and that of the court of Rome, which much loved and esteemed him as a son of the church.  And King Richard in turn greeted him most graciously as a learned cleric, cardinal and spiritual father.  The cardinal made his speech, since he saw it was the right place and time for it, and he fully believed that he would bring the KIng round to accepting all the terms of his proposal.‘Sire,’ he said, ‘the King of France sent me here, since his intention, I believe, is to do what is right, and he would very much like to achieve a peace if that were your wish too.’The King asked: ‘How will this peace be arranged in such a manner that it will never be broken?  I ask this question as a man who has been dispossessed.  Once he has repossessed me of my land and all that is mine, I shall serve him well and I shall write off the damage and ignominies I have suffered at his hands.  I shall forget about the oaths me made,, the agreements he made to the effect that, once he returned to France, he would not do any mischief in my lands or harass my subjects, until forty days had elapsed since my arrival in my domains.  I will forgive him of all of this and say not a further word about it, if he is of a mind to make peace.  Otherwise, my master, I can tell you for certain that they can be no peace between us.’Peter replied: ‘Sire, I would not be so bold as to vouch for that.  No man could make him see that he should consent to return all he has taken, whatever anyone may say.  His council does not advise this course nor would it ever do so.’‘Then go in God’s name!’ Said the King, ‘for, without that condition, peace will never come about, and he will never hold my land in peace as long as I am able to mount in the saddle; you can go and tell him that from me.’‘Oh Sire!’ said the cardinal, ‘it is such a great shame and such a wrong that there is such great hostility between the two of you; if things go on as they are, the holy land of Jerusalem will be lost.  For the sake of God, think of a way which it might be returned, for it will be in a sorry state of some attention is not given to it.  Things will get worse for it in a very short time, for it will be taken and destroyed and Christianity will be lost.’ The King  bent down towards him and said: ‘If I had been allowed to hold my own land in peace, so that I didn’t have to come back, the whole of the land held by the Syrians would be free and purged of  pagans and they would never again holds sway there.  As it is, the King of France has done me much harm and injury; he had a say in my being taken prisoner and being held for such a long time, and for a long time he has been set on dispossessing me, and will continue to be so.  However, if it please God, that will never happen.’The cardinal, after a while, spoke to him of another matter, saying: ‘sire, hear my plan: if a longer truce were arranged between the two of you, so that neither of you stood to lose by it, it would be a good deed done.’The King replied: ‘Fair muster, if such a truce as this were possible, under the terms of which I suffered no loss or saw my estate diminished, I would be very keen on it and agreed to it on a permanent basis.  Tell me the form it will take; I shall hear it and not put the wrong interpretation on the terms you cite, if only it can come about; indeed, I shall be most happy to abide by them.’The cardinal said: ‘Sire, in truth, no man can have all he would like to have, things don’t happen like that; rather, let each hold what he has, and let the truce be sworn on those terms.’‘nay such a truce never endure!’ Said the King, ‘what is this you’re saying?  It seems to me that you have gone back on everything you said to me before.  It is a shameful matter when a worthy man contradicts himself, when he lies and cheats.  Are you trying to pull the wool over my eyes?  He’s got my castles and land, and here you come asking me to let him have free possession of them!  This truce will never be set down in writing, so it please God, as long as I live.  Anyone asking me to agree to such a truce will find no firm ground to stand on, for his demands are excessive.’The cardinal resumed: ‘Please!  For the sake of God, please!  Fair lord.  You really ought to bear in mind how much the Holy Land is left bereft today.’‘I would certainly have come to its aid, but that man who does his utmost to harm me, forced me to return,’ said the King.  ‘However, in order that you do not think me too arrogant, I shall agree to a truce lasting five years, on the condition that he will have my castles in pledge, for you can be sure that of my inheritance he will not get one single iota of land outside them.’‘my fair lord, I agree’, says the cardinal on hearing this, ‘for I have never heard better words spoken.  But one further thing: the court of Rome asks you to return to him one of its men whom you hold as your prisoner, quite wrongly and unjustly.’‘I’ve got him?’ said the King, ‘I tell you I haven’t!’‘Sire, I shall tell you who it is, and do not deny it: it’s the Bishop of Beauvais, who is under the protection of Rome.  It is wrong to hold such a man, an anointed and sacred bishop.’‘Up on my soul he’s not!  He’s been deconsecrated,’ said the King, ‘and is a false Christian.  From now on I shall never believe a word you say.  It was not as a Bishop that he was taken captive but as a knight of great reputation, fully armed and with his helmet laced.  Is this what you thought up in Rome, Sir Hypocrite?  You’re not wise!  I can tell you that, were it not for your role as envoy, Rome would not prevent me from giving you such a hiding to take back to the Pope as would engrave my deeds on his mind.  The Pope thinks me a fool; I know full well that he made a fool of me when I sent a message to him from a distant land to seek his help in my predicament, as a prisoner in the service of God.  I begged and beseeched him to help me in my hour of need or to do his duty.  Not for a moment was he willing to involve himself, not for a moment did he deign to go to any trouble over it.  And now here he is asking me to release a robber, a tyrant and an arsonist, who so loved waging war that he has devastated the whole of my land and pillaged it night and day.  Get out of here you traitor, you liar and cheat, you deceiver, you simoniac!  Take care that I never see you before me on a field or on the open road!’At this the legate left, who was impatient to be out of there.  He would not have returned to collect his cross, reckoning that he would lose his genitals if he did.  Instead he mounted his horse and never reined it him until he reached the King of France, in a state of utter dejection and torment and more scared than a deer. When the French saw him arrive so gripped by fear, they were dismayed.  He said to the King: ‘He is not a gracious man, this king you’re doing business with; he is no lamb, we could well see this for ourselves, indeed he is fiercer than a lion.  And yet I had completely won him round to my plan of action, for he had agreed to a truce for five years, and we were on the point of shaking hands on the deal following his consultation with his advisors.  But then I asked him about the Bishop of Beauvais and he was so incensed that he immediately quarrelled with me.  He raised his eyebrows in my direction and turned as red as a blazing fire, so much so that I fully expected him to assault me.’Some of the French present laughed at this, and said to one another in private: ‘He’s nearly caught a fever from this experience, King Richard is no nanny-goat  to be scared easily; he still thinks he can take revenge for the harm done him.’King Richard was still so furious but he was unable to utter a single word; instead he huffed and puffed in his anger.  Like a wild boar war wounded by the huntsman he retired huffing and puffing into his chamber and ordered the doors to be closed; no monk or novice passed through them.  He lay on his back on the bed, and nobody was so bold as to dare to call at the door, until the Marshal arrived, holding a staff in his hand.  He knocked loudly at the door, which was opened for him forthwith.  He found the King lying down in his great anger and began to address him: ‘Sire, it is not right or reasonable for you to be angry without cause, for so help me God, my dear lord, what I see making you angry should actually make you laugh, since you have come away winning everything.  You can see that the King of France can go no further; all he can do is approach you and sue for peace or a truce.  So you take your land and leave him the castles in pledge until another occasion.  Since he will not be taking an inch of land, he will find out it’s a real war he’s engaged in just to hold onto and maintain the castles, if the cost of fortification has to come from his purse.  That is how things will be, I vouch for it; I am certain they will come here tomorrow.’The Legate was able to communicate to the King the terms of possible truce, that is that the land would remain in the hands of King Richard, whilst he would hold the castles, no more nor less; and, if he were unwilling to make such an undertaking, that is to surrender up to him his land, then there was nothing else for it but war.The barons of France there present advised him to accept a truce, as did the Legate, in charge of the proceedings, since there was no other possible course of action.  But the Legate added that in no way would he go back to see King Richard; let them send another envoy, he had no wish to die just yet.  The worthy Archbishop of Reims, a man neither meddlesome nor churlish, arrived the next day, with him a sober and well behaved retinue of men.  The King was in his chapel, where he was listening to the beautiful resonant strains of the mass of the Holy Trinity.  When he heard that the Archbishop had indeed arrived, he went immediately to meet him and gave him a warm welcome as they met, as did the Archbishop to him; each showed great respect for the other.  And I vouch it for a fact that, through the agency of the Archbishop of Reims, the truce was arranged and committed to writing word for word under the terms cited and worked out at an earlier stage.  No word was limited, and, when the Archbishop returned both the King of France and the French considered themselves well satisfied, for they had been reluctant to fight the war. When King Richard left the region, he sent word to William le Queu and his troop of men, telling them that, come what may, they should so pin down those in the castles that they could not take anything outside them in any part of his land and fief.  They carried out his instructions to the full, with the result that the other side did not dare to come and draw from the fountain outside Beaudemont when our side were prepared to prevent them from doing so.  And I can tell you that outside the walls of Gisors William and his troop collected the regular dues from the inhabitants; he would not have care a fig if those inside had been angry at this, nor would their anger have forced him and his men to desist.  So that was the situation in the land.
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Published on March 03, 2014 07:35 • 52 views