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1388 - An english fleet lands at Marans and attacks la Rochelle - Chronicle by Froissart

Saturday 1 November 2008, by Pierre, 2158 visites.

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An episode of Hundred Years’ War in Aunis : an english fleet lands at Marans and attacks La Rochelle.

Source : Sir John Froissart’s chronicles of England, France, Spain and the adjoining countries – Thomas Johnes – Vol IX – London – 1808 – Books Google

The old french original text from Froissart : click on the french flag at the top of this article.

Le très antique château de Marans, pays d’Aunis
comme il était en 1604, vu du côté du septentrion - Rasé en 1638

 Chap. XXIX. - Perrot le Bearnois takes the field by command of the earl of Arundel, who lands his forces at Marans, near La Rochelle.

When they weighed anchor, the weather was so fine and beautiful, they hoisted every sail and advanced as it pleased God. It was a magnificent sight to view this fleet of six score vessels, whose streamers, emblazoned with the arms of the different lords, were glittering in the sun, and fluttering with the wind. They floated as it were on a sea that seemed proud to bear them, and which might be compared to a vigorous courier, who, after being long confined in the stable, gains its liberty to bound over the plains : for thus did the sea, gently ruffled by the wind, swell on with a burden it was lustily bearing, and, figuratively speaking, it may be supposed to say,—’ I delight in carrying you, and will do so without danger, until you be arrived in a safe harbour’

The fleet coasted Saintonge and Poitou, and cast anchor off Marans, near la Rochelle. Some of the mod adventurous, to the amount of two hundred, observing the tide was flowing, entered their barges, and failed up the river to the town of Marans. The watch on the cawtle had noticed the English fleet anchoring, and the barges ascending the river with the tide, and had founded his horn frequently, to alarm the townsmen, that they might save all they could of their property. The inhabitants, of both sexes, carried their most valuable things to the castle for safety; and it was well they did so, or they would have been lost. While the English were landing, they discontinued saving their property, to take care of their lives.

The English, on entering the town, began to pillage it, for this had been the object of their coming, but they only found empty coffers: their contents had been carried to the castle. They discovered, however, plenty of corn, wine and salted provisions: for there were upwards of four hundred tons of wine in the town. They resolved to remain to guard this provision, which came very opportunely to them ; for, should they depart, they imagined the greater part would be carried away by the French, up the river, to Fontenay le Comte. They remained this night in the place, having arrived there only about vespers, and gave themselves full liberty, sending, however, to inform their companions of their situation, and the reason why they did not return.

The earl of Arundel and the other lords were satisfied, and laid they had acted right. On the morrow, when the tide began to flow, the smaller vessels weighed anchor, and in them were embarked the armour and other necessaries from the large ships that, from their size, could net enter the river. There were left in, them one hundred men at arms and two hundred archers to guard them, as they lay at; anchor off the mouth of the river. When this had been done, they sailed for Marans, and landed at their leisure, for none came to oppose them, and fixed their quarters between Marans and la Rochelle, which is but four short leagues distant. The alarm was soon spread over the country that the English had landed at Marans, to the amount of four hundred combatants, including archers. The towns and castles in the low country were much frightened, and the villagers instantly fled to the neighbouring forests for protection.

 Chap. XXX. - The Rochellers skirmish with the English near Marans.—The English, after pillaging the country round, retire with their booty to their fleet.— Perrot le Bearnois does the same to his fort, with a great deal of plunder.

If the English had had horses, they would have much harrassed the country round la Rochelle; for it was void of men at arms, at least such as could have opposed them successfully. True it is, that the lords de Partenay, de Pons, de Linieres, de Tannaybouton [NDLR : Tonnay-Boutonne], sir Geoffry d’Argenton, the lord de Montendre, sir Aimery de Rochechouart, the viscount de Thouars, and many other knights and squires of Poitou and Saintonge, were in the country, but each was in his own castle ; for they had not any suspicions of the English coming to invade them.

Had they been so fortunate as to obtain notice of their intentions, they would have been prepared to receive them, but it was not so ; and the surprise was so great, that, all were frightened, and impatient to save what they could. The farmers began to hasten their harvest of corn, for it was the beginning of August. Add to this, there was not then in the country any person to take the lead. The lieutenant of Poitou, the duke of Berry, was at Montereau : the seneschal of Poitou was just gone to Paris: the seneschal of Saintonge was from home : the seneschal of la Rochelle, sir Helion de Lignac, was at Bayonne, on the business of the duke of Berry, by which the country was left defenceless ; for, from want of heads, their courage failed, and without that nothing effectual can be done.

The country was much alarmed for two causes: they had the English army and fleet on one side, and rumour had already informed them that Perrot le Bearnois was on his march, with more than fifteen hundred combatants, and had already entered Berry. They knew not what measures to adopt, except that of placing their wealth in safety; for it was said these two armies were to form a junction in Saintonge or Poitou, as was the intention of many.

There were indeed, at the time the English landed at Marans, two gallant knights from Beauce in the town of la Rochelle, sir Peter de Jouy and the lord Taillepie, whom sir Helion de Ljgnac had placed there for its defence, when he set out to meet the duke of Berry at Paris. They had acquitted themselves ably ; and on hearing that the armament under the earl of Arundel, which had been much talked of all the summer, had disembarked at Marans, they told the mayor and the principal citizens, for it is a populous place, that it would be right to beat up the English quarters, and added, “We hear they have established themselves at Marans, and lay the surrounding country under contribution : we two are determined to bid them welcome, and they shall pay us, or we will repay them for what they have done. Great blame and reproaches will fall on us, to whom has been committed the government of this town and country, if we suffer them quietly to fix their quarters there. There is one thing much in our favour : they have not any horses, and are for the most part sailors, whilst we are all well mounted. We will fend our crossbows before us, to awaken them with a shower of arrows; and, when they have made their attack, they will return homeward : the English will soon be on foot, and we will then charge them, and, by being on horseback, may do them great mischief.”

Those who heard this speech approved of it, and instantly assembled a body of twelve hundred cross-bows and varlets, including all sorts.

At the first dawn of day, they were all prepared, and set out from la Rochelle at a good pace, to beat up the quarters of the English. During this, the horse got ready, and they were about three hundred, for many knights and squires had hastened to la Rochelle on the first intelligence of the English having landed at Marans. They left the town under the command of the two knights before named.

Had the English fortunately had any suspicion of this attack from the Rochellers, and had formed an ambuscade of two hundred archers and one hundred men at arms, not one would ever have returned to la Rochelle.

When the cross-bowmen arrived at the English quarters, it was very early morn ; and lucky it was for them that the guard, who had watched all night, was retired at sun-rise. The cross-bowmen began to shoot their bolts and arrows, which passed through the huts made of boughs and leaves, to the great surprise of the English who were asleep within side on straw. Many were wounded before they discovered they were attacked by the French. When they had made each about six shots, they retreated, according to their orders, and the men at arms advanced on horseback amidst the English huts.

Knights and squires speedily left their lodgings, and drew up together; and the French captains, seeing they were preparing themselves in earnest to take the field, made after their cross-bows and infantry, who were, hastening homeward, for they were much afraid of the English arrows. Thus hurrying, and in dismay, were the Rochellers pursued, though the horse guarded the rear, to the town of la Rochelle. The earl of Arundel with upwards of four hundred men at arms was closely following, each man with his lance in his hand or on his shoulder. There was much crowding and difficulty to pass the gates; and sir Peter de Jouy and the lord Taillepié fought like valiant heroes in defending their men, keeping still on their rear, until they were come to the barriers. They were so hard pressed by the English, who were at their heels, they ran a great hazard of being flain or made prisoners; for the attack was the more vigorous against them as it was visible they were the commanders. Sir Peter de Jouy had his courser killed under him, and was with great difficulty, dragged within the barriers. Sir Peter Taillepie was pierced through the thigh with a lance, and hit by an arrow on the helmet which entered his head, and his good horse fell dead under him at the gate.

There was much slaughter made on the Rochellers re-entering the town: upwards of forty dead and wounded lay at the gates. The inhabitants had mounted the battlements, and fired so many cannons and bombards that the English dared not approach nearer.

Thus ended this skirmish between the English and Rochellers. As it was near noon, the earl of Arundel had founded the retreat, when the men at arms and archers retired in handsome array to their quarters, where they disarmed and refreshed themselves. They had wherewithal, having been amply provided with wines and meat from the surrounding country.

The English lords remained at Marans for fifteen days, waiting for deeds of arms and adventures ; but the Rochellers never ventured again to come near them, for they had found to their cost how valiantly they had defended themselves. Their two commanders were also wounded, which induced the others to wish for peace. The earl of Arundel, indeed, had sent four times parties to overrun the country round la Rochelle, and as far as Thouars, who did much mischief and terrified the inhabitants. They would have done more had they had horses ; but only a few were mounted on what they could find in the country, and these were scarce, for no sooner was the invasion known than all the inhabitants of the flat country fled with their stock and wealth to the great towns, and there shut themselves up.

When the English had remained near la Rochelle for fifteen days, without seeing any attempt made to oppose them, and the wind became fair, they embarked a great quantity of wine and fresh meat they had taken, and, having weighed anchor, put to sea. This fame day, they met twelve ships from Bayonne, on their voyage to England with Gascony wines and other merchandise. They sailed together for some time, being much rejoiced at this meeting, for they were well acquainted, and the Bayonnois gave the earl of Arundel two pipes of wine for the love they bore him. The Bayonnois then separated to continue their voyage, and the fleet kept cruising about in search of adventures.

While this armament was lying before Marans, Perrot le Bearnois and his companions had taken the field, and, having palled Limousin, had entered Berry. He had with him four hundred spears and as many pillagers, and carried off in one day all the merchandise that was in the town of le Blanc* in Berry, and gained great wealth and many prisoners, for it was fair-day. He then marched to Selles, which he plundered. Thus did Perrot le Bearnois maintain himself. He advanced far into the interior of the country, doing great mischief wherever he went, for none ventured to oppose him; and all parts were alarmed, even as far as the county of Blois and the Touraine, for they were uncertain whither these two Armies would march next. Some imagined they would unite; but it was not so, for the earl of Arundel had embarked again, as I have mentioned, and Perrot with his companions returned to their strong holds.

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