By Steven Muhlberger
The Hundred Years War was a huge historical event which compelled some participants to record their experiences, heroic and horrible. How did those individual experiences get passed down? In the case of men at arms we might answer “gossip.” We know that warriors gathered in taverns, courts or camps, spreading their stories around by word of mouth, until some would-be literary man wrote them down. A surprising number survive, and they get us as close to warriors’ experience as we are likely to get.
My first tale in this series comes from The Chronicle of the Good Duke Louis. In the 1420s, Duke Louis was still remembered as a hero of the war against the English during the 1370s through the 1400, and the leader of the “Bourbon faction” during the French civil wars. His grandson, Charles Duke of Bourbon, wishing to commemorate his glorious predecessor, hired a man named Jean Cabaret to write a biography. Cabaret in turn found an old soldier, Jean de Châteaumorand, who had fought for decades beside Duke Louis and had a great memory for details of past campaigns. Châteaumorand (through Cabaret) describes both military operations and the individual achievements of his “companions.” It’s the stories of the latter that most of us find most colorful; and so did Cabaret and Châteaumorand.
For example, our first tale. Written by Cabaret in 1429, it concerns the siege of La Roche Senadoire in 1375. Like so many late medieval war stories it involved two men competing for reputation, to the point that they subordinated the war effort to their private concerns, with the full approval of their commanders:
While the Duke of Bourbon considered and examined how one could take the place, it happened that one Vespers, on the night watch, an English Gascon and one of the men of the Duke of Bourbon had words together; that Gascon was Perrot de Lignaige, and Bourbon’s man was called the Bastard of Glarains. For Lignaige had said that the Lord of Montravel, who was his prisoner, had broken his faith to him. And if he wanted to say the contrary, he should come forward, and he would fight him, or if there was anyone else there willing to dare it, he would fight him likewise.
To this the Bastard of Glarains responded, “I am neither friend nor relative of the lord of Montravel but if you have as great a talent for fighting as you appear to, tomorrow I will fight you before my lord the Duke of Bourbon. If the outcome is such that I defeat you, you will be my prisoner, and if you defeat me, I will be yours; and this you ought by no means refuse, if you have the desire to fight, for this is the life of arms.”
Concerning this the Englishman said that he would speak to Sir Robert Chennel, his captain, and that he would make his response. And the bastard of Glarains answered that he had great confidence in his most redoubtable lord, the Duke of Bourbon, that he was much to his liking, for the duke refused nothing to him which touched the Bastard’s honor. And so, for this time, the two separated. And this Perrot de Lignaige was to make a response to the Bastard of Glarains, between noon and Vespers, which he did; and he had permission from his captain to fight on the third day provided that the bastard of Glarains vouchsafed him, and sent him surety and safe conduct from the Duke of Bourbon for him and fourteen companions.
And this having been arranged, the Duke of Bourbon had the lists made and on the third day the Englishman Perrot de Lignaige came and the Duke of Bourbon receive him grandly and honorably because the thing was to be done before him. Lignaige found his beautiful tent pitched in the lists, for him to take off his armor, and to receive his companions who would come with him, and the bastard likewise, and each had his chair of honor. And when they were in their chairs they were asked if they had anything more to say, and they said no. Whereupon the heralds cried “Do your duty!”
So they joined battle and they did some fine fighting striking some blows on each other with their swords, after the throwing of lances; but the Bastard of Glarains drove back his adversary Perrot de Lignaige a good six paces in fighting with the sword and in the end the bastard threw his sword down and laid hands on Lignaige the Englishman. Holding him tight he threw him to the ground, and threw himself on him, and lifted Lignaige’s visor, and gave him three blows of the gauntlet on the face, and then the Englishman who felt himself injured and ill-used surrendered, shouting so loud that one could hear him clearly.
But nevertheless the Bastard snatched away the Englishman’s sword and was ready to kill him with it, when the Duke of Bourbon said that was enough and enough had been done. And with this, he had them removed from the place: for he did not want the Englishman to die, for the reason that all that was needful had been done in his view. Subsequently, this good deed reflected great honor on the Duke of Bourbon.
The Bastard of Glarains (from Savoy) and Perrot de Lignaige (an “English Gascon”) seem to have been rather obscure figures. Yet they were allowed to defend the honor of their respective armies. In 1381 the Bastard once again fought an English champion at the Deed of Vannes and came away victorious. I wonder if the favoritism shown to the Bastard by Duke Louis was due to a personal connection between the two men. Less is known about Perrot de Lignaige; certainly the deed recorded here did not add to his fame.
Steven Muhlberger, before his recent retirement from Nipissing University, studied and taught Late Antiquity, the history of democracy, Islamic history, and chivalry. His most recent scholarly works include the “Deeds of Arms Series” published by Freelance Academy Press.
Top Image: BNF Français 829 fol. 025r