Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the Adjoining Countries

Date: 1849

Show Summary

Chapter XXXVIII Episodes of the Hundred Years’ War

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189.

Battle of Crécy

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The English, who were drawn up in three divisions and seated on the ground, on seeing their enemies advance, rose up undauntedly and fell into their ranks. That of the Prince of Wales2 was the first to do so, whose archers were formed in the manner of a portcullis, or harrow, with the men-at-arms in the rear. The earls of Northampton and Arundel, who commanded the second division, had posted themselves in good order on his wing, to assist and succor the prince if necessary.

You must know that these kings, earls, barons, and lords of France did not advance in any regular order, but one after the other, or any way most pleasing to themselves. As soon as the king of France came in sight of the English, his blood began to boil, and he cried out to his marshals, "Order the Genoese forward, and begin the battle, in the name of God and St. Denis."1 There were about fifteen thousand Genoese crossbowmen; but they were quite fatigued, having marched on foot that day six leagues, completely armed, and with their crossbows. They told the marshals that they were not in a fit condition to do any great things that day in battle. The earl of Alençon, hearing this, said, "This is what one gets by employing such scoundrels, who fall off when there is any need for them." During this time a heavy rain fell, accompanied by thunder and a very terrible eclipse of the sun; and before this rain a great flight of crows hovered in the air over all those battalions, making a loud noise. Shortly afterwards it cleared up, and the sun shone very bright; but the Frenchmen had it in their faces, and the English in their backs.

When the Genoese were somewhat in order and approached the English, they set up a loud shout, in order to frighten them; but the latter remained quite still and did not seem to attend to it. They then set up a second shout and advanced a little forward; but the English never moved. They hooted a third time, advancing with their crossbows presented, and began to shoot. The English archers then advanced one step forward, and shot their arrows with such force and quickness that it seemed as if it snowed. When the Genoese felt these arrows, which pierced their arms and heads and through their armor, some of them cut the strings of their crossbows, others flung them on the ground, and all turned about and retreated, quite discomfited. The French had a large body of men-at-arms on horseback, to support the Genoese. The king of France, seeing them thus fall back, cried out, "Kill me those scoundrels; for they stop up our road, without any reason." You would then have seen the men-at-arms lay about them, killing all they could of these runaways.

The English continued shooting as vigorously and quickly as before. Some of their arrows fell among the horsemen, who were sumptuously equipped, and, killing and wounding many, made them caper and fall among the Genoese, so that they were in such confusion they could never rally again. In the English army there were some Cornishmen and Welshmen on foot, who had armed themselves with large knives; these, advancing through the ranks of the men-at-arms and archers, who made way for them, came upon the French when they were in this danger, and, falling upon earls, barons, knights, and squires, slew many, at which the king of England was afterwards much exasperated.1

The valiant king of Bohemia was slain there. . . . Having heard the order of the battle, he inquired where his son was; his attendants answered that they did not know, but believed he was fighting. The king said to them, "Gentlemen, you are all my people, my friends, and brethren-at-arms this day; therefore, as I am blind, I request you to lead me so far into the engagment that I may strike one stroke with my sword." The knights replied that they would directly lead him forward; and, in order that they might not lose him in the crowd, they fastened all the reins of their horses together, and put the king at their head, and advanced toward the enemy. . . . The king rode in among the enemy and made good use of his sword; for he and his companions fought most gallantly. They advanced so far that they were all slain; and on the morrow they were found on the ground, with their horses all tied together. . . .

Early in the day some French, Germans, and Savoyards had broken through the archers of the prince’s battalion and had engaged with the men-at-arms; upon which the second battalion came to his aid, and it was time, for otherwise he would have been hard pressed. The first division, seeing the danger they were in, sent a knight in great haste to the king of England, who was posted upon an eminence near a windmill. On the knight’s arrival, he said, "Sir, the earl of Warwick, Lord Stafford, Lord Reginald Cobham, and the others who are about your son, are vigorously attacked by the French; and they beg you to come to their assistance with your battalion, for, if their numbers should increase, they fear he will have too much to do." The king replied, "Is my son dead, unhorsed, or so badly wounded that he cannot support himself?" "Nothing of the sort, thank God," rejoined the knight; "but he is in so hot an engagement that he has great need of your help." The king answered, "Now, Sir Thomas, return back to those that sent you and tell them from me, not to send again for me this day, or expect that I shall come, let what will happen, as long as my son has life; and say that I command them to let the boy win his spurs; for I am determined, if it please God, that all the glory and honor of this day shall be given to him and to those into whose care I have intrusted him." The knight returned to his lords and related the king’s answer, which mightily encouraged them and made them repent they had ever sent such a message. . . .

Late after vespers, the king of France had not more about him than sixty men, every one included. Sir John of Hainault, who was of the number, had once remounted the king; for his horse had been killed under him by an arrow; he said to the king, "Sir, retreat while you have an opportunity, and do not expose yourself so needlessly; if you have lost this battle, another time you will be the conqueror." After he had said this, he took the bridle of the king’s horse, and led him off by force. The king rode on until he came to the castle of La Broyes, where he found the gates shut, for it was very dark. The king ordered the governor of it to be summoned; he came upon the battlements and asked who it was that called at such an hour? The king answered, "Open, open, governor; it is the fortune of France." The governor, hearing the king’s voice, immediately descended, opened the gate, and let down the bridge. The king and his company entered the castle; but he had with him only five barons. . . . The king would not bury himself in such a place as that, but, having taken some refreshments, set out again with his attendants about midnight, and rode on, under the direction of guides who were well acquainted with the country, until, about daybreak, he came to Amiens, where he halted.

This Saturday the English never quitted their ranks in pursuit of anyone, but remained on the field, guarding their position and defending themselves against all who attacked them. The battle was ended at the hour of vespers. When, on this Saturday night, the English heard no more hooting or shouting, nor any more crying out to particular lords or their banners, they looked upon the field as their own and their enemies as beaten. They made great fires and lighted torches because of the obscurity of the night. King Edward then came down from his post, who all that day had not put on his helmet, and with his whole battalion, advanced to the Prince of Wales, whom he embraced in his arms and kissed, and said, "Sweet son, God give you good perseverance; you are my son, for most loyally have you acquitted yourself this day; you are worthy to be a sovereign." The prince bowed down very low, and humbled himself, giving all honor to the king his father. The English, during the night, made frequent thanksgivings to the Lord for the happy issue of the day, and without rioting, for the king had forbidden all riot or noise.

1 , translated by Thomas Johnes, London, 1849.

1 Froissart, Chroniques, bk. i, pt. i, chs. 287–288, 290, 292, 294.

2 The Black Prince, as he was afterwards called, was at this time a lad of sixteen.

1 The patron saint of France.

1 The French knights, if taken prisoners, would have brought large ransoms.

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Chicago: Thomas Johnes, trans., Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the Adjoining Countries in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 394–398. Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2021, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QFVUMDNVS8HC39G.

MLA: . Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the Adjoining Countries, translted by Thomas Johnes, Vol. i, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 394–398. Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2021. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QFVUMDNVS8HC39G.

Harvard: (trans.), Froissart’s Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the Adjoining Countries. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.394–398. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2021, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QFVUMDNVS8HC39G.