Edward III and the Triumph of England: The Battle of Crécy and the Company of the Garter

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Meanwhile, the prince was marching almost parallel to the French and at only a few miles distance from them. It is impossible to believe Froissart's statement that he was ignorant of the movements of the French. The French king had outstripped him, and his retreat was cut off by an army at least fifty thousand strong, while he had not, it is said, more than about two thousand men-at-arms, four thousand archers, and fifteen hundred light foot. When Prince Edward knew that the French army lay between him and Poitiers, he took up his position on some rising ground to the south-east of the city, between the right bank of the Miausson and the old Roman road, probably on a spot now called La Cardinerie, a farm in the commune of Beauvoir , for the name Maupertuis has long gone out of use, and remained there that night.

The prince was willing enough to come to terms, and offered to give up all the towns and castles he had conquered, to set free all his prisoners, and not to serve against the king of France for seven years, besides, it is said, offering a payment of a hundred thousand francs. King John, however, was persuaded to demand that the prince and a hundred of his knights should surrender themselves up as prisoners, and to this he would not consent. The cardinal's negotiations lasted the whole day, and were protracted in the interest of the French, for John II was anxious to give time for further reinforcements to join his army.

Considering the position in which the prince then was, it seems probable that the French might have destroyed his little army simply by hemming it in with a portion of their host, and so either starving it or forcing it to leave its strong station and fight in the open with the certainty of defeat. John II made a fatal mistake in allowing the prince the respite of Sunday; for while the negotiations were going forward he employed his army in strengthening its position.

Edward III and the Triumph of England by Richard Barber | The Sunday Times

Prince Edward drew up his men in three divisions, the first being commanded by the earls of Warwick and Suffolk, the second by himself, and the rear by Salisbury and Oxford. The French were drawn up in four divisions, one behind the other, and so lost much of the advantage of their superior numbers. In front of his first line and on either side of the narrow lane that led to his position the prince stationed his archers, who were well protected by hedges, and posted a kind of ambush of three hundred men-at-arms and three hundred mounted archers, who were to fall on the flank of the second battle of the enemy, commanded by the Charles, Duke of Normandy.

At daybreak on 19 September Prince Edward addressed his little army, and the fight began. An attempt was made by three hundred picked men-at-arms to ride through the narrow lane and force the English position, but they were shot down by the archers. A body of Germans and the first division of the army which followed were thrown into disorder; then the English force in ambush charged the second division on the flank, and as it began to waver the English men-at-arms mounted their horses, which they had kept near them, and charged down the hill.

The prince kept Chandos by his side, and his friend did him good service in the fray. As they prepared to charge he cried: "John, get forward; you shall not see me turn my back this day, but I will be ever with the foremost", and then he shouted to his banner-bearer, "Banner, advance, in the name of God and St. The prince, "who had the courage of a lion, took great delight that day in the fight".

Nearly a hundred counts, barons, and bannerets and two thousand men-at-arms, besides many others, were made prisoners, and the king and his youngest son, Philip were among those who were taken. The English losses were not large. When King John II was brought to him, the prince received him with respect, helped him to take off his armour, and entertained him and the greater part of the princes and barons who had been made prisoners at supper.

He served at the king's table and would not sit down with him, declaring that "he was not worthy to sit at table with so great a king or so valiant a man", [45] and speaking many comfortable words to him, for which the French praised him highly. At Bordeaux, which Prince Edward reached on 2 October, he was received with much rejoicing, and he and his men tarried there through the winter and wasted in festivities the immense spoil they had gathered.

On 23 March the prince concluded a two years' truce, for he wished to return home. The Gascon lords were unwilling that King John II should be carried off to England, and the prince gave them a hundred thousand crowns to silence their murmurs. He left the country under the government of four Gascon lords and arrived in England on 4 May, after a voyage of eleven days, landing at Plymouth. Judged by modern ideas the prince's show of humility appears affected, and the Florentine chronicler remarks that the honour done to King John II must have increased the misery of the captive and magnified the glory of King Edward; but this comment argues a refinement of feeling which neither Englishmen nor Frenchmen of that day had probably attained.


After his return to England Prince Edward took part in the many festivals and tournaments of his father's court, and in May he and the king and other challengers held the lists at a joust proclaimed at London by the mayor and sheriff's, and, to the great delight of the citizens, the king appeared as the mayor and the prince as the senior sheriff. In October Prince Edward sailed with his father to Calais, and led a division of the army during the Reims Campaign — At its close he took the principal part on the English side in negotiating the treaty of Bretigny , and the preliminary truce arranged at Chartres on 7 May was drawn up by proctors acting in his name and the name of Charles, Duke of Normandy, the regent of France.

As, however, the stipulated instalment of the king's ransom was not ready, he returned to England, leaving John in charge of Sir Walter Manny and three other knights. He rode with John to Boulogne, where he made his offering in the Church of the Virgin. He returned with King Edward to England at the beginning of November. On 10 October the prince, now in his 31st year, married his cousin Joan, Countess of Kent, daughter of Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent , younger son of Edward I , and Margaret , daughter of Philip III of France , and widow of Thomas lord Holland , and in right of his wife Earl of Kent, then in her thirty-third year, and the mother of three children.

As the prince and the countess were related in the third degree, and also by the spiritual tie of sponsorship, the prince being godfather to Joan's elder son Thomas , a dispensation was obtained for their marriage from Pope Innocent VI , though they appear to have been contracted before it was applied for.

According to Jean Froissart the contract of marriage the engagement was entered into without the knowledge of the king. On 19 July his father, Edward III granted Prince Edward all his dominions in Aquitaine and Gascony, to be held as a principality by liege homage on payment of an ounce of gold each year, together with the title of Prince of Aquitaine and Gascony.

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At La Rochelle the prince was met by John Chandos, the king's lieutenant, and proceeded with him to Poitiers, where he received the homage of the lords of Poitou and Saintonge ; he then rode to various cities and at last came to Bordeaux, where from 9 to 30 July he received the homage of the lords of Gascony. The prince appointed Chandos constable of Guyenne , and provided the knights of his household with profitable offices.

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They kept much state, and their extravagance displeased the people. Arnaud Amanieu, Lord of Albret and many more were always ready to give what help they could to the French cause, and Gaston, Count of Foix , though he visited the prince on his first arrival, was thoroughly French at heart, and gave some trouble in by refusing to do homage for Bearn.

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In April the prince mediated between the Counts of Foix and Armagnac, who had for a long time been at war with each other. He also attempted in the following February to mediate between Charles of Blois and John of Montfort, the rival competitors for the Duchy of Brittany. Both appeared before him at Poitiers, but his mediation was unsuccessful. At the same time he and his lords excused themselves from assuming the cross.

15.01.25, Barber, Edward III

During the summer the lord of Albret was at Paris, and his forces and several other Gascon lords held the French cause in Normandy against the party of Navarre. Meanwhile war was renewed in Brittany; the prince allowed Chandos to raise and lead a force to succour the party of Montfort, and Chandos won the Battle of Auray 29 September against the French. As the leaders of the free companies which desolated France were for the most part Englishmen or Gascons, they did not ravage Aquitaine, and the prince was suspected, probably not without cause, of encouraging, or at least of taking no pains to discourage, their proceedings.

Peter, who was in alliance with Edward III, sent messengers to Prince Edward asking his help, and on receiving a gracious answer at Corunna , set out at once, and arrived at Bayonne with his son and his three daughters. The prince met him at Capbreton , and rode with him to Bordeaux. Many of the prince's lords, both English and Gascon, were unwilling that he should espouse Peter's cause, but he declared that it was not fitting that a bastard should inherit a kingdom, or drive out his lawfully born brother, and that no king or king's son ought to suffer such disrespect to royalty; nor could any turn him from his determination to restore the king.

Peter won friends by declaring that he would make Edward's son king of Galicia, and would divide his riches among those who helped him. A parliament was held at Bordeaux, in which it was decided to ask the wishes of the English king. Edward replied that it was right that his son should help Peter, and the prince held another parliament at which the king's letter was read.

Then the lords agreed to give their help, provided that their pay was secured to them. In order to give them the required security, the prince agreed to lend Peter whatever money was necessary. The prince and Peter then held a conference with Charles of Navarre at Bayonne, and agreed with him to allow their troops to pass through his dominions. In order to persuade him to do this, Peter had, besides other grants, to pay him 56, florins, and this sum was lent him by the prince. He consented to leave his three daughters in the prince's hands as hostages for the fulfilment of these terms, and further agreed that whenever the king, the prince, or their heirs, the king of England, should march in person against the Moors, they should have the command of the van before all other Christian kings, and that if they were not present the banner of the king of England should be carried in the van side by side with the banner of Castile.

The prince received a hundred thousand francs from his father out of the ransom of John II, the late king of France, [66] and broke up his plate to help to pay the soldiers he was taking into his pay. Prince Edward left Bordeaux early in February , and joined his army at Dax , where he remained three days, and received a reinforcement of four hundred men-at-arms and four hundred archers sent out by his father under his brother John, duke of Lancaster.

From Pamplona the prince marched by Arruiz to Salvatierra , which opened its gates to his army, and thence advanced to Vitoria , intending to march on Burgos by this direct route. During these movements the prince's army had suffered from want of provisions both for men and horses, and from wet and windy weather. On 30 March the prince wrote an answer to Henry's letter. Letters passed between Henry and the prince, for Henry seems to have been anxious to make terms. He declared that Peter was a tyrant, and had shed much innocent blood, to which the prince replied that the king had told him that all the persons he had slain were traitors.

On the morning of the 3 April the prince's army marched from Navarrete, and all dismounted while they were yet some distance from Henry's army. The vanguard, in which were three thousand men-at-arms, both English and Bretons, was led by Lancaster, Chandos, Calveley, and Clisson; the right division was commanded by Armagnac and other Gascon lords; the left, in which some German mercenaries marched with the Gascons, by the Jean, Captal de Buch and the Count of Foix; and the rear or main battle by the prince, with three thousand lances, and with the prince was Peter and, a little on his right, the dethroned James of Majorca and his company; the numbers, however, are scarcely to be depended on.

Then, after telling Peter that he should know that day whether he should have his kingdom or not, he cried: "Advance, banner, in the name of God and St. George; and God defend our right". Then the prince brought the main body of his army into action, and the fight became hot, for he had under him "the flower of chivalry, and the most famous warriors in the whole world".

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When the battle was over the prince asked Peter to spare the lives of those who had offended him. Peter assented, with the exception of one notorious traitor, whom he at once put to death; and he also had two others slain the next day. Among the prisoners was the French marshal Arnoul d'Audrehem , whom the prince had formerly taken prisoner at Poitiers, and whom he had released on d'Audrehem giving his word that he would not bear arms against the prince until his ransom was paid. When the prince saw him he reproached him bitterly, and called him "liar and traitor".