Edward the Black Prince. The last hero of English chivalry.

Edward of Woodstock, named after his birthplace, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, known as The Black Prince, but actually Edward Plantagenet; KG (June 15, 1330 in Woodstock, Oxfordshire; – June 8, 1376 in the Palace of Westminster, Middlesex) was the eldest of the seven sons of King Edward III and Queen Philippa and thus future heir to the throne. He was also the father of the future King Richard II. He was named after the English kings Edward I (great-grandfather), Edward II (grandfather) and Edward III (father).

Edward of Woodstock is best known today by his nickname, the Black Prince. Whether he already bore this name during his lifetime is not verifiable. In written sources, the name Black Prince is only mentioned about 160 years after his death in records of the librarian John Leland from the 1530s to the early 1540s. The origin of the name is equally unclear, and many theories are discussed. The name probably goes back to his coat of arms and armour, which are said to have been black in colour and parts of which can still be seen today in Canterbury Cathedral, but it is also not certain that Edward wore black armour during his lifetime. According to other opinions, the name goes back to Edward’s reputation as a brutal army commander, especially in the capture of Limoges. On the other hand, he was known by both friend and foe for his chivalrous character.

Edward, Black Prince, Plantagenet, England, Knight,
Edward the Black Prince (Plantagenet)


EDWARD THE BLACK PRINCE. (15 June 1330 – 8 June 1376).


THE last hero of English chivalry with whom we have to do is Edward the Black Prince. And as the most characteristic part of the knighthood of this most knightly of English princes, we have selected the battles of Crecy and of Poitiers.


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

Edward the Black Prince (1330-76); son of Edward III (1327-77).

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 anyway 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.” There were about fifteen thousand Genoese cross-bowmen, but they were quite fatigued, having marched on foot that day six leagues, completely armed and with their cross-bows. They told the constable 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 of 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 Englishmen 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 they remained quite still, and did not seem to attend to it. Then they 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, heads, and through their armour, 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, richly dressed, 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 above-mentioned 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 that they could never rally again. The valiant king of Bohemia was slain there. He was called Charles of Luxembourg, for he was the son of the gallant king and emperor, Henry of Luxembourg. Having heard the order of the battle, he inquired where his son, the lord Charles, 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 of you to lead me so far into the engagement that I may strike one stroke with my sword.” The knights replied 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, that he might gratify his wish, and advanced towards the enemy. The lord Charles of Bohemia, who already signed his name as king of Germany, and bore the arms, had come in good order to the engagement; but when he perceived that it was likely to turn against the French, he departed, and I do not well know what road he took. The king, his father, had rode in among the enemy, and made good use of his sword, for he and his companions had fought most gallantly. They had advanced so far that they were all slain; and on the morrow they were found on the ground, with their horses all tied together.

The earl of Alençon advanced in regular order upon the English to fight with them, as did the earl of Flanders in another part. These two lords, with their detachments, coasting, as it were, the archers, came to the prince’s battalion, where they fought valiantly for a length of time. The king of France was eager to march to the place where, he saw their banners displayed, but there was a hedge of archers before him. He had that day made a present of a handsome black horse to Sir John of Hainault, who had mounted on it a knight of his that bore his banner, which horse ran off with him and forced his way through the English army, and, when about to return, stumbled and fell into a ditch and severely wounded him. He would have been dead if his page had not followed him round the battalions and found him unable to rise. He had not, however, any other hindrance than from his horse; for the English did not quit the ranks that day to make prisoners, The page alighted, and raised him up; but he did not return the way he came, as he would have found it difficult from the crowd.

This battle, which was fought on a Saturday between la Broyes and Crecy, was very murderous and cruel; and many gallant deeds of arms were performed that were never known. Towards evening, many knights and squires of the French had lost their masters. They wandered up and down the plain, attacking the English in small parties. They were soon destroyed, for the English had determined that day to give no quarter, or hear of ransom from any one.

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, the lord Stafford, the lord Reginald Cobham, and the others who are about your son, are vigorously attacked by the French; and they entreat that you would 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 entrusted him.” The knight returned to his lords, and related the king’s answer, which mightily encouraged them, and made them repent they 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 whilst you have an opportunity, and do not expose yourself so simply; 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, for he had before entreated him to retire. 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 only with him five barons, Sir John of Hainault and four more. 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 any one, but remained an 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 honour to the king, his father. The English during the night made frequent thanksgiving to the Lord for the happy issue of the day, and without rioting; for the king had forbidden all riot or noise.

At Crecy the Black Prince won his spurs, but the great achievement of his life was his victory at Poitiers,- a battle fought by him alone with his army, when his father, Edward III., was absent from France in England. At the peace of Bretagne, agreed upon after the battle, several provinces were ceded by France to England, and these Edward added to his dominions in Guienne, and formed for himself a separate kingdom, which he ruled until his death. He never came to the throne of England; his son, Richard II., succeeded Edward III.


On Sunday morning, the king of France, who was very impatient to combat the English, ordered a solemn mass to be sung in his pavilion, and he and his four sons received the communion. Mass being over, there came to him many barons of France, as well as other great lords who held fiefs in the neighbourhood, according to a summons they had received for a council. They were a considerable time debating; at last it was ordered that the whole army should advance into the plain, and that each lord should display his banner, and push forward in the name of God and St. Denis. Upon this the trumpets of the army sounded, and every one got himself ready, mounted his horse, and made for that part of the plain where the king’s banner was fluttering in the wind. There might be seen all the nobility of France, richly dressed out in brilliant armour, with banners and pennons gallantly displayed; for all the flower of the French nobility was there; no knight nor squire, for fear of dishonour, dared to remain at home. By the advice of the constable and the marshals, the army was divided into three battalions, each consisting of sixteen thousand men-at-arms, who had before shown themselves men of tried courage. The duke of Orleans commanded the first battalion, where there were thirty-six banners and twice as many pennons. The second was under command of the duke of Normandy, and his two brothers, the lord Lewis and lord John. The king of France commanded the third.

Whilst these battalions were forming, the king called to him the lord Eustace de Ribeaumont, the lord John de Landas, and the lord Guiscard de Beaujeu, and said to them, “Ride forward as near the English army as you can, and observe their countenance, taking notice of their numbers, and examine which will be the most advantageous manner to combat them, whether on horseback or on foot.” The three knights left the king to obey his commands. The king was mounted on a white palfrey, and, riding to the head of his army, said aloud, “You men of Paris, Chartres, Rouen, and Orleans, have been used to threaten what you would do to the English if you could find them, and wished much to meet them in arms; now that wish shall be granted. I will lead you to them, and let us see how you will revenge yourselves for all the mischief and damage they have done you. Be assured we will not part without fighting.” Those who heard him replied, “Sir, through God’s assistance we will most cheerfully meet them.”

At this instant the three knights returned, and pushing through the crowd, came to the king, who asked what news they had brought. Sir Eustace de Ribeaumont, whom his companions had requested to be their spokesman, answered, “Sir, we have observed accurately the English; they may amount, according to our estimate, to about two thousand men-at-arms, four thousand archers, and fifteen hundred footmen. They are in a very strong position; but we do not imagine they can make more than one battalion; nevertheless, they have posted themselves with great judgment, have fortified all the road along the hedge side, and lined the hedges with part of their archers; for, as that is the only road for an attack, one must pass through the midst of them. This lane has no other entry; for it is so narrow, that scarcely can four men ride abreast in it. At the end of this lane, amidst vines and thorns, where it is impossible to ride or march in any regular order, are posted the men-at-arms on foot; and they have drawn up before them their archers in the manner of a harrow, so that it will be no easy matter to defeat them.” The king asked in what manner they would advise him to attack them. “Sir,” replied Sir Eustace, “on foot; except three hundred of the most expert, to break, if possible, this body of archers; and then your battalions must advance quickly on foot, attack the men-at-arms hand to hand, and combat them valiantly. This is the best advice that I can give you, and if any one know a better, let him say it.” The king replied, “Thus shall it be, then.” And, in company with his two marshals, he rode from battalion to battalion, and selected, in conformity to their opinions, three hundred knights and squires of the greatest repute in his army, each well armed, and mounted on the best of horses. Soon after, the battalion of the Germans was formed, who were to remain on horseback, to assist the marshals; they were commanded by the earls of Salzburg, Neydo, and Nassau. King John was armed in royal armour, and nineteen others like him.

When the battalions of the king of France were drawn up, and each lord posted under his proper banner, and informed how they were to act, it was ordered that all those who were armed with lances should shorten them to the length of five feet, that they might be the more manageable, and that every one should take off his spurs. As the French were on the point of marching to their enemies, the cardinal of Perigord, who had left Poitiers that morning early, came full gallop to the king, making him a low reverence, and entreated him that he might be allowed to go to the prince of Wales, to endeavour to make peace between him and the king of France. The king answered, “It is very agreeable to us; but make haste back again.”

So then the cardinal set off, and went in all speed to the prince; but though he spent all this Sunday in riding from one army to another, he could not make terms which were thought honorable alike by the king and by the prince of Wales. That same day, the French kept in their quarters, where they lived at their ease, having plenty of provisions; whilst the English, on the other hand, were but badly off, nor did they know whither to go for forage, as they were so straitly kept by the French they could not move without danger. This Sunday they made many mounds and ditches round where the archers were posted, the better to secure them.

On Monday morning the prince and his army were soon in readiness, and as well arranged as on the former day. The French were also drawn out by sunrise. The cardinal, returning again that morning, imagined that by his exhortations he could pacify both parties; but the French told him to return when he pleased, and not attempt bringing them any more treaties or pacifications, else worse might betide him. When the cardinal saw that he laboured in vain, he took leave of the king of France, and set out towards the prince of Wales, to whom he said, “Fair son, exert yourself as much as possible, for there must be a battle; I cannot by any means pacify the king of France.” The prince replied, “that such were the intentions of him and his army; and God defend the right.” The cardinal then took leave of him, and returned to Poitiers.

The arrangement of the prince’s army, in respect to the battalions, was exactly the same as what the three knights before named had related to the king of France, except that at this time he had ordered some valiant and intelligent knights to remain on horseback, similar to the battalion of the French marshals, and had also commanded three hundred men-at-arms, and as many archers on horseback, to post themselves on the right, on a small hill, that was not too steep nor too high, and, by passing over its summit, to get round the wings of the duke of Normandy’s battalions, who was in person at the foot of it. These were all the alterations the prince had made in his order of battle; he himself was with the main body, in the midst of the vineyards, the whole completely armed, with their horses near, if there should be any occasion for them. They had fortified and inclosed the weaker parts with their wagons and baggage.

And when the prince of Wales saw, from the departure of the cardinal without being able to obtain any honorable terms, that a battle was inevitable, and that the king of France held both him and his army in great contempt, he thus addressed himself to them: “Now, my gallant fellows, what though we be a small body when compared to the army of our enemies; do not let us be cast down on that account, for victory does not always follow numbers, but where the Almighty God pleases to bestow it. If, through good fortune, the day shall be ours, we will gain the greatest honour and glory in this world; if the contrary should happen, and we be slain, I have a father and beloved brethren alive, and you all have some relations or good friends, who will be sure to revenge our deaths. I therefore entreat of you to exert yourselves, and combat manfully; for, if it please God and St. George, you shall see me this day act like a true knight.” By such words and arguments as these the prince harangued his men, as did the marshals, by his orders, so that they were all in high spirits. Sir John Chandos placed himself near the prince, to guard and advise him; and never, during the day, would he, on any account, quit his post.

The lord James Audley remained also a considerable time near him; but, when he saw that they must certainly engage, he said to the prince: “Sir, I have ever served most loyally my lord your father, and yourself, and shall continue so to do as long as I have life. Dear sir, I must now acquaint you that formerly I made a vow, if ever I should be engaged in any battle where the king, your father, or any of his sons were, that I would be the foremost in the attack, and the best combatant on his side, or die in the attempt. I beg, therefore, most earnestly, as a reward for any services I may have done, that you would grant me permission honourably to quit you, that I may post myself in such wise to accomplish my vow.” The prince granted this request, and, holding out his hand to him, said: “Sir James, God grant that this day you may shine in valour above all other knights.” The knight then set off, and posted himself at the front of the battalion, with only four squires whom he had detained with him to guard his person. The lord James was a prudent and valiant knight; and by his advice the army had thus been drawn up in order of battle. The lord James began to advance, in order to fight with the battalion of the marshals. Sir Eustace d’Ambreticourt, being mounted, placed his lance in its rest, and, fixing his shield, struck spurs into his horse and galloped up to this battalion. A German knight, perceiving Sir Eustace quit his army, left his battalion that was under the command of earl John of Nassau, and made up to him. The shock of their meeting was so violent that they both fell to the ground. The German was wounded in the shoulder, so that he could not rise again so nimbly as Sir Eustace, who, when upon his legs, after he had taken breath, was hastening to the knight that lay on the ground; but five German men-at-arms came upon him, struck him down, and made him prisoner. They led him to those that were attached to the earl of Nassau, who did not pay much attention to him, nor do I know if they made him swear himself their prisoner; but they tied him to a car with some of their harness.

The engagement now began on both sides, and the battalion of the marshals was advancing before those who were intended to break the battalion of the archers, and had entered the lane where the hedges on both sides were lined by the archers, who, as soon as they saw them fairly entered, began shooting with their bows in such an excellent manner from each side of the hedge, that the horses, smarting under the pain of the wounds made by their bearded arrows, would not advance, but turned about, and, by their unruliness, threw their masters, who could not manage them; nor could those that had fallen get up again for the confusion, so that this battalion of the marshals could never approach that of the prince. However, there were some knights and squires so well mounted, that by the strength of their horses they passed through and broke the hedge, but, in spite of their efforts, could not get up to the battalion of the prince. The lord James Audley, attended by his four squires, had placed himself, sword in hand, in front of this battalion much before the rest, and was performing wonders. He had advanced through his eagerness so far that he engaged the lord Arnold d’Andreghen, marshal of France, under his banner when they fought a considerable time, and the lord Arnold was roughly enough treated. The battalion of the marshals was soon after put to the rout by the arrows of the archers and the assistance of the men-at-arms, who rushed among them as they were struck down and seized and slew them at their pleasure. The lord Arnold d’Andreghen was there made prisoner, but by others than the lord James Audley or his four squires, for that knight never stopped to make any one his prisoner that day, but was the whole time employed in fighting and following his enemies. In another part, the lord John Clermont fought under his banner as long as he was able, but being struck down, he could neither get up again nor procure his ransom; he was killed on the spot. In a short time this battalion of the marshals was totally discomfited; for they fell back so much on each other that the army could not advance, and those who were in the rear, not being able to get forward, fell back upon the battalion commanded by the duke of Normandy, which was broad and thick in the front, but it was soon thin enough in the rear; for when they learnt that the marshals had been defeated, they mounted their horses and set off. At this time a body of English came down from the hill, and, passing along the battalions on horseback, accompanied by a large body of archers, fell upon one of the wings of the duke of Normandy’s division. To say the truth, the English archers were of infinite service to their army, for they shot so thickly and so well that the French did not know what way to turn themselves to avoid their arrows. By this means they kept advancing by little and little and gained ground. When the English men-at-arms perceived that the first battalion was beaten, and that the one under the duke of Normandy was in disorder and beginning to open, they hastened to mount their horses, which they had ready prepared close at hand. As soon as they were all mounted, they gave a shout of “St. George for Guienne!” and Sir John Chandos said to the prince, “Sir, sir, now push forward, for the day is ours. God will this day put it in your hand. Let us make for our adversary, the king of France; for where he is will lie the main stress of the business. I well know that his valor will not let him fly; and he will remain with us, if it please God and St. George; but he must be well fought with, and you have before said that you would show yourself this day a good knight.” The prince replied: “John, get forward; you shall not see me turn my back this day, but I will always be among the foremost.” He then said to Sir Walter Woodland, his banner-bearer, “Banner, advance, in the name of God and St. George.” The knight obeyed the commands of the prince; and the prince upon this charged the division of the duke of Athens, and very sharp the encounter was, so that many were beaten down. The French, who fought in large bodies, cried out, “Montjoye St. Denis!” and the English answered them with “St. George for Guienne!” The prince next met the battalion of Germans under command of the earl of Salzburg, the earl of Nassau, and the earl of Neydo; but they were soon overthrown and put to flight. The English archers shot so well that none dared to come within reach of their arrows, and they put to death many who could not ransom themselves. Then the above-named earls were slain there, as well as many other knights and squires attached to them. In the confusion, Sir Eustace d’Ambreticourt was rescued by his own men, who remounted him. He afterwards performed many gallant deeds of arms, and made good captures that day.

When the battalion of the duke of Normandy saw the prince advancing so quick upon them, they bethought themselves how to escape. The sons of the king, the duke of Normandy, the earl of Poitiers, and the earl of Touraine, who were very young, too easily believed what those under whose management they were placed said to them. However, the lord Guiscard d’Angle and Sir John de Saintre, who were near the earl of Poitiers, would not fly, but rushed into the thickest of the combat. The three sons of the king, according to the advice given them, galloped away, with upwards of eighty lances who had never been near the enemy, and took the road to Chavigny.

Now the king’s battalion advanced in good order to meet the English; many hard blows were given with swords, battle-axes, and other warlike weapons. The king of France, with the lord Philip, his youngest son, attacked the division of the marshals, the earls of Warwick and Suffolk, and in this combat were engaged many very noble lords on both sides.

The lord James Audley, with the assistance of his four squires, was always engaged in the heat of the battle. He was severely wounded in the body, head, and face; and as long as his breath permitted him, he maintained the fight and advanced forward. He continued to do so until he was covered with blood. Then, toward the close of the engagement, his four squires, who were his body guard, took him, and led him out of the engagement, very weak and wounded, towards a hedge, that he might cool and take breath. They disarmed him as gently as they could, in order to examine his wounds, dress them, and sew up the most serious.

It often happens that fortune in war and love turns out more favourable and wonderful than could have been hoped for or expected. To say the truth, this battle, which was fought near Poitiers, in the plains of Beauvoir and Maupertuis, was very bloody and perilous. Many gallant deeds of arms were performed that were never known, and the combatants on either side suffered much. King John himself did wonders. He was armed with a battle-axe, with which he fought and defended himself; and if a fourth of his people had behaved as well the day would have been his own. The earl of Tancarville, in endeavouring to break through the crowd, was made prisoner close to him, as were also Sir James de Bourbon, earl of Ponthieu, and the lord John d’Artois, earl of Eu. The pursuit continued even to the gates of Poitiers, where there was much slaughter and overthrow of men and horses; for the inhabitants of Poitiers had shut their gates and would suffer none to enter; upon which account there was great butchery on the causeway before the gate, where such numbers were killed or wounded that several surrendered themselves the moment they spied an Englishman; and there were many English archers who had four, five, or six prisoners.

There was much pressing at this time through eagerness to take the king; and those who were nearest to him and knew him, cried out, “Surrender yourself, surrender yourself, or you are a dead man.” In that part of the field was a young knight from St. Omer, who was engaged by a salary in the service of the king of England. His name was Denys de Morbeque, who for five years had attached himself to the English on account of having been banished in his younger days from France for a murder committed in an affray at St. Omer. It fortunately happened for this knight that he was at the time near to the king of France when he was so much pulled about. He by dint of force, for he was very strong and robust, pushed through the crowd, and said to the king in very good French, “Sire, sire, surrender yourself.” The king, who found himself very disagreeably situated, turning to him, asked, “To whom shall I surrender myself; to whom? Where is my cousin, the prince of Wales? if I could see him I would speak to him.” “Sire,” replied Sir Denys, “he is not here; but surrender yourself to me and I will lead you to him.” “Who are you?” said the king. “Sire, I am Denys de Morbeque, a knight from Artois, but I serve the king of England because I cannot belong to France, having forfeited all I possess there.” The king then gave him his right-hand glove, and said, “I surrender myself to you.” There was much crowding and pushing about, for every one was eager to cry out, “I have taken him.” Neither the king nor his youngest son Philip were able to get forward, and free themselves from the throng.

The prince of Wales, who was as courageous as a lion, took great delight that day to combat his enemies. Sir John Chandos, who was near his person and had never quitted it during the whole of the day, nor stopped to take any prisoners, said to him toward the end of the battle, “Sir, it will be proper for you to halt here and plant your banner on the top of this bush, which will serve to rally your forces that seem very much scattered; for I do not see any banners or pennons of the French, nor any considerable bodies able to rally against us; and you must refresh yourself a little, as I perceive you are very much heated.” Upon this, the banner of the prince was placed on a high bush; the minstrels began to play, and trumpets and clarions to do their duty. The prince took off his helmet, and the knights attendant on his person and belonging to his chamber were soon ready, and pitched a small pavilion of crimson color, which the prince entered. Liquor was then brought to him and the other knights who were with him. They increased every moment; for they were returning from the pursuit, and stopped there, surrounded by their prisoners.

As soon as the two marshals were come back, the prince asked them if they knew anything of the king of France. They replied, “No, sir, not for a certainty; but we believe he must be either killed or taken prisoner, since he has never quitted his battalion.” The prince then, addressing the earl of Warwick and lord Cobham, said, “I beg of you to mount your horses and ride over the field, so that on your return you may bring me some certain intelligence of him.” The two barons, immediately mounting their horses, left the prince and made for a small hillock, that they might look about them. From their stand they perceived a crowd of men-at-arms on foot, who were advancing very slowly. The king of France was in the midst of them, and in great danger; for the French and Gascons had taken him from Sir Denys de Morbeque and were disputing who should have him, the stoutest bawling out, “It is I who have got him.” “No, no,” replied the others, “we have him.” The king to escape his peril, said, “Gentlemen, gentlemen, I pray you conduct me and my son in a courteous manner to my cousin the prince; and do not make such a riot over my capture, for I am so great a lord that I can make all sufficiently rich.” These words, and others which fell from the king, appeased them a little, but the disputes were always beginning again, and they did not move a step without rioting. When the two barons saw this troop of people, they descended from the hillock, and, sticking spurs into their horses, made up to them. On their arrival, they asked what was the matter. They were answered that it was the king of France, who had been made prisoner, and that upwards of ten knights and squires challenged him at the same time as belonging to each of them. The two barons then pushed through the crowd by main force and ordered all to draw aside. They commanded, in the name of the prince and under pain of instant death, that every one should keep his distance, and not approach unless ordered or desired so to do. They all retreated behind the king; and the two barons, dismounting, advanced to the king with profound reverence, and conducted him in a peaceable manner to the prince of Wales.

Soon after the earl of Warwick and the lord Reginald Cobham had left the prince, as has been above related, he inquired from those knights around him of lord James Audley, and asked if any one knew what was become of him. “Yes, sir,” replied some of the company, “he is very badly wounded, and is lying in a litter hard by.” “By my troth,” replied the prince, “I am sore vexed that he is so wounded. See, I beg of you, if he be able to bear being carried hither; otherwise I will come and visit him.” Two knights directly left the prince, and, coming to lord James, told him how desirous the prince was of seeing him. “A thousand thanks to the prince,” answered Lord James, “for condescending to remember so poor a knight as myself.” He then called eight of his servants and had himself borne in his litter to where the prince was. When he was come into his presence, the prince bent down over him and embraced him, saying, “My lord James, I am bound to honor you very much, for by your valor this day you have acquired glory and renown above us all, and your prowess has proved you the bravest knight.” Lord James replied, “My lord, you have a right to say whatever you please, but I wish it were as you have said. If I have this day been forward to serve you it has been to accomplish a vow that I had made, and ought not to be so much thought of.” “Sir James,” answered the prince, “I and all the rest of us deem you the bravest knight on our side in this battle; and to increase your renown and furnish you withal to pursue your career of glory in war, I retain you henceforward forever as my knight, with five hundred marcs of yearly revenue, which I will secure to you from my estates in England.” “Sir,” said lord James, “God make me deserving of the good fortune you bestow upon me.” At these words he took leave of the prince, as he was very weak, and his servants carried him back to his tent. He could not have been at a great distance when the earl of Warwick and lord Reginald Cobham entered the pavilion of the prince and presented the king of France to him. The prince made a very low obeisance to the king and gave him as much comfort as he was able, which he well knew how to administer. He ordered wine and spices to be brought, which he presented to the king himself, as a mark of great affection.

Thus was this battle won, as you have heard related, in the plains of Maupertuis, two leagues from the city of Poitiers, on the 19th day of September, 1356. It commenced about nine o’clock and was ended by noon; but the English were not all returned from the pursuit, and it was to recall his people that the prince had placed his banner upon a high bush. They did not return till late after vespers from pursuing the enemy. It was reported that all the flower of French knighthood was slain, and that, with the king and his son the lord Philip, seventeen earls, without counting barons, knights, or squires, were made prisoners, and from five to six thousand of all sorts left dead in the field. When they were all collected, they found they had twice as many prisoners as themselves. They therefore consulted, if, considering the risk they might run, it would not be more advisable to ransom them on the spot. This was done, and the prisoners found the English and Gascons very civil; for there were many set at liberty that day on their promise of coming to Bordeaux before Christmas to pay their ransom.

When all were returned to their banners, they retired to their camp, which was adjoining to the field of battle. Some disarmed themselves and did the same to their prisoners, to whom they showed every kindness; for whoever made any prisoners they were solely at his disposal to ransom or not, as he pleased. It may be easily supposed that all those who accompanied the prince were very rich in glory and wealth, as well by the ransoms of his prisoners as by the quantities of gold and silver plate, rich jewels, and trunks stuffed full of belts that were weighty from their gold and silver ornaments and furred mantles. They set no value on armour, tents, or other things; for the French had come there as magnificently and richly dressed as if they had been sure of gaining the victory.

When the lord James Audley was brought back to his tent after having most respectfully thanked the prince for his gift, he did not remain long before he sent for his brother, Sir Peter Audley, and some more. They were all of his relations. He then sent for his four squires that had attended upon him that day, and, addressing himself to the knights, said: “Gentlemen, it has pleased my lord the prince to give me five hundred marcs as a yearly inheritance, for which gift I have done him very trifling bodily service. You see here these four squires who have always served me most loyally, and especially in this day’s engagement. What glory I may have gained has been through their means and by their valor, on which account I wish to reward them. I therefore give and resign into their hands the gift of five hundred marcs which my lord the prince has been pleased to bestow on me, in the same form and manner that it has been presented to me. I disinherit myself of it and give it to them simply and without a possibility of revoking it.” The knights looked on each other, and said, “It is becoming the noble mind of lord James to make such a gift;” and then unanimously added: “May the Lord God remember you for it! We will bear witness of this gift to them wheresoever and whensoever they may call upon us.” They then took leave of him, when some went to the prince of Wales, who that night was to give a supper to the king of France from his own provisions; for the French had brought vast quantities with them, which were now fallen into the hands of the English, many of whom had not tasted bread for the last three days.

When evening was come, the prince of Wales gave a supper in his pavilion to the king of France and to the greater part of the princes and barons who were prisoners. The prince seated the king of France and his son the lord Philip at an elevated and well-covered table; and with them were some other French lords of high rank. The other knights and squires were placed at different tables. The prince himself served the king’s table, as well as the others, with every mark of humility, and would not sit down at it, in spite of all his entreaties for him to do so, saying that he was not worthy of such an honour, nor did it appertain to him to seat himself at the table of so great a king or of so valiant a man as he had shown himself by his actions that day. He added also, with a noble air: “Dear sir, do not make a poor meal because the Almighty God has not gratified your wishes in the event of this day; for be assured that my lord and father will show you every honour and friendship in his power, and will arrange for your ransom so reasonably that you will henceforward always remain friends. In my opinion, you have cause to be glad that the success of this battle did not turn out as you desired; for you have this day acquired such high renown for prowess that you have surpassed all the best knights on your side. I do not, dear sir, say this to flatter you, for all those of our side who have seen and observed the actions of each party have unanimously allowed this to be your due, and decree you the prize and garland for it.” At the end of this speech there were murmurs of praise heard from every one; and the French said the prince had spoken truly and nobly, and that he would be one of the most gallant princes in Christendom if God should grant him life to pursue his career of glory.


  • The age of chivalry; by Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867); Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909). Boston, S. W. Tilton & co. [etc.]; New York, C. T. Dillingham, 1884.
  • The History of England from the earliest dawn of authentic record to the ultimate ratification of the general peace at Amiens in 1802 and the Subsequent War in 1803, by George Courtney Lyttleton. Published by J. Stratford, London 1803.
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