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that he would on his side cut off supplies by land. John was thus occupied with the defence of the marches when the news came that Arthur of Brittany had again stirred up rebellion in Touraine, and was besieging his grandmother, Eleanor, in the fortress of Mirebeau, on the way from Angers to Poitiers.
Both kings had from the first realised the value of Arthur. At the end of March John had summoned him to appear at Argentan during the coming Easter;1 but Philip had kept the boy by his side. In April Philip promised to give him his daughter Mary to wife;2 in July, after the capture of Gournai, he knighted him and received his homage for Brittany, Aquitaine, Anjou and Maine. It is significant that Arthur does not appear on this occasion as count of Touraine: Philip doubtless hoped to keep this for himself. With two hundred knights and a large sum of money the
duke was sent off to win his possessions. At Tours he was joined by the Lusignans, Andrew of Chauvigni, Raymond of Thouars, Savari of Mauléon and many other great men of Poitou. His sister Eleanor was also with him. The old queen was still living, in bad health, at Fontevrault: apparently she was on her way to Poitiers, when she was caught by Arthur's forces, a thousand or so in number, at Mirebeau. This was in the last days of July, just when John, perhaps suspicious of Arthur's movements, was moving from place to place on the southern frontier of Normandy, and then, on receiving a definite warning from William des Roches had come to Le Mans. It was there, on 30 July, that he heard of the siege of Mirebeau; and, rushing to the rescue with amazing speed, he and the seneschal reached the spot on the night of the 31st. Eleanor had been
1. Rot. Pat., 7b.
driven from every part of the castle but the keep, and her persecutors had secured themselves by blocking up all the gates save one. They were surprised early in the morning, and after a fierce fight all were captured. One of John's companions, William of Briouze, secured Arthur and handed him over to the king. The anonymous poet of Béthune describes the scene with much vigour. We can see William des Roches attacking the gate at dawn, the fierce assault of John and his mercenaries on the unprepared knights in the narrow street. Geoffrey of Lusignan, he tells us, was at breakfast when the attack came; but refused to move from his lodgings until he had finished a dish of pigeons. The prisoners were manacled and sent off in carts, some to England, some to the chief places in Normandy. Elaborate precautions were taken to prevent their escape. 3
The news of this disaster forced Philip to retire from Arques; he had surrounded the castle with his engines and was trying to wear down the resistance of the castellan, William of Mortemer.4 He had with him the count of Eu, the third Lusignan brother, and the biographer of the Marshal relates how the count received the news of
1. Coggeshall, 137; Wendover, i, 314
2. The chief authority is John's own letter in Coggeshall, 137–8. All the chroniclers refer to the siege of Mirebeau and Arthur's disaster. The best account is in the Chronique des ducs de Normandie et rois d'Angleterre (ed. Michel), pp. 94-6.
3. For the treatment of the prisoners, over 200 knights and barons, see Hardy's introduction to the Patent Rolls, p. 10; Wendover, i, 215; Guillaume le Maréchal, iii, 169 (for the prisoners at Chinon). Richard, Comtes de Poitou, ii, 407 seqq. passim, gives from the rolls all the information about the Poitevin prisoners.
4. Guillaume le Maréchal, iii, 164. There is no other evidence that William of Mortemer was castellan during the siege. The castle and bailiwick were entrusted to him and to William Martel on December 28th (Rot. Pat., 22). William of Mortemer was to be bailiff of Caux, and Martel to have the prepositura (cf. Stapleton, II, cclx). At this time the Marshal's bailiffs were in charge of Arques.
the capture of Hugh and Geoffrey. The Marshal was at Anglesqueville, 1 a place between Arques and Rouen, where with the earl of Salisbury and the new earl Warenne, 2 he was evidently watching King Philip's movements. A monk, travelling night and day, brought the news from Mirebeau to the earls :
“ The monk,” says the Marshal's biographer, gave his message courteously, and reported the capture of Arthur, Geoffrey of Lusignan, the count of La Marche, Savari of Mauléon and the other great men who had joined Arthur. The Marshal rejoiced greatly, and said to the monk, “Take this news to the count of Eu, in the French army at Arques; it will please him." “Sire," replied the monk, “I beg you to excuse me.
If I go
there he will be so enraged that he may kill me. Send some one else."
“Make no excuses; you shall go, master monk. It is not the custom of this country to kill messengers. Off with you; you will find him in the army."
The monk made haste to Arques and gave the news from Poitou to the count of Eu. The count had expected very different tidings. He changed colour and kept silence. He went to bed very perplexed, for he did not wish to tell anyone what he had heard.3
While the count of Eu was plunged in these painful reflections, letters reached the king of France containing the bad news, and the siege was at once raised. The French army retired up the valley in good order. The Marshal and his companions, who were informed by spies
1. Meyer suggests Anglesqueville-sur-Saanes, near the Marshal's property at Longueville.
2. William, earl Warenne, succeeded his father before May 12th of this year (Rot. Pat., 10b). He was a cousin of Alice, the countess of Eu, according to Stapleton (II, ccxxxii). The king had ordered the Marshal to put him in possession of the count of Boulogne's lands at Lillebonne (Rot. Norm., 47; 4th June).
3. Guillaume le Maréchal, ii, 165–6.
of the retreat, came up with the rear of the host, but withdrew before a detachment which the king sent up a side valley with the object of cutting them off. Philip continued his march unmolested, and, infuriated by the failure of his plans, ravaged the Norman borders. As in the reign of Richard, disaster was the signal for a conflict of unsparing ferocity.
For the next few years the natural theatre of war was Anjou and Touraine. Richard had always been able to control this region, which, as we have seen more than once, was the key to the empire. John's successful negotiations in 1200 were made possible by his triumph here and in Poitou. It might have been expected that his great victory at Mirebeau would have secured his rule throughout Normandy and Aquitaine for the next few years. Arthur was a prisoner; the capture of the Lusignans and their allies had wiped out a source of disaffection in Poitou; William des Roches and the viscount of Thouars, the one the most influential baron in Anjou, the other in north-western Poitou, were on John's side. Yet now, as in 1199 the submission of Arthur was the beginning of new difficulties. William des Roches was almost at once set on one side. The seneschal had planned and carried out the attack upon Arthur and the Poitevins at Mirebeau. At the time of his defection from Arthur in 1199 he had extorted a promise from the king that his counsel in Angevin affairs should be supreme. 3 Moreover, the attack upon Arthur had been made on the understanding that the fate of the young duke should be decided in
1. Guillaume le Maréchal, iii, 166, 167.
2. The biographer of the Marshal remarked on the good order maintained by the French troops. Wendover (i, 315) and Gervase of Canterbury (ii, 94) refer to the burning of churches and villages.
3. See the account of the dramatic interview between the king and the seneschal, in Guillaume le Maréchal, iii, 167–70.
accordance with William's advice. First at Chinon, then at Le Mans, the king disregarded the seneschal's claims and paid no heed to his remonstrances against the cruelty with which the prisoners were treated. In consequence of this return for his services the seneschal, with the viscount of Thouars, deserted. 2 Aimeri of Thouars, great man though he was, played an unimportant part in the later struggle; his numerous changes of side show him to have been the weathercock of fortune.3 The actions of William des Roches, on the other hand, were the result of intelligent ambition. He had secured the counties of the Loire for John, and, if he had been trusted, might well have averted the downfall of the Angevin empire for several years; the strategic importance of the district would have made it, if well administered, the most important guarantee against the loss of Normandy. But the defection of the seneschal altered the whole situation. In spite of his efforts to build up an independent administration, John was gradually deserted by his vassals. As early as January 1203 the roads between Le Mans and Chinon were almost impassable by his agents. * The
4 officials of Aquitaine were left to raise money as best they
1. This is stated explicitly in an addition to a continuator of the Annals of St. Aubin (MS. G). William said “quod rex Johannes ei promiserat se de Arturo liberando suam facere voluntatem et consilium, et quia rex noluit, guerram movit contra eum” (Halphen, Recueil des annales angevines et vendômoises, p. 29). This continuator, of the years 1199—1206 (see Halphen, p. x), is an important authority for Angevin history during John's reign.
2. Cf. the Chronicon T'uronense magnum (Salmon, Chroniques de Touraine, i, 147).
3. He was doubtless influenced by the Johannine policy of his brother Guy. For his tergiversations, see Actes de Philippe-August, no. 742; Rot. Pat., 21; and Imbert, in Mém. de la Soc. des Antiquaires de l'Ouest, xxix (1864), 372–75.
4. Guillaume le Maréchal, iii, 172. As I point out below, M. Meyer erroneously refers this passage to October, 1202.