« PreviousContinue »
Sir Walter de Manny.
Sir Walter de Manny was by birth a foreigner and soldier of fortune, born in the archbishopric of Cambray. He attended Isabella, mother to Edward III. into England, and rapidly rose into the confidence of the young king, and became possessed* of manors in various counties. In Derbyshire he held Bretby and the neighbouring district. He was a man who had imbibed the chivalric spirit of the period. Having promised various ladies, under whose colours he had tilted with success in numerous tournaments held at the court of Edward, that their knight should be the first to enter France and to take some castle, he, on the defiance of war to Philip of France being proclaimed, rode with forty adherents, armed with spears, through Brabant and Hainault without resting, and crossing the borders of the French territories, with his pendant displayed, entered the town of Mortaigne, and marched down the High Street in open day. On arriving at the extremity, he found the gate closed, the tower garrisoned, and the populace shouting "Treason, treason!" On this, perceiving that he and his troop were in danger of being taken, he caused the wooden houses on each side the street to be set on fire, and in the confusion that ensued rode on through Condé and Valenciennes, and to a strong castle called Tiné, which he took by surprise. Committing this prize to his brother, Giles de Manny, he rode back almost wholly unattended and joined the king at Mechlin.
This expedition to Guienne, with which the most important campaign in the war of Edward for the crown of France commenced, was embarked at Southampton and landed at Bayonne, on the 6th of June, 1344. The body of the army consisted only of five hundred knights and two thousand archers. At Bourdeaux, to which the earl immediately marched, he was received by the inhabitants in solemn procession, and publicly entertained for fifteen days. He then proceeded towards Bergerac, in which town, situate on one of the main branches of the Garonne, the French were stationed, in great force. When within sight of this place, the English army halted for refreshment, and there being some complaint of the deficiency of wine, Sir Walter de Manny, who was one of the marshals of the army, said to the royal earl, "If we were good men at arms, we should drink this evening with the French officers at Bergerac." The brave earl replied, "For my part, I'll be no hinderance: taste their wine, if you will.” The rest who were present shouted out "To arms." The assault commenced as soon as they could arrive at the walls, but finding themselves resolutely opposed, orders were despatched to the boats which had accompanied them up the river, to attack the town on the other side. The town instantly surrendered, but the soldiers could not be restrained and it was given up to plunder. During the sacking of the place, a Welsh knight had the good fortune to enter the office of the receiver general of the taxes, and being astonished at the sight of so much money, he was afraid to meddle with it, thinking that none but princes or generals were entitled to so much plunder at once, as he then saw before him. He hastened to the earl of Lancaster, and informed him of the booty; and was, no doubt, very pleasingly surprised, when the noble earl told him it was all his own.
* By marriage with Margaret, daughter and heiress of Thomas de Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, and widow of John de Segrave.
After taking Bergerac, the towns of Upper Gascony surrendered to this CHAP. 11. small army of brave Englishmen one after another. They then attacked Success in the castle of Peligren, but before it could be taken, the garrison sallied out and took the earl of Oxford prisoner. That fortress was shortly carried by assault, and the earl was rescued. The town and castle of Auberoque cost them some trouble; and no sooner did it fall into their hands, than it was invested by a large re-enforcement of the French army. The young earl of Lancaster immediately sent to Hastings, earl of Pembroke, whom he had left at Bergerac, and likewise to lord Stafford, to meet him on his march, and proceeded with Sir Walter de Manny towards Auberoque. The army halted for a day at Lybourne, expecting Hastings, but the troops were impatient to engage the enemy, and the earl of Oxford, Sir Walter de Manny, Sir Richard Hastings and lord Ferrers, who commanded a company of archers from Derbyshire and Leicestershire, urged an immediate surprisal of the enemy's camp. The army marched all night, and at break of day, were within two miles of Auberoque. The men were then refreshed and the horses were turned out to graze, while a deep wood served as a temporary place of concealment. Scouts were sent out to take note of the position of the French on one side, and to look out for the arrival of Hastings on the other. All were in a state of anxious agitation; particularly as they found that the foe, who lay strongly encamped before the town, consisted of ten or twelve thousand men, while their small army, reduced by continued warfare and by placing garrisons in various towns and castles, did not muster above three hundred horsemen, armed with spears, and six hundred archers. The time advanced and no tidings arrived of the approach of the earl of Pembroke. Sir Walter Manny repeatedly swore that the brave men whom they had left in the castle of Auberoque should not fall prisoners to the French whilst he had life; and, the evening approaching, Sir Walter, no longer able to restrain his daring spirit, seized his horse, and exclaimed, “Sirs, let us leap upon our horses, and coast under the covert of this wood, till we be on the same side that joineth their encampment; and when we be there, let us put spurs to our horses and cry our cries. We shall enter while they be at supper and Defeat of not aware of us: then shall you see them so discomfited that they shall keep no array." The earl of Lancaster agreed to the bold proposition. roque. The army proceeded eagerly round the wood until they came opposite to that side of the French camp which was occupied by the men of Gascony, who had been forced into the French service, and among whom they had many friends. The leaders were regaling themselves when the cry of "A Derby! a Derby!" accompanied by a shower of arrows and a fearful onset of the knights, threw the whole camp into confusion. The tumult was increased by the conflagration of the tents, which Sir Walter Manny ordered his followers to set on fire; so that by the smoke as well as by the approach of night, the numbers of the assailants could not be discerned. The English slew, at the very onset, several hundreds. Among the numerous prisoners were the counts de Laille and de Pieregort, with other eminent noblemen. The enemy lost, in this affair, not fewer than seven thousand men. The historian Walsingham states, that among the plunder
the French at Aube
the Earl of
HISTORY AND GAZETTEER, ETC.
CHAP. 11. of Bergerac alone, was a wine pipe full of gold, which the earl of Lancaster distributed with such munificence, that warriors from all parts were induced to join his standard. He took numerous other towns and laid siege to the strong town and fortress of Montsegur, which he repeatedly assaulted during fifteen days before he became master of it. He was besieging the town of Angouleme, which occupied him a month before its surrender, when he heard of the death of his father, who had just lived long enough to be made acquainted with the glorious victories of his son, by which the whole province of Guienne was recovered to the crown of England. Such a series of successes, by so small an army, is almost without a parallel in the pages of history. The death of his father being known to the army, he was saluted, in a military manner, with the titles of honour to which he had succeeded, but he retired mournfully to his tent, lamenting aloud that he could not attend the funeral obsequies of his parent, and shortly after withdrew the remnant of his brave adherents to Bourdeaux.
END OF THE FIRST PART OF VOLUME ONE.