Du Gueselin
Posted by Admin on January 17 2013 08:52:18

Du Gueslin


Du GueslinBernard gueslin was the most famous French warrior of the fourteenth century. His career marks to some extent the decline of chivalry and the turning of knights who fought for honor into soldiers who fight for pay. He was born at the Castle of Motte Broon, near Rennes, France, about 1314_ His family was long established In Brittany. but not distinguished. So Dwelt did young Du Gueselin neglect such advantages of education as were afforded him, that he was never able to read or write. He received, however, that military training which was usually given to the nobles of his time. His disposition was wholly adverse to literary discipline, and he was continually engaged in quarrels and fights with his associates. He grew lip stout and vigorous, but so disagreeable in looks that a poet of the times says, "There was not a child so ugly from Rennes to Dinant. He was flat-nosed and black, unmannerly and slovenly." His mother said, "There never was a more unlucky boy in the world than my son. He is always getting wounded his face is always full of scars. He is constantly beating, and being beaten." Bertrand himself used to remark, "I am very ugly and shall never please the ladies; but I shall make myself feared by the enemies of my king." At the age of seventeen ~he carried oft' the prize at a tournament in Rennes, held to celebrate the marriage of Charles of Blois. He had gone to this contest without his father's knowledge, upon a horse borrowed from a miller, and afterwards obtained a more suitable steed and armor from a relative who had retired from the contest.


To such a youth the profession of arms was natural. On Gueselin followed it with great success, and in the conflict of Charles of Blois with John de Montfort, he obtained several advantages over the English in Brittany. Having no vassals of his own, he put himself at the head of a band of adventurers, won reputation by his brilliant exploits, and was made a knight. After the battle of Poitiers in 13S6, in which King John of France became the captive of the formidable Black Prince, Du Gueselin flew to the succor of the Regent Charles, heir to the throne, and aided hint to recover Melun and several other places. Shortly after the accession of Charles V. , in 1364, the gallant warrior was intrusted with the command of the royal army, and gained a victory at Cocherel over the troops of the King of Navarre, for which service he was rewarded with the office of Marshal of Normandy, and created Count de Longueville. He afterwards returned to the assistance of Charles of Blois, who was competing for the Duchy of Brittany against Montfort. Charles, rashly engagjng against his advice, was killed at the battle of Auray, and Du Gueselin, covered with wounds, was made a prisoner by the English commander, Sir John Chandos.


A great number of soldiers who were disbanded on the conclusion of peace, as well as many nobles of various nations, had united under several leaders, under the name of the grand companies," and were oppressing the country. In order to free France from these mercenaries, it was proposed to send them to the assistance of Henry de Trastamare against Peter the Cruel King of Castile. Du Guescin was ransomed for 100,000 francs, and placed at their head. He persuaded many of these adventurers, who had formerly served under his command, to accompany him to Spain in order to fight, as he said, against the Saracens. He gave them 200,000 florius, and promised that they would meet somebody on the road who would give them an equal sum. The" companies" followed him with the greatest enthusiasm. They marched on A vignon, which at that time was the residence of the Pope, who had excommunicated the companies." They now asked for absolution, and demanded 200,000 florins. The absolution was granted, but the money refused. They then commenced to ravage the environs, and even threatened the city itself. Pope Urban V., becoming thoroughly alarmed, at last paid them half the amount demanded in order to be rid of them.


Du Gueselin then led them into Spain against Peter the Critel, who was driven from his throne, while Henry was established in his place. Du Gueselin was rewarded with wealth and honors by Henry, who made him Constable of Castile, and created him Duke of Molina and count of Burgos. He now went back to France but Peter, having obtained assistance at Bourdeattx from the Black Prince, returned with a formidable army led by his ally. Du Gueselin at once hastened to the assistance of Henry, but was defeated and made prisoner at the battle of Navarretta, in I367. He remained for some time in custody at Bourdeaux, but was ransomed On the payment of 100,000 francs by his friends, the Kings of Castile and France. On his release, Du Gueselin again joined Henry against Peter the Cruel, who, in spite of the assistance given to him by the Moorish kings of Spain, was defeated and put to death, while his rival was established on the throne of Castile. On the subsequent rupture between the French and the English, Du Gueselin returned to the assistance of his own king, who in 1370 rewarded him with the high office of Constable of France. By activity and enterprise, tempered with prudence, he was successful in nearly every engagement against the English. He recovered all Poitou, Anjou, and Saintouge. He attacked Montfort, Duke of Brittany, and forced him to take refuge in England. When this Duke was afterwards restored to his dominions, and sllspicions were thrown upon the Constable as having favored him, Du Gueselin felt the calumny so deeply that he resigned his command, and resolved to retire to Spain in order to spend the remainder of his life with Henry of Trastamare, whom he had established on the throne of Castile. The King of France, however, became sensible of the injustice done him, and the Dukes of Bourbon and Anjou were sent to bring him to Court.


Du Gueselin was placed again at the head of an expedition which was ordered to the southern provinces, where the English had rallied their forces. Whilst besieging the Chateau Neuf de Rendan, in Auvergue, with his friend John de Bueil, Count of Sancerre, he was taken seriously in. Feeling the approach of death, he caused the principal officers to be summoned to his bedside and strongly exhorted them never to treat as enemies laborers, women, children and old men; at the same time ex· pressing his deep regret at not having himself always observed this rule. He expired in July, 1380, in the sixty·sixth year of his age. His body was conveyed to St. Denis with all the ceremonies used at the funeral of a sovereign, and deposited in the tomb next to that of the king. His greatest captains refused to take the sword of Constable after it had been borne by such a hero. A brave soldier, a valiant foe, Bertrand Du Gueselinn died respected by his life-long enemies, the English, and deeply mourned by his countrymen. More than five centuries have elapsed since his death ; yet he continues to be one of the most popular heroes of France.




France was nominally at peace with everybody but the internal disorder which seemed to be destroying her appeared only to increase i intensity. Most of the troops who had been serving either side in Brittany, even the English Hugh Calverly, the old chief known as the Archpriest, and a brother of the Count of Auxerre, who assumed the title of the green knight, the followers of Du Gueselin, and all those who had served the King of Navarre, went to join the companies, whose numbers were thus vastly increased, and with them their presumption also. Their chief haunt was in the rich districts in the center of France, which they called their chamber," for so large a number of them were either English, or Gascons, or men who had received English pay and felt a sort of attachment to the Prince of Wales, that they avoided the English territories in the South. Many of the" good people of the kingdom of France, Froissart tells us, murmured grievously against the King of England, because he did not interfere to compel these companies, who were popularly confounded together under the name of English, to desist from their ravages. Hardly a district of France was now free from them, and they everywhere occupied villages and mansions, out of which they had expelled the rightful inhabitants, in order to turn them into dens of plunderers.


The only hope of riddance from these fearful guests lay in drawing them into some distant expedition, and it happened at this moment that the Hungarians were engaged in fierce warfare with the Turks. The Emperor of Germany, whose own dominions were in danger if the Hungarians succumbed, proposed to take the companies into his pay and send them into Hungary, and in consequence of a treaty between the Emperor and the King of France, a considerable number of them, led by the Archpriest, began their march towards Germany. In their way, they plundered and laid waste Champagne and Lorraine; and the reports of their atrocities, which preceded them, were such that when they reached the territory of the Empire they found the whole population in arms to resist them, and met with so rough a reception that they refused to go any further. Not long afterwards, the Archpriest" was put to death by his own followers.


The first attempt to send away the companies had thus failed; but there were still two quarters in which they might be employed. The King of Cyprus, who had visited Avignon to engage the Pope and King Jean in a crusade, had returned to the East, had invaded Egypt in the autumn of this year 1365, and had taken and plundered Alexandria; but he was in want of troops to carry on the war against the infidels another side, Pedro, King of Castile, known by the title of Pedro the Cruel, had so exasperated his subjects by his tyranny that they invited to their assistance his illegitimate brother, Don Enrique, who had himself lived as an exile in Languedoc, in association with the chiefs of the companies, and now applied to the Pope and to the King of France for their assistance in inducing the companies to follow his standard. Either expedition held out hopes of rich booty; but tile difficulty consisted in finding a man capable of gaining the confidence of the companies.


Charles V. immediately fixed his eyes upon Du Gueselin, who is said to have promised, at the time he received the county of Longneville from the King, that he would take the companies out of the kingdom. But Du Gucselin was still a prisoner in the hands of the English, who demanded for bis ransom the then enormous sum of a hundred thousand francs, for the payment of which it is said that the King of France, the Pope, and Don Enrique, each contributed his share. Thus set at liberty, Du Gueselin undertook willingly the task imposed upon him, and the way in which he executed it, as told by his metrical biographer, is characteristic of the man and of the time.


Bertrand dispatched his messenger to the grand company," which had at this time its headquarters at Chiton-SurSaone, and when he arrived there he was introduced at once to the chiefs, the" Green Knight," Hugh Calverly, Matthew de Gournai another English chief, and many others, who were all seated at table, for it was their hour of dinner. It was "a very rich hostel and of much worth," which the captains occupied; "They had taken possession of it, as I heard tell, and turned out the host, and they were drinking good wine, which they had tapped for themselves." The messenger of Du Gueselin, who was known at once by his livery, was welcomed among the company, and when he demanded a safe-conduct for his lord to come and consult with them, they gave it him immediately and joyfully.


Armed with this protection, Bertrand mounted his horse, till he reached the headquarters of the "grand company." He rode into the midst of the host, and, saluting the chiefs, said: "May God have in His keeping the companions I see here ' The" companions" returned his salutation with profound respect. If God will," said he, "and you will believe me, I am now come to make you all rich in a very short time." Sir," they all cried, "you are welcome here, in good truth; we are ready to do all you please, without hesitation." Then he was presented to the knights, and Hugh Calverly, stepping forward, embraced him, and courteously addressed him by the titles of friend and companion. " Nay," said Bertrand du Gueselin, "no one is a companion of mine, unless he will do whatever I ask him." Bertrand," said Calverly, "by that God who created the world, my body shall make you good company in whatever manner you direct, and wherever you choose to go, on this side of the sea or the other, to make war upon everybody, except the Prince of Wales but I will not go against him, for I am bound by an oath, so soon as I see him, to range myself under his banner.


Bertrand then proceeded to unfold to them the object of his journey. He told them that the King of France had sent him to lead them against the Saracens in the East, or against the infidels and the renegade Pedro in Spain; told them that some of the great barons of France were ready to accompany them, and explained to them the profit and glory they would gain in either expedition, and how much better it would be to make war upon infidels and renegades, and cease persecuting and ruining their fellow-Christians. " If you agree to this," he said, "I will pay you, on the part of the King, two hundred thousand florins; I will then lead you to Avignon, where I will obtain for you the Pope's absolution of all the crimes you have committed, and make him pay you handsomely from his treasures and after that we will continue our journey together.


The great chiefs were unanimous in accepting Bertrand's offer, and they proceeded, under a safe conduct, to Paris, to complete the treaty. When this agreement was written and sealed, the twenty-five chiefs delivered up their fortresses to the king's officers, and the companions began their march along the Saone and the Rhone towards Avignon. They were joined on the way by the Marshal Arnoul d' Andeneham, and many others of the great lords of France, and King Charles gave them, as their nominal commander, the young Prince Louis of Bourbon, Count of La Marche, the son of Jacques of Bourbon, who had been slain by them in battle at Brignais but Bertrand du Gueselin had the direction of everything. When they approached Avignon, the Pope, in great alarm, sent a cardinal to learn what they wanted, with a threat of excommunication, unless they went elsewhere. He was introduced to Arnoul d' Audeneham and Bertrand du Gueselin, the farmer of whom told the cardinal that the host of the companions bad resolved to expiate their crimes by a crusade against the infidels, and that they had come to ask the Pope's absolution and to obtain from him a contribution of two hundred thousand francs in aid of the undertaking. The cardinal was ready to promise absolution, but he hesitated at the demand for money, upon which Bertrand took him aside and recommended him not to overlook this more substantial part of the demand. "I can tell you for truth," he said, "that there are a great proportion of them who care little about the absolution, but would much rather have the money. We are making honest men of them much against their wills, and we are leading them all far away from France, in order that they may no longer tyrannize over Christian people. Explain clearly to the Pope the necessity of compliance, for otherwise we cannot get them away and even when they have received the money in abundance, it will be difficult enough to keep them from mischief.


The cardinal returned to the Pope in Avignon, and told him what he had seen and heard, and how the companions were going" to save their souls. They have done in the kingdom much slaughter, and I am the bearer of their confession ; they have burnt many a monastery and many a fair castle slain women and children in great multitudes, violated maidens and dames of great name stolen and pillaged cows, horses, and poultry drunk wine without paying for it, and driven away sheep stolen with wrong and violence many a jewel, even chalices from churches, of silver, copper, and latten uttered many a speech full of blasphemy done all the most diabolical evils that could be done, more than one could enumerate in book or in song and now they cry mercy, and seek from you God's pardon, and beg you will give them true absolution." "They shall have it," said the Pope "I will give it them at once but will they thereupon qllit the country?" " No, " said the cardinal, "that they will not do, unless you give them two hundred thousand francs." "Nay," replied the Pope "it is the custom in the city of Avignon for people to give us money and abundant gifts to obtain their own absolution and these would have us absolve them and give them money, too! In truth, they are very unreasonable.


As the Pope delayed his answer, the companions began to ravage the country around with their usual ferocity, and the pontiff might see the smoke of the burning villages from the walls of his palace. He again consulted bis cardinal, who suggested to him that, as it was not right to diminish the rich hoards of the sacred treasury to distribute among such worthless people, he might raise the money by levying it as a tax upon the good city of Avignon; and, accordingly, all the inhabitants, rich or poor, were obliged to contribute their share. Bertrand, however, received secret information of this proceeding, and when the provost of Avignon came to him at Villeneuve, where he was lodged, to pay the money in the pope's name, he demanded in a tone which showed that he was not to be deceived, whether it had been taken out of the pope's own treasury. "No, sire," said the provost, "the debt has been paid by the commune of Avignon, each inhabitant contributing his part." Then said Bertrand du Gueselin, "Provost, I pledge you my faith, we will not take a penny of it as long as we live, unless it comes from the goods of the clergy take back this tax, and let it be all repaid; see that no man fall short of all he has given." Sire," exclaimed the provost, "may God give you good life you will have given the poor people great cause of joy. The Holy Father was obliged to yield; the money was taken out of the papal treasury; and. the companies continued their march towards Montpellier.


The relations of Froissart and the other writers show that the outlines of this narrative arc true. In the December of 1365, the united bands of the companies, amounting together to about thirty thousand men, crossed the Eastern Pyrenees into Catalonia, were met by Don Enrique on the way, and conducted him in triumph into Castile. Their arrival became the signal for a general revolt against Pedro, Who fled to Bayonne, while his rival was proclaimed king in his place. As soon as this easy and rapid success had been achieved, the companies, well paid for their services by the new king of Castile, took the way back to France, to the no small mortification of Charles V. and his subjects.


Fifteen hundred men-at-anus alone remained with Du Gueselin, whom Don Enrique had created Count of Trastamar and Constable of Castile while all the English and Gascons, although loaded with the gifts of Enrique, hurried to range themselves under the banners of the Prince of Wales, who had announced his intention of marching into Spain to expel Enrique and restore Pedro. The Duke of Anjou, the son of King Jean, who had broken his faith as a knight when he had escaped from his captivity, and who commanded for his ' brother Charles in Languedoc, determined to stop them. The three seneschals of Toulouse, Carcassonne, and Beaucaire, were accordingly sent wi th a force of five hundred lances and about four thousand melt, to attack a body of three thousand of the companions commanded by Perduccas d' Albret, who had entered by way of Foix into the territory of Toulouse; and they pursued and attacked them, on the 4th of August, 1366, under the walls of Montauban. The burghers of Montauban, who were subject of the Duchy of Aquitaine, which was at this time one of the English provinces, took part with the companions, who gained a complete victory, and made prisoners the three seneschals, the Count of Uzes and the Viscount of Narbonne, with about a hundred other knights, and many gentlemen and rich inhabitants of Toulouse aud Montpellier. On this occasion the companions set their prisoners at liberty on parole; but t hey made a base return for the courtesy of their conquerors, for, instead of paying their ransoms, they obtained a dispensation from the pope to break their oaths.-T. WRIGHT.


Du Gueselin