The Battle of Lincoln in 1217

After the death of King John in 1216, Louis VIII, heir to the French kingdom, sailed across the English Channel to lay claim to the England's throne.  William the Marshal, who acted as the regent for the young Henry III, led the English forces against the French army that was besieging the castle of Lincoln, and on May 20th the two sides met in battle.  As the text below recounts, William personally led the attack against the French forces and defeated them.  A few months later Prince Louis was forced to give up his invasion of England.

          Any man with ears to hear, hear me now

16132  and make sure he pays full attention to my words!

          For the fact is that in my words you will hear it all,

          how God came to the assistance of that worthy man

          who, above all others, was the very best of men,

16136  the most highly prized and trusted.

          "Hear me, you noble, loyal knights, "

          said William the Marshal,

          "you who keep faith with the King.

16140  In God's name hear me now,

          for your attention to what I say is most necessary.

          Now that we, in order to defend our name,

          for ourselves and for the sake of our loved ones,

16144  our wives and our children,

          and to defend our land

          and win for ourselves the highest honour,

          and to safeguard the peace of Holy Church

16148  which our enemies have broken and infringed,

          and to gain redemption

          and pardon for all our sins,

          now that we, for all that, have taken on the burden of armed combat,

16152  let us make sure there is no coward amongst us!

          Some of our enemies

          have got inside Lincoln,

          and I know for a fact that the reason they have gone inside

16156  is to lay siege to our castle.

          However, they are not all there.

          I believe that lord Louis

          has gone elsewhere.

16160  Those who have set out on this mission

          have been rash in making their assault.

          We shall be a lily-livered lot

          if we do not now take revenge

16164  on those who have come from France

          to take for themselves the lands of our men,

          thinking to inherit the same.

          They seek our total destruction;

16168  so, in God's name, let us play for the highest stakes,

          for, if victory is ours,

          we must truly bear in mind

          that honour will accrue to us,

16172  and that that heritage will be defended,

          for us and our descendants,

          which they shamefully wish

          to deprive us of; we will truly hold on to that,

16176  since it is God's wish that we defend ourselves.

          And, since their army is divided,

          we shall more easily overcome a part

          of their force than if they were all together.

16180  What I say is right and makes sense, I feel;

          God wills it and reason proves it to be right.

          So, it is right that each of you should strive

          to the best of his ability to meet this need,

16184  for otherwise we cannot achieve our objective.

          There is not a man here who does not see

          that we must free the road that lies ahead

          with blades of iron and steel.

16188  This is not the time for idle threats,

          let us quickly launch an attack on them.

          Let us give thanks to God, who has given us the opportunity

          to take our revenge

16192  on those who came here

          to do us harm and damage.

          Nobody should hold back:

          a man takes full revenge for the wrong and shame done to him

16196  who overcomes his enemy."

            These words put hope in their hearts,

          cheered, strengthened and emboldened them,

          so that they did not hesitate to advance.

16200  On the Wednesday of Whitsun

          they rode to Newark,

          where they camped for the night.

          The next day, Thursday, they rested.

16204  The Normans in the army

          went to see the young Marshal

          and spoke to him the words

          that you will hear me say next:

16208  "In the name of God," they said, "my dear lord,

          you were born in Normandy,

          so it is only right for us to tell you

          that you are aware that the Normans,

16212  should be given the privilege of dealing the first blows

          in every battle fought.

          Make sure that you don't fall down on this."

          When the earl of Chester heard

16216  these words, he was not one bit pleased,

          and, indeed, he told them plainly, without mincing words,

          that, if he was not given the right to launch the first attack,

          he would not join them in the army

16220  and they would not have his support.

          The Marshal and those present

          did not like this dissension at all,

          so they granted his every wish,

16224  whilst reserving the rights of the Normans.

            Once the matter had been settled,

          the papal legate, as was his duty,

          absolved them with full remission

16228  and pardon of their sins,

          of all the sins committed by them

          since the hour of their birth,

          so that they might be free to receive

16232          salvation on Judgement Day.

          He then excommunicated the French

          inside the town,

          a fact that is well known to people.

16236  The legate then rode

          straight to Nottingham,

          whilst the army proceeded to Torksey.

          They camped there that night

16240  and the next day, a Saturday,

          following mass, they took up their arms

          and put every effort into preparing themselves.

          When they were well and truly armed,

16244  they organised and duly

          drew up their squadrons,

          and formed their battalions.

          The earl of Chester rode out first,

16248  a brave and highly experienced knight,

          with the earl Marshal next,

          he and his son side by side,

          both of them having high expectations

16252  of advancing their cause to the best of their ability.

          And so they did, very clearly,

          for their ability produced a rich return.

          The worthy earl of Salisbury,

16256  whom may the Lord our God and his mother

          grant the right to share in his glory,

          rode forward in the third formation.

          The worthy bishop of Winchester,

16260  who was in command of one part of the army

          led the fourth formation


          was not for one moment harmed by that.

16264  When the entire army was counted up,

          there were only four hundred

          and five knights amongst them,

          and, I can assure you, crossbowmen

16268  only three hundred and seventeen.

          They were few, but they conducted themselves in a fine manner,

          for they were brave and valiant men.

          And once they had ridden out,

16272          properly drawn up in close ranks,

          the Marshal spoke to them

          in a very stirring way,

          in the manner of a man who well knew how to do that

16276  and was best capable of pulling it off.

          He said: "Now listen, my lords!

          There is honour and glory to be won here,

          and my opinion is that we have the chance

16280  to free our land.

          It is true that you can win this battle.

          Our lands and our possessions those men

          have seized and taken by force.

16284  Shame be upon the man who does not strive,

          this very day, to put up a challenge,

          and may the Lord our God take care of the matter!

          You see them here in your power.

16288  So much do I fully guarantee,

          that they are ours for the taking, whatever happens,

          if courage and bravery are not found wanting.

          And, if we die .......................,

16292  God, who knows who are his loyal servants,

          will place us today in paradise,

          of that I am completely certain.

          And, if we beat them, it is no lie to say

16296  that we will have won eternal glory

          for the rest of our lives,

          both for ourselves and for our kin.

          And I shall tell you another fact

16300  which works very badly against them:

          they are excommunicated

          and for that reason all the more trapped.

          I can tell you that they will come to a sticky end

16304  as they descend into hell.

          There you see men who have started a war

          on God and Holy Church.

          I can fully guarantee you this,

16308  that God has surrendered them into our hands.

          Let us make haste and attack them,

          for it truly is time to do so!"

            When the Marshal had spoken,

16312  as the worthy, loyal,

          and wise knight he was,

          he entrusted his crossbowmen

          to Peter, the worthy bishop of Winchester,

16316  who was in charge of leading them,

          who had sound knowledge in that sphere,

          and who strove hard to perform well.

          Then he told him to place himself straightway

16320  to the right of the French,

          and he told the bowmen to make sure to

          spread themselves out in a long line,

          so that, when the French arrived,

16324  their horses would be killed under them.

          The Marshal then asked for

          two hundred soldiers and ordered them

          to be ready to kill

16328  their own horses with their knives,

          so as to be able to take shelter behind them,

          if necessary, in an emergency.

          All those who listened to the earl

16332          displayed their joy

          and disported themselves as merrily

          as if they were at a tournament.

          In the castle,

16336  if I have got my figures right,

          there were six hundred and eleven French knights,

          and at least a thousand foot soldiers,

          not counting the English with them,

16340  who were still on the French side.

          Out of the city rode

          Sir Simon de Poissy,

          along with the count of Perche

16344  and the earl of Winchester,

          their mission being to observe the King's men

          and bring back a true report on their strength.

          They went and quickly returned.

16348  The result of their observation

          was that they estimated them to be a fine body of men,

          and that a troop better equipped for war

          and more resolute to wage it,

16352  nobody had ever seen in any land.

            Once they heard the news given to them,

          the French withdrew behind their walls,

          and they said that they knew full well

16356  that the King's men had not the power

          to attack them inside the city,

          whatever pretence they put up,

          and that they would go away;

16360  but the King's men would not be allowed

          to get away scot-free,

          because they would have other encounters

          as they left, so they swore.

16364  And they disclosed and gave what,

          in their opinion, was the real reason

          why and how

          they would gain many of their possessions:

16368  their horses were weary

          from carrying heavy burdens, from the long journeys,

          from all the stopping, the turning round,

          because both by night and by day

16372  their masters had to be mounted on their backs.

          The French in saying this spoke the truth,

          but, nevertheless, the King's men

          began to move quickly

16376  with the entire army towards the city,

          and boldly so, not caring who saw them.

          And the Marshal constantly

          exhorted and addressed them,

16380  giving them heart and courage.

          His words to them were: "My lords, my friends,

          look how those who mustered

          with a view to riding to attack you

16384  have already shown their true colours

          and retreated behind their walls;

          that is what God promised us.

          God gives us great glory!

16388  This is our first victory,

          the fact that we have made the French hide away,

          men who in the past were accustomed

          to coming first in the tournament;

16392  God is giving us good guidance.

          They greatly increase our worth and lessen their own

          when they leave us in charge of the fields outside.

          We shall encircle the city,

16396  I can tell you that for a fact.

          Let us perform well, God so wishes it.

          Whoever was wont to be a brave man,

          let him really see to it that he is so now,

16400  lest he repent of his deeds this day."

            My lords, I must add something further:

          those who have given me my subject matter

          do not agree unanimously,

16404  and I cannot follow all of them

          for that would be wrong of me

          and I would lose the right road

          and be less trustworthy,

16408  since, when telling a true story,

          nobody does right to lie;

          lies are not to be condoned

          in a matter which is so well known,

16412  so widely heard about and witnessed.

          But I well tell you this much, in a word,

          that when the Marshal saw and knew

          about the whole business and the manner of it,

16416  namely that the other side had retreated,

          before our army advanced further,

          he told John the Marshal,

          his nephew, to go

16420  and make enquiries

          about the lie of the land inside,

          and then return.

          And Sir John carried out

16424  quickly and to good effect what his uncle had said:

          he went straight to the castle,

          and, as he reached it,

          Sir Geoffrey de Serlant

16428  came riding up to meet him.

          On one side of the road

          he showed him the entrance

          through which the army could penetrate the castle,

16432  for there would be nobody there to stop it.

          Sir John could see for himself

          that the man showing him the entrance

          was not lying in any way,

16436  and so he returned as soon as possible,

          for he had no wish to tarry.

          Just as he thought to turn his horse round,

          the French, who were lying in ambush,

16440          immediately assailed him.

          He did not behave like a man terrified

          but boldly encountered

          the first few of them to reach him,

16444  and they could not withstand him,

          because of his bravery and courage,

          his skill and his speed.

          He returned so quickly to where he had come from ...

16448  and there was not a single one of them there.

          Thus, in very truth, John the Marshal

          departed from the French

          without suffering any harm or mischief,

16452  and he fully made them realise

          that he had gone there to seek them out

          and to claim his land from them.

          Once he had sent them on their way,

16456  he rode straight back to his uncle

          and told him all that had happened to him.

          I can tell you that his uncle was much pleased

          by his exploit, the encounter with the enemy,

16460  and with the news about the entrance.

          That is what Sir John did on that occasion,

          but it would not be right for me

          to relate my account in advance;

16464  what he did in the battle

          will be related when the right moment comes,

          and as my written source stipulates.

            The bishop of Winchester,

16468  who had a great wish to learn about their situation,

          rode of his own will towards the walls,

          with a big contingent of crossbowmen.

          Then he told them to wait for him there,

16472  and to remain patient for a while,

          and said that he would return quickly.

          Taking with him only one soldier,

          he entered the castle,

16476  and, as he did so, he met

          Sir Geoffrey de Serlan,

          who had been in great fear.

          They saw the collapsing fallen walls

16480  and greatly lamented what they saw.

          The bishop witnessed the damage sustained

          by walls, houses, and people,

          knocked down to the ground and laid low

16484  by the stones launched by catapults.

          Some of those inside the castle

          tried to protect him, and asked him,

          for God's sake, to stand back,

16488          because of the mangonels and catapults

          which were breaking everything in sight,

          but he entered the tower.

          There he found that worthy lady

16492  (may God protect her in body and soul!)

          who was its castellan

          and was defending it to the best of her ability.

          The lady was very pleased

16496  and was full of joy at his arrival,

          and he gave her great comfort

          through the news he brought her.

          I can tell you that he did not stay long there;

16500  he entered the town on foot

          through a postern gate, for his wish was

          to see what the situation was there.

          And as he looked around him,

16504  he caught sight of an old gate,

          a gate of great antiquity

          which was the link between the city walls

          and those of the castle.

16508  When he saw it, he was very pleased,

          but it had long before been

          blocked in with stone and cement,

          so that nobody could have passed through it,

16512          whatever need he had to do so.

          Once the bishop had seen

          and espied that gate,

          he had it knocked out

16516  so as to give better protection to the castle,

          and so that the king's army could see and know

          that they had a certain point of entry there.

          But, before doing so, he prayed to God in the matter,

16520  and God granted him his wish.

          The bishop returned to join the army,

          whose men came to meet him with joy in their hearts,

          and every man in his squadron was singing,

16524  as if victory were already theirs.

          The bishop was full of mirth

          as he told them gently, in jest,

          why he had played that trick of his:

16528  it was with a view to claiming the bishop's palace

          to sleep in when he got there,

          for he ought to have it by right.

          "The reason why it should be given up to me

16532  is that I have arranged that entrance

          for the safe

          and valorous entry of our men."

          And when Fulcher's men heard

16536  these words, they were overjoyed;

          they went straight ahead and entered,

          but those inside repelled them

          savagely, so that they achieved hardly anything

16540  and so their fortunes quickly turned.

            The bishop said to the Marshal:

          "Upon my soul, these men of ours did badly,

          for it is abundantly obvious

16544  that they haven't yet found

          the right gate, the one I had in mind.

          There they will find no resistance,

          for I can tell you that nobody guards it;

16548  no man on our side need have any fear.

          And I can tell you for a fact

          that a part of their wall

          is breached, to our advantage,

16552  but not open to those inside.

          Come, I will take you there!"

          The Marshal replied,

          that worthy earl William,

16556  "God's lance! Here, bring me my helmet!"

          The bishop said in reply: "My lord,

          listen a while to what I wish to say:

          it is not wise to act in such haste

16560  and launch such an attack at this time.

          Instead, allow two men

          from each of our squadrons

          to go round the tower,

16564  to find out about the hiding-places,

          and, in line with what they discover,

          to give us their advice."

            The Marshal accepted this,

16568  and then set forth,

          whilst the bishop of Winchester

          .......... ten ................;

          he took two from each formation,

16572  and with them he went to the place.

          And when those who went encountered the soldiers,

          who had beaten an ugly retreat,

          they reviled them greatly

16576  when they were close to them in the throng.

          "Ride on!" the Marshal then said

          to all his men, "for you will see them

          beaten in a short while.

16580  Shame be upon the head of him who waits longer!"

          The bishop said to him: "My dear lord,

          listen a while to what I wish to say to you.

          Wait in there for your men,

16584  for it will be a finer and more proper thing,

          and far safer, I think,

          if we all rode there as a body.

          That is what is fitting, I believe,

16588  and, at the same time, our enemies will have greater fear of us

          when they see us all together;

          our arrival will cost them dearly."

          The truth is that the Marshal

16592  had no inclination to accept these words of advice.

          Instead, more swiftly than a merlin could fly,

          he spurred on his horse,

          and all those in his company

16596  were emboldened by what they saw him do.

          A young lad then said to him:

          "In God's name, my dear lord, wait for us;

          you haven't got your helmet on."

16600  It was then that earl William realised that this was so,

          so he said to the young Marshal:

          "Wait for me here

          while I get my helmet;

16604  I nearly made a mistake there."

            The delay was not for long,

          and once the helmet was on his head

          he appeared more handsome than all the rest.

16608  As swiftly as if he were a bird,

          a sparrowhawk or an eagle,

          he pricked the horse with his spurs.

          From now on he wished to be in full view.

16612  No ravenous lion, on finding its prey

          helpless on the ground beneath it,

          ever rushed at it with such ferocity,

          I would say, as did the Marshal

16616  when he attacked his enemies.

          This man, who had performed so many deeds of valour,

          plunged into the very thick of them

          over a distance greater than three spears' length,

16620  thinning their ranks by main force

          and breaking up in his path a press

          which was very tightly formed and crowding in on him.

          He really knew how to clear the way ahead,

16624  routing them all and pushing them aside.

          The bishop followed,

          shouting loudly

          many times, in all directions:

16628  "This way! God is with the Marshal!"

          But I nearly omitted to mention the fact

          that, as our side arrived, there was killed

          their most expert stonethrower,

16632  the one who was bombarding the tower.

          When he saw our knights,

          he had become more heartened and resolute,

          for he thought they were on his side,

16636  so the game seemed a better one to him.

          He put his stone in the catapult,

          and those coming up behind him,

          once they had heard him say "Eh!" twice,

16640          prevented him from saying another "Eh!",

          for they cut off his head

          without any further ceremony.

            I can vouch for the fact that the young Marshal

16644  made it plain for all to see

          that he had no wish to be left behind,

          since his banner was always

          seen at the very front,

16648  and was well recognised there that day.

          Our men rode up most fiercely,

          and the other side began to put up

          a very stout defence,

16652  though they had no wish to tarry there for very long,

          for it was not a matter of issuing threats.

          By the time the Marshal had had his helmet laced up,

          I can tell you for a fact that

16656  his son entered the city

          through the breach in the wall, with a sizeable contingent of his own men,

          of which there were many worthy present.


16660  ....he found the enemy there,

          who formed a far more handsome contingent,

          for there were many more of those there

          assembled in the city

16664  than in the company of those who had entered.

          Despite that, he lost no time in assailing them.

          And I can tell you that, within a very short time,

          they had inflicted great damage on those inside,

16668          although many feats of arms had been performed

          by both sides in the meantime.

          Before it came to the conclusion of the fight,

          those inside the city had had

16672  the worst of it, I can tell you,

          for I can assure you that

          the young Marshal continually

          sent their men on their way by force.

16676  And the father came galloping up,

          together with the worthy earl of Salisbury,

          to whom may God and his mother

          grant such a reward

16680  that he find pardon for his sins;

          these two turned to the right,

          leaving on their left

          a church, and they came across the enemy,

16684  many of them

          in great fear and trembling.

          Robert of Roppesley

          picked up a lance to joust,

16688  and, whatever the cost might be to him,

          he dealt such a savage blow to the earl

          of Salisbury, as our story has it,

          that he broke his lance into pieces,

16692  after which he rode on past.

          As he rode back,

          the Marshal dealt him such a fierce

          blow between the shoulders

16696  that he almost knocked him to the ground.

          And he, who had all the misfortune,

          slid to the ground

          and, out of fear, went to hide

16700  as quickly as he could in an upper room,

          for he dared not be found on the ground.

          And our side had no inclination to pay him much attention

          and rode on in pursuit.

16704  They found the count of Perche

          right in front of the church,

          looking very arrogant and proud.

          He was a very tall, handsome, fine-looking man,

16708  and he had many men with him.

          They put up a very stern defence,

          whilst our side strove with all their might

          to do them mischief,

16712  for they detested the French.

            There were many feats of arms performed there,

          and the truth is that there were many

          of their men who were found

16716  within the walls wounded and maimed,

          trampled on and beaten,

          and many taken captive,

          and many of our own also came to grief,

16720  for nobody there sought protection

          or gave himself up for ransom or wished to be enrolled among the prisoners;

          all were intent on the fight.

          [Fierce was the battle and the fighting,]

16724  and the count of Perche performed

          many great feats of arms that day,

          although he did not last out long,

          for he began to inflict

16728  great damage on our men.

          The Marshal could see that the French

          were forcing his men

          from the high ground to the low,

16732  pushing them back down.

          Immediately he stretched out his hand

          and took the count of Perche's horse by the bridle,

          and that seemed the right thing to do,

16736  for he was the highest ranking man

          to be found on the French side.

          However, before that, he had been wounded

          mortally through his eyehole

16740  by a cruel straight thrust of the sword

          delivered by Sir Reginald Croc

          with the point of the sword straight through the eye.

          When the count of Perche saw the defenders

16744  being so pushed back by our men,

          he immediately let go of his bridle,

          took his sword in both hands,

          and dealt the Marshal

16748  three consecutive blows on his helmet.

          The blows dealt were so hard and fierce

          that the marks could be clearly seen on the helmet.

          But, immediately after that, he slumped down

16752  and fell from his horse.

          Truly, when the earl Marshal saw

          the count fall in this manner,

          he thought he had fainted

16756  and feared he would be blamed.

          To William de Montigny

          he said: "Dismount and take off

          that helmet which is causing him great distress;

16760  I fear that he may not get up again."

          Once his helmet had been removed,

          while the Marshal was by his side

          to see that he was stone dead,

16764  the sorrow there was intense.

          Once the blade had been withdrawn

          from the wound he had received through

          his eyehole, there was nothing for him but death.

16768  It was a great pity that he died in this manner.

            And when the French, who were a mighty force,

          saw that our men had attacked

          them with such vigour,

16772  they were greatly dismayed

          and could no longer stand and resist.

          They rode down a street on the left

          and headed for Wigford,

16776  for it was difficult for them to stand their ground.

          They were pleased when they found

          some of their men still in the field;

          very pleased, I should think.

16780  They then grouped together

          with a view to launching another assault,

          but they would have done better to steal away,

          as some did subsequently,

16784  as I read it in my source,

          for they looked to their right

          and saw the earl of Chester

          in the company of his worthy men,

16788  and that turned out to be to their great cost.

          The young Marshal went to see his father,

          and he gave him a very warm welcome

          and was overjoyed

16792  by what he had seen and heard,

          that is that his son performed so exceedingly well

          in the combat, which was much to his liking.

          The father asked: "Are you wounded?"

16796  He replied: "My lord, not at all."

          The worthy man in turn said: "I am certain that,

          if it please God, our losses

          will be somewhat repaired today.

16800  In my opinion and estimation,

          we shall either defeat them this very day

          or they will leave us victors in the field.

          Then it will be plain for all to see

16804  how the French perform.

          Let every man take thought to do well,

          for we have no wish to seek their company."

            After that the French arrived

16808  with the English

          who had fallen in with them.

          In tight battle-formation

          they came riding uphill,

16812  but, before they had reached the top,

          they met our forces.

          They were not at all pleased by what they saw,

          for our side rode in a fine, orderly fashion

16816          between the church and the castle.

          They engaged with their men and attacked them

          so savagely that they drove them

          by force back down hill, in disarray

16820  and not following road or track.

          Sir Alan Basset and his brother,

          Sir Thomas, with loud shouts

          attacked them from behind

16824          together with all their bold and valiant men.

          When they saw themselves surrounded,

          they were somewhat dismayed,

          and they had no time to rest nor find relief

16828  until they reached the bridge in Wigford.

          But then they were on soft ground.

          A man would not have had to ride there

          very far to seek out combat,

16832  for every man with a mind to do that

          had his hands full of it;

          there was no question there of offering pledges,

          for the sole price to pay would be their heads and their lives.

16836  The boasts made at night in the lodgings

          were of no use here;

          they had much else to do.

          There were many feats of arms performed there

16840  by both sides, until

          even the very strongest amongst them felt weary,

          for there was no succour

          to be expected:

16844  all they could expect was the giving and receiving of blows.


            Some speak of great feats of arms

          who, if they held a shield

          by the straps at such a time,

16848  would certainly not know what to do with it.

          And, if they were fully armed,

          they would think they were bewitched,

          to the point where they would be powerless to move,

16852          however much they needed to do so.

          What is armed combat? Is it the same

          as working with a sieve or winnow,

          with an axe or mallet?

16856  Not at all, it is much nobler work,

          for he who undertakes these tasks is able to take a rest

          when he has worked for a while.

          What, then, is chivalry?

16860  Such a difficult, tough,

          and very costly thing to learn

          that no coward ventures to take it on.

          Is every knight really such?

16864  Not at all, for.............

          there are many who do nothing with their arms,

          but that does not prevent them from boasting.

          Any man seeking to achieve high honour

16868  must first see to it

          that he has been well schooled.

          At the battle of Lincoln

          were some who had learned sufficiently

16872  to have won high renown.

          I can tell you that in that battle

          prowess was not lacking,

          for you would have seen knights

16876  armed and mounted on their chargers,

          holding their shields by the straps.

          Any man who rode a valuable horse

          and had in his hand a sturdy lance,

16880  would not have traded that lance for all the gold in Blaye,

          nor would he have lent it at that hour of need,

          for, had he done so, he would have been hard put to it to get it back.

          Had you been there, you would have seen great blows dealt,

16884  heard helmets clanging and resounding,

          seen lances fly in splinters in the air,

          saddles vacated by riders, knights taken prisoner.

          You would have heard, from place to place,

16888  great blows delivered by swords and maces

          on helmets and on arms,

          [and seen] knives and daggers drawn

          for the purpose of stabbing horses;

16892  their protective covering was not worth a fig.

          You would have seen hands stretched out

          on many a side to take horses by their bridles.

          Some spurred forward to help

16896  and come to the rescue of companions

          they saw suffering injury,

          but there was no question of an actual rescue.

          The noise there was so great

16900  that you would not have heard God thunder

          for anything, had he chosen to do so,

          and nobody would have been aware of it.

          When the shout "The King's men! The King's men!" went up,

16904  you would have seen the traitors

          so disturbed and careworn,

          so bowed down and dumbfounded,

          that they did not know what to do,

16908  nor was there any question of retreat.

          The King's men began to get the upper hand;

          there was no question of putting up a defence there,

          for they knew and could see only too well

16912  that they had completely lost.

          William Bloet, who held the banner

          of the young Marshal,

          had no wish to be left behind;

16916  indeed, he spurred his horse so quickly

          that he landed in the press,

          which was very dense and violent,

          so heavily and head on

16920  that he fell over the side of the bridge,

          he and his horse with him;

          a man who launches such an attack is no coward.

          He had not come there to lie down, however;

16924  any man who had seen him leap to his feet,

          would have born witness to his fleetness of foot,

          his valour and prowess.

          There the contest was fought,

16928  but hardly long

          by the French side,

          men who, beforehand, had made so many boasts

          about driving from the land

16932  all the men of England.


            In the battle was taken prisoner Saher de Quincy,

          earl of Winchester, as was

          Sir Robert fitz Walter.

16936  Without any delay my lord Robert de Quincy

          was also taken,

          as were many others too,

          which was not a matter to my displeasure.

16940  The rest rode off in flight

          down along the street

          that leads straight to the Hospital;

          the way seemed a very difficult one to them

16944  until they had reached the last gate.

          But then there occured an incident

          which caused them great harm and injury:

          a cow went through the gate,

16948  the one with the port-cullis,

          and as it did the gate came down to the ground,

          with the result that no rider

          could have passed through, try as he might.

16952  They now could not move either forward or backward,

          and, anxious as they were

          to get out, they killed the cow.

          The danger was at its worst there,

16956  and many of their knights were taken prisoner,

          as if they had been surrendered up.

          Once the gate had been broken down,

          immediately Sir Simon de Poissy

16960  fled through the gap

          and after him went the castellan of Arras,

          he who had come to chase away the rats

          for the ladies who had come to London

16964  to surrender and who took their side.

          All the others who made their escape

          rested neither by night or day

          in any house or any town,

16968          because they believed that the bushes

          everywhere, on the hills and in the valleys,

          were hiding any number of Marshals,

          and they were much afraid at last by that thought.

16972  That was all too obvious at the Holland bridge,

          which was broken and in a dangerous condition,

          for they killed their horses

          to make a bridge to cross over,

16976  such was their haste to do so.

This text was translated by Stewart Gregory, with the assistance of David Crouch.  We thank Ian Short of the Anglo-Norman Text Society and David Crouch for their permission and assistance in republishing this section.