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CHAPTER CCXC. - SIR BERTRAND DU GUESCLIN TAKES THE FORTRESS OF ST. YRIER IN LIMOUSIN. - THE PRINCE OF WALES RE-CONQUERS LIMOGES

During the time sir Robert Knolles was employed in his expedition, and the prince of Wales with his two brothers were at the siege of Limoges, Sir Bertrand du Guesclin with his company, amounting to about two hundred lances, marched through a part of Limousin, but did not encamp in the open plain for fear of the English. He retreated every night into some of the strong places which had lately turned to the French: in that number were the castles of sir Louis de Maleval and sir Raymond de Marneil, and several others: from thence he made daily excursions to conquer other towns and castles. The prince knew well all this; for he received every day information of what was passing, as well as complaints on the subject, but he would not break up his siege, for he had too much at heart the loss of Linoges. Sir Bertrand entered the viscounty of Limoges, a territory which was dependent on lord John de Montfort, duke of Brittany, in the name of the widow of lord Charles de Blois to whom it had formerly belonged. He made war upon it without any opposition; for the duke of Brittany did not imagine sir Bertrand would carry the war into any part of his property. He came before St. Yrier, where there were not any gentlemen that knew how to defend it; and the inhabitants were so frightened, they surrendered themselves under the obedience of the duchess dowager of Brittany, in whose name the war was made. The Bretons formed St. Yrier into a considerable garrison; by which means they took many other towns in Limousin. But let us return to the prince.

The prince of Wales remained about a month, and not more, before the city of Limoges: he would not allow of any assaults or skirmishing, but kept his miners steadily at work. The knights in the town perceived what they were about, and made countermines to destroy them; but they failed in their attempt. When the miners of the prince (who, as they found themselves countermined, kept changing the line of direction of their own mine) had finished their business, they came to the prince, and said: "My lord, we are ready, and will throw down, whenever you please a very large part of the wall into the ditch, through the breach of which you may enter the town at your ease and without danger." This news was very agreeable to the prince, who replied, "I wish then that you would prove your words tomorrow morning at six o'clock." The miners set fire to the combustibles in the mine; and on the morrow morning as they had foretold the prince, they flung down a great piece of wall, which filled the ditches. The English saw this with pleasure, for they were all armed and prepared to enter the town. Those on foot did so, and ran to the gate, which they destroyed as well as the barriers, for there were no other defences; and all this was done so suddenly that the inhabitants had not time to prevent it.

The prince, the duke of Lancaster, the earls of Cambridge and of Pembroke, Sir Guiscard d'Angle and the others, with their men, rushed into the town. You would then have seen pillagers, active to do mischief, running through the town, slaying men, women and children, according to their orders. It was a most melancholy business; for all ranks, ages and sexes cast themselves on their knees before the prince, begging for mercy; but he was so inflamed with passion and revenge that he listened to none, but all were put to the sword, wherever they could be found, even those who were not guilty: for I know not why the poor were not spared, who could not have had any part in this treason; but they suffered for it, and indeed more than those who had been the leaders of the treachery. There was not that day in the city of Limoges any heart so hardened, or that had any sense of religion, who did not deeply bewail the unfortunate events passing before their eyes; for upwards of three thousand men, women and children were put to death that day. God have mercy on their souls! for they were veritable martyrs.

 

 
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Copyright: McMaster University, 2000