Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
his Chronicle of
THE NORMAN CONQUEST
ROMAN DE ROU
EDGAR TAYLOR ESQ. F. S. A.
WILLIAM PICKERING, 1837
This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2004
HOW THE KING OF FRANCE INVADED NORMANDY, AND WAS BEATEN AT MORTEMER.
The French had often insulted the Normans by injurious deeds and words, on account of the great dislike and jealousy which they bore to Normandy. They continually spoke scornfully, and called the Normans BIGOZ and DRASCHIERS; and often remonstrated with their king, and said, "Sire, why do you not chase the Bigoz out of the country? Their ancestors were robbers, who came by sea, and stole the land from our forefathers and us." By the persuasion of these felons, who talked thus because they hated the duke, the king undertook the enterprise; though it was disliked by many of his men. He said he would go into Normandy, and would conquer it; he would divide his army into two parts, and invade in two directions. And what he said, he endeavoured to execute; summoning his people from all sides.
He collected them in two positions, according as the river Seine divided them; those of Reins and those of Seissons, of Leun, and of Noions; those of Melant, and of Vermandeiz; of Pontif and of Amineiz; those of Flanders and of Belmont; of Brie and of Provens. All these, who are beyond Seine he assembled by twenties, by hundreds, and by thousands, in Belveisin, meaning to enter the pays de Caux from that side. To the Conestable and Guion, he sent his brother Odo, and directed them to enter by Caux, and ravage all the land around.
And he summoned all the rest of his people, according as the river Seine divides them from the others, to meet him at Meante; those of Toroigne and of Bleis; of Orlianz and of Vastineis; of the Perche and of the Chartrain; of the bocage and of the plain; those of Boorges, of Berri; of Estampes and of Montlheri; of Grez and of Chasteillun; of Senz and of Chastel-Landun, the king ordered to come to Meante. And he menaced the Normans, and boasted much that he would destroy Evrecin, Rosmeis, and Lievin, and would ride even as far as the sea, returning by Auge.
William was in great alarm, for he was much afraid of the king's power; and he also formed his men into two companies. About Caux, he placed Galtier Gifart, and the men of that country; Robert, count d'Ou, and old Huon de Gornai; and with these he ranged William Crespin, who had much land in Velquessin. These had under them the people of the country around them, their relations and friends. The duke retained the other company under his own command, to oppose the king. He assembled the men of the Beessin, and the barons of the Costentin, and those of the valley of Moretoing; and of Avranehes, which is beyond it; Raol Tesson of Cingueleis, and the knights of Auge and of Wismeis; all these the duke summoned to meet him. He would, he said, be close upon the king, and encamp hard by him, looking keenly after the foragers, that they should not stray far without having some damage, if he could help it; and he caused all provisions to be removed from the way by which the king must pass; and drove the beasts into the woods, and made the villains keep watch over them there.
The barons who were stationed in Caux, to defend that part of the country, kept themselves to the woods and forests till the people of the country could be got together; and passed from wood to wood, concealing themselves in the thickets. But the men of France marched on, and encamped at Mortemer. They remained there one night for the convenience of the hostels; expecting that they could roam as they pleased over the whole country, without meeting any knights who would dare to encounter, or bear arms against them; for they believed that all the Norman knights were gone towards Evreues with their lord, and that he had retreated thither from fear of the king.
The Frenchmen demeaned themselves insolently, and with great cruelty. Wherever they had passed, they destroyed all they found, ravaging the villages and manors, burning houses, and plundering them of the furniture; seizing the villains, violating the women, and keeping whatever they pleased; till they had come to Mortemer, where they found fair quarters in the hostels. By day they delivered the country up to pillage, and devoted the night to revelry, searching out the wine and killing the cattle, eating and drinking their fill.
The Normans knew well from their spies where the French lay, and what their plans were; so they assembled their men together during the night, summoning their friends and companions; and in the morning before day-break, while the French were yet sleeping, behold! they surrounded Mortemer, and set fire to the town. The flames spread from one hostel to another, till the fire raged through all the streets. Then the Frenchmen were to be seen in consternation: the whole town was in confusion, and the melee became fierce; they rushed from the hostels, seizing such arms as they could find, and were grievously discomfited, for the Normans stopt them at the barriers. One man endeavours to mount his horse, but cannot find the bridle; and another would quit his hostel, but is unable to reach the door. The Normans guard all the issues, and the heads of the streets; and there the encounters are rudest, and the feats of arms the fairest.
From the rising of the morning's sun, till three in the afternoon, the assault lasted in its full force, and the battle continued to be hot and fierce. The French could not escape, for the Normans would let no one pass. The first who quitted the field and fled was Odes; and the Normans took Guion, the count of Pontif, alive and in arms; but they killed Valeran his brother, a very brave and valiant knight. There was no varlet, let him be ever so mean, or of ever so low degree, but took some Frenchman prisoner, and seized two or three horses with all their harness; nor was there a prison in all Normandy, which was not full of Frenchmen. They were to be seen fleeing around, skulking in the woods and bushes; and the dead and wounded lay amidst the burning ruins, and upon the dung-hills, about the fields, and in the by-paths. That same night, the news passed quickly to where the duke lay with his army; how that the French were discomfited, and the invasion stayed. News travels fast, and is swift; and whoso bears good tidings may safely knock at the gate. The duke rejoiced greatly at the discomfiture of his enemies; and he sent a man, whether varlet or esquire I know not, to the place where the king was encamped, and had retired to his bed. He ordered the man to climb up into a tree, and all night to cry aloud, "Frenchmen, Frenchmen, arise! arise! make ready for your flight, ye sleep too long! Go forth at once to bury your friends, who lie dead at Mortemer."
As the king heard the cry, he marvelled much, and was sorely dismayed. So he sent out for his friends, and besought and conjured them to tell him if they had heard any such tidings as the man proclaimed from the tree. And whilst they yet talked and conversed with the king, concerning what had happened, behold the news came and spread all around, how that the best of their friends lay dead at Mortemer, and how they who had escaped alive were made captive, and were in chains and in prison in Normandy.
The French were greatly moved and troubled at the news, and went crying out that they tarried too long. They seized the palfreys and war-horses, harnessed and loaded the baggage horses, set fire to the tents and huts, emptied them of every thing, and sent all on forward; and the king went off on his way homeward, looking cautiously around him. Had the duke wished to pursue, he might have injured him much, but he did not desire to annoy him more. "He has had quite enough," said he, "to trouble and cross him;" and he would not add more to his annoyance.
The king returned to Paris, the barons to their homes, and the great people whom he had led forth returned to their own countries. But his wrath against the Normans was very great, on account of those whom they had taken prisoners, and still more for those who were killed. The dead he could not recover, but he wished to redeem those who were prisoners; so he sent word to the duke, that if he would release his prisoners, he would make truce and peace with him till other cause of difference should arise; and that whatever the duke had taken or might take from Giffrei Martel, should never be a cause of war between them, or be alleged as a grievance against him.
And thereupon accordingly was done as I tell you; the duke restored the Frenchmen who were prisoners, but the harness was left to those who had won it; and the prisoners repaid to their captors the charges they had occasioned to them.