Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

had parliaments of barons despotic over their own hereditary poffeffions; and they obliged John their king, to fign a charter very much refembling the Magna Charta, which had formerly been signed by his name-fake of England. The warlike resources, therefore, of France and England, were at this time very unequal. John was at the head of a nobility, that acknowledged no subordination among each other; they led their dependent flaves to battle, and obeyed their superiors only as it suited their inclination. Their king might more juftly be said to command a number of {mall armies under distinct leaders, than one vast machine, operating with uniformity and united efforts. The French barons paid their own soldiers, punished their transgreffions, and rewarded their fidelity. But the forces of England were under a very differènt establishment; the main body of the English army was.composed of soldiers indiscriminately levied throughout the nation, paid by the king, and regarding him alone as the source of preferment or disgrace. Instead of personal attendance, the nobility contributed supplies in money; and there was only such a number of nobles in the army as might keep the spirit of honour alive without injuring military subordination.

It was in this state of things, that a short truce which had been concluded between Edward and Philip was diffolved by the death of the latter ; and Edward, well pleased with the factions that then prevailed in France, was resolved to seize the opportunity of encreasing its distresses. Accordingly the Black Prince was sent into France with his army, on board of a fleet of an hundred fail; and, landing in Gascony, carried his devastations into the heart of the country. On the other hand, Edward himself made an irruption on the side of

D4

Calais,

e the reducere whoreoved to

Calais, at the head of a numerous army, and bac vaged all the open country. In the mean tinc John, who was as yet upprepared to oppose the progress of the enemy, continued a quiet fpectator, of their insults; nor was it till the fucceeding summer's campaign, that he resolved to attack D the Black Prince, whose army was by

this time reduced to a body of about 355• twelve thousand men. With such a triding complement of forces, had this young warrior ventured to penetrate into the heart of France, with a design of joining his forces to those of the duke of Lancaster. But he soon found that his scheme was impracticable; the country before him was too well guarded to prevent his advancing further, and all the bridges behind were broken downi, which effectually barred, a retreat. lo this embarrassing situation, his perplexity was increafod, by being informed, that the king of France was actually marching at the head of sixty thousand men to intercept him. He at firft thought of retreating; but soon finding it impoffible, he determined calmly to await the approach of the enemy; and notwithstanding the disparity of forces, to

commit all, to the bazard of a battle. ..', 5. It was at a place called Maupertuis, called Poictiers, that both armies came in light of each other. The French king might very eafily have starved the English into any terms he thought proper to impose : but such was the impatient valour of the French nobility, and such cheir certainty of fuccess, that it might have been equally fatal to attempt represfing their ardous to engage. In the mean time, while both armies were drawn out, and expecting the signal to begin, they were stopped by the appearance of the cardinal of Pere. gord, who accenopted to be a mediator between

them.

them. However, John, who made himself fure of victory, would listen to no other terms than tie restitution of Calais, with which the Black Prince refusing to comply; the ontët was deferred till the next morning, for which both sides waited in anxious-suspense.

It was during this interval, that the young prince fhewed himself worthy of conqueft; he strengthe ened his post by new entrenchments ; lié placed three hundred men in ambula, with as many archa ers, who were commanded to attaek che enemy in Aank, during the heat of the engagement. Having taken thefe precautions, and the morning beginning to appear, he ranged his army in thiree divisia OAS; thé van commanded by the earl of Warwick, the rear by the earls of Salisbury and Suffolk; and the main body by himself. I'm like manner, the king of France arranged his forces in three divifia ons; the first commanded by the duke of Orleans; the second by the Dauphin, attended by his younger brothers; while he himself led up the main body, feconded by his youngest and favourite son, then about fourteen years of age. As the Engliih were to be attacked only by marching up a long narrow lane, the French suffered greatly from their archers, who were posted on each side, behind the hedges, Nor were they in a better situation upon emerging from this danger, being met by the Black Prince himself, at the head of a cholen body of troops, who made a furiousi onset upon their forces, als ready in great disorder. A dreadful overthrow ensued; those who were as yet in the lane recoiled upon their own forces; while the English troops, who had been placed in ambush, took that oppor. tunity to encrease the confufion, and confirm the vi&tory: The dauphin, and the duke of Orleans, were among the firm that fled. The king of

D 5

- France

France himself made the utmost efforts to retrieve by his valour, what his rashness had forfeited; but his single courage was unable to stop that consternation, which had now become general through his army and his cavalry soon flying, he found himself totally exposed to the enemy's fury. He saw his nobles falling round him, valiantly fighting in his d:fence, and his youngest son wounded by his side. At length, spent with fatigue, and despairing of success, he thought of yielding himself a prisoner; and frequently cried out, that he was ready to deliver himself to his cousin, the prince of Wales. The honour of taking him, however, was reserved for a much more ignoble hand; he was seized by Dennis de Morbec, a knight of Arras, who had been obliged to fly his country for murder. · This success was, in a great measure, owing to the valour and conduct of the Black Prince ; but his moderation in victory was a nobler triumph than had ever graced any former conqueror. i He çame forth to meet the captivc monarch with an air of pitying modesty; he remonstrated with him in the most humble manner, when he began to complain of his misfortunes, that he still had the comfort left of reflecting, that, though unsuccessful, he had done all that deserved to ensure con- · queit; he promised, that a submissive deference to his dignity should never be wanting to soften his captivity, and at table he actually refused to fit down, but stood among the number of his prisoner's attendants, declaring, that it did not become him, as a subject, to sit down in the presence of a king. In April following, the prince conducted his

royal prisoner through London, atC: tended by an infinite concourse of peo357. ple of all ranks and stations. His mo

. defty

desty upon this occafion was not less than before ; the king of France was clad in royal apparel, and mounted on a white fteed, diftinguithed by its size and beauty; while the prince himself rode by his side upon a mean little horse, and in very plain: attire.

Two kings prisoners in the fame court, and at the same time, were considered as glorious at. chievements; but all that England gained by them was only glory. Whatever was won in France, with all the dangers of war, and the expence of preparation, was successively, and in a manner silently, loft, without the mortification of a defeat. It may easily be supposed, that the treaties which were made with the captive kings, were highly advantageous to the conquerors; but there treaties were no longer observed, than while the English had it in their power to enforce obedience. It is true, that John held to his engagements as far as he was able ; but by being a prifoner he loit his authority; and his misfortunes had rendered him contemptible at home. The dauphin, and the states of France, rejected the treaties he had been induced to fign; and prepared, in good ears neft, to repel the meditated invasion of the conqueror. All the considerable towns an

ng aid. were put into a posture of defence; and every thing valuable in the kingdom "350. was fecured in fortified places. It was in vain, therefore, that Edward tried to allure the dauphin to hazard, a battle, by sending i him ja defiance; it was, impoffible to make that cautious prince change the plan of his operations ; it was in vain that tdward alleged the obligation of the treaties which had been signed at London, and plundered the country round' to provoke an engagement. He at length; therefore, thought fit to listen to equia i n iul son blugi i . vi.. ad t table

« ZurückWeiter »