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TOUR THROUGH BRITTANY.
( (Continued from vol.iii. p. 185.)
Among the various recollections of Breton chivalry, few are cherished in that country with greater delight than those connected with the combat des Trente, or, as it is sometimes called, the bataille des Trente, in which thirty Breton knights and attendants entered the lists, in mortal combat, against the same number of English. The particulars of this celebrated encounter are as follows:
During the Breton war of the succession, between John de Montfort and Charles de Blois, in the reign of our Edward the Third, A.D. 1350, while De Beaumanoir, a Breton knight, commanded the forces of De Blois, at the castle of Josselin, and the Earl of Pembroke, who had been sent over from England, by King Edward, with a body of men, to the assistance of De Montfort, was stationed at Ploermel; it appears that the English troops, under the sanction of Pembroke, and contrary to the conditions of a truce then established, were in the habit of committing many excesses in the neighbouring country, ill-treating the unarmed peasantry, and exercising much cruelty and oppression towards such as fell into their power. Beaumanoir, indignant at these proceedings, went with an escort to Josselin, and remonstrated with Pembroke upon the unworthiness of such conduct; but that nobleman, instead of attending to his arguments, treated him with considerable haughtiness; whereupon, Beaumanoir, with all the good breeding which characterized the gallant and gentle knights of that day, proposes that the difference may be settled between themselves, and that a day be appointed on which they shall meet, with an equal number of followers, and decide the dispute by an appeal to arms. To this the haughty Pembroke immediately consents; and accordingly, upon an appointed day, a tournament of thirty against thirty, takes place on the field of Mie-Voie, half-way between Josselin and Ploermel, in which the Bretons are victorious. Froissart, in referring to this combat, says, it was undertaken by these champions for the love of their mistresses; and that he had, afterwards, seen at the table of Charles the Fifth, king of France, a Breton knight, named Yewains Charruel, who had been in the combat des Trente, and whose hacked and scarred visage satisfactorily shewed that the day had been well fought.
This celebrated rencontre has always been a favorite subject of
traditional record among the Bretons; and there are several families still in existence in Brittany, which claim a descent from some of the principal persons engaged. I have had the honour of meeting one gentleman who was an acknowledged descendant of Beaumanoir himself, and who was by no means insensible to the merits of his illustrious ancestor.
In addition to the traditions of the Bretons, and the local testimonies of Mie-Voie and the adjacent territory, this occurrence has been frequently noticed by historians. But the fact has been lately corroborated by a discovery, in the Bibliothéque du Roi, of a contemporaneous manuscript, containing a poem, in old French, descriptive of the event.
This manuscript was discovered a few years ago by M. de Freminville and M. de Penhouet, in their antiquarian researches relative to Brittany. It is written on vellum, in 4to., and contains upwards of five hundred lines; and has been handsomely printed, at Paris, by Crapelet, with a facsimile of the original, and explanatory notes, together with the armorial bearings of the Breton champions. The following extracts will serve as specimens: "Cy comence la bataille de kry englois et de kfx bretons qui
fu faite embretaigne, 1 an de grace mil trois cens Cinquante
le sammedi devant letare Sherusalem." “ Here commences the battle of the Thirty English and the Thirty Bretons,
which took place in Brittany, in the year of grace 1350, on the Saturday
“Seigneurs or fastes paix cholrs et barons ;
Combatirent vn jour contre xxx bretons.” “Nobles give attention; knights and barons, bannerets,t bachelors, and all noble persons; bishops and abbots, religious men, heralds, minstrels, and all good companions; gentlemen and bourgeois of every nation; listen to the romance which we will relate to you; the history is true, and the expressions [ditties] good; how thirty English, bold as lions, combated one day against thirty Bretons.”
* A festival of the church of Rome, 27th of March, 1351, according to the new style.
+ Bannerets, knights who had a sufficient number of vassals to form a company, and entitle them to bear a banner in the field.
Bachelors, students in arms or arts, gentlemen who had not received the order of knighthood.
“Quant Dagorne fu mort de cest ciecle devie
Deuant auril le fort fu finee sa vie,” &c.
“When Dagorne* was dead, before the castle of Auray his life was ferminated,” &c.
During his lifetime, the citizens and cultivators of the soil were not harassed by the English: but after his death, all this was changed, for Pembroke began to ravage the country, and illtreat the inhabitants. When Beaumanoir heard of this, he went to Ploermel, to remonstrate upon the subject; and on his way he witnessed the cruelty which was exercised towards the peasantry, for multitudes of them were led captive, bound and fettered, like cattle. Beaumanoir being grieved and enraged at this sight, said to Pembroke :
“Chlrs d Engleterre, vous faictes grant pechie
Et la char et le vin de quoy avon plante," &c. “Knights of England, you do great wrong in afflicting the poor people, those who sow the corn, &c., they formerly were allowed to remain unmolested. How soon the arrangements of Daggeworth are forgotten !"
“ Et Bomcbourc sy respont par moult tres grant fierte,
Beaumaner taisies vous; de ce naist plus parle, &c.” “And Pembroke answered him with great haughtiness, ‘Beaumanoir, be silent, speak no more of that, Montfort shall be duke of this noble duchy, from Pontorson to Nantes, and even to Saint Mahé. Edward shall be king of France, in spite of the French and their allies.'»
“ Et Beaumaner respont par grant humilitez.
Songies un aultre songe, cestui est mal songèe
Quer jamais par tel voie nen auriez demy pie.” “And Beaumanoir answered with great humility, “Conceive another idea, this was ill imagined, for by such a road you can never proceed half a foot.'"
He then makes the proposal to Pembroke of deciding the dispute in mortal combat, and an arrangement is entered into that they shall meet for that purpose, thirty against thirty. Upon which he returns to his friends, and relates to them the result of his interview, stating that it is determined they shall meet together, with their companions,
“Men properly chosen, who know well to wield the lance, the battleaxe, the sword, and heavy dagger."
* Sir Thomas Daggeworth, the English commander, who held the castle of Auray for the Countess de Montfort. He was slain in a battle with Raoul de Cahors, one of De Blois's captains.
+ A sort of sword, shorter than that generally used, but broader; and worn, at the right side, like a dagger.
“Sy feroit bon choisir qui bien ferroit de lance
Et de hache, et despee et de dague pesante.” Upon this his friends express their approbation, and request him to choose his retinue; and there is a promptness in the manner in which the offer is made and accepted that is very striking.
“Prenes quil vous plaira, tres nobile baron.
Tintiu lac a Dieu soit beneichon
Et Guy de Rochefort et Charuel le bon,” &c. “Take whom you please, most noble Baron. 'I take Tinteniac, to God be thanks; and Guy de Rochefort, and Charruel the Good; William de la Marche, and Robin Raguenel; Huon de Saint Yvon; Caro de Bodegat,* whom I should not forget; Geoffroy de Bois,t of great renown; Oliver Arrel, the valiant Breton; and John Rousselot of the Lion Heart. If these will not defend themselves gallantly against the felonious Pembroke, I shall be much deceived in my expectations.
He then proceeds to select his esquires, whose names are given as follows:
“Guillaume de Montauban, Alain de Tinteniac, Tristan de Pestivien, Alain de Keranrais and his uncle Oliver, Louis Guion of the two-handed Sword; Hugues Capus the Prudent, and Geoffroy de la Roche. "If these do not defend themselves well against the rapacious Pembroke, they never more deserve to gird on a sword of steel.” »
“Se ceulx ne se deffendent de Bourcbourc le merchier,
He also selected Geoffroy Poulart, Maurice de Treziguidi, Guion de Pont blanc, Maurice du Parc, Geoffroy de Beaucorps, and Geoffroy Mellon
“All whom he called, returned him their thanks; they were all present and ready in attendance.”
Beaumanoir also selected John de Serent, Guillaume de la Lande, Oliver Monteville, and Symon Richard
“All ready to put their hearts and bodies to the risk, and all assembled without delay."
Sir Robert Pembroke, on his part, chose thirty combatants, whose names were as follow:
Richard de la Lande
• Caron de Boscdegas, Ms. + Guiffrai de Bones, Ms.
He fought with an iron mace, weighing twenty-five pounds.
Having marshalled his attendants, Beaumanoir addresses them in a speech which strongly marks the character of the times, and the high sense of honour which prevailed; for instead of disparaging the courage of his enemies, in order to inspire his followers with better confidence, as is sometimes done in modern times, he, on the contrary, assures them that they have to deal with men of valour, and warns them of the necessity of exerting themselves to the utmost.
“Seigneurs, dit Beaumanoir, o le hardy visage
Ja trouverois Englois qui sunt de grant courage,” &c.
Pembroke also, on his part, addresses his companions, and tells them that he had caused the books of Merlin to be consulted, and that they assured him of success.
The parties having arrived on the ground, Pembroke proposes a parley and a postponement of the combat; which Beaumanoir rejects. The fight then commences, and the first shock is terrible : Charruel is taken prisoner;* the valiant Tristan is struck to the ground with a mace; and so are Rousselot and Botegat. The poem then proceeds to give a particular description of the combat, of which the following extracts may suffice.
* Ile was afterwards rescued, and joined the fight.