From Peter the Cruel, The Life Of The Notorious Don Pedro of Castile Together With An Account Of His Relations With The Famous Maria de Padilla, by Edward Storer; London: John Lane, The Bodley Head; New York: John Land Company, 1911; pp. 300-319.
“Sirs, the time I tell you of
Was upon a Saturday,
The third day of April,
When the sweet and gentle birds
Begin again their song
Through meadow, wood and field,
At this time was without fail
The great battle before Najara.”
— Chandos Herald (circa 1370)
GOOD fortune must now have seemed within touching distance of Don Pedro once again. Among the host under the Prince of Wales, there was no man more eager for battle than Castile’s legitimate king. All his old wrath and frenzied desire for vengeance were driving him impetuously to the battle-field, and, before the very terror of his name, the first towns, which the invading army reached, crumpled up into a weak submission to the army of restoration.
Though Don Enrique may have felt it to be a rashness in him, the counsels of the Castilians, who certainly entertained no superstitious fear of the Black Prince, prevailed on him to take the bolder course and challenge an engagement with the English.
“Honour,” he said, “forbade him to abandon to 301 the vengeance of his enemies those cities and men who had sacrificed everything to his cause.”
So the Castilians and Du Guesclin entrenched themselves in a strong position chosen by the Breton General, and awaited the approach of the English.
Among the English, Sir Thomas Felton, whom the bloodlessness of the expedition up to this point had perhaps annoyed, went to the Prince one day for permission to leave the main body of the army and reconnoitre ahead on his own account.
“I have many knights and squires under my command,” said this brave knight, whose military ardour was soon to cost him his death, “as good men as myself, who are anxious to do something worthy of notice.”
The Prince granted the desired permission, and Sir Thomas with Ralph de Hastings, who, we learn, “esteemed not death at two cherries,” and some four or five hundred men, set out to make their arms glorious.
When they were separated from the main body by a matter of a few leagues, they were suddenly surrounded by about three thousand1 Castilian horsemen. Felton, who remained perfectly cool, bid his men dismount, and ranged them under a steep hillock.
Sir William Felton, the brother of the Seneschal refused to dismount, and flung himself among the enemy. With a lance-thrust he pierced a man-at-arms through at the first onslaught, but was immediately surrounded and cut to pieces.302
For a long time, the rest of the band defied all the efforts of the Castilians to break them, and fought undaunted for hours round the banner of the Seneschal.
At last, goaded by the persistent defence of so small a body of men, two captains of adventurers, the Maréchal d’Audeneham and the Bègue de Villaines, led an assault of dismounted knights against the English, while some Castilian genetours charged them in the rear. Overwhelmed by the rush of men, the English column broke and everyone was taken or slain.
The heroic defence of the English is commemorated, says Mérimée, to this day in the local traditions of the place by a hillock there called Inglesmendi or The Mound of the English.
On Friday, the 2nd of April, the Prince of Wales decamped from Logrono. He knew that Don Enrique was not far away, and by about nine o’clock, the English army had arrived before the town of Navarette.
The day was spent in scouting to find the whereabouts of the enemy, and towards the evening secret orders were given for the whole army to hold itself in readiness.
Meanwhile, King Henry’s army was similarly engaged in feeling for its foe.
I follow Froissart in the narration of this battle, supplementing or comparing his account with that of the other chroniclers.
EFFIGY OF FOURTEENTH CENTURY SPANISH NOBLE
The Spaniards had plenty of food, and were in 303 tolerable comfort, and in their camp there was considerable merriment.
With the English it was different. Food was very scarce, and what there was of it was purchasable only at exorbitant prices. The men were desperate, and looked forward to the battle with the fierce desire of hungry men towards food lying almost within their reach.
At midnight the trumpets of Enrique’s army sounded, and the whole force left its tents and formed itself into array of battle. The three divisions into which it separated itself were commanded by Bertrand Du Guesclin, Don Tello and Don Sancho, and King Henry himself.
Altogether, according to Froissart, the Castilian host amounted to about seventy-five thousand men.
Ayala only allows the Castilian army about five thousand horsemen, and is indefinite about the infantry with Enrique.
The English, on whose side he was not, and of whose numbers we might imagine him to know less, he carefully estimates at forty thousand fighting men.2 This corresponds with Froissart.
“When the sun had risen, it was a beautiful sight to view these battalions with their brilliant armour glittering with its beams.” With the Spanish force, Enrique, whose charm of manner always won friends for him, passed swiftly through the ranks “sweetly 304 entreating” his men to do their best and putting them all into high spirits.
The Prince of Wales kept his army in the formation in which it had been drawn up before Vittoria, that is in three divisions, like that of the Conde.
With an evil significance for Don Enrique’s side, there crept into the English ranks, just at dawn, a little party of Castilian deserters.
Then, as the light of day revealed quite plainly to each other the opposing hosts, each man tightened his armour, and made ready for instant combat.
Just at this moment, Sir John Chandos came up to the Prince of Wales with his banner in his hands.3
“My lord,” he said, “here is my banner, I place it in your hands. Is it your pleasure that I raise it to-day? God be praised I have such lands and heritage as becomes the state of a knight banneret.” Chandos here aspired to a new honour.
The Prince of Wales gave the banner to Don Pedro, who unrolled it, and either he or the Prince then returned it to Chandos with the tail made square, thereby creating him a knight-banneret.
Sir John returned to his own knights and squires and told them of their new honour and his own, saying: —
“Gentlemen, behold my banner and yours. Guard it as it becomes you!”
Then the armies began to draw a little nearer to each other, and the Prince of Wales, with eyes and 305 hands uplifted, turned his thoughts to the God of battles.
And, when he had prayed, he turned to Don Pedro and said: “Sire, King, you shall this day know whether you have anything in this kingdom of Castile or not.
He then cried out, “Banners advance in the name of God and St George!”
The trumpets of either side sounded the advance, and to the cry of the English, Enrique’s men answered “King Enrique for Castile!”
The first onslaught was very fierce, and took place between the battalions commanded respectively by the Duke of Lancaster and Bertrand Du Guesclin. “There was,” says Froissart, “a terrible medley of spears and shields.”
The knights attacked each other ferociously, but less damage was done than might be expected on account of the strong armour in which all were encased. Sir John Chandos was singled out for personal combat by a Castilian caballero of the name of Martin Fernandez. This man, who was a lusty fellow of enormous size, seized Sir John, and, with the strength of his arms, pulled him from his horse. The Englishman, however, managed to drag his enemy down with him, when they struggled together in the dust for a while, much encumbered and burdened with their armour. Fernandez, by his weight, gained at last the upper hand, and proceeded to pin his opponent to the ground, by the force of his knee. But Sir John, who had preserved his coolness 306 throughout the whole desperate struggle, was watching, poignard in hand, for an opening to show itself in the Castilian’s armour.
At last, as they turned and twisted, a gap presented itself in the heavy steel, and Chandos plunged in the dagger with all his strength. Lifeless, the heavy mass fell over him and covered him with blood. He cast it from him, and rejoined his knights.
While the Duke of Lancaster was fiercely engaged with Du Guesclin’s men, the Prince of Wales and Don Pedro charged the division in command of Don Tello and Don Sancho. This broke in the most unexpected manner, and was severely cut up by the Captal de Buch and the Lord de Clisson. To counterbalance the English success, in this quarter, so fierce had been the onset of Du Guesclin’s knights, that the battalions opposed to him had given way a little. But the soldiers of the Black Prince’s command were now able to join their efforts to those of John of Gaunt in attacking Du Guesclin’s men. A most desperate encounter followed in which the slings of the Castilians did much damage to the English army.
This was the turning-point of the battle, and when the Captal de Buch and the English archers directed their energies on the body of men thus left unprotected by the flight of Don Tello and his warriors, fortune had turned definitely in favour of the Prince of Wales.
Gallantly enough did Don Enrique return to the assault, and time after time did he urge on his men with cries of encouragement or reproaches.307
“Gallant Sirs,” shouted the brave bastard, “what do you do? Will you now betray me? You who have made me king. Turn again and with God’s assistance, the day shall still be ours.
But the day was not to be theirs. At the rear of the shaken and wavering troops of Enrique, was the river Najerilla, and into its waters many of the Castilian soldiers were driven. On his wing, the King of Majorca had acquitted himself well, though in that direction the honours of the fight were about equally shared.
With the Prince of Wales, were some of the best soldiers of Europe, and slowly but surely his knights and squires rolled back the Castilians towards the banks of the river.
Don Pedro, for whom once again fortune seemed to be faintly smiling, was something of his old self in this battle. Mounted on a large black horse, he threw himself into the thickest part of the fray, and fought with great energy and desperation.
As he and his immediate body-knights hacked and slashed their way over the battle-field, Don Pedro kept crying out continually: “Where is this bastard that calls himself the King of Castile?” He sought everywhere to find him and engage him in single combat.
The sight and smell of so much blood began to produce in Don Pedro a return of his old frenzy for slaughter. When the battle was over and the English trumpets had sounded the retirement, Don Pedro was still to be seen madly engaged in bloodthirsty and vindictive pursuit. The old lust tingled in his veins, 308 and he roved breathlessly over the scene of carnage dealing out death with his own hands. Even men who delivered themselves up as prisoners were not free from his fury. He murdered Iñigo Lopez de Orozco, whom he met with his captor, a certain Gascon knight, much to the knight’s and the English army’s disgust.
When the question of prisoners came to be spoken of, it was found that the English army held Bertrand Du Guesclin, Sir Arnold d’Andreghen, the Bègue de Villaines, Don Sancho and many others.4
The Conde escaped, when he saw that the day was hopelessly lost, but he fought like a brave knight, and, but for the weakness or treachery of his brother, Don Tello, would have given an even better account of himself and his battalions.
When the fight was won, and the cost and the prisoners were being counted, the Prince of Wales asked where the Conde was.
“E lo bort, es mort o’ pres?” — And the bastard, is he dead or taken, he asked, and, when they told him of his escape, he answered prophetically with the intuition of a true general: “Noy ay res faït — then nothing is done.”
Thus was fought the battle of Najara or Navarette, to no purpose as it afterwards proved; for the hour of victory was only clearly to show to the chivalrous Black Prince for what manner of a man he had spent his own energies and the blood of so many good knights.309
According to Ayala, the Castilians lost about four hundred men-at-arms5 and seven thousand foot-soldiers. According to Froissart, the English only lost four knights and about sixty foot-soldiers.
This, even for a mediæval battle, seems, to say the least of it, a very moderate estimate.
When Don Pedro, exhausted and worn out with his furious pursuit, came at length to his English ally, he turned to thank him for the victory which had given him once again his kingdom.
“Yes,” said the Prince of Wales, “you have gained the battle, but one might say that you have only gained it by spilling the blood of your own subjects. God has punished them for abandoning you; see that he does not punish you in your turn, if you do not change your conduct towards them.”6
Don Pedro wished to embrace his knees, but Edward repulsed him, adding: —
“The victory is of God, not of me. To me you owe nothing; to him, all.”
On the very morning of the day following the battle, the prisoners were led in review. Don Pedro was anxious that the Castilians should be placed in his hands.
“I will speak to them,” he said with a sinister smile, “and will induce them to remain in my service. For if they should escape, or be ransomed by the enemy, I shall find them my very bitterest foes.”
Edward, Prince of Wales, heard this singular remark — the promptings of Don Pedro’s unquenchable spirit 310 revenge — and its effect was only to deepen that suspicion of the character of his ally, which he had lately begun to entertain. He denied the King of Castile any such right as his words implied, saying that the prisoners were his, and that nor for any gold would he deliver them up for execution.
“If this be your determination,” cried Don Pedro, aroused and vexed, “I hold my kingdom more lost than it was to me yesterday. Your alliance has been useless, and it is in vain that I have expended my treasure in paying your men-at-arms.
Thus did the dissent between the two princes grow.
Gravely the Prince of Wales answered that there were other means of recovering a kingdom than those by which Don Pedro had lost it. The Prince advised less of the old cruelty and severity, something more of kindness and charity.
“If,” he said impressively, “you return to your former courses, you will again peril your Crown, and neither my lord the King of England nor myself will be able to assist you — even should we have the desire.”
1 Six thousand, says Froissart.
2 Choisy says the English army consisted of thirty thousand horse, and forty thousand foot, while the Castilian force was very much larger especially in infantry (p. 151).
3 We learn from the noble Chandos’s Herald that this banner was of “silk, rich and graceful.” V. 3659.
4 “Je me rends au Prince, car c’est le plus hardi.”
5 Mérimée says six hundred.
6 Choisy, p. 153.
DON PEDRO’S restoration was an affair of little duration, for it had in it no permanent qualities.
It is a poor thing among the princes of earth that we see at the last in this crafty-eyed, pale, and treacherous debauchee.
Surely some murder-spirit sat among the ruins of his brain to poison him with such a furious and psychopathic desire of cruelty and death.
Don Pedro, in the final stages of his career, seems nothing more or less than a homicidal maniac — a degenerate, a détraqué.
After the victory of Najara the conquerors held a council in order to consider their plans, and at this meeting Don Pedro’s old temper leapt out into the peace and security of the gathering.
The Prince of Wales made him a speech, in which he besought him to use clemency towards his subjects found in arms against him, for suspicion had gathered in the camp that Don Pedro was in the humour for a colossal massacre.
At such an hour, however, he was constrained to keep his bloodthirst unassuaged, and, with what good feeling he could summon, to answer his noble ally: —312
“Fair cousin, I willingly grant your request.”
He then set out for Burgos, occupying several towns and castles on the way. A few days later he was followed by Prince Edward. Already the latter was beginning to hate his Spanish brother-in-arms, and to question himself about the wisdom of the whole campaign.
Arrived at the city of Burgos, the Prince took up his residence in the monastery of Las Huelgas, the name of the house wherein he had lodged when at Bordeaux. The Duke of Lancaster found shelter in a convent inside the city.
In a little while it became apparent that the restoration was for the time being secured; the Commons of various towns sent representatives with professions of allegiance and loyalty; Enrique was in France; the country side was still. At such an hour the goddess of reckoning raised her hands, and Edward put to Pedro the business side of the whole question.
He sought the promised payment for his accomplished task.
“Sir King,” he said, “you are now, thanks to God, lord over your country, and all rebellion is at an end. We, therefore, remain here at such very great expense that I must desire you will provide yourself with money sufficient to pay those who have replace you in your kingdom, and that you now fulfil all the articles of the treaties which you have sworn to perform. We shall be obliged by your so doing as speedily as possible, which will be the more profitable to you, for you know 313 that men-at-arms will live, and, if they be not paid, will help themselves.
The King of Castile replied that he was in haste to settle his accounts and was most anxious to perform his promised punctually, so far as in his power lay, but that, a-lack! he had no money. To remedy which state of things he would go to Seville — the city which was always his private bank — and gather a sufficiency there. Which done, he would surely return and pay his debts not later than Whitsuntide.
Edward accepted this reply with the philosophy which seems to come sooner or later to all creditors, and Don Pedro departed for Andalusia.
On his journey thither, he perpetrated a number of murders or executions, and in Cordova, Sir John Dillon says, he reverted to his old habit of noctambule, this time, however, not as a gallant but as an executioner. With a few companions, he entered in the middle of the night the houses of those who were under his ban, and with the assistance of his friends, stabbed them as they slept.
Sixteen victims thus fell to this royal fancy in Cordova.
Enrique, who had narrowly escaped the soldiers of his brother in the flight after Navarette, had, meanwhile, gone into France. He was given shelter at Montpellier by the Comte de Foix, and secretly encouraged by Charles V. who saw with jealous eyes this new success of the English.1
After a while, the Conde began to threaten the 314 frontiers of Aquitaine, which caused the Princess of Wales to write to the King of France protesting against this conduct. Charles, as yet unwilling to incur the anger of the Prince of Wales, whose success in Spain had been widely noised abroad in Europe, publicly ordered Don Enrique to refrain from annoying the subjects of his cousin Edward, but secretly abetted the object of his reproof.
We left that amusing old rogue and cynic, Carlos the Bad of Navarre, imprisoned by his own minion, Olivier de Mauny, in the Castle of Borja, awaiting the issue of war. When fortune declared for the English, Carlos thought it was time to be on their side, and began to meditate how he could regain his freedom without satisfying his obligations to his amiable warder. He had promised Mauny the lordship of Gulbray and a considerable sum of money for his complaisance, but had no desire to pay his debts.
De Mauny was a man of some astuteness himself, as became a captain of Free Companies, but a man like Carlos, who invented, it is said, refinements of cruelty and depraved pleasure almost as remarkable as those of Nero, was not likely to want imagination in a simple case of avoiding payment.
He told De Mauny that if he would accompany him to Tuleda, the matter should be adjusted. As a pledge of good faith, he left one of his sons at Borja in the custody of the knight-adventurer.
At Tuleda, De Mauny was surrounded by the King’s men and thrown into prison. A brother of his, in attempting his escape, was killed and the knight 315 himself was only allowed his liberty on consenting to release Carlos’ son.
Meanwhile, at Burgos, the fierce Spanish summer was creeping on, and illness and drunkenness broke out among the idle English troops. There was no sign of any fulfilment on Don Pedro’s part of the various clauses of the treaty of Libourne. The Prince of Wales and his captains began to grow angry; they felt that they had been made the dupes of the crafty Castilian.
Edward himself, however, was sick, and the climate was rapidly thinning the ranks of his famous warriors. He determined to return to Aquitaine. Before he left, he extracted pledges from Don Pedro — who all along protested his willingness but incapacity to pay — that so much should be definitely contributed within four months and the balance within a year. To this end Edward was to hole the King’s daughters as hostages.
The provinces of Biscay, which were to have been ceded according to the treaty, refused to recognise the English as their over-lords, and in this determination they received, no doubt, the secret encouragement of Don Pedro. Even Sir John Chandos as not allowed the honour of Lord of Soria, for, when he came to claim it, he found that the Castilian courts, ill-pleased that an Englishman should be so honourably investitured, placed the fees of the patent at so high a figure, that the honour and profit became a loss.
A somewhat remarkable conspiracy on the part of a vassal hitherto strongly attached to Don Pedro now arose.316
The rebel and conspirator was Martin Lopez de Cordova, who had been the King’s ambassador to Edward III. While appearing to further the King’s interests in every way, Lopez was secretly organising a revolt among the Castilian nobility. To the Ricos Hombres and the Hidalgos he represented the painful condition of their sovereign: his distraught, unbalanced state, his maniacal ferocity, and his general unfitness to govern alone. He hinted at the establishment of a regency, a nominal regency, wherein all the power should be in the hands of the nobles. For the post of figure-head he suggested the Prince of Wales, “that perfect model of chivalry.”
While the Prince was to be made regent of Castile, the kingdom was to be split into four parts, each of which should be governed absolutely by some noble of the land.
Naturally enough, in this prospective parcelling out, Lopez did no injustice to himself, for Murcia and Andalusia were, under this projected régime, to be governed by him.
Thought the plot seems to have won a general approval among the lords of Castile, the English invasion, the unrest throughout the land, and perhaps some relics of fear for the newly-restored King, prevented matters from maturing to a definite end.
There seems to be no evidence that the Prince of Wales was ever approached on the subject of such an honorary regency as that suggested by Martin Lopez; he was never, at any rate, to have the chance of 317 exercising it, for the pot came to the ears of Don Pedro, and died still-born.
Lopez was lured to the castle of Martos and there imprisoned.2 Only the request of Muhamad, King of Granada, now Don Pedro’s only friend, saved his life.
Later, the King even restored Lopez to complete favour, so little could he afford to allow himself the vengeance of his earlier years.
Meanwhile, Castile was very unsettled and unhappy.
The restoration, built only on the armed support of an alien army, seems to have had little finality about it.
Nor did the taxes, thrust upon the people to provide — in theory, at any rate — the tributes to the English, make Don Pedro and his rule any the more popular.
Castile was traversed by foreigners in a way quite unknown to its peculiar nationality. There was much ransoming of prisoners after the departure of the English, and many notable warriors drifted back into France, Aragon or Aquitaine.
Bertrand Du Guesclin, it must be remembered, had been taken prisoner at Navarette, and the story of his ransom is characteristic and amusing.
The green-eyed one, the ugly, flat-nosed Bertrand, for whom the charming Tiphaine Ruguenel was waiting in France, was not of a mind to remain overlong in idleness. And Charles, who knew him for his best lieutenant, was willing to pay his ransom, while there was gold in the treasuries of France. But the 318 English had no wish to give back to the French their best general at a moment when their own authority in Aquitaine seemed to be undergoing a serious and subtle undermining. But Du Guesclin, who knew the character of the Prince well enough by this time and his susceptibility to a sentimental or theatrical appeal, resolved to direct an attack against it for the purpose of securing his own ransom.
At Bordeaux, Du Guesclin was nobly entertained, and passed much of his own time with the English Prince, whose character he thus had a good opportunity of studying.
One day Edward asked his prisoner if the sojourn at Bordeaux agreed with him.
“My lord,” replied Bertrand, “I was never better in my life, and indeed I ought to be well, for I am, though your prisoner, the most honoured knight in the world as you must know.”
“How so?” asked Edward.
“It is said in the kingdom of France,” replied the astute Breton, “that you dare not set me free!”
The pride of the English Prince welled up at this stroke.
Edward seems to have been a rather simple fellow, for, at the taunt, all his common-sense deserted him, and the mere thought that he could be afraid of anyone cast him into a welter of quixotic chivalry.
“Do you imagine, Messire Bernard, that we stand in such dread of your prowess? Fix your own ransom. Let it be but a rush of straw, and I shall be satisfied.”
Bertrand accepted the proposition eagerly. His end 319 gained, however, he did not hesitate to indulge in a little gasconade himself.
According to Cuvelier, he boasted that the women of France alone would unite to pay his ransom. “Not a single good house-wife,” he declared, “that would not turn her wheel for me the whole year long.” That he was also a generous man as well as a shrewd one we have evidence in the fact that he fixed his own ransom at a truly kingly figure.
We may be sure that the proud spirit of the Prince of Wales would not have complained had Du Guesclin fixed the ransom at some inconsiderable sum.
As it was, it was placed at a hundred thousand golden florins.3 When the amount was fixed, Du Guesclin was offered the advance of considerable sums by the chivalrous knights who were his captors. Sir John Chandos, like the good man he was, offered the Breton the charity of his purse, for the purposes of his ransom. Du Guesclin thanked Sir John, but declined his generous offer. Charles V. was ready enough to find the money, and added to it indeed a further three thousand florins to pay for the journeys to and from his court. So Bertrand became free to join Don Enrique in the campaign for the final overthrow of Don Pedro of Castile.
1 Ayala, 1367, Cap. XXIV.
2 According to Ayala, Lopez was imprisoned simply for refusing to obey certain of the King’s orders.
3 Ayala says that everyone thought the ransom would be small, “because Mosen Beltran de Claquin possessed nothing in the world but his own body.”
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