Friday, 10 April 2009

Chapter 4: How when he was besieging another castle belonging to the same Matthew, at Chambly a sudden storm forced his army to flee; how without Louis' valiant resistance his army would have been all but wiped out; and how Matthew humbly gave him satisfaction

In the same way[1], he led his army against another of the count’s castles called Chambly, pitched camp and ordered the siege engines to be brought up. But his hopes were totally dashed. The weather, which had been good, changed to wet and windy, then a violent storm broke out, with drenching rain, and the whole land was disturbed at night by the chorus of thunderclaps that scattered the army and frightened the horses so much that some people thought they should scarcely survive.

In the face of this unspeakable terror, at dawn part of the army prepared to take flight. While Louis was still sleeping in his pavilion, they craftily set fire to the tents. Because this was the signal for the retreat, the army rashly and in confusion hastened to depart, frightened by the unexpected retreat but not waiting to discuss it. The Lord Louis, confused by the impulsive rush and the great noise enquired what was going on, mounted his horse and rushed after the army, but because it had already dispersed far and wide he failed to bring it back. What could that young hero do than rush to arms with the few men he had managed to collect together, and make a wall to shield those who had fled ahead of him, and attack and be attacked time and again? Those who otherwise would have perished were able to flee quietly and securely; but because many of them fled in small groups far from him, they were captured by the enemy. Among these the most eminent were Hugh of Clermont himself and Guy of Senlis[2] and Herluin of Paris[3], as well as many knights of lesser birth and foot-soldiers.

Deeply wounded by this blow, for he had thus far been inexperienced in disaster when he returned to Paris he felt a totally unfamiliar anger arise in his soul. And as is usual among young men, at least those of them who aspire to valour, as anger moved him he fuelled it. Burning to avenge his injury at once, he gathered with wisdom and caution an army three times the size of the original one, and repeatedly declared with frequent sighs that he would rather face death than bear the shame. When his friends told Count Matthew, because he was a man of good breeding and courtesy, he regretted the shame he had accidentally inflicted on his lord and by repeated approaches sought to open the road to peace as quickly as possible.

With much civility and flattery he tried to pacify the young man, excusing himself, reasonably enough, on the ground that he has not inflicted this injury by design but by accident and showed himself willing to make all due satisfaction. Through many appeals, through the counsel of his household, and the rather belated insistence of his father, the young man’s anger was cooled. He pardoned the repentant noble, excused the injury, restored his losses as far as possible with the count’s cooperation, set free the captives, made peace with Hugh of Clermont, and thanks to the firm peace thus made was able to restore to him the part of the castle that was his.


[1] The attack on Chambly took place immediately after the attack on Luzarches in 1102: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 19. Orderic Vitalis 4:287 does not mention the storm but attributes the flight of Louis’ force to a trick. Chambly is about three miles north-west of Beaumont and twenty-eight miles north of Paris.

[2] Guy II de Senlis, sometimes called Guy de la Tour was held in great regard by Louis and frequently accompanied him. He was the father of Guy III who became ‘butler’ of the king in 1108: see Depoin, Jean, (ed.), Cartulaire de Saint-Martin de Pontoise, five vols. Pontoise: Société Historique du Vexin, 1895-1909, vol. 4, pp. 282-283.

[3] Herluin of Paris was a member of a family that can be traced back to the tenth century. He was the nephew of Ansoud and Miles of Paris who, in a diploma of 1047 are placed among the ‘optimates palatii Regis’. Herluin acted as the prince’s tutor, a title that continued to be used after Louis became king in 1108 suggesting a close relationship with the monarch.

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