Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Chapter 15

Of the Capture of La Ferte-Baudoin and the freeing of the Count of Corbeil and Anselm of Garlande

Louis, now king of France by the grace of God, could not forget the lessons he had learned in youth of defending churches, protecting the poor and needy and working for the peace and defence of the realm.

Guy the Red[1], mentioned above, and his son Hugh de Crécy[2], an intelligent young man of valour but made for rape and arson who was quick to disturb the whole kingdom, both persisted in detracting from the king’s dignity on account of the bitterness[3] they felt at the shameful loss of the castle of Gournay. Therefore Hugh chose not even to spare his brother Odo, Count of Corbeil[4], because he would give him no help against the king; so he ambushed him, exploiting his simplicity. One day, Count Odo decided to hunt peacefully on his own property, when the foolish man discovered what kind of realities and hopes a blood relationship can give rise to, once corrupted by envy. For he was captured by his brother Hugh, shackled and chained in the castle of La Ferté-Baudoin[5], and not allowed to escape, even if he had been able to unless he would make war on the king.

In the face on this singular madness, large numbers of the inhabitants of Corbeil (for that castellany was rich in knights of ancient families) fled to the refuge offered to all by the crown. Kneeling at the king’s feet, with tears and sobs they told him of the count’s capture and its cause and begged and prayed Louis to set him free by force. When Louis’ promise of help gave them hope of his release, their anger cooled and their sorrow was eased. They turned to the question of the means and forces they had to recover their lord. La Ferté-Baudoin belonged to Hugh, not through hereditary right but because of his marriage with the Countess Adelaide, whom he had then repudiated while keeping the castle.[6] Some men of La Ferté therefore entered into negotiations[7] with those of Corbeil and swore to let them into the castle, though they took precautions.

Persuaded by the men of Corbeil, the king hastened there with a handful of household troops to avoid arousing too much attention. It was late and the men in the castle were still chatting around their fires, when those who had been sent on ahead, the seneschal Anselm of Garlande[8], a very brave knight and about forty armed men, were received at the gate which had been agreed, and made vigorous efforts to capture it. But the garrison, surprised by the neighing of the horses and the inopportune noise of the knights rushed to oppose them. Because the entrance was narrow by the enemy’s gates, those who had entered could neither go forward nor back at will. This allowed the defenders, encouraged by their position, to cut down very easily those in front of the gates. The attackers, oppressed by darkening shadows and by their unfortunate position, could no longer sustain their attack and retreated to the outer gate. But the very courageous Anselm, sacrificing himself in retreat, could not beat the enemy to the gate. He was captured and imprisoned in the tower of the castle, not as its conqueror but as a captive along with the Count of Corbeil. Their misery was equal, though their fears were different; for one feared death, the other only disinheritance; so it might aptly have been said of them: ’Carthage and Marius consoled each other on their destinies.’[9]

When the shouts of the fugitives reached the ears of the hastening king, angry that he had been delayed and diverted by the difficulties of the dark night, he sprang on to a very fast horse and rushed to help his men by boldly attacking the gate. But he found the gate locked, and repulsed by a hail of arrows, spears and stones, he withdrew. The grief-stricken brothers and relatives of the captured seneschal fell at his feet, crying: ‘Have pity glorious and courageous king, for if that wicked and abandoned man Hugh de Crécy, sated with human blood, can lay his hands on our brother either by coming here or by having him taken to him, he will throw himself at his throat without the least thought for the penalty that would await him if he consigned him to sudden death. For he is more ferocious than the most ferocious of men.’[10]

Moved by their fear, the king at once surrounded the castle, blocked the roads which led to the gates, built four or five barriers around it and deployed both the kingdom’s and his own resources for the capture of the captives and the castle. Hugh was at first been delighted by the capture of Anselm, but was now terrified of the prospect of losing him and the castle. Anxiously he planned to leave the castle by any means; both on horseback and on foot he disguised himself, now as a jongleur, now as a prostitute. 

One day as he was giving his whole attention to this, he was spotted from the castle and jumped upon. Unable to fight off the murderous attack, he sought safety in flight. Suddenly William[11], brother of the captured seneschal, a knight of outstanding valour, among others in pursuit but ahead of them by the speed of his horse and his own determination, rushed at him and tried to cut off his retreat. Hugh recognised him by his great speed and brandished his lance often in his direction, but not daring to delay on account of his pursuers, he set off in flight. He was of matchless skill. Had it been possible for him to have fought in single combat, he would have displayed his great daring either in winning the trophy for the duel or in facing death. Unable to avoid all the villages in his path or the inevitable attacks of the approaching enemies except by a trick, he passed himself off as William of Garlande; he cried out that he was being pursued by Hugh and invited others, in the name of the king, to bar his pursuer’s path. By these and other tricks, thanks to quickness of tongue and courage of heart, he was successful in flight and so one man laughed at many.

Neither this nor any other reason drew the king away from the siege he had begun. He tightened the blockade and harassed the garrison. He continued attacking until he forced them to surrender to his power, after a secret assault was led by his knights and assisted by the treachery of some of the garrison. In the commotion, the knights fled into the keep. They were concerned only to save their lives, not to evade capture. For once shut up there, they could neither protect themselves adequately nor get out by any means. In the end, after some had been slain and others wounded, they gave themselves and the castle up to the king’s will, with the approval of their lord. And so ‘Both dutiful and wicked in one and the same action’[12] he restored his seneschal to himself, a brother to his brother and their count to the people of Corbeil, displaying both prudence and clemency. Of the knights who were in the castle, some he disinherited, seizing their goods and some he condemned to lengthy imprisonment. By this harsh punishment, he intended to deter others. By this great victory, won through God’s aid against the hopes of his enemies, he increased the revenues of the crown.[13]


[1] Guy, count de Rochefort, called the Red because of the colour of its hair was the brother of Miles: see a genealogical table of the families of Montlhéry and Rochefort in ibid, Fliche, A., Le reign of Philippe Ier, p. 321, no 2.

[2] Crécy-en-Brie is about thirty miles east of Paris on the Grand Morin.

[3] Suger puns on Guy de Rochefort’s nickname ‘the Red’ (rubeus) and his being ‘reddened with shame’ (erubescentia) when he lost the castle at Gournay.

[4] Odo, count of Corbeil (died c.1112) was the son of Adélaïde de Crécy and Bouchard II of Corbeil. Suger later tells of the death of Bouchard in the 1080s in a battle with Stephen, count of Blois in chapter 20. This creates a problem as Odo and Hugh had the same mother, Adélaïde de Crécy. Most writers accept that Adélaïde married Guy of Rochefort after Bouchard’s death that must have occurred in 1082-1083 as Hugh de Crécy was already around twenty-five by 1107.

[5] La Ferté-Baudoin is the modern La Ferté-Alais about forty miles south of Paris on the river Essone.

[6] Suger is confused between Hugh, son of Adelaide de Crécy and Guy of Rochefort, her husband, father of Hugh.

[7] Manuscript F uses the term ‘opprimebat’ at this point. All the other manuscripts use ‘opimabat’. The first suggests that there was an unwritten alliance between the burgesses of Corbeil and those of la Ferté-Baudoin, an example of the nascent hostility between lords and burgesses. The others do not suggest this was the case.

[8] Anselm de Garlande, count of Rochfort (1069?-1118) became seneschal a little before Louis became king perhaps because of the quarrel between king Philip and Louis and Guy de Rochfort in the summer of 1108 after the events at Gournay. He married [unknown] de Montlhery and their daughter Agnes de Garlande died in 1143. She was married to Amaury III de Montfort in 1120.

[9] Lucan, De bello civili, II, 91-92

[10] They were brothers-in-law; Anselm de Garlande was married a sister of Hugh de Crécy

[11] William de Garlande was seneschal between 1118 and 1120, after the death of Anselm.

[12] Ovid, Metamorphoses III, 5

[13] The siege of La Ferte-Baudoin occurred in the last months of 1108 probably in December. Ibid, La Chronique de Saint-Pierre-le-Vif de Sens, pp. 146-147 states that the siege took place ‘per nives, per grandines, in tempestates hiemales’: ‘in snow and storms, at the heart of winter’.

No comments: