Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Chapter 21

Of the attack on Toury and the restoration of Le Puiset

Very soon Hugh treated his still recent oath as a trifle, a fluid thing without shape. Maddened by his long captivity, like a dog chained up too long that, once released lets out the anger formed but contained during the long period of its imprisonment and, freed from its chains, bites and tears everything to pieces, so Hugh stirred up his long icy hatred into action and pushed it towards deception. When he had heard the king Louis had set out for Flanders on affairs of state[1], Hugh in alliance with the enemies of the realm, Theobald, the count palatine and Henry, the great king of the English[2], collected together as many knights and foot-soldiers as he could, determined to take back his castle of Le Puiset and hastened either to destroy or to subdue the country around about.   One Saturday, as he was passing the ruins of his castle on which the king had given permission for a public market[3], he undertook on oath, a singular deception and in a very loud voice to guarantee it security; at the same time he suddenly threw into prison those among them whom he had learned to be the richest. Then gnashing his teeth like a wild beast and cutting to bits anything that came in his way, he hastened with count Theobald to destroy totally Toury, a fortified estate belonging to St. Denis. The day before he had met me, and with his adroitness in trickery and evil had begged and obtained from me a promise that I would go that very day to intercede with the king on his behalf. He calculated that in my absence he could enter the estate with ease or should it resist him destroy it utterly[4].

But the tenants of God and of St. Denis entered the fortification and, protected by divine help and by the strength of the defences, resisted with strength and courage. Meanwhile I came to Corbeil, where I met the king, who had already learned the truth from Normandy[5]. He quickly asked me why I had come, laughed at my simplicity, with great indignation explained Hugh’s deception, and sent me back at once to help the estate.  While he collected an army on the road to Étampes, I went back by the straightest and shortest route to Toury, with my eyes fixed on the place from a distance, looking for the one sign that the place had not yet been captured, the three-storied tower of the fort that dominated the whole plain. For had it been captured the enemy would at once have set fire to the tower. But because the enemy was occupying the neighbourhood, ravaging and devastating everywhere, I could not, either by gifts or by promises, persuade anyone I met to come with me.

But, the fewer in number the safer. As the sun was setting the enemy relaxed a little, weary from having unsuccessfully attacked our men all day. Seeing our opportunity, we pretended to be of their number and in great danger we rushed through the middle of the estate. We gave a signal to our men on the ramparts, they opened the gate, and with God’s help we rushed in at top speed. Rejoicing in my presence they mocked the enemy’s rest, wounded them with scornful insults and, despite my reluctance, indeed my prohibition called them back to a second assault. But the divine hand protected the defenders and the defence as well in my presence as it had done in my absence. Of our small army only a few perished of wounds, while many of their large numbers shared that fate. Many of these were taken away in litters, but others were buried under a very thin covering of earth where they made meals for wolves the next day and on some days after. 

The enemy had not yet returned to Le Puiset after their expulsion when William de Garlande[6] and some of the most resolute and best armed of the king’s household hastened to help the estate, hoping to find the enemy in that neighbourhood so that they could demonstrate the courage of the king’s militia. The lord king at once joined them at dawn. When he heard that they had received hospitality in the burg, he prepared to take revenge on his enemies with joy and happiness because it had fallen to him to avenge by sudden slaughter and unexpected punishment the injury which had been unexpectedly inflicted. But the enemy, hearing of his advance, were astonished that he had discovered a plot so well hidden, had put off his journey to Flanders and had not so much come as flown to help. Not daring to do more, they pressed on with the restoration of the castle. But the king collected what army he could from the neighbourhood, for he was much stretched by war in many places. Then on Tuesday morning, he led out his troops, planned the battle lines, nominated the chiefs, set the archers and slingers in their places and, step by step, approached the unfinished castle. Because he had heard Count Theobald boasting that he would fight the king in the plain, with his customary bravery he got off his horse, ordered that the horses be removed and, as one armed man among many others, he inspired to courage those who had dismounted with him, calling on them not to flinch, but to fight with the greatest fortitude.

The enemy were frightened by seeing him coming so bravely and became too nervous to leave the castle outworks. They chose timidly but cautiously to arrange their troops behind the ancient ditch of the destroyed castle and there they waited, calculating that when the king’s army tried to go down into the ditch and fight from there, the well-organised battle lines would lose their order and in confusion they would waver, which is very largely what happened.   In the first charge of the battle, the king’s knights drove the enemy as if defeated from the ditch with great élan and slaughter, then broke their lines and pursued them impulsively. Meanwhile Raoul of Beaugency[7], a man of great wisdom and valour, fearing in advance that this would happen had hidden his troops in a part of the castle where they were concealed by the shelter of a tall church[8] and some houses nearby. When his allies fled through the gate, he unleashed his fresh troops on the weary royal knights and did much damage. They took flight on foot, impeded by the weight of their mail and armour, hardly able to resist the well-organised line of mounted warriors. After innumerable blows and much fighting on either side, they got back with the king on foot over the ditch they had seized, and belatedly realised the superiority of wisdom over rashness. For if they had awaited their enemies in due order in the plain, they would totally have subdued them to their will. 

But bewildered by the confusion of their lines, they could not find their own horses nor decide what to do. The king mounted a borrowed horse and, resisting stoutly, loudly called his men back to him, appealing to the bolder ones by name not to flee. Penned in by the enemy’s wings on either side, he wielded his sword, protected those he could, pursued the fugitives and, an outstanding knight he fought brilliantly in a knight’s, not a king’s, capacity, although this was not entirely fitting to the royal majesty. But he could not alone, with a tired horse, prevent the collapse of his army until his squire appeared with his own charger. Swiftly mounting it and carrying his standard before him, he charged the enemy with a few men, with marvellous courage he rescued many of his own men from captivity, caught some of the enemy in the ferocity of his charge and, to prevent further damage to his army, he put the enemy to flight as if the sea of Cadiz had dashed itself against the pillar of Hercules or as if they had been kept at their distance by the great Ocean itself.[9]

Before they got back to Le Puiset, they met an army of five hundred or more Norman knights who, had they had earlier while our army was in trouble, would have been to inflict graver losses on us. The king’s army dispersed all around, some to Orleans, some to Étampes and some to Pithiviers[10]. The king, exhausted, retired to Toury. ‘The bull, chased from the herd in his first fight, sharpens his horns on the tree-trunks,’[11] and, collecting his strength in his mighty chest, ‘Heedless of his great wound, he goes forth’[12] against the enemy across the iron barriers. So the king rallied his army, stiffened its courage, revived its boldness, argued that its defeat had been down to folly not imprudence, pointed out that any army inevitably meets with such setbacks on occasion, and tried both by flattery and by threats to make them fight even more ferociously and boldly, should opportunity present itself, in order to avenge their injury. Meanwhile both Normans and French devoted themselves to repairing the castle. There were with count Theobald and the Normans Miles de Montlhéry, Hugh de Crecy and his brother Guy, count of Rochefort, in all thirteen thousand men, who threatened Toury with a siege. But the king fearlessly attempted to harass them night and day, preventing them from going any distance to seek food. 

After a week of continuous labour the castle was rebuilt, and some of the Normans then left, but Count Theobald remained with a large army. The king gathered his forces, ordered the siege engines to be moved, and came back to Le Puiset in strength. When he met the enemy he ground them to powder. Taking his revenge by fighting them up to the gate, he shut them into the castle and posted soldiers to prevent them for escaping. A stone’s throw away there was an abandoned motte[13] which had belonged to his ancestors; this he occupied and erected another castle on it with much labour and pain. For although the prefabricated frame of beams offered some defence, our men had to put up with the dangerous onslaughts of the slingers, the slingers and the archers; all the worse because those who tormented them, safe behind their castle walls, threw their weapons out without any fear of reprisal for the misery they were inflicting. In their desire for victory a dangerous conflict blew up between those within and those without. Those of the king's knights who had been wounded, remembering their injuries, strove to inflict similar suffering, and would not hold back from this until they had fortified the castle almost built by magic with a large garrison and many weapons, convinced as they were that, as soon as the king had gone, they would have to defend themselves with the utmost courage against the assaults of their neighbours or perish wretchedly by the cruel swords of their enemies.

So the king returned to Toury and rallied his forces. Then, boldly risking danger, he brought food to provision the army on the motte across the enemy lines, sometimes secretly with just a few men, sometimes openly with a force. Then the men of Le Puiset, who were so near that they could put intolerable pressure on the garrison, threatened a siege. So the king raised camp, occupied Janville[14] about a mile from Le Puiset, and surrounded the central square with a stockade of stakes and osiers. While his army established their tents outside, Count Palatine Theobald at the head of an army of the best men he could find from his own and the Norman troops, rushed to attack them, hoping to catch them unawares and not yet defended, then to repel and defeat them.

The king went out to meet them in his armour. Each side fought with equal violence, heedless of lances and swords, caring more for victory than for survival, more about triumph than about death. There you would have seen an admirable feat of valour. The count's army, about three times larger than the king's, forced the king’s soldiers into the estate. Then the king with a few men, Ralph, the most noble count of Vermandois[15], his cousin, Dreux de Mouchy[16] and one or two others, scorning to retreat timidly and remembering his customary valour, chose to withstand the heaviest charges of the armed enemy and their countless blows rather than be compelled to return into the estate, thus insulting his own courage and the royal majesty.

Count Theobald, thinking himself already the victor, was rashly attempting to pull down the count of Vermandois’ tents when, with great speed, that count rushed up, declared that up till now the men of Brie had never dared to act with such presumption against those of Vermandois, charged him and with great effort repaid him for the injury he had suffered by repulsing him very vigorously. The king's knights, inspired by his valour and his cries, fell on them. Thirsting for their blood they attacked them, cut them down, put them to shame and pushed them back by force to through the gate of Le Puiset, even if it sullied their dignity. Many were captured, more slain. The outcome of battle is always doubtful. Those who had earlier thought themselves the victors were filled with filled with shame at their defeat, grieved for the captives, and lamented their dead. 

While the king in his turn prevailed against them, the count slipped downwards from the top of fortune's wheel and lost strength. For he and his men had suffered long trials and intolerable, exhausting despair, while each day the king’s strength and that of his supporters increased as the kingdom's barons grew indignant against the count and came to help. So Theobald used an old wound as an excuse to retire from the fray, and sent messengers and intermediaries to the king to beg humbly that he would allow him to retreat in safety to Chartres. In his kindness and more than human mercy, the king agreed to this request, although many counselled that he should not let his enemy, trapped by lack of provisions to go free, nor risk further repetition of his injuries. Both Hugh and the castle of Le Puiset were left to the king's discretion. Then the count withdrew to Chartres, deprived of his vain hope, and brought to a wretched conclusion the enterprise he had begun so happily.[17] The king not only disinherited Hugh de Puiset, but also ordered that the walls of his castle be pulled down, its ditches filled in and the whole place flattened as if accursed. 


[1] It seems likely that Louis went to Flanders to help the young count Baldwin VII and to coordinate joint action against Henry I: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 134.

[2] Orderic Vitalis sets the events of this chapter in a different context asserting that Theobald’s warfare against Louis was designed to keep the king from attacking the Norman possessions of Henry I. Certainly the three assaults on Le Puisset occurred during hostilities with Henry I (1111, 1112 and 1118) and should be viewed in a context broader than that of an attack on Hugh.

[3] The market was held at Le Puiset on a Saturday five times a year.

[4] Suger was closely involved in these events that occurred in the spring and summer of 1112: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 134.

[5] The king had not yet left. Moreover, he did not have any reason to go through Normandy. It is advisable to interpret the words ‘from Normandy’ as supposing that some of his Norman allies had warned him of the raising of troops in the duchy to give support to Hugh de Le Puiset: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 134. Suger further points out that five hundred Norman knights arrived fortunately not too late.

[6] William de Garlande was the brother of the seneschal Anselm. He then became seneschal from 1118 until his death before 3rd August 1120.

[7] See above, note 270.

[8] The ‘tall church’ was the chapel of the priory of Saint-Martin that had been a dependency of the abbey of Marmoutier since 1094.

[9] Orderic Vitalis IV, 304 dated the king’s defeat to 1112.

[10] Louis’ army had fled about twenty miles in different directions: south, north and east.

[11] Lucan, De bello civili, II, 601, 603

[12] Lucan, De bello civili, I, 212

[13] The castle at Le Puiset had probably been moved and the ‘abandoned motte’ might refer to the remains of the castle taken in the first siege. In the medieval period, the term ‘motte’ applied to a natural mound or an artificial hill on which a keep was built where there was no natural feature.

[14] Janville is about twenty-five miles south-east of Chartes.

[15] Ralph I, count of Vermandois was born in 1073 and died on 14th October 1152. He was Louis’ cousin as the son of Hugh ‘the Great’ Crespi, brother of King Philip I and Adelaide de Vermandois. He did not really become count of Vermandois until 1117 when his mother gave him the county.

[16] Dreux IV de Mouchy was born in 1070 and died in 1120.

[17] The submission of Theobald took place towards the end of 1112 and the second siege of Puiset in the autumn of the same year. On 2nd February 1113, Theobald was at St-Evroul with his uncle, Henry I of England. In the spring of 1112, Suger had travelled to Italy.

No comments: