Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 55. THE THIRD CRUSADE


    Only one narration touching this argument, and yet not transgressing the office of my history, I mind (the Lord willing) to set before the reader's eyes, which happened even about this present time of this King Henry's reign, in the year of our Lord 1244.

    In the which year it chanced that Louis, the French king, son to Queen Blanch, fell very sore sick, lying in a swoon or in a trance for certain days, in such sort as few thought he would have lived, and some said he was gone already. Among others, there was with him his mother, who, sorrowing bitterly for her son, and given somewhat (as commonly the manner of women is) to superstition, went and brought forth a piece of the holy cross, with the crown and the spear, which piece of the holy cross Baldwinus, emperor of Constantinople, (whom the Grecians had deposed a little before for holding with the bishop of Rome,) had sold unto the French king for a great sum of money; and, blessing him with the same, also laid the crown and the spear to his body, making a vow withal in the person of her son, that if the Lord would visit him with health, and release him of that infirmity, he should be crossed, or marked with the cross, to visit his sepulchre, and there solemnly to render thanks in the land which he had sanctified with his blood. Thus as she, with the bishop of Paris, and others there present, were praying, behold the king, which was supposed of some to he dead, began with a sigh to pluck to his arms and legs, and so stretching himself began to speak, giving thanks to God, who from on high had visited him, and called him from the danger of death. Which, as the king's mother, with others there, took to be a great miracle wrought by the virtue of the holy cross; so the king amending more and more, as soon as he was well recovered received solemnly the badge of the cross, vowing for a free-will sacrifice unto God, that he, if the council of his realm would suffer him, would in his own person visit the Holy Land; forgetting belike the rule of true Christianity, where Christ teacheth us otherwise in the Gospel, saying, that neither in this mount, nor in Samaria, nor at Jerusalem, the Lord will be worshipped, but seeketh true worshippers, which shall worship him in truth and verity, &c.

    After this was great preparation and much ado in France toward the setting forth to the Holy Land. For after the king first began to be crossed, the most part of the nobles of France, with divers archbishops and bishops, with earls, and barons, and gentlemen to a mighty number, received also the cross upon their sleeves. Amongst whom was the Earl Atrebacensis, the king's brother, the duke of Burgundy, the duke of Brabant, the countess of Flanders, with her two sons, the earl of Brittany with his son, the earl of Barensis, carl of Saissons, earl of St. Paul, earl of Druis, earl of Retel, with many noble persons more. Neither lacked here whatsoever the pope could do to set forward this holy business, in sending his legates and friars into France, to stir the people to follow the king, and to contribute to his journey. Whereupon it was granted to the king, to gather of the universal Church of France, by the pope's authority, the tenth part of all their goods for three years' space together, upon this condition, that the king likewise would grant to the pope the twentieth part for so many years after, to be gathered of the said Church of France. Which was agreed.

    Shortly after this, in the year of our Lord one thousand two hundred and forty-seven, followed a parliament in France, where the king with his nobles being present, there was declared how the king of Tartarians or Turks, hearing of the voyage of the French king, writeth a letter to him, requiring that he will become his subject. In the which parliament the time was prefixed for taking their journey, which should be after the feast of St. John Baptist the very next year ensuing. Also they that were crossed were sworn to persist in their purpose, and sentence of the pope's great curse denounced to all them that went from the same. Furthermore, for the better speed in his journey, the king through all his realm caused it to be proclaimed, that if any merchant or other had been injured at any time by the king's exactors, either by oppression or borrowing of money, let him bring forth his bill, showing how or wherein, and he should be recompensed. At which time William Longspath, a worthy warrior, with the bishop of Worcester and certain other great men in the realm of England, moved with the example of the Frenchmen, prepared themselves likewise to the same journey.

    The next year after this ensuing, which was 1248, the French king yet still remaining in his purposed journey, Lady Blanch his mother, also the bishop of Paris his brother, with the lords of his council and other nobles, and his special friends, advertised him with great persuasions to alter his mind, touching that so adventurous and so dangerous a journey, for that his vow (said they) was unadvisedly made, and in time of his sickness, when his mind was not perfectly stablished; and what jeopardies might happen at home it was uncertain; the king of England being on the one side, the emperor on the other side, and the Pictavians in the midst so fugitive and unstable; and as concerning his vow, the pope should friendly dispense with him, considering the necessity of his realm, and weakness of his body. Besides all this, his mother upon her blessing required him, his brethren of all loves desired him, to stay at home, and not in his person to adventure; others might be sent in his room, with no less furniture to achieve that enterprise, and to discharge him of his vow, especially seeing at the making thereof his senses were feeble, his body weak, and reason through sickness and very death almost decayed.

    To whom the king again, Forasmuch (said he) as you say, that for feebleness of my senses I took this vow upon me, lo, therefore, as you here will me, I lay down the cross that I took. And putting his hand to his shoulder, he tare off the badge of the cross, saying to the bishop, Here I resign to you the cross wherewith I was signed. At the sight whereof there was no small rejoicing of all that were there present. To whom the king then, both altering his countenance and his speech, thus spake: My friends, said he, whatsoever I was then in my sickness, now I thank God I am of perfect sense, and reason sound, and now I require my cross again to be restored unto me: saying, moreover, that no bread should come in his head before he were recognised again with the same cross as he was before. At the hearing whereof all there present were astonished supposing that God had some great matter to work, and so moved no more questions unto him.

    Upon this drew nigh the feast of John Baptist, which was the time set for the setting forth. And now, being in a readiness, the king in few days after was entering his journey; but yet one thing lacked. For the king, perceiving the mortal variance between the pope and good Frederic the emperor, thought best first before his going to have that matter appeased, whereby his way both might he safer through the emperor's countries, and also less jeopardy at home after his departure; and therefore, upon the same, he took first his way to.Lyons, where the pope was, partly to take his leave, but most especially to make reconcilement between the emperor and the pope.

    Where is to be noted, by the way, that as touching the good emperor there was no let nor stay. Who rather sought all means how to compass the pope's favour, and never could obtain it; insomuch that, before he should be excommunicated in the Council of Lyons, he not only answered sufficiently by Thadeus his attorney,discharging himself against whatsoever crimes or objections could be brought against him; but so far humbled himself to the pope and the council, that for all detriments, damages, losses, or wrongs done of his part, what amends soever the pope could or would require, he would recompense it to the uttermost. This would not be taken.

    Furthermore, if the pope (he said) could not abide his tarrying in his own dominions and empire, he would go fight against the Saracens and Turks, never to return into Europe again, offering there to recover the lands and kingdoms whatsoever did at any time belong to Christendom, so that the pope only would be contented that Henry his son (which was then.nephew to King Henry here in England) should be emperor after him. Neither could this be admitted.

    Then he offered, for truth of his promise, to put in the French king and the king of England to be his sureties, or else for trial of his cause to stand to their award and arbitrement. Neither would that be granted.

    At last he desired that he might come himself and answer before the council. But the proud pope in no case would abide that, saying that he did not yet find himself so ready and meet for martyrdom, to have him to come thither to the council; for if he did, he would depart himself, &c.

    This obstinate rancour and devilish malice of Pope Innocent and his predecessor against that valiant emperor, and against the Grecians, what disturbance and mischief it wrought to the whole church, what strength it gave to the Saracens and Tartarians, how it impaired Christian concord, and weakened all Christian lands, not only the host of the French king did find shortly after, but Christendom even to this day may and doth feel and rue. Neither can in stories be found any greater cause which first made the Turks so strong, to get so much ground over Christendom as they have, than the pestilent working of this pope in deposing and excommunicating this worthy emperor. For as there was never emperor of long time which more victoriously prevailed in bridling and keeping under these enemies of Christ, or would have done more against them, than the said Frederic if he might have been suffered; so after the deposing and excommunicating of him, when the French king neither would abide at home, as he was counselled, neither was yet able, without the help of others, to with stand the force and multitude of the said Saracens and Tartarians, being now joined together, neither yet could the emperor be suffered by the pope to rescue the king; it followed thereof, that the good king being taken prisoner, and all his army destroyed the Turks thereupon got such a hand, and such a courage against the Christians, that ever since they have burst in further upon us, and now have prevailed so far, as neither the power of the pope nor of all Christendom is able to drive them out, as hereafter by sequel of story is further to be declared.

    In the mean time, to return where before we left, when the French king, coming thus unto the pope at Lyons to entreat for the emperor, could find no favour, he took his leave, and with great heaviness departed, setting forward on his journey unto Marseilles, and so sailed to the isle of Cyprus, where he remained all that winter; so that, failing into penury and lack of victuals, he was fain to send to the Venetians, and other islands by, for help of provision. The Venetians gently sent unto him six great ships laden with corn, wine, and other victuals requisite, besides the relief of other islands more. But especially Frederic the emperor, understanding of their want, so furnished the French camp with all plenty of necessaries, that it had abundance. Whereupon the French king, moved with the kindness of the emperor, wrote his special letters to the pope in the emperor's behalf, but the hard heart of the pope would not relent. Blanch, the king's mother in France, hearing what the emperor had done to her son, sent him most hearty thanks, with presents and rewards manifold.

    In this mean time, about the beginning of October, the Frenchmen got Damietta, being the principal fort or hold of the Saracens in all Egypt, in the year one thousand two hundred and forty-nine. After the winning of Damietta, the prince and people of the Saracens, being astonished at the loss thereof, offered to the Christians great ground and possessions, more than ever belonged to Christendom before, so that they might have Damietta to them restored again. But the pride of the earl of Artois, the king's brother, would in no case accept the offers of the Saracens, but required both Damietta and Alexandria, the chief metropolitan city of all Egypt, to be delivered unto them. The Saracens, seeing the pride and greediness of the Frenchmen, in no case would abide it; which turned afterwards to the great detriment of our Christians, as in the end it proved.

    First, in the isle of Cyprus, and in the journey before, died the earl of Palatine, and one of the twelve peers of France, also the earl of St. Paul and Blesse, who had under him fifty ensigns, which were all after his death scattered abroad and dispersed; also died Johannes de Denis, a valiant captain, with many other noble personages, both men and women, which, by altering the air and diet, there deceased.

Illustration -- Battle between Crusaders and Saracens

    The next year ensuing, which was 1250, about Ash Wednesday, the Frenchmen, issuing out of their tents by the city of Damietta, flew upon the Saracens, which besieged them; and so, after a great number of the enemies slain, with victory and great spoils returned to their tents again. Now within the city of Damietta was the queen with her ladies, the pope's legate, and bishops, with a garrison of horsemen and footmen, for the defence of the city strongly appointed. The next day, the Frenchmen supposing to have the like band of the Saracens, as they had the day before, gave a fresh assault upon them; but in that conflict the Saracens had so strongly appointed themselves, that the Frenchmen lost ten times more than they got the day before, and so, after a great slaughter of their men, retired unto their tents again. Whereupon the Saracens began to take great hearts and courage against our men, stopping also the passages round about the city of Damietta, that no victuals could pass unto them. In like manner the soldan also, gathering all the galleys about Alexandria and all the land of Egypt, so enclosed the seas, that no intercourse should be to them by water.

    At length, after long talk and consultation between them on both sides, the soldan advised them betimes to resign unto him the city of Damietta, with the furniture which they found therein, and they should have all the country about Jerusalem, with all the captives of the Christians friendly restored unto them; wherewith the Christians (said he) ought to be contented, and to seek no further, but only to have the land of Jerusalem; which being granted to them, they should not encroach into their lands and kingdoms, whereto they had no right. This form of peace, as it liked well the meaner sort of the poor soldiers, and divers others of the said council and nobility; so the proud earl of Artois, the king's brother, in no case would as sent thereto, but still required the city of Alexandria to be yielded unto them. Which the Egyptians by no means would agree unto.

    From that time the French army, being compassed by sea and by land, began every day more and more to be distressed for lack of victuals and with famine, being driven to that misery, that they were fain to eat their own horses in the Lent time, which should have served them unto other uses. Neither could any Christian, nor Frederic, being deposed by the pope, be able to send them any succour. Furthermore, the more misery the Christians were in, the more fiercely did the Saracens press upon them on every side, detesting their forward wilfulness. Insomuch that divers of the Christian soldiers, not able to abide the affliction, privily conveyed themselves, as they could, out of the camp to the Saracens, who were gladly received and relieved, and some suffered still to keep their faith, some marrying wives amongst them, and for hope of honour did apostatize to their law, and so wrought no little harm to the Christians. The soldan, being perfectly instructed by these fugitives of all things belonging to the king's army, sent him word in derision, asking where were all his mattocks, forks, and rakes, his scythes, ploughs, and harrows, which he brought over with him, or why he did not occupy them, but let them lie by him to rust and canker? All this and much more the king with his French men were fain to take well in worth. It happened shortly after that this soldan died, being poisoned of his own servants; which was to the Christians a more heaping of their miseries. For albeit the said soldan had been a cruel tyrant to the Christians, yet was he hated of his own people, whereby his strength was the less; after whom succeeded another much more cruel. Who, as he was better loved, so he became much stronger by a general confederacy of all the Saracens which were in the east parts, joining now together. So that when the Christians desired now to have the form of peace before proffered, he precisely denied them. And so the French host, which at first began to be feared, by their pride and over-much greediness grew more and more in contempt amongst their enemies, and now was utterly despised.

    The Christians, thus seeing all things to go back ward with them, and how the infidel Saracens daily did prevail, began to murmur against God, and some also, which were well settled before, to stagger in their religion, casting out these words of infidelity; How is this (said they) that the Lord hath left us, in whose cause we fight? How often within the time of remembrance have we been confounded by these Saracens and infidels, who with shedding of our blood have enjoyed great spoils and victories! First, this city of Damietta, which we Christians had gotten dearly, with effusion of so much Christian blood, afterwards we were constrained for nought to resign up again. After that, the army of the Templars, fighting for the holy temple against the Saracens, near to Antioch, was vanquished, and the standard-bearer slain in the fields. Again, within these few years, our Frenchmen, fighting in like manner against the Saracens at the city of Gazara, were put to the worst, and many afterward out of captivity ransomed, by Richard, duke of Exeter, brother to the king of England, Henry the Third. Then came in the Chosmorins, sent by the soldan of Babylon, which by a wile invaded the Christians in the city of Jerusalem, where almost all the Christian army being in the Holy Land were destroyed. And now here our most Christian king, together with the whole nobility, is like to be in danger utterly to be overthrown. And how is it that the Lord thus standeth against us, and fighteth with them? Hath he more regard of them than of us, &c.? Such murmuring words of an unstable faith many there began to cast out, as taking displeasure for their sufferings; but not considering on the other side what idolaters they were, what pride and discord was amongst them, what cruelty and murder they had showed at home in persecuting the poor Albigenses, what superstition they first brought out with them, with what idolatry they proceeded, putting their trust in masses, in the pope's indulgences, in worshipping of images, and praying to saints. And what helps then could they look for at God's hand, which had images in their temples, to fight against them which had none? Or what marvel, if the Lord of hosts went not with their army, committing such idolatry every day in their pavilions to their sacramental bread and wine as they did, and fighting with the strength of their own merits, and not only by the power of their faith in Christ, which is only the victory that overcometh the world? 1 John v. Finally, having in their camp the legate of him whom the Lord taketh to be his enemy; as by example of Frederic the emperor may be well perceived, who, after he was accursed by Pope Gregory a little before, coming the same thne in war against the Saracens in Palestine, God's blessing wrought so mightily with him, that without any bloodshed he recovered Jerusalem, and set all the country about it in great quietness, till at last the popish Templars, which at the pope's setting on went about to betray him to the soldan of Babylon, and so lost all again by their own malicious mischief that the emperor before had gotten.

    But let us proceed further in this holy progress. The French king with his army seeing himself distressed, and no good there to be done against the soldan of Egypt, after he had sufficiently fortified the city of Damietta, with an able garrison left with the duke of Burgundy, he removed his tents from thence to go eastward. In whose army also followed William Longspath, (of whom mention was touched before,) accompanied with a picked number of English warriors retaining unto him. But such was the disdain of the Frenchmen against this William Longspath and the Englishmen, that they could not abide them, but flouted them, after opprobrious manner, with English tails, insomuch that the good king himself had much ado to keep peace between them.

    The original cause of this grudge between them began thus: There was, not far from Alexandria in Egypt, a strong fort or castle, replenished with great ladies, and rich treasure of the Saracens; the which hold it chanced the said William Longspath with his company of English soldiers to get, more by good luck and politic dexterity than by open force of arms, whereby he with his retinue were greatly enriched. When the Frenchmen had knowledge hereof, they, being not made privy thereto, began to conceive a heartburning against the English soldiers, and could not speak well of them after that. It happened again not long after, that the said William had intelligence of a company of rich merchants among the Saracens, going to a certain fair about the parts of Alexandria, having their camels, asses, and mules richly laden with silks, precious jewels, spices, gold and silver, with cart-loads of other wares, besides victuals and other furniture, whereof the soldiers then stood in great need. He having secret knowledge hereof, gathered all the power of Englishmen unto him that he could, and so by night falling upon the merchants, some he slew with their guides and conductors, some he took, some he put to flight. The carts, with the drivers and with the oxen, and the camels, asses, and mules, with the whole carriage and victuals, he took and brought with him, losing in all the skirmish but one soldier, and eight of his servitors; of whom notwithstanding some he brought home wounded to be cured.

    This being known in the camp, forth came the Frenchmen, which all this while loitered in their pavilions, and meeting their carriage by the way, took all the foresaid prey whole unto themselves, rating the said William and the Englishmen for so adventuring and issuing out of the camp without leave or knowledge of their general, contrary to the discipline of war. William said again, he had done nothing but he would answer to it, whose purpose was to have the spoil divided to the behoof of the whole army: when this would not serve, he being sore grieved in his mind, so cowardly to be spoiled of that, for the which he so adventurously had travailed, went to the king to complain. But when no reason nor complaint would serve, by reason of the proud earl of Artois, the king's brother, which upon despite and disdain stood against him, he, bidding the king farewell, said he would serve him no longer. And so William de Longspath, with the rest of his company, breaking from the French host, went to Acre. Upon whose departure then said the earl of Artois, Now is the army of Frenchmen well rid of these tailed people. Which words, spoken in great despite, were evil taken of many good men that heard him.

    Before the arriving of the French army in the land of Egypt, the soldan of Babylon, having before intelligence of their coming, committed the custody of Damietta unto a certain prince of his, whom he specially trusted, committing also to his brother the keeping of Cairo and Babylon. It followed now after the taking of Damietta, that the soldan of Babylon accused the prince which had the custody thereof, before his nobles, of prodition, as giving the city unto the Christians. Who notwithstanding in judgment did sufficiently clear himself, declaring how he was certified that the king would land at Alexandria, and therefore bent all his power to prevent the king's arrival there. But, by distress of weather, he missing of his purpose, and the king landing about Damietta, by reason thereof the city was taken unprovided, he notwithstanding with his company resisting as well as they might, till they could no longer, and so departed out, cursing (said he) Mahomet and his law. At which words the soldan, being offended, commanded him to be had away as a traitor and blasphemer, and to be hanged, albeit he had sufficiently purged himself by the judgment of the court. His brother, which was the keeper of Cairo and Babylon, being therewith not a little grieved, and bearing a good mind to the Christian religion, devised in himself how to give the said city of Cairo and Babylon to the French king, and so in most secret wise sent to the king, showing his full purpose, and what had happened; and furthermore, instructing the king in all things how and what be should do, and moreover requiring the sacrament of baptism, meaning indeed good faith, and sending also away all the Christian captives which be had with him in prison. The king, being glad hereof, sent in all haste for William Longspath, promising a full redress of all injuries past; who, upon hope of some good luck towards, came at the king's request, and so joined with the French power again.

    To make the story short, the king, setting forward from Damietta, directed his journey towards Cairo, slaying by the way such Saracens as there were set to stop the victuals from Damietta. The soldan in the mean time hearing of the courageous coming of the French host, as being in great hope to conquer all, sent unto the king by certain that were next about him, offering to the Christians the quiet and full possession of the Holy Land, with all the kingdom of Jerusalem, and more; besides other infinite treasure of gold and silver, or what else might pleasure them; only upon this condition, they would restore again Damietta, with the captives there, and so would join together in mutual peace and amity. Also they should have all their Christian captives delivered home, and so both countries should freely pass one to another with their wares and traffic, such as they lusted to adventure. Furthermore, it was also firmly affirmed and spoken, that the soldan with most of his nobles were minded no less than to leave the filthy law of Mahomet, and receive the faith of Christ, so that they might quietly enjoy their lands and possessious. The same day great quietness had entered (no doubt) in all Christendom, with the end of much bloodshed and misery, had it not been for the pope and his legate, who (having commandment from the pope, that if any such offers should come, he should not take them) stoutly et frontose contradicens (as the words be of the story) in no wise would receive the conditions offered.

    Thus, while the Christians unprofitably lingered the time in debating this matter, the soldan in the mean time got intelligence of the compact between the tribune of Cairo and the French king; where upon he sent in all haste to the city of Cairo to apprehend the tribune till the truth were fully tried, which seemed to him more apparent, for that the Christian prisoners were already delivered. Here upon the soldan, being in some better hope, and less fear, refused that which before he had offered to the Christians; albeit they with great instance afterward sued to the soldan, and could not obtain it. Then the soldan, being wholly bent to try the matter by the sword, sent to the east parts for an infinite multitude of soldiers, giving out by proclamation, that whosoever could bring in any Christian man's head should have ten talents, besides his standing wages. And whosoever brought his right hand should have five. He that brought his foot should have two talents for his reward.

    After these things thus prepared on both sides to the necessity of war, the king cometh to the great river Nile, having gotten together many boats, thinking by them to pass over, as upon a sure bridge. On the other side the soldan pitcheth himself to withstand his coming over. In the mean time happened a certain feast amongst the Saracens, in which the soldan was absent, leaving his tents by the water-side. Which being foreseen by a certain Saracen lately converted to Christ, serving with Earl Robert, the king's brother, and showing them withal a certain shallow ford in the river of Nile, where they might more easily pass over, the said Earl Robert, and the master of the temple, with a great power, esteemed to the third part of the army, issued over the river, after whom also followed William Longspath with his band of English soldiers. These, being together joined on the other side the water, encountered the same day with the Saracens remaining in the tents, and put them to the worse. After this victory gotten, the French earl, surprised with pride and triumph, as though he had conquered the whole earth, would needs forward, dividing himself from the main host, thinking to win the spurs alone. To whom certain sage men of the temple, giving contrary counsel, advised him not so to do, but rather to return and take their whole company with them, and so should they be more sure against all deceits and dangers, which there might be laid privily for them. The manner of that people (they said) they better knew, and had more experience thereof, than he; alleging moreover their wearied bodies, their tired horses, their famished soldiers, and the insufficiency also of their number, which was not able to withstand the multitude of the enemies, especially at this present brunt, in which the adversaries did well see the whole state of their dominion now to consist either in winning all or losing all, with other such-like words of persuasion. Which, when the proud earl did hear, being inflamed with no less arrogancy than ignorance, with opprobrious taunts be reviled them, called them cowardly dastards, and betrayers of the whole country, objecting unto them the common report of many, which said that the land of the holy cross might be won to Christendom, were it not for the rebellious Templars, with the Hospitallers and their fellows, &c.

    To these contumelious rebukes, when the master of the temple answered again for him and his fellows, bidding him display his ensign when he would, and where he durst, they were as ready to follow him as he to go before them. Then began William de Longspath, the worthy knight, to speak, desiring the earl to give ear to those men of experience, who had better knowledge of those countries and people than he had, commending also their counsel to be discreet and wholesome; and so, turning to the master of the temple, began with gentle words to mitigate himself likewise. The knight had not half ended his talk, when the earl, taking his words out of his mouth, began to fume and swear, crying out of these cowardly Englishmen with tails. What a pure army (said he) should we have here, if these tails and tailed people were purged from it! with other like words of great villany and much disdain. Whereunto the English knight, answering again, Well, Earl Robert, said he, where soever you dare set your foot, my step shall go as far as yours, and, as I believe, we go this day where you shall not dare to come near the tail of my horse; as in the event it proved true.

    In this mean time the French king, intending to advance forward his army, thought best to send away such as were feeble and lacked armour unto Damietta by boats, The soldan, bearing thereof, prepared a great number of boats to be carried by wain and cart to the water-side, which, meeting them by the way, drowned and destroyed by wild fire every one, so that of all that company of our Christians, of whom some were burned, some slain, some drowned, not one escaped alive, save one only Englishman, named Alexander Giffard, who, although he was sore wounded in the chase in five places in his body, yet escaped to the French camp, bringing word unto the king what was done. And this was upon the water.

    Now upon the land, seeing Earl Robert would needs set forward, weening to get all the glory unto himself before the coming of the host, first, they invaded a little village or castle which was not far off, called Mansor. The country boors and pagans in the villages by, seeing the Christians come, ran out with such a main cry and shout, that it came to the soldan's hearing, which was nearer than our men did think. In the mean while the Christians, invading and entering into the munition uncircumspectly, were pelted and pashed with stones by them which stood above, whereby a great number of our men were lost, and the army sore maimed, and almost in despair. Then immediately upon the same cometh the soldan with all his main power; who seeing the Christians' army to be divided, and the brother separated from the brother, had that which he long wished for, and so, enclosing them round about that none should escape, had with them a cruel fight. Then the earl began to repent him of his heady rashness, but it was too late; who then seeing William the English knight doughtily fighting in the chief brunt of the enemies, cried unto him most cowardly to flee, seeing God (said he) doth fight against us. To whom the knight answering again, God forbid (saith he) that my father's son should run away from the face of a Saracen. The earl then turning his horse fled away, thinking to avoid by the swiftness of his horse, and so taking the river of Thafnis, oppressed with harness, was there sunken and drowned. Thus the earl being gone, the Frenchmen began to despair and scatter. Then William de Longspath, bearing all the force of the enemies, stood against them as long as he could, wounding and slaying many a Saracen, until at length his horse being killed, and his legs maimed, he could no longer stand, who yet notwithstanding, as he was down, mangled their feet and legs, and did the Saracens much sorrow, till at the last, after many blows and wounds, being stoned of the Saracens, he yielded his life. After the death of him, then the Saracens, setting upon the residue of the army, whom they had compassed on every side, devoured and destroyed them all, insomuch that scarce one man escaped alive, saving two Templars, one Hospitaller, and one poor rascal soldier, which brought tidings hereof to the king.

    These things being known in the French camp unto the king and his soldiers, first of their drowning which were sent to Damietta, then of the ruin and slaughter of the army, with the king's brother, by the town of Mansor, there was no little sorrow and heaviness on every side, with great fear and doubt in themselves what was best to do. At last, when they saw no remedy, but they must stand manfully to revenge the blood of their brethren, then the king with his host passed over the flood of Nile, and coming to the place where the battle had been, there they beheld their fellows and brethren, pitifully lying with their heads and hands cut off. For the Saracens, for the reward before promised by the soldan or sultan unto them that could bring the head and hand of any Christian, had so mangled the Christians, leaving their bodies unto the wild beasts. Thus as they were sorrowing and lamenting the rueful ease of their Christian fellows, suddenly appeareth the coming of the soldan, with a multitude of innumerable thousands. Against whom the Frenchmen eftsoons prepare themselves to encounter; and so the battle being strucken up, the armies began to join. But alack for pity, what could the Frenchmen here do, their number first so maimed, their hearts wounded already with fear and sorrow, their bodies consumed with penury and famine, their horses for feebleness not able to serve them? In conclusion, the Frenchmen were overthrown, slain, and despatched; and seeing there was no flying, happy was he that first could yield himself. In which miserable conflict the king, with his two brethren, and a few that clave unto him, were taken captives, to the confusion of all Christian realms, and presented to the soldan. All the residue were put to the sword, or else stood to the mercy of the Saracens, whether to be slain or to remain in woeful captivity. And this was the end of that sorrowful battle, wherein almost all the nobllity of France was slain; neither was there one man well near in the multitude which escaped free, but either was slain or taken prisoner. Further more, they that were slain or left half alive had every one his head and hand cut off, upon the soldan's proclamation above mentioned.

    The sultan, or soldan, after the taking of the French king, fraudulently suborning an army of Saracens to the number of the French army with the arms and ensigns of them that were slain, made toward Damietta, where the duke of Burgundy, with the French queen, and Otho, the pope's legate, and other bishops and their garrisons, were remaining, supposing under the show of Frenchmen to be let in; but the captains mistrusting their hasty coming, and misdoubting their visages, not like to the Frenchmen, shut the gates against them, and so returned they frustrate of their intent.

    The purpose of the soldan was, if he might have gotten Damietta, to send the French king up higher in the east countries to the caliph, the chief pope of Damascus, to increase the titles of Mahomet, and to be a spectacle or gazingstock to all those quarters of the world. The manner of which caliph was, never to let any Christian prisoner come out, whosoever came once in his hand. But forso much as the soldan missed his purpose, he thought, by advice of council, to use the king's life for his own advantage in recovering the city of Damietta, as in the end it came to pass. For although the king at the first was greatly unwilling, and had rather die than surrender Damietta again to the Saracens, yet the conclusion so fell out, that the king was put to his ransom, and the city of Damietta was also resigned; which city, being twice won and twice lost by the Christians, the soldan or saladin afterward caused it utterly to be razed down to the ground. The ransom of the king, upon condition that the soldan should see him safely conducted to Acre, (which I take to be Cesarea,) came to sixty thousand marks. The number of Frenchmen and others which miscarried in that war by water and by land come to eighty thousand persons.

    And thus have ye the brief narration of this lamentable peregrination of Louis the French king. In which, when the Frenchmen were once or twice well offered by the soldan, to have all the kingdom of Jerusalem and much more in free possession, they, not contented with that which was reasonable and sufficient, for greediness to have all, lost all, having at length no more than their naked bodies could cover lying dead upon the ground; and all through the original cause of the pope and Otho his legate. By whose sinister means and pestilent pride, not only the lives of so many Christians were then lost, but also to the said pope is to be imputed all the loss of other cities and Christian regions bordering in the same quarters; forsomuch as by the occasion hereof the hearts of the Saracens on the one side were so encouraged, and the courage of the Christians on the other side so much discom fited, that in short space after both the dominion of Antioch and of Acre, with all other possessions belonging to the Christians, were lost, to the great diminishing of Christ's church.

    During the time of this good king lying at Acre, or Cesarea, Almighty God sent such discord betwixt the soldan of Halaphia, and the soldan of Babylon for letting the king so escape, that the said soldan or saladin of Babylon, to win the king unto his side, entered league with him, (whom both his brethren and all his nobles almost at home had forsaken,) and remitted his ransom, and also restored unto him such prisoners as were in the said battle found to be alive. Thus the Lord worketh where man commonly forsaketh.

    Another cause, moreover, why the ruin of this French army may worthily be imputed to the pope is this, for that when Louis the French king, per ceiving what a necessary friend and helper Frederic the emperor might be to him in these his affairs against the Saracens, and therefore was an earnest suitor for him to the pope to have him released; yet neither he nor the king of England by any means could obtain it. And although the emperor himself offered to Pope Innocent, with all humble submission, to make satisfaction in the Council of Lyons, promising also to expugn all the dominions of the Saracens, and never to return into Europe again, and there to recover whatsoever the Christians had lost, so that the pope would only grant his son Henry to be emperor after him; yet the proud pope would not be mollified, but would needs proceed against him with both swords, that is, first with the spiritual sword, to accurse him, and then with the temporal sword, to depose him from his imperial throne. Through the occasion whereof, not only the French king's power went to wreck, but also such a fire of mischief was kindled against Christendom, as yet to this day cannot be quenched. For after this overthrow of the French king and his army, the Christians of Antioch, and of other Christian regions thereabouts, being utterly discouraged, gave over their holds and cities. Whereupon the Saracens, and after them the Turks, got such a hand over Christendom, as to this day we all have great cause to rue and lament. Besides this, where divers Christians were crossed to go over and help the French king, the pope for money dispensed with them to tarry still at home.

    But, as I said, the greatest cause was, that the emperor, which could have done most, was deposed by the pope's tyranny, whereby all those churches in Asia were left desolate. As touching the which emperor Frederic, because we have divers and sundry times made mention of him before, and for that his story is strange, his acts wondrous, and his conflicts tragical, which he sustained against four or five popes one after another, I thought (not out of story) in a whole narration to set forth the same, for the reader to consider what is to be judged of this cathedral see of Rome, which had wrought such abominable mischief in the world, as in the sequel of the story following, faithfully translated out of Latin into English, is to be seen.

Previous Next