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HOW ENGLAND HELD THE LISTS AT BORDEAUX.
SO used were the good burghers of Bordeaux to martial display and
knightly sport, that an ordinary joust or tournament was an everyday matter with
them. The fame and brilliancy of
the prince's court had drawn the knights-errant and pursuivants-of- arms from
every part of Europe. In the long lists by the Garonne on the landward side of the
northern gate there had been many a strange combat, when the Teutonic knight,
fresh from the conquest of the Prussian heathen, ran a course against the knight
of Calatrava, hardened by continual struggle against the Moors, or cavaliers
from Portugal broke a lance with Scandinavian warriors from the further shore of
the great Northern Ocean. Here
fluttered many an outland pennon, bearing symbol and blazonry from the banks of
the Danube, the wilds of Lithuania and the mountain strongholds of Hungary; for
chivalry was of no clime and of no race, nor was any land so wild that the fame
and name of the prince had not sounded through it from border to border.
Great, however, was the excitement through town and district when it was
learned that on the third Wednesday in Advent there would be held a
passage-at-arms in which five knights of England would hold the lists against
all comers. The great concourse of
noblemen and famous soldiers, the national character of the contest, and the
fact that this was a last trial of arms before what promised to be an arduous
and bloody war, all united to make the event one of the most notable and
brilliant that Bordeaux had ever seen. On the eve of the contest the peasants flocked in from the
whole district of the Medoc, and the fields beyond the walls were whitened with
the tents of those who could find no warmer lodging. From the distant camp of Dax, too, and from Blaye, Bourge,
Libourne, St. Emilion, Castillon, St. Macaire, Cardillac, Ryons, and all the
cluster of flourishing towns which look upon Bordeaux as their mother, there
thronged an unceasing stream of horsemen and of footmen, all converging upon the
great city. By the morning of the
day on which the courses were to be run, not less than eighty people had
assembled round the lists and along the low grassy ridge which looks down upon
the scene of the encounter.
It was, as may well be imagined, no easy matter among so many noted
cavaliers to choose out five on either side who should have precedence over
their fellows. A score of secondary
combats had nearly arisen from the rivalries and bad blood created by the
selection, and it was only the influence of the prince and the efforts of the
older barons which kept the peace among so many eager and fiery soldiers.
Not till the day before the courses were the shields finally hung out for
the inspection of the ladies and the heralds, so that all men might know the
names of the champions and have the opportunity to prefer any charge against
them, should there be stain upon them which should disqualify them from taking
part in so noble and honorable a ceremony.
Sir Hugh Calverley and Sir Robert Knolles had not yet returned from their
raid into the marches of the Navarre, so that the English party were deprived of
two of their most famous lances. Yet there remained so many good names that
Chandos and Felton, to whom the selection had been referred, had many an earnest
consultation, in which every feat of arms and failure or success of each
candidate was weighed and balanced against the rival claims of his companions.
Lord Audley of Cheshire, the hero of Poictiers, and Loring of Hampshire,
who was held to be the second lance in the army, were easily fixed upon.
Then, of the younger men, Sir Thomas Percy of Northumberland, Sir Thomas
Wake of Yorkshire, and Sir William Beauchamp of Gloucestershire, were finally
selected to uphold the honor of England. On
the other side were the veteran Captal de Buch and the brawny Olivier de
Clisson, with the free companion Sir Perducas d'Albert, the valiant Lord of
Mucident, and Sigismond von Altenstadt, of the Teutonic Order.
The older soldiers among the English shook their heads as they looked
upon the escutcheons of these famous warriors, for they were all men who had
spent their lives upon the saddle, and bravery and strength can avail little
against experience and wisdom of war.
"By my faith! Sir John," said the prince as he rode through the
winding streets on his way to the list, "I should have been glad to have
splintered a lance to-day. You have
seen me hold a spear since I had strength to lift one, and should know best
whether I do not merit a place among this honorable company."
"There is no better seat and no truer lance, sire," said
Chandos; "but, if I may say so without fear of offence, it were not fitting
that you should join in this debate."
"And why, Sir John?"
"Because, sire, it is not for you to take part with Gascons against
English, or with English against Gascons, seeing that you are lord of both.
We are not too well loved by the Gascons now, and it is but the golden
link of your princely coronet which holds us together.
If that be snapped I know not what would follow."
"Snapped, Sir John!" cried the prince, with an angry sparkle in
his dark eyes. "What manner of talk is this? You speak as though the allegiance of our people were a thing
which might be thrown off or on like a falcon's jessel."
"With a sorry hack one uses whip and spur, sire," said Chandos;
"but with a horse of blood and spirit a good cavalier is gentle and
soothing, coaxing rather than forcing. These
folk are strange people, and you must hold their love, even as you have it now,
for you will get from their kindness what all the pennons in your army could not
wring from them."
"You are over-grave to-day, John," the prince answered.
"We may keep such questions for our council-chamber.
But how now, my brothers of Spain, and of Majorca.
what think you of this challenge?"
"I look to see some handsome joisting," said Don Pedro, who
rode with the King of Majorca upon the right of the prince, while Chandos was on
the left. "By St. James of Compostella! but these burghers would
bear some taxing. See to the
broadcloth and velvet that the rogues bear upon their backs!
By my troth! if they were my subjects they would be glad enough to wear
falding and leather ere I had done with them.
But mayhap it is best to let the wool grow long ere you clip it."
"It is our pride," the prince answered coldly, "that we
rule over freemen and not slaves."
"Every man to his own humor," said Pedro carelessly.
"Carajo! there is a sweet face at yonder window!
Don Fernando, I pray you to mark the house, and to have the maid brought
to us at the abbey."
"Nay, brother, nay!" cried the prince impatiently.
"I have had occasion to tell you more than once that things are not
ordered in this way in Aquitaine."
"A thousand pardons, dear friend," the Spaniard answered
quickly, for a flush of anger had sprung to the dark cheek of the English
prince. "You make my exile so
like a home that I forget at times that I am not in very truth back in Castile.
Every land hath indeed its ways and manners; but I promise you, Edward,
that when you are my guest in Toledo or Madrid you shall not yearn in vain for
any commoner's daughter on whom you may deign to cast your eye."
"Your talk, sire," said the prince still more coldly, "is
not such as I love to hear from your lips.
I have no taste for such amours as you speak of, and I have sworn that my
name shall be coupled with that of no woman save my ever dear wife."
"Ever the mirror of true chivalry!" exclaimed Pedro, while
James of Majorca, frightened at the stern countenance of their all- powerful
protector, plucked hard at the mantle of his brother exile.
"Have a care, cousin," he whispered; "for the sake of the
Virgin have a care, for you have angered him."
"Pshaw! fear not," the other answered in the same low tone.
"If I miss one stoop I will strike him on the next.
Mark me else. Fair cousin," he continued, turning to the prince,
"these be rare men-at-arms and lusty bowmen.
It would be hard indeed to match them."
"They have Journeyed far, sire, but they have never yet found their
"Nor ever will, I doubt not. I
feel myself to be back upon my throne when I look at them.
But tell me, dear coz, what shall we do next, when we have driven this
bastard Henry from the kingdom which he hath filched?"
"We shall then compel the King of Aragon to place our good friend
and brother James of Majorca upon the throne."
"Noble and generous prince!" cried the little monarch.
"That done," said King Pedro, glancing out of the corners of
his eyes at the young conqueror, "we shall unite the forces of England, of
Aquitaine, of Spain and of Majorca. It
would be shame to us if we did not do some great deed with such forces ready to
"You say truly, brother," cried the prince, his eyes kindling
at the thought. "Methinks that
we could not do anything more pleasing to Our Lady than to drive the heathen
Moors out of the country."
"I am with you, Edward, as true as hilt to blade.
But, by St. James! we shall not let these Moors make mock at us from over
the sea. We must take ship and
thrust them from Africa."
"By heaven, yes!" cried the prince.
"And it is the dream of my heart that our English pennons shall wave
upon the Mount of Olives, and the lions and lilies float over the holy
"And why not, dear coz? Your
bowmen have cleared a path to Paris, and why not to Jerusalem?
Once there, your arms might rest."
"Nay, there is more to be done," cried the prince, carried away
by the ambitious dream. "There
is still the city of Constantine to be taken, and war to be waged against the
Soldan of Damascus. And beyond him again there is tribute to be levied from the
Cham of Tartary and from the kingdom of Cathay. Ha! John, what say you?
Can we not go as far eastward as Richard of the Lion Heart?"
"Old John will bide at home, sire," said the rugged soldier.
"By my soul! as long as I am seneschal of Aquitaine I will find
enough to do in guarding the marches which you have entrusted to me.
It would be a blithe day for the King of France when he heard that the
seas lay between him and us."
"By my soul! John," said the prince, "I have never known
you turn laggard before."
"The babbling hound, sire, is not always the first at the
mort," the old knight answered.
"Nay, my true-heart! I
have tried you too often not to know. But, by my soul!
I have not seen so dense a throng since the day that we brought King John
It was indeed an enormous crowd which covered the whole vast plain from
the line of vineyards to the river bank. From
the northern gate the prince and his companions looked down at a dark sea of
heads, brightened here and there by the colored hoods of the women, or by the
sparkling head-pieces of archers and men-at- arms.
In the centre of this vast assemblage the lists seemed but a narrow strip
of green marked out with banners and streamers, while a gleam of white with a
flutter of pennons at either end showed where the marquees were pitched which
served as the dressing-rooms of the combatants.
A path had been staked off from the city gate to the stands which had
been erected for the court and the nobility.
Down this, amid the shouts of the enormous multitude, the prince cantered
with his two attendant kings, his high officers of state, and his long train of
lords and ladies, courtiers, counsellors, and soldiers, with toss of plume and
flash of jewel, sheen of silk and glint of gold--as rich and gallant a show as
heart could wish. The head of the
cavalcade had reached the lists ere the rear had come clear of the city gate,
for the fairest and the bravest had assembled from all the broad lands which are
watered by the Dordogne and the Garonne. Here rode dark-browed cavaliers from the sunny south, fiery
soldiers from Gascony, graceful courtiers of Limousin or Saintonge, and gallant
young Englishmen from beyond the seas. Here too were the beautiful brunettes of
the Gironde, with eyes which out-flashed their jewels, while beside them rode
their blonde sisters of England, clear cut and aquiline, swathed in swans'-down
and in ermine, for the air was biting though the sun was bright.
Slowly the long and glittering train wound into the lists, until every
horse had been tethered by the varlets in waiting, and every lord and lady
seated in the long stands which stretched, rich in tapestry and velvet and
blazoned arms, on either side of the centre of the arena.
The holders of the lists occupied the end which was nearest to the city
gate. There, in front of their
respective pavilions, flew the martlets of Audley, the roses of Loring, the
scarlet bars of Wake. the lion of
the Percies and the silver wings of the Beauchamps, each supported by a squire
clad in hanging green stuff to represent so many Tritons, and bearing a huge
conch- shell in their left hands. Behind
the tents the great war- horses, armed at all points, champed and reared, while
their masters sat at the doors of their pavilions, with their helmets upon their
knees, chatting as to the order of the day's doings. The English archers and
men-at-arms had mustered at that end of the lists, but the vast majority of the
spectators were in favor of the attacking party, for the English had declined in
popularity ever since the bitter dispute as to the disposal of the royal captive
after the battle of Poictiers. Hence
the applause was by no means general when the herald-at-arms proclaimed, after a
flourish of trumpets, the names and styles of the knights who were prepared, for
the honor of their country and for the love of their ladies, to hold the field
against all who might do them the favor to run a course with them. On the other hand, a deafening burst of cheering greeted the
rival herald, who, advancing from the other end of the lists, rolled forth the
well-known titles of the five famous warriors who had accepted the defiance.
"Faith, John," said the prince, "it sounds as though you
were right. "Ha! my grace
D'Armagnac, it seems that our friends on this side will not grieve if our
English champions lose the day."
"It may be so, sire," the Gascon nobleman answered.
"I have little doubt that in Smithfield or at Windsor an English
crowd would favor their own countrymen."
"By my faith! that's easily seen," said the prince, laughing,
"for a few score English archers at yonder end are bellowing as though they
would out-shout the mighty multitude. I
fear that they will have little to shout over this journey, for my gold vase has
small prospect of crossing the water. What
are the conditions, John?"
"They are to tilt singly not less than three courses, sire, and the
victory to rest with that party which shall have won the greater number of
courses, each pair continuing till one or other have the vantage.
He who carries himself best of the victors hath the prize, and he who is
judged best of the other party hath a jewelled clasp.
Shall I order that the nakirs sound, sire?"
The prince nodded, and the trumpets rang out, while the champions rode
forth one after the other, each meeting his opponent in the centre of the lists.
Sir William Beauchamp went down
before the practiced lance of the Captal de Buch. Sir Thomas Percy won the vantage over the Lord of Mucident,
and the Lord Audley struck Sir Perducas d'Albert from the saddle.
The burly De Clisson, however, restored the hopes of the attackers by
beating to the ground Sir Thomas Wake of Yorkshire.
So far, there was little to choose betwixt challengers and challenged.
"By Saint James of Santiago!" cried Don Pedro, with a tinge of
color upon his pale cheeks, "win who will, this has been a most notable
"Who comes next for England, John?" asked the prince in a voice
which quivered with excitement.
"Sir Nigel Loring of Hampshire, sire."
"Ha! he is a man of good courage, and skilled in the use of all
"He is indeed, sire. But
his eyes, like my own, are the worse for wars.
Yet he can tilt or play his part at hand-strokes as merrily as ever.
It was he, sire, who won the golden crown which Queen Philippa, your
royal mother, gave to be jousted for by all the knights of England after the
harrying of Calais. I have heard
that at Twynham Castle there is a buffet which groans beneath the weight of his
"I pray that my vase may join them," said the prince.
"But here is the cavalier of Germany, and by my soul! he looks like
a man of great valor and hardiness. Let
them run their full three courses, for the issue is over-great to hang upon
As the prince spoke, amid a loud flourish of trumpets and the shouting of
the Gascon party, the last of the assailants rode gallantly into the lists.
He was a man of great size, clad in black armor without blazonry or
ornament of any kind, for all worldly display was forbidden by the rules of the
military brotherhood to which he belonged.
No plume or nobloy fluttered from his plain tilting salade, and even his
lance was devoid of the customary banderole.
A white mantle fluttered behind him, upon the left side of which was
marked the broad black cross picked out with silver which was the well-known
badge of the Teutonic Order. Mounted
upon a horse as large, as black, and as forbidding as himself, he cantered
slowly forward, with none of those prancings and gambades with which a cavalier
was accustomed to show his command over his charger.
Gravely and sternly he inclined his head to the prince, and took his
place ar the further end of the arena.
He had scarce done so before Sir Nigel rode out from the holders'
enclosure, and galloping at full speed down the lists, drew his charger up
before the prince's stand with a jerk which threw it back upon its haunches.
With white armor, blazoned shield, and plume of ostrich-feathers from his
helmet, he carried himself in so jaunty and joyous a fashion, with tossing
pennon and curvetting charger, that a shout of applause ran the full circle of
the arena. With the air of a man
who hastes to a joyous festival, he waved his lance in salute, and reining the
pawing- horse round without permitting its fore-feet to touch the ground, he
hastened back to his station.
A great hush fell over the huge multitude as the two last champions faced
each other. A double issue seemed
to rest upon their contest, for their personal fame was at stake as well as
their party's honor. Both were famous warriors, but as their exploits had been
performed in widely sundered countries, they had never before been able to cross
lances. A course between such men
would have been enough in itself to cause the keenest interest, apart from its
being the crisis which would decide who should be the victors of the day.
For a moment they waited--the German sombre and collected, Sir Nigel
quivering in every fibre with eagerness and fiery resolution.
Then, amid a long-drawn breath from the spectators, the glove fell from
the marshal's hand, and the two steel-clad horsemen met like a thunderclap in
front of the royal stand. The
German, though he reeled for an instant before the thrust of the Englishman,
struck his opponent so fairly upon the vizor that the laces burst, the plumed
helmet flew to pieces, and Sir Nigel galloped on down the lists with his bald
head shimmering in the sunshine. A
thousand waving scarves and tossing caps announced that the first bout had
fallen to the popular party.
The Hampshire knight was not a man to be disheartened by a reverse.
He spurred back to the pavilion, and was out in a few instants with
another helmet. The second course
was so equal that the keenest judges could not discern any vantage.
Each struck fire from the other's shield, and each endured the jarring
shock as though welded to the horse beneath him. In the final bout, however, Sir Nigel struck his opponent
with so true an aim that the point of the lance caught between the bars of his
vizor and tore the front of his helmet out, while the German, aiming somewhat
low, and half stunned by the shock, had the misfortune to strike his adversary
upon the thigh, a breach of the rules of the tilting-yard, by which he not only
sacrificed his chances of success, but would also have forfeited his horse and
his armor, had the English knight chosen to claim them.
A roar of applause from the English soldiers, with an ominous silence
from the vast crowd who pressed round the barriers, announced that the balance
of victory lay with the holders. Already
the ten champions had assembled in front of the prince to receive his award,
when a harsh bugle call from the further end of the lists drew all eyes to a new
and unexpected arrival.
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