Monday, 20 February 2012

Black Prince Must Be Condemned for Limoges Massacre

Much as the hand-over of Limoges to the French King represented a betrayal of the basest kind on the part of the Bishop, it cannot justify the vile slaughter of the guiltless inhabitants, many of whom, women and children begging for mercy from the Prince of Wales men. To no avail, there being no mercy only murderous wrath in the heart of the Prince.

The Prince should reflect that all are accountable to a Just God, and whatever absolution for his sins he may be persuaded to buy may not be so skillfully worded as not to miss the occasional mortal felony, if they be so many and widely scattered.

From Froissart's Chronicles, the Sack of Limoges, 1370

The prince of Wales remained about a month, and not more, before the city of Limoges: he would not allow of any assaults or skirmishing, but kept his miners steadily at work. The knights in the town perceived what they were about, and made countermines to destroy them; but they failed in their attempt. When the miners of the prince (who, as they found themselves countermined, kept changing the line of direction of their own mine) had finished their business, they came to the prince, and said: “My lord, we are ready, and will throw down, whenever you please, a very large part of the wall into the ditch, through the breach of which you many enter the town at your ease and without danger.” This news was very agreeable to the prince, who replied, “I wish then that you would prove your words to-morrow morning at six o’clock.” The miners set fire to the combustibles in the mine; and on the morrow morning, as they had foretold the prince, they flung down a great piece of wall, which filled the ditches. The English saw this with pleasure, for they were all armed and prepared to enter the town. Those on foot did so, and ran to the gate, which they destroyed as well as the barriers, for there were no other defences; and all this was done so suddenly that the inhabitants had not time to prevent it.

The prince, the duke of Lancaster, the earls of Cambridge and of Pembroke, sir Guiscard d’Angle and the others, with their men, rushed into the town. You would then have seen pillagers, active to do mischief, running through the town, slaying men, women, and children, according to their orders. It was a most melancholy business; for all ranks, ages and sexes cast themselves on their knees before the prince, begging for mercy; but he was so inflamed 454 with passion and revenge that he listened to none, but all were put to the sword, wherever they could be found, even those who were not guilty: for I know not why the poor were not spared, who could not have had any part in this treason; but they suffered for it, and indeed more than those who had been the leaders of the treachery. There was not that day in the city of Limoges any heart so hardened, or that had any sense of religion, who did not deeply bewail the unfortunate events passing before their eyes; for upwards of three thousand men, women and children were put to death that day. God have mercy on their souls! for they were veritable martyrs.

A company of English, in entering the town, hastened to the palace of the bishop, whom they there found and took prisoner, carrying him, without any regard to his dignity, to the Prince of Wales, who, eyeing him indignantly, told him that his head should be cut off and ordered him out of his presence.

We will now speak of those knights who were in the town, sir John de Villemur, sir Hugh de la Roche, and Roger de Beaufort, son to the count de Beaufort, governors of the city. When they perceived the tribulation which was overpowering them, they said: “We shall all be slain for a certainty, if we do not gallantly defend ourselves: let us therefore sell out lives as dearly as good knights ought to do.” Upon this, sir John de Villemur said to Roger de Beaufort, “You must be knighted.” Roger replied, “Sir, I have not as yet signalised myself sufficiently for that honour, but I thank you much for you good opinion in suggesting it to me.” No more was said, for they had not time to hold further conversation. They collected in a body, and, placing themselves before an old wall, sir John de Villemur and sir Hugh de la Roche displayed their banners, and drew up in good order. They might be, in the whole, about fourscore. The duke of Lancaster and the earl of Cambridge, with their men, advanced upon them, and dismounted, to be on an equality with the enemy. They attacked them with hearty good will. You may easily imagine that this handful of men could not resist the English, but were all slain or made prisoners.

The duke of Lancaster was engaged for a long time with sir John de Villemur, who was a hardy knight, strong and well made. The earl of Cambridge singled out sir Hugh de la Roche, and the earl of Pembroke Roger de Beaufort, who was but a simple esquire. These three Frenchmen did many valorous deeds of arms, as all allowed, but ill did it betide those who approached too near. The prince, coming that way in his carriage, looked on the combat with great pleasure, and enjoyed it so much that his heart was softened and his anger appeased. After the combat had lasted a considerable time, the Frenchmen, with one accord, viewing their swords, said, “My lords, we are yours: you have vanquished us: therefore act according to the law of arms.” "By God,” replied the duke of Lancaster, “sir John, we do not intend otherwise, and we accept you for our prisoners.” Thus, as I have been informed, were these three knights taken. But the business was not here ended, for the whole town was pillaged, burnt, and totally destroyed. The English then departed, carrying with them their booty and prisoners. They marched to Cognac, where the princess had remained, and there the prince disbanded his forces, not intending to do anything more that season; for he did not feel himself at his ease, as every exertion aggravated his disorder, which was increasing, to the great dismay of his brothers and all those about him.

I must inform you how the bishop of Limoges escaped with imprisonment, who had been in imminent danger of his life. The duke of Lancaster asked him of the prince, who consented, and ordered him to be given up to the duke, for him to do with him according as he willed. The bishop having good friends, they sent information of his situation to the pope, who had lately arrived at Avignon; and fortunate was it for the bishop they did so, otherwise he would have been a dead man. The pope wrote such pressing and kind letters to the duke of Lancaster, to request he would give him the bishop, that he was unwilling to refuse, and sent him to the pope, who felt himself exceedingly obliged for it.

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