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Thread: The Lion and the Lily

  1. #41
    Wizzaard Estonianzulu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by c0d5579 View Post
    Personal experience; I make no great secret (and it drives my wife crazy) that, were I in condition to go back to the war, I would.

    AAR is on hold for at least a week, for two reasons:

    1 - The introduction to the Battle of La Roche-Chouard winds up being a talky discussion of geology and genealogy every time I start on it.
    2 - I'm moving from Texas to Virginia between now and then.
    Welcome to the Old Dominion.

    If you are moving to Northern Virginia I have bad news for you. Traffic is hellish
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  2. #42
    Thanks; it's Ft. Lee and the Petersburg area for me. I've already confirmed my lease and gotten as close to post as humanly possible, because years of living in a college town have left me spoiled when it comes to traffic.
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  3. #43
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    A geology/geneology update sounds good to me.

    Hope the move goes well.
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  4. #44
    Wizzaard Estonianzulu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by c0d5579 View Post
    Thanks; it's Ft. Lee and the Petersburg area for me. I've already confirmed my lease and gotten as close to post as humanly possible, because years of living in a college town have left me spoiled when it comes to traffic.
    Petersburg wont be bad. It shouldn't be significantly worse than College Station. You're in a good place to get to most anything. You can get to Tidewater pretty easily, Richmond without any trouble. DC will be probably 4 hours or so, but not out of the reasonable distance.
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  5. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Estonianzulu View Post
    Petersburg wont be bad. It shouldn't be significantly worse than College Station. You're in a good place to get to most anything. You can get to Tidewater pretty easily, Richmond without any trouble. DC will be probably 4 hours or so, but not out of the reasonable distance.
    You pay way too much attention to the incidentals of my posts.

    I've got a good feeling about the distant end, it's mostly the failure of the Department of the Army to get me orders that's stressing me out at this point. How is it they can get a quarter-million men into position to invade Iraq, but can't cut orders for one civilian engineer?
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  6. #46
    Wizzaard Estonianzulu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by c0d5579 View Post
    You pay way too much attention to the incidentals of my posts.

    I've got a good feeling about the distant end, it's mostly the failure of the Department of the Army to get me orders that's stressing me out at this point. How is it they can get a quarter-million men into position to invade Iraq, but can't cut orders for one civilian engineer?
    I work with the army now. There are a surprising number of people who don't even get the invasion orders until last minute.
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  7. #47
    Oh, I was referring to 2003, back when the first round of Iraqi Freedom was still Enduring Freedom - as I've pointed out to several of my eight bosses, I went in February but had my go orders in September, so I know it can be done.

    I'm now about 2/3 of the way through my move, hoping to be on the ground in Virginia by the end of the day. After that comes downloading the truck, utilities, and probably a half-dozen other things that will delay posting. Meanwhile, good news is I have the next update, perhaps update and a half, mapped out. Since La Roche-Chouard is one of those history-changing battles like Crecy, Poitiers, or Agincourt, it will get a rather extensive treatment.
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  8. #48
    The Battle of La Rocha Choard: The Battlefield


    The road from Angoulesme to Limotges was well-worn and dated back to the Romans; in many places, lesser examples of the pagans' engineering skills still spanned the rivers along its route. In others, they had been washed out, eroded away, or simply collapsed due to time. The great Roman triumphal arch in Xaintes and the bridge across the Vinhana at Limotges marked the road's rough beginning and end, but between those two points were few surviving examples of Roman infrastructure.

    Approximately halfway along its length, the road began to follow the south bank of the Vinhana, which eventually emptied into the Leger, that the northern French called the Loire. Where road and river joined, there was no castle, though there was a toll station, manned by sleepy French men-at-arms too feeble or aged to ride with Jean. The castle was nearby, on one of the most striking pieces of defensive ground in the world, a piece of ground prepared as if by God Himself to resist a siege.

    The preparations began with the underlying land itself. France was roughly divided on a line southeast-northwest by two great ranges of mountains and a series of rivers that split these mountains from each other. The mountains were, it is true, not like the Alps or Pyrenees, but they were made of hard, upthrust granite that resisted plough and trebuchet alike, one of the strongest rocks in Europe, though it was considered unlovely and unsuited for construction compared to the limestone of the north of France, which faced the great Parisien cathedrals and even the new construction on the English side of the Channel.

    Local legend said that the next layer of the natural defenses had also been made by God: the great depression to the west of the town and castle, partially filled with water in good years (and it was a good year), providing the castle with an easy supply of fresh water. The legend stated that the crater was caused by the wrestling of an angel and a demon, that they had fallen from Heaven at this point and that their struggle had created the folds and wrinkles of the land from here to the Pyrenees and the Massis Centrau. It was reinforced by other legends - the southern saint who had mended an angel's wing, the general holiness of the region according to its own inhabitants - but what it meant was that, in a region of commanding heights, there was one that had been thrust even higher.

    That this one point - controlling the Limotges road, with a local lake - was so important had been lost on no one whatsoever. The castle that gave the area its name was built on the earlier foundations of a Roman permanent legionary camp, and before that on a Gallic ring-fort. It had been a key anchor in Charlemagne's push against the Basques, the origin of the current castle.

    The castle was called the Rock of Chavard, or Cavardus, or Choard, depending on whom you asked, its name transforming over time from la Roca Cavardi to la Roche Choard, though the dusty old letters patent for its lord in the archives of Paris said that it was La Rochechouart. It was a signal of how vital this land was to the kings of France that the Comte de la Rochechouart was the oldest extant title after that of King, and that the counts had steadfastly held with the Kings of France even when all the land around had been English. They were well-respected lords, though their wealth waxed and waned more or less in opposition to the fortunes of the Plantagenets of England.

    The current castle was two hundred years old, a massive granite structure with thick walls and shingled circular turrets. The keep jutted high above the outer curtains, which themselves spanned several gaps across the granite bedrock, buttressed within and without. Donjon and gatehouse meant that it was difficult to approach even for vehicles, which had to traverse a series of switchbacks up the crater rim. The grim outer face presented to the world was not matched by the interior; the keep's center was a wide, airy courtyard with its own fountain, designed by a mason who had been brought in because of his work at Cluny.

    The count was at present in no position to appreciate the relative luxury of his seat. He was Jean Ieme, Vicomte de Rochechouart, and he rode not merely with the King, but as one of the ten picked knights that stayed close to Jean, wearing the King's livery in an attempt to keep him from English soldiers. When the troubadours described the "flower of French chivalry," Jean de Rochechouart was the model, who had fought with Philippe at Crecy and survived the terrible destruction of the second French conroy, then immediately rushed south to attempt to save his own lands from Henry of Lancaster. Today, he was with the King on the Limotges road, approaching the English army from the northeast and promising his sovereign at least one night's joyful rest in the castle before confronting the English. It was a somewhat forced promise; nothing made Jean of France joyful these days, between the death of his heir and probable destruction of his house with him, and the loss of Blanche of Navarre.

    They were still on the road when they saw smoke rising from the direction of the castle. The count spurred his horse, knowing what smoke in that volume meant, and hoping against hope it was merely a charcoal-burner. As he came within sight of the village, he saw what he had dreaded.

    The fire-breathing dragon of Wessex - the English Oriflamme - fluttered idly over La Roche Choard.

    ---

    Next up, "The Battle of La Roche Choard: Escalade." Technically speaking, the oldest title in France was the Viscountcy of Limoges, but by this point, the Rochechouarts were the eldest surviving branch of that family.
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  9. #49
    Lost in Time Ashantai's Avatar
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    Awesome cliffhanger! A great battle awaits! Very well written, congrats.
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  10. #50
    General morningSIDEr's Avatar
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    Very interesting stuff, obviously well researched. So to battle both sides go once again, the French in a seemingly very perilous position.
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  11. #51
    Wizzaard Estonianzulu's Avatar
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    So the English beat them to the punch, not the welcome home the French king was expecting I suppose.
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  12. #52
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    Really nice description. I knew a geological AAR would work.
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  13. #53
    The Battle of La Rocha Chouard: The Peace of God


    The French army turned away from the castle, returning to the main road along the Vinhana, which anchored their right flank. Their camp was formed into three concentric arcs, tailing northeast toward Limotges. Outermost were the Genovese crossbowmen, poised to provide a counter to the dreaded English bowmen. They had been careful, learning from all of the previous encounters between crossbow and longbow and positioning pavises before the crossbows moved into position. The entire time, Jacques de Bourbon, Comte de la Marche and Connetable de France, cast worried glances up the hill road that led to the castle, expecting to see the English host pour down the road and slaughter the crossbowmen while they were vulnerable. He was fortunate; the English were distracted by the disorder created by the escalade. Every earl and banneret tried to get his men back in their lances and banners, starting them with blows and curses where needed.

    The next ring of the French camp was made of the lowest order of foot, poised to provide a response if the English horse appeared and armed with pike and bill. Their armor varied from the lucky few who had acquired mail from other sources to the majority who wore padding or boiled leather. They were stiffened liberally by those professional soldiers - literally, men who fought for a gold solidus - who had signed on with the French host expecting profits from the war, and who had not the formal training or means to fight mounted. These men, Germans, Swiss, Italians, were in direct contrast to the English army; the two Edwards had made a conscious decision not to rely on mercenaries for their forces, knowing that the Exchequer likely could not support such a move after the Plague. Prince Edward had commented on the subject: "We pay the damn Swiss twice - once with our gold, once with what they take. At least we only pay ours once."

    The third ring was made of the men who owed loyalty to the House of Valoys or to the Pope. The knights and upper nobility camped in this tail of the wedge, in radiating importance from Jean II himself at the very far end of the field from the crossbowmen. Closest to the King's tent were the Constable, the four living Marshals, Charles de Montmorency, Robert de Waurin, Arnoul d'Audrehem, and Jean de Clermont, and the Papal legate, Cardinal-Archbishop Guillaume Grimaud. They were joined by the princes, Louis, Jean, and the young, fearless Philippe, who had become his father's favorite since the death of Charles the month before. There had been talk - mostly discouraged - of Jean making Philippe his heir. It was at this end of the camp, grim and gloomy, ringed by torches and sited on the uphill side of the road to avoid the mosquitoes, that the French began to plan their next steps.

    Jean himself was suffering from one of his periodic bouts of depression; in comparison to the two Edwards, the chiefs of the house of Valoys were generally sickly, oddly shaped - Charles had had a bulbous head, his father Jean's limbs were just long enough to seem too long - and subject to swings of tremendous energy and black depression rather than the Plantagenet temper. His three sons were surly, frustrated, glancing at each other murderously, save for Philippe, who was perpetually cheerful and had taken over duties as his father's personal servant and cupbearer. The king could be excused this depression, though: a quarter of the full armed strength of France had been wiped out, and with it his son and heir, no matter how distant relations between them. This was not the time for a listless, sullen king, and the Constable and the two Marshals were uneasy at this indecision at a critical moment.

    The senior of Jean's marshals, Arnoul d'Audrehem, shifted uncomfortably, glancing across the fire at Jacques de Bourbon, the Constable. Jean was between them, kicking listlessly at the ring of stones that marked its boundary. The two older marshals, Montmorency and Waurin, were even more dispirited than Jean; they had been among the men leading the country during the disasters around Crecy. Montmorency was exhausted: he had rushed south with the forces mustered in Picardy and the north to reinforce the King's army. Waurin was even older, and had accompanied Montmorency south in order not to miss the coming battle. There was a sense in the air that this would be the decisive point, that if Edward himself had once more committed to the field, this was the best chance for the House of Valoys to smash the upstart Plantagenet. Even the most worn-out of tools would be used to do so.

    The array of tools was indeed impressive: Jean de Valoys had twenty-five thousand men in the field. Edward, by all accounts, had little more than half that, slightly more than fourteen thousand. It was a large army, especially by English standards, but compared to the full weight of France, it was nothing. True, seven of Jean's twenty-five were Papal soldiers, committed by Avignon to enforce the Peace of God, but the Papal army was as well-trained as any of the various duchies, counties, and near-independent principalities on the French periphery, and the Pope was more loyal than the scheming, womanizing Philippe, Duc d'Orleans, the King's oldest surviving brother, who was already making noises about being named heir in place of Philippe. The Pope was also more effective than the infant Duc de Bar or the child Philippe of Burgundy, who could at best wish the King well. Jean didn't need wishes, he needed spears, damn it!

    Audrehem considered all of this, and the exhaustion of the men under Montmorency and Waurin. To have covered such a distance in so short a time was nothing short of miraculous, even if it left the north completely exposed. They were spent, and would not be ready for the coming battle. Finally, he spoke. "Sire... we have an opportunity here. If we merely pull our army back on Limotges, there is nothing for the English to eat between here and there, and the country all around is ours. We can merely draw Edward forward, and place a banner or two at his back to press against Bordeu. It hurts him far more to be distracted than it does us."

    The Constable, Jacques de Bourbon, nodded slowly, and began to open his mouth in support when Clermont spoke. "What? And allow an English army to exist on our soil? We outnumber them almost two to one, and more men stream into your camp daily, sire. Strike now! Smash them! Why withdraw and let Edward spend one more day claiming to sit his boiled English ass upon your throne?" Clermont's balled fist bounced off his thigh, and Audrehem sensed the mood shifting. The King straightened, frowning and stroking his moustache. He opened his mouth to speak.

    He was overridden by Abbe Grimoard, whose voice, soft and strangely sharp-edged, cut across all opposition. "You will do no such thing, your majesty. You will give this English king one more chance to observe the Peace of God and return to his kingdom in peace. If you wish, I shall attempt to speak to him myself, tomorrow. It is ill-fitting for Christian king to war on Christian king while the infidel rises like the Devil's own tide through the East." There was no arguing with Grimoard, and Audrehem breathed a sigh of relief when the king merely nodded his assent and waved at the Pope's legate. He had half expected Clermont to argue further; he was courageous to a fault, and had no concept of surrender, but Grimoard was immovable and incorruptible. It was said he had a special relationship with the English. At Tholoza the year prior, he had defied Prince Edward with the threat of excommunication if the prince had touched a single student or building of the university there. The university, and the city proper, had both been spared by the Rade. He was almost certainly the only Church official who had been the subject of a paean of praise from the Consistory, all the more astonishing because he was known as a harsh disciplinarian within his abbey and his area of the Church.

    Grimoard bowed his head, rising and returning silently to his tent. Audrehem and the Constable shared a relieved glance. Neither of them truly wished to face the archers again. The Constable had gone so far as to propose to the King on the journey that he face Edward in single combat to decide the war; Jean had declined, unsurprisingly. He was sickly - though much of that was likely in his head - and lacked either Edward's love of physical activity, be it joust, melee, or hunt. Better that Grimoard's counsel win out than that Clermont be allowed to rush Jean into charging head-first into the bows as he would likely have chosen at that moment. The gathering around the king's fire lasted an hour or so longer, various nobles calling upon him or attempting to cheer him with a song, but it sputtered out as the fire did. When the dawn came, cold, gray, gradual, and cheerless, Abbe Grimoard was already gone.

    Grimoard had rode once more along the well-traveled road toward the castle, where the English pickets led him into Edward's presence. Were Grimoard stirred by coincidence, he would have been amused by the near match between this council and what he had attended the night before: here was the King, and the princes of England, Edward and John, and his generals, Bohun and Grosmont, and even a Papal representative, William Wickham, Bishop of Winchester. The King rose from his camp chair, moving forward quickly to take Grimoard's ring and kiss it; even at war, the King was at least a Christian, Grimoard reflected. There might be hope for this mission yet. "Please, Eminence, be seated," the King offered, calling for a chair. The Abbot waved away an offered jug of mulled wine, and let the English nobles take theirs before he began his message.

    "I am here, your Majesty, as representative of His Holiness. We wish you to return to England, and pledge yourself to crusade rather than carry on this needless war. It is not right that Christian should fight Christian when the heathen is at the gates of Constantinople itself, and their pirates threaten even Rome." Prince Edward's head lifted slightly, a frown creasing his beard, and Grimoard continued. "In return, His Holiness... and I... am willing to guarantee intercession with the King of France, that you may resolve your rightful conflicts over Normandy and Aquitaine. We wish to spare Christian blood, even if it means the humbling of a king."

    King Edward's mouth quirked. "The humbling of a king, you say. I note that you do not say which king. Our cousin of Valoys has stolen that which is rightfully ours, and his house is weak, crumbling, and decrepit. My own," he added with a wave at the two princes, "is strong, and God knows the right of our claim."

    "Indeed, your Majesty," Grimoard countered mildly, "your house is strong. I am sure Thomas of Canterbury would have agreed. And your cousin's house is so weak and decrepit that it produces crusaders and saints. God does indeed know the right of your claim, your Majesty, as He graciously showed your illustrious sire John." The king shifted in his seat, and Prince Edward came to his feet, and Grimoard raised a hand in warning. "I do not wish to trample upon your house, your Majesty. I wish only to show you that a moment's strength may be an age's weakness. In God's good name, sir, please choose peace, and do not sully your house in further bloodletting."

    Edward, the Prince of Wales, already on his feet and possessed of a furious temper, replied before his father could, jabbing his finger outward at the English camp. "In God's good name, Eminence, go, and tell the king of Valoys, whose lapdog you are, that we trust no man sworn to Paris, and Avignon is but a fief of Paris. If you wish this matter settled, go, and tell the king of Valoys that we are coming like the glory of the morning on the wave, to end this dispute in trial by combat!" The elder Edward looked alarmed at this pronouncement; he had planned a far more gracious refusal than this, but after a harrowing moment, he nodded slowly.

    Grimoard stood slowly, tiredly. "Then I pronounce this sentence upon you. You have appealed to God to settle this by trial of arms; that shall be the fate of your house until the end of your line, Edward of Woodstock. Until your house has expiated its sins by the liberation of all of Christendom from the infidel, no generation of your family shall pass in peace. Your penance, and the penance of all of your house, for your refusal of the Peace of God, is the liberation of the Holy Sepulchre. I leave you in peace, Edward of Woodstock, as I came."

    As Grimoard left, the king rounded on his son. "Are you mad, my lord of Wales? Have you been possessed by some demon, that you risk anathema, not just for yourself, but for the entire kingdom?" King Edward's voice was a furious whisper, determined not to let this spread beyond the walls of the tent. It would spread soon enough, he knew. The prince shook his head mulishly. "No, father. As long as His Holiness is a French count, whatever they promise, it will not matter; what matters is what we win ourselves."

    In the gathering light of April 10, 1356, King Edward summoned his chaplains and astrologers. He emerged from the meeting grim-faced and summoned his captains. By royal fiat and at the further risk of schism, April 11, 1356 would be the Feast of Saint George, and the day which decided the fate of the houses of Plantagenet and Valoys.
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  14. #54
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    An excellent update, I can't help but feel that now with combat promised due to Grimoard's failed attempt at peace, France will likely suffer defeat regardless of her fielding greater numbers. That will certainly prove the case if Clermont's aggressive advice is followed. However this comes at a heavy cost if Grimoad's sentence holds true. I do not doubt England could one day carry out the penance, but the possible warfare between that time and this will prove trying, to say the least.
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  15. #55
    Lost in Time Ashantai's Avatar
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    That was a most brilliant piece of narrative. Even though nothing violent or dramatic happened it was exciting, moving and very dramatic in its own way. Congratulations, well worth the wait!
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  16. #56
    Dun Dun Dun, I'm rooting for the English, really putting it all on the line with the threat of excommunication.

  17. #57
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    I have to say, I'm really enjoying this. I haven't studied English history that extensively, mostly because of the time frame -- as a history graduate student, I'm usually stuck with my research interests, Russian and Soviet naval technology in the early 20th century.
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  18. #58
    The Battle of La Rocha Chouard: St. George's Day


    On the eleventh day of April, the two armies drew up. They were about equally well-rested after the jockeying for position of the past few days, and the French had learned the dear-bought lessons of Crecy, with their crossbowmen drawn up behind pavises, forming a hard, bristling outer rank behind their turtle-shell of portable shields. The battlefield favored the defense, with the river running along one flank and the ground rising steeply along the other, obviously impassable to horse and probably impassable to man.

    Save for a hard reserve that he held back at the castle, Edward dismounted his army from the Black Prince to the lowest footman. The reserve was commanded by Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster and one of the most dangerous fighters in Europe, and had been specifically selected from men who could afford to outfit their retainers on the great destriers, the King's lancers - the birth of one of the most elite formations in Europe. The first English line was made of billmen and pikes, men whose sole job was to fight at arm's length. Behind them were the archers - most of them, anyway. That morning, the two Edwards had realized that the battlefield, on both sides, was suited to a defense, and only a fool on the French side would have given up that edge. They had no expectation that all of the marshals of France were fools. Therefore, the black-clad Welshmen and the Englishmen who had been culled as expert bowmen were, in fact, nowhere to be found on that line. Most of the bow line was composed of England's second-rate archers.

    The remaining archers - Welsh hill-men, pardoned poachers, out-of-work foresters like Matt Hastings - had been culled by the Prince of Wales and sent on a circuitous route away from the river and into the forested, steep-sided hills just after midnight. There were no torches to light their passage, and they had been forbidden under pain of death even to string their bows for fear that the bows might catch and distract them before the moment came. Cursing, creeping, only one hand free for climbing as the other gripped the bowstaff, they made their way to the high ground in the dark. Every now and then, there would be a sudden panic as a handful of pebbles slid out from under someone's feet, or a handhold would be missed, threatening to alert the entire French army. This would certainly guarantee a French retreat: the old Roman road was in a substantial cut, making it difficult to rise out of the river valley. However, the English did not want a French retreat. They wanted slaughter.

    When dawn came, the two princes, Edward and John, took their respective place in the front of the English line, at opposite ends, two red-and-blue banners in a seething mass of men. They too had been up for hours, though not as long as the archers. Two hours before dawn, they rose, their squires began the arduous process of armoring them, and the priests had come down the lines, offering confession and the Eucharist. The archers had received this the night before; as Simon de Waterton, in Prince Edward's entourage, had remarked, "It would take a damned talented man to sin worth mentioning between now and dawn on that hill."

    It was the French who began the battle in their usual way, with drums and trumpets. Their sole purpose was to disrupt the English communications; they made such a din that it was impossible even for Waterton, at Prince Edward's elbow, to speak to him without shouting, despite the French line being almost a mile distant. The French noise was a double-edged sword, though they themselves did not know it. The archers above them were able to creep lower, lower, ever closer to the old Roman road that provided the field its main axis. The Romans had been adamant that their roads would be straight, and so it was here, departing from the river to cut into the hillside. The limestone had been laid bare, and since grown over, providing concealment for the black-clad archers.

    At a signal from King Edward, the English line began to advance, slowly, steadily, cautiously. It took them half an hour to cross the first half-mile, where they stopped, knowing they were in danger of coming into crossbow range. Even Prince Edward would not willingly advance into that on foot. In response, the pavises and the Genoese together inched forward on their side, funneled between river and road. The two of them sat there, at stalemate, and in the woods above the French, the archers waited and cursed. "What's stopping them, damn it?" asked John Hawkwood, scratching under his collar.

    "Th' King doesn' wan' t'throw away th' first charge." Owain's voice was level, quiet, certain. He had been in a pitched battle before; none of them really counted the Dauphin's death, barely more than a rout, or the surprise capture of La Rocha Chouard. He drank from a waterskin before passing it down the line. "Drink up, be little enow time for it when we start." Matt sat there, utterly still, leaning against a tree that might just have been there when the Romans came through. His eyes were on the French line below, the men on horseback, stamping and impatient. "I know that look, Matt Hastings," Owain said conversationally. "Seen it at Crecy. Pickin' a man so soon?" Hastings snapped from his reverie and nodded once, gravely. He had already chosen his arrow, the best of the seventy-two that he carried. "The one in the red and black there. Mine, you hear." His voice was a low monotone, but the others nodded in amusement; the man in question was as far down the French line as a bow could possibly reach. "You make that shot, lad, I'll feed you for a week," Owain grunted.

    In the end, it was Prince Edward who finally lit the fuse. Nerving himself up for what he knew was coming, he roared out "England and Saint George!" one last time, then charged. It was eight hundred yards, across soft ground, into the leveled crossbows, but it was obvious that the French were no more inclined to budge than he was. It was just as bad as he feared it would be. In full armor, it took the English men-at-arms eight minutes to cross that gap. In that time, the Italian crossbowmen could get off sixteen quarrels apiece. That first, terrible charge cost the English terribly; some of the finest knights in England lay scattered across the road and its verges, bleeding and screaming in the first growth of spring. Of the three thousand foot that Edward had charged with, a quarter fell in that first charge. Only bloodlust and fury propelled them, but when they reached the pavises, it was terrible.

    Behind Edward's charge, the bowmen worked their strings, arrows arcing over the charging foot to slow the Genovese and force them behind the pavises. These archers, Edward's mobile cover, stayed a hundred yards behind his footmen, drawing from their arrow-bags on the march without ever stabilizing in place. This rolling barrage was all that kept the foot charge from being much, much worse than it could have been. As the English and French foot lines collided, the bows arched upward, seeking the rear rank of the French mass of foot, and a horn sounded at the English start-point, and the French horse began dying.

    The hillside above them erupted in arrows. The ground, supposedly impassable, was thick with Welsh and English foresters, plying their bows with impunity. Matt Hastings was one of them, and knew that his first shot would have to count; that man in red and black would not stay still for long under the circumstances. He pulled the string back, shoulders and arms flexing mightily, the arrow pulling to the corner of his eye, then past, touching the tip of his ear with his fingertips. The wood creaked in protest, then snapped forward as he released, the string singing past his face and the arrow winging skyward before it arced back down.

    The red-and-black knight jolted upright, startled, the arrow embedded in his shoulder. Even at three hundred yards, near the very limit of his reach, Matthew Hastings had hit his mark. The arrow would leave no medical evidence; it was wedged between gorget and pauldron, without actual penetration, but this should never have been part of the battlefield, and the French cavalry behaved accordingly, especially since there was nothing at all that they could do in response. Each English bowman had three sheaves of arrows, seventy-two arrows in all, and there were a thousand of them on that hillside. At this point, they could pick and choose their targets with leisure.

    The French countercharge, which could have wrecked Edward's foot charge, was thus spoiled before it had a chance to ride. Prince Edward's banner dipped and nodded, a volley of flaming arrows leapt skyward, visible from the castle to the south, and a second horn sounded, long, high, and clear. The castle gate swung open, the portcullis lifted, and Henry of Grosmont was loosed. The horses were walked the majority of the distance to the battlefield, and a cheer went up from the beleaguered French infantry because Prince Edward's footmen began falling back. They fell back in good order, stepping back over the bodies of their friends and comrades across the terrible half-mile gap they had charged only an hour before, and, miracle of miracles, they swung like a gate, anchored by Prince John at the south end of the line. The Prince of Wales had to move the farthest, but the tall, awkward prince from Ghent had to do the most work, holding firm and not allowing his men to be overrun. He was not an inspiring figure, but like all of Edward's children, determined not to disappoint his father, and within minutes of the walkback beginning, he had found himself on the front line. Men who had been laughing at him the night before found themselves rallying to his side, shamed by the prince's stubborn determination to follow through.

    The French were on the attack now; Edward's army was bent back on the hill. The few among them who thought through what was happening thought that they were trying to fall back upon the concealed archers, and indeed, the archers were trying to provide them cover with their bows. That was, however, not their objective. Their objective was to clear the Roman road for the Duke of Lancaster.

    The ground shook as they hit the gallop, lances dropping. A roar traveled from Henry's position at the center to the edges, a long, ragged "EDWARD!" a clear signal to the princes and the French. The French marshal Arnoul d'Audrehem looked up from where he was trying to reorganize his horse. "God has deserted us," he whispered, and spurred for the knot of horse around the French king. "Your Majesty, you must ride! We will hold them, but you must not stay!"

    For the first time in days, Jean de Valoys stiffened and threw his head back, leonine for all his hypochondria and melancholy. "And have it said that a King of France ran in shame?" He gathered the reins, nodded to the knights attired just as he was, and saw the barely-bearded Prince Philippe approaching. His smile tightened. "At least we die well-accompanied." This last reserve rode toward the sound of the fighting.

    The sun was directly overhead now, and the slaughter continued unabated. Grosmont's cavalry charge scoured the French foot and rode down the Genovese as they broke from behind the pavises to support the footmen. The French horse, thrown into total disorder by the archers, never recovered their position properly. However, there were almost as many French horsemen on the field as there were Englishmen in total, so the charge, raking and terrible as it was, ran into the problem that every conroy feared. At the charge's end, they were embroiled in melee, fighting knee-to-knee with the flower of French chivalry. It was now the princes' turn once more. Prince Edward had by now traversed the length of the battlefield three times, but the English foot line, relieved of all pressure from the French, had reformed and advanced steadily into the French line.

    Even now, totally shattered, the French had a substantial force left on the field, but the fight had totally gone out of them. King Jean's knot of armored men found itself toe-to-toe with Grosmont, who knew a rich ransom when he saw one. Eventually, Jean de Rochechouart shoved the king toward the rear, jabbing his sword into the horse's rump to still all argument. The horse bolted, and with the running king went the army. The twenty guards stayed and fought and fell and mostly died, Rochechouart included. Prince Philippe was captured, meaning that the already rich Duke of Lancaster would be even richer.

    The papal legate, Grimoard, stayed in camp, unarmored and unarmed, relying on his status as a priest and his force of personality to keep him alive. Thus, he witnessed when the watered-silk Oriflamme was cut down, falling into the trampled, stirred-up mud of the camp, spattered with horse droppings and the accumulated filth of an army on the march before being paraded back to the castle, cheering, hung inverted beneath the dragon of Wessex. He was a prisoner, like Philippe, but he was alive. The same could not be said for the majority of the French host.



    Jean did not stop at Limotges, where he fled first; what little of the army was left fled southward in panic, certain that the English were coming to slaughter them wholesale. They fled into the hills of Gascony, where the Earl of Hatfield waited for them, ready to avenge his retreat - never a defeat, he had killed his entire force's worth - and stopped them at spearpoint. Michael of Hatfield achieved what Grosmont had failed to do: he ransomed the King of France.



    In those terrible first two months of spring, 1356, the French lost thirty-seven thousand men, ransomed, killed, or simply dispirited. In exchange, Edward of England, who had a mere twenty-one thousand men between all of his armies, had lost eight thousand. It was more than a third of his total force, but it was nothing compared to the open wound that La Rocha Choard inflicted on France. More terrible still, Grimoard acknowledged the results of the trial by combat. The Avignon Pope bowed out of the conflict on the same day that Michael of Hatfield captured the king of France. God had indeed deserted Jean de Valoys.

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  19. #59
    General morningSIDEr's Avatar
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    An excellent description of the battle and a truly thumping victory in England's favour. The cunning tactic of sending the best archers to the rear of the French force worked superbly. This, alongside the many other victories England has won in the following months, must surely mean she will emerge victorious from this war.
    Last edited by morningSIDEr; 29-01-2012 at 23:42.
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  20. #60
    Lost in Time Ashantai's Avatar
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    Great victories to rival Crecy! Very nice description of the battle!
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