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Paternal Autocrat
77 Badges
May 13, 2008
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I've got aggressive, crushing writer's block on all three of my HoI2 AARs, so I'm straying out of my usual territory. I just finished my first MEIOU game (wherein Burgundy first ate France, then the Empire, then forced a union with Constantinople in the last three months of the game). I've decided to jump to the other side of France this time.

There is a long-term plan, but since I expect this to be a narrative, I will reveal my goals only over time. Initially, my goals are simple: Win the Hundred Years' War, and have Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, more commonly known as the Black Prince, inherit. Given that I intend to use Edward III as a general, I suspect he will die before his historical death date, leading to the Woodstock inheritance.

The stage is therefore set for the first phase of the Hundred Years' War, wherein we join a common volunteer named Matthew Hastings in the army of Edward III. Edward's situation is troublesome, with a large French force positioned to attack the Plantagenet holdings in Acquitaine and the majority of the English in recruiting camps around London...


The House of Plantagenet
Counts of Maine, Anjou, and Mortain, Dukes of Normandy
Geoffrey V The Handsome (24 August 1113-7 September 1151, r. 1126 (Maine), 1129 (Anjou), 1141 (Mortain), 1144 (Normandy)-1151, m. Empress Matilda of England)

Kings of England, Dukes of Aquitaine and Normandy, and Lords of Ireland
Henry II Curtmantle (5 March 1133-6 July 1189, r. 1154-1189, m. Eleanor of Aquitaine)
Richard I Lionheart (8 September 1157-6 April 1199, r. 1189-1199, m. Berengaria of Navarre)

Kings of England, Dukes of Aquitaine, and Lords of Ireland
John I Lackland (24 December 1166-19 October 1216, r. 1199-1216, m.(1) Isabel of Gloucester, (2) Isabella of Angouleme)
Henry III (1 October 1207-16 November 1272, r. 1216-1272, m. Eleanor of Provence)

Kings of England, Dukes of Aquitaine, and Lords of Ireland and Wales
Edward I Longshanks (17 June 1239-7 July 1307, r. 1272-1307, m.(1) Eleanor of Castile, (2) Margaret of France)
Edward II (25 April 1284-21 September 1327, r. 1307-1327, m. Isabella of France)

Kings of England and of France (from 1337 in pretence), Dukes of Aquitaine, and Lords of Ireland and Wales
Edward III (13 November 1312- , r. 1327-), m. Philippa of Hainault (24 June 1314-) in 1328
  • Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales from 1343, Lord of Aquitaine from 1356, Duke of Cornwall from 1337, Earl of Chester from 1333 (15 June 1330- ), m. Blanche of Navarre (1330-) in 1357
  • Isabella (16 June 1332- )
  • Joan (February 1333-2 September 1348)
  • Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Mide from 1356, Earl of Ulster from 1347, Earl of Linlithgow in pretence from 1356 (29 November 1338- ), m. Elizabeth de Burgh (6 July 1332- ) in 1352
  • John of Ghent, Duke of Clarence from 1356, Count of Rochechoard from 1356 (6 March 1340- ), m. Margaret of Burgundy (13 April 1350- ) by proxy in 1356
  • Edmund of Langley, Earl of Cambridge from 1356 (5 June 1341- )
  • Blanche (1342-1342)
  • Mary (10 October 1344- )
  • Margaret (20 July 1346- )
  • William of Windsor (24 June 1348-5 September 1348)
  • Thomas of Woodstock (7 January 1355- )
The Privy Council of 1356
Matthew Hastings
The King Lands
The Battle of Cognac
An Unsuited King
The Road to Limotges
The Battle of La Roche Chouard: The Battlefield
The Battle of La Roche Chouard: The Peace of God
The Battle of La Roche Chouard: St. George's Day
The Archbishop and the Doctor
The Lord of Aquitaine
Last edited:

... Edward, the Black Prince,
Who on the French ground play'd such a tragedy,
Making defeat of the full power of France...

It was winter in the New Forest. Little moved, the trees were gray and bare, and everything that could fly south had; however, the forest was quiet, and as close to private as the King could come. Edward, King of England and of France, rode at the head of a long train of courtiers, spaced out behind at a respectful distance save for a knot of men who rode close in upon him. A family resemblance marked the entire group, down to the badges upon their surcoats. Edward's eyes idly scanned the sky, watching for a falcon he had released with little hope that it would find its prey and stoop.

He was in the prime of middle age, miraculously unmarked by years of hard living and active kingship, and built in the fashion of the warlord-kings of his line stretching back to Rollo the Northman. He had broad, powerfully built shoulders and arms that stood taut like a ship's cordage even in the relaxed setting of a royal hunt in a royal forest, and the ruddy-brown hair that was a characteristic of the Plantagenets, now shot through with iron-gray in his full beard and long, flowing hair. He was tall, even in the saddle, and only the crown surmounting the arms on his surcoat marked him as anything more than a very successful knight. He wore neither crown nor circlet, and only a plain arming-sword in the extremely unlikely event of trouble.

Trouble was unlikely for two reasons. First, Edward was a popular king, even after three decades of rule and two of sporadic warfare, and especially here in the south he was viewed as personally responsible for the restoration of English pride against the French, the king who had ended French raids on English soil by returning the kindness. Thus, the kingdom was relatively free of banditry and lawlessness. The second reason was Edward's proclamation of the Feast of the Nativity, barely past, which had brought men flooding into the recruiting-camps around London. The proclamation was remarkable, in that he had deliberately promulgated it in English, Edward's fluency in both French and English being one reason for his continued popularity after centuries of Francophone monarchs, and for what it had promised.

"Be it known that I, Edward, by the Grace of God King of England and of France, do remit and pardon any crimes committed against the King's Property that by such persons as have been appointed by My Will may be tried, upon the Service of such felons in the Defense of My Subjects by force of Arms in the Lands of France or such other places wherein the Armies of the King may be required."

The decree had sped out from London to the corners of the realm, and men who might otherwise have turned to banditry had instead turned to the army. This accounted for the foul mood of the man closest to the King, a sable mantle across his shoulders where the imprinted marks of a helmet could still be seen in the shoulders of his doublet. He was clearly the king's son, though rather than reddish-brown, his hair was dark, his beard much shorter, both clipped short to accommodate a helmet more easily. His surcoat was black, matched by a sable cloak that he kept bunched close - even in his mid-twenties, he had sustained wounds that would have killed most. The climate from which he had recently returned was, in any case, much warmer than the cold damp of the Hampshire coast. He was Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales and of Aquitaine, Duke of Cornwall. In France, already they called him "the Black Prince," cursing his name.

The elder Edward turned in his saddle, glancing mildly over his right shoulder at the Prince, who scowled and looked away as far as duty allowed. "How find you the new army? Sufficient veterans of the Rade, and are they teaching the new men?" The younger man had just returned from burning his way across southern France - torching the outskirts of Tholoza and cutting a swath across Armanhac. Most of the survivors of that army had dispersed to various winter garrisons in the French possessions, but a sizeable force had returned to London with the Prince on the royal summons. The King was losing patience with the endless tit-for-tat war against France and longed for a decisive blow of some sort.

"Rabble and scum," the Prince growled out in retort, "barely able to seat a horse at best, at worst smelling still of the barnyards where doubtless they lay with sheep to stay warm a winter's night." He turned as if to spit before visibly remembering he was no longer his own master, instead straightening and grating out, "my lord," as if the simple addition would conceal his disgust. The King's eyebrow arched; at one time, he too had thought much as his son did. "They need not be able to sit a horse to hold a spear," he replied, waving his leather-gauntleted right hand. "As you yourself should well know, from the fields of Calais and Crecy." The Prince grunted noncommittally, and the King continued, smiling indulgently. "Even your 'Welsh brigands' have a place."

The prince coughed; it was difficult to tell if it was a cold or sudden embarrassment. Prince Edward's love of the commons, or lack thereof, was well-known, but he had a sentimental weakness for the legion of Welsh bowmen who had supported him at Crecy. There was even a rumor, which the Prince assiduously denied and secretly cultivated among his archers, as the King well knew, that the motto "I Serve" upon his personal arms was truly the Welsh "Your Man." The King's smile stayed on his face as he looked his eldest son and right hand over - built like a Plantagenet, all long limbs, muscle, and fierce, leonine temper. It was hardly surprising that the Valoys spread rumors that their ancestors included the Devil himself. The Prince's great black charger stumbled over a rock, allowing the second ring of the King's men to close.

These, too, were sons, albeit not the powers - yet - that Edward the eldest was. The next-oldest was Lionel, Earl of Ulster, a fair-haired young man, barely more than a boy, who had ridden on the Rade across southern France. Lionel was already the King's choice for the Lord of Ireland, as his supposed title of Ulster indicated. It was simply to be hoped that he would accrue enough experience on the coming French campaign, and that the French campaign would allow sufficient diversion of Edward's attention, that the Irish problem could be set upon properly. He was barely seventeen years old, his birthday barely a month before the Nativity. "Talking about the war, what?" Lionel asked brightly, voice barely a man's just as his beard had barely started growing, its lighter color making it even harder to see. "Which is it to be this year, north or south?"

The fourth to join them, huge even in comparison to the large frame common to the Plantagenet men despite his obvious youth, coughed and interjected, "South, I should hope. We cannot afford to offend the young Duke." That John of Ghent would refer to Philippe du Bourgogne as the "young duke" was almost laughable, but John had never acted his age. Where Lionel seemed a boy pretending to be a man, John seemed half a monster. At fifteen, barely a man, he was taller than either Edward, a giant, who lived up to the English spelling of his birthplace - Gaunt. His shoulders were as wide as his eldest brother's or his father's, but even the largest horses seemed palfrey-sized on his long frame. In that way, he perhaps took after their great-grandfather, Edward Longshanks. John and Prince Edward were close; Edward had in fact agreed on John's joining him on this year's campaign before even considering Lionel despite Lionel's participation in the Rade the year before. John made absolutely no secret of his interest in a dynastic marriage with one of the boy-duke of Burgundy's sisters. Ambition, the King thought, made up perhaps four parts of five in John's long frame.

Prince Edward grunted. "North, I should think. King John still has the army which chased the Rade mustered in the south. They cannot reach Picardy before I reach Paris." He sounded grimly satisfied at the idea of taking the French capital. "We shall remind him of our right to all those lands."

The King's voice cut in, soft, but overriding all of them. "South. We shall meet our cousin of Valoys to the south, that the issue may be decided for our time. We" - and he gestured at John and Prince Edward - "we shall meet them. You, my son of Antwerp," he added, gesturing at Lionel, "shall be my regent here, to remain so until my return." He raised the falconry gauntlet to stifle Lionel's obvious protest. "Shall I not return, by the Grace of God, it is unlikely that your brother Edward will return either. Should God will it thus, you shall be king." The words sank in, and Lionel, awed by the sudden responsibility, merely nodded and gulped, his Adam's apple bobbing. The King went on, seeing Prince Edward's stricken look - he would not command this year's expedition as he had commanded in the past. "Come the New Year, I will create you Duke, that the Barons will have to listen to you. I suppose we shall have to consult the cartographer to find an appropriate domain. York, perhaps? Sussex? It is not an immediate matter." He waved it away and continued speaking, addressing Prince Edward. "You, my son. I know your heart was set upon a decisive campaign; so too is my own. I intend to find and put an end to the army of our cousin of Valoys, and enforce my rights fully. It is time that I took the field once more. You shall remain my marshal in the field, but I weary of domestic affairs and long to establish my rights over our domain, and be damned to their Salic law." His fist struck his thigh, lips pursed tight. Even Prince Edward hesitated; the King's temper was legendary, and he was clearly working himself into a fury.

"Yes, my lord, so shall it be," Prince Edward finally said quietly. "Shall I notify the assembled soldiers that you wish to address them?"

The King nodded. "You shall. I shall speak to them, and to the Privy Council. We shall depart for France as soon as we are able." With that, the falcon cried and stooped, apparently in contradiction to Edward's earlier expectations, and the King spurred his horse to a trot, then a gallop, trying to find the downed prey. The princes strung out behind, and the retinue still further. Only Prince Edward slowed, his mind on the problem of France, and his father's sudden determination after years of stalemate to bring the war to an apparently bloody close. The Prince knew that the King of France had perhaps twenty thousand men in the field after the Rade; he himself had scattered a few thousand across garrisons in Aquitaine, and brought home a similar number to be the core of this new army. Their one great hope was that the new army could arrive in France before Jean de Valoys could concentrate his forces.

Far to the south, in the hills of Gascony, Jean II of France mustered his army, concentrating his forces to punish Angevin Aquitaine for the Rade. A winter campaign in Aquitaine could make it impossible for the Black Prince's Rade, and repay him for Crecy, years before. In the ring of camps and towns surrounding London, the volunteers, released from serfdom and the restrictions of Edward's Statute of Labourers, men reported in to bored recruiting serjeants and made their marks, the army already seething with the promise of French plunder. It was said that archers at Crecy came home rich enough to buy their villages, and in the years following the Plague, many men hungered to escape the land. Most had never been more than a day's travel from their birthplace before they arrived in London; the fortunate were at least familiar with the great Welsh longbow; the unfortunate were to be spearmen, fit only to receive the inevitable French cavalry charge. To the east of them, the masters of the ships the King had chartered to carry his army to France glanced uncertainly at the Channel weather and muttered among themselves about the dangers of the Gulf of Gascony in January.

The falcon, of course, took no notice of any of them, focusing instead on an exceptionally unlucky red squirrel. When the king's party arrived upon it, Edward stared for a long moment at the falcon and its prey before throwing back his head and laughing. He turned his horse aside, commenting only, "Let us hope that our cousin of Valoys proves more rewarding."


Game effects: The King's Nativity declaration is meant to cover a slider shift towards Innovative and the Idea of Battlefield Commissions. I'm posting from work, so no screenshots - just a beginning.
The Privy Council of 1356

London and its surrounding boroughs were cold and wet in the first days of January, roads icy at dawn, almost too muddy and slick to walk at evening. King Edward's bootheels rang across the stone floors between thick-piled rugs, the only counterpoint as he approached the throne the ringing sound of hammers on stone as work continued on Westminster Abbey just to the west. At the end of the great hall, the simple wooden throne which had been Edward's official seat for almost fifty years waited for him, with two rows of dignitaries standing before it, shivering in the draft despite a roaring fire. As the King passed, their heads bowed, and he declined his head slightly in response to each man.


Edward reached the throne and turned, casting off his cloak to pad the bare wooden throne and provide some residual warmth. It would not do for these men to think him excessively self-indulgent after all. He looked the council over as they sat, one arm draped along the arm of the throne, the other raised, fingertips brushing his bearded cheek. "Where is my gracious lord of Canterbury?" he asked mildly, noting the absence of the kingdom's chief lord spiritual.

"I am here, sire," came the answer from the great portal, guardsmen stepping to allow the bustling, red-robed archbishop-cardinal into the council chamber. Oliver Tuchet was young for his office, barely into his thirties, and energetic, wearing high boots suited to London's poorly maintained roads rather than the slippers expected for his office. He was also strikingly handsome, in a dark-featured sort of way, and some called him vain for his habit of staying clean-shaven. He had previously been the Keeper of the Seal to the Prince of Wales, and he replaced the much older, more experienced Archbishop Islip, who had died a lingering death after the great Plague of 1349. That Tuchet, freshly elevated, was also cardinal spoke as much to the influence that Edward continuously expended on Rome as to his natural talents, which were considerable.

"Please, be seated, your Grace, I beg your pardon for such an imposition on your time," Edward said, the irony inescapable. Tuchet blushed and coughed as he bustled into his seat. Edward sat up straight now that the council was fully assembled, eyes sweeping over his sons, the princes, where they sat closest, noting the exchange of looks between Prince Edward and the Archbishop, the merest nod between them, and gripped the armrests of the throne.

"I am resolved to campaign in France as soon as the army may be embarked. Prince Edward, as our marshal, you know most of our cousin. What is his disposition?" The prince's mouth twisted, and he replied, "Merciful and well-loved, but ineffective, I should say, sire, else he'd watch every ford rather than rest behind walls."

"I meant the disposition of his army, if it would please you."

The prince glanced down, frowning. "He musters perhaps thirty thousand men under arms, of which half are the flower of French chivalry and the rest are rabble, in camp around Montalban, and another ten thousand in La Rochelle. Against this, we have... fewer than ten thousand, of whom only a few hundred are still mounted fit to meet the French." The numbers shocked the assembled council, who had expected at least a more optimistic accounting of the forces available already in Aquitaine. Edward merely nodded; he had expected as much.

"And the disposition of our own army, my lord Segrave?" Simon de Segrave was the Constable of the Tower, in charge of the defense of England in the King's absence. He was a tough, middle-aged man, a veteran of Calais and Crecy, with hair that seemed in perpetual disarray from being encased in a helmet, and a beard that rivaled the king's own, though markedly less gray than Edward's, with long badger-like streaks rather than Edward's own steadily graying hair. That Segrave had also been born mere Simon Seagrave, knighted by Prince Edward himself, marked him as a truly exceptional soldier, but he spoke no French and his English was still markedly common. He was blunt to a fault, and it showed now. "We have twenty thousand men in England. Of those, we can put three-quarters to sea. My Lord of March tells me that we have enough boats to move seventeen thousand, and enough gold to pay their masters until their return from Bordeu. I doubt that we can reach Aquitaine soon enough to make a difference for the men there now." Segrave smiled, a scar in his cheek pulling one corner outward and leaving a livid white line in his otherwise thick black beard. "That is the bad. The good is that the men in the castles and fortresses of Aquitaine are good men. They shall hold like a rock in the sea if John Valleys or his constable comes for them."

Another of Prince Edward's friends, the hawk-faced Simon de Waterton, took up the narrative. "The men we have under arms seek a fight, sire. Even the men already in the south seek battle. There is slim chance of us defeating the French pretender with the men who are there, but they shall bleed." De Waterton, unlike de Segrave, was from an old Norman family, and wore his beard cut short, an angry line of bristles along an already pointed jaw that exaggerated his aquiline features and made him seem almost demonic. For all that, he was a well-known courtly romantic, and most of the poets in the Prince's retinue were actually the Earl de Waterton's.

"Indeed, sir?" Edward asked, shifting in the throne, his eyes settling on de Waterton. "Yes, sire," the Earl answered, matching the King's gaze. "I offer my life at stake that for every Englishman who dies fighting the pretender, there shall be four Frenchmen." He hesitated a moment before adding, "And for every horse, ten Frenchmen." This was crucial: the French had at least twice as many knights as the English; to lay low the French army, the 'flower of French chivalry' must first be trimmed. Edward nodded, frowning, turning to the men who would likely manage England in his absence: Prince Lionel and the Archbishop-Cardinal.

"And what say you, your grace?" he asked Tuchet. "We have no chancellor; it seems meet that you should do his duties in the absence." Tuchet frowned, shifting under his ermine-lined red robes. "I do not like the Scottish king," Tuchet replied. "I have, in point of fact, received an embassy from them, a man who wishes to speak to your Majesty at your earliest convenience."

Edward inclined his head, and before Tuchet could turn to summon a page, de Segrave turned his head and roared, head thrown back and voice echoing off of the limestone walls, "Send in the clown!"

A young page all but ran from the room, his ornamental sword clamped tightly to his side. Young Geoffrey Chaucer had been at court a scarce six months, but already had attracted the eye of the Earl de Waterton with his talent for verse. He had in fact been composing a brief sketch of the council when the massive roar had sent him running; it was only a short distance to where the Scot emissary waited, and Tuchet's deacon had at least warned him that the ambassador might be needed. Still, Chaucer arrived at the Hospital of St. Bernard out of breath, pausing to steady himself and bring his heart under control. The King would hardly appreciate the delay, though the Scot in question would likely derive some small satisfaction from it.

Robert Stewart was the cousin of King David II, a staunch supporter of the Bruce party, and selected very deliberately for the effect that he would have on the English. Normally, he wore court dress that would have been acceptable in either Edinburgh or Paris - doublet and hose, with his beard neatly groomed and forked. Today, however, he dressed for his audience, and to emphasize his frame. Gone were the courtier's clothes, replaced by a rough woolen plaid that he wore slung deliberately carelessly over a saffron tunic, calling up memories of the Wallace insurrection of Edward's grandfather's time. His normally carefully groomed beard was instead wild and bushy, making him the deliberate caricature of the wild Scot in London. His retinue remained dressed for court; he knew that they would blend into the background, so had taken no cares to transform them as he had himself.

Chaucer, confronted by this monstrosity, gulped and stammered out his message. "His-his-his Majesty will receive you now, sir," he finally managed, "and if it pleases you, I am to conduct you to his presence." Stewart nodded, gesturing imperiously. "Lead on, young master."

The train of Scots, led by the page, returned to the Palace, where they wended into the presence chamber. Edward had moved on from the Scottish embassy to discuss other matters with the assembled council. As the door opened once more, Chaucer and the ambassador heard "... Thus, it pleases Me to create My son Lionel as Duke of Mide. Let it be recorded thus, and known throughout My realm."

The King glanced up at the arriving Scot, his eyebrow barely twitching at the man's appearance. "My lord Stewart, convey my compliments to your king, and to what do we owe this appearance?" Robert stopped at the edge of the rug before the council, head thrown back. Where Edward had spoken in French, as their shared language, Robert replied in English so deliberately Scots that it was practically unintelligible.

"Ma laird, hi' maijesty King David, comman' me tae tell ye thus: Tha' he wish naught but peace atween auir kingdoms. As proof thus, he d'livers thae a treasure such as naught since yer renooned gran'father ha' seen in Scotland, wi' tha promise tha' he shall d'liver tha remaining treasure i' person a' Northampton, tae renew yer frien'ship o' the Treaty Year. I' retairn, King David asks naught but tha retairn o' tha' which is his by right of kingship."

"And what is this treasure, and what is King David's by right of kingship?" Edward asked testily, fingers drumming on the arm of his throne. Stewart gestured, and a porter brought forward a small casket. De Segrave stopped the porter and opened the casket, his rugged face slowly flushing deep red as he turned to present it to the king. "It is a hammer, sire. A cracked hammer, and but the head, neither shaft nor shank."

"Aye, 'twere in earnest o' yere gran'faither o' sich fame, wha' called hi'self tha Hammer o' thae Scots. Fer its retairn, King David asks nobbut tha felon Edward Balliol, wha' styles hi'sel' King o' thae Scots, an' tha restitution o' tha Stone."

Edward sat silent, hand gripping the armrest until his fingers whitened. He stood slowly, the dais making him taller than the Scots ambassador. "Indeed. Thank your king for his gift, and tell him that I shall use this hammer to strike a blow as shall ring in Scotland for a hundred years. I shall indeed deliver the man Balliol to your king, where he shall receive that which is his due, and God willing, I shall instruct your king David in the history of my grandsire, that he may learn that which his late father knew of old. I shall meet your lord the king at Edinburgh, that we may renew our treaty, upon the terms which your lord seeks, which is to say, peace eternal, as felt this very day by his father the late Lord of Annandale. I thank your lord the king for his consideration, and offer him once more the hospitality of our servant, the Constable of the Tower, in the accommodation to which he was late accustomed, though he shall find it somewhat more bare due to his continued absence. Further, I ask that your gracious liege remember his debts, for while a gracious Christian, his diligence in payment of his own ransom stretches even my forbearance. I shall dispatch my lord of Mide to enact these negotiations. I know your gracious lord would wish my reply borne swiftly; I therefore give you leave to depart our presence this day, and return only with King David's assent to our missive, that we may affirm our friendly treaty of old."


As Edward's left hand clenched into a fist, his right thrust outward, finger extending in accusation. The ambassador smirked, half-bowed, and retreated as rapidly as court decorum allowed. He had achieved his goal, of re-igniting the dying war between England and Scotland just as Edward least needed distraction. The King, nostrils flared, turned to de Segrave and Prince Lionel. "Upon our departure for France, in your brother the Prince of Wales's name, raise levies in Wales and Cornwall, and what remains of the equerry of England itself." The orders spat out, and he turned on Lionel full-force. "You are to retrieve Edward Balliol from his repose at Conisbrough. He shall accompany you north, and by God if you cannot set him on the throne I see no reason to waste the Irish on you. I can spare you no more than seven thousand men; they should be sufficient for mere Scots until the levies can be raised." De Segrave nodded brusquely, Lionel looked moderately surprised, and Prince Edward ground his teeth at the usurpation of his reputation in the west country. The King continued speaking, giving rapid-fire orders, nostrils flared. "My lord de Waterton, kindly muster the army for immediate departure, and select such men as can be trusted to lead it, and our gathered fleet, into battle. I will address the gathered men myself, before we depart for Cognac. There is scarce time now, and only by swift deeds shall we stem the Scot and our cousin of Valoys alike. Go forth." With no more ceremony, he snatched up the fur-lined cape from the throne and stalked from the chamber, the pages barely opening the doors before him.


Apologies for atrocious Scots accent.
Apologies for atrocious Scots accent.

You should be apologising; the Scots in your AAR do not seem nearly drunk enough!

I'm liking this AAR, the character descriptions are very good and detailed. I already get the sense of King Edward being a hard but fair man, his son Edward of Woodstock seems slightly rebellious, or at the very least he seems earger to inherit from his father as soon as possible. I rather like that Scotland has managed to so quickly antagonise England, no doubt spelling our eventual doom, it is the Scottish way! Thus everything is nicely poised for the coming war with both France and her allies, King Edward has best hope his wish to deliver a knock-out blow proves successful, France is a tough foe. I'll be following this.
A most interesting start, you've managed a fine display of show not tell in you characters already. I particularly liked the smug Scottish herald, though I still hope he gets an amusing comeuppance. I'm looking forward to more.
You should be apologising; the Scots in your AAR do not seem nearly drunk enough!

I'm liking this AAR, the character descriptions are very good and detailed. I already get the sense of King Edward being a hard but fair man, his son Edward of Woodstock seems slightly rebellious, or at the very least he seems earger to inherit from his father as soon as possible. I rather like that Scotland has managed to so quickly antagonise England, no doubt spelling our eventual doom, it is the Scottish way! Thus everything is nicely poised for the coming war with both France and her allies, King Edward has best hope his wish to deliver a knock-out blow proves successful, France is a tough foe. I'll be following this.

Thanks! In reality, at this point, the Scots were settling peace negotiations with Edward, and King David was engaged in temporizing between paying his ransom and trying to convince Edward to let John of Gaunt be his heir in lieu of the debt. Here, they've decided to honor the Auld Alliance, and because I cannot for the life of me imagine Edward III as a man who will let an insult slide, Edward's going to expect decisive results from Lionel.

Prince Edward's not so much rebellious or eager to inherit as disappointed; he's used to an independent command, and he's just been told that this is no longer the case and his army is to be founded on what he views as disposable peasant rabble to boot. He'll get over it, at least if he wants to remain heir.

A most interesting start, you've managed a fine display of show not tell in you characters already. I particularly liked the smug Scottish herald, though I still hope he gets an amusing comeuppance. I'm looking forward to more.

Oh, he will - though not quite to King Edward's tastes. Prince Lionel's eventual Irish mission will be somewhat... delayed. It will happen, and it'll happen in Edward's lifetime. I doubt I'm revealing much when I say I'm having a harder time coming up for an identifier for Edward III than Edward IV the Black. Between the two of them, the map of Europe changes.
Matthew Hastings


The word for the conditions in the camps that stretched along the Fleet was "squalor." Matthew Hastings had heard the word from one of the many itinerant priests that he had heard over the years to describe the conditions of life in the city. Where the friar had been extolling the virtues of a pastoral life, he knew precisely what "squalor" had meant. The Fleet had become an open sewer, the waste of the entire army flowing down it into the Thames, when the soldiers could be bothered to go so far as the river. With London's wet winter had come sickness, and the nobles would be damned if they would allow sick men into the city where first they might infect a populace barely recovered from the plague of 1349, and second and more important, might desert. The monks in the priories on the city's verge had done their best to care for the sick, even doing their utmost to introduce the concept of latrines and proper waste disposal. It had in many cases helped; in others, their pleas had fallen on deaf ears. The result was that the army's encampment was foul-smelling, a dull miasma hanging over the already marshy grounds northeast of London mixed with the black smoke that boiled off the fires. The army was rapidly deforesting the area around London to keep the spirits of disease at bay, keep themselves warm, and keep their bellies filled.

In a cesspool like this, Matt Hastings was fortunate in that he was a hunter by trade and upbringing, used to burying his spoor to conceal his presence and to eating sparely when he had to. His family had been in service to the family de Hastings for a hundred years as beaters and foresters, but the plague had put paid to that. Old Earl Laurence had died in Scotland in 1348, and Lady Agnes had turned up her nose at the earl's southern holdings. A rider had borne word south - they would keep Old John and Young John, his father and brother, as foresters, but there was no room for another. Thus, he was turned out just in time for King Edward's proclamation.

It had been natural enough to walk north, begging when he had to, betting when he could, to the City. It had been equally natural to be smooth-talked by a recruiter in Southwark, who had directed him not into the city but into the camps to the north. He was tall for his age, all of sixteen, and well-built, and had been making, stringing, and drawing a man's bow for at least three years. He was, in short, precisely the sort of landless, dispossessed commoner that Edward's edict had been aimed at, and criers at every crossroad had made sure they knew where to go.

There were no uniforms in King Edward's army. Those who had been brought in by the gentry perhaps wore their livery, but most of them wore a simple leather jerkin where they could. There was little standardization, either - spears were of uneven length, no one carried a sword unless they were at least knighted, and even the arrows were surprisingly personal. There was an exception to this, and if he was honest, Matt Hastings envied them. The exception was Prince Edward's corps of Welshmen. The Prince, in a fit of vanity perhaps, had outfitted them uniformly in black leggings and jerkins, with the Prince's Feathers on the breast. The Welshmen, if asked, proclaimed that the feathers were not ostrich plumes, but goose feathers, and there were three because - well, didn't you know how to fletch an arrow?

Of course, no one asked the Welsh. They would as soon brawl as talk, and when they did talk, they were incomprehensible. They also had the Prince's protection. A man who brawled with the dark little men would be first beaten - by the black-clad archers, who traveled in packs like wolves - and then flogged - by his own superiors, for his insolence. That did not stop men from staring at them enviously as they walked around camp as if they owned it, long knives bouncing off their thighs. One of them had appeared in Matt's particular camp this very day, a grizzled-looking veteran with wild black hair and a beard to match, thoroughly tangled and as greasy as the front of his jerkin. He looked around as if seeking something, and found precisely what he was looking for.

The only man in the hundred or so with any metal armor was a thick-necked, tough man sent to supervise them, with a breastplate that, dull as it was, still caught the little light that escaped through gray cloud and black smoke. His name was William Boroughs, and he was every bit a Londoner. Most of the men here were, rounded up by their guilds or by the Lord Mayor's guards, which had been his previous occupation and the source of the breastplate. That he was barely more literate than the men he led, just literate enough to know the difference between a furrier and a farrier in fact, bothered him not in the least. That this Welshman had appeared in his camp was at best an irritating inconvenience, at worst a dire insult. "Wot yer want, Welshie?" he asked, voice jabbing where he'd doubtless have preferred a fist. The Welshman opened his mouth, and a string of vaguely musical syllables came out, and everyone within earshot blinked in incomprehension. "Anglois, man, speak'ee bloody Anglois!" yelled Boroughs. The Welshman tried again, frowning.

"Ai'm from th' Prinz. 'E says ta take a'y'o'y'r folk who'n 'andle a bow. 'Ey'll be wi'us fro' now on." Boroughs leered. "Well, lads, y'ear that? Little Welshie thinks ye're a bunch of poncy bowmen, afraid to get in an' kill the Froggies proper. Well? Any o' ye know nothin' about a bow?" He glowered at the gathered soldiers as if daring any of them to admit to knowing anything about archery, and for the most part, they shifted from one foot to the other, avoiding his glance. He was quick with his fists, especially when displeased, and anyone who replied would doubtless be flogged for his trouble.

Matt hesitated, then raised his hand. "Ah. Serjeant, sir, I... I was a forester, sir." He noticed another hand up, a pug-nosed man with a perpetually knowing smirk, perhaps a year older than him. Boroughs slowly reddened. "Oh was ye, 'Astings? An' ye, 'Awkwood? Well, I'll believes it when ye proves it." He crossed his arms, and the Welshman nodded. "'A's fair'nough. Ai'll se'up th' butt, an' ye'll prove yer wor' it." He remained incomprehensible, but he gabbled back over his shoulder in pure Welsh, and his aim came through clearly enough. Two men came scrambling forward, rolling a straw archery butt between them like a giant wheel of cheese the height of a man. He gestured down toward the river, and they gave him a questioning look, followed by another quick exchange of Welsh. One dropped a bundle of arrows at his feet before scrambling along. "Na, y'twain, string an' bend 'em on, Ai'll'splain th'test."

Hawkwood looked sheepish. "Ah... I don't have my own no longer. I... lost it, y'see." The Welshman rolled his eyes and called out to the men who were even now propping up the target two hundred yards away. One of them called back, the tone aggrieved, before running off and returning minutes later with a bow roughly Hawkwood's height, the string unstrung. Matt had by now retrieved his, carefully polished and crafted this very winter from Spanish yew, his father's parting gift. The old man had barely been able to meet his eyes when putting him out on the road, but it looked like it might get him out of the way of Serjeant Boroughs.

He noticed the wild-haired Welshman watching him with interest as he trapped the bow under his thigh, bending it backward to loop the string at each horn nock, turning it from a simple staff into a bow. Hawkwood, too, was watching, albeit covertly, and fumbled with his as he did. He had seen a bow before, but handled one? Matt had his doubts. Finally they were strung. "Y'll d'well'nough," the Welshman grunted in approval. "Na, y've each ten arras. Ai'll count t'... ah, fifdy. Y'll ha' 'til then t' bend an' loose, an' if y'miss th'butt more'n four times, Ai've n'use for ye."

Matt shrugged, shaking his arms out. The majority of the work was done by the rest of the body, not the arms, but even so, it never hurt. Two hundred yards, a stationary target, ten arrows, six must hit, by the time this strange little man counted to fifty? Such a thing was... well, perhaps not simple, but simpler than London was!

He stepped up to a line the Welshman scuffed with his toe, glancing back at Serjeant Boroughs before picking an arrow out of the ground, nocking it, and bending the bow back. As soon as he plucked the arrow from the ground, the Welshman began counting... far faster than he had anticipated. For every heartbeat, the Welshman counted two beats. The bow bent backwards, he locked his eyes on the target, and the arrow flew, hitting the butt with a satisfying thunk even at this range. The second, third, and fourth arrows flew just fine. On the fifth arrow, he realized the Welshman was at forty, and Boroughs suddenly loudly coughed at the moment of his release. The arrow went high, sailing into the Fleet. The Welshman gave Boroughs a dirty look, but kept counting, voice surprisingly, hypnotically even.

Matt plucked, nocked, bent, loosed; plucked, nocked, bent, loosed; plucked, nocked, bent, loosed. He had the ninth arrow bent on when the Welshman cleared his throat. "Fifdy, ye're done, lad." His voice was gentle, and he clapped Matt on the shoulder, already numb and losing focus. "Go'n' pluck yer arrows, an' stay wi' m'lads t'th'side." He hesitated before adding, "Those las' three were well done." He nodded awkwardly before gesturing Matt down toward the butt, where he trotted over and plucked his arrows loose, giving them a quick inspection. The points were still sound.

He stood to the side as John Hawkwood began his attempt. Hawkwood struggled, choosing to bend and loose faster at the expense of accuracy. His city upbringing showed, as he hit only three of the first five, and at the count of thirty, Boroughs apparently tripped, bumping Hawkwood from behind. This time the Welshman pounced. As near as Matt could tell, he reached out to touch Boroughs on the shoulder, then the big Londoner was flat on his back, head tipped back in the mud and the long knife at his throat. Words were clearly exchanged, but there was no hearing them from this distance. What he did know was that John Hawkwood was also jogging to join the archers, though he had fired only half his arrows. Boroughs staggered to his feet, yelling at two of his own troopers to help wheel the butt away, leaving the archers unburdened. One of the two lesser archers gabbled at their leader in Welsh, and he grinned in response, wiping his muddy hands on his dark-brown leather trousers as he explained to them. "Ai tol'm th'Prinz sent me, an'll not let'm down jus'cause o'some fat-necked Londoner."

Matt had thought they were perhaps to be quartered with the Welsh archers; that was, sadly, not to be the case. John Hawkwood had stayed close, muttering to Matt, "I'd've told him I could shit gold if it'd get me away from that bastard." His eyes shone murder for a second, and Matt had no trouble imagining him in a dark alley. His voice took on an uncanny imitation of Boroughs, with no hint of humor. "'Ye stinks of tanner's piss, Johnny lad, ye sure ye didn't piss yerself today?'" Hawkwood glanced back over his shoulder and spat. "Sooner I'm quit of London the better."

The little Welshman, it turned out, was Owain ap Llewellyn ap Gruffydd, which sounded impressive enough until he explained that "Llewellyn" and "Gruffydd" were to Welshmen as "John" and "William" to Englishmen. He had been at Crecy and Calais, and he was frankly dubious of Prince Edward's belief that Englishmen could be turned into a corps of archers. "For a'that, y're well out o'is grab, lads," he added cheerfully enough, for he seemed possessed of a boundless, black sense of humor. "A'that those spears'n'levies're good for's ta feed th' French 'orse when 'ey break loose." He had proceeded to explain how the battle at Crecy had unfolded, and how the archers were to be used - on the flanks, where they could shoot into the mass of the enemy without being on the receiving end of the terrible weight of the French horsemen.

He was interrupted in his explanation by a sudden, spreading silence, and he turned to see two armored figures riding through camp. One of them was dressed in black armor, enameled and polished until he glittered like the sea on a calm day, bright against his own darkness. He glanced neither right or left, his black horse carrying him forward and his sword clinking against the full barding. "Th'prince," Owain hissed, dropping to a knee and bowing his head. The English, more naturally his subjects, ironically took a moment longer to drop, and Matt thought he saw the Prince's eyebrow rise a fraction.

Behind the Prince came a man that no Englishman could properly mistake, in armor that was as bright silver as the Prince's had been shining black. His reddish hair, forked beard, and aquiline features made him instantly recognizable to his subjects, as did the way that he rode with his right hand raised as if in benediction, the left controlling the reins. He was, of course, Edward III, King of England and rightful King of France, as every Englishman knew. Good King Edward, a man who cared enough about his people to speak and even give law in English.

The two of them rode without escort to the center of the web of camps, the army naturally gravitating toward them as the King and his son mounted a dais hastily assembled for them. If Edward felt his age under seventy pounds of steel, it did not show; he moved as naturally as he had in Scotland years earlier. Lord Constable de Segrave stumped up the dais in place of a herald and reared his head back. "SILENCE, YOU LAGGARDS, HIS HIGHNESS THE KING!" he bellowed, his voice vibrating in the chest of every man within a quarter-mile of it.

The King bowed his head for a moment before speaking, de Segrave dropping to a knee to give him center stage. "You are aware of My right to the crown of France," he began, voice projecting nearly as well as de Segrave's roar. "My son the Prince has pressed this claim for many years, with great success, due in no small part to the men who bore arms for him. It is time to resolve this matter with my cousin of Valoys to the honor of England. Most of you will embark for France this very week, with me." He smiled and raised a hand as a hoot of applause broke out. "I promise you that Bordeu is far more clement than London at any time of year, winter more than most. And yet... I said most, not all. Some of you must turn north instead, to resolve a greater slur upon our honor. Our honor, as Englishmen. King David the Scot has chosen to renege upon his ransom and his word, and has sent an ambassador with grievous insults to our court. As King and the Lord Paramount of this island, I cannot abide an insult to my person or realm, and thus for the past day we have been in a state of war with our neighbor of Scotland. That some of you must turn not to France, but to the Scot, pains me - but my son the Duke Lionel promises me that it shall pain the Scot more." Edward smiled at the cheer that broke out at that.

"I shall not lie to you; it is not meet for king to deceive subject. Our cousin of Valoys has twice as many men in the field as are upon this field, and our cousin of Bruce has his own host. If we are to triumph, it shall not be by halves but by boldness. Were you mere Scots, or Frenchmen, I should worry, but you are the sons of Crecy, of the Cross of Neville!" The sporadic cheers became a roar, and the roar slowly became a chant: "Ed-WARD! Ed-WARD!" It was unclear whether it was the prince or the King who was its focus; as Owain later commented to his charges, the Welsh would cheer Prince Edward leaving a privy. It seemed that God Himself joined in the cheer, the gray sky rumbling with distant thunder.

At dawn the next day, the King boarded the first ships in the Pool of London. The weather was cold, snow flurries coming down almost vertically, and the King and Prince, bundled in their furs, looked sympathetically down at the men who tended the oars as they began to cut silently through the water. As they passed the Tower, the city began to awake, and raised a ragged cheer for their absent king. To the north, Prince Lionel sped into Yorkshire, seeking Edward Balliol for one last frantic attempt to place him on the throne of Scotland, and beyond him, the pipes skirled to guide King David's host into Cumberland. To the south, in Gascony, the first French hooves thudded out their tattoo as they crossed into the English-controlled high country. In Wales, Lionel's agents drummed up every able-bodied male they could find.

The arrows were loosed, and it was now only a matter of where they would land.
Very good stuff. Edward's mention of the Battle of Neville's Cross is certainly a good one to cheer the troops, certainly not Scotland's finest hour. I have to confess I'm not particularly well read with regards to the Hundred Years War, what little I know is mainly gleaned from Bernard Cornwell's brilliant Grail trilogy and I am getting very pleasing echoes of his work here. I do certainly know that with the numbers stacked against England, they are going to need their devastatingly proficient archers to bring about victory. Useful then that Matthew seems to one such archer.
Very impressive narrative! Character development and plot is coming along very well.

Excellent, and looking forward to more!
Very good stuff. Edward's mention of the Battle of Neville's Cross is certainly a good one to cheer the troops, certainly not Scotland's finest hour. I have to confess I'm not particularly well read with regards to the Hundred Years War, what little I know is mainly gleaned from Bernard Cornwell's brilliant Grail trilogy and I am getting very pleasing echoes of his work here. I do certainly know that with the numbers stacked against England, they are going to need their devastatingly proficient archers to bring about victory. Useful then that Matthew seems to one such archer.

Which is kind of funny, because half the scenes so far have been thefts from Henry V and the other half have been thefts from Agincourt. Though to be honest, it's kind of hard to write a peasant-levy POV AAR unless you have improbable moments like the real John Hawkwood's (possible) elevation to knighthood at the Prince's hand.

And Edward could hardly have mentioned Bannockburn or Stirling Bridge, now, could he? ;)

Very impressive narrative! Character development and plot is coming along very well.

Excellent, and looking forward to more!

Thanks, glad to have one more aboard. Should be more coming today. Should - second-longest word in the English language, after "if."
The King Lands​

Despite bitter conditions in the Gulf of Gascony, King Edward had spent more time on deck, impatiently awaiting arrival in Aquitaine, than sequestered where he had as close to privacy as could be found on the Great Edward. It would perhaps be an exaggeration to call him anxious about the news of the armies already in France; however, since the fleet had encountered and burned a small flotilla loyal to the House of Blois - Valoys's Breton ally - south of Brest, he had been increasingly ready to come to grips with the French.

They had kept the French coast to port as they sailed and sometimes rowed. The result was a relatively swift passage for the hundreds of ships in Edward's fleet: six weeks from the Thames to the Charanta. The old Roman bridge at Saintes made the river impassable, at least for a fleet this size, and they moored in what Edward's Lord Admiral, a stubby onetime fisherman named Sir Anthony Young, had viewed with growling disapproval as unseemly haste and improper care with the ships. Edward had had no time for Sir Anthony's disapproval; he was already ashore by then, speaking with the castellan of Saintes, Eudes de Montfort, a distant scion of the Breton family.

"What news from the south?" he demanded, slapping his gloves against his thigh as they rode. Montfort's long face turned even more mournful, his moustache drooping. "N'c'est bon, sire. The man you appointed as Lord Warden of Gascony... this Sieur Michel d'Atfil, he has met King Jean outside Jegun." Edward barely noticed his own correction as he listened to the first report. "Sir Michael Hatfield."

"D'accord. I regret that Sieur d'Atfil had but a few thousand levies with him, what he was able to scrape together from the area. King Jean -" he flinched involuntarily at Edward's murderous glare at the reference to Jean de Valoys as "King Jean" - "came upon him in two hosts, the first his foot, the other, his horse."

"Mm. Much as we expected. What happened?" The Breton shrugged in responses. "What you would expect. Sieur d'Atfil had to retreat on Bordeu. I am told he lost one man in eight... about five 'undred or so." Edward was clearly growing impatient. "And the Valoys?" Again, they were not French, as the French were his people as clearly as the English - this was a contest between Plantagenet and Valoys to Edward, not England and France.

"It is... less clear, sire. They say... that is, I have a cousin who was with them, and 'e says that... that not a single knight died, but that for every English left on the field, they 'ad to bury five French. This was three weeks ago, sire," He added apologetically, then paused. "And there is more." Edward glanced at him in irritation. "Surely, sir, you do not mean to tell me that Jean of Valoys is in Bordeu too?"

"No, sire. His son, the Dauphin Charles, is up the river at Cognac, with nine thousand men." Edward's face went from harassed and irritated to predatory. He roared back over his shoulder, "SEND FOR THE PRINCE!" When the black charger cantered up, hooves clopping against the Roman cobblestones, the King's face was still lit by that bestial hunger. "The Dauphin is at Cognac. We have them!"

The news radiated through the army, and men who had been seasick until lurching bandy-legged onto shore found themselves spurred on by the thought of encountering the French for the first time. They sped eastward, both King and Prince agreed that a first swift, decisive blow would summon Jean de Valoys. It was two days' march from Saintes to Cognac for a well-trained, well-rested army. Despite its current condition, the two of them were grimly determined that this army would make the trip in the same time.

As the two Edwards raced inland, young Geoffrey Chaucer took a fast horse south, acting as herald for the King and bearing a message for Sir Michael Hatfield. Hatfield was exhausted from holding his army together, and had little time for a barely pubescent page. The Lord Warden of Gascony was apparently born to the knighthood, a large, powerful man whose right shoulder was far more developed than his left, giving him a hunchbacked appearance. He could hold a lance at the ready for up to half an hour, and had risen to prominence not because of his innate military skills, which were considerable - the majority of the Valoys dead were from his handful of knights' charge into the French flank - but because he was a tournament champion, and Prince Edward was as addicted to the tourney as he was. He kept his hair shorn bald, though he bowed far enough to fashion that, like the Prince, he had a modest goatee and moustache, trimmed short enough that it never snagged in his aventail when armored.

He was stalking through his army's camp when Chaucer arrived, as blown as his horse. Hatfield was slapping his soldiers, mostly Gascon peasants armed with long knives and leather shields, on the shoulder, cheering them after the apparent rout by a French army that had outnumbered them six to one. "You lot are the spitting image of the lads who killed that French fool Roland," he told more than one band, his once-courtly French roughened by life among his men. Some of them grinned and nodded; the story of Roland was told very differently in Gascony, as the story of the Gascons ejecting the hated French overlords. When his clerk appeared, coughing for his attention, Hatfield shot him a murderous glance before asking, loudly enough for the soldiers to hear, "What, finally came to see how the real men live?"

"Sir," the clerk murmured, "a messenger from the King." He grunted noncommittally. "Which king, red or blue?"

"Red, Sir Michael." Hatfield brayed with laughter, his exhaustion forgotten. "Well why'd you not say so earlier? Bring 'im on." He was unimpressed with the stripling Chaucer, and beckoned him forward peremptorily. "M-my lord," Chaucer began, "I bring word from the -"

"I can read your livery, boy. Your name?" He snapped his fingers, Chaucer stepping forward into the fire's light. "Geoffrey Chaucer, sir, and I bear word from the King..." By then, Hatfield had snatched the message from Chaucer's hand and caught the seal in one ragged, dirty thumbnail. While the army was mauled, he lived rough like the soldiers.

By this writ, given and sealed this seventh day of March, in the Year of Our Lord 1356, it pleases Me, Edward, Third of that Name, King of England and of France, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, to create Sir Michael Hatfield of Canterbury as Baron Hatfield of Jegun, in My peerages of England and France. I direct further that Baron Hatfield raise the levies of Gascony, Guyenne, and Armanhac, to better serve Me.

It was indeed sealed by the King, but more important to Hatfield was the note below, written in the King's own tight, neat hand: Welle donne, thou Goudd and Faythfulle Saurvaunt. Edw. Rex. Angl. Fr. Etc. Sunset or not, the Gascon camp was a beehive from then on. The army still licked its wounds, but it would return to combat soon enough, and when it did, he vowed, it would ring the bells of Tholoza with John of Valoys's head.

Not everyone was overjoyed at the King's decision on a lightning campaign. John Hawkwood had been pulled aside by the stubby Welshman Owain almost as soon as they set foot ashore. "Lad, 'splain y'r no archer. Ai took ya because tha' Londoner needed skinnin'. But as no archer, y'r no use t'me either. Must make an archer o' ye." Owain's grin had been deeply unpleasant. "So 'til Ai say else, ye get t'bear the Cross of St. Dewi." He had thrust an oaken pole into Hawkwood's hands, three inches in diameter and a foot and a half taller than Hawkwood. "Y'old it ower yer hid a'y time we're n'eatin' or sleepin', an' it doesn' leave yer'and e'en then." The little Welshman had laughed. "An' fair warnin', Ai'll like a'not 'ang things from it - th'burden of St. Dewi, y'might say."

From Saintes to Cognac, then, John Hawkwood, his face a sweating mask of barely concealed agony, had held the stout oak staff overhead, working as much as beast of burden as levy. Occasionally Owain took pity on him - "pity" being that the staff went across his shoulders, with a pack or a string of waterskins on each end of the staff - and occasionally Owain spurred him on out in front of the others with the end of his own bowstave. When Matthew protested to Owain, the Welshman explained quietly, "'Snot to be cruel, lad, 's't' get 'im where 'e'll bend on a man's bow without thought. You ken 'ow, I ken 'ow, but Ewan there's plain no archer." He shrugged eloquently. "'E needs more'n bull strength t'bend a bow, it need'm strong head t'heel."

Owain's tortures were not restricted to John Hawkwood alone. When they made camp, Owain drilled the English archers for at least an hour, when everyone else was bedding down. "Y're no' Cymraeg, so w'need t'find an Anglois way of fightin'. Put y'in lines o'somesuch," he explained the first brutal night of training after landing. Most of them were exhausted, and there had been precious little time to recover from seasickness. Nevertheless, they trained - forming in long lines, with men detailed to run arrows to the archers, and the archers fumbling to execute commands on Owain's barked orders: Pluck - nock - present - bend - loose. They could deliver twelve arrows in a minute if they had the arrows at their feet to pluck, which fixed the archers' lines at the start of a battle. Owain lectured them on the role of an archer on the battlefield. "Y'll nivver punch through plate, so if 'e's on a 'orse, kill th'orse, then 'e's on foot like you, an' you're faster. Don' worry so much about th' French flower, either, kill th' poor buggers b'hind an' th' lobsters'll do th'rest." Owain had a healthy contempt for armored knights; he enjoyed tournaments as much as the next common spectator, but, just like boxing and bear-baiting, it had nothing to do with a real battlefield, he reminded them.

On the ninth of March, 1356, the army of King Edward III reached the French lines around Cognac. It was a Wednesday - fitting, one of de Waterton's poets suggested, that they meet on a day sacred to the old pagan god of battle and kingship.
The "Cross of St. Dewi" is based on my own experience as a guidon bearer in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M; as part of the selection process, you spend a good deal of time holding a very heavy wooden stick at "high port," which is to say, directly overhead with arms outstretched. It isn't too bad for half an hour or so, then gets progressively more painful until your arms go completely numb. It also tends to produce one of two physical results - shoulder injuries and suffocation, or EXTREMELY well-developed shoulders and stamina like an old mule's.
Very nicely written!

I saw Chaucer's inclusion, nicely done.
The Battle of Cognac

The city of Cognac was located in a bend of the River Cherente, with the river forming two sides of an arrowhead that made the city easily defensible. When King Edward's host arrived, the third side of the triangle was blocked off by a blockading French army under the Dauphin of France, Prince Charles de Valoys. The garrison of Cognac held against the Dauphin through the first weeks of the year, and Edward knew that he had to move rapidly to prevent the very tactics which had made England successful thus far from being turned against him.

Prince Charles was only eighteen years old, young to command an army, with an angelic face and a serene disposition that sat at odds with a desire to drive the Anglois from the mainland completely. Aquitaine, Calais, Normandy, the Plantagenet proxies of Montfort - they were all anathema to the Prince. His face was even more disproportionate to his body, long limbs on a strangely stubby torso. An uncharitable Paris guildmaster had described him as looking like an unusually large onion set atop an especially modest roast. The slightest exposure to the sun burned him until his skin erupted in blisters, so even in the misty dawn of Wednesday, March 9th, he was in a pavilion on the landward side. He woke early. Even his detractors considered him hard-working and conscientious; where his father was only truly able on the battlefield, Charles was his exact opposite. He would never win a tourney, but if he grew old enough, it was likely enough that the treasury would at least never quite empty. Unfortunately, the House of Valoys lacked the talented generals the Dauphin needed as mentors.

He could hardly have been unaware of the Anglois approach. Edward's army had displaced a small bow wave of Valoys loyalists before it, but he thought that like the army that had been beaten at Jegun, and the one he had hoped to trap here from the Rade's veterans, it was a small force more suited to pilfering than a pitched battle. He had ordered a doubling of the guard the night before, but it was no more than a formality. There was no way that the Anglois force could be large enough to make a difference, especially with the loudly trumpeted return of Scotland to the war.

He was therefore shocked to see what had transpired. Outside the tents, he saw banners fluttering in the mist on the opposite side of his army from the city. One heraldric device dominated the banners he could see, the great fleur-de-lis and lion banner of the King of England. He sucked in a lungful of cold air, shocked at the size of the army arrayed before him, and yelled for the pavises to be repositioned from the city side to the country side, for the crossbowmen to take their positions.

On the English side, the army had been awake since an hour before dawn, receiving the Sacrament and making their confessions as the priests went up and down the line. They had not eaten, and Edward had demanded a night of silence from his army before they arrived, giving them what passed for surprise when two plated and mailed armies came together. He had not slept; nor had the Prince. The Black Prince was arrayed in the fine, glossy black plate that he had been given at Crecy, no circlet on his head, and his great helm already in place over his bascinet. "Shall I let them loose?" the King asked, horse sidling. The Prince grunted and tested that his sword was loose in their sheaths. It had been cold overnight, cold enough that everything was coated in a thin frost.

The plan upon which they had agreed was simple. Unlike most armies, the strongest element, his massed cavalry, was not on the right flank, but in the center. In his mind's eye, the King saw the army as a lance driven into the French force, with the army widening from spearhead point along its length. Their surprise made this bare-faced charge into the Dauphin's line possible without worrying about the Genovese crossbowmen that accompanied every Valoys army. On this side, the ground was firm enough to take the charging cavalry.

The King drew his sword, and he saw the buglers raise their horns in expectation. Along the line, equipment clattered as squires pushed lances into gauntlets, men seated their great helms, and every man with any sense looped their reins at the horns of their saddles. The sword flashed down, the trumpets blared out their note, and the horses began to walk, then trot, then canter, and finally, a quarter-mile from the Valoys line, as the Dauphin's forces scrambled madly to get into armor, position pavises, or simply to crank their crossbows, the lances dropped and the horses reached their full gallop, ribs heaving under the strain of carrying two hundred and more pounds of man and armor.

Behind the knights came the yelling, yawping mass of the footmen and bowmen, not even bothering to string their bows. John Hawkwood lowered the massive oak spar that he had been carrying, using it as a quarterstaff. Matthew had out his long knife, covering his fear with the yells and screams that seemed to drive them on. They had a perfect view of what happened when Prince Edward's line of horse, riding knee-to-knee, collided with the Valoys camp.

"Collided" was precisely the word. The Prince buried his lance in the chest of an unfortunate Genovese mercenary before drawing his great war sword, forty inches of Spanish steel that glittered in the early morning light. A palpable grunt came from the Valoys line as it crumpled, men trampled underfoot. Every now and then a few knots of Frenchmen would come together, shouting like madmen and doing their best to cut their way free of the advancing foot. That was how Matt Hastings got his first taste of combat, fighting a Genovese mercenary in checked red and green, long knife against long knife.

The Italian had far more experience, but the sudden appearance of Edward's army, the utter impossibility of the Valoys position, and the day's momentum were all on Matthew's side. He held the knife as he would have for gutting or skinning, underhanded; the Italian's grip treated the knife as a thrusting extension of his arm. It had no edge that Matt could see, like a foot-long needle. He barely swerved out of the way as that needle point came for his stomach, and slashed out at the Italian, rewarded with a hiss of pain and a line of blood across the man's cheek. He straightened and lurched backward as the needle flashed first high, at his face, then low, at his stomach, kicking out blindly. He felt a sudden stinging pain in his foot - he had apparently kicked the dagger - but the Italian's curse as it went flying at least justified the sudden pain. He scrabbled upward, feeling blood squelching in the boot, and lunged desperately, stabbing again and again, arms wrapped around the Italian, bearing him to the ground in a pool of blood that rapidly stained the ground red. Matt, panting, stood and hobbled along toward the camp.

The battle was over in less than an hour, a complete and utter rout. The outcome was hardly a surprise. The two Edwards mustered almost twice as many men as the Dauphin, who had a force roughly a third the size of his father's to the south.

That would have been cold comfort to Charles de Valoys, Dauphin of France. He was caught in the first cavalry charge, his plate hastily donned and his arms not obviously visible, ridden down on his way to mount. Had he borne his arms, he would likely have been spared, his ransom simply too valuable to let die, but without that shield, he was simply one more knight, albeit finely armored. It took a handful of French survivors to identify him. When Prince Edward found him, he merely squatted beside the body, the joints of his plate creaking. "You damn fool," he grated out before standing. "Bury this one properly," he ordered before stalking back to find his father.

Looting the Dauphin's camp made the first men who reached it rich. Matt Hastings was not one of those men, but he did well enough out of it, ending the day with a half-dozen seized wineskins, a pair of new boots, and a mail coat whose previous owner had been trampled. When he finally found Owain once more, the Welshman cackled with glee to see him limping along. "Y're th'one Anglois t'get hurt t'day, y'daft fool!" he laughed as he thumped Matt on the shoulder. Soberly, he continued, "Least y'lived. Many don't get that from their first battle."

English losses were light, more drunks and injuries than actual deaths. French losses were catastrophic. It was not the "flower of French chivalry" that would doubtless turn north after word of the Dauphin's death reached King Jean, but nine thousand men were a substantial loss in a war where until now, a large army hand been three or four thousand.

King Edward did not stay at Cognac to allow his soldiers to recover. This war was to be fought on Valoys land. Edward turned east - toward Peireguers and toward Jean de Valoys.
I was riveted to the description of the battle. Fantastic! :)
The English were certainly lucky to catch Charles de Valoys unawares with their sudden amphibious landing in France the resulting battle was an impressive victory. Hopefully if it does draw Jean to the English, I daresay it will considering his son was killed and he'll likely wish for revenge, he can be defeated on ground chosen by the English, where the archers can make mincemeat of French cavalry.

Brilliantly detailed updates, I like Hawkwood being subjected to the burden of St. Dewi! Although, as Owain explained, he will required considerable muscles if he is to use a longbow correctly. Good that Hastings has survived his first battle relatively unscathed (hopefully his new boots have some protection to stop a further wound to the foot!). I liked this line very much;

English losses were light, more drunks and injuries than actual deaths.

The typical 'injuries' suffered by most British (or in this case English) forces!
I was riveted to the description of the battle. Fantastic! :)

Thanks; I promise it's not the only one. It's not even the only one in the spring of 1356.

The English were certainly lucky to catch Charles de Valoys unawares with their sudden amphibious landing in France the resulting battle was an impressive victory. Hopefully if it does draw Jean to the English, I daresay it will considering his son was killed and he'll likely wish for revenge, he can be defeated on ground chosen by the English, where the archers can make mincemeat of French cavalry.

Brilliantly detailed updates, I like Hawkwood being subjected to the burden of St. Dewi! Although, as Owain explained, he will required considerable muscles if he is to use a longbow correctly. Good that Hastings has survived his first battle relatively unscathed (hopefully his new boots have some protection to stop a further wound to the foot!). I liked this line very much;

The typical 'injuries' suffered by most British (or in this case English) forces!

Luck tended to follow the combination of the two Edwards when they were on the battlefield at the same time. I'll put the screenshots up when the 1356 spring campaign is done, but there's something coming that I would very much rather not spoil. The screenshot for Xaintonge shows there were losses in the English infantry, but not a single English knight died, and that's the majority of what gets reported.

The Dauphin dies, for story purposes anyway, because around 1360 there came a series of very strong pretender rebels in northern France and a few other major problems for the Valois dynasty. I won't go into details, but I needed a reason for the sudden disintegration of Jean II's legitimacy, and the death of the Dauphin is a start on that.

Coming up: Marriages, alliance, and too-early, too-south Poitiers.