THE BLACK PRINCE (V)

The prince gave orders that the French peasants were to be made to tell him where their king lay encamped; but these poor people were so loyal that neither money nor threats could make them give any information.

Prince Edward was in great perplexity, for his army was now reduced to about ten thousand men; and if the King of France had a larger force, the prince felt that it might be more prudent for him to retire.

One day, quite unexpectedly, the English came in view of the French army, encamped near the town of Poitiers. The whole country, far and near, seemed to be occupied by the force which was to oppose the Prince’s little body of ten thousand men.

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‘There was all the flower of France,’ says the historian, ‘for there was none durst abide at home without he were shamed for ever.’

‘God help us,’ said the Black Prince; ‘we must make the best of it.’

He posted his army very strongly upon a hill, while the French king marshalled his forces upon the plain below.

That night the two armies lay, strongly guarded, within sight of each other.

In the morning the battle was about to begin when a cardinal came riding in haste to the French king, and implored him to give him leave to try to save the small body of English from rushing upon certain destruction.

‘Sire,’ he said, ‘you have here all the flower of your realm against a handful of people, for so the English are as compared to your company. I pray you that you will allow me to ride to the prince and show him what danger you have him in.’

The king gave permission, and the cardinal came riding over to the Black Prince, who received him courteously.

‘Save my honour,’ he said, when the cardinal offered to try to arrange terms for him, ‘and the honour of my army, and I will make any reasonable terms.’

He offered to give up all the towns and castles he had taken, and to make a truce with the French king for seven years; and the cardinal rode back to his own side with this message.

After an interval of suspense he came riding to the English camp again.

‘The King of France consents to make peace,’ said the cardinal, ‘on condition that you will yield yourself up a prisoner, with a hundred of your knights.’

The prince’s face darkened.

Here would be shameful news to send to his father and the people of England!

As the King of France refused to make peace upon any other conditions, Prince Edward broke off the treaty and turned to his army, saying quietly, ‘God defend the right; we shall fight to-morrow.’

All that day the English worked hard to make their position more secure. The sides of the hill were covered with woods and vineyards, and the principal approach was by means of a lane with hedges on either side, behind which a number of archers posted themselves. All the weaker places were strengthened by means of palisades.

On the following morning, when all was in order of battle, the prince addressed his men…

by: Hilda T. Skae

The following short story is reprinted from Stories from English History. Hilda T. Skae. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1907.

 

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