Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Story of Hugh de la Marche
Louis IX (the Saint) [1226-1270]

Louis was succeeded by his son, also called Louis, who was only twelve. He was a beautiful, gentle boy, with big blue eyes and long fair hair. He was too young to rule, and his mother, Queen Blanche, became Regent.

That a woman should rule France was in those far-off days an unheard-of thing. It made many of the great nobles angry. It would be easy to fight a child and a woman they thought, and many of them rebelled.

Queen Blanche was a Spaniard and a stranger in the land. She had no relations near her to give her aid. But her beauty and wisdom won many friends for her. She was warned now that the nobles had risen and with her son she fled to Paris. But when they had got some way they dared go no further lest they should be taken prisoner. So the Queen sent to the citizens of Paris asking for aid. And the citizens came forth in great numbers and led the King safely into Paris. All the way on both sides the road was lined with people armed and unarmed. And as the King passed they cheered him and prayed God to bless him and defend him from all his enemies and give him a long life and a happy one.

Years after when Louis had grown to be a man he loved to recall that day.

For five years the struggle with the barons went on. But by degrees they learned to bow to the firm rule of Queen Blanche and, when he grew old enough, to that of Louis. When Louis was nineteen he was declared of age, and although his fair, gentle face made him look like a girl, he soon proved himself a valiant soldier and firm ruler and made his barons obey him. But it was not only his own vassals whom Louis had to fight. He had also to fight his old enemy, the King of England.

When Louis's younger brother was twenty-one he made him Count of Poitou and held a grand court to which all the vassals of Poitou came to do homage to their new lord. Now, although thirty -five years had passed since Philip Augustus had conquered Poitou, no treaty had been signed to make his conquest sure, and Richard of Cornwall, the brother of Henry III, still called himself the Earl of Poitou. The barons had been quite pleased at this. They had paid homage to neither King, and had done much as they liked. Now many of them paid homage but unwillingly to the new count.

Among the most powerful of these was Hugh Count de la Marche. His wife was Isabella, the widow of John Lackland. She was a very proud woman. She had been the wife of one King, she was the mother of another. She could not bear the thought that she was now merely the wife of a simple count, and he vassal to another count.

After he had done homage, Hugh de la Marche found his proud wife Isabella given over to tears and anger. He tried to comfort her, but she cried out in passionate wrath against him.

"Ah, you do not see!" she cried: "three days did I wait on the good pleasure of your King and your Queen at Poitiers. And they scorned me. When I came into the room where they sat, they did not call me to them or make me sit down. They did it of purpose to make me appear vile in the eyes of others. Neither when I came in nor when I went out did they rise even a little, thus flouting me. Ah, you must have seen it yourself!"

Isabella looked very beautiful as she spoke, her eyes flashing, and her cheeks glowing with anger, her words broken by sobs.

"I can hardly speak of it," she moaned, "so full am I of sorrow and of shame. It is worse to bear even than the loss of our land which the French have torn so unworthily from us. I shall die of it if by God's grace I do not make them repent. I would that they too were desolate; that they too were reft of their lands. I will do all to make them so or die in the attempt."

When the count saw his wife's tears and anger he was greatly moved. "Lady," he said, "command me. I will do all that man can. You know that right well," and with many and great oaths he swore to it. And so as the new Count of Poitou sat one day ready to receive the homage of his vassals he saw Hugh Count de la Marche come riding upon a horse with his wife behind him. Around him were his vassals and men at arms. An insolent smile was on his face.

Before his over-lord Count Hugh paused. "Sir Count," he said, "in a moment of weakness and great forgetfulness I did homage to you. But I swear to you from this hour that I will never be your liegeman. For you are not my true lord, having basely stolen this land from my stepson, Richard, Earl of Cornwall. You will not confess it, so I come here to fling the truth in your teeth."

Having thus spoken, Hugh de la Marche, swollen with pride and insolence, put spurs to his horse and rode away at a gallop with his wife and all his men at arms. Then, as he left the town, as a parting insult he ordered his men to set fire to the house in which he had been lodged. He watched it blaze and roar, and as the fierce light lit up the darkening sky, he turned and sped away to his own castle.

Right wrathful was the Count of Poitou and bitterly did he complain to his brother, King Louis, of the outrage done to him by his rebel vassal. So the King called the peers together. "What think you," he asked of them, "should be done to a vassal who would hold his land without doing homage to his over-lord?!"

"Sire," they replied, "the over-lord must then take the fief back into his own keeping."

"By my name," cried Louis, "the Count de la Marche doth claim thus to hold land which has been a fief of France since the days of the great King Clovis, who conquered all Aquitaine from the King Alaric, a pagan without faith or creed."

And having thus spoken the King gathered horse and foot and marched against Hugh de la Marche. Splendidly armed knights with their followers flocked to him from every side, like rivers flowing to the sea, until he had a great army. As they advanced they took castle after castle and laid the walls even with the ground.

Meanwhile Hugh, afraid of what he had done, strengthened his castles and armed his men and sent to the King of England begging for help. "Bring me but some money," he said, "for I have soldiers enough and to spare." "As if," says an old writer, "the King of England were a banker or huckster rather than a King and a noble leader and commander of knights."

The King of England was eager to go. Not so his barons. Again and again had they given him money and help for this need or that, and never one bit the better was the kingdom. They were no longer minded to be despoiled of their money to no advantage. But at length, by craft and by force, Henry III gathered a great sum of money and with knights and men crossed the sea to France.

Near the Castle of Taillebourg the two armies met. The King of England lay on one side of the river, the King of France on the other. Early in the morning King Henry rose and looked forth upon the camp of the French. As he gazed his heart sank within him. Rank upon rank stretched the white tents as far as the eye could see. It was like a great city. What were his handful of men against this host?

Wrathfully he turned to his stepfather. "How now, my lord and father," he cried, "where are your promises? When we were in England you promised us many times by frequent messengers that you would gather a force for us which could stand against the French King without fear. You told us only to trouble ourselves about money."

"Thus did I never," cried Count Hugh.

"You did," interrupted Richard of Cornwall, "and I have here and now your letters thereon."

"They were never written nor signed by me," muttered the count.

"What," said the King in great astonishment, "what is this I hear from you, my father? Have you not sent to me, aye again and again, begging me to hasten? Where are now your promises?"

Then the count swore a dreadful oath. "This was never done by me," he cried. "Blame none but your mother, my wife. She has done it unknown to me." And so with many and strange oaths he swore to it.

Meanwhile the French had advanced and fighting had begun. Then Earl Richard, seeing that his brother the King was in great danger of being taken prisoner, put off his armor. And taking a flag of truce in his hand he went toward the French camp.

King Louis received him with great honor, and granted him a truce until the next day.

"My lord earl, my lord earl," he said, "I have granted you this truce to last to-day and to-night so that you may think of what is best to be done in the A truce future. For night brings counsel with it."

In all haste the earl returned to the King of England. Quietly he whispered in his ear, "Haste, haste, let us get from this place, for we are in danger of being taken prisoner."

They took a hasty meal. Then each gathered his goods together, and when night fell the King, mounted on a swift horse, sped away and did not spare either whip or spur. He was soon followed by the whole army, not without danger both to horses and men. For many of the men were dinnerless and the horses were wearied.

At the Castle of Saintes the English drew rein. As soon as the truce was over, the French followed them and a battle was fought. The two sides rushed upon each other, one crying "Montjoie! Montjoie!" the other "King's men! King's men!"

It was a fierce fight. In the narrow lanes, with vineyards stretching on either side, men fought hand to hand while the July sun streamed down upon them. The English fought desperately, but they were far outnumbered by the French and they fled before them.

King Henry fled nor drew rein until he reached the city of Blaye. He cared little for the rest of his army or whether they followed him or no. They did follow him in such haste that all the way was strewn with wounded and dying men.

This battle ended the war. Hugh de la Marche, seeing it useless to fight longer, yielded to King Louis. With his wife and three sons he humbly knelt before him begging forgiveness with tears.

Many of the English then asked the French King's leave to pass to their homes. When Louis heard it he was glad. "Let them go free," he said; "let them pass through my land without hindrance, never, I hope, to return."

So the English took their way in peace through France. But neither did they nor their King escape the scorn and laughter of the people. But when King Louis heard of the laughter at Henry he was vexed. "Be still, be still," he said. "Do not mock him or try to make me hate him because you do."

And so King Henry returned home with as much triumph as if he had conquered all France.