NARRATIVE OF THE SINGLE COMBAT BETWEEN BERTRAND Dl GLESCL1N AND THOMAS DE CANTORBURY ON THE PLACE AT DINAN AD 1358 In the year 1358 f the Duke of Lancaster whom the valour of Bertrand Duguesclin had forced to raise the siege of Rennes besieged Dinan where he found himself opposed to the same warrior The garrison was weak and the governor Pen houet le Boiteux agreed to surrender unless relieved in a fortnight During the truce an English knight Thomas de Canterbury in breach of the agreement took prisoner Oliver Duguesclin the younger brother of Bertrand as he was promenading on horseback and unarmed in the neighbourhood of the town In vain did the young man protest against the vio
This individual’s name is indifferently spelt from the ancient chronicles Cantorbury Canterberry Cantorberry and Canterbury t Various dates are given to this transaction ranging from 1354 to 1359
lation of thetruce Cantorbury simply replied that he had long sought an occasion of giving deadly offence to Bertrand Duguesclin the constant enemy of the English and that he should never go free without the ransom of a thousand florins One of Oliver’s squires ran back to Dinan and told Duguesclin what had happened to his brother and he directly leavingunfinished his partiede longuc paume which he was engaged at with some friends rode off to the English camp and presented himself at the tent of the Duke of Lancaster whom he found playing at chess with Lord Chandos These two great warriors received the Breton Chevalier with all due courtesy and offered him their services Duguesclin kneeling to the English prince said he required nothing but justice for the attempt of Cantorbury in making his brother prisoner during the existing truce The duke indignant at the conduct of one of his officers summoned Cantorbury and ordered him forthwith to release his prisoner Cantorbury refused to obey the order affirming that he had made Oliver prisoner by good right that he would not release him under a handsome ransom and that if any body wished to argue the question he defied him to mortal combat combat a oulrance.
It is probable that Canterbury justified his action for the following reasons that although all warlike operatii us were suspende d by the truce it w as incumbent upon both parties to remain within the barriers of their several positions so that none of Duguesclin’s party might on pretence of a ride into the country discern some weak point in the besieging camp nor on the other hand might the English venture nearer towards the town and gain opportunity by such communication of causing a defection in the garrison
So saying he threw down his gauntlet Ber trand took it up and calmly replied You have been rash enough to throw down your gage of battle in the maintenance of a bad cause but 1 shall let all these gentlemen present see that you are a villain a schemer and a traitor Lord Chandos although his rival in military glory highly esteemed Duguesclin and being moreover enraged at the obstinacy of his countryman offered the Breton knight an excellent suit of armour and the best horse out of his stable for the day of combat and thus accoutred in English armour Duguesclin fought an Englishman For it was agreed on by consent of Lancaster and on the suggestion of the governor of Dinan who apprehended treachery towards his countryman that the combat should come off within the walls of the town itself and the present Place was immediately enclosed with lists and furnished with seats for the spectators It was moreover agreed on that Lancaster with twenty of his officers should be present Le Boiteux de Penhouet himself courteously yielding the presidence over this solemn duel to the Duke
Accordingly on the day appointed the English prince and his companions in arms the governor of Dinan and his officers and a crowd of ladies filled the place to see the duel and say the French historians among the multitude of spectators there was not one but put up vows for the success of Duffuesclin so just did his cause appear to all and so revolting the demeanour of his opponent It must not be forgotten that among the most interested of the spectators was a young lady named Tiphaine Raguenel who afterwards became the wife of the hero and who at that period had the credit of being a bit of a sorceress and who foretold to her townsmen the success of their champion Thy wish was father Harry to that thought The combatants entered the lists armed cap a pied sword in hand and dagger in girdle Just at this moment there was an evident hesitation on the part of Canlorbury and a consultation of the English was called to stop the duel The Earl of Pembroke and Chandos advanced towards Duguesclin and offered on the part of Canterbury to apologise thus far that he would The French phrase is arme de pied en cap just the reverse of Horatio’s exclamation My Lord from head to Coot
acknowledge that he had acted with precipitation in making the young Olivier prisoner and it Duguesclin would let the affair finish there he would release his prisoner without ransom But Duguesclin who had not swallowed his choler excited by the sight of Cantorbury at the Duke’s tent and who had always more taste for fighting than talking answered the English knights that he would accept of no accommodation or arrangement short of Canterbury’s presenting his sword holding the point and placing his life at Duguesclin s disposal upon which Lord Pembroke replied with a grave bow peculiar to his stately character that this humiliating concession could not be accepted and as in most modern consultations under similar circumstances it was decided that they must fight So the palaver ended and the Duke of Lancaster as president of the lists ordered the trumpets to sound and gave the usual signal to charge thereon the champions closed in full career and for a few moments the flickering fire of single combat flashed from their armour By some accident Canterbury’s sword slipped out of his hand and fell to the ground and Duguesclin slipping off his horse seized the sword and flung it over the barrier Cantorbury seeing his enemy on foot left him no time to remount and tried to ride him down but the agility of the Breton saved him and in 5 return he essayed every means to wound his adversary or his horse but finding that he could not long stand such exertion laden as he was with the heavy armour of the time and profiting by the retreat of the Englishman to breathe his horse for the renewal of another charge he quietly sat down and divested himself of his leg armour which impeded free action then holding his sword straight in his hand in that position awaited Cantorbury who came on at full gallop thinking to crush him at last but Ber trand springing aside avoided the shock and plunged his sword which was of four fingers breadth up to the hilt in the breast of Canterbury’s horse the animal reared and was falling with his rider who dexterously dismounted and the battle was renewed by the two combatants on foot Duguesclin disclaiming the advantage of his sword quietly sheathed it and drew his daggger a similar arm being the only weapon now left to Cantorbury In a few moments Duguesclin contrived to seize his adversary by the waist crushing him in his iron embrace and stretched him half strangled and insensible upon the deadly field of combat then placing a knee upon his breast and tearing off his casque he put a dagger to his throat and demanded his confession of the wrong he had done his brother Cantorbury still furious and uncowed refusing this acknowledgment Du guesclin battered his face with his mailed glove and settled himself in earnest to cut his throat when several of the English knights advanced upon him and earnestly besought the forfeited life of their compatriot The Breton answered that he would grant it only to the entreaties of the Duke of Lancaster That prince at first declined any interference deciding that Canterbury was properly punished and that Duguesclin might do as he liked but in the end overcome by the entreaties of Chandos Pembroke and the ladies in the lists the duke gave way and said Brave Bertrand will you give me his life Certainly at your request my Lord replied the victor if he will even now confess the injustice of his cause He ought and I order him to do so Canterbury then confessed and Duguesclin waving his dagger over his head gave him his life But according to the law of such combat Canterbury was carried off the field upon a hurdle and thrown down outside the lists the usual treatment and mark of infamy Duguesclin victorious was conducted in triumph to the governor’s house feasted and complimented by all the town Chandos and the Duke also entertained him with special honours and the latter exclaimed Happy is the king uncowed refusing this acknowledgment Du guesclin battered his face with his mailed glove and settled himself in earnest to cut his throat when several of the English knights advanced upon him and earnestly besought the forfeited life of their compatriot The Breton answered that he would grant it only to the entreaties of the Duke of Lancaster That prince at first declined any interference deciding that Canterbury was properly punished and that Duguesclin might do as he liked but in the end overcome by the entreaties of Chandos Pembroke and the ladies in the lists the duke gave way and said Brave Bertrand will you give me his life Certainly at your request my Lord replied the victor if he will even now confess the injustice of his cause He ought and I order him to do so Canterbury then confessed and Duguesclin waving his dagger over his head gave him his life But according to the law of such combat Canterbury was carried off the field upon a hurdle and thrown down outside the lists the usual treatment and mark of infamy Duguesclin victorious was conducted in triumph to the governor’s house feasted and complimented by all the town Chandos and the Duke also entertained him with special honours and the latter exclaimed Happy is the king According to some historians Canterbury was killed on the spot
re Bertrand who is served by such a captain as you are Duguesclin in consequence married the amiable Tiphaine or Stefanie de Raguenel daughter of Robert de Raguenel Vicomte de la Belliere one of the champions of the Combat de Trente and very soon after the duke raised the siege of Dinan and returned to England.
More about du guesclin
any thing agreeable Iam ugly enough said he in all conscience and shall never captivate the ladies but this defect will assist me in keeping in awe the enemies of my king He soon afterwards became a formidable par tizan at the head of sixty followers as desperate as himself plundered the peasants and farmers on the Montfort border and according to the scandal of the day robbed his mother of her jewels After this he was defeated in an attack on the castle of Fougeraye but soon again recovered his reputation in successfully defending the city of Rennes against John of Ghent Duke of Lancaster and it appears in the course of the siege he came off victor in a single combat with William Bambrough the brother of Robert Lord of Fougeraye AD 1356 In the succeeding year he was again opposed to the Duke of Lancaster who had laid siege to Dinan during which occurred the celebrated combat with Thomas de Cantorbury when as already mentioned he was again victorious and foiled the efforts of the Duke After the fatal battle of Poictiers during the captivity of King John he flew to the succour of Charles the eldest son of that Prince and Regent
of the kingdom Melun surrendered to his arms the banks of the Seine were freed from foreign footsteps and many strongholds were retaken by the French Shortly after the accession of Charles the Vth 1364 he gained a great victory over the army of the king of Navarre for which he was created Marshal of Normandy and Count of Longueville But in the same year he was defeated by Sir John Chandos at the battle of Aurai and taken prisoner a peace soon followed and Duguesclin was liberated for 100,000 livres ransom The disbanded soldiers of the different parties being left without occupation and incapable of turning themselves to the arts of peace commanded by different leaders assembled in bands called the Grandes Compagnies and king Charles commissioned Duguesclin to get them together upon some expedition in any direction so long as he got rid of them out of France as they plundered friend and foe in the most barbarous manner This Duguesclin effected in promising to lead them against the Saracens in Spain and distributing among them 200 gold florins telling them at the same time that they would encounter some one upon their march who would furnish them with a similar sum The Grandes Compagnies considering that a bird in hand in France was better than two in a Spanish bush marched directly upon Avignon where the Pope then resid ed and as his Holiness had excomunicated the Grandes Compagnies they demanded from him absolution and 200,000 livres The Pope gave the absolution but begged to be excused paying the money upon which his polite visitors set to work devastating the surrounding district and the Pope to save his capital levied the 200,000 livres on its inhabitants Duguesclin however declined receiving the contribution arising from such means and demanded that it should come out of the pockets of the Pope and his Cardinals and after some negociation his Holiness paid 100,000 livres and gave the absolution for nothing Leaving Avignon and the Pope to his reflections Duguesclin led his forces across the Pyrenees in support of the cause of Henery Count De Transtamare and defeating Pedro the Cruel his rival for the crown of Castille established Henery in the sovereignty of that kingdom and was rewarded with the title of Constable of Castille with a handsome revenue Duguesclin returned to France but Peter the Cruel assisted by the Black Prince renewed the war and Duguesclin passing again into Spain in support of his friend King Henery was taken prisoner by the Black Prince and carried back to Bordeaux From this imprisonment he was released by the scheme of some politic friend at court who insinuated that he was merely kept prisoner by his captor in the hope of exacting an enormous ransom The Black Prince fell into the trap hereby laid for his taste for chivalry and told Duguesclin that he was free to depart at any ransom he liked to pay even if only a hundred francs or less Duguesclin proffered the ransom of 100,000 gold florins which the Prince declining he insisted that he should take 70,000 adding that although he was but a poor chevalier the king of Castille would be his bail for that amount and Duguesclin was immediately released For the third time Duguesclin crossed the Pyrenees and joined his friend Henery de Transta marre against Peter the Cruel the latter of whom in spite of the aid of the Moorish kings was defeated taken prisoner and put to death by the King of Castille In AD 1369 the war was again renewed between the French and English in which Duguesclin was almost everywhere victorious more especially in Brittany But after all meeting with some reverse his enemies at the French court calumniated him to the king who openly proclaimed his discontent with our hero with well indignation he threw up all his commands and titles and set off to join his friend Transtamare in Spain intending to pass the remainder of his life with him But in the course of his journey induced by a parting wish to assist his friend Sancerre in an attack on Chateau Randan he was seized with a disorder during the siege of that place in 1380 and died in the 66th year of his age The chronicles add that the keys of the fortress were surrendered to his death bed But in spite of the quarrel with the King of France the King was so sensible of his eminent services that he had his body transported to St Denis near Paris the mausoleum of the kings of France and had it interred at the foot of a monument he was building for himself The heart of the hero by his own request was buried in one of the chapels at Dinan and was afterwards transferred with much military pomp in June 1810 by order of Napoleon to the church of Saint Sauveur of that place where his monument is yet to be seen Duguesclin was twice married 1st to Tiphaine de Raguene and 2ndly to Jeanne de Laval in 1373 leaving no offspring by these marriages But he had a natural son named Michel who is said to have inherited all his father’s warlike propensities