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Guerre et société en France, en Angleterre et en Bourgogne xive-xve siècle

 | 
H. Maurice Keen
, 
Charles Giry-Deloison
, 
Philippe Contamine

Ransom Brokerage in the Fifteenth Century

Michael K. Jones

Note de l’auteur

I am grateful to Dr Richard Rose for his comments on an earlier draft of this article and to the Twenty-Seven Foundation for a grant towards the research expenses. Drs Rowena Archer, Anne Curry, Carole Rawcliffe and Professor Philippe Contamine assisted me with references to ransom transactions; Dr Simon Payling allowed me to draw on material from his unpublished D. Phil. thesis.

Note on currency: In fifteenth century ransom negotiations the French coin écus and salus were valued at 3s 4d.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The classic discussion of one of these agreements is found in K. B. McFarlane, «A business partners (...)

1Profits from ransoms offered an opportunity for material gain and social advancement. They brought together men involved in the war effort through a sense of common purpose: seen in military indentures, with their careful provisions for the sharing of the spoils from prisoners. Yet against these incentives had to be weighed the risk of capture by the enemy. Contemporaries’awareness of the dangerous balancing act that success in war often required can be found in arrangements known as brotherhood-in-arms. These bound men together in a pact, to pool their gains and to help each other if one or more had to pay a ransom1. The survival of a few of these agreements raises the issue of how successfully soldiers were able to recover from the financial burdens of captivity and the effect it had on their subsequent behaviour. The purpose of this paper will be to discuss some of the problems facing English prisoners as they tried to raise their ransoms and to indicate the system of brokerage that existed to help them.

  • 2 M. G. A. Vale, War and Chivalry, London, 1981, p. 28.
  • 3 K. B. McFarlane, «The investment of Sir John Fastolf’s profits of war», England in the Fifteenth Ce (...)
  • 4 BN, p. o. 929 (Cressy)/2: which I owe to Dr Anne Curry.

2Chivalric treatises encouraged the quest for ransoms as an honourable road to enrichment. Ghillebert de Lannoy’s Enseignements Paternels, composed in the 1430s, enjoined the soldier to ‘take a prisoner of such great power in land and lordship that he will be and remain rich all his life’2. Sir John Fastolf’s capture of Guillaume Remon in 1423 and the duke of Alençon a year later led to his elevation to the rank of knight banneret and a substantial grant of confiscated French estates3. On a more humble scale the war-gains of the highly successful soldier Sir John Cressy included a reward of 500 salus in April 1432, compensation for a French prisoner, Faicault4. Cressy’s payment came at a time when the English had regained the military initiative after the reverses suffered at the time of Joan of Arc. After 1435, when the tide of war had turned, the practice of ransom still retained its incentive. But potential gains were far more limited. Garrisons close to the frontier would mount forays into enemy territory, while fresh expeditions from England still brought in booty and prisoners.

  • 5 AN, K, 66/13; BN, fr. 26068/4243.
  • 6 J. P. Earwaker, East Cheshire, 2 vol., London 1890, t. I, pp. 241-242.

3However, in these last years of the war, the system of ransom became increasingly materialistic. Plundering raids akin to the chevauchées of the 1370s saw hapless civilians in the Ile de France and Picardy hauled off to the prisons of Rouen. In February 1441 John Lord Talbot received 2,500 salus for the ransom of the Burgundian inhabitants of Lihons, after a particularly brutal sweep through the Santerre. In the same year the captains of Lisieux and Argentan were able to charge the surrounding vicomtés 400 livres tournois for delivering three brigands to justice, on the highly dubious grounds that they could have gained a greater sum by recognizing their captives as legitimate combatants and ransoming them5. There was enough concern at this debasement of chivalric convention for Humphrey, earl of Stafford, to stipulate in an indenture with Sir John Handford that he should ‘putt no prysonner by him or anye of his saide menn taken or gotten to fynaunce or ranesome but as lawe of arms will’6.

  • 7 C. Dyer, Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, Cambridge, 1989, p. 96; E. R. Dowdeswell, Bi (...)
  • 8 John Leland, Leland’s Itinerary in England and Wales, ed. L. Toulin-Smith, 5 vol., London, 1907-191 (...)
  • 9 BL, Add. Ch. 12453.
  • 10 PRO, C81/1546/78.

4Contemporaries were fascinated by the prospect of English castles and churches being erected through the spoils of war. Sir Hugh Lutterell’s rebuilding of Dunster castle in the 1420s was closely linked to profits gained from the administration of Normandy. Similarly, Sir John Nanfan’s fine new manor house at Birtsmorton Court (Worcs) was built from the revenue of his Norman estates in the 1440s7. Such projects were seen as demonstrations of both wealth and status: a testament to thenowner’s successful war-service. Yet as the war entered its last stages men became aware of the catastrophic effect that imprisonment and ransom could have on the fortunes of the families of English soldiers. Leland noted how Sir Thomas Kyriell ‘was prisoner in France, and that longe aftar that he cam home to libertye’. His brother John was still a prisoner twenty years after the loss of Normandy; in 1470 his sister-in-law, in her will, referred to the hope that he might eventually return ‘from beyond the sea’8. A number of those captured in the final campaign in Normandy in 1449-1450 were particularly unfortunate. George Neville, son of Lord Abergavenny, taken at the capitulation of Rouen in November 1449, was finally released in June 1467. His freedom represented a political gesture by Louis XI on the visit of Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, to Rouen; his ransom was never fully paid9. Some were able to recover better than others. Elis of Longworth had paid off much of his ransom by 1453, when he was prepared to cross over with a relief expedition to Gascony. Nevertheless, many of the ransoms demanded of those captured in the battle of Formigny were beyond their means. The desperate petition of the esquire John Clifton some five years later, on 12 March 1455, reflected an all too common experience. Clifton had been compelled to find a ransom of 800 marks, a sum well beyond the capital value of all his lands, ‘which he nor all his frendes be not of power to satesfie and acquite’10.

  • 11 BL, Add. Ch. 712-713; VCH, Northants, t. II, p. 592 (these references, and the background informati (...)

5In a broader reckoning, against the buildings put up through war profits must be balanced the halls and castles sold off to pay excessive ransoms. Sir John Knyvett had fought at the siege of Harfleur and gained his knighthood during Henry V’s invasion of Normandy. By the early 1430s it seems likely that expenses of a first ransom had compelled him to sell his manor of Knyvett’s Hall in Fen Drayton11. A second capture, while fighting for the English army in Picardy, meant that he had to find another £1,000. His predicament was compounded by the fact that many of his friends were reluctant to help him because he was believed to be ‘out of the King’s favour’ and a further sale, of his chief residence, Southwick Hall (Northampts) in 1441 was almost certainly a result of his renewed financial difficulties.

  • 12 Longleat House, North Muniment Room, MS. 396.
  • 13 Μ. H. Keen, The Laws of War in the Later Middle Ages, London, 1965, p. 158; M. R. Powicke, «Lancast (...)

6The first problem facing the captive concerned the amount of ransom he was supposed to pay. Although the law of arms forbade the threat of force or coercion the negotiating position of the prisoner was often a difficult one. A fourteenth century example is provided by the letter of Sir John Bourgchier to his wife (of 13 May 1374) referring to the sum of 12,000 francs finally agreed. Although he felt it was ‘a great, grievous and detestable sum’ it had to be accepted because the illness he was suffering from had left him in danger of his life12. The process by which a prisoner’s ransom was evaluated needs further investigation. Although chivalric convention held that a man’s ransom should be in proportion to his landed estate, so as not to leave him impoverished, the situation in practice was likely to have been rather different. In a period when even the English government only had a notional idea of the wealth of the landed classes, an assessment of ransom was likely to be on the most general grounds of rank, status and reputation. A man’s standing in the war could easily outstrip the resources of his property. In the fourteenth century a number of complaints were made about individual ransoms being out of all proportion to a knight’s patrimony. The sum charged to John Clifton in 1450 reflected his status as one of the principal captains of Thomas Kyriell’s relief army, rather than his relatively insubstantial landed estate13.

  • 14 S. J. Payling, Political society in Lancastrian Nottinghamshire, Oxford D. Phil. thesis, 1987, pp. (...)

7That this could lead to real hardship is shown by the example of Sir Thomas Rempston. At the time of his capture at Patay in June 1429, Rempston was one of the foremost English captains and chamberlain to the duke of Bedford. Yet his landed position was hardly commensurate with this. The survival of his mother, Lady Margaret Rempston, until 1454 deprived him of a large part of his paternal inheritance; similar difficulties encumbered his rights to properties through his marriage to Alice, the daughter and heir of Thomas Bekering of Tuxford. With most of his lands only held in reversion he was in fact one of the poorest of the Nottinghamshire knights, with an assessed yearly income of only £60. In these circumstances his ransom of 18,000 écus (£3,000) represented a colossal burden. According to his own testimony he languished ‘in harde and streyte prison welnere be the space of vij yere’, eventually being released in 1435. Rempston was to complain to parliament of ‘the grete losse that he has borne in making chevishaus of money’for the payment of his ransom. This, and a second period of captivity endured in Gascony from 1441, were likely to explain why his tax assessment had dropped by 1450-1451 to a mere £20 per annum, insufficient to support his estate14.

  • 15 W. Dugdale, The Baronage of England, 2 vol., London, 1675-1676, t. II, pp. 209-210. For a recent di (...)
  • 16 The Register of Edmund Lacy, Bishop of Exeter, 1420-1455, t. II, ed. G. R. Dunstan, Devon and Cornw (...)

8The longer a prisoner remained in captivity, the larger his incidental expenses. Robert Lord Moleyns had been captured at Castillon in 1453. At the time of his release his ransom amounted to £6,000; other expenses totalled some £3,870. The breakdown of these additional costs provides a fascinating insight into the larger burden a ransom imposed upon the captive. Gifts and rewards to various Frenchmen totalled £733 6s 8d and to English lords willing to stand as surety for his ransom £945. Board for himself and his servants amounted to £946. Expenses of heralds accounted for £140; costs of his apparel and medicine to tend his wounds £176. Finally, the costs of exchanging money totalled £769, while a further £160 was lost through the sale of plate15. Two aspects of these accounts are of particular interest. The first is the large sum paid to those willing to stand surety. This entailed a considerable risk, for if the captor died before the full sum was repaid the debt would simply be transferred. The second was the amount lost through disadvantageous sale of plate and exchange of money. The difficult position of the captive provided a golden opportunity for merchants, who were often able to purchase plate for the cost of the metal rather than an evaluation of the craftsmanship of its working. If the additional expenses incurred by Moleyns inflated his overall ransom, their effect was exacerbated by an earlier ransom that had been paid to secure his release from the Turks after his capture at Varna in 144416.

  • 17 Essex RO, D/DP/ TI/ 1849,1853.
  • 18 Arundel Castle Archives, MS. A1642, m. 11 (which I owe to Dr Rowena Archer); AD Seine-Maritime, Tab (...)

9The vulnerability of the prisoner was underlined by the practice of buying and selling rights to the captives, either individually or in bulk, with the expectation of a higher ransom being charged by the purchaser. The Florentine merchant John Vittore speculated in such an area, buying in 1417 from the Archbishop of Rouen a large number of English prisoners17. There is evidence of London merchants in the fifteenth century acquiring ransom obligations as a form of financial investment. The most successful English practitioner was without doubt Sir John Cornwall, whose fine castle at Ampthill in Bedfordshire was almost certainly built from the rewards of such proceedings. In 1421 Cornwall bought a large number of French prisoners from the duke of Norfolk and Sir Philip Leche, then ransomed them at considerable profit18. The existence of a form of market for the transfer and sale of war prisoners has important implications which will be discussed later.

  • 19 English Suits before the Parlement of Paris 1420-1436, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. J. Armstrong, Camde (...)
  • 20 Ibid., pp. 293-294.
  • 21 Ibid., pp. 305-306; R. A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI, London, 1981, p. 506.

10Petitions of English captives to the crown would inevitably only emphasise one side of the picture: the hard conditions of imprisonment, the ‘great and grievous’sum demanded and the previous ransoms borne in loyal service. If Thomas Dring could state in July 1446 that he had served ‘in oure werres of Fraunce this xxx yere where v tymes he hath be take prisoner’, we hear nothing of his war gains, his numerous French lands, the spoils of successful campaigns19. For men like Walter Lord FitzWalter, captured at Baugé in 1421, imprisonment provided only a brief check to what was a highly successful military career: his magnificent alabaster monument at Little Dunmow (Essex) serves as a reminder of the success and status that could be gained through war20. Robert Stafford sold part of his Norman estates in 1443 to raise his ransom; his membership of Lord Talbot’s personal retinue ensured him fresh favour in a further grant of lands the following year. Against Thomas Kyriell’s ransom after his capture at Formigny in 1450 must be balanced the evidence of substantial and often illegal profiteering as captain of Calais, and then of Gisors, in the previous decade21.

  • 22 K. B. McFarlane, The Nobility of Later Medieval England, Oxford 1973, pp. 127-128.

11These examples show the difficulties in trying to gauge the long-term effects of the costs of ransom. Assessing the attitudes of those engaged in the war effort is equally problematic. When Robert Lord Moleyns shipped to Gascony in 1453 he would have been more mindful of his family’s outstanding record of war service in the previous two generations than any careful evaluation of his opportunities for profit from one particular campaign. His grandfather had secured a rich haul of prisoners after the battle of Agincourt and his impressive castle at Farleigh Hungerford may well have been built from the proceeds. He also had been granted the prestigious Norman barony of Le Hommet. In 1433 his father and grandfather had negotiated the release of a substantial French prisoner, John of Vendôme. The ransom charged to his uncle after Patay in 1429 (£3,000) had been paid off within four years. The overall equation was clear. Participation in war offered honour, wealth and status; the possibilities of success far outweighed the risks22.

  • 23 Information on Astley’s ransom has been drawn from PRO., E404/74/1/6; CPR, 1461-1467, p. 379; mater (...)

12One of the last English knights to be ransomed by the French was Sir John Astley. Astley’s view of his capture at Alnwick in 1463 would have been as one of the risks of a career of chivalric enterprise. Astley was a leading participant in tournaments and jousts. In August 1438 he had engaged in mounted combat with a French champion, Pierre de Masse, in Paris before Charles VII and his court. Another duel, with Felip Boyl of Aragon, took place at Smithfield in 1442 in the presence of Henry VI23. For both Moleyns and Astley war offered a chance of honour and renown: seen in Moleyns’ willingness to serve the king of Hungary against the Turks, after the truce of 1444 had temporarily ended the conflict between France and England.

  • 24 BN, fr. 18441, f°. 65. John Holland’s military career is re-assessed in M. H. Stansfield, «John Hol (...)
  • 25 M. K. Jones, The Beaufort family and the war in France, 1421-1450, Bristol Ph.D. thesis, 1982, pp. (...)
  • 26 Camoys’ plight is referred to in a settlement of property in Calais, November 1444: CPR, 1441-1446,(...)

13Yet other former captives were rather more pragmatic about their return to active war service. John Holland, earl of Huntingdon, was to claim that his release cost him 20,000 marks. In 1455 his son and heir Henry Holland, duke of Exeter, was negotiating with the French concerning 7,500 marks residue that was still unpaid. Huntingdon’s ransom cast a shadow over his entire career and the abrupt termination of his lieutenancy of Gascony may well have been because of his refusal to carry arrears of wages24. John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, endured the longest period of captivity of any English aristocrat in the entire Hundred Years War. His total ransom expenses amounted to some £24,000: his debts were still being settled several years after his death. Beaufort never overcame the psychological effects of his long and costly imprisonment and his overriding concern in his last military campaign in 1443 was to secure further recompense for the costs of his ransom25. Roger Lord Camoys reacted more dramatically after his nine years ‘in harde prison’, operating a free booting force on the eastern Norman frontier in the last years of the war that raided English and French territories alike26.

  • 27 CCR, 1435-1441, p. 201.
  • 28 PRO, E404/62/235; T. B. Pugh, «Richard Plantagenet (1411-1460), duke of York, as the king’s lieuten (...)

14For these men a return to France was seen in material rather than chivalric terms. Thomas Rempston crossed the channel in the spring of 1438 as lieutenant of Calais. His abrupt dismissal and subsequent imprisonment suggest he had been engaged in financial malpractice27. The crown chose not to pursue the matter further: he was soon released and back in military service. A similar pattern was repeated on the English side of the channel. John Newport’s excesses as lieutenant of the Isle of Wight in the 1450s can be traced back to his sense of injury at the ‘importable charge’ of the 1,500 salus ransom he had to find after his capture at Dieppe in 144328.

  • 29 Northumbria RO, ZSW/4/60.
  • 30 PRO, C1/26/110; C1/19/24.

15A particularly large or unjust ransom could create other victims. The desperate letter of Walter Ferrefort, standing as pledge (in the sum of 120 francs) for one John More, at Saint Brieuc in Brittany serves as a reminder. Ferrefort, ‘in great prison… where I am bound hand and foot’ was left to fulminate against More’s false dealings and breach of faith29. The same story is echoed in many cases before the court of chancery. Sir Richard Frogenhall, prisoner at the fall of Rouen in 1449, left George Bettenham as guarantee for his ransom while he returned to England to raise the money. He had promised to raise a loan for Bettenham’s deliverance but in fact did nothing. Bettenham’s own expenses as prisoner rose to over £100, which Frogenhall refused to pay. John Barbour and Richard Sperhawke were both captured at Formigny in 1450. Barbour agreed to stand as pledge for them both while Sperhawke returned to England, but Sperhawke never made purveaunce for the said ransoms and costs30.

  • 31 Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, MS. X. d. 38.
  • 32 PRO, C81/1546/56; AN, K 68 (22 November 1448).
  • 33 AN, P 19344, fos 1-2.
  • 34 PRO, E404/60/256.
  • 35 A. J. Pollard, John Talbot and the War in France 1427-1453, London, 1983, pp. 114-117.
  • 36 Folger Shakespeare Library, MS. X. d. 38.

16The misfortunes of those acting as pledge, who sometimes found the whole ransom debt transferred to them, were caused not only by badfaith but also by a genuine inability of the former captive to raise the money from his own resources. Whilst the surrender of a French prisoner to captain or king was usually a legal obligation, assistance in meeting the costs of being ransomed remained a moral one. It was an obligation clearly recognized in principle. In a letter of 31 July 1445 Henry VI promised to help Robert Barton ‘desirons nos bons, vrais et loyaulx subgets estre releves et recouvres des pertes et dommages quils ont eu en notre service’31. However, some form of practical assistance was not automatic. It was important for the petitioner to emphasise that his capture had come through notable service to the crown. Richard Wolvecote of Devon described how his ransom had resulted from his efforts to suppress a French rising in Eu; the family of Guillaume Lalemont drew attention to his attempts to prevent conspirators betraying Vernon32. Once a form of reward had been decided upon, its effectiveness could vary enormously. A direct grant of land remained the best way to shore up a captive’s finances. In May 1440 John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, received the appanage of Saint-Sauveur-Lendelin in the Norman Cotentin specifically ‘pour consideracion des pertes, inconveniens et dommages quil a eus a cause de notredit service par longue detention de prison es mains de nos adversaires’33. This kind of property grant was however comparatively rare. More common was a cash payment, made either directly from the English exchequer or by assignment from Norman revenues. Clement Bourse, captured and taken to Dieppe, where he was ‘sett to so grete finaunce that he may never paie it withoute oure grace shewed unto hym’, received £50 in recognition of his loyal service in Normandy34. These direct payments were usually very small. More ambitious grants were made by assignment from Norman sources of income. Here the problem was how much was realizable. John Lord Talbot received £9,000 from the proceeds of the Norman gabelle to help defray the costs of his ransom. Some ten years later none of this revenue had in fact materialised35. Similarly one wonders how much of the 600 salus granted to Robert Barton from the profits of the forest of Touques was actually collected36.

  • 37 C. T. Allmand, Lancastrian Normandy, 1415-1450, Oxford, 1983, p. 77.
  • 38 BN, p. o. 1090 (Entwhistle): permission given Rouen 16 October 1443. The opposition from his tenant (...)
  • 39 Staffs. RO, D239/M2887; PRO, E404/56/275; Cal. Fr. Rolls, p. 374.
  • 40 CPR, 1441-1446, p. 315; CPR, 1452-1461, pp. 47, 331.
  • 41 Testamenta Eboracensia, t. II, Surtees Society, t. XXX (1855), p. 31; PRO, C1/19/500.

17Then there were other forms of assistance. John Handford was allowed a grant from the Norman estates towards his ransom37. Evidence of similar collections in both England and France suggest that the amounts raised were usually relatively small. Bertrand Entwhistle was permitted to levy an aide on his tenants in his barony of Briquebec. They disputed his right and took the case to the Norman Echiquier38. The crown was frequently willing to assist trading enterprises. One of the most successful was undertaken by the Staffordshire esquire Edmund Arblaster. In 1437 Arblaster received a wide-ranging licence to trade between English and French-held areas of the Seine estuary ‘pour paier la grant et excessive Rançon’, and further licences to ship commodities such as wool and tin from England to Normandy39. His career was ended when he was again captured on the re-opening of war in 1449. The hardships endured in captivity could always be exploited in negotiations with the crown, whether in petitions for office or debts owed at the exchequer. But sadly the most frequent form of help in the late Lancastrian period was the appointment as serjeants-at-arms of men reduced to destitution through their war service: John More, taken prisoner seven times; Robert Harwode, put to ‘heavy ransom’and forced to sell his patrimony; Thomas Kirkeby, ‘often taken prisoner’40. It is in the realm of charity that one finds the remnants of English soldiery at the end of the Hundred Years War. Small public collections were made for Richard Butler and John Holt. John Swan, captured at the ‘destrussynge’of Sir Thomas Kyriell at Formigny and taken to Carentan pleaded for the collection of alms, ‘else he must needs be sworn French or utterly die’41.

  • 42 R. Favreau, La ville de Poitiers à la Fin du Moyen Age, Poitiers, 1978, pp. 183-184. The disinherit (...)
  • 43 The story of one of the last French noblemen captured by the English is told in P. Marchegay, «La r (...)

18The problems faced by English participants in the war need to be seen in perspective. Despite their financial difficulties John Beaufort and John Holland were able to pass on their patrimony largely intact. The misfortunes of the Hungerfords stemmed from the forfeiture of lands through attainder rather than the costs of Robert Moleyns’s ransom. In contrast some French noble families were permanently crippled. In Poitou the strain of a series of defeats and reverses were clear. Ingergier d’Amboise, captured by the English in the Loudunais in 1350, was ransomed for 32,000 florins. His fresh capture and ransom at Poitiers (10,000 écus) led to his death in captivity in 1368, with much of the ransom still unpaid. Many of the local nobility captured two or three times were unable to recover. Pierre de Bailleul, captured three times, had sold all his belongings by 1351, ‘et n’a plus de quoi servir’. Martin de Breteville was reduced to total impoverishment, ‘povres et mendians’42. Nevertheless, for those Englishmen whose wealth was largely derived from their Norman lands and offices the years after 1435 were ones of increasingly high risk. Profits from war were a gamble, with success on campaign offerring a chance to redress the losses from ransom43; but at the end of the war the English soldiery were playing at increasingly high odds.

  • 44 The details of Talbot’s capture are recorded in a petition to Charles VII by Jean Daneau, one of Xa (...)
  • 45 A. Joubert, Négociations relatives à l’échange de Charles, duc d’Orléans, et de Jean, comte d’Angou (...)

19In such circumstances it was a matter of necessity that release from captivity should be effected as quickly and advantageously as possible. The crucial mechanism for this was an arranged exchange with a French prisoner or alternatively a remission of the ransom from a French prisoner’s account. John Lord Talbot’s freedom was secured through an exchange with the French captain Xaintrailles. Talbot had been captured at Patay in June 1429 by men of Xaintrailles’ personal retinue. When Xaintrailles was himself captured by the earl of Warwick, Talbot’s father-inlaw, in August 1431, the possibility of an accommodation to secure both men’s release was quickly perceived. In September 1431 Talbot’s pursuivant was a regular visitor to the Beauchamp household at Rouen, where Xaintrailles was being held44. Similarly, after the capture of John and Thomas Beaufort at Baugé, a stream of messages were sent out by the duke of Orléans concerning the possibility of an exchange with the English lords. Here the negotiations were unsuccessful. John Beaufort was then purchased from his original captors with the aim of exchanging him with the count of Eu, who had been captured at Agincourt. However, Henry V’s will had specifically prohibited Eu’s release during his son’s minority: and it took the personal intervention of the young Henry VI to secure Beaufort’s freedom many years later in 143845.

  • 46 PPC, t. VI, pp. 109-110. For evidence of this practice in the fourteenth century: HMC Fifth Report,(...)
  • 47 PRO, PSO 1/19/981.

20An alternative method of assistance was to charge an English captive’s ransom against the unpaid portion of a French prisoner’s account46. In July 1451 the king and council decided to intervene on behalf of Henry Redford. Redford had been left as hostage after the surrender of Rouen and subsequently been put to ‘greet finaunce’. In view of his diligent warservice and present impoverishment it was decided to charge 6,000 salus of his ransom against the remainder of the sum owed by the duke of Orléans. The fresh arrangement was not without its problems. In February 1453 Redford’s captor the count of Dunois brought an action against Talbot, one of Redford’s sureties, over the unpaid portion of the ransom. Talbot was instructed to inform Dunois that the amount in question was now held on a bond of the duke of Orléans’debt. The bond effectively discharged Redford from payment, the alternative being that ‘our said knight be compelled to enter into prison again and hath noon other goodes’47.

  • 48 AM Evreux, CC10, pièce 1 (which I owe to Dr Curry).
  • 49 AD Seine-Maritime, G1889.
  • 50 Ph. Contamine, «Rançons et butins dans la Normandie anglaise (1424-1444)», La guerre et la paix au (...)

21The system of exchanging prisoners of roughly commensurate rank and status existed at all levels of society. The key was to secure an appropriate captive to facilitate the exchange. A few examples will illustrate this procedure. In 1431 the burgesses of Evreux petitioned the captain Matthew Gough over the fate of one of their number, Vincent Desquetot, who had been captured by the French garrison at Louviers. Louviers was now under siege and Gough, who was on his way to the investment, told the townsmen it was thought that it would be reduced shortly. Then he ‘promettoit que de tout son pouvoir il mettroit paine de proceder en la delivrance de Vincent Desquetot… par baillant prisonnier pour prisonnier’48. Often a specific prisoner was required. Guillaume Quesnel, a member of the garrison of Caudebec, was captured by the French and taken to Dieppe to be ransomed in February 1443. Quesnel appealed to the archbishop of Rouen for an exchange with a Frenchman, Geffin de Tallus, held in the archiepiscopal prison at Caudebec, without which Quesnel ‘ne pouvoit bonnement estre delivre’49. In this case the exchange was arranged through the intercession of Talbot, the captain of Caudebec. Quesnel had been fortunate. Thomas Cooley, an English esquire captured by the French at Sablé, was unable to secure his ransom of 900 salus. His captors then instructed him to arrange an exchange with the imprisoned French captain of Coursillon. When Cooley replied that such a transaction was outside his power he was clapped into irons and left on a diet of bread and water50.

  • 51 The Paston Letters, t. II, p. 50.
  • 52 Cited by K. B. McFarlane, «Sir John Fastolf’s profits of war», p. 193, n. 89.

22It was essential to obtain the help of an intermediary, or broker, who would secure the custody of appropriate prisoners of the opposite camp. A letter of Sir John Fastolf to Henry Inglese and John Berney referred to how both had been delivered from prison by Fastolf exchanging French captives for them, ‘and in lyke wyse I bought another prysonner clepyt John Villers for the delyverance of Mautbye’51. Such intervention, whether through exchange or cash payment, could not necessarily be relied on. Another of Fastolf’s letters made the point forcibly enough. Fastolf hoped that John Rafman ‘wold brynk to mynde that I payed for hese fynaunce and raunson 100 marks and quitted him ought of prison in Fraunce where alle the maysteres and frendz that ever he hadde wold noght a don it’52. Such assistance could have a profound effect on future loyalties and allegiance.

  • 53 PRO, C1/155/53; CCR, 1441-1447, p. 356.
  • 54 Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, DR/98/497; CPR, 1452-1461, p. 75.

23William Peyto was a long-serving war captain who had been closely associated with the retinue of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. In 1443 he was captured by a French force relieving Dieppe. His release, over two years later, was secured through the intercession of the Beaufort family, who charged his ransom of 3,000 salus to the account of their own prisoner, the count of Angoulême. Peyto’s release had been achieved by December 1445 and he entered into obligations with the Beauforts for the original ransom without any of the burdens of additional expenses53. Even so Peyto had a certain amount of difficulty meeting his debts. Arrears of wages were anxiously pursued, and his properties had to be successively remortgaged. Nevertheless his gratitude to the Beauforts was clear. He crossed over to Normandy as master of Edmund Beaufort’s household in 1448 and continued to serve him faithfully over the following years, first in Normandy then Calais54. Peyto would have been wellknown to Edmund Beaufort as part of the Beauchamp circle (Edmund had married one of Warwick’s daughters, Eleanor Beauchamp); his intervention to assist in Peyto’s ransom transformed military comradeship into lifelong loyalty.

  • 55 BL, Add. Ch. 12211, 12212.
  • 56 BL, Add. MS. 11509, fos 35-35 v°; PPC, t. VI, pp. 129-130.

24A similar story is provided in the case of Sir John Handford, who had been captured at Meulan in 1442. Again the Beauforts secured his ransom (4,000 salus) against the debts of the count of Angoulême, and had arranged his release by March 144455. As a result Handford developed a strong bond with the Beaufort family. He became closely associated with Edmund first during his governorship of Normandy, then as his lieutenant in court of chivalry cases when Beaufort was appointed king’s constable in 145056. These examples are significant in that neither of the men (professional soldiers of high calibre) had originally been retained by the Beauforts or were serving under them at the time of their capture. The Beaufort intervention provides evidence of the broader bond that existed between men continually fighting in France.

  • 57 Staffs RO, D239/M2842.
  • 58 CPR, 1446-1452, p. 65; A Parisian Journal 1405-1449, tr. J. Shirley, Oxford, 1968, pp. 296-297; The (...)

25The system of ransom brokerage could to some extent cushion the costs of capture by the enemy and allow men like Peyto and Handford to resume their service in France. It shows us that the dangers as well as the profits of war brought men together through a shared martial experience. Sometimes it would be formalized in arrangements such as brotherhoodat-arms. Elsewhere its echoes are caught in more oblique sources. The friendship between Thomas Gerard and Edmund Arblaster is seen in the farewell reception provided by Gerard on Arblaster’s return to England, with wine and ‘pasties de venison’; their common outlook in the ‘livre en francoix escript en parchemin contenant le chemin de vallance’ that Arblaster left Gerard as surety for a loan, along with crossbows, helmets and other items of equipment57. Strong loyalties were forged through the experience of war, in which capture or death represented the highest risks. In July 1447 Sir William Chamberlain received licence, in recognition of the captivity he had endured in France, to found a chantry in the church of East Harling (Norfolk) for the soul of Sir Robert Harling who had died in the king’s wars. Twelve years earlier Robert Harling had been killed at the siege of Saint-Denis. The Harling chantry with its fine tomb forms a moving memorial from a kinsman and fellow-soldier58.

Notes

1 The classic discussion of one of these agreements is found in K. B. McFarlane, «A business partnership in war and administration 1421-1445», England in the Fifteenth Century. Collected Essays, London, 1981, pp. 151-174.

2 M. G. A. Vale, War and Chivalry, London, 1981, p. 28.

3 K. B. McFarlane, «The investment of Sir John Fastolf’s profits of war», England in the Fifteenth Century, pp. 178, 188. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Fastolf was not fully re-imbursed by the crown for either prisoner: The Paston Letters, 1422-1509, ed. J. Gairdner, 6 vol., London, 1904, t. II, pp. 58-59.

4 BN, p. o. 929 (Cressy)/2: which I owe to Dr Anne Curry.

5 AN, K, 66/13; BN, fr. 26068/4243.

6 J. P. Earwaker, East Cheshire, 2 vol., London 1890, t. I, pp. 241-242.

7 C. Dyer, Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, Cambridge, 1989, p. 96; E. R. Dowdeswell, Birtsmorton Court and Manor, Worcester, 1909, pp. 11, 12, 16.

8 John Leland, Leland’s Itinerary in England and Wales, ed. L. Toulin-Smith, 5 vol., London, 1907-1910, t. IV, p. 34; J. R. Dunlop, «Pedigree of the family of Crioll, or Kyriell, of co. Kent», Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, fifth series, t. VI (1926-1928), pp. 254-261.

9 BL, Add. Ch. 12453.

10 PRO, C81/1546/78.

11 BL, Add. Ch. 712-713; VCH, Northants, t. II, p. 592 (these references, and the background information on Knyvett’s career, have kindly been made available to me by Dr Carole Rawcliffe, from material in preparation for the History of Parliament Trust series of biographies).

12 Longleat House, North Muniment Room, MS. 396.

13 Μ. H. Keen, The Laws of War in the Later Middle Ages, London, 1965, p. 158; M. R. Powicke, «Lancastrian captains», Essays in Medieval History Presented to Bertie Wilkinson, ed. T. A. Sandquist and M. R. Powicke, Toronto, 1969, p. 382.

14 S. J. Payling, Political society in Lancastrian Nottinghamshire, Oxford D. Phil. thesis, 1987, pp. 57-59. Little is known about Rempston’s second period of captivity but Dr Payling has drawn my attention to the will of the London merchant William Estfield of 16 March 1446 (Lambeth Palace, Reg. Stafford, fo. 141). Estfield left £10 towards Rempston’s ransom ‘if he is still alive’.

15 W. Dugdale, The Baronage of England, 2 vol., London, 1675-1676, t. II, pp. 209-210. For a recent discussion of the ransom see Μ. A. Hicks, «Counting the cost of war: the Moleyns ransom and the Hungerford landsales 1453-1487», Southern History, t. VIII (1986), pp. 11-31.

16 The Register of Edmund Lacy, Bishop of Exeter, 1420-1455, t. II, ed. G. R. Dunstan, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, new series, t. X (1966), pp. 407-408: grant of an indulgence to enable Robert Moleyns, captured by the Turks while in the service of the King of Hungary, to redeem the pledges given as surety for his ransom.

17 Essex RO, D/DP/ TI/ 1849,1853.

18 Arundel Castle Archives, MS. A1642, m. 11 (which I owe to Dr Rowena Archer); AD Seine-Maritime, Tabellionnage de Rouen, 1419-1421, fos. 220, 224, 283. For speculation in ransom bonds by a London merchant see Calendar of Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, 1458-1482, ed. P. E. Jones, London, 1961, pp. 77-79.

19 English Suits before the Parlement of Paris 1420-1436, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. J. Armstrong, Camden Society, fourth series, t. XXVI (1982), pp. 291-292.

20 Ibid., pp. 293-294.

21 Ibid., pp. 305-306; R. A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI, London, 1981, p. 506.

22 K. B. McFarlane, The Nobility of Later Medieval England, Oxford 1973, pp. 127-128.

23 Information on Astley’s ransom has been drawn from PRO., E404/74/1/6; CPR, 1461-1467, p. 379; material on his participation in tournaments is found in Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MS. M775 fos 2 v°, 122 v°, 275 v°, 277 v°

24 BN, fr. 18441, f°. 65. John Holland’s military career is re-assessed in M. H. Stansfield, «John Holland duke of Exeter and earl of Huntingdom and the costs of the Hundred Years War», Profit, Piety and the Professions in Later Medieval England, ed. Μ. A. Hicks, Gloucester, 1990 pp. 103-115..

25 M. K. Jones, The Beaufort family and the war in France, 1421-1450, Bristol Ph.D. thesis, 1982, pp. 28-52, 175-181.

26 Camoys’ plight is referred to in a settlement of property in Calais, November 1444: CPR, 1441-1446, p. 311. The background to the dispute, with Camoys represented by his wife Isabel, is found in Henry Huntington Library, HAF Box 2. His activities in 1447 are reconstructed from BL, Egerton Ch. 207; BN, n.a.fr. 7629, pp. 407-408.

27 CCR, 1435-1441, p. 201.

28 PRO, E404/62/235; T. B. Pugh, «Richard Plantagenet (1411-1460), duke of York, as the king’s lieutenant in France and Ireland» in Aspects of Late Medieval Government and Society, ed. J. C. Rowe, Toronto, 1986, p. 140, n. 31.

29 Northumbria RO, ZSW/4/60.

30 PRO, C1/26/110; C1/19/24.

31 Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, MS. X. d. 38.

32 PRO, C81/1546/56; AN, K 68 (22 November 1448).

33 AN, P 19344, fos 1-2.

34 PRO, E404/60/256.

35 A. J. Pollard, John Talbot and the War in France 1427-1453, London, 1983, pp. 114-117.

36 Folger Shakespeare Library, MS. X. d. 38.

37 C. T. Allmand, Lancastrian Normandy, 1415-1450, Oxford, 1983, p. 77.

38 BN, p. o. 1090 (Entwhistle): permission given Rouen 16 October 1443. The opposition from his tenants is described in C. T. Allmand, Lancastrian Normandy, pp. 67, 77.

39 Staffs. RO, D239/M2887; PRO, E404/56/275; Cal. Fr. Rolls, p. 374.

40 CPR, 1441-1446, p. 315; CPR, 1452-1461, pp. 47, 331.

41 Testamenta Eboracensia, t. II, Surtees Society, t. XXX (1855), p. 31; PRO, C1/19/500.

42 R. Favreau, La ville de Poitiers à la Fin du Moyen Age, Poitiers, 1978, pp. 183-184. The disinheritance of a family as a consequence of a heavy ransom is studied in A. Bossuat, «Les prisonniers de guerre au XVe siècle: la rançon de Jean, seigneur de Rodemack», Annales de l’Est, 5e série, t. II (1951), pp. 145-162.

43 The story of one of the last French noblemen captured by the English is told in P. Marchegay, «La rançon d’Olivier de Coëtivy, seigneur de Taillebourg, sénéchal de Guyenne, 1451-1477», BEC, t. XXXVIII (1877), pp. 5-48.

44 The details of Talbot’s capture are recorded in a petition to Charles VII by Jean Daneau, one of Xaintrailles’ men: ‘et maxime in bello contra dictos hostes Domini habito in loco de Patay in quo dictos Johannes dominum de Talbot, Anglicum, eius potestate et strenuitate in prisonarium cepit’. The document is in the possession of the Library Charavay-Castaing. Professor Ph. Contamine has kindly provided me with a transcript. The ransom negotiations are found in Warwickshire RO CR1618/W19/5, fos 92vo 103.

45 A. Joubert, Négociations relatives à l’échange de Charles, duc d’Orléans, et de Jean, comte d’Angoulême, contre les seigneurs anglais, Angers, 1890; Μ. K. Jones, thesis cit., pp. 41-43.

46 PPC, t. VI, pp. 109-110. For evidence of this practice in the fourteenth century: HMC Fifth Report, p. 502.

47 PRO, PSO 1/19/981.

48 AM Evreux, CC10, pièce 1 (which I owe to Dr Curry).

49 AD Seine-Maritime, G1889.

50 Ph. Contamine, «Rançons et butins dans la Normandie anglaise (1424-1444)», La guerre et la paix au Moyen Age, 101e Congrès national des Sociétés savantes, Paris, 1978, pp. 257-258.

51 The Paston Letters, t. II, p. 50.

52 Cited by K. B. McFarlane, «Sir John Fastolf’s profits of war», p. 193, n. 89.

53 PRO, C1/155/53; CCR, 1441-1447, p. 356.

54 Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, DR/98/497; CPR, 1452-1461, p. 75.

55 BL, Add. Ch. 12211, 12212.

56 BL, Add. MS. 11509, fos 35-35 v°; PPC, t. VI, pp. 129-130.

57 Staffs RO, D239/M2842.

58 CPR, 1446-1452, p. 65; A Parisian Journal 1405-1449, tr. J. Shirley, Oxford, 1968, pp. 296-297; The Paston Letters, t. III, p. 157. For information on the architectural details of the chantry I am indebted to Pam Graves of the York Archaeological Trust.

Auteur

University of Glasgow

© Publications de l’Institut de recherches historiques du Septentrion, 1991

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