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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

Changing Views of the Soldier in Late Medieval France

Christopher T. Allmand

Texte intégral

  • 1 Joannis Saresberiensis Episcopi Carnotensis Policratici, ed. C.C.I. Webb, Oxford,1909, t. II, p. 2 (...)

1What did late medieval society think of the soldier who featured so often in the chronicles and was, indeed, part of the everyday scene of that age? Frenchmen had ample opportunity of becoming accustomed to the sight of the soldier, and of hearing about his misdeeds. It was these abuses of power which made soldiers into the latrones publici of the public imagination. That popular opinion should react in this way was natural enough. Yet there already existed an ideal of the soldier, and a description of his function and place in society in John of Salisbury’s Policraticus, written in the middle years of the twelfth century. In Salisbury’s view, being a soldier brought out the best in man: it demanded hard work and absolute loyalty, both to God and to lord, from those whose task it was, under the control of the ruler, to protect society, not attack it. Salisbury was clearly influenced by two important sources: the Old Testament, and the late fourth-century writer, Vegetius, whose ideas are reflected time and again in the Policraticus. Both placed emphasis on the need for societies, of whatever size, to defend themselves. If the lawyer defended people with words, the soldier’s task was to do the same with arms1. While the popular view of the soldier was often that of a man who used force and violence against the wrong people, intellectuals and commentators tried to formulate a vision of the soldier’s role in society which, modelled upon John of Salisbury, could be adapted to the needs of France as she faced an up-hill struggle against the English. In brief, the task of the writers who will be cited in this paper was to create an intellectual climate for major reform of the army by the crown which, if properly organized, could lead to both the expulsion of the ancient enemy and the imposition and subsequent maintenance of that order in society which, as Frenchmen were coming to appreciate, it was the monarchy’s obligation to impose and maintain.

2The sources for the history of late medieval France are full of references to the soldier and his activities. The chronicles constantly record military action and, by reading along the lines as well as between them, we get some idea of what those who described events, in particular the events of war, thought of the soldier. Royal ordinances have much to say on him from the viewpoint of royal government and administration. Legal texts, in particular those from the Parlement of Paris, are a valuable quarry for the searcher who seeks to understand how the soldier saw himself and was seen by others. The literary evidence, too, is of the very greatest importance. War, and the soldier in war as well as in peace, was a theme which occupied the minds of many of the leading writers of the period: Guillaume Machaut, Eustache Deschamps, Honoré Bouvet (or Bonet), Philippe de Mézières, Christine de Pisan, Alain Chartier, Jean Juvénal des Ursins, and Jean de Bueil. Much of what follows arises from a consideration of the views expressed in their writings.

  • 2 In the discussion which follows, the soldier is the gens d’armes rather than the knight.
  • 3 John Bromyard, Summa Predicantium, Basel, 1484, under ‘Bellum’. An English translation is in Socie (...)

3Whether active on his own or in a group, and whether that group was a route or a royal army, the soldier of late medieval France was a much criticised individual2. The Complainte sur la bataille de Poitiers, written in 1357, showed up the noble soldier in unflattering, indeed hostile, terms. Many, on that occasion, had lacked the courage to fight and had fled, to their great dishonour. Many, too, had arrived at the battle dressed in the clothing of vanity rather than in that of war, a criticism similar in character to remarks made at much the same time by the English Dominican, John Bromyard, about some of his fellow-countrymen departing for war in France3. Such had betrayed their king, Jean II:

‘Fauls, traitres, desloyaus, sont infame et parjure
Car par euls est le roi mis à desconfiture,
Qui est li très plus nobles de toute creature.’

  • 4 «Complainte sur la bataille de Poitiers», éd. Ch. de Beaurepaire, B.E.C., 3e série, t. II (1851), (...)

4Such men ‘Ont tray leur segneur à qui devoient foy’, with the result that victory went to the English ‘merdaille’4.

  • 5 Ordonnances, t. III, pp. 525-527.

5The behaviour of an army on the battlefield in time of open hostilities was one matter; how the soldier acted off the field of battle was another. He might choose to ignore the peace which his lord, the king, had made with the English. In 1361 it was claimed that both the kingdom and the royal authority were being threatened ‘publiquement’ by the soldiery, so that the assembling of ‘gens d’armes et archiers’, other than with express royal permission, had to be forbidden by the king5. The text of the ordinance is revealing. Undisciplined soldiers were making life a misery for the population; they were attacking the ‘transquilité’ of the civilian and were becoming objects of fear, a fact confirmed by Jean de Venette’s chronicle. At the same time the unruly soldier was undermining the effectiveness of royal authority; the king, whose obligation it was to impose peace and achieve justice in his kingdom, was finding the task almost beyond him. All soldiers should return to their homes. As we know, the plea fell largely on deaf ears.

  • 6 Jean de Venette, Chronicle, trans. and ed. R. Birdsall and R. A. Newhall, New York, 1953, pp. 93-9 (...)
  • 7 Eustache Deschamps, Œuvres complètes, éd. De Queux de SaintHilaire and G. Raynaud, SATF, Paris, 18 (...)

6It was not long before emotion entered the language used to describe the soldier and his activities. When Venette wrote about the burning of his native village by the English, he described a man’s natural reaction to an event which, as he recalled, was being repeated elsewhere6. Eustache Deschamps was to echo those feelings. Au jour d’hui veult chascun guerre mener’, he wrote; soldiers destroy their country through pillage; all honour is gone. The men who act in this way like to be called gens d’armes but they roam the country, destroying everything in their way, and the poor people are forced to flee before them. If the soldier manages to travel three leagues in a day, he thinks he has done very well. ‘Il se dampne qui telle guerre suit’, concluded the poet7.

7Deschamps wrote these words probably in 1369. Three quarters of a century later Jean Juvénal des Ursins would echo them. It was one thing, he wrote in both his Proposicion… par devant… le conte d’Eu and in A,A,A, Nescio loqui, for soldiers to make legitimate war upon the enemy, but quite another for them to wage it on their fellow Frenchmen:

  • 8 Jean Juvénal des Ursins, Ecrits politiques, éd. P. S. Lewis, SHF, Paris, 1978-1985, t. I, pp. 290, (...)

‘Mez des gens de guerre qui se dient estre au roy, ilz destruisent tout et rançonnent les povres gens, prennent prisonniers, les mettent a finance, pour laquelle avoir les batent et desromptent, les mettent en fosses et les tirannisent en pluseurs et diversses manieres, emparent places pour faire guerre aux Angloix, lesquelles sont plus pour destruire le peuple et les serviteurs du roy que aultrement, comme vous vous pourés plus a plain informer”8.

  • 9 Ibid., t. I, pp. 305, 523.
  • 10 E. Deschamps, op. cit., t. V, pp. 392-394.
  • 11 Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 157.
  • 12 L’Arbre des Batailles d’Honoré Bonet, ed. E. Nys, Brussels and Leipzig, 1883, p. 150; The Tree of (...)
  • 13 J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. I, pp. 302-305.

8The way that soldiers behaved towards their non-combatant counterparts (the verb all too often used to describe their activities was ‘tyranniser’)9 was capable of producing the strongest reactions. Yet, behind it all lay that uneasy feeling, expressed with greater or lesser conviction, that war’s misfortunes were the result of punishment for sin committed, the chastisement of an erring people by their loving Father: in Deschamps’ words, ‘Dieu partout pugnit peuple qui peche’10. It is in this sense, I think, that we have to understand Jean de Bueil’s statement that ‘gens d’armes… sont faiz pour tourmenter le monde’11, the implication being that, seen in a theological view, such torment is good, even desirable. If Bueil, a layman, could write in this way, the idea was an even more natural part of a clerical mentality. To Honoré Bouvet, the author of L'Arbre des Batailles written towards the end of the fourteenth century, suffering for the expiation of evil was good; indeed, it could not be avoided. War, far from being an evil, was a way of righting wrong, of turning dissension to peace, a medicine used to restore health to the human body. As a man, Bouvet could write of his emotion at seeing the wrongs inflicted by soldiers upon poor labourers and others. But God allowed war in order to punish men for their sins; the gens d’armes were regarded as ‘les exécuteurs de nostre Seigneur’, the flail of God, and if war sometimes oppressed the good and the just, it was for the increase of their glory12. Writing some fifty years later, and with the bitter experience of Beauvais behind him, Jean Juvénal des Ursins was very much of the same opinion, citing Gregory to the effect that punishment was not to be seen as a flagellation but as a gift by which sins of the flesh were purged by physical suffering, in a spirit of patience, after which punishment God would send his people some good (‘aprés ces grans maulx Dieu nous envoyera quelque bien’)13.

  • 14 L’Arbre des Batailles, p. 150; Tree of Battles, p. 158.

9Such a view has a place in the present discussion. Although Bouvet could assert that the soldier was not sure of a place in Heaven unless he qualified for it ‘par bonnes euvres ou par justes querelles maintenir’14, the view of the soldier as the instrument of God’s punishment was likely to affect attitudes towards him, and how men might react towards what he did. Was it right to resist the manifest will of God reflected in the soldier’s actions? The acceptance of that will, even in a true spirit of Christian patience and resignation, would incline men towards the spirit of fatalism clearly evident to us in much of the literature of the time. It was not merely a question of whether the excesses of the soldiery could be resisted; the matter of whether they should be was also being debated.

  • 15 Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 33.
  • 16 Ordonnances, t. IX, pp. 292, 515, 677.
  • 17 L’Arbre des Batailles, p. 174; Tree of Battles, p. 189.

10Typically, the answer was not theological but practical. That of Jean de Bueil certainly fell into that category: ‘Ayde-toy, Dieu te aidera’, he wrote, citing the saying of the day15. Many decades earlier, in his ballades, Eustache Deschamps had been hammering home the refrain that princes had an obligation to defend their subjects and achieve a state of justice within their lands. Towards the end of the first decade of the fifteenth century, at a moment when the rivalry between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians was becoming increasingly intense, a series of royal ordinances referred to the pillage and widespread physical damage caused by the ‘gens d’armes, Archiers, Arbalestriers, pilleurs & autres gens de guerre de diverses nations’who, against royal orders, were active in the country to the detriment of the people16. In such conditions justice could not reign, and strong action was required against them, so that the king’s ‘bons et loyaulx subgiets’ should be adequately protected. Such views were in keeping with those expressed by Bouvet twenty years earlier. In spite of arguing that the soldier was the flail of God, Bouvet had shown himself to be the strong upholder of the rights and interests of the poor labourer who should be left in peace17, a view with which Alain Chartier and Jean Juvénal des Ursins, to name but two, were later to concur.

  • 18 Policraticus, t. II, pp. 8-9 (VI, ii).
  • 19 Ordonnances, t. III, pp. 525-527.
  • 20 Policraticus, t. II, pp. 16, 20-23 (VI, v, vii, viii).
  • 21 Ordonnances, t. V, pp. 658-661.

11John of Salisbury had stressed that the controlling of soldiers was a great test for a ruler18. French kings were aware that action to control the soldiery was necessary, and that the respect due to their authority would, in some measure, depend upon the effectiveness of steps taken to curb the violence associated with soldiers. In October 1361, as acts of private war appeared to replace war against the English which the treaty of Brétigny had brought to a temporary halt, the soldiers who sought to further their own ends in this way were ordered home, and were forbidden to assemble again without royal permission19. In January 1374, war with England having in the meantime resumed, further measures to control the soldier were deemed necessary. This time it was the captains, appointed to office by the king, who were made responsible for the discipline of those under their command. A new view of the soldier and of his social functions was now being made more explicit. John of Salisbury had several times stressed that the oath was what distinguished soldiers from assassins20. Now the soldier was to undertake on oath to serve for the period for which he would be in receipt of wages, while the names of absentees (or are they better called deserters?) were to be recorded. All that the soldier took, in the way of food for example, was to be paid for, while damage to private property was to be compensated for and those held responsible for such destruction were to be sought out. Towards the end of the ordinance comes what we are looking for: a statement of intention. Soldiers, the text tells us, exist to serve ‘pour nostre service [et la] deffense, bien et seurté de leurs pays’21. Such is the formal obligation of the soldier in the king of France’s army in the final quarter of the fourteenth century.

  • 22 E. Deschamps, op. cit., t. II, pp. 27-30 (du Guesclin); t. VI, pp. 141-145 (Sancerre).
  • 23 Le Jouvencel, t. I, pp. 46, 50.
  • 24 Ibid., t. I, p. 52.

12The reading of certain kinds of evidence leads to the conclusion that the soldier in late medieval France was the direct cause of much suffering in society. But it would be incorrect to argue that the picture had but one side to it. As Bouvet would not condemn war on the grounds that some abused it, so we should not judge all soldiers by the worst of them. The praise which Deschamps lavished upon Bertrand du Guesclin and Louis de Sancerre, both Constables of France, both buried besides their sovereign lords at Saint-Denis, had much of the traditional chivalric praise of the knight behind it22. In this discussion we are primarily concerned with the more ordinary soldier, the gens d’armes, and it is for this reason that the evidence contained in Jean de Bueil’s masterpiece, Le Jouvencel, is of such importance to us. Like its English contemporary, William Worcester’s Boke of Noblesse, Le Jouvencel sets out to show (one is forced to ask whether Jean de Bueil takes the matter for granted) that the soldier is, or should be, an element for good in society. As he announces, it is his ‘entencion de declairer et magnifester les haultes vertus, les grans triumphes, la loyauté et le grant courage des gens de guerre, quant ilz sont bons, avecques les plaisirs, loenges, honneurs et bonne renommée qu’ilz acquièrent en exerçant les armes’23. Having shown that the soldier’s call is one of honour, he concludes by claiming that ‘moult y a de virtus et de grans perfections en ceulx qui sieuvent la guerre’24.

  • 25 Ibid., t. II, pp. 20-22. Translated in Society at War, ed. C. T. Allmand, pp. 27-29.
  • 26 Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 15; t. II, p. 71; t. I, p. 118.

13Many will recall the emphasis which Bueil placed on the personal satisfaction to be achieved through fighting25. That is one of the characteristics of his work, to which he referred more than once. However, this kind of motivation is not sufficient. Stress is also placed on other factors. One such is service of the king. We are not long into the prologue when we are told that ‘des ma jeunesse, j’ ay sieuvy les armes et frequenté les guerres du très crestien roy de France, mon souverain seigneur, en soustenant sa querelle de tout mon petit povoir.’Later he stresses the knight who is ‘prest de deffendre le droit de son prince, de son pays et de ceulx qu’il a en son gouvernement’26. This, Bueil believed, was accomplishing the will of God.

  • 27 Ordonnances, t. IV, pp. 67-70. Translated in Society at War, ed. C. T. Allmand, pp. 45-48.
  • 28 Ordonnances, t. III, pp. 525-527.
  • 29 Wright, NAR, «The Tree of Battles of Honoré Bouvet and the laws of war», War, Literature and Polit (...)
  • 30 E. Deschamps, op. cit., t. II, pp. 320-321; J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. I, p. 387.

14I would suggest that, while chivalric in form, such a statement could not have been made such before the middle of the fourteenth century. In the reforming ordinance of 1351 it is stated explicitly that soldiers shall constitute only royal armies and thus, by extension, that they are in the service of the crown27. Certainly, by 1361 (as we have seen) the assembling of gens d’armes was forbidden other than by express royal order; if this were not done, the kingdom would suffer ‘publiquement’28. The close link between service to the king and service to the public good is now making an appearance: from now onwards, the theme of the soldier as a royal servant or agent is a fairly consistent one29. Deschamps wrote that the ruler should love good knights, gens d’armes and esquires who would pursue his wars for, as Jean Juvénal des Ursins was to express it half a century later, the army represented ‘la force du roy’ by which the king should be served30. Obligation to serve in the army, in the arrière-ban, for example, could be turned into a virtue. In Alain Chartier’s Débat du Herault the vassal is made to say:

  • 31 The Poetical Works of Alain Chartier, ed. J. C. Laidlaw, Cambridge, 1974, p. 428.

‘Dea, se mon prince me mande,
Il fault que je l’aille servir
Et aille soubz qui il commende
En moy n’en est pas lez choysir’31,

  • 32 Ibid., p. 397.

15a spirit of co-operation which, in the works of Chartier, contrasted with his view of the nobility whose attitude to service under the crown, and under leaders appointed by the crown, he was all too ready to criticise. Not surprisingly, the refrain to the section on ‘loyauté’ in Chartier’s Le Bréviaire des Nobles (a discussion of noble virtues) is ‘Servir leur roy et leurs subgez deffendre’32.

  • 33 Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 56.
  • 34 Ibid., t. I, pp. 118, 56.
  • 35 On this see E Autrand, «Limage de la noblesse en France à la fin du moyen âge. Tradition et nouvea (...)
  • 36 English suits before the Parlement of Paris 1420-1436, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. A. J. Armstrong, C (...)
  • 37 Ibid., p. 222.
  • 38 Ibid., p. 104.

16It is not surprising, either, that we should find in Le Jouvencel the most emphatic statements of the respect due to the soldier who serves his king or prince, emphatic because they are expressed in the course of the long passages of dialogue which characterise the work. Jean de Bueil, as we know, was not the only writer of this age to criticise those who went to court in search of advancement; they were among those who already had their rewards. ‘Mais, au regard de l’homme d’armes, il est tout au contraire. Car, s’il a esté bon, chascun le plaint et l’invite-l’en à disner et à soupper, et lui tenir compaignie. Et chacun dit de lui en derriere: ‘Ha! le bon homme, qui a si bien servi le Roy et le royaume! C’est grant pitié qu’il ait nécessité’33. Later in the work, the same view re-emerges: ‘Je croy que tout homme qui expose son corps à soustenir bonne querelle et à secourir son souverain seigneur ou son prouchain en bonne justice et en bon droit, fait et accomplist le commandement de Dieu’34. In these examples we see a reflection of the claim to honour and respectability made by litigants before the Parlement of Paris35: Richard Handford was described as ‘bon escuier… et a servy le roi en la bataille de Verneul et a Saint Jame de Beuron et ailleurs ou il s’est bien emploié’36; in 1430 Robert Stafford could claim to have ‘servy le roy continuelment en la compagnie du feu conte de Salisbury’37; while Henry Tilleman said that he was ‘bon homme d’armes et [a] servi le prince de Gales ou voiage d’Espaigne, et depuis continuelment a servi le roy et ses predecesseurs, et porta l’estandart du duc de Bedford en la bataille de Verneul’38. This last example is of particular interest, for Tilleman claimed to be no more than an homme d’armes, yet one who, in service stretching from the battle of Najera (1367) to that of Verneuil (1424), had served the crown as a soldier. It was surely service of this kind which Jean de Bueil had in mind when praising the efforts of those who chose to work for their king and, by extension, for their country.

  • 39 R. L. Kilgour, The decline of Chivalry, as shown in the French literature of the late middle ages,(...)
  • 40 J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. II, p. 236.

17Several traditions helped to make explicit the link between service to king and service to country or, as it was more usually called, to the ‘bien publique’. As writers on the subject have reminded us, chivalry had always inculcated a certain duty to the state39. So, too, had Roman law; while the study of classical exempla found, for instance, in the works of Frontinus and Valerius Maximus (both available in French versions) emphasised the Roman tradition of service to the res publica. Finally, the influence of Aristotelian thought on the concept of individual, self-sufficient societies, with their own characteristics and interests to be defended legitimately if threatened from outside, became one of the factors which not only influenced the development of national armies but also, by stressing the obligation of the subject or the citizen to play his part in national defence, enhanced the position of and respect due to the soldier in society. Armies now became necessary both for defence and for securing justice. While the fulfilment of such aims was still the principal raison d’être for the existence of the nobility and the justification for the privileges which it enjoyed (so much, I think, may be read into the Complainte of 1357 and even the views of Alain Chartier in the next century), there can be little doubt that, influenced by humanistic thinking and the ideas of Vegetius, the fulfilment of defensive needs was now, more than ever before, coming to be regarded as a matter of communal responsibility. As Jean Juvénal des Ursins was to express it in Verba mea (probably c. 1452), on the matter ‘de quelz gens vous vous devez servir en armes, il n’est doubte que on se doit servir de toutes gens dont on se peut aider et qui sont tenus et reputes vaillans’40, while in emphasising that suitability based on experience, rather than on rank or birth, should be the deciding factor in the choice of leaders, he was stressing that an army existed to achieve results, in particular the defence of the public good.

  • 41 Ibid., t. II, pp. 203-204.
  • 42 Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 93.
  • 43 L’Arbre des Batailles, p. 145; Tree of Battles, p. 155.
  • 44 Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 27.

18The king’s war thus became a war for the public good. ‘Que c’est la chose publique, dont le roy est tout le chef?’, asked Jean Juvénal des Ursins. It was to Augustine that he turned for an answer. ‘La chose publique est la chose du peuple, du pays et commune; et est la chose publique saulve quant tous sont unis en bonne amour et dilection, et que chascun pense au proffit et utilité et entende, et est constituee de personnes souveraines, moyennes, et basses, et le souverain et le chef c’est le roy’41. It was the opposite to the particular good, in the fullest meaning of the phrase. In Le Jouvencel, Jean de Bueil made the captain of Crathor exclaim, after the capture of the town: ‘Nous avons fait, Dieu mercy! une belle conqueste et ung service au Roy, nostre souverain seigneur, et pourra ceste chose estre bien prouffitable à la chose publicque de ce royaume’42. In brief, that which was to the king’s advantage was to the communal advantage, too. It was to that good, the good whose guardian the soldier was intended to be, that the texts referred with increasing frequency. When discussing the lawfulness of fighting on a feast day, Honoré Bouvet stressed that the soldiers of his day would be condemned if they rode out, scaled a town, or pillaged or robbed on Easter Day for their advantage. However, if this were done for the ‘utilité publique’, their sin would soon be forgiven43. As Jean de Bueil wrote of the gens d’armes, ‘il fault qu’ilz servent continuellement à la chose publique’44, an ambition which, shared by all knights and soldiers, would encourage them to train regularly, ready for the moment when their services would be required.

19What was happening was that the soldier, in particular, was coming to be regarded as the guardian of the public good, the instrument available to the king to defend the country from exterior attack, to expel enemies (such as the English) who might be in possession of part of it, and to maintain peace within it. If Charles VII was criticised (as he was by Jean Juvénal des Ursins, who asked ‘Quare obdormis, Domine?’), one reason was that the king was not looking sufficiently to the needs of the ‘bien publique’, and that the gens d’armes, who represented the strength of the crown, were not being properly used. Criticism of the soldiery was oblique criticism of the king himself, who was not providing the public good with sufficient defence, was not making a determined enough effort to expel the English, and was allowing abuses to become institutionalised in French life.

  • 45 Ordonnances, t. V, p. 660 (cl. 15).
  • 46 J. Froissart, Chroniques, éd. S. Luce and G. Raynaud, L. and A. Mirot, SHF, Paris, 1869-1967, t. V (...)
  • 47 Ordonnances, t. XIII, p. 306 (cl. 1). As Jules Quicherat pointed out, it was this ordinance which (...)
  • 48 Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 171.

20From the crown’s responsibility to restore order and discipline among the soldiers acting contrary to the public interest, it was but a short step to claiming a monopoly in the appointment of military leaders. In the ordinance of 1374 such a claim was to be exercised45; by that date the appointment of Bertrand du Guesclin as Constable, in a scene rendered famous by Froissart, had already taken place46. By 1439, however, the importance of this matter needed to be re-emphasised. The first clause of the ordinance of that year reiterated that none should claim to exercise military authority without the approval of the king47. It was thus notable that it should have been the king who decided to place Jouvencel in command of his army, on which occasion the hero thanked his sovereign with the words ‘Sire, je vous remercie très humblement de l’honneur qu’il vous plaist me faire… je y feray le mieulx que je pourray et y serviray vous et eux à mon povoir’48. The public spirit of a captain was assuming ever greater importance.

  • 49 Ibid., t. II, p. 25.
  • 50 Policraticus, t. II, pp. 16-17 (VI, v).
  • 51 E. Deschamps, op. cit., t. VI, p. 77.
  • 52 A. Chartier, op. cit., pp. 428-431.
  • 53 J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. II, pp. 236-237.
  • 54 Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 26.

21Jouvencel’s appointment reflected another, related aspect of this matter of leadership to which allusion has already been made. When he was appointed royal lieutenant at Crathor, Jouvencel owed his nomination to two factors. The first was his birth, ‘la grace de naistre de maison noble’; the second (and perhaps the more important) was his ‘sens et entendement et personnaige pour porter les armes, et de povoir conduire voz faiz en si grant honneur et si grant renommée que la louenge en va jusques à Dieu’49. In other words, although noble descent was helpful, it was primarily Jouvencel’s experience of war (described in the book) and his personal qualities which won him promotion. Following Vegetius, John of Salisbury had shown the need for the selection of suitable officers50. Since it was the soldier’s responsibility to defend the public good, authority to do this should be given only to chose who merited it. That was the message passed on from classical times, a message eagerly taken up at this moment when the role of the soldier and of the army in society was evolving so rapidly. On all sides kings were being recommended to seek specialist advice on military matters, as Deschamps put it, only from those ‘qui en armes sont saige/et qui scevent comment l’on doit ferir’51. Others were equally insistent upon the importance of this central message. In Le Débat du Herault, probably written in 1422, Alain Chartier expressed his views on leadership which, he said, should not be limited to the well-born, but should always be open to men ‘de basse main’ who had knowledge of war and had proved their worth52. Jean Juvénal des Ursins followed the same path. For him (it is significant that he cited both Vegetius and Valerius Maximus in this context) the ability to lead effectively grew mainly out of practical experience, and for that reason he preferred those ‘experimentez en fait de guerres’ to those younger men who lacked that experience53. To these vital qualities Jean de Bueil was to add another: that of having endured the sufferings and hardships of war which, in his view, was not an occupation for the soft or those who liked their pleasures too much54.

  • 55 Ordonnances, t. XIII, p. 306.

22The captain, appointed by the crown, thus became both the king’s representative and one of his leaders of men. In accepting office, the captain assumed part of his sovereign’s obligation to society for the upkeep of order and peace, that state which men called ‘justice’. It was now his duty to control the men under his command so that through him the king could be seen to be keeping his house, namely his kingdom, in peace. The ordinance of 1439 is instructive in telling us how far the development had reached by that year. The preamble refers to the need for reform, ‘pour obvier & donner remede à faire cesser les grands excez & pilleries faites & commises par les Gens de guerre, qui par longtemps ont vescu & vivent sur le peuple sans ordre de Justice’55. In future all captains, who must be chosen by the king, shall be responsible for the discipline of their soldiers whose misdeeds they shall have the right to judge, so that any action against civilians shall be punished as treason, and property, livestock, and agricultural produce shall be properly protected. The ordinance shows a clear appreciation that matters have now gone too far, and a growing understanding that the role of the soldier in society can be fulfilled only if, under the lead of the king and his captains, he is brought to recognize his proper function as a guardian of society.

  • 56 Ibid., t. IV, pp. 67-70. Translated in Society at War, ed. C. T. Allmand, p. 47.
  • 57 Ordonnance., t. V, p. 659 (cl. 3, 5, and 6).
  • 58 L’Arbre des Batailles, pp. 128-130; Tree of Battles, pp. 146-147.
  • 59 Ibid., pp. 98-99; Ibid., pp. 132-133. John of Salisbury cited several examples of the punishments (...)

23The soldier, then, is now coming to be regarded increasingly as a public officer, with an obligation towards his employer, the king, and beyond him to a wider society56. The reforming ordinance of April 1351 had specified that men-at-arms should swear not to leave their captains’companies, nor to place themselves under the command of others, without permission. The immediate aim of this was the achievement of a greater level of efficiency and discipline within the army. Yet even in this form there was a clear indication that what was being sought was the avoidance of desertion. The ordinance of 1374, as we have seen, was much more explicit, with specific penalties for those who left their units before the appointed time57; it is as well to remember that indentures were regarded as having serious legal, as well as practical, implications for those who entered into them, implications which might be pursued in the courts. We are here witnesses to an attempt to make terms of service, set out in the indenture, morally and legally binding; if this could be done, the effectiveness of the army would be considerably increased. That we are in the presence of a problem which troubled men of the late fourteenth century is made clear by the space which Honoré Bouvet devoted to it in L’Arbre des Batailles. What would happen, he asked, if a soldier, hired to serve for a year, left before that term was up? Bouvet was against the provision of substitutes and ruled that the soldier should receive no reward because he had done his employer a disservice58. Desertion, Bouvet wrote, might lead to execution; the guilty soldier should at least be demoted to service on foot59.

  • 60 English Suits, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. A. J. Armstrong, pp. 241-242.
  • 61 See note 31, above.
  • 62 This point was made by P.D. Solon, art. cit., pp. 92-93. That this was in contrast with more tradi (...)

24The influence of Roman military law is clearly evident in these opinions. By the next century the argument about a soldier’s obligation had been taken a step further, and in a manner of particular interest to this discussion. In the suit in which Thomas Overton and Sir John Fastolf confronted each other before the Parlement of Paris between 1432 and 1435, Fastolf did his best to besmirch the reputation of his former receiver by accusing him of misappropriation of public funds, ‘la peccune publique dont on devoit paier les souldoiers du roy’60. Here, as in other texts taken from the same suit, is a clear assertion that not only was the soldier the guardian of the public good, in an ideal and moral sense, but, as the recipient of wages taken from public money, he had an obligation to fulfil his indenture by serving out his term. In his Débat du Herault, Alain Chartier took the matter one step further by stating that the soldier had an obligation to serve under whatever captain the king gave him61, this being an expression of the reformist idea, now being gradually accepted in France, that a soldier owed his first loyalty not to his immediate captain but rather to the king and, through him, to the wider public good which provided him with his wages62.

  • 63 Policraticus, t. II, p. 26 (VI, x).
  • 64 E. Ashmole, The institution, laws and ceremonies of the most noble Order of the Garter, London, 16 (...)
  • 65 Le livre des fais du bon messire Jean le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut, mareschal de France et gouverneu (...)
  • 66 Hoccleve’s Works: III. The Regement of Princes, ed. F.J. Furnival, EETS, Extra Series t. LXXII, Lo (...)

25It is far too easy to conjure up a picture of the late medieval soldier as the terror of the countryside, a vagabond in society, a man driven by greed, ambition and, sometimes, necessity, to tyrannize the defenceless people of France. There should exist another view of the soldier, an ideal view perhaps, the creation of the lawyer and the intellectual, who present us with a vision of the soldier as a man of flesh and blood, with a soul to save, who, in spite of the frightening aspect which he was all too often given, was none the less worthy of the respect, even the honour, due to those who defend the common interest through service to the king. In this matter the ideals of chivalry were influential. John of Salisbury had stated that, on retirement, the soldier, who must never be in want, should be provided for from public funds63. In the statutes of the Order of the Garter Edward III provided for twenty-six poor knights to live in retirement at Windsor64. Both Jean le Maingre and Jean de Bueil were to ask that provision be made for old soldiers who had done good service: as Jouvencel put it, ‘ilz sont vielz et anciens; ilz vous ont bien servi… Je vous pri et supplie qu’il vous plaise leur donner estat de quoy ilz vivent honnourablement le surplus de leurs jours; car je ne vouldroye pas avoir tous les biens de ce monde, par ainsi que aprez moi ilz demourassent en neccessité’65. English parallels, found in poetry and in bishops’registers, show that the idea had wide acceptance66.

  • 67 J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. I, p. 318, citing John, 15: 13. See also Ordonnances, t. III, (...)
  • 68 L’Arbre des Batailles, p. 147; Tree of Battles, p. 156.
  • 69 La Panégyric du seigneur Loys de la Trimoille, dit le chevallier sans reproche par Jean Bouchet, é (...)

26Service in war, then, was honourable, for it placed the soldier at risk. As Jean Juvénal des Ursins was to write, ‘qui est plus grant loyaulté monstrer que exposer arme, corps et biens en vostre service’, going on to cite the famous Unes from St. John’s gospel, ‘Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends’67. In Bouvet’s opinion, a soldier killed fighting in a just war was assured of salvation, and his body could receive proper burial in consecrated ground68. The lists of dead and of those taken prisoner found in the chronicles after the accounts of battles serve as a reminder that these were intended to commemorate the names of those who had won honour on the field out of loyalty to their king and to the public good. Jean Bouchet’s Panegyric de Loys de la Tremoille, written in the early years of the sixteenth century, is a remarkably interesting text for what it tells us of the attitudes to death on the battlefield, the ‘Uct d’honneur’, and, not least, of the reactions of the parents of the young man who, mortally wounded, died ‘en bataille permise pour juste querelle, en acte de vertu pour le bien public’69.

  • 70 AN, JJ 175, no 318.
  • 71 English Suits, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. A. J. Armstrong, p. 175.

27If death in battle fought ‘pour la couronne’ was the highest form of sacrifice, honour was also due to those taken prisoner. The grant of the comté of Clermont made to John, Lord Talbot, by Henry VI on 24 August 1434 specifically stated that it was in recognition of ‘la recouvrance et conservacion de noz couronne et seigneurie de France, pour la deffense desquelles il a tousjours honnorablement exposé sa personne et sa chevance, et esté prisonnier longuement de noz ennemis et adversaires’70. Nor should those who received wounds be forgotten, as the Englishman, Thomas Dring, complained before the Parlement of Paris in March 1427, when his opponent in a suit, Jean Dynadam, began proceedings against him while he was recovering from wounds incurred ‘en expedicion pour la chose publique’. As the Englishman complained, this was not playing the game71.

28What the soldier looks like to his contemporaries has an intrinsic interest of its own, whatever age or epoch is being considered. How the gens d’armes appeared to men of the late middle ages has, I suggest, a wide historical interest, so closely is the soldier associated with changes and developments taking place in France at this period. I will conclude by suggesting what I see some of these to be. I have already mentioned the names of Roman writers such as Frontinus, Vegetius, and Valerius Maximus. Those who wrote on military matters in France at this time show evidence of having grasped one of the principal messages which these, and other classical writers, had to convey, namely the common obligation to defend the res publica. In classical works, military effort, whether that of the soldier or of the public-conscious civilian, is aimed at some good, the greatest good being the public good. Military effort, for example heroic defence, is viewed positively, and those who carry it out are regarded as having performed a public duty. This point should not be pressed too far, but the public good, that political concept to which a host of fourteenth-and fifteenth-century writers, both inside and outside France, refer, is one which had been inherited from the classical world through the care of John of Salisbury, Aquinas, and others, to take its place as a concept of great importance and as part of the language of nascent national awareness in the late medieval world. The soldier, need we remind ourselves, is seen as the defender of that concept.

  • 72 J. de Venette, Chronicle, p. 113.

29In the context of French history the public good is more than a concept. In a period of war and of direct threat to the patrie from both the English and the Companies, the public good comes to be equated with the concept of the defence of the nation. In the particular circumstances in which France finds herself, the soldier is, at first, seen as an abetter of the enemy, and only later, after a change of heart, as France’s chief defender against him. Significantly, Jean de Venette has a story in which the dog (the soldier) is placed to guard animals (the French people), but when the wolf (the English) arrives, the dog joins him, and together they attack the now defenceless animals72. Turn the parable on its head, and Venette’s dog becomes once again the faithful defender of the same animals, the people of France, whose common interest he protects in a way which would have won the admiration of Jean de Bueil. The soldier’s task is to expel the country’s exterior enemies and, by controlling its native ones, to establish the king’s peace within the kingdom. In brief, he brings back security to a land from which it has long been absent.

  • 73 P. D. Solon, art. cit., pp. 80 sq, 107-109.

30The soldier has been responsible for restoring the king’s peace. This done, is there not a risk that he will be used to create an untrammelled royal authority? It was this point which some contemporaries found worrying. If Jean Juvénal des Ursins does not appear to have been afraid of royal power expressed in the form of an army, others were less happy at this development. Thomas Basin, notably, regarded such an army, now maintained on a permanent basis but no longer justified by the country’s military needs, as a new tyranny, not so much on account of the physical power which it represented (although he was a little afraid of that) but on account of the huge sums which would be required through taxation to sustain it (a view which was shared by Jean Juvénal des Ursins) and the creation of an enlarged fiscal organization which it would entail. Far from being an instrument of strength and unity, the army was seen as a threat to peace73.

  • 74 Ibid., p. 102.

31Not all, however, agreed with this view. Robert Blondel, for one, did not. Nor did Mathieu d’Escouchy who, reporting that the people thanked God for the peace which the army had brought to the country, argued that the permanent army was not large enough to overawe the population74. Frenchmen were grateful for the help which the soldier had given the king in the re-establishment of the royal authority which lay behind the peace which their country now enjoyed. In their eyes the soldier, once seen as the enemy of society, was now moving towards a certain respectability.

Notes

1 Joannis Saresberiensis Episcopi Carnotensis Policratici, ed. C.C.I. Webb, Oxford,1909, t. II, p. 2 (VI, i), cited hereafter as Policraticus; Jean de Bueil, Le Jouvencel…, éd. C. Favre and L. Lecestre, SHF, Paris, 1887-1889, t. II, p. 14.

2 In the discussion which follows, the soldier is the gens d’armes rather than the knight.

3 John Bromyard, Summa Predicantium, Basel, 1484, under ‘Bellum’. An English translation is in Society at War. The Experience of England and France during the Hundred Years War, ed. C. T. Allmand, Edinburgh, 1973, pp. 38-39. The idea is found in Policraticus, t. II, pp. 11-13 (VI, iii).

4 «Complainte sur la bataille de Poitiers», éd. Ch. de Beaurepaire, B.E.C., 3e série, t. II (1851), pp. 257-263, lines 66-68, 84.

5 Ordonnances, t. III, pp. 525-527.

6 Jean de Venette, Chronicle, trans. and ed. R. Birdsall and R. A. Newhall, New York, 1953, pp. 93-94.

7 Eustache Deschamps, Œuvres complètes, éd. De Queux de SaintHilaire and G. Raynaud, SATF, Paris, 1878-1903, t. I, pp. 159-160.

8 Jean Juvénal des Ursins, Ecrits politiques, éd. P. S. Lewis, SHF, Paris, 1978-1985, t. I, pp. 290, 523.

9 Ibid., t. I, pp. 305, 523.

10 E. Deschamps, op. cit., t. V, pp. 392-394.

11 Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 157.

12 L’Arbre des Batailles d’Honoré Bonet, ed. E. Nys, Brussels and Leipzig, 1883, p. 150; The Tree of Battles of Honoré Bonet, trans. and ed. G. W. Coopland, Liverpool, 1949, pp. 157-158.

13 J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. I, pp. 302-305.

14 L’Arbre des Batailles, p. 150; Tree of Battles, p. 158.

15 Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 33.

16 Ordonnances, t. IX, pp. 292, 515, 677.

17 L’Arbre des Batailles, p. 174; Tree of Battles, p. 189.

18 Policraticus, t. II, pp. 8-9 (VI, ii).

19 Ordonnances, t. III, pp. 525-527.

20 Policraticus, t. II, pp. 16, 20-23 (VI, v, vii, viii).

21 Ordonnances, t. V, pp. 658-661.

22 E. Deschamps, op. cit., t. II, pp. 27-30 (du Guesclin); t. VI, pp. 141-145 (Sancerre).

23 Le Jouvencel, t. I, pp. 46, 50.

24 Ibid., t. I, p. 52.

25 Ibid., t. II, pp. 20-22. Translated in Society at War, ed. C. T. Allmand, pp. 27-29.

26 Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 15; t. II, p. 71; t. I, p. 118.

27 Ordonnances, t. IV, pp. 67-70. Translated in Society at War, ed. C. T. Allmand, pp. 45-48.

28 Ordonnances, t. III, pp. 525-527.

29 Wright, NAR, «The Tree of Battles of Honoré Bouvet and the laws of war», War, Literature and Politics in the Late Middle Ages, ed. C. T. Allmand, Liverpool, 1976, pp. 18, 29-30.

30 E. Deschamps, op. cit., t. II, pp. 320-321; J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. I, p. 387.

31 The Poetical Works of Alain Chartier, ed. J. C. Laidlaw, Cambridge, 1974, p. 428.

32 Ibid., p. 397.

33 Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 56.

34 Ibid., t. I, pp. 118, 56.

35 On this see E Autrand, «Limage de la noblesse en France à la fin du moyen âge. Tradition et nouveauté», in Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 1979, pp. 340-354, especially pp. 348 sq.

36 English suits before the Parlement of Paris 1420-1436, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. A. J. Armstrong, Camden Society, fourth series, t. XXVI, Royal Historical Society, London, 1982, p. 78.

37 Ibid., p. 222.

38 Ibid., p. 104.

39 R. L. Kilgour, The decline of Chivalry, as shown in the French literature of the late middle ages, Cambridge, Mass., 1937, p. 214; Μ. H. Keen, Chivalry, Yale, 1984, pp. 235-236.

40 J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. II, p. 236.

41 Ibid., t. II, pp. 203-204.

42 Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 93.

43 L’Arbre des Batailles, p. 145; Tree of Battles, p. 155.

44 Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 27.

45 Ordonnances, t. V, p. 660 (cl. 15).

46 J. Froissart, Chroniques, éd. S. Luce and G. Raynaud, L. and A. Mirot, SHF, Paris, 1869-1967, t. VII, pp. 254-255.

47 Ordonnances, t. XIII, p. 306 (cl. 1). As Jules Quicherat pointed out, it was this ordinance which helped to put an end to the French career of Rodrigue de Villandrando, who saw no future for the ‘independent’ commander in France. P.D. Solon,. «Popular response to standing military forces in fifteenth-century France», Studies in the Renaissance, t. XIX (1972), p. 92, citing J. Quicherat, Rodrigue de Villandrando, Paris, 1879, pp. 185-186.

48 Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 171.

49 Ibid., t. II, p. 25.

50 Policraticus, t. II, pp. 16-17 (VI, v).

51 E. Deschamps, op. cit., t. VI, p. 77.

52 A. Chartier, op. cit., pp. 428-431.

53 J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. II, pp. 236-237.

54 Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 26.

55 Ordonnances, t. XIII, p. 306.

56 Ibid., t. IV, pp. 67-70. Translated in Society at War, ed. C. T. Allmand, p. 47.

57 Ordonnance., t. V, p. 659 (cl. 3, 5, and 6).

58 L’Arbre des Batailles, pp. 128-130; Tree of Battles, pp. 146-147.

59 Ibid., pp. 98-99; Ibid., pp. 132-133. John of Salisbury cited several examples of the punishments meted out to deserters (Policraticus, t. II, pp. 33-34 (VI, xiii)).

60 English Suits, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. A. J. Armstrong, pp. 241-242.

61 See note 31, above.

62 This point was made by P.D. Solon, art. cit., pp. 92-93. That this was in contrast with more traditional English practice is made clear by Anne Curry, «The first English standing army? - Military organisation in Lancastrian Normandy, 1420-1450», Patronage, Pedigree and Power in Later Medieval England., ed. C. Ross, Gloucester, 1979, pp. 205-208: ‘English military organisation lagged behind that of the rest of Europe in the later fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Whereas France, Italy and Spain established state controlled armies, efficiently run and of high military calibre, the English continued to maintain a ‘medieval’ system which proved inadequate for the demands of ‘modern’ warfare’. See also the recent general reassessment of A. Goodman, The New Monarchy. England 1471-1534, Oxford, 1988, p. 34.

63 Policraticus, t. II, p. 26 (VI, x).

64 E. Ashmole, The institution, laws and ceremonies of the most noble Order of the Garter, London, 1672, pp. 158-165 (‘Of the Alms-Knights’).

65 Le livre des fais du bon messire Jean le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut, mareschal de France et gouverneur de Jeunes, éd. D. Lalande, Genève, 1985, pp. 426-427; Le Jouvencel, t. II, p. 173.

66 Hoccleve’s Works: III. The Regement of Princes, ed. F.J. Furnival, EETS, Extra Series t. LXXII, London 1897, pp. 32-34, printed in Society at War, ed. C. T. Allmand, pp. 179-181; The Register of Thomas Bekynton, bishop of Bath and Wells, 1443-1465, ed. H. C. Maxwell-Lyte and M. C. B. Dawes, Somerset Record Society, t. XLIX (1934-1935), I, p. 155; The episcopal register of Robert Rede, ordinis predicatorum, lord bishop of Chichester, 1397-1415, ed. C. Deeds, Sussex Record Society, t. I, 1908-1910, p. 92.

67 J. Juvénal des Ursins, op. cit., t. I, p. 318, citing John, 15: 13. See also Ordonnances, t. III, p. 361; t. V pp. 66-67, 144-145; Le Jouvencel, t. I, p. 118.

68 L’Arbre des Batailles, p. 147; Tree of Battles, p. 156.

69 La Panégyric du seigneur Loys de la Trimoille, dit le chevallier sans reproche par Jean Bouchet, éd. J. C. Buchon, in Choix de chroniques et mémoires sur l’histoire de France, XVe siècle, éd. J. C. Buchon, Paris, 1838, pp. 787, 792. See also Ph. Contamine, «L’idée de guerre à la fin du moyen âge: aspects juridiques et éthiques», in Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 1979, pp. 82-83.

70 AN, JJ 175, no 318.

71 English Suits, ed. C. T. Allmand and C. A. J. Armstrong, p. 175.

72 J. de Venette, Chronicle, p. 113.

73 P. D. Solon, art. cit., pp. 80 sq, 107-109.

74 Ibid., p. 102.

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University of Liverpool

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