Detail from The Battle of the Spurs, a contemporary painting in the Royal Collection, showing Henry VIII personally accepting the surrender of Bayard - something that contradicts de Mailles' account...

AN EXTRACT FROM - La très joyeuse et très plaisante histoire du gentil seigneur de Bayart, le bon chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, le gentil seigneur de Bayart par Le loyal serviteur

(The very pleasant and happy history of the gentle Lord Bayard, the good knight without fear or reproach, by his loyal servant)

Now the French began to march, and approached the town of Therouenne, within the distance of a league or better, where commenced a rude and vigorous skirmish. The French cavalry behaved very well till they descried upon the hill that large body of foot in two companies, who had advanced beyond them, and were about to descend for the purpose of hemming them in. At this sight the retreat was sounded by the trumpets of the French.

The gendarmes, after the lesson they had received from their Captains, set about returning at a quick pace. Being closely pursued they proceeded to a trot, and from that to a gallop. Insomuch that the foremost of the enemy rushed upon the Lord of La Palisse, who was in action with the Duke of Longueville, so furiously, that they threw everything into disorder. The pursuers, who stuck to their point, seeing such sorry conduct, still pushed on, till they made all the French turn their backs.

The Lord of La Palisse, and many others, did more than their duty, and cried with a loud voice:

"Turn, men at arms, turn; this is nothing."

But that was of no avail, every one endeavouring to gain the camp, where the artillery and footsoldiers had been left. Amid this woeful confusion the Duke of Longueville was made prisoner, with many more, among others the Lord of La Palisse; but he escaped out of the hands of them that had taken him.

The good Knight without fear and without reproach retired very sorrowfully, and ever and anon turned round upon his enemies, with fourteen or fifteen gendarmes, who had stood by him. In retreating he came up to a little bridge, where no more than two men could pass abreast: and there was a great ditch, full of water, which came from a distance of more than half a league and proceeded to turn a mill three furlongs farther on. When he was upon the bridge he said to them that were with him;

"Gentlemen, let us stop here; for the enemy will not win this bridge from us in the space of an hour."

Then he called one of his archers and said to him:

"Hie you to our camp, and tell my Lord of La Palisse that I have stopped the enemy short for at least half an hour; that during this interval he must make the forces draw up in order of battle ; and let them not be alarmed, but softly march hither. For, should the foe advance to the camp, and catch them thus in disarray, they would infallibly be defeated."

The archer goes straight to the camp, and leaves the good Knight, with the inconsiderable number of men by whom he was accompanied, guarding that little bridge, where he did all that prowess could achieve. The Burgundians and Hainaulters arrived, but were obliged to fight on the hither side of the bridge, as they could not very easily effect a passage. This gave the French, who had returned to their camp, leisure to place themselves in order, and in a posture of defence, for fear it should be necessary.

When the Burgundians found themselves with stood by such a handful of men, they exclaimed that archers should be sent for with all speed, and some went to hasten them. Meantime above two hundred cavaliers followed the course of the brook, till they found the mill, by which they crossed over. The good Knight, thus in-closed on both sides, said to his people:

"Sirs, let us surrender to these Gentlemen; for all the prowess we might display would avail us nothing. Our steeds are weary; our adversaries as ten to one against us; our forces three leagues off; and if we tarry but a little while longer and the English archers come up, they will cut us to pieces."

At these words the aforesaid Burgundians and Hainaulters arrived, crying: "Burgundy! Burgundy!" and made a mighty onset upon the French, who, having no means of further resistance, surrendered, one here, another there, to those of most seeming consideration.

While each was endeavouring to take his prisoner, the good Knight espied, under some little trees, a Gentleman in goodly attire, who, by reason of the excessive heat he was in, whereby he was completely overcome, had taken off his helmet, and was so turmoiled and weary that he cared not to be at the trouble of taking prisoners. He spurred straight up to this person, grasping his sword, which he pointed at the other's throat, and cried:

"Surrender, cavalier, or you die."

Terribly dismayed was this Gentleman, for he thought that his whole company were taken prisoners; however being in fear of his life, he said:

"I give myself up then, since I am taken in this manner. Who are you?"

"I am," said the good Knight, "Captain Bayard, who surrender to you; here is my sword. I pray you be pleased to carry me away with you. But do me this kindness; if we meet with any English on the road who may offer to kill us, let me have it back again."

This the Gentleman promised and observed; for as they drew toward the camp they were both obliged to use their weapons against some English who sought to slay the prisoners; whereby they gained nothing. Then was the good Knight conducted to the camp of the King of England, and into the tent of that Gentleman, who entertained him very well for three or four days.

On the fifth the good Knight said to him:

"My worthy Sir, I should be right glad if you would have me carried in safety to the King my master's camp; for I am already wearied with being here."

"How say you?" said the other; "we have not yet treated of your ransom."

"My ransom?" said the good Knight; " your own you mean, for you are my prisoner. And if, after you gave me your word, I surrendered to you, it was to save my life, and for no other reason."

Great was the amazement of that Gentleman, especially when the good Knight added: "Sir, if you don't keep your word, I am confident I shall make my escape by some means or other: but be assured that I shall insist upon doing battle with you afterward."

The Gentleman knew not what reply to make, for he had heard a great deal about Captain Bayard, and by no means relished the idea of fighting with him. However, being a very courteous Knight, he at length said:

"My Lord of Bayard, I am desirous of dealing fairly with you; I will refer the matter to the Captains."

Now you must know that the good Knight could not be concealed so carefully, but his being in the camp was soon discovered; and to hear the enemies' descants thereupon you would have thought they had won a battle. The Emperor sent for him, and, on his being conducted to his tent, gave him a wonderful gracious reception, addressing him thus:

"Captain Bayard, my friend, it gives me very great pleasure to see you. Would to God that I had many such as you ! If I had I should not be very long in requiting the good offices which the King your master and the French have done me in times past."

Again he said laughing:

"I believe, my Lord of Bayard, we were formerly at war together; methinks at that time it was said that Bayard never fled."

To which the good Knight replied:

"Sire, had I fled, I should not be here now."

Meanwhile, the King of England coming in, the Emperor introduced to his acquaintance the good Knight, who was by him welcomed with great cordiality, and made on his part such obeisance as it befitted so high a Prince to receive. Then they began talking of this retreat, and King Henry observed that he had never seen people fly so nimbly and in such numbers as the French, who were chased by no more than four or five hundred horse; and the Emperor and he spake of them in very disdainful terms.

"On my soul," said the good Knight, "the gendarmerie of France ought in no wise to have the blame of this affair imputed to them: for they had express orders from their Captains not to fight; because it was apprehended that, if you offered battle, you would bring your whole force with you, as in fact you did ; and we had no infantry nor any ordnance. And you cannot but know, most high and mighty Lords, that the nobility of France are renowned throughout the world. I do not say that I ought to be accounted of their number."

"In good sooth, my Lord of Bayard," said the King of England, "if they were all like you, I should soon be forced to raise the siege of this town. But, however that may be, you are a prisoner."

"Sire," said the good Knight, "I do not allow it, and would gladly appeal on this question to the Emperor and you."

The Gentleman was present to whom he had surrendered, after having had his word of honour. So he gave them an account of the whole transaction, even as it hath been set down in this history. Which the Gentleman could not contradict in any particular, but said :

"What the Lord of Bayard tells you is perfectly true."

The Emperor and the King of England looked at one other. The former broke silence, and declared it as his opinion that Captain Bayard was not a prisoner, but rather the Gentleman a prisoner to him; howbeit that, in consideration of the civility he had shown him, they should be free one of another, and that the former might depart when it should seem fit to the King of England; who was of the same mind, and said that if he would remain on his parole, without bearing arms, for six weeks, he would after give him leave to return, and that in the meantime he might visit the towns of Flanders.

The good Knight most humbly thanked the Emperor and the King of England for their condescension, and went to divert himself about the country till the day pre-fixed. During this time the King of England had him solicited to enter his service, causing many offers to be made him ; but it was lost labour, for his heart was devoted to France.

Back to Blog Menu