William Morris Archive

Peter Wright

Works Cited:

B Lord Berners's translation in the Tudor Translators series, 1901-3, 6 vols. (vol. nos. are in small roman numerals: e. g. ii. 145). This is the one which Morris knew and used in the 1850s.

BF [=Berners's Froissart] Book and chapter numbers are in large roman numerals and small arabic ones: e. g., II. c. 23. In the original chapters were numbered in roman numerals. Berners has a continuous series of chapter nos. for Bks. III and IV [=III/IV], which are distinct in Johnes and in the French original.

J The translation of 1803 by Thomas Johnes of Hafod. Volume and page numbers are cited from the edition of 1839 in the same way as for Berners's Froissart.

JF [Johnes's Froissart] Johnes's translation: Book and chapter numbers, which sometimes differ from those in Berners, cited in large roman numerals for Books, arabic for chapters: e. g., III. c. 126.

MM May Morris, introductions to The Collected Works of William Morris. 2 vols.

The principal 19th-century editions of Froissart's original French text by Kervyn de Lettenhoeve and S. Luce (whose texts also differ slightly), and modern translations based on them, probably have yet other sets of chapter numerations.

Sir Peter Harpdon's End:  Introduction

Morris,  presumably to enable  Sir Peter  to be a kinsman of his rival Si.r Lambert, to own extensive lands in Gascony and to have a potentially vengeful uncle [see lines 362-70], finally decided to make his protagonist a 'Gascon with an English name' (line 503). However, his English-sounding surname was derived from that of a historical English knight, Sir John Harpdon. Sir John had served in Aquitane under the Black Prince in the 1360s and 1370s. In 1372, when he was seneschal of Saintonge and La Rochelle, he was captured by the Castillians of that town when he went out to meet and aid a relief fleet expedition. [B. ii. 388, 391; BF II, c. 298-9; J i. 471; JF I. c. 304; see below, on Pembroke]. He was imprisoned  for a  time in Spain  and after his release  served as  seneschal of Aquitaine for Richard  II from 1385, dying in 1390. [B iv. 150; v. 143; BF III/IV c. 33, 120]

His career is set out in the the Anglo-French Anonimalle Chronicle, ed. V. H. Galbraith, Manchester UP, 1927, 188). The Chronicle has [115-16] a picturesque tale that he won his freedom by fighting single-handed while in captivity two gigantic 'Ethiopian' twin warriors, whom none of the Spanish knights would face, in defence of the honour of the Virgin Mary, which they had challenged. Sir John's wife is mentioned by Froissart [B ii. 412; BF II c. 305; J i. 483; JF II. c. 312] as in charge, during his captivity, of a castle in danger from the French during their invasion of Poitou in the early 1370s. Possibly Morris found Harpdon's name easier to fit inito blank verse that such 'long-tailed' surnames of actual Gascon lords such as de Parthenay, Pommerie, Linieres, Pontchardon, or Pousages [taken from Froissart's narrative for the early 1370s].

Curiously, given Morris's Gasconizing of his hero, it would appear that Sir John Harpdon, who very seldom appears in the records as active in England, may have acquired French connections, perhaps by marriage. When he died, the English authorities refused to let his son and heir succeed to his English propeorties becuase that son had adhered to the French. That heir, who may have stayed on in Gascony under French rule, perhaps to retain land there acquired by his or his father's marriage, was probably the Sir John Harpdon who took part in 1391 in a Crusade again Mahddyisa in tunisia led by a French duke. [B iv. 413; v. 173; BF III/IV c. 167, 202; J. ii. 485, 489; JF IV c. 19]. Morris would not have known this.

Sir Peter's lieutenant, John Curzon, is clearly English [MMI i.21, has him born at Goring, Oxfordshire]. Initially Sir Peter Curzon's name was taken from a Sir John Curzon, also captured by the Castilians off La Rochelle [B ii. 390; BF II c. 299; J. i. 473; JF II c. 3081].

The nominal date of the drama is about 1379, between the outbreak of the Great Schism in the Papcy late in 1378 [see notes on line 366] and the death of Sir Bertrand du Guecclin, besieging a castle in Augergne, in July 1380. [B iii. 125-26; BF II c. 369; J i. 601-2; JF III c. 48]. May Morris [I i. 21] dates the climax of the siege as 10 November.

The military situation portrayed, however, is derived from the period, 1371-74, during which the French reconquered the large areas of the Duchy of Aquitaine, including Poitou, which had been ceded to the English under the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360. The French did not risk defeat by fighting pitched battles, as at Crecy or Poitiers. Instead, having defeated in deail the small English field forces available in the Duchy, they brought greatly superior force tobear in attacking the isolated castles, liek Sir Peter's, garrisoned by or for the English, and forced their surrender one at a time. They also recovered the allegiance of the large proportion of the Gascon aristocracy and towns who had been under French rule befrore 1360, and with more or less reluctance abandoned a losing cause. Only a minority of the Gascon nobles emulated Morris's hero in his loyalty to the English. [B ii. 483, 485-86; BF II c. 320-21; J i. 521-24; JF III c. 3-4]

The French successes are related at length in Froissart [B ii. 373-450; BF II c. 289-312; J i. 440-502; JF II, c. 280-322]. There was, in fact, no fighting between mid 1374 and mid 1377, when a truce was in force in Aquitaine. In 1378 and 1379 there was, historically, a slight recovery of English power in Acquitaine [B iii. 24-25, 44-47; BF II c. 235; J i. 550-51, 555-55; JF III c. 20, 24-25, 28] The French successes are related at length in Froissart [B ii. 373-450; BF II c. 289-312; J i. , and so far as I can see Froissart does not describe either Guesclin or Clisson as campigning there in those years.

(I do not think that there is any detailed account of the campaign of the early 1370s in English--nations are less fond of writing the history of slow and ignominious defeats, though a scholarly modern account of the epriod may be included in the large-scale scholarly history of the Hundred Years' War now being written by Jonathan Sumption.)

Morris's spelling of French and even English names, e. g. Sanxere, Bergerath, Phelton, Poictiers, shows that he was mainly using Lord Berners' early 16th-century translation of the 'Vulgate' text of Froissart in which such inaccurate spellings are common.

Scene 1

line 32 Clisson: see below.

Sanxere Sir Louis de Sancerre, appointed Marshal of France in 1371 [B ii. 291; BF II c. 261; J i. 418; JF II c. 266] was among the leading French commanders during the reconquest of Poitou [B ii. 318, 333-31, 396-400; BF II c. 270, 272, 301, 314 etc.; J i. 424, 496; JF II c. 271, 312].

lines 37-39 Sir John Chandos, a highly reputed knight and one of the Black Prince's chief commanders and counsellors in the 1350s and 1360s, was seneschal of Poitou when he was killed during a skirmish at the bridge of Lussac over the Yonne, 25 miles south-east of Poitiers, on 31 December 1369: he slipped over his long surcoat on wet ground, and a spear pierced his face throughh is open visor. His pain forced him 'two times to turn up-se-down', and he died the next day without speaking. [B ii. 317-21; BF II c. 270; J i. 433-38; JF II c. 278] His loss greatly discouraged the Enlgish. Morris later included him in the group around Edward III when the Wanderers in the Earthly Paradise met the king on his ship: there Chandos is identified by his coat of arms, a red pile [upward-pointed triangle] on a white ground [not a red stake, as Juvenilia, p. 89]. About 1896 Morris chose Chandos's shield as one of the three knightly shields placed with the arms of England, France, and the Holy Roman Empire on the design for the title page of the edition of Berners's Froissart that he planned to follow the Kelmscott Chaucer.

line 40 Pembroke is prisoner. John Hastings, earl of Pembroke, was captured off La Rochelle in 1372, when the fleet under his command bringing reinforcements to Bordeaux, was intercepted and heavily defeated by a fleet sent by Henry IV, king of Castile, an ally of France. [B ii. 385-90; BF II c. 297-99; J i. 471-74; JF II c. 303-307]. Pembroke was kept prisoner in Castile for three years [B ii. 395; BF II c. 301; J i. 475-76; JF II c. 307] and died in northern France in 1375, while returning home after Guesclin had arranged his ransom and release. [B ii. 444-45; BF II c. 311; J i. 501-2; JF II c. 320]. This anachronism is one of the few that Morris commits.

Phelton Sir Thomas Felton, senescal [e. e., governor] of Aquitaine for the English was capturedi in November 1377, when a force that he was leading to relieve Buergerac on the Dordogne, east of Bordeaux, one of the last fortresses in the interior of Gascony to remain in Englishhands, was defeated. [B ii. 474-82; BF II c. 318-20; J. i. 520-23; JF III c. 2-3]. He died in 1381, shortly after being ransomed.

line 41 Mauny Sir Walter de Mauny, a knight from Hainault who came to England as a page of Edward III's wife Queen Philippa, was prominent in warfare from the 1330's and earned a high reputation for chivalry. About 1354 he married a cousin of King Edward, Margaet daughter of the King's uncle, the earl of Norfolk. Their daughter married John, earl of Pembroke. Mauny died in 1372, and was buried in the church of the Carthusian monastery [B ii.363; BF c. 296; J i. 458; JF II c. 302] which he had just founded in 1371. It stood on the site just north of the city of London, that he had given for one of the mass burial pits used in 1349 to inter the multitude of Londers who died during the Black Death. The church with his tomb has gone, but the domestic buildings of the monastery survive, restored after severe bomb damange in 1941. They still house an almshouse called the Charterhouse, installed in them by Thomas Sutton, a rich London merchant (d. 1611), which was the model for the Grey Friars to which Col. Newcome retires at the end of Thackeray's novel. Margaret long survived Mauny, her second husband, and died in 1399, having been created a duchess for life in her own right (the first woman so honoured) in 1397, when her grandson Thomas Mowbray (the Norfolk in Richard II) was made a duke.

line 42 Oliver Clisson Sir Oliver de Clisson (1343-1407) was one of the most important and wealthiest noblemen in the eastern, French-speaking part of Brittany and in northern Poitou to its south-east. Brought up at Edward III's court in the 1350s, he long supported the English, since his father and namesake, a suspected English partisan, had been beheaded for treason on the French King's orders in 1343, at Paris where he had come to take part in a tournament under what he unwisely thought was the protection of a truce. Olvier the son was eventually persuaded in 1370 to transfer his alelgiance to the French. Froissart does not mention the enticements through which this change was achieved, but Morris will have noticed that Clisson was still fighting with the Anglo-Gascon army under the Black Prince which invaded Castile in 1367 to restore the exiled King Pedro, recently expelled from the throne by his bastard half-brother Henry of Trastamara, later Henry IV. [B ii. 188-89, 208-14; BF II c. 234, 236-38; J i. 364, 366, 372; JF II c. 237, 239, 241]. By 1370-71, however, when the French began to attack the English possessions in Aquitaine, Clisson was among their leaders. [e. g. B ii. 396, 407-409, 416-17; BF II c. 301, 304, 306; J i. 449, 452, 456; JF II c. 286, 289, 292] Clisson succeeded Guesclin as constable of France in 1380 and was one of the French king's chief counsellors [cf. B ii 291, 352; BF II c. 261, 281] until dismissed in 1392. [B vi. 78-79, 101-105,; BF III/IV c. 185-189-90; J ii. 528-29, 541-42, 545-46; JF IV c. 41, 43-45] Morris's presentation of him in Scene 4 as compassionate and almost lachrymose hardly represents the historical character of this tough, ambitious, and greedy soldier and politician, whom Froissart describes as "harsh and cruel to his men and to his enemies." [cf. B iv. 109-10; BF III/IV c. 23; J ii. 31; JF III c. 6, where he insists on some English hostages being beheaded during the siege of a castle.]

The reference to Clisson in "Sir Giles's War Song' as a victim of the valour of its protagonist, perseumably another Anglo-Gascon knight, is only generally based on any event in Froissart, [cf. B. ii. 110; BF III/IV c. 231]; but rather an example of Morris's initial borrowing of names from the Chronicles purely for 'historical color,' also shown in several of his Juvenilia. (The 'barriers' that Sir Giles was good at were, so far as I can discover, a kind of wooden barricade or palisade put up just outside the gateways of towns and castles, probably about half a man's height [armored men could leap over them], across which knights could show their valour by skirmishing, but which were strong enough to prevent the gate being rushed by attackers. Froissart has many accounts of fighting at them.)

line 42 the Captal John de Grailly, Captal [i. e. Capitalis or chief man] de Buch, was one of the main supporters of the English among the Gascon nobility; he had led the flanking cavalry charge which precipitated the French defeat at Poitiers in 1356. When the Captal was captured in 1372, [B ii. 404-406; BF II c. 304; J i. 481, 484; JF II c. 311-12] King Charles V of France feared his prowess so much that he would not allow him to be ransomed or release him, unless he swould change sides. The Captal refused and died in captivity at Paris in mid 1377, soon after his lord, Edward III. [B ii. 462-63; BF c. 315; J i. 513; JF 513; JF II c. 329]

line 44 Edward the prince Edward, Prince of Wales, died on 8 June 1376. He had for several years before that been disabled by illness from any active engagement in war or politics, following his departure as a sick man in 1370 from his principality of Aquitaine. In Ford Madox Brown's painting of Chaucer reading to Edward III's court, the Prince is the man recliing listlessly beside the king; for the armored figure on the other side, representing John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (who was in the 1370s the most active member of the royal house), Brown has borrowed his appearance from the Prince's armed effigy in Canterbury cathedral.

line 45 Edward the king Edward III died on 31 June 1377, aged almost 65. He too had for some time been exhausted by old age--medieval kings wore out relatively fast owing to the considerable physical effort then required by war and a peripatetic government.

liens 45-46 the carvers . . . his long beard. See the head of Edward's effigy in Westminster Abbey. it's date is not certain; stone for the tomb on which it lies as being acquired in 1386 (History of the King's Wroks, ii. p. 487). The reference to carving it is a cruious half-slip by Morris which he might not have made later when more involved in carftsmanship. The king's effigy is not carved in stone or in marble, like the adjointing one of his queen Philippa, but cast in gilt copper. Morris could have defended himself either by saying tht he was referring to the making of the orignal wax figure from which theeffigy was cast by the lost-wax method, or to the ashing and smotthing that the ffigy would have required afte it was removed from the furnance. I suspect that Morris may have first encourtered the effigy in one of the books about medieval architecture and antiquities which he is said to have studies at Marlborough school. (William Blake in his youth, about 1774, made drawings for one such book, [R. Gough, Sepulcrhal Monuments of Great Britain, pt. ii, pub. 1976, covering the royal tombs at Westminter: see M. Butlin, Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, i., pp. 12-13; ii, plates 38-40.) Such pictures would clearly indicate the shape, but not so definitely the material, of the effigy.

lines 59, 63 Guesclin Sir Bertrand du Guesclin, who like Clisson came from French -speaking Brittany, from which he drew a band of loyal and efficient soldiers, was, though not drawn from the upper aristocracy, one of the most effective French commanders in the 1360s and 1370s. Though unlucky in pitched battles against the English, in which he was twice defeated and captured in the 1360s, he showed great skill in the more irregular fighting that won the war of attrition waged against the English in Aquitaine in the 1370s, in which he was acting from 1372. [Cf. B ii. 347 and following; BF II c. 279 and following; J i. 443-44 and following; JF II c. 282 and following.] He was appointed Constable of France in 1371 [B ii. 358-59; BF II c. 287; J i. 455; JF II c. 291] and died in July 1380. His appreciative master, King Charles V, had him buried in the Abbey of St. Denis among the kings of France, the only commoner so honored at that period. Guesclin's effigy, the blunt features of his face clearly a portrait, can still be seen there.

line 65 petrariae Latin for stone throwing catapults = perrieres [see CW I, 22-23, which apprently describes the besieged English using a small one on their castle battlements to fire at a moveable wooden siege tower [befrroi=belfry] being used by the besiegers to reach the top of the walls: such towers were often covered in hides to protect them from incendiary missiles.

line 77 Sir Lambert His name, derived from an 8th-century saint of the Netherlands [fl. 635-705], eventually martyred at Liege, is hardly appropirate for a supposedly Gascon kngiht. It fitted better the singer of "The Eve of Crècy," who might well have come from the north of France.

line 208 the Trojans Almost all the main peoples of Western Europe claimed Trojan ancestry in the late Middle Ages. The English took theirs back to the legendary Brutus, popularized by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The French made out that their eponymous Francus, supposedly a forebear of the Merovingian kings, was identical with Hector's son Astyanax [not therefore killed after the fall of Troy as in classical Greek myth] or a descendant of him or some other son of King Priam. Ronsard in his last years began an epic about King Francus.

line 232 or Richards after Edward III died the English crown passed to his ten-year-old grandson Richard II, born at Bordeaux [cf. CW I, p. 23].

lines 243, 245 Sir George Guienne the battle cry of Anglo-Gascon armies, as Poitiers in 1356: [e. g. B i. 372; BF I c. 162; J i. 219-20; JF I c. 161] Guienne is a worn down form of Aquitaine, used especially to refer to its more central part, between Poitou to the north and Gascony to the south, which referede strictly to the part nearer the Pyrenees where the Basques (Wascones), the orignal Gascons, had lived.

Lines 75, 118 cf. line 11 Lusac bridge The fight at Lusac in which Chandos was killed fell into two phases. [Source as above.]

In the first Chandos’s immediate companions, fighting a larger band of French, were eventually compelled to surrender. Later a large pro-English reinforcement, mostly composed of Gascons, arrived, and obliged the previously victorious French to surrender to the men whom they had just captured. Sir Peter was presumably supposed to be either with this second English force, or with a force under the command of Sir Thomas Perry (later the earl of Worchester in Henry IV, part I), whom Chandos had earlier sent away and which did not return to his aid because, being on the wrong side of the bridge, they were unaware of the fighting. Froissart does not mention any ‘marish’ to be struggled through as the cause of their late arrival; Morris perhaps deduced it from the presence of a river. Sir Peter’s repeated emphasis, supposedly about 1379, on a fight ten years earlier, suggest that Morris was foreshortening his story chronologically.

Line 114 for Sir Balen and his ill luck, see Malory’s Morte Darthur, Book II, esp. ch. 18 [Caxton’s chapter nos.] Tennyson retold the story rather differently in detail, but keeps the climax of misfortune where Balen and his brother fought to the death without either recognizing the other till too late.

Line 115 Bergerath = Bergerac besieged by the French in 1377, under the duke of Anjou and the Constable Guesclin. It surrendered after Felton’s relief expedition was defeated, although part of the garrison escaped. [B ii. 471—8; BF II c. 318—20] Sir Peter’s presence in that garrison in 1377 would, strictly speaking, imply that his taking command of his isolated and imperiled castle occurred not very long before its capture and his death. cf line 70, showing that he was with Alice, presumably at Bordeaux, barely a month earlier.

Line 160 archgays I have found these defined as darts or assegais. Possibly Morris meant ‘arb[e]lasts’, a kind of crossbow.

Scene 2

Line 186 squeezing taxes The Hundred Years’ War saw considerable advances in the royal power to levy regular taxation, especially in France where the kings had previously only raised them intermittently, with the consent of the Estates of the kingdom or parts of it. From the 160s the need to pay an army kept continuously on foot to resist the English gave the kings grounds for raising every year, effectively without regular consent, a property tax called the taille, levied by ‘hearths’, (i.e. dwellings). It was paid by commoners but not nobles, who were excused because they fought for the king instead. The taille and the exemption both survived until the French Revolution. Morris may have noticed an unsuccessful rebellion against that tax in 1382 by the townsmen of Paris and Rouen [e.g. B iii. 264—6, BF II c. 387—8; J i. 676—7; JF III c. 83] when, after King Charles V had renounced it in 1380 on his deathbed, the regents for his young son Charles Vi re-imposed it.

Scene 4

The relation between Sir Peter, sir Lambert, and the Lady Alice, and Lambert’s revenge, have curious echoes of a novel by Charlotte Yonge, called The Lances of Lynwood, set in the same Froissartian period, first published in 1855. There the hero Sir Eustace Lynwood is, by the intrigues of a rival in love, put in command of an English-held castle, isolated and almost indefensible, I think near the Pyrenees; the rival, called I believe Clarembald, intended that he be killed when the castle is besieged by a strong French force commanded by Clisson, there represented, correctly, as a fierce and dangerous enemy. In that story Guesclin, who has (in the novel) been captured by Sir Eustace at the battle of Najera [see above] is made out to be his friend. Morris has reversed the roles of the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ French leaders. Sir Eustace is rescued by a relieving force at the last moment, and his rival is detected and humiliated, having if not his ears, then his gilt knightly spurs cut off. The book is really a boy’s book, but, considering its chivalrous theme, Morris, who is said to have admired Charlotte Yonge’s stories (though that probably applies more to The Heir of Redclyffe), might have glanced at it some time in the 1850s.

I have seen cited in Notes and Queries, as a precedent for Lambert’s suffering and revenge, a story in Froissart [B iv. 160—5; BF III/IV c. 30; J ii. 106—8; JF III c. 10] about a quarrel between two pro-English brothers in arms, who were ravaging the Rhone valley, apparently about 1365. One, Lewis Ra[im]baud, having detected the other seducing his mistress, had him stripped, publicly flogged to the sound of trumpets, and expelled from the castle which they had shared. The victim sought out a French noble whom he had once served and showed him how to capture Lewis in an ambush, after which Lewis was beheaded by the French king’s order for his plundering.

Another possibly relevant story can be found in Froissart’s account of the fighting in Brittany in the early 1340s. during the siege of Hennebon[t] in 1342 [see below] one of the French commanders, sir Lewis of Spain, in retaliation for certain English knights shaming him by putting him to flight and killing his nephew Alfonso, successfully demanded that the chief French commander, Sir Charles of Blois, hand over the two English knights, who were then his prisoners, so that Sir Lewis could have them beheaded in sight of the walls. Sir Charles reluctantly complied, but the knights, luckier than Sir Peter, were saved at the last moment by a sortie by the garrison under Walter Mauny. [B i. 212—15; BF I c. 67; J i. 113—4; JF I c. 83].

Scene 4 the hanging of Sir Peter. To us it seems utterly barbarous to hang prisoners, but the right of their captors to do so in certain circumstances was part of the accepted practices of late medieval warfare. See M. Keen, Laws of Warfare in late Middle Ages (1963), pp. 120—22. On the battlefield knights could properly surrender when faced with superior force and were entitled to have their offer of surrender accepted. When, however, a town or castle was besieged and refused to surrender on terms, so that it had to be taken by storm, by military custom not only the property, but the lives of all men fighting age inside it, both soldiers and civilians, were absolutely at the mercy of the besiegers; they could be killed at the discretion of the victorious commander, even in cold blood after fighting had ended. Such a slaughter of the inhabitants of a captured city was notoriously ordered in 1370 by the Black Prince when he took Limoges which had recently revolted from him, as he considered treacherously. [B ii. 315—7; BF Ii c. 283; J i. 453—5; JF II c. 290]

So Sir Peter, not having surrendered, but having been forcibly overpowered [see Scene 5 lines 602—4] was entirely at Guesclin’s mercy. [cf. line 329; MPI p. 21 ‘knight after knight hangs gibbeted’] Morris may not have known the medieval cases in which this custom was specifically mentioned, but will probably have noticed how during the campaigns in Poitou in the early 1370s the attacking French often gave besieged English garrisons the choice of surrendering and departing unharmed with their arms and baggage, or of resisting and being slaughtered when that castle was taken. They usually chose surrender. [e.g. B ii. 398, 421; BF II c. 302, 306; J i. 477, 483—4, 489, 524—5; JF II c. 298, 309, 311-13] Such practices continued in the 16th century: Montaigne (Essays, Book I, no. 14) mentions cases in which French commanders had hanged the contumacious governors and garrisons of fortresses when they considered too untenably weak to be entitled to refuse to surrender on demand. Knights were even so likely to be held for ransom, but I have found in my own research on Cambridgeshire evidence of one captured English knight, who had governed the province of Rouergue and Quercy for the Black Prince [B ii. 253—4; 375; BF II c. 290—1] being hanged by order of the Duke of Anjou, King Charles V’s brother, about 1370; the municipal government of Toulouse, where he was executed, paid for erecting and especially high gallows. See Historic Gèn. De Lanquedoc, ed. Devic and Vaissete, iv (1), p. 821. Presumably like Sir Peter he had been taken by force.

Line 354 Chartres         I have not found any evidence in Froissart of Clisson’s being engaged in combat near Chartres and since he probably only began to bear arms in the late 1350s, and there was no official fighting between English and French armies between the peace of 1360 and his change of allegiance in 1370, I suspect that his incident is an invention of Morris’s.

Line 366 Clement   The Great Papal Schism began in 1378 when the mostly French cardinals sought to depose the Italian Pope Urban VI, whom they had elected that spring; offended by his brusque treatment of them, they alleged that the election was illegitimate because the electoral conclave had been pressured by the Roman populace to choose a native Roman Pope. Late in September 1378 the cardinals elected a French-speaking cardinal as Clement ‘VII’. He was recognized from that November by the French and their allies 9mostly in Scotland and eventually Spain) and therefore by their Gascon supporters, including Sir Peter’s just invented uncle. Urban, who continued to be acknowledged by the English, and by most of Italy and Central and Eastern Europe, was eventually decided to have been the legitimate Pope. (the ‘legitimate’ Pope Clement VII (1523—34) was the Pope whose refusal of a divorce to Henry VIII led  to the English Reformation.) Froissart’s account of its opening events at Rome, [B ii. 505—7. Iii. 1—2, 62—70; BF Ii c. 326—7, 346; J i. 535—6, 569—75; JF III c. 12, 35—6] was presumably Morris’s main source. The Schism, not settled until the 1410s, is treated in almost any history of Late Medieval Europe; the most detailed account of its start in English is W. Ullmann, Origins of the Great Schism (1947. Repr. 1972).

Line 420 the tax on salt   The tax on salt (needed in the Middle Ages for most types of food preservation) called the Gabelle [cf the name of Charles Darnay’s steward in a Tale of Two Cities] was one of the mainstays of the French kings’ financial system from the 14th century. [cf J i. 207; JF I c. 154] All salt was supposed to be bought from official storehouses at prices including the tax, and to prevent evasion communities had to but fixed amounts of it (presumably related to their expected consumption) from those storehouses. That naturally unpopular system was continued until the Revolution.

Scene 5

line 661 Countess Mountfort    In the early 1340s the rule of the duchy of Brittany was disputed, after its dukes died out in the direct male line, between Sir Charles of Blois, who had married the last duke’s niece and was supported by the king of France, and John, count of Montfort, the last duke’s half-brother, who sought help from Edward III. After Montfort was made prisoner by the French, his wife, Countess Joan, put herself at the head of his party. Early in 1342 she was being besieged by Charles of Blois in Hennebon[t], a fortified port on the south coast of Brittany. After a time, as the siege was pressed hard, most of the leaders of the garrison advocated surrender, but the Countess refused, relying on help promised from England. One day she looked out of the castle window and saw at last the approach of a relieving fleet led by Sir Walter de Mauny, whom she welcomed with enthusiasm and kissed him when he returned from a successful sally just after his arrival. [B i. 198—204; BF I c. 80—81; J i. 105—8; JF I c. 80—1} Froissart says (though not all modern historians believe the story) that earlier, during the siege, she had not only ridden through the town in armour to encourage her men, but led a cavalry attack on the besiegers’ camp; and that soon after, when an English fleet, with her on board, was fighting a Spanish-Genoese squadron in the French service, she drew her sword and fought as bravely as a lion, [B i. 220; BF I c. 91; J i. 118; JF I c. 91], so prefiguring the warrior maidens in Morris’s late romances.

Line 712 Wade  Morris probably found the legendary giant Wade in Malory, Morte Darthur, Book VII, ch. 9, (Caxton’s version), where Wade and Lancelot are coupled as ‘wight’. Wade also appears in Chaucer. See ‘Merchant’s tale, line 1424, and ‘Troilus and Cryseyde’, iii. 614, and notes thereto.

Concerning Geffray Teste Noire

Background.   Geoffrey was one of the leaders of the bands of professional soldiers who, supposedly fighting on the English side [see below, line 6] plundered the French provinces from the 1350s onwards. Probably in 1378 he seized from the aged count who owned it the almost impregnable castle of Ventadour, [B iii. 60-1, 4548; BF II c. 348, 441; J i. 568; JF III c. 33], sited on the north side of the upper Dordogne valley. It stood almost within the Massif Centrale, on the borders between Auvergne and the Limousin, both of which Geoffrey plundered or put to ransom for about ten years. There were other garrisons of castles in the area which practiced the same profitable ‘protection racket’. In the late 1380s most of them agreed to be bought out of their strongholds and withdraw. Geoffrey refuse, [cf. B v. 76; BF III/IU c. 146], and in 1387 the duke of Berry, (more famous today as a great connoisseur of illuminated manuscripts), the youngest of the royal uncles who were ruling France for the young King Charles VI, [cf. line 8] and who was also the governor of Auvergne, sent troops against Ventadour, as Morris describes, under Sir John Bonne Lance and others. [B iv. 111-12; BF III/IV c. 112; J ii. 314-5; JF III c. 102] Since they could neither capture so strongly sited a castle directly nor starve it out (Froissart says that Geoffrey had enough stores to hold out for seven years), they blockaded it as described. Geoffrey, however, found a way of slipping past their bastides [i.e. small forts or blockhouses] and taking captives for ransom. (In Froissart his route in and out was too strait to allow him to bring in plundered goods.) The siege went on for some time. Eventually, probably late in 1388, Geoffrey was wounded in the head in a skirmish at the barriers outside the castle gate. Although he might have been cured, his sensual and sexual excesses led to his dying. [cf. lines 185-90] On his deathbed he divided his ill-appointed Alleyne Roux (the Red), one of his two nephews, [cf. line 25] to succeed to the command. [B v. 254-7; BF III/IV c. 163; J ii. 428-33; JF IV c. 12]

The Jacquerie. [lines 100-116] The name (from Jacques Bonhomme, a nickname for the typical French peasant) was given to the peasant rising that broke out in the area north and east of Paris during two weeks (28 May-10 June) in 1358. It was not essentially a rising of serfs against feudal lords. (Most French peasants by that time were personally free and paid rents and other dues to aristocratic landowners in money rather than labour services.) Rather the Jacques were moved by despair and anger against the bands of soldiers, often drawn from the lower ranks of the French nobility, who were stationed among them. Because taxes were not being effectively collected after the French defeat at Poitiers, the dauphin, (later Charles V), acting as Regent for his father King John, a captive in England, could not pay these soldiers, who therefore supported themselves by continual, and probably contemptuous, requisitioning from the peasants. The latter were understandably enraged at such treatment by men whom tradition required to protect the kingdom, not plunder its people. Indeed they were proving incapable of preventing attacks by the numerous ‘free companies’ of mercenaries, who, as supposed partisans of the English, were also overrunning and plundering much of the French countryside. (This at least is the current interpretation among historians.) The peasants broke out into a frenzy of destruction, allegedly destroying 60—100 knightly houses in the area and slaughtering many of the families who owned them. Morris would probably later have ascribed the revolt to class antagonisms, and not unjustly, even though the motives involved were primarily political rather than economic.

Line 1 the canon of Chimay   Froissart was appointed a canon of the collegiate church of Chimay (in a small town, not in Belgium just north of the French border and then in Froissart’s native county of Hainault), by his then patron, Guy de Chatillon, Count of Blois in the early 1380s, perhaps about 1383. Froissart styles himself ‘canon and treasurer of Chimay’ in the introduction to a chapter in the third book of his chronicles, [J ii. 548; JF III c. 52]. Such canons, having unlike the parish clergy, no ‘cure of souls,’ were the original sinecures’. They  were allowed to be held in plurality and in absentia, and their duties (singing in choir and attending services) could be performed by deputy. So they provided an income for people whom those entitled to appoint them wished to favour. Until the 14th century, when most educated men in northern Europe were clerics, such offices were used to support the men serving in the bureaucracies of popes, kings, bishops, and other lords. In Froissart’s case his canonry gave him money to maintain him on his travels in quest of historical information, and probably an occasional base where he could write it up.

Line 2 Ortaise             Presumably Orthez, the seat of Gaston Phebus, count of Foix, (b. 1331, d. 1391), who ruled a semi-independent principality just north of the Pyrenees. (It stands at the north edge of Béarn, the more westerly of his territories.) In 1388 Froissart went on a journey [B iv. 86-176; BF III/IV c. 20-30], described in the opening chapters of his third Book, [J ii. 61-128; JF III c. 1-27] to the court of this magnificent but cruel lord, in order to learn more about war, politics, and chivalrous exploits in Southern France and Spain. He was also told several marvelous, weird, and pathetic stories about the area, including the lord who killed a great bear suspected of being a transformed knight, and another lord who had a spirit which brought him news [e.g. B iv. 145-9, 201-10; BF III/IV c. 27, 37; JF III c. 6-10, esp. J ii, pp. 98-100, 127-9] Morris perhaps thought that the tale of the slain knight and lady that he has invented for this poem would be a suitable match for them.

Line 3 John of New Castle     Although a John of Castel Neuf [Chateau Neuf] appears occasionally in Froissart, Morris’s narrator is essentially his own invention.

Line 5 a Gascon thief      Geoffrey was actually, like Guesclin, a Breton. When his castle was taken, the captives included a young Breton squire, his kinsman, called ‘the little monk’, who had run away from an abbey to learn the art of war under his formidable relation. His captors were sufficiently charmed by him to spare him hanging.

Line 6 under shadow of the English name (a phrase taken almost word for word from Geoffrey’s dying speech)  Much of medieval warfare consisted not of fighting an enemy’s army or besieging his fortresses, but of ravaging his land. Besides the immediate gains from plunder, this humiliated one’s opponent, and weakened his subjects’ allegiance, by showing that he could not protect them. It also reduced the resources that they could provide to his carrying on the war. The English practiced this with much success in France in the 14th century. Besides laying waste the land on each side of an army’s line of march, on rapid expeditions of mounted troops called ‘chevauchées’, they encouraged adventurers to seize castles well behind the French front lines and plunder the surrounding area. When such garrisons had made themselves, like Geoffrey, sufficiently feared by practicing ruthless violence, they would often set up a system by which the countryside and at least smaller town within their reach paid them protection monet, called compositions or appatis, so as to escape indiscriminate and destructive attacks. [cf. lines 31—40] [see Keen, Laws of War, pp. 137-39, 251-53] Froissart alleges that Geoffrey made 60,000 francs a year from such extortion. These arrangements were so fully accepted that even after peace was (temporarily) made in 1360, the French king’s courts were ready to compel his own subjects to pay outstanding arrears of appatis due to English commanders from before the treaty. {Keen, Laws, p. 138 n]

Line 15 the rock of Ventadour     Since my fairly thorough 1902 Baedeker of Southern France does not mention Ventadour, I suspect that no remains of the castle survive. [Ruins do survive, though chiefly parts of the foundations, a round tower, and walls.]

Line 47 Carcassonne  a town; on the hill above stands a strong fortress built in the late 13th century (and heavily restored in the 19th by Viollet-le-Duc) to help enforce French rule over the reluctant inhabitants of Languedoc subdued during the Albigensian crusade. It may be a little too far south for Morris’s story of a mule train from it passing near Ventadour to be plausible.

Line 51 etc. Verville wood   Not traced

Line 90 Aldovrand     a rather Germanic name for a French esquire
Line 108          the Jacquerie having occurred in 1358, Sir John must now be in his mid 40s. but Morris may not have worked this out. By the last line he seems to have aged a good deal.

Line 101-108    Beauvais town      Although the burgesses of the northern French towns sympathized in 1358 with the rebel peasants and sometimes tried to enlist their aid in opposition to the Dauphin’s régime, they mostly too care, to avoid plundering and disorder, not to let them inside the gates of their towns. Although the Jacques overran the Beauvaisis, there is no evidence that they got into the cathedral city (which Morris had visited in 1854 and 1855). This incident may be inspired by events at Méaux [below].

Line 109-114 the dames’ skeletons     Although Froissart reports several atrocities by the Jacques against knights and their families, including a knight being roasted alive, [B ii. 403-4; BF I c. 182; J i. 240; JF I c. 181], this cruelty, the rebels apparently burning the noble dames in the cathedral, seems to have sprung from Morris’s then youthful love of the violently macabre. [cf. the endings of the prose ‘Golden Wings’ and of ‘Svend and his Bretheren’, or the killing of Erwelt in ‘Gertha’s Lovers’.] He may have been partly inspired by the story near the end of Froissart’s account of the Jacquerie, [B ii. 406-7; BF I c. 184; J i. 241-3; JF I c. 184] in which many noble ladies, including Dauphin’s own wife, were dangerously trapped in the ‘Market’ of Méaux, a fortress next to a town just east of Paris, when the rebels were let into the town by its friendly mayor. Just in time a party of Crusaders returning from Prussia arrived, led by the Captal of Buch and the count of Foix. Though then on opposing sides in the Anglo-French war, they chivalrously combined to rescue the ladies, charging out into the town and slaughtering the peasants. When the rebels  had been defeated, the victorious nobles showed themselves as ferocious and barbaric as their enemies, carrying out executions that were virtually massacres and being ready to burn peasants alive in buildings where they had taken refuge.

Line 193 The Eure      This river runs, about 30 miles west of Paris, past Chartres, Dreux, and Evreux, into the Seine. Morris has given his knight a home in a landscape which he loved and praised on his second visit to France. See his letter of 11 Aug. 1855.

Line 199 Jacques Picard      Not identified. Possibly as much an invention as ‘Claus of Innsbruck’ in Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’.

Old Love       

I imagine the speakers in this poem living at the splendid court of one of the great French dukes of the mid 15th century, the poet Charles of Orleans (d. 1465) or Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy (ruled 1419—67), though he has given his duke apples on his coat of arms, not the golden lilies of France. At Philip’s court there was still a slightly sentimental attachment to the ideal of the Crusade. In 1454, just after the fall of Constantinople, he held an extravagant feast ‘of the Pheasant’. At which he made a vow over that bid (which he did not fulfil) to undertake an expedition to deliver the Eastern Christians from their Turkish conquerors. Morris slightly anticipates in this poem the decline of Christian naval power, of the Venetians and Genoese, in the Eastern Mediterranean in face of the Turks. He may already have been reading at Oxford some of the chroniclers, such as Chastellain or Olvicer de la Marche (who describes that feast), who report the somewhat artificial and belated chivalry of the Burgundian court. J. Huizinga’s Waning of the Middle Ages is the classic account of that period, though some recent historians, I believe, consider that he has somewhat exaggerated its melancholy sense of decadence and preoccupation with mortality – 15th-century people did not know that later generations would decide that they were living at the ‘End of the Middle Ages’.

Basnets were the helmets typically worn in the mid to late 14th century, conical and rising to a point. In the early to mid 15th century they were superseded by salads [Anglice sallets] which were apparently still fairly tall, but with a more rounded top these should be distinguished from the normal helmet of the late 15th and early 16th century, called armets, which have a closer fitting and more rounded shape, and which is the type of helmet that most often appears on suits of armour preserved in museums.

The Haystack in the Floods  

The story is probably Morris’s invention. I have not been able to find Sir Robert Marny in the indexes to Froissart, but a rapid examination of the records of the period has revealed probably two mid to late 14th century knights bearing that name, who had lands in Essex [See Morant, Hist. Essex, vol. ii. 405—6] with their main seat at the village of Layer Marney. There survives there the grand early 16th century redbrick gatehouse of the mansion of the last of the line (who received a peerage at that time). I suspect that the name of Robert Marny stuck in Morris’s memory from some antiquarian investigation that he had done into the past of what was after all his native country.

The events in the poem are presumably supposed to happen not too long after 1356. [cf. line 44] Robert’s enemy Godmar has been named after Godmar du Gay, who commanded a French force which unsuccessfully tried to prevent Edward II escaping encirclement by crossing the mouth of the Somme at the ford of Blanchetaque just before the battle of Crecy in 1346. [B i. 291—4; BF I c. 127; J i. 161—2; JF I c. 126].

Line 52, 156    the (Grand) Chatelet [castelletum] was originally a for at the north end of the main bridge [now the Pont au Change] running north from the Ile de la Cité, the only inhabited part of Paris in the early Middle Ages; its site is still commemorated by the Place du Chatelet. After King Philip Augustus (1180—1223) built walls round Paris inclosing a far wider area, the fort became a prison and the headquarters of the Provost of Paris, the royal officer responsible for public order in the city. He also had an extensive summary criminal and civil jurisdiction. It is occasionally mentioned in Froissart [cf. above], but Morris’s main knowledge of it may have come from the ironical description of the Provost and his headquarters in Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris, Book Vi, ch. 1. I have not discovered who the ‘six men’ are: possibly some group of judges.

Incidentally the burning or drowning that Jehane is threatened with sound like possible punishments for witchcraft. {Morris may have known that suspected witches were ‘swum’.) I have sometimes wondered if there was any link in his mind between Jehane and Hugo’s gipsy Esmerelda, tried at Paris for witchraft, in part because of her strange power over her dancing goat.

I add a few comments on the Froissartian elements in the Juvenilia (see "Early Poems of William Morris"/earlypoems.html). Possibly their appearance indicated the time when Morris began to study Froissart seriously. At first he mainly uses Froissartian names and themes to decorate conventionally romantic stories in ballad style, but does not attempt to relate them to any actual historical events, as in the longer poems discussed above.

p. 65    King Edward is Edward III.    Stanzas 8-9 refer to Philip VI of France, defeated at Crécy in 1346, and King David II of Scotland, defeated and captured in Neville’s Cross near Durham also in 1346. Children who were heirs of those holding land immediately of the king, not only girls but boys (if under 21), had to accept spouses chosen for them by the king of be penalized.

The demands made by the lady of her potential suitors reflect those imposed, in the romance of Huon of Bordeux, by the Emperor Charles on Huon after he had unknowingly killed Charles’s son, to regain the Emperor’s favour. Lord Berners also translated Huon. [publ. 1534, 1601. Repr. E.E.T.S.] A modernized version of Berner’s version was published by Morris’s friend Robert Steele in a decorated form resembling Kelmscott press books about 1896. Morris might have seen one of the earlier reprints; the story, probably through Wieland’s late 18th century version, is the source of Weber’s last romantic opera for London, called Oberon.

Sir Thomas Knolles                Sir Robert Knolles (d. 1407), humblt born and self-made, was one of the leading English commanders from the 1350s to the 1370s. (I have found mention of a London alderman called Thomas Knolles, fl. 1393—1435, presumably a relative, by Morris is not likely to have heard of him.)

p. 67 For Manny above.

p. 69    Lombards [i.e. from Northern Italy and Tuscany] as well as Jews were noted as dealing in, and lending, money in the Middle Ages.

p. 85-9 Maine        the French province between Normandy on the north and Anjou on the south. It had been part of the dominions of the Plantagenet kings of England in the 12th century, but was lost by King John soon after 1200. Edward III as their heir occasionally put forward claims to it in the 1350s, but he did not seriously seek to recover it. It is not likely that an English garrison would have occupied any tow of fortress in Main in the later 1360s, although the English did then hold some places in Normandy and Brittany.

Poictou; see above.    (The Gascon traitors seem slightly out of place there, unless they were mercenaries in the garrison.) The actual siege is imaginary, along with the English leader Sir Richard Corton. The reference to Sir Edward (III) suggest an intended date before 1377, so King Charles is presumably King Charles V of France (reigned 1364—80). For the besieger’s threats of hanging, above, on Harpdon’s Death.

The viscounts of Rohan were a prominent pro-French dynasty of Eastern Brittany in the 14th century and remained a leading family within the French aristocracy until the 18th. (One of them was the Cardinal de Rohan tricked during the Diamond Necklace scandal involving Marie Antionette in the 1780s, discussed, if I remember correctly, in Carlyle’s essay on Cagliostro.)

Of the English mentioned in the relief force on pp. 88—9 Chandos [= the Seneschal] is discussed above. Sir Hugh Calveley, a Cheshire man like Knolles, his partner in arms and possibly a close kinsman, was a prominent and effective professional soldier of fortune in the English service in the 1360s and 1370s. He retired to Cheshire with his winnings of war and was buried there in 1394 in the church at Bunbury which he had rebuilt and where I saw his handsome monument on a visit a few years ago. His and Knolle’s military careers described, Jnl. Chester Arch. Soc. Xiv (1908), 111—230.

‘Town won’ [ville gagnée] was a standard cry, allowing plundering to start, following the storming of a town.

A ‘quarrel’ is a crossbow bolt. For bastides above, "Concerning Geffray Teste Noire," line 13.