The Duke of Bourbon captures Jersey

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This article by Norman Rybot was first published in the 1955 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

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Translated extract from La Chronique du bon Duc Loys de Bourbon, written in 1429 by Jehan Cabaret d'Orville at the dictation of Noble Homme Jehan de Chateaumorand, at one time banner-bearer to the Duke, and his constant companion in arms.

De Chateaumorand was about 75 years of age when he dictated his memoirs to d'Orville. "The Constable" was Bertrand du Guesclin. He was 53 at the date of this expedition. He died on 13 July 1380. "The Marshal" was Louis de Sancerre, who was appointed to that office at Noel 1368. Loys de Bourbon was born on 4 August 1337 and died on 19 August 1410).

Norman Rybot's drawing of the attack on Mont Orgueil. He wrote: 'I have made an attempt to depict, in the medieval manner, Bertrand du Guesclin's assault on Mont Orgueil Castle. My castle, of course, bears no resemblance to the real castle, though it shows a keep enclosed within an outer line of defence. The relative proportions of figures and buildings are intentionally exaggerated, though the main tactical incidents in the attack are preserved. Thus, the sappers are shown undermining the outer walls while the archers, with a covering discharge of arrows, try to protect them from interference by the castle garrison who struggle to drop huge fragments of rock upon them from the battlements above. One daring fellow, bearing du Guesclin's pennon, is attempting to scale the walls, a detail which recalls the abortive assault which preceded the employment of the sappers. On the left of the picture, du Guesclin, with his vizor raised, is to be seen directing the operations. His banner-bearer stands beside him. On the right of the picture are Louis, Duc de Bourbon, and Louis de Sancerre, who, with their respective banner-bearers, stand amid the men who had accompanied them earlier, in the attack on Grosnez Castle. The curious head-gear worn by the commanders was typical of the time and known in Germany as the ‘’Hundsgrugel’’ or dogfaced bascinet.

Duke escapes

The Duke of Brittany, being aware that most of his duchy was lost and that the Seigneurs de Bourbon, du Guesclin and de Sancerre were following hard after him, hastily left Brest with the Duchess, his wife, and passed over to England, leaving Sir Robert Knollys in command.

The Seigneurs, believing that the Duke was still there, advanced from Quimper-Corentin towards Brest with the intention of engaging the Duke; but when they had come there, they found that he had gone.

So the men-at-arms attacked the harbour and captured four ships. Then they returned to Quimper-Corentin, which was a place from which one could see the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, which lay opposite between Brittany and England.

These isles caused much damage to the French lords, for they could not pass thereby. For this reason the Seigneurs decided to arm the four ships they had captured in the harbour of Brest, besides others they held at Saint Mathieu, and cross over to the isles of Jersey and Guernsey. They intended to despatch their men to the islands as soon as the ships were ready.

But the Duke of Bourbon said to the Constable and the Marshal and the others that it would not be honourable if they themselves did not go. And to this the Constable replied: "By God, Monseigneur, you are right".

This said, the Seigneurs put aboard, all told, 2,000 men-at-arms and 600 archers, in great peril, for the ships were unseaworthy.

Attacks on two castles

They reached the island of Jersey where there are two castles, and the Duke of Bourbon and his men set themselves down before one castle, while the Constable and the Marshal with their men set themselves down before the other. On the next day, in the morning, they attacked.

The Duke of Bourbon captured his castle by the efforts of his men, and the first to enter it was Barberie. (Gentleman Carver in the Duke's household).

The place being captured, the Duke marched off and went across to the Constable and the Marshal, who had not yet taken their castle; but when those who were within it saw the Duke of Bourbon arriving with his men, they surrendered to the Constable.

And from the island of Jersey the Seigneurs crossed to the island of Guernsey, where there was a castle which those who guarded it did not dare to hold, after learning that the other castles had fallen, although it was the strongest of them all.

And the people of Jersey and Guernsey promised to be true and loyal to the King of France, as indeed they were as long as the good Admiral de Vienne lived.

Sir Jean de Hangest and his brother Thibault were put in charge of the isles of Jersey and Guernsey. Only to the King or to his Admiral were they to be surrendered.

And from thence the Seigneurs returned to Quimper-Corentin and to Hennebont, where they had left their horses and their baggage. And there the Seigneurs, in consultation with some of the barons of Brittany, decided to besiege Brest.

Notes

  • De Chateaumorand's memory was at fault, for Quimper is on the south and not on the north coast of Brittany.
  • The term "French lords" seems to be indefinite. It is probable that the islands were bases for filibusters who harried passing French merchantmen, and that the real object of du Guesclin's expedition was to root out this "nest of pirates".
  • It would appear that du Guesclin's original intention was to give the command of the force to a subordinate.
  • The two Jersey castles were Grosnez and Mont Orgueil

In I377 Jehan de Vienne, Admiral of France, with 2,000 men and 400 horses, transported by Renier de Grimaud in galleys and five horse-barges, sacked and burnt the port of Rye and captured the Prior of Lewes, who was later ransomed for 7000 nobles.

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