The case for peace had not been helped by the actions of Arthur de Richemont. Within a couple of weeks of the commencement of the peace talks he laid siege to Meaux, the last remaining English stronghold east of Paris. The timing and choice of objective were deliberately designed to goad the English: Meaux was an important bargaining counter and potentially one of the places in the Île-de-France which could be exchanged for Harfleur, Dieppe or Montivilliers.
Richemont was also under pressure to redeem himself after two important successes by Talbot. In November 1438, helped by a Scottish traitor in the garrison, Talbot had scaled the walls and captured the town and castle of Gerberoy from La Hire. Two months later he seized Saint-Germain-en-Laye, on the outskirts of Paris, with the aid of the prior of Nanterre, who befriended the captain, stole his keys and then admitted Talbot’s men. The prior’s reward for this service was 300 saluts (£24,062) from the English – and imprisonment in irons on nothing but bread and water for the rest of his life, from the Armagnacs, when he was arrested a few days later. Talbot installed François de Surienne as the new captain, an interesting appointment given that the Aragonese had just surrendered Montargis in return for money, but one that he would carry out in exemplary fashion.1
Richemont had been severely blamed for the loss of Saint-Germain; his Bretons had failed in their duty of guarding the place and his extortions had turned the people of Paris against him. He was, the citizen wrote in his journal, ‘a very bad man and a thorough coward . . . he cared nothing for King, prince, or people, nor what towns or castles the English might take; as long as he had money, he cared nothing for anything or anywhere else’. Having begun and abandoned an attempt to take Pontoise in retaliation for Talbot’s seizure of Saint-Germain, Richemont called in the écorcheurs. On 20 July 1439 they laid siege to Meaux and on 12 August took the town by assault. The garrison retreated to the stronghold of the market and sent urgent pleas for assistance to Rouen. Talbot, Scales and Fauconberg joined forces to go to their relief. When they arrived Richemont refused all provocation to fight a pitched battle but, in the skirmishes that ensued, he lost twenty boats laden with victuals and most of his siege works were destroyed.
Believing the market to be strong enough to hold out until he could come back with a second relief column, Talbot reinforced it with around five hundred men, commanded by Sir William Chamberlain, stocked it with supplies and left for Rouen. When he returned, later than expected, on 16 September, he discovered that the market had surrendered the day before. In his fury Talbot had Chamberlain arrested, imprisoned and charged with treason; his unfortunate lieutenant was only able to clear himself by pointing out that, although he still had supplies, he could not have withstood Richemont’s artillery and, without relief, his position had been hopeless.2
Charles VII was in Paris when Meaux surrendered, paying only his second visit to the capital since the Treaty of Arras. He cannot have been blind to the impact of the famine and plague, nor to their consequences, which were horribly illustrated by the fact that fourteen people were killed and eaten by starving wolves in the streets between Montmartre and the Saint-Anthoine gate in the week before his departure on 30 September. No doubt Charles was also told in no uncertain terms about the sufferings caused by theécorcheurs stationed in and around Paris. It was not just that they stole all the crops and beasts which were intended to feed the local population but also that they made arbitrary demands for money which Richemont’s regime supported or at least condoned. ‘If you did not pay them the moment they appeared for the money, you at once had sergeants quartered on you, which was a great distress to poor people, for once these men were in your house you had to maintain them at great expense, for they were the devil’s own children and did far more damage than they were ordered to.’3
When Richemont and his ‘company of thieves and murderers’ returned from their triumph at Meaux, Charles ordered them to leave Paris and take the war to the English in Normandy. This would have the twin benefits of relieving Paris of their racketeering and pillaging and reminding the English of the inevitable consequences of their failure to accept his terms for peace. Richemont joined forces with Jean, duke of Alençon, and the sires de Laval and Lohéac, and with more ambition than prudence laid siege to Avranches.
Perched on the top of its great cliff, the citadel was virtually impregnable; three or four weeks of bombardment by all kinds of artillery had left it unscathed, and a message to Rouen had brought Edmund Beaufort and lords Talbot, Scales and Fauconberg to the rescue at the head of a large army. They encamped at Pont-Gilbert, on the river Sée at the foot of the escarpment, with the river between them and the besieging army. A number of skirmishes took place but Richemont’s men were able to hold the line of the river and prevent them crossing. On the night of 22 December, therefore, the English moved downriver and took advantage of the retreating tidal waters of the estuary secretly to cross the sands, skirt round the back of the cliff and enter Avranches from the opposite side. They then sallied out of the town en masse, catching the Armagnacs unawares, overwhelming them and seizing their bombards, artillery, victuals and personal possessions. It was a complete rout and by the next morning, as the well-named pursuivant Bonne Adventure reported gleefully to his masters in Rouen, the siege was raised because the enemy ‘fled shamefully, to their great dishonour and embarrassment’. A subsequent inquest revealed that some people in the vicomté of Avranches had joined, or at least collaborated with, the enemy during the siege, obliging the whole region to purchase a general pardon: one of them, Perrin Fillepouche, was later beheaded at Avranches as a ‘traitor, thief, brigand, arsonist of the church of Les Biards, enemy and adversary of the king’.4
The relief of Avranches was marred only by news that during the siege one of the duke of Alençon’s companies, led by the sire de Bueil, had taken advantage of Edmund Beaufort’s absence from Maine to capture the stronghold of Sainte-Suzanne, which lay halfway between Le Mans and Laval. A member of the English garrison who was on night-watch had sung a particular song as a prearranged signal to let the attackers know that he was there: he had then pulled their scaling ladders up to the ramparts, enabling them to enter the castle and seize the rest of the garrison in their nightshirts. Thus returned to Alençon’s obedience, Sainte-Suzanne would again become a thorn in the flesh of the English.5
The days of the écorcheurs were numbered, however, but not because of their disgraceful flight from Avranches. For many years they had been a useful tool against the enemy, particularly when that enemy was Burgundy. Since the Treaty of Arras, however, they had become a liability, not just because their activities turned Charles’s own subjects against him but because they owed loyalty to no one except their current paymaster (and sometimes not even to him). The duke of Bourbon, in particular, had strong family ties with some of the most notorious captains: the two Bastards of Bourbon were his own half-brothers and the Castilian Roderigo de Villandrando was married to their sister. He had employed them all for his own ends, including when he briefly rebelled against Charles VII in 1437.
Charles could no longer afford to ignore the complaints of his subjects or the danger that the écorcheurs posed to his allies and himself. The meeting of his estates-general at Orléans in October – November 1439 endorsed a series of ordinances designed to stamp out their abuses and reform the military system in France. In future no one could claim to exercise military authority without royal approval; all captains were to be chosen by the king and held responsible for the discipline of their men whose misdeeds they were authorised to punish; any action against civilians would be treated as treason, and property, livestock and agricultural produce were to be protected; a fixed levy of 1,200,000l.t. (£70m) was to be imposed annually on the king’s subjects to pay for the royal army, which in future would live in garrison rather than on the land. The combined effect of these ordinances was to outlaw freelance companies and create a single royal army subject to the control of the constable of France, Arthur de Richemont.6
Though these measures were generally welcomed by the civilian population, they were deeply resented by the princes of the realm, who were thus deprived of their right to own and command private armies. Most, like Burgundy, quietly ignored the ordinances and continued as usual. For some, such as Bourbon and Alençon, who had no liking for the constable anyway, the reforms were an act of despotism which had to be forcibly resisted. And in the sixteen-year-old dauphin, Louis, who intensely disliked his father and was anxious to throw off the constraints he had placed on him, they found a figurehead round whom they could rally.
The Praguerie revolt began in April 1440 when Bourbon and Alençon refused to expel the écorcheurs from their companies or muster before Richemont’s deputies, Xaintrailles and Gaucourt, and took up arms against their king. They were joined by other disaffected courtiers, such as Georges de la Trémoïlle, and, of course, the écorcheurs themselves. It was a measure of the depth of feeling against Charles VII among his own nobility that even the Bastard of Orléans temporarily joined the revolt, because he was rightly suspicious of Charles’s unwillingness to assist in securing the release of his brother. Once again, instead of fighting the English, the French were fighting among themselves. Though the dauphin was bribed into a reconciliation with his father in July, the rebellion lasted throughout the summer, and diverted important military resources to its suppression and the recapturing of places taken by the insurgents. Bourbon and the leading rebels were all subsequently pardoned, but Charles showed no mercy to thoseécorcheurs who refused to join his army: the Bastard of Bourbon was tried for his crimes, found guilty and thrown in a sack into a river to drown, an exemplary punishment which persuaded some other captains, including Villandrando, that they had no future in France.7
Charles VII’s court had always been riven by faction but another powerful factor in persuading so many of the rebels to resort to arms, including Bourbon himself, was anger and dismay at the progress of peace talks with the English. The ‘war party’ in France was unable to reconcile itself to any concessions and particularly not the permanent loss of Normandy, irrespective of who ultimately retained sovereignty. In England there was a similar reaction by those who felt betrayed by those pushing for peace. Though it did not result in armed rebellion, it caused much dissension and a final bitter showdown between Cardinal Beaufort and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester.
At the opening of parliament in January 1440, after its adjournment from Westminster to Reading, Gloucester launched a ferocious attack on Beaufort and Kemp. Rehearsing all his old complaints against Beaufort, he now accused the two men of ‘great deceits’ in their peace negotiations at Calais, especially in their advocacy of Charles VII’s offers and the release of Orléans. He also charged them with profiteering from the war, selling offices in France and Normandy to the highest bidder and furthering Beaufort family interests at the expense of those of the kingdom. ‘It is not unknown to your highness’, he told the king,
how often I have offered my service unto you, for the defence of your realm of France and lordships there, [but] have been prevented by the labour of the said cardinal, in preferring others of his singular affection, which has caused a great part of your duchy of Normandy, as well as of your said realm of France, to be lost, as is well known.
Gloucester ended his denunciation by seeking the dismissal of Beaufort and Kemp from the council, ‘to the intent that men may be at their freedom to say what they truly think; for though I dare speak my truth, the poor dare not so’.8
Gloucester’s appeal produced no response from the young king, whose own desire for peace naturally inclined him to support his conciliatory clergymen rather than his bellicose uncle. Henry allowed the duke to enter a formal protest ‘that I never was, am, nor ever shall be consenting, advising, nor agreeing to [Orléans’s] deliverance or being set free . . . otherwise than is expressed in my said Lord my brother’s last will’. Nevertheless, Henry felt obliged to publish his own justification for the policies carried out in his name, reciting his moral duty to find peace as well as the miseries of Normandy and the impossibility of financing a continuing war. He also added a stern injunction that he wished ‘that it be openly felt and plainly known that that [which] he has done in the said matter he has done of himself and of his own advice and courage . . . moved and stirred of God and of reason, as he fully trusts’.9
Henry would not allow Beaufort to be blamed for his own decision to release Orléans but he may have been influenced by Gloucester’s belief that the duke would not fulfil his side of the bargain by working for peace once he had been set free. The terms eventually agreed included a ransom of 40,000 nobles (£7m) payable immediately, plus a further 80,000 (£14m) within six months; if the duke succeeded in arranging a peace within that time, the entire ransom was cancelled; if he failed and could not produce the money, he was honour-bound to return to captivity. This was as much as Henry was prepared to concede and Gloucester did himself no favours by storming out of Westminster Abbey during the public ceremony in which Orléans swore to observe the terms of his release.
As Charles VII was as uncomfortable as Gloucester with the idea of Orléans being released, he refused to contribute to his ransom and it was the redoubtable duchess of Burgundy who press-ganged the French aristocracy into raising the necessary sums. On 5 November 1440 Charles d’Orléans returned to France as a free man: it was almost exactly twenty-five years since he had been taken prisoner at Agincourt. Though he demonstrated his reconciliation with Burgundy by accepting membership of the Order of the Golden Fleece and marrying Philippe’s niece, Marie of Cleves, the high hopes entertained of his abilities as a peacemaker were not to be realised. In the wake of the Praguerie, Charles VII was so suspicious of the new alliance between the two former enemies that it would be over a year before Orléans was even admitted to his presence, let alone his councils, and the war continued. Gloucester’s dire warnings that the cause of peace could not be served by releasing Orléans turned out to be correct.10
Gloucester had failed to prevent the duke’s release but he did succeed in thwarting Cardinal Beaufort’s ambition to raise his nephew to the highest position in France. Ever since Bedford’s death in 1435 the cardinal had worked towards securing the appointment of John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, as his successor. As Somerset was then an Armagnac prisoner, the cardinal had immediately resumed negotiations for his release and persuaded the king to authorise his exchange with Charles d’Artois, count of Eu, even though the dying Henry V had expressly forbidden the latter’s release until Henry VI came of age. When Somerset was eventually released towards the end of 1438 he was allowed to spend only a few months in England before being sent to Normandy, where his connections ensured him immediate appointment to the council of Rouen.11
Somerset was therefore well placed to succeed the frail Warwick, who died in office at Rouen on 30 April 1439. (Unlike Bedford, Warwick had chosen to be buried at home, where his magnificent gilded effigy adorning his tomb in Saint Mary’s church, Warwick, is one of the glories of medieval England.) Until his successor could be appointed his powers were devolved to a governing council composed of four Norman clerics and five English laymen: Louis de Luxembourg, now archbishop of Rouen; Pierre Cauchon, bishop of Lisieux, chief prosecutor of Jehanne d’Arc; Gilles de Duremont, abbot of Fécamp, and Robert Jolivet, abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel; Somerset; his brother Edmund Beaufort; and the three field commanders, lords Talbot, Scales and Fauconberg. Though the least experienced of them all after seventeen years in prison – he had seen his first action since Baugé in 1421 at the relief of Meaux in August 1439–it was Somerset whose rank entitled him to assume overarching military command.
In September 1439 Somerset returned to England to lobby his claims to be appointed formally as Warwick’s and, more importantly, Bedford’s successor. Initially his prospects looked good. The complicated arrangements for his release, which included his having to purchase the count of Eu from the crown in order to effect the exchange, had cost him £24,000 (£12.6m). On 12 December he petitioned the king for assistance with his ransom and was granted compensation from the London customs so that he might do ‘better service to the king in this expedition’. The following day he contracted to serve in France for six months with four knights, one hundred men-at-arms and two thousand archers. This was a very large army, indicating that a major campaign was planned for the first time in three years. Somerset could not have funded it himself from his impoverished finances and it was, of course, Cardinal Beaufort who provided the loans necessary to create this command for his nephew. 12
What Beaufort could not do, however, was secure the coveted prize of the lieutenancy-general for Somerset. That had now been claimed by Gloucester, who, dismayed by the course of recent events, was determined to revive his oft-repeated plan to go to France himself at the head of a large army. The council in Normandy was told to expect his arrival but, since the cardinal held the purse-strings and declined to open them for him, Gloucester was obliged to concede that he was not yet ready to go ‘in such powerful array’ as his status demanded. Almost by default, therefore, Somerset stepped into his shoes. When he left for France in January 1440 he did so on a salary of 600l.t. (£35,000) a month but his commission was to stand only until Gloucester’s arrival and was limited to that of ‘lieutenant-general and governor for the war’, suggesting constraints on his civil powers.13
In the event Gloucester never did take up his appointment. His reasons remain a mystery. He may have got cold feet at the prospect of uprooting himself for another country at the age of almost fifty, thereby losing what little personal influence he could exert over the young king and his peace policies, or he may have been blocked by the cardinal and his supporters on the council. As his acting lieutenant Somerset was the prime candidate for the post, but Gloucester was determined that he should not have it. Once again therefore it was the compromise candidate who emerged as the victor. On 2 July 1440 Richard, duke of York, was again appointed lieutenant-general of Normandy with the explicit endorsements of both Gloucester and the cardinal.
York had driven a hard bargain before accepting the office, demanding the same powers as Gloucester ‘had or should have had’. All the authority that Bedford had enjoyed thus devolved on him, though he would still be called ‘lieutenant-general’ since Henry VI was no longer a minor in need of a regent. In an ominous development for the Beauforts, and Normandy, he also sought and obtained powers to replace non-resident captains with his own men and to have no restriction on the value of lands he could grant, ensuring that he could reward his own men and build up a personal following in a duchy that was largely dominated by the Beaufort family interest. York’s appointment would last five years and he was promised an annual payment from the English exchequer of £20,000 (£10.5m) to fund his troops, a sum far in excess of both his own previous salary and that of Somerset as lieutenant-general and governor.14
Despite these concessions, York demonstrated no urgent desire to take up his new post. It would be almost a year before he left for Normandy and in the meantime Somerset remained in command. He took the opportunity to further Beaufort interests, taking over a number of important captaincies, including those of Avranches and Tombelaine from the earl of Suffolk. Even Talbot lost all his captaincies, apart from Lisieux, so that the king had to pay him a compensatory pension ‘to enable him to maintain himself in our service more honourably’.15
Somerset did not exactly cover himself with glory in his first military campaign in February 1440. In the hope of putting pressure on the duke of Burgundy to make peace, he launched a highly profitable raid into Picardy, the softest target on the Norman border. With a further twelve hundred troops from Normandy and Talbot by his side he captured three fortresses, installed an English garrison at Folleville and burned down the church in which the people of Lihons had barricaded themselves, which was an appalling war crime even by the standards of his own day. The remaining inhabitants of Lihons had to pay Talbot a ransom of 2500 saluts (£200,521) to escape the same fate.16
The main purpose for which Somerset had been sent to Normandy with such a large army was to retake Harfleur, Henry V’s first conquest in France, which had been in Armagnac hands since 1435. From its vantage point at the mouth of the Seine, the garrison had preyed on English shipping, disrupting supplies to Rouen and forcing the authorities to employ a warship to patrol the river for their protection. The outbreak of the Praguerie rebellion against Charles VII provided the ideal opportunity for a major effort while enemy troops were deployed elsewhere. Perhaps fortunately Somerset delegated the command in the field to his more talented younger brother, Edmund Beaufort, and by June the town was under siege and the port blockaded.
While Beaufort, Talbot and Fauconberg ensured that nothing could get in or out of Harfleur, Somerset occupied himself in gathering supplies and recruiting more men to resist the relief army that was said to be on its way. Among those who joined the siege as it dragged on over several months was Matthew Gough, whose services Beaufort was so anxious to retain that he paid his wages out of his own pocket. Rather less welcome was François de Surienne, not because his abilities were not appreciated, but because on 19 October 1440 he had surrendered Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Charles VII, leaving the few remaining English outposts round Paris even more isolated and vulnerable. A temporary visitor to the siege was the Windsor herald, who arrived bearing the insignia of the Garter for Somerset and Fauconberg, both men having just been admitted to the order: his presence is noted only because he fell off his horse, breaking three ribs and his arm, and was therefore late claiming his wages.17
For at least some of the Armagnacs defending Harfleur there must have been an oppressive sense of familiarity. The captain was Jean d’Estouteville, whose father had held the same office in 1415 when Henry V laid siege to the town. The overall command had then been taken over by Raoul, sire de Gaucourt, who had brought a relief column into Harfleur under the nose of the English king, prolonging its ability to resist by several weeks. Gaucourt was now seventy but age had not dimmed his spirit. Responding to Harfleur’s urgent pleas for assistance, he had joined the count of Eu, the Bastard of Orléans, La Hire and the Bastard of Bourbon (on one of his last outings before his execution) in bringing a relieving force to the town’s aid. This time, however, he was in charge of the rearguard and, following the rest of the army as it left Eu, he was surprised and taken prisoner by Gryffydd Dŵn, the Welsh captain of Tancarville. Unlike his previous imprisonment at the hands of the English, which had lasted ten years, a ransom was swiftly accepted and his incarceration would be brief. Gaucourt’s capture, however, spurred his colleagues into a determined attempt to break the siege of Harfleur.18
While the count of Eu launched an attack by sea, the Bastard of Orléans led his men on foot against the English encamped before the town. La Hire, because of his lameness, was entrusted with the cavalry to bring aid wherever it was needed. Despite heavy fighting and a sortie by the garrison, the Armagnacs could make no headway. The English were too well dug into their trenches and their camps too well fortified to be taken. The attack by land was repelled and the fleet was forced to withdraw after losing several ships. The count of Eu tried to mitigate this disaster by offering to fight for Harfleur in a duel with Somerset, or with one hundred of his champions against a similar number of Englishmen, but was rebuffed with contempt. The English knew that the town’s supplies of food had run out and that its surrender was imminent. At the end of October Harfleur capitulated: the garrison was allowed to march out in the customary fashion, each man bearing a stick in his hand to signify that he was unarmed and a safe-conduct to allow him to withdraw into lands of his own allegiance. The duke of Burgundy, however, expressly forbade any of them to go through his territories for fear of pillaging and had his soldiers on stand-by to expel any who dared to trespass.19
The recapture of such an important town as Harfleur, with its valuable harbour, was a welcome success, especially as its neighbour, Montivilliers, surrendered as part of the terms of capitulation. Dieppe was now the only major stronghold in Normandy seized by the Armagnacs in 1435 which still remained in enemy hands. Elated by their success – and having overstayed the term of Somerset’s six-month contract to see the job completed – the Beaufort brothers returned to England, leaving Normandy in the hands of its veteran defenders, lords Talbot, Scales and Fauconberg.
Even before a triumphant Somerset and his troops left Normandy the Armagnacs fought back with a vengeance, launching a concerted assault on the eastern marches of the duchy. Xaintrailles, Anthoine de Chabannes and a Spanish mercenary named Salazar, aided and abetted by collaborators within the town, took Louviers. In a sense this was retributive justice, for the English had demolished the fortifications and withdrawn the garrison when they recaptured it in 1431, leaving it defenceless. The priority of its new owners was to restore and rebuild the town’s walls and towers, ensuring that Louviers remained in Armagnac hands for the duration of the war. The citizens petitioned Charles VII, reminding him of all that they had suffered because they had been his loyal subjects, ‘wishing rather to choose death than return ever to the subjection of our enemies’, and in 1442 were granted exemption from tax, assistance in rebuilding their fortifications and the rights to call the town ‘Louviers the Free’ and wear on their clothing a crown superimposed on the letter ‘L’.
At about the same time as Louviers fell, Pierre de Brézé and Robert Floques took by assault the town of Conches-en-Ouche, twenty-three miles south-west of Louviers. The two strongholds thus created an Armagnac enclave which, like La Hire’s Beauvais, would cause endless trouble to the neighbouring English-held districts.20
Talbot, the new captain of Harfleur, spent the winter fortifying strongholds in the vicinity of Conches and Louviers against the new threat but, with diminishing forces at his disposal, he could not afford to risk a siege, even though the Armagnac garrison of Louviers was building a bastille on the Seine to disrupt the vital passage of supplies downriver from Rouen to Pontoise.21
This was part of a concerted plan, for Charles VII’s response to the loss of Harfleur and Montivilliers was to launch a summer campaign to recover the few remaining English outposts round Paris. Having cleared Champagne of the écorcheurs and executed the Bastard of Bourbon, on 8 May 1441 he laid siege to Creil, the town and castle on the Oise, thirty miles north of the capital and twenty-six miles north-east of Pontoise. To show that he meant business he had gathered an impressive army which included not only the king himself and his recently reconciled son, the dauphin, but also Constable Richemont, Admiral Prégent de Coëtivy, Charles d’Anjou, Xaintrailles and La Hire. Also with the king was his master of the artillery, Jean Bureau, and the huge artillery train of heavy guns for which he was responsible. These were deployed so effectively that a substantial breach was created in the walls in just over a fortnight. The garrison’s soldiers, led in person by their captain, Sir William Peyto, sallied out to defend it but after hard hand-to-hand fighting they were forced to withdraw. The following day, 25 May, they agreed terms, surrendered their charge and left for Normandy.22
Charles now homed in on Pontoise, where between a thousand and twelve hundred English were said to be stationed, laying siege to the place on 6 June. He directed operations from the Cistercian abbey of Maubuisson at Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône across the river while his army spread out along the river plain below. Prégent de Coëtivy brought a flotilla of boats to create a pontoon bridge across to the abbey of Saint-Martin outside the town walls, which he then seized and made his headquarters. Fifteen days of heavy bombardment by Bureau’s guns destroyed the bulwarks at the end of the town bridge, allowing the besiegers to take this position.
Before they could proceed any further they were stopped in their tracks by the arrival of Talbot with a relieving army. Anticipating a siege, Talbot had been sending supplies and artillery into Pontoise since the middle of May and had established a route into the town through the gate upriver. This gate the Armagnacs had neglected, or were unable, to besiege, allowing Talbot to send in victuals and reinforcements, a process he was able to repeat on five occasions over the next three months without any impediment. Before he left for the first time he installed lord Scales in the garrison to give new heart and additional weight to the defence.
‘There was only one English captain who stood fast against the king and his forces,’ the citizen of Paris wrote in his journal at this time. ‘This was Talbot; and indeed, it looked from the way they behaved as if they were terrified of him. They always kept a good twenty or thirty leagues between him and themselves and he rode about France more boldly than they did. Yet the king taxed his people twice a year at least so as to go and fight Talbot, but nothing was ever done.’23