Post-classical history

Boucicaut, Marshal (1366-1421)

Jean II Le Meingre, known as Boucicaut, was marshal of France and a participant in numerous crusade expeditions.

He was the son of Jean I Le Meingre (d. 1368), marshal of France, and Fleurie of Linières.

Jean II was educated at the French court with the young King Charles VI. He became a knight at the battle of West- Rozebeke, which was fought against the Flemings in 1382, and went twice to Prussia to campaign with the Teutonic Order against the pagan Lithuanians in 1384-1385. At the beginning of 1388, he went to the court of Murad I, the Ottoman sultan, offering to fight for him. As the sultan was not undertaking any campaigns, Boucicaut went on to Hungary, Venice, and the Holy Land (1389). He stayed for four months in Cairo to share the imprisonment of Philip of Eu, a cousin of the French king, who had been arrested at Damascus. In 1390 Charles VI forbade him to go with the duke of Bourbon on the Mahdia Crusade, and so Boucicaut made a third journey to Prussia in 1390-1391. On his return, the king appointed him marshal of France.

When Philippe de Mézières founded his Order of the Passion, Boucicaut was one of the first members. In 1395 Charles VI agreed to send an army to assist King Sigismund of Hungary against the Ottoman Turks, which was to include Boucicaut and his own retinue. This venture became known as the Crusade of Nikopolis from the site of its defeat by the Turks on 25 September 1396. Boucicaut was taken prisoner, but was saved from death by Count John of Nevers and was ransomed the following year.

In 1399 Charles VI sent an expeditionary corps headed by Boucicaut to Constantinople, which was under siege by the Turks. The marshal persuaded Emperor Manuel II Palaio- logos to go to the West in person to seek military assistance. Manuel undertook a lengthy diplomatic tour of Western Christendom, and finally left Paris in order to return home on 21 November 1402, when he learned of the defeat of Sultan Bayezid I at Ankara by the Mongol ruler of central Asia, Timur Lenk. By this time Boucicaut was serving as governor of Genoa for Charles VI, where he met the emperor again at the beginning of 1403. He accompanied Manuel as far as the Morea (Peloponnese) and then went on to Rhodes. From there he took his fleet to Syria, where he attacked and sacked Botron, Beirut, Sidon, and Laodikeia in Syria. However, while returning to Genoa, he met a Venetian fleet at Modon and was defeated. He drafted a new project for an attack against Alexandria in 1407, but was expelled from Genoa two years later.

Boucicaut fought against the English at the battle of Agin- court in 1415, where he drew up the French battle plan. He was taken prisoner, and remained a captive until his death. Boucicaut embodied all the knightly values of his time, but, as a commander and political leader, he failed to understand that these values were outdated, and often showed impetuosity and lack of judgment in his conduct. Boucicaut’s career was described in an anonymous French prose work, the Livre des Fais du bon messire Jehan le Meingre.

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