The Duel With The Buckle-strap
By Philippe De Laon.
_The fifth story relates two judgments of Lord Talbot. How a Frenchman
was taken prisoner (though provided with a safe-conduct) by an
Englishman, who said that buckle-straps were implements of war, and who
was made to arm himself with buckle-straps and nothing else, and meet
the Frenchman, who struck him with a sword in the presence of Talbot.
The other, story is about a man who robbe
a church, and who was made to
swear that he would never enter a church again._
Lord Talbot (whom may God pardon) who was, as every one knows, so
victorious as leader of the English, gave in his life two judgments
which were worthy of being related and held in perpetual remembrance,
and in order that the said judgments should be known, I will relate
them briefly in this my first story, though it is the fifth amongst the
others. I will tell it thus.
During the time that the cursed and pestilent war prevailed between
France and England, and which has not yet finished, (*) it happened,
as was often the case, that a French soldier was taken prisoner by
an Englishman, and, a ransom having been fixed, he was sent under a
safe-conduct, signed by Lord Talbot, to his captain, that he might
procure his ransom and bring it back to his captor.
As he was on his road, he was met by another Englishman, who, seeing he
was a Frenchman, asked him whence he came and whither he was going? The
other told him the truth.
"Where is your safe-conduct?" asked the Englishman.
"It is not far off," replied the Frenchman. With that he took the
safe-conduct, which was in a little box hung at his belt, and handed
it to the Englishman, who read it from one end to the other. And, as is
customary, there was written on the safe-conduct, "Forbidden to carry
any implements of warfare."
The Englishman noted this, and saw that there were _esguillettes_ on
the Frenchman's doublet. (**) He imagined that these straps were real
implements of war, so he said,
"I make you my prisoner, because you have broken your safe-conduct."
"By my faith, I have not," replied the Frenchman, "saving your grace.
You see in what condition I am."
"No! no!" said the Englishman. "By Saint John you have broken your
safe-conduct. Surrender, or I will kill you."
The poor Frenchman, who had only his page with him, and was quite
unprovided with weapons, whilst the other was accompanied by three
or four archers, did the best thing he could, and surrendered. The
Englishman led him to a place near there, and put him in prison.
(*) It had virtually finished, and the English only retained
the town of Calais when this tale was written (about 1465)
but they had not relinquished their claim to the French
Crown, and hostilities were expected to recommence.
(**) _Esguillettes_ were small straps or laces, used to
fasten the cuirass to the doublet.
The Frenchman, finding himself thus ill-treated, sent in great haste
to his captain, who when he heard his man's case, was greatly and
marvellously astonished. Thereupon he wrote a letter to Lord Talbot,
and sent it by a herald, to ask how it was that one of his men had
been arrested by one of Lord Talbot's men whilst under that general's
The said herald, being well instructed as to what he was to say and do,
left his master, and presented the letters to Lord Talbot. He read them,
and caused them to be read also by one of his secretaries before many
knights and squires and others of his followers.
Thereupon he flew into a great rage, for he was hot-tempered and
irritable, and brooked not to be disobeyed, and especially in matters of
war; and to question his safe-conduct made him very angry.
To shorten the story, he caused to be brought before him both the
Frenchman and the Englishman, and told the Frenchman to tell his tale.
He told how he had been taken prisoner by one of Lord Talbot's people,
and put to ransom;
"And under your safe-conduct, my lord, I was on my way to my friends to
procure my ransom. I met this gentleman here, who is also one of
your followers, who asked me whither I was going, and if I had a
safe-conduct? I told him, yes, and showed it to him. And when he had
read it he told me that I had broken it, and I replied that I had not,
and that he could not prove it. But he would not listen to me, and I was
forced, if I would not be killed on the spot, to surrender. I know of no
cause why he should have detained me, and I ask justice of you."
Lord Talbot, when he had heard the Frenchman, was not well content,
nevertheless when the latter had finished, my Lord turned to the
Englishman and asked,
"What have you to reply to this?"
"My lord," said he, "it is quite true, as he has said, that I met him
and would see his safe-conduct, which when I had read from end to end, I
soon perceived that he had broken and violated; otherwise I should never
have arrested him."
"How had he broken it?" asked Lord Talbot. "Tell me quickly!"
"My Lord, because in his safe-conduct he is forbidden all implements of
war, and he had, and has still, real implements of war; that is to say
he has on his doublet, buckle-straps, which are real implements of war,
for without them a man cannot be armed."
"Ah!" said Lord Talbot, "and so buckle-straps are implements of war
are they? Do you know of any other way in which he had broken his
"Truly, my lord, I do not," replied the Englishman.
"What, you villain!" said Lord Talbot. "Have you stopped a gentleman
under my safe-conduct for his buckle-straps? By St. George, I will show
you whether they are implements of war."
Then, hot with anger and indignation, he went up to the Frenchman, and
tore from his doublet the two straps, and gave them to the Englishman;
then he put a sword in the Frenchman's hand, and drawing his own good
sword out of the sheath, said to the Englishman,
"Defend yourself with that implement of war, as you call it, if you know
Then he said to the Frenchman,
"Strike that villain who arrested you without cause or reason, and we
shall see how he can defend himself with this implement of war. If you
spare him, by St. George I will strike you."
Thus the Frenchman, whether he would or not, was obliged to strike at
the Englishman with the sword, and the poor Englishman protected himself
as best he could, and ran about the room, with Talbot after him, who
made the Frenchman keep striking the other, and cried out;
"Defend yourself, villain, with your implement of war!" In truth, the
Englishman was so well beaten that he was nearly dead, and cried for
mercy to Talbot and the Frenchman. The latter was released from his
ransom by Lord Talbot, and his horse, harness, and all his baggage, were
given back to him.
Such was the first judgment of Lord Talbot; there remains to be given an
account of the other, which was thus.
He learned that one of his soldiers had robbed a church of the pyx in
which is placed the Corpus Domini, and sold it for ready money--I
know not for how much, but the pyx was big and fine, and beautifully
Lord Talbot, who though he was very brutal and wicked in war, had always
great reverence for the Church, and would never allow a monastery or
church to be set on fire or robbed, heard of this, and he was very
severe on those who broke his regulations.
So he caused to be brought before him the man who had stolen the pyx
from the church; and when he came, God knows what a greeting he had.
Talbot would have killed him, if those around had not begged that his
life might be saved. Nevertheless, as he would punish him, he said.
"Rascal traitor! why have you dared to rob a church in spite of my
"Ah, my lord," said the poor thief, "for God's sake have mercy upon me;
I will never do it again."
"Come here, villain," said Talbot; and the other came up about as
willingly as though he were going to the gallows. And the said Lord
Talbot rushed at him, and with his fist, which was both large and heavy,
struck him on the head, and cried.
"Ha! you thief! have you robbed a church?"
And the other cried,
"Mercy my lord! I will never do it again."
"Will you do it again?"
"No, my lord!"
"Swear then that you will never again enter a church of any kind. Swear,
"Very good, my lord," said the other.
Then Talbot made the thief swear that he would never set foot in a
church again, which made all who were present and who heard it, laugh,
though they pitied the thief because Lord Talbot had forbidden him
the church for ever, and made him swear never to enter it. Yet we may
believe that he did it with a good motive and intention. Thus you
have heard the two judgments of Lord Talbot, which were such as I have
related to you.