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THE BATTLE OF POITIERS
 PHILIP'S son John now became king. He was named "the
Good" by his favourites, not
because they thought their king was an upright, noble
man, but because they knew him
to be a "good fellow," who loaded them with gifts.
King John was rash, cruel, and selfish, yet he was also
brave and chivalrous, when
to be so did not interfere too greatly with his
Charles the Bad of Navarre was a kinsman of John the
Good, but for all that the king
hated him, and wished to make war upon him. For John
had had a favourite to whom he
gave lands, which Charles of Navarre claimed as his. In
his anger that the king had
thrust aside his claims, Charles the Bad had killed the
king's favourite. It was for
this crime that John was determined to punish his
But Charles was supported by many of the lords of
France, as well as by the
friendship of the King of England. It was therefore
impossible for John to war
against Navarre without being forced to fight with
England as well, and for this
France was not yet ready.
King John therefore pretended to forgive Charles, who
was also, I should tell you,
the king's son-in-law. He even received him at court,
when Charles the Bad thanked
him for his grace on bended knee.
But those who knew him best felt sure that King John
had not really forgiven
Charles. They had heard him mutter, "I will have no
master in France but myself. I
shall have no joy as long as he is living."
 John's son, Charles the Dauphin, was at this time
made Duke of Normandy. He
became good friends with Charles the Bad, and in the
spring of 1856 he asked him,
with some of his friends, to a banquet at Rouen.
The party was a merry one, but the merriment was
suddenly disturbed by the entrance
of King John with a troop of soldiers, and an officer
who held in his hand a naked
"Let none stir, whatever he may see, unless he wish to
fall by this sword!" said the
officer in a loud voice.
King John meanwhile moved toward the table, and the
dauphin and his guests rose to
greet their sovereign. But the king paid no attention
to any one save Charles the
Drawing him aside, he said, "Get up, traitor, thou art
not worthy to sit at my son's
table. By my father's soul, I cannot think of meat or
drink so long as thou art
living." Then King John bade his soldiers take Charles
of Navarre prisoner.
The dauphin flung himself at his father's feet, and
begged him not to harm his
guests. "It will be said that I have betrayed them," he
cried in distress.
But the king thrust his son aside, and ordered the
barons who had come with Charles the Bad to the feast to be beheaded.
Charles himself John sent to prison, where he was kept
in constant fear as to what
was to be his fate. For each day his guards told him
that, at a certain hour, he
would be beheaded, and when the hour had passed and
Charles was still alive, they
told him another hour at which he would be thrown into
the river Seine.
As you may imagine, a king who could treat his son's
guests so treacherously, and
who could torture his prisoner in the way Charles the
Bad was tortured, was not
likely to be loved by his people. More and more his
subjects grew to hate him, and
some of his barons deserted King John and served in the
army of the King of England.
 After the siege of Calais a truce, you remember,
was made with England for ten
years. Nine years had passed, but, though no great
battle had been fought during
that time, the truce between the two countries had not
been strictly kept. King John
had even made an attempt to get back Calais, but had
failed. Now, however, in 1856
the Black Prince had landed in France at Bordeaux, and
leading his army northward
into the country of the river Loire, he had burned and
pillaged the towns through
which he passed.
When King John heard of the Black Prince's march, he at
once set out with a large
army, hoping to be able to cut off his return to
Bordeaux. For the Black Prince,
knowing that the French army was much larger than his
own, was now on his way back
to the coast, so that, if it were necessary, he might
embark for England.
But King John succeeded, as he had hoped to do, in
coming between the prince and
Bordeaux, near the town of Poitiers.
Then, because the French army was many times larger
than his own, the Black Prince
offered to give up all the towns and castles he had
taken, to set free all the
French prisoners, and to promise not to fight against
France for seven years, if he
and his army were allowed to march on unhindered.
King John would not accept the offer of the prince. He
was determined to give battle
to the English, unless the Black Prince and all his
army would give themselves up to
him as prisoners.
To this the English prince never dreamed of agreeing.
Then King John said he would
be content with the Black Prince and one hundred of his
But to this demand also the prince refused to listen,
and preparing for battle, said
fearlessly, "God will defend the right."
If its numbers were small, the position of the English
 army was good. For it
had taken its stand upon a rough hillside covered with
vineyards. To reach the hill
from the front there was but one way, and this was
through a narrow lane, on either
side of which was a thick hedge. Behind these hedges
the Black Prince had placed his
archers, who were thus unseen by the French.
At the foot of the hill lay John's large army. Had the
French been willing to wait,
they could have guarded every approach to the hill and
starved the English into
submission. But they were eager at once to win the
victory, which they never doubted
would be theirs.
As John moved among his soldiers he was surrounded by
nineteen knights, each wearing
the same dress as the king, so that he might be less
easily recognised in the
battle. Before the knights waved the Oriflamme from St.
The vanguard of the French army was now ordered to
advance. Up the narrow lane the
soldiers rode, when to their astonishment they were
greeted on either side by a
shower of arrows from an unseen foe. And the deadly
shower never ceased, for the
English archers poured their darts upon the miserable
soldiers so fast, so sure,
that they worked deadly havoc. The lane was soon filled
with the slain and wounded.
Those who were behind, seeing how their comrades were
being smitten, turned backward
upon the men who were led by the dauphin.
At the same moment the English archers broke from their
hiding-place behind the
hedges, and dashed upon the retreating foe.
The Black Prince seized the same moment to ride down
upon the enemy, shouting, "St. George! St. George!" and soon
the French were flying in every direction.
Among those who fled was Charles the Dauphin, with two
of his brothers, followed by
about eight hundred knights.
But King John was no coward, and soon he had rallied
 his men and prepared to
make a stand against the English, who had come down
from the hill and held no better
position than the French.
The Black Prince, Froissart tells us, "who aimed at
perfectness of honour, rode
onward to meet the French, with his banner before him,
succouring the people
whenever he saw them scattering or unsteady, and
proving himself a right good
In the midst of his knights King John fought as bravely
as the Black Prince,
defending himself with a battle-axe. By his side was
his young son Philip, a lad of
fourteen, who tried his best to ward off the blows that
were aimed at his father.
And ever above the strife his clear young voice rang
out, "Father, strike here;
father, strike there." It was on the field of Poitiers
that Philip earned his name
"the Bold," which was his when he became the Duke of
"Yield you, yield you, or else you die!" cried the
English, as they hurled their
blows at King John, some not knowing that it was the
king, others knowing it well.
The Oriflamme fell to the ground as the knight who
guarded it was slain, and then at
length King John and his brave son Philip were taken
prisoners and led before the
Black Prince, who received them courteously, "as he
well knew how to do," says his
In the evening, when the battle was ended, the Black
Prince asked King John, his
son, and many of his noble prisoners, to supper. Nor
would the prince sit at table
with his royal captives, even when King John begged him
to do so, but he himself
waited on his guests as though they were his lords.
It was not a merry supper party, and King John looked
so sad that the Black Prince,
kneeling before him, said, "Dear sir, be pleased not to
put on so sad a countenance,
because it hath not pleased God that you should win the
 day, for the prize of
valour is yours, since every Englishman saw that none
bore himself as bravely as
Some time after he had won the battle of Poitiers,
which was fought on the 15th
September 1856, the Black Prince sailed for England,
taking with him his royal
prisoner King John.
When they reached London, the Black Prince and his
captive rode through the streets
of the capital, and while the people cheered their
gallant prince, they marvelled to
see him riding on a little black palfrey, while his
prisoner was mounted on a noble
white steed. But this was one of the ways which the
brave prince took to show King
John that he would treat him royally and well. King
Edward, too, was kind to the
great captive his son had brought home; nevertheless,
King John was kept a prisoner
in England for four years.