The Battle of Gisors, 1198, according to Roger of Hoveden

The Annals of Roger of Hoveden provide an account of the Battle of Gisors between Richard I of England and Philip Augustus of France, which took place in 1198. Hoveden writes down two versions of this battle, and includes a letter written by Richard I to the bishop of Durham, that details the battle. Other events of this years of fighting are also included. 

Battle of Gisors

In the same year, the truce being ended, which the king of France and the king of England had agreed to, until such time as the corn should have been gathered in on both sides, their direful fury immediately blazed forth, and, all conferences being put an end to, each entered the kingdom of the other in hostile form, and, depopulating the lands, carried off booty, took prisoners, and burned towns. The king of France also, finding a new method of venting his rage against the people, caused the eyes to be put out of many of the subjects of the king of England whom he had made prisoners, and thus provoked the king of England, unwilling as he was, to similar acts of impiety.

In the same year, the Duke of Louvaine, the count de Brene, Baldwin, earl of Flanders, the count de Gynes, the earl of Boulogne, Geoffrey, count de Perche, the earl of Saint Gilles, the earl of Blois, Arthur, duke of Brittany, and many others, forsaking the king of France, became adherents of Richard, king of England, making oath to him, and he to them, that they would not make peace with the king of France, unless with the common consent of all. On this, the earl of Flanders laid siege to the town of Saint Omer, and took it by storm, and in like manner Arras, and many other towns of the king of France.

In the same year, Henry, duke of Saxony, nephew of Richard, king of England, came to Andely, in Normandy, to visit his uncle, the said king of England, being on his return from the land of Sulia; and was honorably entertained by the king, in such manner as befitted a man of such eminence, and his own nephew. In the month of September, in the said year, Philip, king of France, and Richard, king of England, had an engagement between Jumieges, a castle of the king of England, and Vernon, a castle of the king of France, in which combat the king of France and his people being put to flight, he lost sixty of his knights, and more than forty men-at-arms, besides many horse and foot; the king of England pursuing the king of France with the edge of the sword, until he shut himself up in his castle of Vernon.

In the month of September in this year, on the fifth day before the calends of October, being the Lord’s day, Richard, king of England took by assault a castle of the king of France, which is called Curcelles, and another castle of the same king called Burris; and, on the day after the capture of the said castles, namely, on the calends of October, being the second day of the week and the vigil of Saint Michael, Philip, king of France, haying assembled a large body of troops and citizens, marched forth from Mante on his road to Curcelles. On hearing of this, the king of England went forth to meet him, and fought a pitched battle with him between Curcelles and Gisors, on which the king of France, being worsted, fled to the castle of Gisors; and, while he was crossing the bridge of the town of Gisors, the bridge broke down on account of tine multitude of those crossing it, and the king of France fell into the river Ethe, and hall to drink of it, and, if he had not been speedily dragged out, would have been drowned therein. In this battle, Richard, king of England, laid three knights prostrate with a single lance, and there were taken prisoners many illustrious men among the knights of the king of France, whose names are as follows: Galis de Port, Matthew de Montmorenci, Alan de Rusci, Gerard de Choir, Philip de Nanteuil, Peter L’Eschars, Robert de Saint Denis, Theobald de Walengard, Cedunal de Trie, Roger de Modlen, Aimer Thiers, Reginald d’Ascy, Balde de Levigny, Thomas d’ Asgent, Feri de Paris, Peter de la Truie, Guido de Levers, Turmentin, ( of Champagne, ) Terric d’Anceis, Amfrid de Baalim, Eborard de Montigny, Puncard, Walter Le Rouge, Ernulph de Lenni, Odo de Muntiun, William de Sauciai, Jollan de Bran, Peter de Poncy, Dembert (d’Auge), Puncard Duchatel Empurchamp, William de Merle, John de Gauge, Theobald de Brune., Robert de Beauburg, Geoffrey de Borhai, Peter de Maidnil, Folk de Gilerval, John de Serni, (Alard) de Loenais, Ralph de Vallucel, Ferri de Brunaye, Thomas de Cartel, William de Rochemont, Theobald de Misci. And, besides the knights already mentioned, the long of Ea, took one hundred knights, and one hundred and forte horses, covered with iron armour, and of men-at-arms, both horse and foot, a great number. On this occasion the said king wrote to Philip, bishop of Durham, to the following effect.


Letter of Richard, king of England, to Philip, bishop of Durham, relative to the above-mentioned victory:

“Richard, by the grace of God, king of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and earl of Anjou, to our dearly beloved and faithful subject, Philip, by the same grace, bishop of Durham, greeting. You are to know that on the last Lord’s day, before the feast of Saint Michael, we entered the territory; of the king of France, in Anjou, and made an assault on Curcelles, of which we took the castle, with the town, as also the lord of the castle, and all the rest who where therein. On the same day we assaulted the fortified mansion of Burris, and took the whole that was in it, together with the mansion, and at a late hour returned with our army into Anjou.

On hearing of this, on the following day the king of France came forth from Mante, with three hundred knights, and with men-at-arms and citizens, for the purpose of succouring the castle of Curcelles, as he did not believe that it was taken. On this, as soon as we learned that he was approaching, we went forth with a small number of troops, but sent the main body of our forces to line the bank of the river Ethe, as we supposed that he would come upon our people on the opposite bank of the river from the aide of Anjou. He, however, with his forces made a descent in the direction of Gisors, on which, we put him and his people, after taking to flight, into such consternation on their way to the gate of Gisors, that the bridge broke down beneath them, and the king of France, as we have heard say, had to drink of the river, and several knights, about twenty in number, were drowned. Three also, with a single lance, we unhorsed, Matthew de Montmorency, Alan de Rusci, and Fulk de Gilerval, and have them as our prisoners. There were also valiantly captured as many as one hundred knights of his, the names of the principal of whom we send to you, and will send those of the rest, when we shall have seen them, as Marchades has taken as many as thirty whom we have not seen. Men-at-arms, also, both horse and foot, were taken, of which the number is not known; also, two hundred chargers were captured, of which one hundred and forty were covered with iron armour. Thus have we defeated the king of France at Gisors; but it is not we who have done the same, but rather God, and our right, by our means, and is so doing, we have put our life in peril, and our kingdom contrary the advice of all our people. These things we signify unto you, that you may share in our joy as to the same. Witness o ourselves, at Anjou.”

On the thirtieth day of September, Philip, king of France, entered Normandy, with a large army, while the king of England had not with him sixty men as he had scattered his army over different places. However, he hung upon the rear of the Franks, with a few of his troops until there had met him, in obedience to his command, about two hundred knights and Marchades with his Routiers. Accordingly, the Franks, although they were many more in number, on seeing the king of England and his men, after having burned about eighteen towns, retreated with hasty steps; and while the king of England pursued them in the rear, Marchades, with his Routiers, met them in front, and there were taken of the French, about thirty knights and men-at-arms, and one hundred horses, in addition to those slain. This took place near Vernon; for they did not return by the road by which they had come, that is across the fords of Anjou, but, in their trepidation took to fight in the direction of Vernon; and it is still spoken of, as a matter of disgrace to the French people, that, leaving his men, their king made his escape on an old dark brown horse, which they say he had had for ten years, and took nothing with him out of Normandy, except, perhaps, three or four knights and a single man-at-arms.

After this, the king of England, collecting an army, entered France by the ford of Anjou, and took, as above stated, Burris and Curcelles, and another castle, while his troops, with continued ravages and conflagrations, laid waste the whole of the French Vexin. When, the king of England was on the point of leveling the fortress of Curcelles, the king of France, collecting his forces, came down upon him, and an engagement taking place between them, the king of France, giving rein to his horse, was put to flight in the midst of his territory, on which the king of England pursued him oath his troops, and took of the knights of the king of France at least eighty-three in number, besides men-at-arms, arbalesters, and those who were drowned in the river Ethe; and in consequence of the excessive trepidation of the Franks, the bridge over the Ethe, before Gisors, broke down beneath them, and the king of France fell into the water, so that he was with difficulty dragged out by the leg, and was nearly drowned. A great mangy others were also drowned, among whom were Milo de Pudsey, count de Bar, and John, the brother of William des Barnes, a knight; who with many others were drowned in the river Ethe. William, also, the castellane and lord of Curcelles, died immediately after he was taken prisoner.

After this, the king of France assembling an army, entered Normandy, and burned Evreux and seven other tows. Earl John also, brother of king Richard, burned Neuburg, which the king of France thinking to have been done by his own people, sent some knights to forbid then to proceed it their ravages; and of these eighteen knights were taken, together with many men-at-arms. Shortly after, Marchades, with his Routiers, entered Flanders, and attacked the fair held near Abbeville, and spoiled the merchants of France, and returning into Normandy with a great booty, filled the land with the spoils of the Franks, and slew many of them, and took with him many captives to be put to their ransom.

After these events, Robert, earl of Leicester, came with forty knights and a few men-at-arms, before the castle of Pasci, which had belonged to him; on which the knights of the castle sallied forth with a great number of men-at-arms and the citizens of the town, for the purpose of capturing him and his followers; and he, being able to offer them no resistance, escaped with difficulty, and lost four of his knights.

On the following day, however, the said earl, having called to his aid a considerable number of the knights of the household of the king of England, came before the castle of Pasci, having first disposed the knights and great numbers of men-at-arms in different places, to lie in ambush for the people of the castle. Accordingly, when the knights of the castle, who had driven him from the field the day before, espied him, they sallied forth with great vigour, and he fled before them, until they fell in with those lying in ambush, on which eighteen knights of their number were captured, and a great number of the common soldiers.

In the meantime, Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, crossed over from England to Normandy, and immediately, at the request of the king of France, and a with the permission of the king of England, proceeded into France, to treat of making peace between those two kings. On this the king of France made offer that he would, for the sake of peace, surrender to the king of England all his lands and castles that he had seized, with the exception of the castle of Gisors, as to which, he would abide by the decision of six Norman barons, whom he himself should name, and of six barons of France, whom the king of England should name, which of the two had the greatest right to retain possession of the castle; but the king of England declined, unless the earl of Flanders, and all the others who had abandoned the king of France and become his adherents were included in the treaty.

Originally translated by Henry T. Riley, The Annals of Roger of Hoveden (London, 1853)

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