Rare insights into the chivalric age through the eyewitness accounts of two French knights
Geoffrey de Villehardouin was an eminent French knight, who set out on the Fourth Crusade in 1199. Pivotally involved in events, including the routing the campaign via Constantinople, his important chronicle was written when his experiences were still fresh in his mind. After the conquest of Byzantium he became a military leader and earned the city of Messinopolis in Thrace and the title Marshal of Champagne. Jean de Joinville embarked upon his crusade—remembered by history as the Seventh Crusade—as a young man in 1248. This Crusade was launched only seven years after the previous one failed and actually managed to briefly occupy Jerusalem. De Joinville was away upon campaign for six years, returning home from Palestine in 1254, though he did not pen his memoir until old age. This is a very 'human ' reporter full of fears, misgivings and able to provide the reader with minute detail of events.
This book contains two essential, first hand accounts from the time of the crusades, and gives the reader the rare opportunity to look into the lives of medieval knights on campaign and on the battlefield; both accounts are regarded as important documents of the period.
I and my knights decided that we should attack some Turks who were loading their baggage in their camp to our left; and we fell upon them. While we were driving them through their camp, I perceived a Saracen, who was mounting his horse; one of his knights was holding the bridle. At the moment when he had his two hands on the saddle to mount, I gave him of my lance under the armpits and laid him dead.<br>
When his knight saw that, he left his lord and the horse, and struck me with his lance as I passed, between the two shoulders, holding me so pressed down that I could not draw the sword at my belt. I had therefore to draw the sword attached to my horse; and when he saw that my sword was so drawn, he withdrew his lance and left me.<br>
When I and my knights came out of the camp, we found some six thousand Turks, as we reckoned, who had left their quarters and retreated into the fields. When they saw us, they came running upon us, and killed my Lord Hugh of Trichâtel, Lord of Conflans, who was with me bearing a banner. I and my knights set spurs to our horses, and went to deliver my Lord Raoul of Wanou, who was with me, and whom they had struck to the ground.<br>
While I was returning, the Turks pressed upon me with their lances. My horse knelt under the weight and I fell forward over the horse’s ears. I got up as soon as ever I could, with my shield at my neck, and my sword in my hand; and my Lord Everard of Siverey—God have him in grace!—who was one of my people, came to me and said that we should draw off near to a ruined house, and there await the king, who was coming. As we were going thither, part on foot and part mounted, a great rout of Turks came rushing upon us, and bore me to the ground, and went over me, and caused my shield to fly from my neck.<br>
When they had passed on, my Lord Everard of Siverey came back to me, and led me thence, and we went to the walls of the ruined house; and thither returned to us my Lord Hugh of Ecot, my Lord Frederic of Loupey, my Lord Renaud of Menoncourt. The Turks attacked us on all sides. Some of them entered into the ruined house and pricked us with their lances from above. Then my knights told me to hold their bridles, and so I did, for fear the horses should run away. And they defended themselves right manfully; and afterwards received great praise from all the right worthy men of the host, both those who were there and witnessed the deed, and those who heard tell thereof.<br>
Then did my Lord Hugh of Ecot receive three lance wounds in the face, and my Lord Raoul; and my Lord Frederic of Loupey received a lance wound between the shoulders, and the wound was so large that the blood flowed from his body as from the bung-hole of a cask. My Lord Everard of Siverey was struck by a sword in the middle of the face in such sort that his nose fell over his lip. Then it came to my mind to think upon my Lord St. James, so that I prayed: