Battlefield and campaigning during the 16th century in Monluc’s own words
Monluc’s memoir is one of the best known, most valuable and highly regarded insights into the warfare of the 16th century written by someone who participated in it in full measure. Born in 1502 in Gascony, Monluc served France for over fifty years. This consummate warrior, first served as an archer and man-at-arms in Italy under the captaincy of the redoubtable Bayard. His performance at The Battle of Ceresole in 1544, during the Italian wars between France and Spain, allied to the Holy Roman Empire, earned him a knighthood. From this point on, though he lacked patronage, his personal merits began to be recognised and his defence of Siena in 1555 secured his reputation as a soldier and commander of the first rank. A staunch Royalist he was active throughout the Wars of Religion, and in 1574 Henry III made him a marshal of France. This fascinating memoir takes the reader to the sharp end of warfare of the period, for Monluc, who was frequently wounded, rarely shied away from the heart of the action. This memoir—part first hand account and part history—reveals a fierce and formidable military man at war during the Renaissance, making this book essential reading for any military history student of the period. The text of this Leonaur edition has been re-crafted to make it more readily accessible to modern readers.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The enemy still held on their march without making any shew of breaking, firing upon us all the way with very great fury, and we also upon them, so that I was constrained to call Captain Lienard to come and join with me, forasmuch as a squadron of harquebusiers was drawn off from their front to reinforce their rear. I likewise called up le Pallu, and after this manner they marched on till they came within sight of the castle of St Pre, which was three miles or more, continually plying us with their harquebuze shot.
I had once almost put them to rout, at the passing over a great ditch, near to a house where was a base court, where we pursued them so close that we came to the sword, whereupon twenty or five and twenty of them leaped into the base court, and there some of ours falling in pell-mell amongst them, they were all cut to pieces, whilst in the interim of that execution the rest got over the ditch.
Our cavalry had thought to have charged them but did not, being kept off by the harquebuze shot, by which many of their horses were slain, and as for Captain Gabarret and Baron, they committed on error, who, seeing us in the ditch all shuffled pell-mell together, forsook their horses and took their pikes, yet could they not come up in time, which if they had, and that the corslets could have marched at the rate the harquebusiers did, they had there been infallibly defeated; but it was not possible, being hindred by the weight of their arms, so that the enemy marched on, still ridding ground, till being come near to a little bridge of brick, I left our harquebusiers still fighting, and galloped to our cavalry that was in three bodies.
Monsieur de Cental leading his own, which still keeping at distance out of the reach of the shot, marched sometimes before and sometimes a little on one side, to whom, coming up to him, I said, ‘Ah Monsieur de Cental will you not charge? do you not see that the enemy will escape us if they once get over that bridge, and immediately recover the wood of St Fré? which if they do, we are never more worthy to bear arms, and for my part I will from this hour forswear them.’
Who in great fury made answer that it stuck not at him but that I was to speak to Captain Mons, which I also did, saying to him these words. ‘Hah Camrade! must we this day receive so great a disgrace, and lose so fair an opportunity, because your horse will not charge?’
Who thereupon answered, ‘What would you have us do, your corslets cannot come up to the fight, would you have us fight alone?’
To which I made answer, swearing for rage, that I had no need of corslets, wishing they were all at Savillan, since they could not come up to fight; he then said to me, go speak to the foremost troop, and in the meantime I will advance; I then spurred to them, where I began to remonstrate to Monsieur de Termes his gentlemen, that it was not above nine or ten days since we had fought with the Italians and beaten them, and now that we should fight with the Spaniards to obtain greater honour, must they escape from us? Who thereupon with one voice all cryed out, ‘It does not stick at us, It does not stick at us.’
I then asked them if they would promise me to charge so soon as I should have made the harquebusiers betake themselves to their swords, to run in upon them, which they did assure me they would upon pain of their lives. There was at that time amongst them a nephew of mine called Serillac (who after was lieutenant to Monsieur de Cypierre at Parma, and there taken prisoner with him, and since slain at Montepullsianne, and, in truth, amongst these thirty launces there were the best men that Monsieur de Termes had in all his troop) to whom I said; ‘Serillac, thou art my nephew, but if thou dost not charge in the first man amongst them, I henceforth disclaim thee, and thou shalt no more be any kinsman of mine’; who immediately returned me answer, ‘You shall presently see, uncle, whether I will or no.’
Which said he claped down his beaver, as also did all the rest, to charge. I then cryed out to them to stay a little, till I first got up to my men, and thereupon ran to my harquebusiers, where being come, I told them that it was now no longer time to shoot, but that we must fall onto the sword.
‘Captains, my comrades, whenever you shall happen to be at such a feast as this, press your followers, speak first to one and then to another, bestir yourselves, and doubt not but by this means you will render them valiant throughout if they were but half so before.’
They all on a suddain claped hands to their swords, when so soon as Captain Mons who was a little before, and Monsieur de Cental who was on one side, saw the first troop shut down their beavers, and saw me run to the harquebusiers, and in an instant their swords in their hands, they knew very well that I had met with lads of mettle, and began to draw near.
I for my part lighted from my horse, taking a halbert in my hand (which was my usual weapon in fight) and all of us ran headlong to throw ourselves in amongst the enemy. Serillac was as good as his word, for he charged in the first, as they all confessed, where his horse was killed at the head of the enemies’ harquebusiers, and our own horse with seven harquebuze shot.
Tilladet, Lavit, Ydrou, Montselier, les Maurens, and les Massae, all Gascon gentlemen of the same troop, and companions of the said Serillac, charged the horse thorough and thorough, whom they overturned upon the head of their own foot. Monsieur de Cental also charged in the flank, quite thorough both horse and foot, Captain Mons charged likewise on the other side, so that they were all overthrown, and routed both horse and foot. And there we began to lay about us, above fourscore or an hundred men being left dead upon the place. Rozalles, captain to one of the two troops of light horse, with four others, got away, as also did Don Juan de Guibara upon a Turk with his page only, who happened to be on horseback, being shot thorough the hand, of which he ever after remained lame, and I do believe is yet living.
This is the true relation of this fight, as it passed, their being several at this day alive, who were present at it, and I desire no other testimony to prove whether I have failed in one tittle of the truth.