Feast of Eagles this year has a Hundred Years War theme, and the autocrats have asked for volunteers to create table displays (e.g. science fair) for various battles of the war. As part of my display on the 1356 Battle of Poitiers (and Crecy in 1346), I will be giving away the following three books.
Edward III And The Triumph Of England: The Battle Of Crécy And The Company Of The Garter by Richard Barber
The destruction of the French army at Crécy in 1346 and the subsequent siege and capture of Calais marked a new era in European history. The most powerful, glamorous and respected of all western monarchies had been completely humiliated by England, a country long viewed either as a chaotic backwater or a mere French satellite.
The young Edward III’s triumph would launch both countries, as we now know, into a grim cycle of some 90 years of further fighting ending with English defeat, but after Crécy anything seemed possible – Edward’s claim to be King of France could be pressed home and, in any event, enormous rewards of land, treasure and prestige were available both to the king and to the close companions who had made the victory possible. It was to enshrine this moment that Edward created one of the most famous of all knightly orders, the Company of the Garter.
Barber writes about both the great campaigns and the individuals who formed the original membership of the Company – and through their biographies makes the period tangible and fascinating. This is a book about knighthood, battle tactics and grand strategy, but it is also about fashion, literature and the privates lives of everyone from queens to freebooters. Barber’s book is a remarkable achievement – but also an extremely enjoyable one.
In the Steps of the Black Prince: The Road to Poitiers, 1355-1356 by Peter Hoskins
In 1355 the Black Prince took an army to Bordeaux and embarked on two chevauchées (mounted military expeditions, generally characterized by the devastation of the surrounding towns and countryside), which culminated in his decisive victory over King Jean II of France at Poitiers the following year. Using the recorded itineraries as his starting point, the author of this book walked more than 1,300 miles across France, retracing the routes of the armies in search of a greater understanding of the Black Prince’s expedition. He followed the 1355 chevauchée from Bordeaux to the Mediterranean and back, and that for 1356 from Aquitaine to the Loire, to the battlefield at Poitiers, and back again to Bordeaux.
Drawing on his findings on the ground, a wide range of documentary sources, and the work of local historians, many of whom the author met on his travels, the book provides a unique perspective on the Black Prince’s chevauchées of 1355 and 1356 and the battle of Poitiers, one of the greatest English triumphs of the Hundred Years War, demonstrating in particular the impact of the landscape on the campaigns.
The Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince: from Contemporary Letters, Diaries and Chronicles, Including Chandos Herald’s Life of the Black Prince by Richard Barber
Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward III, known as the Black Prince, is one of those heroes of history books so impressive as to seem slightly unreal. At sixteen he played a leading part in the fighting at Crécy; at twenty-six he captured the king of France at Poitiers; and eleven years later he restored Pedro of Castile to histhrone at the battle of Najera. His exploits were chronicled by Jean Froissart, but Froissart was writing three or four decades after the events he describes. There are other sources much closer to events, and it is on these that the present volume draws.
Most immediate are the reports sent home by the prince’s companions-in-arms and his own letters, which graphically convey the hardships and difficulties of campaigning, its dangers and sheer fatigue. These are followed by campaign diaries and the story of Crécy and other exploits of the prince’s from Geoffrey le Baker’s chronicle (c.1358-60), itself drawing on similar letters and diaries. Finally there is the chronicle of Chandos Herald, which shows the prince as he appeared to an English writer in the 1380s. Each of the sources is discussed in detail in the introductions to the extracts.
How the books will be given away is still being determined, but as of early July, I would tentatively prefer for the books to go to non-Peers with an interest in the Hundred Years War, the 14th century, or the chivalric ideals of the era. This may take the form of a nomination form and random drawing or voting.
Please stay tuned for more information or look for details at my display at Feast of Eagles.