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THE author of this Poem, one of the most valuable authorities on certain episodes in the Hundred Years War, was Chandos, the domestic Herald of the famous friend and follower of the Black Prince, Sir John Chandos, whom, as we learn from Froissart, he accompanied in some at least of his later campaigns.

The poem is not so much a continuous historical narrative as a record to the leading events in the life of this same Prince, and a eulogy upon his prowess and piety. This is important to notice, as it accounts for the partial or complete omission of many important details, and for the special prominence given to the exploits of its hero.

As to the author himself, we know very little of Chandos the Herald, and can only collect fragments of information from occasional passages in Froissart.1

In all probability he entered upon his duties when Chandos received the rank of banneret, together with the territory of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, in 1360, though we find him first alluded to by Froissart in the beginning of 1366, when Chandos was treating with Foix for the passage of the Companies, on which occasion ‘his Herald’ was mentioned;2 he is also noticed by name in 1369, when he bears a message to the Black Prince from Chandos and Knolles then engaged in the siege of Domme. 3

Anstis, in his Order of the Garter, speaks of Chandos, formerly Herald of Sir John Chandos, as being invested in 1381 in the tabard of the Earl of Buckingham, and as being probably the person mentioned in 1382 as ‘King of Arms of Ireland Chandos by name.’ 4

A notice of the poem is given by Warton in his History of English Poetry, where he calls the author ‘The Prince’s Herald, who attended close on his person in all his battles’5; but this is too obviously an error to require attention.

We start, then, with the knowledge that the author was a Herald; probably, therefore, a person of discernment, address, experience and some degree of education6 (Froissart tells us that he often went to Heralds for his information); attached to the person of a warrior who was the intimate friend and constant follower of the Black Prince; and an eye-witness of some at least of the events which he describes in his narrative.


The poem is written, on the whole, in a plain, straightforward manner, evidently more for the sake of the history contained in its pages than for the poetical form in which the narrative is cast. But, though we may credit the author with the intention of telling a plain, unvarnished tale, we shall look in vain for an accurate chronology, and must turn to other sources for the actual dates of the events recorded in these pages.

The Herald begins by a brief description of Edward III’s campaign of 1346, culminating in the battle of Crécy, and followed by the capture of Calais. He gives some details of the plot for the recovery of that town at the end of 1349, and then passes almost at once to the years 1355 and 1356, giving a detailed and valuable account of the victory of Poitiers.

After this we come, however, to what is by far the most important part of the poem, that in which he treats of the events in which he himself took part: the Spanish expedition made by the Black Prince on behalf of Pedro of Castile, and the battle of Nájera or Navarete. Having completed the history of this period, he gives a very brief and sketchy account of the disastrous end of Prince Edward’s government of Gascony, and of the war which led to the loss of almost all the possessions acquired at Brétigny, and then with considerable detail recounts the close of his hero’s career and his dying moments.

This is the conclusion of the poem, which does not seek to described historical events other than those which concern its central figure. The verses finish with a brief appendix of official names and a copy of the Prince’s epitaph.

As to the date at which the Herald wrote, it cannot have been immediately after the events recorded. The poem covers, as we have seen, the whole life of the Prince, whose death took place in 1376, and we read that since the conquest of Castile by Henry of Trastamare ‘ne passa mye des ans vint’ (1816). This would bring the date of its composition to about 1386, but in all probability 1385 would be nearer to the truth, since, in speaking of the Princess of Wales, whose death took place at the close of this year, the author makes use of the present tense: ‘Qui de tout honor est maitresse’ (2142). This does not establish absolute certainty, as he speaks also in the present tense of the Queen of Navarre (2486), who died as early as 1373,7 obviously before the writing of the poem. Taken, however, in conjunction with the other statement, as to not quite twenty years having elapsed, it renders this date very probable.

The poem falls naturally into two parts: (A) the account of the French Campaigns, (B) the Spanish episode, and it will be clearer to consider each of these parts separately.

A. Certain general conclusions can be drawn from a consideration of the first portion.

1. We gather that the Herald was not an eye-witness of any of the events here recorded. In no place does he give the slightest indication of his own presence, while several times he writes as though his information was second-hand. Such [lvi] phrases as ‘Com jay oy conter’ (394, 734), ‘a ce que je entendi’ (1163, 1375), occur frequently. Occasionally he alludes to a written record. He quotes ‘la matiere’ when he narrates the crossing of the river at Poissy (214). The date of the battle of Crécy he claims to have found in ‘luy escris’ (380), but it is quite a wrong one, and evidently given at haphazard from memory. In stating the number of the French army before Poitiers, and the mission of the Archbishop of Sens, he says ‘come dit l’estille’ (737, 868); and for the capture of Curton and d’Aubréchicourt ‘come dit le romant’. Such expressions, however, are very vague and seem to be added as much to fill up his lines as for any other purpose. He probably saw lists of men, prisoners and so forth; but, if he gathered his information from any book or chronicle, it does not seem to have been one which we now possess. He might possibly have seen the early edition of Froissart (written between 1369 and 1373) or the Chronicle of Baker of Swynbroke (written in 1359 or 1360), or even parts of the Grandes Chroniques; but there are no obvious signs of imitation, and certainly no actual reproductions. His narrative, however, cannot in this part be the result of personal knowledge, nor can it have the value of a first-hand record.

2. We may look upon him, nevertheless, as an authority likely to be trustworthy. He was a person of importance and of intelligence, having opportunities of contact with many who must have been actually present at the events which he records; added to which, he does not indulge in poetical exaggeration or flights of imagination, but expressly disclaims the desire to imitate ‘Jangelours et Jogelours’ and sings the praises of historical truth (15-42).

3. As we have already seen, he does not appear to have copied from any known writer. His details differ widely from those given by Froissart, and we have proofs of originality in many stories which are found nowhere but in his pages. The following are examples of this: The resistance of Marshal Bertrand to Edward’s landing in 1346 (154-65, see note); the mention of Beaujeu in connexion with the plot for the recovery of Calais (420, see note); the visit of the Captal de Buch to England in 1355 (526, see note); the exact disposition of the garrisons in Gascony during the winter of the same year (668-80); many of the details of Cardinal Talleyrand’s attempt to bring about an agreement between the rival leaders before the battle of Poitiers; the joint Council held on the Sunday, and Charny’s proposal of a combat between picked men from each side (767-928); the part played at this same battle by the troop of horse under Guichard d’Angle, Aubigny and Ribemont (1190-1200); and finally the Prince’s prayer before actually engaging in arms with the forces of the French king (1260-75).

From these facts it seems probable that his information was gathered more frequently from conversation with those who had taken part in these various events, than from any written records; and that, for this reason, though not very correct in details, he gives a more interesting and better general idea than more accurate but less spirited accounts. At the same time this renders his knowledge of the remoter history less full and clear than if he had taken the trouble to investigate closely what had really occurred, and it is for this reason, probably, that we find so meagre an account of the early campaigns, and, above all, of the battle of Crécy, which, [lvii] in a history of the Black Prince, we should have expected to occupy a far more important place.

4. As a chronicler he has certainly some grave faults. First and foremost as to chronology. Dates are not altogether suitable to a poem, and in consequence we find very few of them, but in almost every instance in which an indication is made it is incorrect. Poitiers is dated rightly, but Crécy is given on the 23rd instead of the 26th August (381, see note), and the duration of the Siege of Calais (387, note), the birth of Thomas of Woodstock (521, see note), and the campaign of 1355 are all inaccurately represented.

5. The Herald’s desire to sing the praises of his hero has probably affected the impartiality of his narrative: thus the great renown won by the Prince at Caen, his command at the crossing of the Somme, and his rescue of his father at Calais may all be somewhat exaggerated. Occasionally also his method of passing quickly from one great event to another, and his rather scrappy and disjointed style, render the narrative obscure if not actually misleading. Thus his accounts of marches and campaigns are of very little use, his Battle of Crécy and Siege of Calais are uninteresting and present no new information, while his account of the Calais plot would, if taken alone, be almost unintelligible.

Nevertheless, except in the matter of dates already mentioned, we cannot convict Chandos of any glaring mistakes, with the exception of that concerning the Prince’s march from Bordeaux to Romorantin, and the mention of Béziers as among the towns captured in 1355 (648). He may be wrong also as to the part played by Marshal Bertrand and as to the connexion of Beaujeu with the Calais plot, but neither has been positively disproved, and for the other points, on which he is the only authority, he had good opportunities of judging them, and is very probably correct, while his lists of names are in every case exceedingly accurate; as a herald, probably the history of noble families was familiar to him.

To sum up, we may say that, as regards the earlier campaigns, we learn from Chandos little that is new or striking, and cannot look upon his narrative as particularly accurate; but that for the proceedings of 1355 and 1356 his authority is exceedingly valuable, especially in all that concerns the Battle of Poitiers, for which his account, which should be compared with that of Baker of Swynebroke, may be regarded as offering information of the highest importance.

B. For the Spanish campaign there is no doubt as to the extreme value of his testimony. Accompanying his master, as we have seen, in 1366, his own words prove clearly that he was an eye-witness of the events which he records in this and the following year: ‘Ore est bien temps de comencer ma matier, et moy adresser au purpos ou ie voille venir a ce qe ie vys a venir apres la bataille en Britanie’ (1649-53).

We have before us, therefore, the work of an eye-witness, whose position afforded him every opportunity of giving a trustworthy account of the campaign in which he played an active part, and who wrote within eighteen years of the events he describes. Yet the interval was perhaps sufficient to obliterate the freshness of first impressions, and to lead to inaccuracies, unless some written record lviii had been preserved contemporary with the events recorded. But, despite this disadvantage, the general impression which we gather from the study of this portion of the poem is that without doubt it is a most valuable, if not the most valuable authority which we possess for all that concerns the Spanish Campaign.

1. It is not only the work of an eye-witness, but of an eye-witness deserving the fullest confidence. Naturally he has his limitations; he is not infallible in his account of events which took place at a distance — notably in Spain, and in the enemy’s camp — but this limitation is also a point in his favour. He gives so few details of those events in which he did not himself take part, that he does not seem to have done much in the way of copying other authorities, and, therefore, whenever he does give a circumstantial account it may be considered as based on first-hand knowledge. Very rarely now does he allude to any other information. Occasionally we find ‘come jay oy’, or ‘come jay oy countier’, as in his description of the capture of men on the mountain (2798) and the making of knights by the Black Prince (2626); these would be very natural expressions in the case of events which he did not actually see with his own eyes. The mention of written records is still rarer and chiefly concerns Spanish events. Thus, in describing Pedro’s flight from Seville, he writes: ‘si come la matier dist’ (1784), and, on Prince Henry moving from his camp at Navarete, ‘si lui estoire ne ment’ (3048). The expression ‘Sicome ie oi en mon recorde’ (1930), concerning the preparation of ships at Bayonne, may refer to his own notes, or to some information sent him at the time.

2. He must, however, have done more than draw on his own memory. The long lists which he gives must certainly have been preserved in writing, and since we have no similar lists in any Chronicle but that of Froissart, who has presumably copied from the Herald, we may conjecture that he made the lists himself upon the spot.

There is, therefore, good reason to believe that he kept some kind of journal of the campaign: a view supported by his frequent mention of days of the week. This makes him all the more likely to be trustworthy.

3. Not only are his names of people accurate, but his names of places also, and his records of marches are full, and to all appearances geographically correct. Here we have a striking contrast to his confused account of the Poitiers campaign, in which he was not present.

4. We have already noticed, in criticizing the first part of his poem, his straightforward and businesslike manner of writing; this continues to be noticeable in the latter half, despite the increase of details, the frequent introduction of the dialogue form and the picturesque touches which occur from time to time. But he is seldom either redundant or obscure, and he carries on a continuous narrative, rarely even stopping to comment on what he describes. It is evident that he had a sincere desire to speak the truth without exaggeration, and it is wonderful how perfectly impersonal he has remained throughout. He not only makes no mention of his own performances, but he omits any description of events in which he had played a part, unless they are strictly essential to the biography of his hero.

5. His one great fault still continues; and this defective chronology is a real lix detriment to the value of his record. He only twice gives the date of the year (for the Prince’s preparations in 1366 (2017, 4173), rarely the date of the month (Nájera (3475) and the death of the Black Prince (4173); his days of the week are difficult to identify, and when he does attempt any indication of the duration of time it is generally wrong (e.g. the birth of Richard fifteen days after Christmas (2049, see note), the stay of the Black Prince in Spain (3631, 3645, 3677, see notes)).

6. One other fault is a vagueness at to numbers, as in the varying calculations given of the Spanish army at Nájera; and the number of killed, &c. (3085, 3124, 3451, 3475, &c.); but this is common to all the chroniclers of the time, and it is not to be wondered at, as trustworthy information must have been totally lacking.

7. These are, however, the only grave faults which can be found in his narrative: as far as we can judge he has made no misstatements of any importance. Pedro’s journey by sea from Seville (1785, see note), his arrival at Bayonne accompanied by his sons (1943), the arrangements previous to his landing (1909 sq.), the sending of the Prince’s letter to Henry from Logroño instead of Navarete (2908, see note), are all trifling errors, which do not affect the general value of his work.

8. Finally, not only is the Herald’s poem as a whole of first-rate importance, but it is in all probability the source of almost all our information respecting the years 1366 and 1367. Siméon Luce says distinctly, in his notes to Froissart’s account of the Spanish Campaign, that the Chronicler copies here from the record of Chandos.8 It is known that Froissart did not himself go on this expedition, so that first-hand knowledge was to him impossible, and his account tallies very closely with that of our author; being indeed still closer in the later edition of Froissart, that known as the Amiens version, parts of which Luce prints in his Appendix. Possibly the earlier version was composed from information given by the Herald, or from the actual notes which he may have taken, while the later version was written by Froissart with the actual poem before him. When the Amiens manuscript varies from the text which Luce has chosen for his edition, the difference almost always approximates to the poem and often involves an actual reproduction of its words and phrases. Sometimes the second edition is shorter than the first, and leaves out names &c. which Froissart has inserted before, but which are not confirmed by the Herald’s lists. A few extracts from each (see overleaf) will best illustrate the far closer resemblance of the Amiens version than of the other, although both were probably based on the first-hand information collected by our author.

Froissart has made additions here and there to the Herald’s narrative, but, as he travelled about considerably, and was an indefatigable collector of information, to say nothing of being blessed with a fertile imagination and a fluent pen, his addition of details is not to be wondered at.

For the conclusion of the Prince’s history, the account given in the poem is too brief to be of much value in comparison with the far fuller records which we possess, but as far as it goes it seems to be sound and careful, and there are a few interesting details in it concerning Edward’s last hours.

This general inference, however, can be drawn: that the poem of Chandos lx Herald is an original and, on the whole, trustworthy work; that it provides a useful source of comparison with other contemporary records; that it is worthy of study throughout, while for the history of the years 1366 and 1367 it is not only valuable but essential.



[Here follow three columns of parallel passages of portions of the French texts of Chandos, Froissart’s text from Luce, and Froissart’s text from the Amiens version. If you would like to see them, contact us].



1  The best edition is that edited by Siméon Luce for the Société de l’Histoire de France, Paris, 1869-88. The references in the following pages will be to that, unless otherwise stated.

2  Froissart, vi. 216.

3   Froissart, viii. 146. ‘Chandos li hiraus.’

4  Anstis, Order of the Garter, London, 1724. i. 432.

5  Warton, History of English Poetry, 1824. ii. 120.

6  Ibid.

7  L’art de vérifier les dates, Paris, 1818, vi. 504.

8  Froissart, vii, p. iii, note 1.

[French text]


The two columns of the original French text side by side with the editor’s emended version. If interested, contact us and we will do it.




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