Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
 
How the Town of Calais was given up to the Kind of England
By Sir John Bourchier, Lord Berners (c. 1467–1533)
 
AFTER that the French king was thus departed from Sangate, they within Calais saw well how their succour failed them, for the which they were in great sorrow. Then they desired so much their captain, Sir John of Vyen, that he went to the walls of the town, and made a sign to speak with some person of the host. When the king heard thereof, he sent thither Sir Gaultier of Manny, and Sir Basset: then Sir John of Vyen said to them, sirs, ye be right valiant knights in deeds of arms, and ye know well how the king, my master, hath sent me and other to this town, and commanded us to keep it to his behoof, in such wise that we take no blame, nor to him no damage; and we have done all that lieth in our power. Now our succours have failed us, and we be so sore strained that we have not to live withal, but that we must all die, or else enrage for famine, without the noble and gentle king of yours will take mercy on us; the which to do we require you to desire him to have pity on us, and to let us go and depart as we be, and let him take the town and castle and all the goods that be therein, the which is great abundance. Then Sir Gaultier of Manny said, Sir, we know somewhat of the intention of the king our master, for he hath showed it unto us; surely know for truth it is not his mind that you nor they within the town should depart so, for it is his will that ye all should put yourselves into his pure will to ransom all such as pleaseth him, and to put to death such as he list; for they of Calais have done him such contraries and despites, and have caused him to dispend so much good, and lost many of his men, that he is sore grieved against them. Then the captain said, Sir, this is too hard a matter to us; we are here within, a small sort of knights and squires, who have truly served the king our master, as well as ye serve yours in like case. And we have endured much pain and unease; but we shall yet endure as much pain as ever knights did rather than to consent that the worst lad in the town should have any more evil than the greatest of us all; therefore, sir, we pray you that of your humility, yet that ye will go and speak to the King of England, and desire him to have pity of us, for we trust in him so much gentleness, that by the grace of God his purpose shall change. Sir Gaultier of Manny and Sir Basset returned to the king, and declared to him all that had been said. The king said he would none otherwise, but that they should yield them up simply to his pleasure. Then Sir Gaultier said, Sir, saving your displeasure in this, ye may be in the wrong, for ye shall give by this an evil ensample; if ye send any of us your servants into any fortress, we will not be very glad to go if ye put any of them in the town to death after they be yielded, for in likewise they will deal with us if the case fell like; the which words divers other lords that were there present sustained and maintained. Then the king said, Sirs, I will not be alone against you all; therefore Sir Gaultier of Manny you shall go and say to the captain, that all the grace that he shall find now in me is, that they let six of the chief burgesses of the town come out bare-headed, bare-footed, and bare-legged, and in their shirts, with halters about their necks, with the keys of the town and castle in their hands, and let them six yield themselves purely to my will, and the residue I will take to mercy. Then Sir Gaultier returned, and found Sir John of Vyen still on the wall, abiding for an answer; then Sir Gaultier showed him all the grace he could get of the king. Well, quoth Sir John, sir, I require you tarry here a certain space till I go into the town and show this to the commons of the town, who sent me hither. Then Sir John went unto the market place, and sowned 1 the common bell; then, incontinent, men and women assembled there; then the captain made report of all that he had done, and said, Sirs, it will be none otherwise; therefore now take advice and make a short answer. Then all the people began to weep and to make such sorrow, that there was not so hard a heart if they had seen them but that would have had great pity of them: the captain himself wept piteously. At last the most rich burgess of all the town, called Eustace of St. Pierre, rose up and said openly, Sirs, great and small, great mischief it should be to suffer to die such people as be in this town, either by famine or otherwise, when there is a mean to save them; I think he or they should have great merit of our Lord God that might keep them from such mischief; as for my part, I have so good trust in our Lord God, that if I die in the quarrel to save the residue, that God would pardon me; wherefore, to save them, I will be the first to put my life in jeopardy. When he had thus said, every man worshipped him, and divers kneeled down at his feet with sore weeping and sore sighs. Then another honest burgess rose and said, I will keep company with my gossip Eustace: he was called John Dayre. Then rose up Jacques of Wyssant, who was rich in goods and heritage; he said also that he would hold company with his two cousins; in likewise so did Peter of Wyssant, his brother: and then rose two other: they said they would do the same. Then they went and apparelled them as the king desired. Then the captain went with them to the gate; there was great lamentation made of men, women, and children at their departing; then the gate was opened, and he issued out with the six burgesses and closed the gate again, so that they were between the gate and the barriers. Then he said to Sir Gaultier of Manny, Sir, I deliver here to you as captain of Calais, by the whole consent of all the people of the town, these six burgesses: and I swear to you truly, that they be and were to-day most honourable, rich, and most notable burgesses of all the town of Calais; wherefore, gentle knight, I require you, pray the king to have mercy on them, that they die not. Quoth Sir Gaultier, I cannot say what the king will do, but I shall do for them the best I can. Then the barriers were opened, the six burgesses went towards the king, and the captain entered again into the town. When Sir Gaultier presented these burgesses to the king, they kneeled down and held up their hands, and said, Gentle king, behold here we six, who were burgesses of Calais, and great merchants; we have brought to you the keys of the town and of the castle, and we submit ourselves clearly into your will and pleasure, to save the residue of the people of Calais, who have suffered great pain. Sir, we beseech your grace to have mercy and pity on us through your high nobles; then all the earls and barons, and others that there were, wept for pity. The king looked felly on them, for greatly he hated the people of Calais, for the great damages and displeasures they had done him on the sea before. Then he commanded their heads to be stricken off; then every man required the king for mercy, but he would hear no man in that behalf: then Sir Gaultier of Manny said, Ah, noble king, for God’s sake refrain your courage; ye have the name of sovereign nobless, therefore now do not a thing that should blemish your renown, nor to give cause to some to speak of you villany; every man will say it is a great cruelty to put to death such honest persons, who by their own wills put themselves into your grace to save their company. Then the king wryed 2 away from him, and commanded to send for the hangman, and said, they of Calais had caused many of my men to be slain, wherefore these shall die in likewise. Then the queen, being great with child, kneeled down, and sore weeping, said, Ah, gentle sir, sith I passed the sea in great peril, I have desired nothing of you; therefore now I humbly require you, in the honour of the son of the Virgin Mary, and for the love of me, that ye will take mercy of these six burgesses. The king beheld the queen, and stood still in a study a space, and then said, Ah, dame, I would ye had been as now in some other place, ye make such request to me that I cannot deny you; wherefore I give them to you, to do your pleasure with them. Then the queen caused them to be brought into her chamber, and made the halters to be taken from their necks, and caused them to be new clothed, and gave them their dinner at their leisure; and then she gave each of them six nobles, and made them to be brought out of the host in safeguard, and set at their liberty.  1
 
Note 1. sowned = sounded. [back]
Note 2. wryed = turned. The verb occurs in Shakespeare, and the adjectives wry and awry still represent it. [back]
 
 
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