Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

The Brave Du Guesclin

The Great Companies, which had long proved very troublesome, were now sent to Italy, while the king went to visit the Pope at Avignon, where he announced his intention soon to set out on a new crusade. Then, hoping to induce the King of England either to join him, or to sign a treaty promising not to attack France during his absence, John was preparing to visit England a second time, when he learned that one of his sons, who had been sent there as a hostage, had escaped.

Chivalrously declaring, "If good faith were banished from the rest of the world, it ought still to be found in the hearts of kings!" the French monarch immediately proceeded to London, where he was again received with great rejoicings. But before negotiations could be brought to an end, John fell seriously ill, and died abroad, leaving the throne to his son Charles V.

The king who now came to the throne, had, as we have seen, served as regent during his father's captivity in England, and therefore already had some experience. Still, his reputation was not of the kind to promise a very favorable reign, for he had fled at Poitiers, and was therefore despised as a coward by the nobles; he had quarreled with the burghers of Paris, who all hated him; and as for the peasants, they ascribed to his bad management many of the troubles under which they were groaning. Thus all three classes of society may be said to have been banded against him, when he mounted the throne at his father's early death.

Although homely, sickly, and never much of a warrior himself, Charles V. soon proved that he knew how to choose the best men to fight for him; and he made such good use of his intellectual gifts,—which were of a high order,—that he earned the surname of "the Wise."

Du Guesclin


The most famous of all his generals was the brave Du Guesclin, who, besides being brave did not scorn to make use of strategy or even fraud to get the better of a foe. Small and ugly, but very stout of heart, Du Guesclin, when a mere boy once entreated his father to take him to a tournament. The father having scornfully refused, the lad rode off after him on a sorry farm nag, and waited near the lists until a wounded knight passed out. Du Guesclin, then following this lord to his tent, begged so earnestly for the loan of his horse and armor, that he obtained what he wished. With visor down, the stripling then entered the lists, where he challenged and defeated all present, including his own father, to whom, however, he showed due filial respect as soon as he recognized him.

In the beginning of Charles V's reign, Du Guesclin, called to fight the troops of Navarre, went off gayly, promising the king a victory as a coronation present. Still, the young warrior, however brave, was very far from being sentimental. When his aunt hysterically implored him to come and kiss her before he rode forth to his death, he bluntly cried, "Bah, go home and kiss your husband, but have dinner ready by the time I get back, for I shall be very hungry!"

The promise Du Guesclin had made to the king was duly kept, for he captured the city of Mantes from the forces of Navarre (1364), just in time to permit the news of this victory to reach Rheims, on the very day the king was anointed. Du Guesclin followed up this exploit by winning another victory; but in his next great battle at Auray, he was less fortunate, for he then fell into the hands of his foes and was detained prisoner until his ransom could be paid by the king.

This battle was soon followed by two treaties, one ending the Breton war, which had lasted about twenty-five years, and the other forcing Charles of Navarre to give up forever all claim to the French crown. But, although two of her troubles were thus ended, poor France was still suffering sorely from another, the constant and destructive raids of the Great Companies.

Charles, the clever planner, now determined to send these forces into Spain, to fight a king there who had cruelly murdered his French wife; so Du Guesclin was ransomed and sent off at the head of this expedition. In Spain, these French troops again came face to face with their old enemies, the English, who of course sided with the foe. Once more Du Guesclin was made a prisoner. Seeing that the English did not set any ransom for his release, he artfully remarked, in the presence of the Prince of Wales, that everyone must consider him the greatest knight in the world, as the English dared not let him go.

Stung by this taunt, the Prince of Wales immediately bade him name his own ransom, and when Du Guesclin fixed a very large sum, wonderingly inquired how he expected it would ever be paid. The French hero haughtily replied that the King of Spain, in whose behalf he had been fighting, would doubtless pay half, and the King of France the remainder, adding confidently that there was no woman or maid in France who would not gladly spin a distaff for his ransom.

His confidence was justified, for the ransom was promptly paid, and Du Guesclin, free once more, could resume fighting. In his next encounter with the foe he won a brilliant victory, thereby proving that the sacrifices made for him had not been in vain.