August 26: Unfortunate corroboration of a French stereotype

From Medieval Times, of course. The Battle of Crécy was like this, but with less dry ice.

I haven't learned nothing doing this project, for I now know the difference between Froissart and Holinshed. I know, it seems useless, but what if I'm kidnapped by a lunatic medievalist? Actually, in that case, my knowing who Froissart is would probably be bad -- it would only accelerate my natural tendencies towards Stockholm Syndrome.

Here we have the battle of Crécy -- accent aigu, nicht wahr? -- and I hate to say this, but it is yet another military disaster for the French:
The lords and knights of France came not to the assembly together in good order, for some came before and some came after in such haste and evil order, that one of them did trouble another. When the French king saw the Englishmen, his blood changed, and said to his marshals: ‘Make the Genoways go on before and begin the battle in the name of God and Saint Denis.’ There were of the Genoways cross-bows about a fifteen thousand, 1 but they were so weary of going afoot that day a six leagues armed with their cross-bows, that they said to their constables: ‘We be not well ordered to fight this day, for we be not in the case to do any great deed of arms: we have more need of rest.’ These words came to the earl of Alençon, who said: ‘A man is well at ease to be charged with such a sort of rascals, to be faint and fail now at most need.’ Also the same season there fell a great rain and a clipse 2 with a terrible thunder, and before the rain there came flying over both battles a great number of crows for fear of the tempest coming. Then anon the air began to wax clear, and the sun to shine fair and bright, the which was right in the Frenchmen’s eyen and on the Englishmen’s backs. ... Then the English archers stept forth one pace and let fly their arrows so wholly [together] and so thick, that it seemed snow. When the Genoways felt the arrows piercing through heads, arms and breasts, many of them cast down their cross-bows and did cut their strings and returned discomfited.
"Genoways" means "Genovese" -- the hired Italians. So it's also an Italian military disaster -- another stereotype confirmed. To be fair to the Genoways (I like that name, because to me it sounds like the name of a supermarket), when you have an arrow through your head, you are often discomfited.

The wikipedia article on Crécy is one of those too-much-information specials -- if you let the boys get started with their military history, they'll be there all night -- and the entry for the Hundred Years War, for which Crécy was the powerful opening act, is little better. But maybe it's because the Hundred Years War is barely comprehensible to me. Froissart's a terrific snob, so the whole passage is filled with updates on what Charles of Luxembourg and Louis of Blois and various sirs were doing, but I can't help thinking of the regular footsoldiers. What are they doing there, fighting for the claim of a king who doesn't even speak their language? The nobles don't have anything else to do, plus they have their code of chivalry, so it makes sense they're on the battlefield; but all I can think is that being a peasant must truly suck, if the risk of being discomfited to death, via arrow, seems preferable.

But when you think about it, the honest peasantry has always been, and is now, willing to go get ground up in the dark Satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution, so there's another confirmation -- peasanting is no kind of life.

Finally, here's your chivalry for you, starting with the poor Genoways:
When the French king saw them fly away, he said: ‘Slay these rascals, for they shall let and trouble us without reason.’ Then ye should have seen the men of arms dash in among them and killed a great number of them: and ever still the Englishmen shot whereas they saw thickest press; the sharp arrows ran into the men of arms and into their horses, and many fell...And also among the Englishmen there were certain rascals that went afoot with great knives, and they went in among the men of arms, and slew and murdered many as they lay on the ground.
The French kill their own men and the English kill the wounded. Western Civ rules!

1 comment:

Lisa Simeone said...

All I know about Froissart is the overture by Elgar. It's a nice enough piece. But all the huffing and puffing by and about men at war does grow wearying, nicht wahr? Especially because we never seem to learn anything. No matter the era, we just slaughter apace.

(P.S. Love that accent aigu!)