It is Martinmas.
All across the pas de Calais, those who cannot afford to feed their pigs, bullocks, sheep, goats, and geese have had these animals felled and butchered and their meat salted down for the coming winter. At least some of the people hereabouts have remembered St. Martin’s charity to a beggar and have been generous to us this day as we sit like beggars outside their city walls. For the first time since we arrived here, there is sufficient meat for the day. The archers are once again rowdy, as they were when noted sold their prisoners, for the vintners have tapped the new vintage and they are honoring their patron saint, the most excellent St. Martin. [The diarist’s high opinion of St.Martin may have some bearing on the fact that the handwriting in this entry is notably less refined than usual -Ed.] Soon the Advent season will be upon us and such feasting will be nought but a pleasant memory until we once again celebrate the coming of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.
This was the day set for all of the king’s prisoners to return from parole and present themselves to him here in Calais. I have heard it said that those captured at Harfleur, those captured along the march and released before the battle at Agincourt, and even those set on parole to gather their ransom once we reached the pas de Calais have, to a man, come to here to Calais to submit to King Henry.
Word has come this evening that today at Westminster, the parliament has ordered that no corn should be exported to any port on the continent save that it go to Calais or Harfleur. I have growing hope that we shall soon eat better than we have been doing. May God grant that it be so.
In our Agincourt Diary, we have several entries that touch on the medieval practice of ransoms, but little has been said about how and where the captured knights were held. Today, the British Library today offered a bit of a glimpse into the paper trail on one “very important prisoner.”
The king’s clerks are compiling a list of all prisoners, for the king’s eye is upon his own profits from their adventure. Any man directly indented to the king, as Sir Geoffrey is, must pay the king a third of any ransom he receives as well as a third of any third that he receives, as captain, from the men of the company.
I saw Sir John Cornewaille and some of his folk in the camp yesterday. That valiant knight is well known for assuming the prisoners of others, relieving those captors of the burden of the prisoner’s care and the trouble of collecting the ransom for immediate cash or favors.With food and cash still scarce, more and more men are tempted to accept the offer of a fraction of a ransom’s worth in immediate wealth over the promise of greater wealth at some indefinite future time. Now I must go about the company and ascertain how many prisoners are still held among us before making a fair copy of the list of those that our people continue to hold and what ransom has been agreed upon for them.
It is the feast of All Saints. The recent battle has meant many new souls to pray for this day, and the king asked his priests to pray for all those lost in that battle, both English and French, in each of the three morning masses he heard today. As is the custom the king wrote a purple gown this day and those around him wore mourning gowns of black. Sir Geoffrey did not as his best goewn was lost in the march.
Some of Sir Geoffrey’s archers are getting a lesson in the hard fact that not everyone who captures a Frenchman can afford to keep him. Even after selling some of the the prizes they had taken from Frenchmen or their baggage train, they do have neither the money to pay for their captured knight’s passage across the sea nor even to keep him fed.They have had to sell him off to a man who seems to make it his business to collect the prisoners from those who can afford to keep them. They received only a fraction of the full ransom, one part in ten I heard said from one and 3 or 4 in one from others, but they have been paid in cash. I know not how much of that sum they retain for I have seen that they revel in ale and wine and I believe they have drunk much of their ransom portion already.
Sir Geoffrey is not pleased. I do not think he cares that they drink their own portion, but by their transaction, they have foregone the full ransom and thusly have deprived Sir Geoffrey, their captain, of his full third of it. As dear as all things have been here in Calais, any loss of income is to be regretted.
The food set aside for the army by the king has gone, and we are in the hands of the victualers and the greedy townsfolk of Calais. The cook says that he has had nothing but hard bargaining for food with said victualers and townsfolk. What they ask for bread, that very staff of life, is astonishing. I do not understand how good Christians can do this to their fellow Christians.
Sir Geoffrey reviewed his company’s accounts today. He noted and decried the costs for the medical care of for Sir Guillaume, one of his prisoners. A dead captive brings no ransom, as old Sir Robert has had to remind the archers regularly. Under the laws of war, a captor must support his prisoner while that unfortunate remains in his keeping. Although providing medical care is not required, Sir Geoffrey has ordered that the bills be paid. He also wondered aloud where he was going to find the money to transport the prisoners over the sea to England which must needs be done if they are to be kept safe while their ransoms are paid.
Today the king made his triumphal entry into Calais. He was met at the gates by Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick and captain here, and a crowd of townsfolk who greeted King Henry with glad cries. The king and his people entered into the town escorted by all the priests and clergy of the place bearing crosses and the banners of their places and singing Te Deum. We could hear the crowds hailing him as he passed. He is lodged now in the castle, although it is said that he stopped on his way there at the Church of St. Nicolas to give thanks for his victory.
This evening we reached the fortified town of Guînes and are now safely within the Pas-de-Calais. The king was welcomed with due solemnity by the captain of the garrison. He and his people and his prisoners have gone within the walls. The army was not welcome within and so we marched on the last few miles to Calais, where the gates were also closed to us. The great leaders have been admitted, among whom Sir Geoffrey does not yet stand, and we now make camp in sight of the walls.
Three days of marching has exhausted all we gained from the French baggage train but, through God’s mercy and the wise preparations of our good king, medicine and beer and food has been prepared in anticipation of our arrival. Although there is a dire shortage of bread.
The progress we make is slow. Many of our horses were killed or stolen away during the battle. More are now set to carrying those wounded men, French prisoners and Englishmen alike, who are injured such that they can not walk. I think as many as three in four of our men now walk rather than ride.
There was a skirmish, somewhere near Boulogne if I have been informed correctly, and several archers were captured. It is the only trouble we have had with the French since the battle, and I pray God that it will be the last.