Charles of Blois (1345-64)
This was violent combat, with deaths on both sides. Most combatants were wounded in the fight.
There are several good descriptions of the action. The first presented here is from Histoire de Bretagne, vol. i. p. 280 by the editor of Froissart's Chronicles cited below. He notes with surprise that Foissart did not address this combat in his chronology. Both these accounts vary in the spelling of names and places.
"After the death of sir Thomas Daggworth, the king appointed sir Walter Bently commander in Brittany. The English being much irritated at the death of Daggworth, and not being able to revenge themselves on those who slew him, did so on the whole country by burning and destroying it. The marshal de Beaumanoir, desirous of putting a stop to this, sent to Bembro (Bramborough), who commanded in Ploërmel, for a passport, to hold a conference with him. The marshal reprobated the conduct of the English, and high words passed between them; for Bembro had been the companion in arms to Daggeworth."
"At last one of them proposed a combat of thirty on each side: the place appointed for it was at the halfway oak-tree between Josselin and Ploërmel; and the day was fixed for the 27th March, the fourth Sunday in Lent, 1351. Beaumanoir chose nine knights and twenty-one squires: the first were, the lord de Tinteniac, Guy de Rochefort, Yves Charruel, Robin Raguenel, Huon de St. Yvon, Caro de Bodegat, Olivier Arrel, Geoffry du Bois, John Rousselet, etc."
"Bembro could not find a sufficient number of English in his garrison; there were but twenty, the remainder were Germans and Bretons. Among them were, sir Robert Knolles, Croquart, Hervé de Lexualen, John Plesanton, Richard and Hugh le Gaillart, Jannequin Taillart, Ressefort, Richard de la Lande, Thomelin Billefort, Hugh Calverly, Robinet Melipars, Yfrai or Isannai, John Russel, Dagorne, and a soldier, named Hulbitée, of a very large size, and of great strength. Bembro first entered the field of battle, and drew up his troop. Beaumanoir did the same. Each made a short harangue to his men, exhorting them to support their own honour and that of their nation. Bembro added, there was an old prophecy of Merlin, which promised victory to the English."
"As they were on the point of engaging, Bembro made a sign to Beaumanoir he wished to speak to him, and represented he had engaged in this matter rather imprudently; for such combats ought first to have had the permission of their respective princes. Beaumanoir replied he had been somewhat late in discovering this; and the nobility of Brittany would not return without having proved by battle who had the fairest mistresses. The signal was given for the attack. Their arms were not similar; for each was to choose such as he liked. Billefort fought with a mallet 25lbs. weight, and others with what arms they chose. The advantage, at first, was for the English; as the Bretons had lost five of their men. Beaumanoir exhorted them not to mind this, as they stopped to take breath; when, each party having had some refreshments, the combat was renewed. Bembro was killed. On seeing this, Croquart cried out, “Companions, don't let us think of the prophecies of Merlin, but depend on our courage and arms; keep yourselves close together, be firm, and fight as I do.” Beaumanoir, being wounded, was quitting the field to quench his thirst, when Geoffry du Bois cried out, “Beaumanoir, drink thy blood, and thy thirst will go off.” This made him ashamed, and return to the battle. The Bretons at last gained the day, by one of their party breaking on horseback the ranks of the English; the greater part of whom were killed. Knolles, Calverly, and Croquart, were made prisoners, and carried to the castle of Josselin. Tinteniac, on the side of the Bretons, and Croquart, on the English, obtained the prize of valour. Such was the issue of this famous combat of Thirty, so glorious to the Bretons, but which decided nothing as to the possession of the duchy of Brittany."
The second description of the combat presented here is said to be from Froissart's Chronicle (possibly a different, later version?) edited by Steven Muhlberger and from the Amiens version of the Chronicles.
"In this same season as the siege of St.-Jean-d'Angely, there took place in Brittany a most marvelous deed of arms which should never be forgotten but which one should hold up as an example to encourage all knights bachelor. And so that you are better able understand the situation, you should know that there was constant war in Brittany between the parties of the two ladies, and so it was that Messire Charles of Blois was imprisoned. And the parties of the two ladies made war on each other through garrisons which held the various castles and fortified towns."
"Messire Robert de Beaumanoir, a very valiant knight of a great family in Brittany, was castellan of Castle Joselin, where he had a great many men-at-arms of his lineage and other mercenaries. And it so happened one day that he came to be roaming near the town and castle of Ploërmel, whose castellan was a German mercenary named Blandebourch, who had with him a great many German, English, Breton and other foreign mercenaries and who were all of the party of the Countess of Montfort."
"When Messire Robert saw that none of the garrison was coming out, he went to the gate and called out this Blandebourch, under a guarantee of safety, and asked him whether he had any companion, or perhaps two or three, who wished to joust with steel lances against three others, for the love of their ladies. Blandebourch replied and said that their ladies would hardly wish that they should get themselves killed in a single joust, for this kind of venture was over too soon."
"But," he said, "I will tell you what we will do, if you like. We will choose twenty or thirty of our companions in the garrison and we will go to an open field and there we will fight as long as we can endure it; and let God give the victory to the better of us."
"By my faith," replied Messire Robert de Beaumanoir, "you speak very well and I vow we will do just what you say; now, pick a day."
"An appointment was made for the following Wednesday and they gave each other a firm truce up to that day; and under its terms Robert and his people departed. So they provided themselves with thirty companions, knights, squires and others taken from the garrisons, and Blandebourch also chose thirty from all his companions."
"When the day had come, the thirty companions of Blandebourch heard Mass and then armed themselves and left for the field where the battle was to take place. And they dismounted and ordered all those who were there that none of them should be so bold as to intervene for any reason whatever. Thus did the thirty companions whom we will call "the English;" and they waited a long time for the other thirty, whom we will call "the French."
"When these had come, they dismounted and gave the same command. And when they all had come face to face, they spoke a little, all sixty of them, and then stepped back a pace, each party to its own side. And then they made all their people retreat well back from field. Then one of them gave a signal and immediately they ran over and fought fiercely all in a pile, rescuing one another handsomely when they saw their companions in trouble."
"Soon after they had come together, one of the Frenchmen was killed, but the others did not leave off fighting on this account. They held themselves as valiantly on both sides as if they had been all Rolands and Oliviers. In truth, I cannot say "These conducted themselves better than the others;" but they fought so long that they all lost strength and breath and ability to fight."
"It seemed a good idea for them to stop and rest, and they rested by mutual agreement. They granted each other a truce until they had recovered and until the first who got up again should call the others back. At this point there were four French dead and two English. They rested a long time, and drank some wine which was brought to them in bottles, and tightened their armor which had broken and cleaned their wounds and bandaged them up.""Then they had rested enough, the first who got up made a sign and called the others. The battle recommenced as fiercely as before and it lasted a long time. And they conducted themselves very well in this second round. But finally the English were worsted; for as I heard tell from those who saw it, one of the Frenchmen, who was on horseback split them up and badly trod them underfoot. And so Blandebourch their captain and eight of their companions were killed. Messire Robert de Beaumanoir and his men took the rest as hostages back to his garrison. And that is how the affair went."