Thursday, 27 September 2012

Bold Sir John - Medieval Man of Action

What ho, merry readers! I thought I would share with you today the story of Sir John Chandos, as gallant an Englishman as ever there was, who deserves to be better known; overshadowed as he is by the reputations of the kings and princes he served so well. Sir John was a scion of an ancient and noble house, his ancestor Robert Chandos had been a companion in arms of William the Conqueror. Bold in battle and wise in council, Sir John was prominent amongst the companions of King Edward III and tutor to his son the Black Prince.

At the Battle of Sluys, of which I have previously blogged, bold Sir John was in the thick of the action, having already done great service by stealing ashore to spy upon the French fleet. Upon the bloody field of Crecy he stood and fought beside the Black Prince as he was sorely pressed by the charges of the enemy after his father the King had refused to reinforce him and cried out instead ‘Let the boy win his spurs!’

Both lived to fight another day. Two years later Sir John was made a founding member of the Order of the Garter.

At the battle of Les Espagnols sur Mer in 1350 in which an out numbered English fleet outfought a force of Castilian galleys, Sir John was on the king’s ship when it was sunk from under him. Those aboard were forced to fight their way onto an enemy ship to avoid going to the bottom.

Sir John is credited with masterminding strategy at Poitiers in 1356; a day upon which an outnumbered English army under the Black Prince turned likely defeat into victory against the pursuing army of King John II of France. As the French king wavered, having seen his first division routed and his second flee the field, Chandos called for the final decisive charge of the English men at arms that was thrown against the forces of the French King, crying out ‘Sire. Charge and the day is yours!’

Chandos continued to campaign in France and for his efforts was made Constable of Aquitaine and Lieutenant General of France. He fell in battle in 1370, following an ill-advised attack upon the rebellious stronghold of St Salvain as the people of Gascony rose up against the harsh fiscal exactions of the Black Prince. Caught in the field by a superior French force, Sir John offered battle. Tripping in the mud upon his long cloak in the midst of battle, Chandos was run through the face by a mere squire. His death was mourned by both sides as  a true knight and a man who could perhaps have helped to bring about peace between England and France. Alas for bold Sir John.

The Death of Sir John Chandos

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