View of the promenade of the Chateau de Langeais, 1800's.
View of the promenade of the Chateau.
© National Library of Paris
Chateau de Langeais, 19th century.
Chateau de Langeais, late 19th century.
Details from Chateau Langeais, 2002.
Details from Chateau de Langeais, 2002.
The Seton Collection © 2005
Chateau de Langeais, frontal ariel, 2000.
Chateau de Langeais, from the front, 2000.
The Seton Collection © 2005
The History of Sir Thomas Seton and Langeais

The summer of 1418 found both parties in the Burgundian-Armagnac confrontation in France, where the Englands King Henry V held France's King Charles VI in captivity, looking for foreign aid and reinforcement. The French forces were being led by the Dauphin, Charles (later Charles VII), and perhaps predictably the first potential source of this aid to be looked to was that traditional ally of France, Scotland.

Both Armagnac and Burgundian embassies crossed the seas in 1418 and, while the Armagnac one was to be crowned with success, this did not mean that contacts between the Regent Albany, uncle of the captive James I, who was at that point still in English hands, and Burgundy were automatically broken off. Indeed it was by no means a foregone conclusion that Scotland would support the claims of the Dauphin to be the true head of the French kingdom; one should not forget that until the disastrous assassination of Duke John at Montereau in the late summer of 1419 there was no Burgundian alliance with England to simplify the issue and the royal family itself was totally split on the question. It is even possible that the Scots made some effort to encourage the French factions to patch up their differences in the face of English attack; the truce negotiated in the summer of 1419 may have had as one aim the easing of Scottish military intervention.

The Armagnac embassy, however, did yield immediate results. Not much is known about it or its composition beyond the presence of the governor of La Rochelle, the Sieur de Plusquallec on it or about the arguments and inducements used to persuade the Regent and the Scottish Estates to agree to the requested aid. Perhaps they were fairly similar to those used by the parallel embassy which went to Castile on a similar errand in September 1419. Here the French ambassadors asked for an army to be sent against the English, ancient enemies of France and Castile as soon as possible "for the great honour of the King of Castile" under a commander of the highest rank. The troops thus requested would be paid for six months.

The ambassadors were to go on to give a full account of the needs of France and remind the Castilians of past French aid to Castile. One could imagine a fairly similar line being used in Scotland; apparently the appeals to honour and gratitude were more appreciated in Scotland since, while the Scots responded, Castile remained deaf to entreaty. Before we consider the forces voted by the Estates, however, it is worth looking at what may well have been a parallel activity of the ambassadors. This was the recruitment of companies which were prepared to set out for France straight away to bolster the Dauphin's forces in the lands which were coming to be known as the Kingdom of Bourges. Certainly Scottish forces begin to appear in quite substantial numbers in this period, and it seems logical to assume that the ambassadors in Scotland were largely responsible.

In this summer of 1418, the Dauphin was fully occupied consolidating his hold on a kingdom riddled with dissension and doubtful loyalties. It is doubtful if Charles, as Dauphin or king was ever to draw fully on the potential military resources of the areas which remained nominally loyal to him in the dark days of the 1420's, and at this period his hold over much of the country was highly uncertain. Foreign troops were badly needed to fill the gaps and recruitment from all quarters proceeded rapidly. Traditional companies of Italian crossbowmen were still recruited (Guillaume Rain and Luquin Brisol both from Piedmont with a combined force of some 146 men were retained at Villeneuf-les-Avignon on the 11th November 1418) but more and more they yield place to the Scots in increasing numbers.

Michel de Normanville, Captain of a hundred Scottish archers was retained at Loches on 22nd November and elements of his company to the number of 29 moved on to take part in the siege of Burgundian-held Tours in December. One Jehan Stewart, also captain of a hundred archers was retained from the 7th October at Niort, which suggests that he had arrived at La Rochelle or another port loyal to the Dauphin in that area shortly before. Other Scottish troops were sent to reinforce garrisons. On 3rd November Loys d'Escrouilles, commander of the Scots in the garrison of Melun, issued a receipt for no less than 102 tuns of wine from the Sieur de Milly out of a total of 200 in his possession. These were to be distributed, it would seem, amongst the troops under his command.

The following year, well before the much-awaited Scottish army reached France, this process continued. Their numbers were sufficiently noticeable for Jean Juvenal des Ursins to note the arrival and activities of two Scottish knights, Thomas Quelsatry and Guillaume du Glas at this time. They are no doubt to be identified with Guillaume Douglas and his chief lieutenant Thomas Kilpatrick who appear at the head of 150 men at arms and 300 archers on 27th May at Mehun-sur-Yevre. A full list of subordinate commanders is given, but the totals of troops fall short by about a third of the stated total company strength; perhaps several of the "chambres" or subordinate sub-divisions of these companies were posted elsewhere and missed review at that point. They reappear at Puiset-en-Beauce in August 1419 after a summer of heavy fighting at the western end of the line of English advance in Lower Normandy and Mainrcentring on the Sarthe round Fresnay-le-Vicomte which Jean Juvenal recorded. This may form the basis of Francisque–Michel's typically garbled account of the flight and loss of banner of a Douglas of Drumlanrig at Fresnay.

Certainly we find Douglas and his men passing review at Montereau fault Yonne on 4th September 1419; no doubt they formed part of the forces covering the Dauphinist side of the fatal bridge before, during and after the meeting. Several other Scottish companies enter the Dauphinist forces during 1419; Guillaume Bel, captain of 30 men at arms and 80 archers entered service at Sancerre on 22nd February and moved to Gien with 13 of his Esquires (men at arms) in March, while Thomas du Seton with 38 men at arms and 120 archers and another Guillaume Douglas (there were two men of that name in France; they lie buried together in Orleans Cathedral) with 100 and 200 respectively recently come from Scotland appear in the accounts of Mace Heron, one of the Tresoriers des Guerres for the period 18th August 1418 - 20th October 1419.

Seton is presumably to be identified with the Thomas Deston, captain of slightly smaller forces in May and June of the year. In May, too, Jehan of Liborne (perhaps Lorne) was paid for the services of his company of 18 men at arms and 56 archers fighting in Normandy, Maine and Perche under the Vicomte de Narbonne; an interesting example of Scottish forces being mixed with French ones in action (and indeed with other foreigners, since at the end of the same month Emilio de Plaisence (Piacenza) and his 19 men at arms are paid for their service in the same company). There is even an ancestor to the later Scots bodyguard of the king in the form of the company of James Colbourne and his 38 mounted archers in the Dauphin's own company in September. Perhaps he can be identified with one Jehan Kocbourg (Cockburn?) reviewed at Bourges in October.

By October, however, the situation was to alter drastically. The days of piecemeal reinforcement by the almost random arrival of individual Scottish companies to be plunged into the fighting in Lower Normandy and the west were to be superseded by intervention on a very different scale. The Armagnac embassy in Scotland, which we left in the summer of 1418 organising the passage of the companies we have been discussing, were looking for something much grander. This they obtained from the Scottish Estates, which assented to the sending of a force of some 6,000 men under the. Earl of Buchan, Chamberlain of Scotland and son of the Regent by his second marriage and the Earl of Wigtown eldest son of the Earl of Douglas and Buchan's brother-in-law. How many Scots actually went to France is very hard to say.

The Dauphin claimed that 6,000 men had actually gone but this seems an improbably high figure given the resources of Scotland (a subject to which I shall return later) and the probability of exaggeration in morale-boosting letters. Whatever the numbers, such a substantial force posed transport problems which could only be solved by Castilian help. Negotiations for this began on 22nd March 1419 and were successfully completed on 28th June; Castile was to provide a fleet of forty ships, each of at least 150 tons and manned by 4,000 sailors and crossbowmen and 200 men at arms to repel English attempts at interception on the way to Scotland. Wages of 119,000 francs d'or were paid in advance. The fleet was to assemble off Belle Isle and wait there ten days before sailing on to Scotland. Amazingly, Daumet believed that the fleet never sailed; in the light of events an incredible blunder. Preparations on this scale were impossible to conceal and by August the government of John, Duke of Bedford in England was becoming seriously concerned.

On the 12th the Earls of Devon and Cornwall were instructed to set out to intercept with their own fleet of twelve ships and "balingers" (smaller, barge-like vessels). When it became obvious that these forces were likely to be inadequate, one John Hunt was ordered to requisition ships all over the south-western ports if necessary. By 5th September, with the Spanish fleet off Belle Isle, Henry V, campaigning in France, was concerned about the possibility of a combined Franco-Castilian attack on Bayonne and other parts of English Gascony. In fact the fleet went north as planned, evading interception and loading its cargo of troops in September (One of the Scottish commanders, John Stewart of Darnley, was still in Scotland on the 21st of the month). The return voyage was less peaceful; off La Rochelle, the English did manage to make an interception but were defeated and the fleet came safely to harbour late in October. The Spanish ships remained in the area for some time; on 19th November the town council of St. Jean d'Angely found itself having to entertain a Spanish knight come to seek provisions for the fleet.

These were not necessarily always forthcoming, since two more Spaniards came back later with a letter from the admiral complaining that supplies had not been delivered. There were other comings and goings between the town and the fleet; the admiral's minstrel and his companion had also to be entertained. News of the victory reached far; in Lyons on the 1st January 1420 the Dauphin himself ordered payment to "Sauce de Saudry" a Spanish squire for his services in the defeat of the English and the damage done to his ship. It is possible that some of the troops who served on the fleet may have been tempted into more permanent service; certainly, despite the lack of formal Castilian aid, Spanish troops can be found in France at this time. The inevitable crossbowmen appear in large numbers in 1418 with four companies some 1260 strong passing review at Nanteuil on 3rd September and some passing from there to take part in the siege of Tours.

Alongside them one finds Rodrigo de Alarice and 17 men at arms in the company of the Count of Vertus and through the summer of 1419 a steady drift of smallish Spanish companies parallel to that of the Scots (though much less numerous) can be observed. Jehan d'Avila, knight batchelor, and four men at arms entered service on 13th November at Mehun-sur-Yevre. Some Italians can also be found in addition to the one alluded to above fighting in Normandy; Bartelmy le Lombart and his 18 men at arms passed review at St. Brisson on 24th February 1419 and Luqin Ris, already a veteran of French warfare, with 19 men at arms was near Le Mons on 24th October 1418 after leaving his crossbowmen in Melun.

It was, however, the hour of the Scots. The Dauphin informed his supporters of their arrival with joy and issued their leaders with gifts. The stable accounts illustrate this; on 31st November three coursers were bought and one given later to the Earl of Wigtown. Thomas Seton received a similar present shortly afterwards. By no means all the French nobles were totally convinced of the real military utility of the Scots and the Scottish chroniclers record some sneers behind their backs. The Dauphin, who needed them too badly to be able to afford to heed this criticism ignored it, and indeed before the end of the year was preparing the ground for further recruitment in Scotland. As early as 27th December he was considering sending Buchan and Wigtown back to recruit further and two days later, another letter was sent to the Earl of Mar who had expressed an interest in joining the expedition to encourage him to come himself and recruit as many other lords as he could for the same purpose.

The Scottish forces now available first had to be deployed, however. The army was split up; one portion went into the garrisons facing the Anglo-Burgundians in the Seine valley upstream of Paris and in Maine and Anjou in the west while another, perhaps larger, set off with the Dauphin on a tour of Languedoc in early spring 1420 aimed at neutralising the last flickers of Burgundian support in the south and assuring the loyalty of the towns and nobility of the region. Traces of these men can be found in the surviving re–cords; Marc Balize with his trumpeter, 17 men at arms and 78 archers at Carcassonne on the 12th March and Andro Banantin with a company which fluctuates between 15 and 25 archers moving from Le Puy on 16th May to Toulouse on 16th June to finish at Chateauneuf-sur-Loire on 25th July. He is referred to at times as forming part of the Dauphin's bodyguard, and he remained in this function at least until September, serving alongside other foreign forces in this unit. Christin Chambre, a man with a long career before him received the substantial sum of 1066 livres 4 sols tournois for the services of his company in the same role for April 1420 and Jehan Gonsalle was paid for his company of 24 mounted crossbowmen in February and March.

On the whole, however, the Scottish forces who formed the bulk of the foreign troops in France remained inactive in 1420.  The fact that their commanders were absent for much of the campaigning season in search of reinforcements may have contributed to this. Buchan and Wigtown, in obedience to the orders of December, went home some time in 1420. The dating is rather uncertain; Buchan was probably still in France at the end of May when he was given a horse out of a group purchased on the 27th of the month. By the 28th July he was back in Scotland where he presented his accounts as chamberlain in person rather than by deputy, only to be back in France by the end of August when he, with Wigtown and Darnley were again given horses, this time from a batch purchased on 12th August. How many men this brief visit produced and the exact date of their arrival is uncertain; Beaucourt places the number at 4-5,000 and makes them arrive in 1421 but there is very little documentary evidence to back this up. Beyond noting that the embassy did take place, and accepting that some reinforcements may have followed from it, however, there is very little that one can say with certainty about it. Even before this reinforcement, however, some of the Scottish forces were involved in action; those in the garrisons of the river towns upstream of Paris.

Henry V with his new Burgundian allies laid siege to Melun which had quantities of Scots in its garrison. That Henry was aware of the Scottish role in the French armies opposing him is apparent from his production of the rather sad figure of the captive King of Scots at Melun in an attempt to persuade the Scots to surrender. The stratagem was a failure; the Scots fought on and when the town surrendered on the 17th of September, the surrender treaty specifically handed English deserters and Scots over to the mercy of the English king (a clause to be repeated at all later surrenders even when it is less certain that any such were present). Henry's reaction was simple and brutal; he hanged twenty Scots out of hand as traitors to King James. There are other signs that the English king was becoming concerned about the reinforcement of the French army by Scots; the flurry of safe conducts granted to Scottish nobles wishing to see their king from this time on testifies to a hope that James could influence them against taking French service and even perhaps divert some to the English side. Indeed, on 30th May 1421 the Earl of Douglas (Wigtown's father) was to swear on the gospels to serve Henry from the following Easter with 200 men at arms and the same number of archers, and it is possible to argue that the negotiations for James' ransom were only begun seriously at this time in the same hope of stemming the flow of Scottish aid to France. The surprising thing is, perhaps, that such a supposedly brilliant strategist as Henry V never attempted to cut off the supply in the most concrete way by attempting to take La Rochelle, by then the only port safely in French hands instead of resorting to such doubtfully effective diplomatic means. The failure of his efforts to open an effective front in the south-west no doubt militated against such a move, but it is also likely that his forces were at full stretch in the Seine valley already; hardly a good augury for the future strength of English rule in France.

Certainly, these diplomatic moves in London did not affect the Scottish troops in France. The loyalty of their commanders had been fortified by a generous distribution of lands by the Dauphin; Chatillon-sur-Indre to Buchan, Langeais to Seton (who appears thus titled in an undated quittance of the period), Dun le Roi to Wigtown and Concressault to Darnley. The army itself had been reorganised too, it seems, with the birth of what the French were to refer to as the "Army of Scotland". By August 1420, Darnley is referred to in the Stable accounts as Constable of Scot–land which means constable of the Scottish army in France. Other signs of this improved internal organisation are evident as well. On 12th September, the two William Douglases and Thomas "Corpatrick", the latter now called Marshal of the Army of Scotland appear in the accounts being paid for their services. This also illustrates the integration of the men who crossed earlier into the main Scottish army. The administrative consequences of this reorganisation were considerable, and, for the historian trying to trace the activities of the army, very annoying since the Army of Scotland, which presumably had its own administration was kept almost totally separate from the rest of the French military administration.

While not all Scots belonged to the Army of Scotland, and the central administration was in a state of some chaos at this point anyway, the effective separation of the Scots from the rest of the army means that all records have vanished long ago. The records of some of Buchan's recruiting ventures, which survived until the 18th century would have cast some light on the actual organisation of the Scottish army, but they, like so much of the archival material of this period went up in flames at the Revolution Given this detached position, it was perhaps predictable that the Scottish commanders were given privileges with regard to payment of their troops. In November 1422, John Stewart of Darnley as Constable in command of all Scottish forces was paid various monies for his men "non obstant que le nombre des gens d'armes et de soit declaree es dittes lettres" and indeed in early 1423 when he was ordered to take his men to the Nivernais and Auxerrois against the Burgundians, in order to be sure that his men would march he was paid 30,000 livres tournois in advance for two months wages "sans ce que de lui ne des Ecossois il feust tenu de faire... aucunes montres ni revues". This obviously left much scope for embezzlement on the part of the commanders; it also means a desperate shortage of documentary evidence about the strength and movements of the Scottish forces in France for most of their life as an independent unit.

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