The politicke and militarie discourses of the Lord de La Nouue VVhereunto are adioyned certaine obseruations of the same author, of things happened during the three late ciuill warres of France. With a true declaration of manie particulars touching the same. All faithfully translated out of the French by E.A.
La Noue, François de, 1531-1591., Aggas, Edward.

The foretenth Discourse.

Of the French Legionaries.

THE name Legion was in olde tyme in * great honor and credit. And a man may truely say that by those proude and va∣liant bands all the world was subdued and the Romaine Empyre exalted to that greatnesse whereto it grewe. It vsed these orders and auncient names vntill the barbarous nations ouerthrew it: for then were many things confoun∣ded and buried vp, euen in the arte of warre. Afterward the bands of Souldiers were termed by sundrie other names, as yet they be. But our great King Frances desiring to strengthen and establish Page  177 his realme by al practisable meanes, deuised to establish legions, to the end, as occasion might serue, to haue men alwayes readie, & not to be forced to begge for aide. The Lord of Langey sayth, that in e∣uerie Prouince he tooke order for one, consisting of 6000. men, who all should once in the yeere meete seuerally to be mustered. Now as this mightie Prince after the imitation of his elders instituted this braue order, according as the disposition of his people and af∣faires could beare: so I suppose that after his example we shoulde seeke to redresse some small bodie of these olde and great relickes, fit to offende and defend as well in the field as otherwise, whose maintainance would in the time of peace be of small charge: for it were but a follie to secke in euerie point thereof to restore the aun∣cient institution, considering that France being so much weakned, cannot be able to sustaine so heauie a burthen, and therefore. must haue no greater charge than it is able to beare.

If his Maiestie would entertaine foure legions, and that after * the auncient manner, I thinke it would be too much, as well in re∣spect of the charge, as for the oppression of the people: for one mo∣neths wages for 24000. men, would amount to 250000. frankes: besides that, their march to & fro at the assemblies would (now that souldiours are so farre out of order) endomage the people a hundred and fiftie thousand. To be briefe, this warfare would yerely amount to 400000. franks, which al would not make the men much better than those yt are ordinarily leuied when wars come on. Ho beit the sound of this great number of people dooth at the first dazell mens eies: but we must not trust to them, better it were to practise the Spanish prouerbe, that saith: Poco y bueno, which is, A few and good. But I woulde wish wee might haue three established, one in Picardie, one in Champagne, and one in Burgundie, each consist∣ing of 2000. men: and this establishment would be erected princi∣pally to these ends. First to induce the Gentrie to inroule them∣selues among the Infanterie: secondly, to reestablish Corcelettes therein, and thirdly to helpe to fill vp the bodies of our armies.

Concerning the first point, experience teacheth, that nothing hath * more corrupted our Infanterie, than that our Gentrie haue with drawen themselues therefro, disdaining not onely to beare the har∣quebut and pike, but also many times to take anie charge. Wher by are entered pettie Countrie Captaines deuoid of all respect of honour, and such as seeke to inrich themselues with the generall spoiles of our warres. Yea, if any olde regimentes haue obserued Page  178 some sorte the auncient discipline, yet are there many disorders crept in among them. The cause that maketh the Spanish In∣fanterie at this daie to be in such estimation, is for that their Gen∣try are so willing to serue therin, yea, rather than among the horse. For there will they serue out theyr apprentishippe of warre, to the ende to attaine to be Captaines, which degree they make as great account of, as we doe of the Colonelship of a whole regiment. It were therefore good to commit the charge of the companies to no∣table Gentlemen, who lykewise might choose to bee their Liuete∣nants and Ensignes, such other Gentlemen their neighbours of whome there be enow in the Prouinces, as might be capable ther∣of.

Thus through theyr credites they might bring in for souldiours other that beare the same title of Gentrie as themselues. The Lord of Langey witnesseth that the Captaines of the legions of Nor∣mandie and Picardie were all men of good houses, and nameth the Lordes Bacque-ville, Cantelow, Mally, and Lanny, with others bearing office. Wherefore to restore into honour such as we would establish, it were requisite the Colonels thereof were of person va∣lorous, in warre experienced, knowen in Court, and worth 12. or 15000 frankes rent, co the ende through their owne estimation to bring the office into credit. And although I heare yoke wealth with vertue, yet doe I make it but as her handmaide, for the exercise of liberalitie, which is necessarie among souldiors. We see that in the lowe Countries the chiefe Lordes doe not disdayne to take the re∣giments, as the Earles of Egmont, Arembergue, & Barlaimont, the valiant Marques of Renty, with the gallant Earle Charles of Mansfield.

As touching the second point for the reestablishing of Corcelets* & Pikes, I haue alreadie shewed that the Infanterie that is thereof vnprouided, is vnperfect: howbeit that there are meanes to remedie it. Whereof the most soueraigne, in my opinion, is to bring men to it voluntarilie rather than by compulsion, which may easily be done if the Gentrie through obedience will begin to leade the waie to the rest, who will not bee behinde when they shall see their Captaines which command them, take vpon them the vse of the same weapon that they appoint to them. It were good also that the orders of the said legions were such, as the third part of the men of whome they should consist, to be pikes, and the fourth harquebuts, so should the three legions containe 4500. corcelets, and 1500. harquebuts.

Page  179 Now to come to the third point, I saie that this number is suffici∣ent * to make three battailes, wherof euē one would withstand a regi∣ment of Germains: for although it should contain but 1200. corce∣lets, yet doe I suppose it urst fight with two thousand, considering the qualitie of the men therein contained. Neither doe I doubt but we should finde 1050. Gentlemen in euerie one, who being placed in the three first rankes, what man can saie but they would giue a aliant onset. Such an opinion haue I of the French Gentry, that being lead by a good and skilfull Captaine, I assure my selfe they would passe through fire and water. Thus would these three legi∣ons deserue to haue place in the right and left winges of the army, because their bodies would bee both bigge and stronge enough to stand, Such as will medle with warre, especially in the field, must not deceaue them selues, but thinck that armies without battailes of Pikes are as armes and legges without bodies, which are most necessary to beare vp the said members. Now let vs see whether this smale principle and order that I would lay in time of peace, may in time of warre make them as good as I haue described them. For my parte I thinck they will not want much. Which neuer∣thelesse I referre to the iudgement of those that haue more skil than my selfe, after they haue seene the end of this discourse. They are to remember that I fit the shooe to the foote, that is to saie, the charge according to our pouertie: for if wee were able to doe more, I would not be against it. But whatsoeuer our estate be, we ought stil to prouide instruments wherwith to defend the Flower de luce, least some pleasant fellow delighting in her smell, should plucke a∣way the branches thereof.

His Maiestic hauing chosen for Colonels to the three legions,* such men as I haue described, (For vertue and authoritie are neces∣sarie in such reformations) they likewise shall each of them in the Countries limitted, chose nine good Captaines and themselues to make the tenth to gouerne the companies, wherin they shal imploy all their credit, to the end to install such honourable gentlemē their friends or neighbors as shall be worthie. And no doubt many seeing themselues requested by such qualified Colonels (whome they doe both knowe and loue) will be readie enough to accept of the offices which otherwise they would disdayne. Yea, it may peraduenture so fall out that some Gentlemen of two or three thousand Frankes rent, (but valyant and couragious, which is the principall) finding themselues conducted by a Captaine that is both their companion Page  180 and friend. will not refuse to march with him. If anie man desire to know why I craue such fellows, it is to the end that by theyr exam∣ple and credite, other more meane & poore Gentlemen should ioyne themselues to the same bodie, as is aforesayde, as beeing assured when a good foundation is layde, wee maye the more safelie builde therevpon, and our worke will be the surer. Then should the sayde Captaines choose for their Lieuetenants and Ensignes other Gen∣tlemen skilfull in the seruice of Infanterie, and withall fiue others to be alwayes in souldiours roomes, who were easie to bee founde. These▪ are all that shoulde make the bodie of a legion in the time of peace, who lykewise should be retained with some meane fee wher∣with to binde them to this vocation, and to dispose them to beare the rules of such a warfare. For it were follie to thinke without expenses to make men subiect, either that without study in whatso∣euer, as wel by speculation as practise, an many may grow perfect. The Captaines wages shall be fiue hundred Frankes by yeere, the Lieuetenants three hundred, the Ensigns two hundred, and the fiue souldiours each of thē one hundred, which to euery companie would amount to 1500, Frankes. Hereto might I ade for the Colonels wages, and many other his necessarie expenses 500. Franks. Like∣wise for ten braue Serieants, whome I thinke also necessarie to be prouided for, 1000. Frankes, and for a Serieant maior 300. so as the whole summed together, this entrie and grounde of a Legion would amount but to 5600. Crownes by the yere, & so all the three to 16800. All which is but the paie of three score men of armes, and yet in the sayde three legions wee should haue aboue 240. Gentle∣men bound and sworne. Now as this maintainaunce shoulde not bee giuen them to fat them vp in their houses (so it were lost labor) so lykewise shoulde they not bee put to keepe garisons, or to trot vp and downe whensoeuer others list to send for them: but heerein they shoulde vse such a meane, that in receiuing yeerely all instruc∣tions requisite, they might by little and little prepare themselues rather for the seruice to come, that is, when warres shoulde come vpon vs, than for the present. Euerie yeere vpon a daie limitted, the Colonell, Captaines, and Souldiours, should al meete in some great Borough neere to the chiefe Towne of the Prouince, or in a∣nie other conuenient place, to muster in armour, and receiue the paie aboue mencioned. Halfe the Captaines paie to bee employ∣ed to the buying of fayre Corcelets and Pikes, which should bee alwayes kept in the Townes aforesayde, notwithstanding the Page  181 propertie should rest in themselues; whereby in foure yeres euerie legion should haue 80000, frankes worth of armour, which would be a great helpe to the furnishing of them. The souldiours lyke∣wise should leaue their furniture in the same places, as well to ease them of the carriage of it to their owne houses, as also to keepe it from embeseling, for both going and comming they must lodge in hostries. Thus shold not the people be any whit molested: which were a matter both iust in it selfe and honourable to the King, which also would purchase a good name to the Souldiours. So do I thinke that euerie man at his returne home may haue halfe his paie cleere, except the Captaines that shall haue bought the ar∣mour.

But, may some man say, yt remainder of this smal pay will scarce * buy a paire of hosen, or make a man good cheere one daie. In deede I confesse that gluttons shall finde this shooe too little for theyr foote: But Gentlemen noblie minded will account such maintai∣nance, proceeding from the king, for an acceptable benefite excee∣ding their paines and ordinarie seruice. Wee must direct our acti∣ons after the auncient orders that agree with reason, and not after the manner of the depraued customes of ciuill warres. My selfe knew a simple souldiour, namely an Argolet that had not aboue fiftie sous rent, who had so well husbanded his small businesse, that he kept eight horses in his traine, a cart with three horses, twelue seruants and sixe dogs, in all thirtie mouthes, and yet when time serued he was not too good to carrie the Harquebut, and had but one page.

But to returne to my purpose. I thinke that it were inough for * them to soiourne in the place appointed for the musters (where e∣uerie one shall be lodged by tiquets, and paie according as shall bee rated) eight or ten daies, for I suppose yt in that time they may suf∣ficiently know their men: instruct thē by the discourses & writings of skilfull Captaines in warlike affaires: prepare them for time to come: exercise them, and by liuely exhortations print in their harts the goodly portraiture of honour, to the ende afterward they might doe things worthie their fame, and obtayne the commendation to haue brought into estimation those orders that had ben contemned: likewise to breede loue and confidence betweene them, which both are necessarie in a troupe. To be briefe, the Colonell ought to im∣ploie his whole minde and purpose with himselfe to bestowe those few daies in good instructions, and not in vaine riots, which I ima∣gine Page  182 would be of great vertue. This done, euerie man to be licen∣sed to depart vntill the next yeere, and so shoulde the rest bee vsed. Now is the question whether through this small discipline the a∣forenamed might growe more capable of their offices: Truely I doe no whit doubt, but as well the commaunder as the commaun∣ded should be the better learned therein. For euerie man comming to this martiall schoole would bring in the best that hee had collec∣ted out of the deeds of our auncestours, which by continual confe∣rence, adioined to practise, wold be both seene & grauē in memory. But the greatest difficultie consisteth in knowledge whether when * the legions should be perfected vp to their ful bodies, such persons as should be added coulde in short time bee trained. Heereto I saie, that it is greatlie to bee presumed that such wildinges as shoulde bee grafted into this free and well pruned tree, by taking theyr re∣leefe therefro, woulde come in short space to beare the lyke fruit. And lyke as good Pilots and shippe maisters do soone make their Mariners fit for nauigation: so, well taught Captaines doe soone giue their souldiours good instructions. Some will saie that our legions cannot be good for want of maintainance. I confesse they might be the better, but we must withall consider that it would cost aboue 900000. Frankes by yeere, which is the reuenue of a good Prouince, whereas after my rule set downe they shall not spend in time of peace aboue 16800. crownes, which to a king is but foure sets at Tenis, or the bad luck of two houres play at Primero. Wel, warre being proclaimed, and the Colonels charged to fill vp their number of men, they should wish their Captains to put in as much Gentrie as they might: and wee must thinke that by their credite many would be willing, yea, as many as I haue sayd, that is 150. to euerie legion. Afterward they should also choose other good sol∣diours enow fit for the pike & Corcelet, & although many were but so so, yet hauing so proud a head, they should shew themselues wret∣ches if they would not followe so good guides. As for harquebu∣ziers, they should neuer be aboue fiftie in a companie: and we shall finde of them thousands. It were also requisite his Maiestie should deliuer to euerie legion flue hundred Corcelets, for the which he to paie part of the mony aforehand to the merchants, and appoint pai∣ment of the rest at the musters. And so doth the K. of Spaine some∣times when he Ieauieth anie Germaine regiments. For he proui∣deth the most part of armour, otherwise the Captaines shoulde not be able to doe it on such a sodaine. During the warres they should Page  183 be maintained as the ordinarie hands and at their feete, as also they should obey the generall of the Infanterie. Likewise their Cap∣taines being men of honour and able to liue, as also sufficiently in∣structed by their Colonelles of the infamie growing of disordered militarie proulings & pilferies, should studie how to keep their cō∣panies as compleat as might be, and not excessiuely to rob them as some do: yea, to helpe their poore souldiours in their greatest neces∣sitie: but withall, when the warre were ended, they should be paide their charges. If this order might come to perfection the king could hardly be surprised by anie euimie whatsoeuer, for in 6. weeks the foure regiments afore spoken of, together with these three legi∣gions may be brought into the field, and their bodies furnished with 14000 braue souldiours, whereof to make foure goodly battailes of pikes which are so necessarie. Also if part of the men of armes and light horse were ioyned vnto it, it would be a meetly sufficient army of our own natiō to defend our borders vntil strangers might be leuied. I know some wil peraduenture saie that few meane sol∣diours will serue in such bands wherein we looke to haue all chiefe officers taken out of the bodie of the Gentrie: but for preuenting this inconuenience, I thinke it were not amisse to leaue some ho∣nours for the vnnobls, if by vertue they may growe worthy the same: as the Serieant maiors office, the Lieuetenantships of com∣panies, & meane serieants roomes. Thus may they be contented: But the Lieuetenant, Colonell, the Captaines & Ensignes should alwayes be Gentlemen. Concerning the difficultie, ordinarily pro∣pounded, which in deed is not small, how to induce the common sol∣diours to take the pike: I suppose it would soone be decided, when they should see (as I haue said) the Captaines & gentry practise the same weapon: & vpon occasion to fight, ioyne with the body of the battell, sauing such as shall be appointed to lead the shot: as also to imitate the Spaniard who alloweth the Corcelet greater pay than the simple harquebuze.

I haue heretofore heard some Princes counsailours, who sought * to make their maisters too thriftie, mislike the maintaining of ma∣ny militarie officers in the time of peace, and peraduenture there be yet some of them that may saie that it were more meete to hyer one hundred good souldiers that might keep a frontier towne, than to enter into charges for that which I haue propounded. To these will I make no answere, but euen referre them to the Marshalls, Montmirencie and Biron, two olde Captaines of Fraunce,Page  184 who vnderstand more of the arte of warre than my selfe, and if they condemne me I yeeld: but I imagine that I shal not loose my plea: for euen of themselues I haue heard that the good Captains make the good souldiours, because they be the preseruers of good order & discipline, which others do soone neglect, yea, euen contemne, vn∣lesse they be bound thereto. But, will some man replie; can your selfe well performe the thing which yee tell others may be done so easily: Truly I think that it properly appertaineth to those which now beare the title of Colonels of the Legionaries, and are better seene in the arte of warre than my selfe, to labour in it, and to reape the honour therof. As also I beleeue that in France there be 1000 Gentlemen more sufficient than my selfe, and can better discharge it. Nowbeit, that they shall not thinke that I would set downe things that cannot be practised, and like vnto paradoxes, where∣of I will discourse (and yet are so strange) I saie that if my King should command me to try such a matter (notwithstanding I coue not anie offices, whether great or smal) I would thinke within two yeres to forme such a bodie, as therewith I durst wrastle with anie other regimēt whatsoeuer, so it were of such a nation as beare vs no great good will. And I assure my selfe the Zuitzers, who helpe themselues with the pike as well as anie souldiours in the world, would be gladde to haue the assistaunce of such a legion. This is my opinion. Wherein if I ouershoote my selfe, let men consider that I am a French man, whose eares doe so gloe with hearing my nation set at naught, that I would wish it to do that which I know it is able, if it were holpen: to the end men might perceiue that in∣dustrie and valour are not quite perished in France.