Of the death of the Prince of Condé at Bassac.
THE Protestants hauing in the former * daies endured much, founde the more sweetnesse in their aboade in Poictow, whether they were retired: where they were aduertised that Monsiers armie was in the field, marching toward An∣golesme. There were newly come to him two thousand Reistres, and as I suppose to the end the sooner to ende the warre he purposed to force his enemies either to fight, or els to shut vp themselues in the townes. In the one he had the aduan∣tage: in the other he deminished their reputation. The Prince and Admirall vpon this aduice caused their men to close, determining to keepe themselues along the banckes of the riuer of Charente, so to behould their countenances, but to hazard nothing: as also to fauour their Houlds for the furnishing wherof with men they must Page 431 diminish there armie. There was nothing done worthie remem∣branee vntil the Catholiks came to Chasteaunueuf, which stādeth vpon the same riuer, where at theyr first comming they tooke the Castle which had but a bad keeper: And because the bridge was broken in two places, the Admirall himselfe to the end to discouer their countenance and the passage would needs come thether with 7. or 800. horse & as many harque buziers, hauing the riuer still be∣tweene thē, where he began a skirmish with some people whō they had sent ouer either by bôate or vpon some plankes sodeinly laide, which lasted not long: In the meane time it might bee easily per∣ceiued that they would labour to passe ouer there.
The Lord Admirall desiring as much as he might to preserue * his credite, and to giue his enimies to vnderstand that he would not giue them ground: foote by foote that he purposed to stop their pas∣sage yet for one daie: & in the same place appointed two regiments of footmen to lodge within a quarter of a league of the bridge, and eight hundred horse a little behinde. This done, with the rest of the auan•gard he retyred to Bassac, which was a league of, and the Prince came to Iarnae which is one league farther, but his com∣mandement was not performed: for both horsemen and footemen seeing that in the places appointed there were fewe houses and no virtuals or forrage, hauing quite forgotten the custome of the camp and wanting of prouision at home, tooke their quarters else where. Thus most of the troop departed to take their lodgings, so as there remayned but few vppon the place who setteled themselues halfe a league from the passage: whereof it ensued that the gard was very weake, neither could it approch neere inough to heare or giue alla∣rum to the enemies gard from time to time according as was de∣uised, so to haue made them beleeue that our whole auantgard had bene there lodged. The Catholikes who were resolued, albeit our whole campe would haue letted them, to seaze vppon this passage, through the diligence of the Lord of Biron not onelie repaired the olde bridge, but also made a new of such beates as are ordinarilie transported in armies royall, which was also finished before mid∣night: and then they began to passe ouer without anie noise both horsemen and footmen.
The Protestants that watched there did scarce perceiue their passage before breake of daie, whereof immediatly they certefied the L. Admiral, who vnderstanding that most of his men were lod∣ged scatteringlie, euen on the same side that the enemies came, sent Page 432 them worde of their passage, warning them to drawe to him with∣all speede so to retire together, in the meane time that hee woulde houer at Bassac: he also commaunded the carriages and footemen to retire which was performed. Now if then, yea an howre after his whole troopes had beene come together, they might easily haue departed, euen a soft pace. But the delay of time being at the leaste three howres, while he stayed for them, was the cheefe cause of our mishap: neither woulde hee loose such troopes conteining eight or nine corners of horse-men, and some ensignes of foote-men, whose captains were the County of Montgomery, the Lord of Acier, and Colonell Pluuiault.
In the end beeing all ioyned with him except Colonell A∣cier* who tooke the way to Angolesme, the enimies that still pas∣sed ouer weare waren so mighty, and come so neere vnto vs, also the skirmish so whot, that it appeared that needes wee must fight. Hereupon the Prince of Condee, who was already a good halfe league vpon his retraict, vnderstanding that they shoulde be forced to buckle, hauing the stonracke of a Lion woulde needes haue a share. When to the end to retire we forsooke, a small brooke, which coulde not be passed but in two or three places, the Catholicks set forwarde the flowre of their horsemen vnder the conduct of the Lordes of Guize, Martigues and Brissac, who ouerthrew fower cornets of Protestants, beeing vpon the retraict, where my selfe was taken prisoner: then did they set vpon the Lord of Andelot in a village, who bare their brunt wel ynough: hauing ouerpassed him they perceiued two great battailes of horse, among whome were the Prince and Admirall, who seeing themselues beset prepared to charge.
The Lorde Admirall gaue the first onset, and the Prince the second, which was fiercer then ye first: at the beginning they forced al yt came to turne their backs, & truely it was well fought on eue∣ry side. Howbeit in as much as the whole army of the Catholicks, still came on the Protestants were forced to flee after they had lost in the field, about a hundred Gentlemen, but especially the Princes owne person, who being borne downe coulde haue no succour, and hauing yeelded himselfe to the Lorde of Argences, there came a Gascoigne Gentleman named Montesquion and discharged a pistoll through his head whereof he died.
His death bred wonderfull sorrowe among the Protestantes, and as great ioy to some of his aduersaries, who supposed they Page 433 shoulde soone ouercome the whole body, nowe that they had cut of so good a head, howbeit, as some did greatly blame him, so others there were that commended his valour. As also this commendati∣on * may iustly be giuen him that in bouldnesse or curtesy no man of his time excelled him. Of speech hee was eloquent rather by na∣ture then art: he was liberall and affable vnto all men, and withall an excellent Captaine, although he loued peace. Hee bare him selfe better in aduersity then in prosperitie. His greatest commendati∣on of all was his stedfastnesse in religion. My best is, to holde my peace for feare of saying to little, albeit I thought good to speake somewhat, leaste I shoulde be accounted ingratefull to the memo∣ry, of so valiant a Prince. Many a worthy person both Catholike and Protestant, whome our ciuill stormes haue caried away, are to be lamented: for they honored our Fraunce and might well haue holpen to encrease it, had not discord prouoked the valour of the one to the destruction of the valour of the other. After this blowe the Protestantes army was wonderfully astonied, and it fell out well for them, that the country whereinto they were withdrawne was all full of water: for thereby were the Catholicks restrained, and they had time to recouer themselues▪ Hauing atchieued such a vic∣tory the Catholicks imagined, that such of our townes as were not very strong woulde bee amazed: But the Admirall had placed in them the most part of his footemen, thereby breake this first fu∣ry: so as when they set forward to assalt Coignac they well found that such catts were not caught without mittens: for therein were fowre regimentes of footemen, but as when they had sent three or fowre hundred shot vnto the parkeside to disceuer that part, they that were within sent foorth 10, or 1200, who sent them so quickly away that they came no more: as also they had in their army but sowre Canons, and as many Culuerines. Monsieur contenting him selfe with his victory, and perceiuing that hee coulde not per∣forme any greate matter, in his tender youth triumphing ouer moste excellent captaines, as also hee had good counsaile and as∣sistaunce of other worthy Captaines that accompanied him, retired to refresh his men.
In this action we are to gather that in whatsoeuer waighty and daungerous attempt, it must not bee followed to halues: for we must either quight leaue it off, or else employ whatsoeuer our senses and force. Page 434 Moreouer, this is to be noted, that when armies are lodged scatte∣ringly, they incurre viuerse inconueniences which the sufficiencie of the best Captaines is not able withstand.