Of the notable passage of the Duke of Aipont from the borders of Rhine, euen into Aquitaine.
MAny that shall heere see it set downe as it were for a meruayle that a forraine enimies armie coulde pierce so very far into the realme of France, wyll not peraduenture thinke it straunge: because that considering other examples, namelie that of the Emperour Charles the fifth, when hee came to besiege Saint Desier, they will not take such expeditions to be so extraordinarie as we wold make them beleeue for. Howbeit if they list well to waigh the length of the iourney, also the mightie and continuall lets and hinderances that this had, I doubt they wil be of another opinion. Yet will I confesse that ciuill warres doe greatly fauour the entrie of our neighbours, who otherwise with∣out the support of one of the factions neuer durst haue enterprised the same. But when on the one side the fauour is small, and on the other side the resistance great, we are the more to admire the deeds of those that haue so aduentured.
Touching that which is alleadged of the Emperour Charles, I will aunswere in fewe wordes. First, for his person hee was the mightiest Captaine in Christendome: then for his campe it consi∣sted of fiftie thousand men: lastlie, that at such time as hee came in the King of England had alreadie taken Bollein, which caused King Fraunces, who woulde not aduenture anie thing rashlie, to leaue the passage more free. Nowe the Duke of Biponts case is farre otherwise: for notwithstandinge he were a valyaunt Page 435 valyant Prince, yet did he not any thing neere approch the milita∣rie sufficiencie of the other: and a great helpe and ease it was for him that he was accompanied with the Prince of Orenge, Countie Lodowicke, & Countie Wolrad of Mansfield, besides other braue French Captaines, and two thousand footmen and horsemen of the same nation that ioyned with him. His number of Germaines was fiue thousand Lance knights and sixe thousand Reisters. With this small armie did he passe forward in purpose to ioyne with the Prin∣ces power.
The King vnderstanding that he prepared for their succour, did * immediatlie appoint a small armie vnder the leading of the Duke of Aumale to withstand him: and doubting of the weaknesse ther∣of, he also ioyned thereto another vnder the gouernment of the D. of Nemours. These two bodies vnited did in footmen exceede the Duke of Bipont, but in horse were inferiour vnto him. They de∣termined not to state his comming into the realme to molest them, and therefore marched euen into the borders of Germanie, and to∣ward Sauerne ouerthrew the regiment of one named Le Coche, composed of certaine straies gathered together who meant to haue ioyned with him. Neuerthelesse he entered into France on the side of Burgundie, whether they came to coast him, and vntill he came to the riuer of Loire which was little lesse than foure score leagues they neuer gaue him ouer, but still were either on his flankes or tayle, yea, many times the armies were in sight each of other, and had great skirmishes.
I haue oft heard the Prince of Orenge report that he meruay∣led in so long and difficult a waie that the Catholikes could neuer finde anie fit occasion to their aduauntage, for sometimes they had fayre offers by reason of the pestering with store of carriages. Nei∣ther can I omit this, that besides the braue forces of the Kings ar∣mie, they had other aduantages which were not smal, as the fauour of the townes, Countries, and riuers, yea, and one point more was to be noted, that is, their notise of the enemies purposes which con∣sisted in making of way and winning by power or pollicy some pas∣sage ouer Loire. For albeit both the Dukes of Nemours and Au∣male were braue Captains, yet notwithstanding all their pollicies and endeauours this armie gate to the sayd riuer. Some Catho∣likes reporte that the discorde that fell betweene them hindred di∣uerse braue enterprises which they might haue executed if they had still agreed. I wot not how it was, but if that were true it was no Page 436 meruaile that they fought no•, or rather that they were not fought with all▪ but thus 〈◊〉 I haue learned, that the enimies had small notice of their braules. This great barre, the riuer of Loire might also haue bene a second & verie great difficultie to staie this Dutch armie, in that so lowe it was not wadeable, besides that all the townes standing thervpon were enemies: but the passage ouer was in necessarie for them, that it so doubled the diligence, rashnesse, and inuentions of the French Protestants that they assayled the towne of Charite which had a goodly bridge, and finding it but badly fur∣nished with men, they pressed so sore vpon it, that what with counte∣naunce and threates, before anie succour came they had carried it a∣waie, which was vnto them a wonderfull ioy. For had not that ben, they were in a verie b•• case & must haue ben forced to haue sought the head of the fai•riuer, which would haue lengthned their way 60 leagues, and which was worse, taking that course they should haue pestured themselues in a hilly and wood Countrie where their hors∣men could haue stood them but in small stead.
I haue sometimes heard the Lord Admirall discoursing hereof among his familiars, account this passage of the straungers almost impossible For (sayd he) we cannot helpe them by reason of Mon∣siers armie which lyeth in our waie, and as for them they haue another vpō their arm; also so difficult a riuer to stop their course, that it is to be feared that they shal not wel void this inconuenience without shame or losse. Agayn albeit they had passed it yet the 2. armyes ioyned together wil haue ouerthrowen them before we can come neere by 20 leagues to succour them: but when we hard of the successe of La Charite, also yt they were determined to trie al dangers to ioyn with him, he grew into better hope and sayd: This is a Princes good prognostication, les vs by diligence and resolution perfect it. This caused the Lordes, Princes of Nauarre & Conde the same, who had allowed and re∣ceiued leaue for generalles of the Protestants to march toward the marches of Limosin, so to drawe neere the armie of Monsieur, and to keepe it still occupied: and to saie the truth wee were dayly as it were in a foure waiting when we should heare that two such migh∣tie armies had oppressed our Reisters: but it fel out otherwise: for they watched their opportunitie so •itlie and speedely, that beeing guided by their French troopes, wherein the Lorde of Auy bare * himselfe most valyantlie, they out went them and drew to the place where the Lorde Admirall had sent them worde that he woulde meet them with ten thousand harquebuziers, and two thousand and fiue hundred horse.
Page 437 Thus did these two armies ioyne with greate ••a•ulation. I will not heere •axe the Generalls and braue Captaines of the Ca∣tholikes for suffering them to passe, because I 〈◊〉 not what rea∣sons they had to diuert them, neither will I extreamely command those that passed, but rather must thinke it to haue ben a great good hap for them, the lyke whereof doe sometimes appeare in militarie action: where in great Captaines in their warre are to learne in their greatest extremities not to abandon all hope: for one onely fa∣uourable accident which commonly followeth the diligent and shunneth the slothfull, may suffice to free them. Both the armies being then verie mightie (for there were in the Kings campe aboue thirtie thousand men, and in the Princes full 25000.) were forced for theyr better commoditie of virtualles to seuer themselues (for the countrie of Limosin is but barren) but they drew togither ward againe about Yries La Perche.
The Lord Admirall perceiuing that the barrennesse of the * Countrie forced them to lodge sc••teringlie also that beeing crag∣gie and full of wood, the places for the armies were oftentimes verie discommodious, determined rather to preuent then to bee pre∣uented. Wherefore hee counsayled the Princes to goe and sur∣prise the Catholike armie which was not farre of at a place called Roch-labelle. They set forward before breake of daie, in purpose to giue battayle, and came so fitlie that before anie allarum taken, they were within a quarter of a league of the enemies front, who were lodged strongly, and the Lord of Stossy at the noise comming in with fiue hundred harquebuziers to support three hundred of his men who kept watch at the chiefe entrie, found the skirmishe verie hot. And wee may well saie that hee bare himselfe verie valyant∣lie: for hee helde foure thousande Protestant harquebuziers plaie a long houre, which time stood the Catholike armie in good stead to set themselues in order.
The Lorde Admirall meruailing that they could not force the passage, sent thether Captaine Bruel a skilfull man. Hee by and by perceiued that our shotte endeauoured to ouercome the others rather by multitude than by arte, wherefore to make short worke, hee spake to the Captaines, and hauing ordered the troopes, assayled their flanks, and withal setting forwarde foure Cornets to sustayne them, he beganne a sharpe onsette wherein our men hauing broken certain casemates that couered the enimies did so disorder thē that soone after they fled, leauing diuerse of their Page 438 men• dead with 22. of their officers: also their Colonell prisoner, who that daie had done Monsieur good seruice: for had it not bene his resistance the Protestants had come without le•te to their ordi∣nance: But because it rayned all the daie, and the Catholike army was placed vpon the aduauntage, they could not worke anie great effect and therfore retired, hauing shewed themselues too rigorous in their execution, for they tooke verie fewe prisoners, wherea• the Catholikes were •ore prouoked, and reuenged themselues intime and place. It is a commendation to fight well, but it deserueth no lesse praise to b• genele and courteous to those whome the first fur•e of our weapons haue pardoned, and into whose handes our selues may another time fal, vnlesse there be great cause to the contrarie. And in skirmishes skill and pollicie is in my opinion as necessarie as violence, which experience doth 〈◊〉 coufirme. For if the lande be somewhat couerd, a man may vse sundrie aduantages, which the Spaniards and Italians can verie wel practise, as being ingenious people: but it is alwaies most profitable to order their men in smal troopes, to assayle on the flankes ere they bee aware, to place the troope that beareth the brunt verie well, and finallie to come reso∣solutely to the sword.