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The voyage of William Longespee Earle of Sarisburie into Asia, in the yeere 1248, and in the 32 yeere of the reigne of Henry the third, king of England.

LEWIS the French king being recovered of his sickenesse which he fell into, in the yere 1234, vowed thereupon for a free will sacrifice to God, that he (if the Councell of his realme would suffer him) would in his owne person visit the Holy land: which matter was opened and debated in the Parliament of France held in the yeere 1247. Where at length it was concluded, that the king according to his vow should take his journey into Asia, and the time thereof was also prefixed, which should be after the feast of S. John Baptist the next yeere ensuing.

At which time William Longespee a worthie warrior, with the bishop of Worcester and certaine other great men in the Realme of England (mooved with the example of the Frenchmen) prepared themselves likewise to the same journey.

It fell out in this enterprise, that about the beginning of October, the French king assaulted and tooke Damiata, being the principall fort or hold of the Saracens in all Egypt , Anno 1249. and having fortified the Citie with an able garrison left with the Duke of Burgundie, he remooved his tents from thence to goe Eastward. In whose armie followed William Longspee, accompanied with a piked number of English warriors retaining unto him. But such was the disdaine of the Frenchmen against this William Longespee and the Englishmen that they could not abide them, but flouted them after an opprobrious maner with English tailes, insomuch that the French king himselfe had much adoe to keepe peace betweene them.

The originall cause of this grudge betweene them began thus. There was not farre from Alexandria in Egypt a strong fort or castle replenished with great Ladies and rich treasure of the Saracens: which hold it chanced the sayd William Longespee with his company of English soldiers to get, more by politique dexteritie then by open force of armes, wherwith he & his retinue were greatly enriched. When the Frenchmen had knowledge hereof (they not being made privie hereto) began to conceive an heart burning against the English souldiers, & could not speake well of them after that.

It hapned againe not long after, that the sayd William had intelligence of a company of rich merchants among the Saracens going to a certaine Faire about the parts of Alexandria, having their camels, asses and mules, richly loden with silkes, precious jewels, spices, gold & silver, with cart loades of other wares, beside victuall and other furniture, whereof the souldiers then stood in great need: he having secret knowledge hereof, gathered all the power of Englishmen unto him that he could, and so by night falling upon the merchants, some he slew with their guides and conducters, some hee tooke, some hee put to flight: the carts with the drivers, and with the oxen, camels, asses and mules, with the whole cariage and victuals he tooke & brought with him, loosing in all the skirmish but one souldier, and eight of his servitors : of whom notwithstanding some he brought home wounded to be cured.

This being knowen in the Campe, foorth came the Frenchmen which all this while loytered in their pavillions, and meeting this cariage by the way, tooke all the foresayd praie whole to themselves, rating the said William and the Englishmen for adventuring and issuing out of the Campe without leave or knowledge of their Generall, contrary to the discipline of warre. William said againe he had done nothing but he would answere to it, whose purpose was to have the spoyle devided to the behoofe of the whole armie.

When this would not serve, hee being sore grieved in his minde so cowardly to be spoyled of that which he so adventurously had travailed for, went to the King to complaine: But when no reason nor complaint would serve by reason of the proude Earle of Artoys the Kings brother, which upon spight and disdaine stood agaynst him, he bidding the King farewell sayd hee would serve him no longer: and so William de Longespee with the rest of his company breaking from the French hoste went to Achon. Upon whose departure the earle of Artoys sayd, Now is the army of French men well rid of these tailed people, which words spoken in great despight were ill taken of many good men that heard them.

But not long after, when the keeper of Cayro & Babylonia , bearing a good mind to the Christian religion, and being offended also with the Souldan, promised to deliver the same to the French king, instructing him what course was best for him to take to accomplish it, the king hereupon in all haste sent for William Longespee, promising him a full redresse of all his injuries before received: who at the kings request came to him againe, and so joyned with the French power.

After this, it happened that the French king passing with his armie towardes Cayro aforesayd, came to the great river Nilus, on the further part whereof the Soldan had pitched himselfe to withstand his comming over: there was at this time a Saracen lately converted to Christ, serving the earle Robert the French kings brother, who told him of the absence of the Soldan from his tents, and of a shallow foord in the river where they might easily passe over. Whereupon the sayd earle Robert & the Master of the Temple with a great power, esteemed to the third part of the army issued over the river, after whom followed W. Longspee with his band of English souldiers. These being joyned together on the other side of the water, encountred the same day with the Saracens remaining in the tents & put them to the worst. Which victory being gotten, the French earle surprised with pride and triumph, as though hee had conquered the whole earth, would needs forward, dividing himselfe from the maine hoste, thinking to winne the spurres alone. To whom certaine sage men of the Temple, giving him contrary counsell, advised him not to do so, but rather to returne and take their whole company with them, and so should they be more sure against all deceits and dangers, which might be layd privily for them. The maner of that people (they sayd) they better knew, and had more experience thereof then he: alledging moreover their wearied bodies, their tired horses, their famished souldiers, and the insufficiency also of their number, which was not able to withstand the multitude of the enemies, especially at this present brunt, in which the adversaries did well see the whole state of their dominion now to consist either in winning all or losing all.

Which when the proud earle did heare, being inflated with no lesse arrogancy then ignorance, with opprobrious taunts reviled them, calling them cowardly dastards, & betrayers of the whole countrey, objecting unto them the common report of many, which sayd, that the land of the holy crosse might soone be woon to Christendome, were it not for rebellious Templaries, with the Hospitalaries, and their followers.

To these contumelious rebukes, when the master of the Temple answered againe for him and his fellowes, bidding him display his ensigne when he would, and where he durst, they were as ready to follow him, as he to goe before them. Then began William de Longespe the worthy knight to speake, desiring the earle to give eare to those men of experience, who had better knowledge of those countreyes and people then had he, commending also their counsell to be discreet and wholesome, and so turning to the master of the Temple, began with gentle wordes to mittigate him likewise. The knight had not halfe ended his talke, when the Earle taking his wordes out of his mouth, began to fume and sweare, crying out of those cowardly Englishmen with tailes: What a pure armie (sayde he) should we have here, if these tailes and tailed people were purged from it, with other like words of villany, and much disdaine: whereunto the English knight answering againe, well, Earle Robert (said he) wheresoever you dare set your foote, my step shall go as farre as yours, and (as I beleeve) we goe this day where you shall not dare to come neere the taile of my horse, as in deede in the event it prooved true: for Earle Robert would needes set forward, weening to get all the glory to himselfe before the comming of the hoste, and first invaded a litle village or castle, which was not farre off, called Mansor. The countrey Boores and Pagans in the villages, seeing the Christians comming, ranne out with such a maine cry and shout, that it came to the Soldans hearing, who was neerer then our men did thinke. In the meane time, the Christians invading and entring into the munition incircumspectly, were pelted and pashed with stones by them which stood above, whereby a great number of our men were lost, and the armie sore maymed, and almost in despaire.

Then immediatly upon the same, commeth the Soldan with all his maine power, which seeing the Christian armie to be devided, and the brother separated from the brother, had that which he long wished for, and so inclosing them round about, that none should escape, had with them a cruell fight.

Then the earle began to repent him of his heady rashnes, but it was too late, who then seeing William the English knight doughtily fighting in the chiefe brunt of the enemies, cried unto him most cowardly to flie, seeing God (saith he) doth fight against us: To whom the Knight answering againe, God forbid (sayth he) that my fathers sonne should runne away from the face of a Saracene. The Earle then turning his horse, fled away, thinking to avoid by the swiftnes of his horse, and so taking the river Thafnis, oppressed with harnesse, was there sunken and drowned.

Thus the Earle being gone, the Frenchmen began to dispaire and scatter. Then William de Longespe bearing all the force of the enemies, stoode against them as long as he could, wounding and slaying many a Saracen, till at length his horse being killed, and his legges maymed, he could no longer stande, who yet notwithstanding as he was downe, mangled their feete and legges, and did the Saracens much sorrow, till at last after many blowes and wounds, being stoned of the Saracens, he yeelded his life. And after the death of him, the Saracens setting upon the residue of the armie, whom they had compassed on every side, devoured and destroyed them all, insomuch that scarce one man remained alive, saving two Templaries, one Hospitaler, and one poore rascall souldier, which brought tidings, hereof to the King.

And thus by the imprudent and foolish hardines of that French Earle, the Frenchmen were discomfited, and that valiant English Knight overmatched, to the griefe of all Christian people, the glory of the Saracens, and the utter destruction and ruine of the whole French armie, as afterwards it appeared.

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