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The Historical Setting of The Manciple's Tale William Askins Community College ofPhiladelphia Goffrcy Chauw's mveb thrnugh foncc and Spain have not received the same attention as his Italian journeys, even though as much or, more precisely, as little is known about them. Of particular interest is his mission to Navarre in 1366, a journey which probably originated in Aquitaine and which would have thrown the poet on the road hard by the court ofthe celebrated Gaston III, count ofFoix,a court situated at Orthez, in Beam, between the court ofthe Black Prince on the north, the pass at Roncevalles on the south, and, farther south, through the Pyrenees, Chaucer's destination: Navarre and the court ofCharles le Mauvais. 1 The itineraries ofcontemporary English diplomats to Spanish courts frequently included stops at Orthez.2 In his well-known description ofthe court ofthe countofFoix,JeanFroissartindicatesthat it wasvisitedby travelers ofevery description: pilgrims bound for Santiago de Compostela, merchants, and men-at-arms: The gallantry of the Count has brought visirors from all parts of the world. It was there I was informed of the greater pan of those events which had happened in Spain, Portugal, Aragon, Navarre, England, Scotland and on the borders of Languedoc; for I saw during my residence, knights and squires arrive from every nation.3 1 On Chaucer's journey to Navarre see Martin M. Crow and Clair C. Olson, eds., Chaucer Life-Records (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), pp. 64-66. 2 For the itineraries ofEnglishdiplomats to Spanish coum during the period 1377 to 1381, see the materials from Spanish archives and the English letters calendared or printed by Edouard Perroy, The Diplomatic Correspondence ofRichard II (London: Camden Society, 1933), pp. 1-7, 180-84. 3Jean Froissart, Chronicles, trans. Thomas Johnes (London: Bohn, 1857), 2:95. All references to the Chronicles are to this edition of this translation, except in cases where the French text is critical orJohnes has mistranslated it, in which case I cite Froissart, Chroniques, ed. S. Luce et al. (Paris: Socifo' de l'histoire de France, 1869-1975). 87 STUDrnS IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER Passage throughBeam was particularly crucial to theBlack Prince in the months before his own descent into Navarre. The relationship between Edward and the count ofFoix in the 1360s was neither casual nor amicable, despite exchanges of surface pleasantries. Though cousin to the Plan­ tagenets, Gaston was stubbornly independent ofboth the English and the French crowns and, until late in his life, pretended neutrality during the Hundred Years' War. After the Treaty ofBretigny in 1361, lands held by the English or by noblemen allied with the English surroundedBeam on the north, east, and west; the geopolitical importance ofBeam was assured by the count ofFoix's control oftraffic through the Pyrenees at his southern border. In 1364 the Black Prince attempted to subjugate Gaston by demandingthat thecountpay himhomageat Agen, but though the count made some concessions to Edward, he refused to pay homage forBeam. At this turn Edward is supposed to have tried to assassinate Gaston but here too failed. In December, 1365, Edward had his father write a heated letter to Charles V in which Gaston was described as unreasonable and "en prejudice de la paix" and the instigator of"grande riote, debate et dissen­ sion."4 Gaston still refused to kneel before Edward, and the crisis came to a head when, according to Froissart, the Black Prince urgently required a safe-conduct from the count ofFoix so that theFree Companies loyal to the English could join him at Dax in late 1366. Once again Gaston refused Edward, but when John Chandos personally intervened, Gaston granted him the safe-conduct that allowed the Free Companies to move north through the Pyrenees, bivouac with Edward's troops in the area around Dax, and then return with him to Najera in early 1367. Edward was nonetheless so irritated with the count of Faix that he planned to take Beam by force on his return from Najera; he proved, however, too ill to offer the count ofFoix battle, and on this note the diplomatic relationship between Gaston and Edward ended. 5 Chaucer was doubtless familiar with 4 For the text ofthisletter seePierreTucoo...


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