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6 - The Sack of the “City” of Limoges (1370) Reconsidered in the Lightof an Unknown Letter of the Black Prince

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2024

Kelly DeVries
Affiliation:
United States Military Academy
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Summary

A previously unknown letter of the Black Prince sent to the count of Foix, Gaston Fébus, provides several new details about the sack of the City of Limoges in 1370. This event became famous thanks to the literary talent of the chronicler Jean Froissart, and somewhat blackened the reputation of the Black Prince in several historical works of the nineteenth century. Such a view persists down to the present day in popular works. This article aims to reassess figures for the casualties suffered during the assault of the City and for the length of the siege of the City as well as the route used by the prince's army between Angoulême and Limoges. The letter of the Black Prince, published as an appendix, completes the earlier comprehensive study by the local scholar Alfred Leroux. Furthermore, another letter from a French captain of a nearby town (also included in the appendix) informed Du Guesclin of the fall of Limoges and his measures to protect his town against any potential English siege.

The sack of Limoges (19 September 1370) by the army of Edward of Woodstock, prince of Aquitaine and Wales, more famous since the sixteenth century as “the Black Prince,” has blackened the latter's name in many accounts of the Hundred Years’ War. This ill repute comes mainly from the vivid account of this event by Jean Froissart in his famous chronicle. This article will reassess this important event in light of all the known sources, as well as of the work of the most serious scholar who has examined it, Alfred Leroux. We will use for this purpose a previously unknown source: a letter written by the prince himself when encamped before the “City” of Limoges three days after its capture. (Limoges was then divided in two distinct towns with their own walls: the “Castle” and the “City.” The City developed around the cathedral of Saint-Étienne, and the “Castle,” the main part of Limoges, developed around the abbey of Saint-Martial and a castle of the vicomtes of Limoges, which was largely demolished, save for a motte (see Figure 6.1).

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2023

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