Renaud de Montauban Saves King Yon, His Lord, Though He Had Suffered At His Hands

October 31, 2019

The horse Bayard carrying the four sons of Aymon, miniature in a manuscript from the 14th century.

The sons of Aymon had been for a very long while besieged in their stronghold. The assailants, not being able to force an entrance to the castle, determined to starve out the garrison, and famine would then overcome the obstinate resistance of Renaud and his brothers. There was no more meat, no more wine, the bread was made only of vetches and lentils. The children grew pale and wan, and the seniors began to think of killing the famous charger Bayard! This seems almost incredible, does it not? But they only bled him, and for fifteen days they existed on the blood of the noble steed. After that time the horse was merely a mass of skin and bone. The majority of the besieged were dead, the charnel-house at the castle gate was full of bodies. Renaud’s wife could see her two children dying in her arms, and she cried, “I will eat my hands, for my heart fails me!” Death, and what a death! stared them in the face.

Painting of Ros Beiaard of Dendermonde by Jan Frans Verhas. It is a festival where Ros Bejaard is carried through the town every ten years by a guild of bearers, called the ‘Pijnders’. In keeping with the history, four young brothers from Dendermonde (de Vier Heemskinderen) wearing full armour sit astride the horse.

In this extremity Providence came to their assistance, and sent to them an aged man, bent nearly double, who showed Renaud the entrance to the secret passage which would lead him and his companions to the borders of the wood of Serpente. The good duke uttered a cry of joy, and began his retreat, putting Bayard foremost into the cavern, he thought of his steed first, then his wife, his children, and his brothers. They lighted tapers, and this illumination of the thick darkness put some spirit into the poor people, who had thought all was lost. Suddenly Renaud halted, and said:

“We have forgotten the traitor, my brother-in-law, King Yon, who is in the prison yonder.”

“Let him stay there,” replied the duchess, who was the prisoner’s own sister, and by no means sentimental.

“No, no,” exclaimed Renaud. “Whatever his misdeeds towards us, I am none the less his vassal, and, so long as I live, I will not consent to let him die in such a manner!”

With that he retraced his steps, descended into the prison, and released the captive King Yon, who was in dire extremity. He pushed him before him along the passage, and rejoined his wife and brothers, who declared that such a good man as Renaud never lived. Some time afterwards a ray of light broke into the passage; it was the daylight, and they managed to get out in the early morning. They were saved!

León Gautier, Chivalry, trans. Henry Frith (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1891), 382–3.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 698

 

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