Part III: Jackanapes
Asked to leave off talking about the Duke of Bedford, Robin obliges.
Once Robin had seemingly exhausted himself of insults for the Duke of Bedford, he turned his attention to the Count of Suffolk, William de la Pole.
The Count (later, in 1448, to become Duke) of Suffolk was a commander in the English army. Later in the war he’d come to play a very large — and very unlucky — role, but at this point in the history he’s serving in the various campaigns headed first by King Henry V, then by the Duke of Bedford.
Right as Robin’s busy insulting him, the Count is one of the commanders at the Siege of Orléans, famous for the French force’s stunning victory over the English and the participation of Joan of Arc (when it finally ends, months from this moment).
Why’s Robin so mad at this random military commander?
Because the Count of Suffolk had had high command on the marches of Normandy at the end of the fighting-phase of the occupation (1421-1422).
More than that, in 1424, he had fought at the Battle of Verneuil in Normandy. This was an exceptionally bloody battle, sometimes known as the second Agincourt.
How bloody? And if like Agincourt, was it a lopsided victory?
Well, somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 French troops died, with more taken prisoner. One chronicler claimed that the English had lost only 1,600 men, but the Duke of Bedford disagreed. He claimed that only two men-at-arms and “a very few archers” died.
Either way, lopsided.
Oh, and it also has a whole archery thing that’s part of it. So, you know, Agincourt 2.
It was the Battle of Verneuil that truly enabled the English to consolidate their power in Normandy, turning it into Lancastrian Normandy, the occupied territory.
Ah, the badge! I’ll leave off talking about badges generally for another post. For now, let’s talk about this badge.
The badge Wautier is wearing marks him as part of the Count of Suffolk’s household. This doesn’t mean he’s family; it means he serves the Count in some capacity.
The badge is also not the same as heraldry. The Count’s arms were on an azure field with a gold fess dividing three leopard faces, two above, one below.
The badge as you can see from my drawing is much simpler. It’s what was known as “an ape’s clog,” that is a wood block for chaining a monkey to so it wouldn’t escape. It was also known as a “jackanapes.” The term comes from “Jack of Naples,” slang for a monkey.
The Count of Suffolk’s nickname, unsurprisingly, became Jackanapes. He was the one who gave this term the meaning you might already know: an impertinent, conceited person. Why? For one, the Count of Suffolk was one of the nouveau riche: his great-grandfather had been a wool merchant (which means he was wealthy, but not noble).
Want to know another fun fact about Suffolk? Of course you do!
He married Alice Chaucer, the granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer! For both his rise and hers, we can thank the Black Death. Not the only thing worth thanking, but those fleas definitely had a role to play.
There’s so much more to say about Suffolk and the way he messed up the war effort for England and was murdered for his troubles. But this isn’t his story.
Let’s get back to Robin and Wautier.
Okay, I admit, I didn’t quite know what to do here. Wautier has just heard Robin insulting the lord regent and his own master the Count of Suffolk, and he does…nothing. So, I made him leave. Maybe he didn’t. What we know from the register is that he’d heard Robin making these insults, but at the time did nothing about it.
So, is that it?
Is this the end of the story?
What a let down…
Oh? What’s that? There’s more to come? Hurray!