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The siege of the Castle of the Roche Goyon (Castle La Latte) in August 1379

Let's delve into the intricacies of the year 1379, a fiery period when power struggles intertwined with the lingering echoes of wars and alliances. The King of France, Charles V, eager to seize the opportunities presented by turbulent times, harbored the ambition of taking control of Brittany. His eyes were fixed on the Breton lands, as Duke John IV, known as "The Conqueror," had been in exile in England since 1373. However, the Breton nobility, fiercely attached to their roots, rose against this expansionist desire. A coalition emerged, uniting the most powerful barons in a gesture of solidarity towards their imperiled duchy and their exiled duke.

"The Duke of Brittany, John IV, and his advisers" in the Chronicles of Jean Froissart. B. M. Besançon, MS 865, f. 408 v° (detail). Cl. IRHT-CNRS / Enluminures.

October 2, 1370: Presentation of the constable's sword to Bertrand du Guesclin by Charles V the Wise. Miniature from the Grandes Chroniques de France attributed to Jean Fouquet, circa 1455-1460, BnF, Fr.6465.

The hostilities resumed, painting a picture of conflict with complex nuances. On August 3, 1379, Jean IV returned to the Breton shores, landing on the banks of the Rance River, not far from Saint-Malo. However, the shadow of Bertrand Du Guesclin (59 years old), a respected military leader, loomed over the region. Du Guesclin, alongside his troops, was monitoring the movements of Jean IV's army, referred to as the "English" at the time, in anticipation of an imminent confrontation.

In this historical saga, a key figure emerges : Bertrand II Goyon, who seems to have been among those who answered Jean IV's call. The following episodes were marked by daring sieges, assaults on fortified positions, and strategic duels between different factions. On one side, Jean IV and his Breton and English allies; on the other, Du Guesclin, assisted by the French and the Spanish. The War of Succession in Brittany had officially come to an end, but the embers of conflict persisted, ready to ignite once again.

enluminure extrait de "chronique ou roman de Bertrand Du Guesclin" par Cuvelier - De 1401-1425

La Roche Goyon, during those times, was already recognized as one of the advanced sentinels of Saint-Malo. A letter from Du Guesclin, dating from his stay in Pontorson to the Duke of Anjou (then in Les Ponts-de-Cé), mentions the boats anchored near the "castle of Roche Goyon." This castle, a symbol of resistance and protection, found itself at the heart of the action.

In August 1379, Du Guesclin reported being requested to go to La Roche Goyon, dispatching his men to the location. The siege was not conducted directly by Du Guesclin himself but by a squad that he detached to the scene. Details about the forces involved are sparsely documented, except that Du Guesclin emphasized the fierce resistance encountered: "And the manner in which they surrendered this fortress, which was quite hard."*

The capture of a fortress should not be underestimated, requiring exceptional bravery. The fortress eventually surrendered, a testament to the tenacity of its defenders. However, French control was short-lived as the castle was returned to its owner by the Treaty of Guérande in April 1381.

*Letter dated August 23, 1379, from Dol, addressed to the Duke of Anjou - page 29 of the book "Le Château de la Roche Goyon Dit Fort La Latte" by Sekijô No Shi

enluminure extrait de "chronique ou roman de Bertrand Du Guesclin" par Cuvelier - De 1401-1425

Beyond the turmoil of conflicts, the life of the Goyon family was marked by the typical activities of the aristocracy of the time: hunting, sumptuous feasts, and refined entertainment.

However, between the construction of the fortress and the departure of the Goyon family from La Roche, only seventy years had passed. These years had been shaped by the whirlwinds of the War of Succession in Brittany, against the backdrop of the Hundred Years' War. During these decades, the lords of La Roche Goyon had valiantly taken to the battlefield, supported their exiled duke, and engaged in diplomatic missions and the defense of the duchy. Thus, they had not only preserved their noble status but also contributed to the well-being of Brittany.

Sources :

° Livre de "Du rocher de La Latte au rocher de Monaco, LES GOUYON MATIGNON, huit siècles d'histoire, leurs juveigneurs, leurs alliances et leurs demeures", aux éditions régionales de l'Ouest, 2007

° Livre le château de la Roche Goyon dit Fort La Latte, imprimerie de la manutention Mayenne, 1973, SEKIJÔ NO SHI (Le maître du lieu, pseudonyme de Frédéric Joüon Des Longrais)

Livre du Bon Jehan, Duc de Bretagne, Guillaume de Saint-André, Charrière à la suite de Cuvellier, t. II, p. 247, éd. 1839, documents inédits; fragments dans Dom Lobineau, Histoires de Bretagne, II, p. 691 à 1650. - Dom Morice, Mémoires pour servir de preuves, t. II, p. 305-363. Cf. Dom Plaine, rev. des questions histoires, XI, 1872 -- F. Lecoy, Guillaume de Saint-André et son jeu des échecs moralisés, Romania, t 67, 1941-3, p 491- 503.

Lettre de Du Guesclin, 23 Août (Oeuvres de Froissart, édition Kervyn, Tome IX, p537 -- Lopez de Ayala, Tome II, p 126)

M. de La Roncière, Histoire de la marine, Tome II, p. 64 (il plaça La Roche Goyon sur la Rance)

Oeuvres de Froissart. Chroniques. Tome 9 / publ. avec les variantes des divers ms. par M. le baron Kervyn de Lettenhove, 1867-1877, p 535-536

For this chronicle on the history of Brittany in 1379 and the role of La Roche Goyon Castle, the mentioned individuals, entities, and places are :

1. Charles V, King of France, known as Charles the Wise.

2. Jean IV of Brittany, Duke of Brittany, known as The Conqueror.

3. Breton Nobility : Coalition of Breton barons opposing the expansionism of Charles V.

4. Bertrand Du Guesclin : French military leader, contemporary of Jean IV and Charles V.

5. Bertrand II Goyon : Breton noble who may have answered the call of Jean IV.

6. The French and Spaniards : Allies of Du Guesclin in the conflict.

7. The English : Allies of Jean IV of Brittany and Breton nobility.

8. La Roche Goyon (La Roche Goyon Castle / castle La Latte) : Breton fortress, site of military action.

9. Pontorson : Town where Du Guesclin stayed.

10. Duke of Anjou : Brother of Charles V, involved in military communications.

11. Rance : River near which Jean IV landed in Brittany.

12. Saint-Malo : Breton town near Jean IV's landing site.

13. Treaty of Guérande (April 1381) : Agreement restoring La Roche Goyon Castle to its owner.

The text details the events of the time, including the War of Succession in Brittany and the Hundred Years' War, highlighting the strategic role of La Roche Goyon Castle and the historical figures involved in this conflict.


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