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22nd of March 1421 : Battle of Vieil-Baugé

The Hundred Years War is among the most famous conflicts in history. Some battles that took place during this war helped to forge the identity of the belligerents. The names of astonishing battles are well known today, however, many armed engagements are no longer famous despite having dramatic consequences which altered the the war.

During the early XVth Century, the province of Anjou ( part of today’s Maine-et-Loire department ) enjoyed several decades of relative peace since the victory of Du Guesclin at the battle of Pontvallain in 1370. However, the arrival in France in 1412 of Thomas Lancaster, son of King Henry IV and Duke of Clarence meant the start of new turmoils in the region.The following years were devastating for France as English and Burgundian soldiers ravaged what territory was left to Charles, the Dauphin and future King Charles VII. In December 1420, Henry V of England accompanied by Duke Philippe of Burgundy and the current French monarch Charles VI entered Paris. The Kingdom of France was close to be erased from the maps.

The Dauphin Charles, keeping the hope of driving the English out of France renewed the Auld Alliance with the Kingdom of Scotland. The Scots managed to send almost 4,500 men who landed at La Rochelle ( actual Charente-Maritime ), meaning that around 13,000 Scots were stationed in France since 1419. The Scottish forces were lead by the Earl of Buchan, John Stewart son of the Regent and Duke of Albany. The English King Henry V was eager to conquer the province of Anjou so that he could reunite his Southern possessions ( the Guyenne ) to those he had North. France had not won a battle since 1415 ( year of the disaster of Azincourt ) so when the Franco-Scottish commanders heard that the city of Anger resisted the Duke of Clarence, they moved their troops toward the Duke stationed near Beaufort where he could soon cross the Loire river.

The 22nd of March 1421, Clarence’s men captured some Scottish soldiers who confessed that their army ( around 5,000 strong ) was currently near the city of Saumur. For barely understandable reasons, Clarence decided to catch the Franco-Scottish forces ( surely in order to prevent them from receiving reinforcements ). Jumping on his horse, the Duke left half his troops behind and headed toward his enemies with only cavalry. There was a smell of a coming English Azincourt …

An hour before sunset, the 1,500 soldiers of the Duke of Clarence were met by 5,000 men of the Earl of Buchan and the French commander Gilbert III Motier de la Fayette ( an ancestor of the famous Marquis de la Fayette ). Slowed by the muddy terrain, the English horsemen were stuck by Scottish arrows between Baugé and Vieil-Baugé. The bridge Clarence needed to cross to reach Vieil-Baugé was so heavily and fiercely defended by Jean de Fontaine that he decided to turn back and charge the French and Scots positioned on a hill. During the mettle, the Scottish knight John de Carmichael of Meadowflat broke his lance on Clarence, unhorsing him and destabilizing the English forces. Later, Clarence was found dead stuck by arrows. With their leader killed, the men fled, many were  captured including Thomas Beaufort the Duke of Exeter and the Duke of Somerset John Beaufort who were with Clarence the main English commanders.

Almost the entirety of the English force was killed ( 1,000 ) or captured ( up to 500 ). For his heroism, the Earl of Buchan John Stewart was made Constable of France and thus becoming the commander-in-chief of the French armies. At the news, King Henry V became violently angry at his brother’s defeat declaring that he would have put him himself to death if he had not already been killed. On the other hand, the Scots were highly pleased by this victory and saw it as a revenge over the captivity of their monarch James I. As an honour, the Dauphin renamed the first regiment of the King’s Guard the Company of the Scots ( name that would last until the Revolution ). For the French, the battle of Vieil-Baugé marked the end of six long years of defeat and had very important consequences for the following years. The Duke of Brittany who was leaning on the English side joined the Dauphin who regained hope. However the next few years were again sullied by defeats for Charles until one woman came and changed the tide of the war, Joan of Arc.

 

By Alister

Studying at the University of Besaçon, Burgundy Franche-Comté, France