Battle of Baugé
|Battle of Baugé|
|Part of the Hundred Years' War|
Battle of Baugé
| Kingdom of France
Kingdom of Scotland
|Kingdom of England|
|Commanders and leaders|
| John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan,
Gilbert de Lafayette, Constable of France
| Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence †
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset
|Casualties and losses|
|light||1 000 dead, 500 captured|
The Battle of Baugé, fought between the English and a Franco-Scots army on 21 March 1421 at Baugé, France, east of Angers, was a major defeat for the English in the Hundred Years' War. The English army was led by the king's brother Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence, while the Franco-Scots were led by both John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan, and Gilbert de Lafayette, the Constable of France. English strength was 4,000 men, although only 1,500 deployed, against 5,000 Scots.
When France's Charles IV died in 1328 leaving only daughters, the nearest male relative was Edward III of England. Edward considered that he had inherited his right to the throne of France through his mother Isabella, the sister of the dead French king. However, the French throne was never inherited through the female line, so by French law this was not the case. The assemblies of the French barons and prelates and the University of Paris agreed that males who derive their right to inheritance through their mother should be excluded. The nearest heir through male was Philip, Count of Valois, and it was he who was crowned king of France.
The English kings had become dukes of Aquitaine after Henry II of England married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, from which point the lands were held in vassalage to the French crown. Edward refused to give his proper oath of vassalage as he was required to by law, precipitating what became known as the Hundred Years' War, during which Edward tried to conquer France in order to reassert his claim to the French crown. Philip confiscated the lands that Edward held in Aquitaine, on the grounds that Edward had breached his obligation as a vassal.
The Hundred Years' War had periods of peace as well as conflict, and it was after what became known as the second peace between 1389 and 1415 that Henry V, with the intention of resuming the war, sailed from England to France, with a force of about 10,500. He then pursued a largely successful military campaign and regained, from the French crown, much of England's previously held lands in France.
The Scots had been in an alliance with France since 1295. In 1419 the situation in France was desperate. Normandy was lost to the English and Paris to the Burgundians. In these deteriorating circumstances, the Dauphin appealed to the Scots for help. A Scottish army was assembled under the leadership of John, Earl of Buchan and Archibald, Earl of Wigtown, and from late 1419 to 1421 the Scottish army became the mainstay of the Dauphin’s defence of the lower Loire valley.
When Henry returned to England in 1421, he left his heir presumptive Thomas Duke of Clarence in charge of the remaining army. Following the King's instructions, Clarence led 4000 men in raids through the Anjou and Maine. This chevauchée met with little resistance, and by Good Friday, 21 March 1421, the English army had made camp near the little town of Vieil-Baugé. The Franco-Scots army of about 5000 also arrived in the Vieil-Baugé area to block the English army's progress; it was commanded by the Earl of Buchan and the new Constable of France, the Sieur de Lafayette; however, the English forces were dispersed, and, significantly, many of the English archers had ridden off in search of plunder or forage. On Easter Saturday, one of these foraging groups captured a Scots man-at-arms who they brought before the Duke of Clarence. Clarence was keen to engage the enemy; however, he had a problem: the following day was Easter Sunday, one of the most holy days in the Christian calendar, when a battle would be unthinkable. A two-day delay was also deemed as out of the question. According to the chronicles of Walter Bower both commanders agreed a short truce for Easter.
There are several accounts of the Battle of Baugé; they may vary in the detail; however, most agree that the Scoto-French victory was down to either the rashness of the Duke of Clarence or the leadership of the Earl of Buchan. It seems that Clarence did not realise how big the Franco-Scottish army was as he decided to rely on the element of surprise and attack immediately. He discounted the advice of his lieutenants Huntingdon and Gilbert Umfraville to consolidate his own force and position; instead he ordered the Earl of Salisbury to round up all the archers and follow him as soon as possible. Clarence then with only about 1500 men-at-arms available, and virtually no archers, charged the Franco-Scottish lines. The Scots rallied hastily, and battle was joined at a bridge which Clarence attempted to cross. A hundred Scottish archers, under Sir Robert Stewart of Ralston, reinforced by the retinue of Hugh Kennedy, held the bridge and prevented passage long enough for the Earl of Buchan to rally the rest of his army.
When Clarence finally forced his way across, he was confronted with the main body of the Franco-Scottish army; its men-at-arms were dismounted and were well defended by the Scottish archers. In the ensuing melée, John Carmichael of Douglasdale broke his lance unhorsing the Duke of Clarence. There are several versions of how Clarence met his death, but, according to Bower, the Scottish knight John Swinton wounded the prince in his face, but it was Alexander Buchanan who is credited with killing the Duke with his mace and holding the dead Duke's coronet aloft on his lance in triumph. Another version stated that a Highland Scot, Alexander Macausland of Lennox, was responsible for Clarence's demise, whereas a French chronicler Georges Chastellain has the Duke killed by a Frenchman.
Later on in the day, probably in the evening, decisive action was taken by Salisbury, who, having succeeded in rounding up the English archers, used a contingency of them to rescue what was left of the English force and retrieve some of the bodies of the fallen, including that of Clarence.
The battle of Baugé was a rout in which the Franco-Scots did not lose any man of importance, whereas Henry V lost some of his most senior commanders plus the heir to the throne of England and commander of his forces in France. On hearing of the Scottish victory, Pope Martin V passed comment by reiterating a common mediaeval saying, that "Verily, the Scots are well-known as an antidote to the English."  However, the Scots allowed the remains of the English army, led by Salisbury, to escape, and so missed an opportunity to remove the English from France. But it did secure the reputation of the Scottish army in France. No more were the Scots dismissed as "wine drinkers and mutton eaters" by their French allies.
The Dauphin was able to exploit the victory at Baugé, by announcing his intention to invade English-held Normandy. He made Archibald Douglas, Earl of Wigtown, the count of Longueville and lord of Dun-le-roi. Sir John Stewart of Darnley received the lands of Aubigny-sur-Nere and Concressault. The Earl of Buchan was made Constable of France. In 1422 the Dauphin created the "hundred men-at-arms of the King's bodyguard", known as the "Hundred Lances of France", to supplement the 24 archers of the Garde Ecossaise. The Hundred Lances eventually became the company known as the Gendarmerie of France, who distinguished themselves at Fontenoy in 1745. John Carmichael was elected bishop of Orléans in 1426, and was one of the 6 bishops to attend the coronation of the Dauphin as Charles VII in 1429 at Rheims. Hugh Kennedy, known to the French as Canede, was granted the right to quarter his coat of arms with the fleur-de-lis of France.
Meanwhile Henry V had been busy in England with his wife Catherine of Valois. Catherine had been crowned at Westminster in late February 1421. Soon after the queen's coronation, Henry and Catherine had set out on separate tours of England. It was while Henry was in the north of England he was informed of the disaster at Baugé and the death of his brother. He is said, by contemporaries, to have borne the news manfully. Henry V returned to France with an army of 4000–5000 men. He arrived in Calais on 10 June 1421, before going on to Paris; he then visited Chartres and Gâtinais before returning to Paris. From there he decided to attack the dauphin-held town of Meaux. It turned out to be more difficult to overcome than first thought. The siege began about 6 October 1421, and the town held for seven months before finally falling on 11 May 1422. Whilst on his campaign, in France, Henry V died (probably of dysentery) on 31 August 1422.
The war in France continued under the Duke of Bedford's generalship, and several battles were won. The English won a decisive victory at the Battle of Verneuil (17 August 1424). At the battle of Baugé, Clarence had attacked the Franco-Scots army without the support of his archers. At Verneuil the English archers fought to devastating effect. The result of the battle was to virtually destroy the dauphin's field army. By that time James I, who had returned to Scotland, was reluctant to send more relief to the French, and they were no longer a factor in the war.
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- G. L. Harriss, ‘Thomas , duke of Clarence (1387–1421)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2010 accessed 30 May 2013
- See Francis M. Nichols The Battle of Bauge, and the Personages Engaged in it in John Gough Nichols ' The Herald and Genealogist, Volume 5.' pp. 340-351 for a discussion on the variation of details and sources on how Clarence met his death.
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