Battle of Lens

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Battle of Lens
Part of the Thirty Years' War
Battle of Lens.jpeg
The Grand Condé at the battle of Lens, 20 August 1648, victory over the Spanish troops commanded by archduke Leopold Galerie des Batailles
Date 20 August 1648
Location Between Grenay and Liévin, west of
Lens, Pas-de-Calais (France)
Result Decisive French victory[2]
 France[1]  Spain
Commanders and leaders
Prince de Condé Leopold Wilhelm
18 guns
38 guns
Casualties and losses
3,500 dead or wounded 3,000 dead or wounded
5,000 captured
The Battle of Lens. Contemporary illustration, oil on canvas.

The Battle of Lens (20 August 1648) was a French victory under Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé against the Spanish army under Archduke Leopold in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). It was the last major battle of the war. In the end, the French victory was made irrelevant by subsequent events elsewhere, as the failure to secure Anne of Austria's regency of France during the minority of age of Louis XIV: a civil war in France, the Fronde, broke shortly afterwards, giving to Spain the chance of recovery.[3] The Te Deum at Notre-Dame de Paris in honour of the battle ended in a riot which caused a serious confrontation that lead to the revolt. In January 1649 Louis XIV and his ministers had to flee Paris.[4]

Lens is a fortified city in the historic region of Flanders, today a major city in the Pas-de-Calais department of northern France. The city had been captured by the French in 1647. The nobility rebelled against the leadership of Cardinal Mazarin, known as the Fronde, leading the Spanish to perceive an opportunity to retake Lens and possibly gain ground.

The Prince de Condé rushed from Catalonia to Flanders and an army was cobbled together from Champagne, Lorraine as well as Paris. The French army was 16,000 men (more than half were cavalry) and 18 guns. The Spanish army was larger, comprising 18,000 men (also more than half cavalry) and 38 guns. The armies drew up, but the Spanish were on high ground and Condé decided not to attack. As the French retired, the Spanish cavalry skirmished with the French rear guard and the engagement escalated until the armies were fully engaged. The Spanish infantry broke the Gardes Françaises regiment, but the superior French cavalry were able to defeat their counterparts and envelop the center.

The year of 1648 saw two political developments that were both directly tied to the outcome of Lens, going into opposite directions.[2] On one direction, the French victory ended the Thirty Years' War, though not the conflict between France and Spain. The armies of Turenne, Wrangel and Königsmark were threatening Vienna and Prague, Emperor Ferdinand's ally, Maximilian of Bavaria, fervently wanted peace and Philip IV had lost his main army. Ferdinand had no choice other than to make peace. He approved the propositions for peace from France and Sweden in Munster and Osnabruck; since 1641, talks had taken place between France and the Empire in Münster, and between Sweden and the Empire in Osnabrück. The definitive peace treaty, called the Peace of Westphalia, was signed on the 24 October 1648, ending the Thirty Years' War (the war between France and Spain, would not end until the Treaty of the Pyrenees on the 7 November 1659).[5] On the other direction, it caused a hardening of the crown's attitude toward the parlements, leading to the initial confrontation in Paris and the protracted struggle that followed..[2]


  1. ^ George Ripley, Charles Anderson Dana, The American Cyclopaedia, New York, 1874, p. 250, "...the standard of France was white, sprinkled with golden fleur de lis...". *[1] The original Banner of France was strewn with fleurs-de-lis. *[2]:on the reverse of this plate it says: "Le pavillon royal était véritablement le drapeau national au dix-huitième siecle...Vue du chateau d'arrière d'un vaisseau de guerre de haut rang portant le pavillon royal (blanc, avec les armes de France)."[3] from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica: "The oriflamme and the Chape de St Martin were succeeded at the end of the 16th century, when Henry III., the last of the house of Valois, came to the throne, by the white standard powdered with fleurs-de-lis. This in turn gave place to the famous tricolour."
  2. ^ a b c Mark Traugott (2010). The Insurgent Barricade. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26632-2. Retrieved 31 January 2015. On August 22, Paris learned that French armies under the command of Louis de Bourbon, prince de Condé (known to history as the Grand Condé), had decisively defeated the Spanish army near the town of Lens, in the Pas de Calais 
  3. ^ Guthrie, William P.: The Later Thirty Years War: From the Battle of Wittstock to the Treaty of Westphalia. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007. ISBN 9780313324086, p. 181.
  4. ^ Parker, Geoffrey: The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road, 1567-1659: The Logistics of Spanish Victory and Defeat in the Low Countries' Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 9780521543927, p. 222.
  5. ^ Stephane Thion (19 January 2013). French Armies of the Thirty Years' War. LRT Editions. p. 33. ISBN 978-2-917747-01-8. Retrieved 28 April 2013.