Battle of Lincoln (1217)

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Battle of Lincoln
Part of the First Barons' War
An illustration accompanying an account of the battle
Date 20 May 1217[1]
Location Lincoln Castle, England
Result English victory
England COA.svg England France Ancient.svg France
Commanders and leaders
William, Earl of Pembroke Thomas, Comte du Perche 

The Second Battle of Lincoln occurred at Lincoln Castle on Saturday 20 May 1217, during the First Barons' War, between the forces of the future Louis VIII of France and those of King Henry III of England. Louis' forces were attacked by a relief force under the command of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. The Comte du Perche, commanding the French troops, was killed and this heavy defeat led to Louis being expelled from his base in the southeast of England. This event is known as "Lincoln Fair" after the looting that took place afterwards. The citizens were loyal to Louis so Henry's forces sacked the city.


In 1216 the First Barons' War of the English succession took a new turn when Prince Louis of France entered London and was proclaimed King of England. He was supported by various English barons who resisted the rule of King John. When John died in the middle of the war, his 9-year-old son Henry III was crowned.

Once John died, many barons were willing to change sides and fight for Henry against Prince Louis' claim. The regent of Henry, a famous knight and excellent tournament fighter, William Marshal, had the power of the king's command. Marshal ordered all nobles with a castle in England to a muster in Newark. Approximately 400 knights, 250 crossbowmen, and a larger auxiliary force of both mounted and foot soldiers were assembled.[2] From there they would march to break a long siege by an army of Prince Louis at the city of Lincoln.


Medieval Lincoln was an ancient walled city with a Norman castle near its centre,[3] straddling a crossroads of two important Roman-built highways: Ermine Street and Fosse Way. These trans-England routes were longtime staples of national trade and government. It was thus a strategic location. There, 150 years earlier, William the Conqueror ordered the construction of Lincoln Castle, built on a hilltop over an old Roman fort.[4]

At the time of the battle in May 1217, the city of Lincoln had been taken by Louis' forces. However, the castle remained intact. Its garrison—loyal to King Henry—continued to defend the important fortification from forces loyal to Prince Louis, led by the Count of Perche.


From the town of Stowe a few miles to the northwest of Lincoln, Marshal's forces made their approach. Though the advance was known to the Count of Perche, his knights debated about intelligence on the strength of the enemy.[2] Those who believed Marshal's force was relatively small in number favoured an offensive plan: a meeting in an open battlefield at the base of the hill, before Marshal could reach the city gates. Those who believed Marshal had a dangerously large force favoured a more defensive plan: delay Marshal at the gates of the city wall, and at the same time press the siege, capture the castle, and occupy this much stronger position. The defensive plan was taken, though not without some continuing dissension.[2]

Marshal proceeded to the section of the city walls nearest the castle, at the north gate. The entire force of Marshal's crossbowmen led by the nobleman Falkes de Breauté assaulted and won the gate. Perche's forces did not respond, but continued the castle siege.[2]

The north gate was secured by Marshal's main force, while Breauté's crossbowmen took up high positions on the rooftops of houses.[2] Volleys of bolts from this high ground caused rapid death, damage and confusion among Perche's forces. Then, in the final blow, Marshal committed his knights and footsoldiers in a charge against Perche's siege. Perche was offered a surrender, but instead fought to the death as the siege collapsed into a scattered rout.[2] Those of Louis' army who were not captured fled Lincoln out the south city gate, to London. The whole of the battle took about six hours.[2]

Aftermath and effects[edit]

The city of Lincoln—on the pretence of being in league with Louis—was pillaged by the victorious army, in an event called the Lincoln Fair.[2] To the south, inhabitants of towns between Lincoln and London ambushed and killed some French soldiers in the flight south to London.[2]

The Battle of Lincoln was the turning point in the First Barons' War.[5] Many of Henry's enemies—barons who had supported Louis, and who helped supply, organise and command his military forces—were captured at Lincoln.[2] Reinforcements for Louis were then sent across the English Channel under the command of Eustace the Monk. However, the French ships were defeated by Hubert de Burgh in the Battle of Dover. This defeat of the French fleet greatly reduced the French threat to the English crown[5] and so Prince Louis and his remaining forces had to return to France.[2] In September 1217, the treaty of Lambeth forced Louis not only to give up his claim to the English throne but to eject Eustace's brothers from the Channel Islands.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The second battle of Lincoln (1217AD)". English Heritage. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The Battle of Lincoln (1217), according to Roger of Wendover
  3. ^ Lincoln: A city on top of the world – Property, House & Home –
  4. ^ Lincoln Castle | Lincolnshire County Council
  5. ^ a b Freeman, Edward Augustus. The History of the Norman Conquest of England: Its Causes and Its Results. Clarendon Press. Oxford: 1879. p719


Coordinates: 53°14′00″N 0°32′19″W / 53.23333°N 0.53861°W / 53.23333; -0.53861