Saturday 16 February 2019

Battle of Bauge - a potential narrative

I’ve been trying to get as much clarity as I can regarding the Battle of Bauge on 21 March 1421; in relation to its narrative, the leaders and forces involved and transferring it to a demo game for Salute show.

The battle took place the day before Easter Day in 1421, an important date in the medieval religious calendar. Although the battle has been described as “little more than a disorderly scuffle”, it’s significant for three main reasons; i) the death of Henry V’s brother Thomas, duke of Clarence and ii) the first English defeat on the battlefield since Agincourt in 1415, and iii) the involvement of Scottish troops fighting in a combined force alongside the French.

For a medieval engagement there are a good number of written sources for the battle – including English, French, Scottish and Burgundian. The challenge is that they are (inevitably) contradictory and confusing. Regrettably fifteenth century chroniclers did not write their accounts with due consideration for the critical information that wargames 600 years really need to know! One of the fullest modern accounts comes from ‘The Reign of Henry the Fifth’ (Volume 3) by Wylie and Waugh (available online) and although written 90 years ago it's both comprehensive and scholarly in relation the campaign and battle and feels more compelling than many recent writers, such as Jonathan Sumption’s account in ‘Cursed Kings’ the relevant volume in his HYW series. 

My current view of the battle narrative (but subject to adjustments) is as follows:

1. The battle resulted from the English seeking to defend territories conceded to them at the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. The duke of Clarence led an English force (of about 4,000 men) along the Loire and was encamped before Easter 1421 near Beaufort. A Franco-Scots force had been raised by the Dauphin to seek battle and had moved to Bauge from Angers. 

2. The English had discovered the location of the Franco-Scots through the interrogation of captured prisoners. Despite it being the day before Easter, Clarence immediately led a contingent of all his knights and their men at arms towards Bauge. The archers were left to be organised by the earl of Salisbury and to follow on. Clarence’s decision to engage with just the men at arms appears rash with the benefit of hindsight and when considering the role of English archery and combined arms in the battlefield victories of the HYW. 

3. The English army was outnumbered. As with most battles it's difficult to be precise on numbers; but the generally agreed figures are about 1,500 English men at arms against 4-5,000 Scots and French, with the former providing the majority, presumably with a force of mixed arms. (I’ll post a future piece on the leaders and their heraldry etc).
The Couasnon river seen from present day Pont des Fees 
4. The English approached Bauge town from the south or south east, coming up from Beaufort (possibly following the current D60 road). This led them to the Couasnon River, which runs to the east of Bauge, near where it converges with the Altree River (both rivers being cited by different chroniclers). The crossing is referred to as Pont des Fees (the D722 on modern maps).  The first engagement took place at the bridge crossing the river, where a small contingent of French were surprised by the English mounted knights. Close fighting took place and it’s possible that the English had to dismount to force their way across – after which they then remounted.
The modern Couasnon river is relatively narrow (see Google image) and appears fordable – however contemporaries do reference wet, marshy ground running alongside and so the bridge seems to have been an important tactical feature and possibly the only option for mounted men in full harness to cross at.

The area in red depicts the likely battlefield area north-east of Viliers Bauge
5. Once across another fracas ensued after some of the French fell back to a church, from where they hurled rocks at the English, until they were by-passed. This maybe the Chapel of Fauborg St Michael, on the edge of the medieval town and not far from the Pont des Fees bridge. The mounted English knights then moved towards the town,to engage the Scots troops, who were by now alerted and prepared. Where this took place we seem to have a fairly reliable location. It’s likely to be on land uphill from the river crossing, between Bauge town and the village of Viliers Bauge (to the south west), along the crest of a slope. This ridge may have masked the size of the Scots contingent from Clarence as he rode up from the river towards the shallow plateau to attack. Today there is a monument to the battle in this area and the local vicinity is called ‘La  Bataille’. There are also references to fighting near a church and a graveyard – presumably of Viliers-Bauge.

The monument on the battlefield site

6. In the ensuing melees, in which the English appear to have fought from horseback, the duke of Clarence was killed, along with a number of other English noblemen, with others being captured. It was most likely weight of numbers, along with Clarence’s death, which tipped the day for the Franco-Scots. The earl of Salisbury’s troops – the army’s archers – appear to have got close to the battlefield but not close enough to take part on the day. Instead on the following day they collected Clarence’s body and buried the English dead, then fell back to Le Mans. Clarence's remains were buried in Canterbury Cathedral, under a magnificent alabaster effigy made in 1439.

Thomas Lancaster duke of Clarence. Canterbury Cathedral

If anyone has any additional views or information, they'd be most welcome.
In the next posting, I'll consider how I can include most of these key elements and apply them to a tabletop demo game.
Toodle pip.


Sunday 3 February 2019

Chamfrons, Shaffrons and Crinnets

I’m starting to build some Perry Miniatures mounted knights for my HYW collection. The first are for a Battle of Bauge 1421 demo game at Salute – on which they’ll be more in later posts. So they’ll have an English look, but still be sufficiently generic to be used in other battles (as French).

British Library Harley 4331 (c 1410)
My starting point is to assemble the horses. The horse armour for these obviously reflects the 1400-1430 period. Aside from the horse barding, contemporary pictures show chamfrons, protection for the horse’s head (sometimes referred to as shaffrons, particularly by the New York Metropolitan Museum I’ve noticed) and short crinnets, a series of small overlapping plates at the top of the horse's neck presumably to protect it from opponent’s wayward sword blows and sometimes worn with mail.

Manuscript from BNP (date unknown)
The box comes with two chamfron-protected horse heads. One is modelled on images in The British Library’s ‘Book of the Queen’ by Christine des Pisan (Harley 4331), a French manuscript of circa 1410 (see images) and the other I’ve found in an image on Pinterest which annoyingly has no source reference. Other contemporary images show ones in a very similar style to the ‘Warwick Chamfron’ in The Royal Armouries. This is a single piece of steel, with additional large perforated eye, ear nose protections.
Warwick Chamfron, The Royal Armouries (c 1400)
Metropolitan Museum (c 1390)
British Library Harley 4331
To create a little variation, I've done some simple conversions. I’ve added eye and ear protections to the heads provided and also cut down the raised central keel on one of them.

The Perry’s plastic WotR Mounted Men at Arms also have protected horse heads which can be used as they fit the same plastic horse bodies. There is one with a plain chamfron and one which also has crinnet covering the entire neck (this is a little anachronistic, but I'll use it anyway). The others with plumes attached are less useful, as they are of fluted ‘German’ design or have plated neck armour, both only seen in the later part of the century. Again the same easy conversions have been done, using Green Stuff and ProCreate to add protection, pierced by a needle for the viewing/breathing holes. I’ve also extended the flared nose area to try and create a Warwick Chamfron style.

All straightforward stuff which will add a little visual variation as I plan to use this protection on about half of the mounts.

More anon…