The Battle of Saint-Aubin-Du-Cormier – 28th July 1488   Leave a comment

The Duchy of Brittany, at the northwestern tip of France. had considered itself an independent region to the rest of France since the Battle of Balon in 845AD when the Breton called Nominoe defeated Charles the Bald of West Francia. Over the centuries the Bretons had supplied mercenaries and allied troops to fight for most of its neighbours, including Duke William of Normandy and his invasion of England in 1066, but by the late medieval period it was finding it harder to maintain its independent status against the expansionist plans of the French monarchs wanting a united France.  Brittany found itself repeatedly allying itself with England and Burgundy in an attempt to resist French aggression, however with the English being occupied with its own civil war, the War of the Roses, then the death of Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1477, Brittany suddenly found itself virtually alone.

It was also around this time that the French monarchy embarked on centralising control of the nation, and looked to end the older medieval and feudal regional control, this caused a rift between the crown and several dukes, barons and nobles, who found sanctuary in Brittany whilst plotting against the king.  The French king saw this as a potential hotbed of treason and demanded Brittany hand over the nobles residing there. When Duke Francis II of Brittany refused, hostilities broke out.  Knowing his Dukedom would not be able to take on the might of France on its own, Francis sent out pleas for help to other dissatisfied nobles, as well as to Henry VII of England and Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire, warning them of the dangers of an over powerful France in their midst.

Henry VII declined from sending troops but offered to negotiate a peace treaty, however on of his nobles, Edward Woodville from the Isle of Wight, defied the king and personally supplied 700 English longbowmen.  The Bretons decided to bluff the French by dressing many of their own archers as the English to try and suggest that Henry VII was assisting them in full. As for Maximilian I, he was suddenly pre-occupied by a rebellion in Flanders, which meant he was unable to support Brittany as Francis had hoped.

It meant that for the Battle of Saint-Aubin-Du-Cormier, the Breton army consisted of a mixture of local professional and levy soldiers, a number of local knights and men-at-arms, a small number of English archers, Gascon crossbowmen, Spanish infantry sent from Castille and Aragon, and a small number of Landsknecht pikemen.

Suggested initial set up for the Battle of Saint-Aubin-Du-Cormier, 28th July 1488

 

ORDERS OF BATTLE

In response to popular request, we are listing these armies as actual numbers, present, suggested figures on a 1:25 ratio, and as the number of stands if using rules such as MeG or ADLG.

Breton Army

Marechal de Rieux – Commander in Chief – Veteran, experienced, respected leader

Levy – (1700 men) – 68 figures – 7 bases – medium infantry, light armour, militia, trained, militia morale, 1/3 bow 1/3 halberd 1/3 spears/swords

Men-At Arms – (600 men) – 24 figures – 2 bases – heavy knight cavalry, armoured, well trained, experienced, impetuous, lance, shield

Breton Infanry – (300 men) – 12 figures – 1 base – close order infantry, medium armour, trained, steady morale, spears, swords, shields

English Archers – (600 men) – 24 figures – 2 bases – close order infantry, medium armour, very experienced, well trained, excellent morale, longbow, sword

Gascon & Bearn Crossbowmen – (2500 men) – 100 figures – 10 bases – close order infantry, medium armour, experienced, well trained, crossbow

Castillian & Aragonese Infantry – (1000 men) – 40 figures – 4 bases – close order infantry, medium armour, experienced, well trained, 1/2 pike 1/2 halberd

Breton Archers (imitation English archers)- (1000 men) – 40 figures – 4 bases – close order infantry, medium armour, experienced, trained, longbow, sword

Knights & Men-at-Arms – (2000 men) – 80 figures – 8 bases –  heavy knight cavalry, armoured, well trained, experienced,  impetuous, lance, shield

Landsknechts – (850 men) – 34 figures – 4 bases – close order infantry, light armour, well trained, experienced, pike

Artillery – ( 3 Culverins) – 2 models – 2 stands – light cannon and crew, trained

 

French Army

Louis II de la Tremoille – Commander-in-Chief – Veteran, experienced, respected leader

Gascon Crossbowmen – (700 men) – 28 figures – 3 bases –  close order infantry, medium armour, experienced, well trained, crossbow

Knights & Men-at-Arms – (2 x 600 men) – 2 x 24 figures – 2 x 3 bases –  heavy knight cavalry, armoured, well trained, experienced,  impetuous, lance, shield

Royal Guard Archers – (200 men) – 8 figures – 1 base –  close order infantry, medium armour, very experienced, well trained, excellent morale, longbow, sword

Archers – (2 x 1400 men) – 2 x 56 figures – 2 x 6 bases – close order infantry, medium armour, experienced, trained, longbow, sword

French Infantry – (2 x 1500 men) – 2 x 60 figures – 2 x 6 bases – close order infantry, light armour, trained, average morale, 2/3 pike 1/3 halberd/polearm

Swiss Infantry – (3000 men) – 120 figures – 12 stands – close order infantry, light armour, well trained, veteran,  elite, 5/6 pike 1/6 halberd

Artillery – ( 1 Culverin & 4 Large Culverins) – 3 models – 3 stands – medium cannon and crew, trained

THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

The Breton army deployed first, in readiness for the French advance, who arrived in a fragmented approach giving the Bretons their best chance of a quick victory, but disagreements within the Breton command meant that the French were allowed to deploy without interference and they set out in a strong defensive formation.

Around mid afternoon the Breton army began their attack, using their English archers and supporting units, they hit the French hard forcing back those sent forward to meet them, but when Edward Woodville was killed the attack slowed and halted by the French. However, during this attack the French artillery had been hard pounding the Breton centre, causing significant casualties to the Breton cavalry especially. The commander of the Breton knights, Alain d’Albert requested permission to advance, which Francis granted, but d’Albert moved only the cavalry forward, without support, which created a gap in the Breton the lines.  This opportunity was spotted by the French cavalry commander, the Italian Captain, Jacques Galliota, who immediately led a large into the gap to try and force a wider break for the French infantry behind him. Galliota was killed in this daring attack, but his men succeeded in forcing a wider opening, through which the French infantry charged forward.

To add extra dram in the Breton ranks, around this time a French cannon ball appears to have overshot and struck a Breton magazine, causing a massive explosion behind their lines. This sent panic through the ranks, which again the French capitalised on. Their attack pressed home and a slaughter ensued, with over 5,000 of the Breton army killed, including all the English archers who made a gallant stand against overwhelming odds. The French lost around 1,500.

Francis II was forced to accept a peace treaty which obliged him to hand over the renegade nobles, as well as promise the marriage of his daughter, who was his sole legitimate heir to the Duchy, to marry into the French monarchy, thereby absorbing Brittany into France.

Although the war dragged on for two more years, in modern Brittany and their political nationalist movements, this battle and its consequences is marked as the date that France stole Brittany’s independence.

WARGAMING NOTES

This battle occurs right at the very end of the Medieval period, in fact some would say on the cusp of the Medieval/Renaissance changeover, but for the purposes of refighting this battle we have found late Medieval rules are best, be they specific for the period like Never Mind The Billhooks, or more all encompassing like MeG and ADLG.

Figure wise, those with Wars of the Roses armies or Burgundians and French Ordonnance will be able to field this battle with minor additions such as the Landsknects and Swiss.

 

Posted 14/12/2021 by The Little Corporal in Category 1, Medieval

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