Black Prince's chevauchée of 1356

Last updated

Chevauchée of the Black Prince
Part of Hundred Years' War
Redition de Jean le Bon.jpg
Capture of King John II of France at the Battle of Poitiers
Date4 August – 19 September 1356
Southern France
Result English victory
Royal Arms of England (1340-1367).svg Kingdom of England Blason pays fr FranceAncien.svg Kingdom of France
Commanders and leaders
Royal Arms of England (1340-1367).svg Edward, the Black Prince Blason pays fr FranceAncien.svg John II of France   (POW)

The Black Prince's chevauchée of 1356, which began on 4 August at Bordeaux and ended with the Battle of Poitiers on 19 September, was a devastating raid of Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales (known as the Black Prince), the eldest son of King Edward III of England. This expedition of the Black Prince devastated large parts of Bergerac, Périgord, Nontronnais, Confolentais, Nord-Ouest, Limousin, La Marche, Boischaut, Champagne Berrichonne, Berry, Sologne, south of Touraine and Poitou.



Since the Norman Conquest of 1066, English monarchs had held titles and lands within France, the possession of which made them vassals of the kings of France. [1] Following a series of disagreements between Philip VI of France (r. 1328–1350) and Edward III of England (r. 1327–1377), on 24 May 1337 Philip's Great Council in Paris agreed that the lands held by Edward III in France should be taken back into Philip's hands on the grounds that Edward III was in breach of his obligations as a vassal. This marked the start of the Hundred Years' War, which was to last 116 years. [2]

France in 1330. The diminished Gascony alone remained under the English crown. Guyenne 1328-en.svg
France in 1330. The diminished Gascony alone remained under the English crown.

The duty levied by the English Crown on wine from Bordeaux, the capital of Gascony, was more than all other customs duties combined and by far the largest source of state income. Bordeaux had a population of more than 50,000, greater than London's, [3] and Bordeaux was possibly richer. [4] Although Gascony was the cause of the war, Edward III was able to spare few resources for its defence. In most campaigning seasons the Gascons had to rely on their own resources and had been hard-pressed by the French. [5] [6] Typically the Gascons could field 3,000–6,000 men, the large majority infantry, although up to two-thirds of them would be tied down in garrisons. [7] In 1345 and 1346 Henry, Earl of Lancaster, led a series of successful campaigns in Aquitaine and the Anglo-Gascons were able to push the focus of the fighting away from the heart of Gascony. [8] [9] [10]

The French port of Calais fell to the English in August 1347 after the Crécy campaign and shortly after this the Truce of Calais was signed. [11] This was partially the result of both countries being financially exhausted. [12] The same year the Black Death reached northern France and southern England, [13] resulting in the death of approximately 45 per cent of the population. [14] The treaty was extended repeatedly over the years; this did not stop ongoing naval clashes, nor small-scale fighting which was especially fierce in south-west France [15]  nor occasional fighting on a larger scale. [16] [17]

A treaty ending the war was negotiated at Guînes and signed on 6 April 1354. However, the French king, now John II, decided not to ratify it and it did not take effect. It was clear that from the summer of 1355 both sides would be committed to full-scale war. [18] [19] In April 1355 Edward III and his council, with the treasury in an unusually favourable financial position, decided to launch offensives that year in both northern France and Gascony. [20] [21] John II of France (r. 1350–1364) attempted to strongly garrison his northern towns and fortifications against the expected descent by Edward III, at the same time as assembling a field army; he was unable to, largely due to lack of money. [22]

Black Prince arrives

Edward, the Black Prince Edward the Black Prince 1430.jpg
Edward, the Black Prince

Edward III's eldest son, Edward of Woodstock, later commonly known as the Black Prince, was given the Gascon command [23] [24] and began assembling men, shipping and supplies. [25] He arrived in Bordeaux on 20 September 1355 accompanied by 2,200 English soldiers. [26] [27] The next day he was formally acknowledged as the king's lieutenant in Gascony, with plenipotentiary powers. [28] [29] Gascon nobles reinforced him to a strength of somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 and provided a bridging train [30] and a substantial supply train. [31] [32]

Edward set out on 5 October on a chevauchée, which was a large-scale mounted raid. The Anglo-Gascon force marched from Bordeaux in English-held Gascony 300 miles (480 km) to Narbonne and back to Gascony, devastating a wide swathe of French territory and sacking many French towns on the way. John, Count of Armagnac, who commanded the local French forces, avoided battle, and there was little fighting. While no territory was captured, enormous economic damage was done to France; the modern historian Clifford Rogers concluded that "the importance of the economic attrition of the chevauchée can hardly be exaggerated." [33] The expedition returned to Gascony on 2 December having marched 675 miles (1,100 km). [34]


The English component resumed the offensive after Christmas [35] to great effect, and more than 50 French-held towns or fortifications were captured during the following four months. [36] including strategically important towns close to the borders of Gascony, [37] and others over 80 miles (130 km) away. [38] Local French commanders attempted no countermeasures. [39] [40] Several members of the local French nobility went over to the English; the Black Prince received homage from them on 24 April 1356. [41] [42]

Money and enthusiasm for the war were running out in France. The modern historian Jonathan Sumption describes the French national administration as "fall[ing] apart in jealous acrimony and recrimination". [43] A contemporary chronicler recorded that "the King of France was severely hated in his own realm". Arras rebelled and killed loyalists. The major nobles of Normandy refused to pay taxes. On 5 April 1356 John arrested the notoriously treacherous Charles II, king of Navarre, one of the largest landholders in France [44] [note 1] and nine more of his more outspoken critics; four were summarily executed. [44] The Norman nobles who had not been arrested turned to Edward for assistance. [47]

Seeing an opportunity, Edward diverted an expedition planned for Brittany under Henry, Earl of Lancaster to Normandy in late June. Lancaster set off with 2,300 men and pillaged and burnt his way eastward across Normandy. King John moved to Rouen with a much stronger force, hoping to intercept Lancaster. After relieving and re-victualling two besieged fortifications the English stormed and sacked the important town of Verneuil. John pursued, but bungled several opportunities to bring the English to battle and they escaped. John committed his army to besieging Breteuil, one of the fortifications resupplied by Lancaster. In three weeks the expedition had seized a large amount of loot, including many horses, damage had been done to the French economy and prestige, new alliances had been cemented, there had been few casualties and the French King had been distracted from the English preparations for a greater chevauchée from south-west France.


The French announced ann arrière-ban , a formal call to arms for all able-bodied males, on 14 May. The response was unenthusiastic and the call was repeated in late May and again in early June. [48] John's fifteen-year-old son John, Duke of Berry, was given command of an army in Languedoc, to guard against the Black Prince repeating the previous year's exploits. [49]

Reinforcements of men and horses and supplies of food and materiel arrived from England during the spring. [note 2] [50] Edward ordered 600 additional longbowmen be raised in England specifically to reinforce the Prince. [51]

The Black Prince called a grand assembly of the Gascon nobility and representatives of the towns, made a show of seeking their advice and when it appeared that there was a consensus for war asked for funds with which to prosecute it. In the glow of his recent successes he was granted a tax of one fifteenth of all of Gascony's movable goods. [note 3] He thanked the assembly and made a stirring speech encouraging a large turnout for the forthcoming campaign. [53] The gathering point was Bergerac: the town had good river supply links to Bordeaux [54] and from there the Prince could strike in one of several directions. The hope was that this would cause the French to divide their forces in an attempt to cover all avenues of attack. [55] In fact there was already a broad plan: three English armies would rendezvous somewhere on the Loire. Edward III would march south west from Calais, Lancaster would strike south from Brittany and the Black Prince would move north from Bergerac. [56]


So many Gascons arrived at Bergerac that there was concern that the province would not be able to be adequately defended if the French were to counter attack. So 2,000–3,000 men were detached to remain, under the seneschal of Gascony, John de Cheverston. [57] The force which set out contained some 6,000 fighting men: 3,000 English and Gascon men-at-arms; 2,000 archers, almost entirely English and Welsh longbowmen; and 1,000 other infantry, predominately Gascons. They were accompanied by approximately 4,000 non-combatants. [57] [58]


The chevauchée of the Black Prince in 1356 was very successful for the English. The defeat of the French army at Poitiers was more humiliating for the French than that of Crécy in 1346. At Poitiers and Crécy, the French used identical strategies, which resulted in identical failures. In 10 years, the French had not evolved their military technique. With the capture of John II, this led to a lengthy period of instability within France.

Notes, citations and sources


  1. Known as "Charles the Bad", he had repeatedly plotted with the English and in 1354 had murdered the constable of France, one of John's closest advisors, in his bedroom and boasted of it. [45] [46]
  2. Records of the details of some of the items shipped survive. For example, over 57,000 bowstrings were ordered. [50]
  3. The campaign and the battle which followed it were so lucrative that the rationale for the tax was removed within months of it being agreed and it was never collected. [52]


  1. Prestwich 2007, p. 394.
  2. Sumption 1990, p. 184.
  3. Sumption 1990, pp. 39–40.
  4. Rodger 2004, p. 79.
  5. Fowler 1961, pp. 139–140.
  6. Rogers 2004, p. 95.
  7. Fowler 1961, pp. 143–144.
  8. Harari 1999, pp. 385–386.
  9. Fowler 1969, pp. 67–71.
  10. Sumption 1990, pp. 541–550.
  11. Sumption 1990, p. 585.
  12. Sumption 1990, p. 584.
  13. Deaux 1969, p. 122.
  14. Lewis 2016, p. 793.
  15. Burne 1999, p. 225.
  16. Wagner 2006b, p. 74.
  17. Harari 2007, p. 114.
  18. Wagner 2006c.
  19. Sumption 1999, pp. 139–142.
  20. Sumption 1999, pp. 153, 160.
  21. Madden 2014, p. 6.
  22. Sumption 1999, pp. 171–172.
  23. Madden 2014, pp. 79ff.
  24. Sumption 1999, pp. 153–154.
  25. Sumption 1999, pp. 154–155.
  26. Curry 2002, p. 40.
  27. Sumption 1999, pp. 168, 175.
  28. Burne 1999, p. 251.
  29. Wagner 2006, p. 95.
  30. Burne 1999, p. 252.
  31. Madden 2014, pp. 190, 201, 209.
  32. Wagner 2006, p. 96.
  33. Rogers 1994, p. 101.
  34. Burne 1999, p. 258.
  35. Sumption 1999, pp. 191–192.
  36. Burne 1999, p. 259.
  37. Curry 2002, p. 43.
  38. Sumption 1999, pp. 191–193.
  39. Sumption 1999, p. 192.
  40. Madden 2014, p. 359.
  41. Sumption 1999, p. 193.
  42. Madden 2014, p. 347.
  43. Sumption 1999, pp. 102, 111, 115.
  44. 1 2 Rogers 2014, pp. 332–334.
  45. Sumption 1999, pp. 124–125.
  46. Wagner 2006b, pp. 93–94.
  47. Rogers 2014, p. 334.
  48. Sumption 1999, pp. 211.
  49. Sumption 1999, pp. 211, 223.
  50. Hewitt 2004, p. 158.
  51. Hoskins 2011, p. 118.
  52. Rogers 2014, pp. 350–351 n. 11.
  53. Rogers 2014, p. 350.
  54. Vale 1999, p. 77.
  55. Rogers 2014, p. 351.
  56. Rogers 2014, p. 349.
  57. 1 2 Hoskins 2011, p. 128.
  58. Rogers 2014, p. 352.


  • Burne, Alfred (1999) [1955]. The Crecy War. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions. ISBN   978-1840222104.
  • Hoskins, Peter (2011). In the Steps of the Black Prince: The Road to Poitiers, 1355–1356. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell. ISBN   978-1-84383-611-7.

Related Research Articles

Battle of Poitiers Battle in 1356 during the Hundred Years War

The Battle of Poitiers was a major English victory in the Hundred Years' War. It was fought on 19 September 1356 in Nouaillé, near the city of Poitiers in Aquitaine, western France. Edward, the Black Prince, led an army of English, Welsh, Breton and Gascon troops, many of them veterans of the Battle of Crécy. They were attacked by a larger French force led by King John II of France, which included allied Scottish forces. The French were heavily defeated; an English counter-attack captured King John, along with his youngest son, and much of the French nobility who were present.

Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster 14th-century English duke

Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, of Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, was a member of the English royal family and a prominent English diplomat, politician, and soldier. He was the wealthiest and most powerful peer of the realm. The son and heir of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, and Maud Chaworth, he became one of King Edward III's most trusted captains in the early phases of the Hundred Years' War and distinguished himself with victory in the Battle of Auberoche. He was a founding member and the second Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1348, and in 1351 was created Duke of Lancaster. An intelligent and reflective man, Grosmont taught himself to write and was the author of the book Livre de seyntz medicines, a highly personal devotional treatise. He is remembered as one of the founders and early patrons of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, which was established by two guilds of the town in 1352.

Siege of Calais (1346–1347) Siege by King Edward III during the Hundred Years War

The siege of Calais occurred at the conclusion of the Crécy campaign, when an English army under the command of King Edward III of England successfully besieged the French town of Calais during the Edwardian phase of the Hundred Years' War.

A chevauchée was a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, primarily by burning and pillaging enemy territory in order to reduce the productivity of a region, as opposed to siege warfare or wars of conquest. The use of the chevauchée declined at the end of the 14th century as the focus of warfare turned to sieges. Its legacy eventually led to the scorched earth strategies used in modern warfare.

Battle of Blanchetaque Battle during the Hundred Years War

The Battle of Blanchetaque was fought on 24 August 1346 between an English army under King Edward III and a French force commanded by Godemar du Fay. The battle was part of the Crécy campaign, which took place during the early stages of the Hundred Years' War. After landing in the Cotentin Peninsula on 12 July, the English army had burnt a path of destruction through some of the richest lands in France to within 20 miles (32 km) of Paris, sacking a number of towns on the way. The English then marched north, hoping to link up with an allied Flemish army which had invaded from Flanders. They were outmanoeuvred by the French king, Philip VI, who garrisoned all of the bridges and fords over the River Somme and followed the English with his own field army. The area had previously been stripped of food stocks by the French, and the English were essentially trapped.

Battle of Auberoche Battle during the Hundred Years War (1345)

The Battle of Auberoche was fought on 21 October 1345 during the Gascon campaign of 1345 between an Anglo-Gascon force of 1,200 men under Henry, Earl of Derby, and a French army of 7,000 commanded by Louis of Poitiers. It was fought at the village of Auberoche near Périgueux in northern Aquitaine. At the time, Gascony was a territory of the English Crown and the "English" army included a large proportion of native Gascons. The battle resulted in a heavy defeat for the French, who suffered very high casualties, with their leaders killed or captured.

Battle of Caen (1346) Battle during the Hundred Years War

The Battle of Caen on 26 July 1346 was the assault on the French-held town by elements of an invading English army under King Edward III as a part of the Hundred Years' War. The English army numbered 12,000–15,000, and part of it, nominally commanded by the Earls of Warwick and Northampton, prematurely attacked the town. Caen was garrisoned by 1,000–1,500 soldiers and an unknown, but large, number of armed townsmen, commanded by Raoul, the Count of Eu, the Grand Constable of France. The town was captured in the first assault; more than 5,000 of the ordinary soldiers and townspeople were killed and a few nobles were taken prisoner. The town was then sacked for five days.

Battle of Bergerac Battle during the Hundred Years War

The Battle of Bergerac was fought between Anglo-Gascon and French forces at the town of Bergerac in Gascony, in August 1345 during the Hundred Years' War. In early 1345 Edward III of England decided to launch a major attack on the French from the north, while sending smaller forces to Brittany and Gascony, the latter being both economically important to the English war effort and the proximate cause of the war. The French focused on the threat to northern France, leaving comparatively small forces in the south west.

Gascon campaign of 1345 Military campaign during the Hundred Years War

The Gascon campaign of 1345 was conducted by Henry, Earl of Derby, as part of the Hundred Years' War. The whirlwind campaign took place between August and November 1345 in Gascony, an English-controlled territory in south-west France. Derby, commanding an Anglo-Gascon force, oversaw the first successful English land campaign of the war. He twice defeated large French armies in battle, taking many noble and knightly prisoners. They were ransomed by their captors, greatly enriching Derby and his soldiers in the process. Following this campaign, morale and prestige swung England's way in the border region between English-occupied Gascony and French-ruled territory, providing an influx of taxes and recruits for the English armies. As a result, France's ability to raise tax money and troops from the region was much reduced.

Siege of Aiguillon Siege during the Hundred Years War

The siege of Aiguillon, an episode in the Hundred Years' War, began on 1 April 1346 when a French army commanded by John, Duke of Normandy, laid siege to the Gascon town of Aiguillon. The town was defended by an Anglo-Gascon army under Ralph, Earl of Stafford.

Lancasters <i>chevauchée</i> of 1346 Campaign during the Hundred Years War

Lancaster's chevauchée of 1346 was a series of offensives directed by Henry, Earl of Lancaster, in southwestern France during autumn 1346, as a part of the Hundred Years' War.

Crécy campaign Military campaign in 1346–1347 during the Hundred Years War

The Crécy campaign was a large-scale raid (chevauchée) conducted by an English army throughout northern France in 1346, which devastated the French countryside on a wide front and culminated in the eponymous Battle of Crécy. It was part of the Hundred Years' War. The campaign began on 12 July 1346, with the landing of English troops in Normandy, and ended with the capitulation of Calais on 3 August 1347. The English army was led by King Edward III, and the French by King Philip VI.

Burnt Candlemas was a failed invasion of Scotland in early 1356 by an English army commanded by King Edward III and was the last campaign of the Second War of Scottish Independence. In 1355 tensions on the Anglo-Scottish border led to a military build ups by both sides. In September a nine-month truce was agreed and most of the English forces left for northern France to take part in a campaign of the concurrent Hundred Years' War. A few days after agreeing the truce the Scots, encouraged and subsidised by the French, broke it and invaded and devastated Northumberland. In late December the Scots escaladed and captured the important, English-held border town of Berwick-on-Tweed and laid siege to its castle. The English army redeployed from France to Newcastle in northern England.

Black Princes <i>chevauchée</i> of 1355 1355 mounted raid during the Hundred Years War

The Black Prince's chevauchée, also known as the grande chevauchée, was a large-scale mounted raid carried out by an Anglo-Gascon force under the command of Edward, the Black Prince, between 5 October and 2 December 1355 as a part of the Hundred Years' War. John, Count of Armagnac, who commanded the local French forces, avoided battle, and there was little fighting during the campaign.

Lancaster's chevauchée of 1356 in Normandy was an English offensive directed by Henry, Earl of Lancaster, in northern France during 1356, as a part of the Hundred Years' War. The offensive took the form of a chevauchée, a large-scale mounted raid, and lasted from 22 June to 13 July. During its final week the English were pursued by a much larger French army under King John II that failed to force them to battle.

The sieges of Berwick include the Scottish capture of the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed by the Scots on 6 November 1355 and their subsequent unsuccessful siege of Berwick castle, and the English siege and recapture of the town in January 1356. In 1355 the Second War of Scottish Independence had been underway for 13 years. After a period of quiescence the Scots, encouraged by the French who were fighting the English in the Hundred Years' War, assembled an army on the border. In September a truce was agreed and much of the English army left the border area to join King Edward III's campaign in France. In October the Scots broke the truce, invaded Northumbria and devastated much of it. On 6 November they captured the town of Berwick in a pre-dawn escalade, but failed to carry the castle, which they besieged.

Siege of Guines (1352) Siege of Hundred Years War

The siege of Guînes took place in 1352 when a French army under Geoffrey de Charny unsuccessfully attempted to recapture the French castle at Guînes which had been seized by the English. The siege was part of the Hundred Years' War and marked the resumption of full-scale hostilities after six years of uneasy and ill-kept truce.

Treaty of Guînes Unratified treaty of the Hundred Years War

The Treaty of Guînes was a draft settlement to end the Hundred Years' War, negotiated between England and France and signed at Guînes on 6 April 1354. The war had broken out in 1337 and was further aggravated in 1340 when the English king, Edward III, claimed the French throne. The war went badly for France: the French army was heavily defeated at the Battle of Crécy and the French town of Calais was besieged and captured. With both sides exhausted, a truce was agreed that, despite being only fitfully observed, was repeatedly renewed.

Edward III's chevauchée of 1355 took place when King Edward III of England led an army into Picardy in the hope of provoking the French into a battle. Edward’s son The Black Prince had begun a chevauchée on 5 October with an Anglo-Gascon force from Bordeaux heading towards Narbonne.

Lancaster's Loire campaign was the march south from Brittany in August 1356 by an English army led by Henry, Duke of Lancaster. He was attempting to join the army of Edward, the Black Prince, near Tours. The French had broken the bridges over the River Loire and Lancaster was forced to turn back, returning to Brittany in September.