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In the Steps of the Black Prince

In the Steps of the Black Prince: The Road to Poitiers, 1355-1356

Peter Hoskins
Volume: 32
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 276
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  • Book Info
    In the Steps of the Black Prince
    Book Description:

    In 1355 the Black Prince took an army to Bordeaux and embarked on two chevauchées (mounted military expeditions, generally characterised by the devastation of the surrounding towns and countryside), which culminated in his decisive victory over King Jean II of France at Poitiers the following year. Using the recorded itineraries as his starting point, the author of this book walked more than 1,300 miles across France, retracing the routes of the armies in search of a greater understanding of the Black Prince's expedition. He followed the 1355 chevauchée from Bordeaux to the Mediterranean and back, and that for 1356 from Aquitaine to the Loire, to the battlefield at Poitiers, and back again to Bordeaux. Drawing on his findings on the ground, a wide range of documentary sources, and the work of local historians, many of whom the author met on his travels, the book provides a unique perspective on the Black Prince's chevauchées of 1355 and 1356 and the battle of Poitiers, one of the greatest English triumphs of the Hundred Years War, demonstrating in particular the impact of the landscape on the campaigns. Peter Hoskins is a former Royal Air Force pilot, now living in France. He combines his interest in exploration of his adopted country with his research into the Hundred Years War.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-930-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward III, Prince of Wales, duke of Cornwall, earl of Chester, and in due course prince of Aquitaine, or the Black Prince as he was to become known many years after his death, was a remarkable man. He fought with distinction at Crécy at only sixteen years of age, was present at the siege of Calais, and at a little over twenty-six years old was the victor at Poitiers.

    To some he was a skilled general, an effective lieutenant for his father in Aquitaine, and a fine example of chivalry. To others he was...

  7. Part I Prologue

    • 1 Origins
      (pp. 7-16)

      On 11 April 1357, William Pierres, master of the Sainte-Marie, took on board his ship at Bordeaux King Jean II of France. Jean had been taken prisoner the previous September at the Battle of Poitiers, and he, along with numerous other prisoners captured at the battle, was on his way to London. The Sainte-Marie reached Plymouth on 5 May. For his troubles William received £20 from the prince, and his crew of 100 mariners shared a further £66 13s 4d.² On 24 May King Jean, riding a white courser, entered London as the prisoner of Edward the Black Prince. The...

  8. Part II The Chevauchée in the Languedoc, October to December 1355

    • 2 Advance to Contact Bordeaux to Arouille Monday 5 to Sunday 11 October 1355
      (pp. 19-30)

      On 21 September 1355, the day after the prince’s arrival in Bordeaux, King Edward’s letters patent were read in the cathedral of St-André to an assembly of the lords, senior clergy and prominent citizens of Gascony and Bordeaux. The prince pledged to be a good and loyal lord and to respect the rights of the citizens. In return he received the homage of the lords and citizenry. This large assembly was followed by a council of war of the most prominent lords. The prince expressed his outrage at the activities of Jean, count of armagnac, who had been making a...

    • 3 Armagnac Arouille to Mirande Monday 12 to Thursday 22 October 1355
      (pp. 31-39)

      The approach to Arouille brought the army out of the Landes and into the territory of the count of Armagnac. With this came a change of terrain as the flat, forested landscape gave way to more open and undulating countryside intersected by small rivers and streams. It seems that the village of Vielle-Soubiran received the first hostile visitation from the Anglo-Gascon army, but it was at Arouille, four miles further south, that the first hostilities were recorded by Baker.²

      We know little of Arouille other than that it was a bastide town founded by King Edward I and the viscount...

    • 4 Toulouse Mirande to Montgiscard Friday 23 to Thursday 29 October 1355
      (pp. 40-53)

      From Mirande the army had a march of only eleven miles to reach the next halt, Seissan on the river Gers. Baker refers to the army marching near the mountains of ‘Aragon’, the Pyrenees, for this and the three following days, and describes the passage to Seissan on Friday 23 October as ‘difficult, hard and mountainous’. Today’s roads cannot be said to be difficult and to describe the countryside as mountainous is an exaggeration. However, anyone on foot would sympathise with Baker’s overall judgement that it was a hard day’s march. Indeed, the next two days were going to be...

    • 5 Carcassonne Montgiscard to Canet Thursday 29 October to Saturday 7 November 1355
      (pp. 54-68)

      Having crossed the Garonne and Ariège rivers and passed to the south of Toulouse, the army now had an open route to Narbonne and beyond to the Mediterranean, or the Greek Sea as it was known to the English at the time. The route would be along the axis of the Roman Via Aquitania, called the King’s Highway by Baker, built in 118 bc to link the Via Domitia at Narbonne with Toulouse and Bordeaux. For the prince and his army the march to Carcassonne would be generally easy, along a flat valley with gentle hills rising on both sides....

    • 6 Turning for Home Canet to Pennautier Sunday 8 to Saturday 14 November 1355
      (pp. 69-82)

      Lodged at Canet, the prince was poised to cross the Orbieu and move on to Narbonne, little more than half a day’s march away, on Sunday 8 November. Narbonne was a wealthy town and, being built on low, flat ground, potentially a softer target than Carcassonne. It promised rich rewards for the army. However, it was also close to the Mediterranean coast and a decision would soon be needed whether to turn for home or strike in another direction.

      We cannot be sure of the location of the crossings of the Orbieu, but there are two likely places. The first...

    • 7 Recrossing the Garonne Pennautier to Carbonne Sunday 15 to Wednesday 18 November 1355
      (pp. 83-97)

      On the night of Sunday 15 November the prince was due to lodge with the brothers at the Dominican abbey of Prouille, and on their way from Pennautier, according to Baker, the prince’s division entered ‘fair, open country’. They probably followed the Via Aquitania before turning south-west towards Montréal and then west to Prouille, a journey of sixteen miles.²

      As the prince was readying himself for the journey to Prouille, the other divisions were preparing to continue with the usual routine of destruction. Considerable havoc was wreaked that day with Villar-St-Anselme, Limoux, Routier, Montréal, Fanjeaux, Lasserre-de-Prouille and perhaps Villasavary all...

    • 8 Home for Christmas Carbonne to La Réole Thursday 19 November to Wednesday 2 December 1355
      (pp. 98-110)

      On Thursday 19 November the army took advantage of fine weather to rest for the first time since leaving Narbonne. They now had no major obstacles between them and a return to friendly territory, and the march would regain a more measured pace interspersed with days of rest again. They lodged in Carbonne, with the prince, as was his habit, remaining outside. As they rested in welcome fine weather and contemplated the days ahead they must have wondered why yet again Armagnac had not taken the opportunity to oppose the crossings of the Garonne, particularly as scouts would have brought...

  9. Part III Interlude

    • 9 Consolidation and Preparation Wednesday 2 December 1355 to Wednesday 6 July 1356
      (pp. 113-120)

      After his arrival at La Réole on Wednesday 2 December the prince held a council to take stock of events and plan for the coming months. The chevauchée of the last two months had laid waste the lands of Armagnac, and in going beyond Toulouse had brought fire, pillage and destruction to parts of France that had previously been spared the direct ravages of the war. From the Anglo-Gascon viewpoint the immediate benefits were evident in the form of considerable financial rewards. The booty was said to have been sufficient to fill around a thousand carts, and there were ransoms...

  10. Part IV The Poitiers Chevauchée, August to October 1356

    • 10 Advance to the Vienne La Réole to Manot Wednesday 6 July to Sunday 14 August 1356
      (pp. 123-136)

      According to his own account, the prince left Bordeaux to join his army assembling at La Réole, probably some 8,000 to 10,000 strong, on the eve of the Feast of the Translation of St Thomas Becket, Wednesday 6 July 1356.² The obvious route from Bordeaux to La Réole would have been the reverse of that taken in December, along the river Garonne and through St-Macaire. He had forty-five miles to cover and he probably arrived on the Friday or Saturday.

      The French seemed to have assumed from the assembly at La Réole that there would be a rerun of the...

    • 11 Romorantin Manot to Romorantin Sunday 14 August to Monday 5 September 1356
      (pp. 137-152)

      Once across the Vienne banners were unfurled and the character of the campaign changed. Bourges, where the declared objective of the prince was to join the count of Poitiers in battle, was about 125 miles away in a direct line. The countryside in between was generally easy going and the prince could be there in a week if he so chose. A campaign of destruction might draw out the count of Poitiers or perhaps King Jean could be drawn south. The previously cautious approach was now set aside, and the itinerary becomes a catalogue of towns and castles taken and...

    • 12 Manoeuvre Romorantin to Poitiers Monday 5 to Saturday 17 September 1356
      (pp. 153-164)

      The epigraph above relates to the campaign leading to the Battle of Crécy, but could equally well apply to the prince’s chevauchées of 1355 and 1356. The continuing provocation could no longer be tolerated by King Jean and his forces were gathering to pursue and confront the prince. Thus, after the prince’s departure from Romorantin, until the Battle of Poitiers fought in the vicinity of Nouaillé-Maupertuis two weeks later to the day, both armies entered a new phase of manoeuvre. For King Jean, it has been generally accepted that, during the coming days, he had to continue to marshal his...

    • 13 Battle Joined Nouaillé-Maupertuis Sunday 18 and Monday 19 September 1356
      (pp. 165-192)

      The manoeuvre phase which had characterised operations since the prince and his army left Romorantin was now over and the armies were at last in close proximity.

      However, the most pressing need for the Anglo-Gascon army as the sun rose on Sunday 18 September 1356 was to find water, and, if possible, other provisions for men and horses. The nearest water source was the river Miosson, only about two miles from the overnight bivouac. Furthermore, the Benedictine abbey of St Junien on the banks of the river in the village of Nouaillé and the commanderie of the Knights Hospitaller at...

    • 14 The Return to Bordeaux Nouaillé-Maupertuis to Bordeaux Tuesday 20 September to Sunday 2 October 1356
      (pp. 193-198)

      Although a famous victory had been achieved and, in modern parlance, the French command structure had been decapitated, the prince and his advisors would have been only too aware that a substantial part of the enemy army had escaped unscathed. In the event any concerns that they may have had were misplaced, with the French apparently more worried about a possible follow-up assault on the town of Poitiers. Indeed, Froissart tells us that they watched from the gates and towers of the city all night, and the next morning armed all manner of men to help the defence. He attributes...

  11. Part V Epilogue

    • 15 Aftermath
      (pp. 201-206)

      With the prince back in Bordeaux with his prisoners, and the news having reached London of his momentous victory, attention turned on the diplomatic level to capitalising on the advantageous situation in which King Edward found himself. The French were in disarray, with a crisis of leadership and governance. Both sides had an interest in securing peace: the English to press home their advantage, and the French to restore government, stop the continuing military action of English troops under the duke of Lancaster in Brittany and Normandy, and nullify the threat posed by the English forces in Calais.

      The English...

  12. Appendix 1 Summary Itinerary for Prince’s Division, 1355
    (pp. 207-208)
  13. Appendix 2 Summary Itinerary for Prince’s Division, 1356
    (pp. 209-210)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 211-238)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-246)
  16. Index
    (pp. 247-258)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-261)