Tuesday 6 April 2021

The Battle of Montlhéry – 1465

 Montlhéry was the only pitched battle fought during the civil war of 1465, known in English as the League of Public Weal. The rebellion, led by Charles, Duke of Berry, quickly gathered support from like-minded feudal nobles, who felt threatened by the centralisation of authority by Louis XI. Finding themselves separated geographically, a date of 4 March was set for the call to arms with an agreed rendezvous point. Francis II, Duke of Brittany, would lead the forces from the west and John II, Duke of Bourbon, would bring those forces assembled in the south. Across the northern frontier of France, Charles, Count of Charolais, would bring the Burgundian army and march to the agreed meeting point at St. Denis, north of Paris. 

Aware of rebel intentions, Louis XI would plan to eliminate the weakest of the three armies, John II of Bourbon. To delay the other threats, a large force under the command of the Comte du Maine would hold the Bretons at bay and at the northern frontier, Marshal Joachim Rouault was given the task of strengthening the defenses in Picardy, in anticipation of the Burgundians. 

Crossing the frontier on May 29, Charles and the Burgundians encountered little resistance and therefore continued their march to reach St. Denis on the 5th of July. Learning that the Breton advance through the Loire would delay their arrival as agreed, Charles decided to move the Burgundian army to the outskirts of Paris. This proved a critical turn of events as the Burgundians threatened Paris and the Count du Maine had let the Bretons slip his grasp. With haste, Louis retraced his steps northward and issued new orders for the Comte du Maine to reach Chartres by the 13th. 

However, the winds of war can turn and Louis XI reached Beaugency on the 14th, placing at least four armies within easy march of one another. Determined to rendezvous with the Bretons, Charles chose Étampes to bring their forces together and on the morning of the 15th, the Burgundian vanguard, under the command of Comte de Saint-Pol was ordered to reach Étampes. Nearing Montlhéry, Saint-Pol encountered the Royal Army, Charles realising the threat recalled Saint-Pol to return to Longjumeau. He was to be disappointed, as St-Pol would deem it a point of honour that he remain in Montlhéry. 

During the night of the 14th to 15th, Louis XI reached Étampes to be joined with the Count of Maine. At his war council, Louis XI informed them of the decision to attack the Burgundians at Longjumeau and orders were despatched to Marshal Joachim to take the garrison at Paris and attack the Burgundian rear. Learning that the Burgundians were at Montlhéry, the Royal Army marched north to do battle.   

The battlefield.

Actual maps of the battlefield are rare, but what can be pieced together, the town of Montlhéry played a part as did the chateau of Montlhéry in the battle. The undulating ground still offers a wide open plain covered which is covered with fields of wheat. The road from Étampes to Longjumeau passes through Montlhéry and from primary sources is un-walled as the town was passed through a number of times by English and French armies during the Hundred Years War. Heavy woods lay to the west of the town making encirclement difficult. The Burgundian vanguard encampment north of the village, was ideally protected by enclosures and irrigation ditches. North of the village of Montlhéry is a ridge and here, Louis XI deployed his main battle. Across from the French position is a spur that would serve Charles as a vantage point. Despite it being a relative open field, it was broad enough to allow only two of the three divisions to deploy, leaving the third division of each army to take its position behind the first. The battle took place on a hot summer day with the Burgundians facing south. 

The Opposing Forces

At the opening of the campaign, Louis XI gathered 25,000 of which half (Count of Maine) were sent west to delay the army of Breton. At Montlhéry, Louis XI had 12,000 mounted, these included coutilliers, archers and mounted infantry, and were supplemented with an extra 3,000 infantry, franc-archers from Orleans. 

Confronting the Royal Army, Charles had fewer mounted troops, sources quote 5,000, but fielded 14,000 infantry and a little more than 60 guns, assorted serpentines and culverines.

Outgunned, Louis XI had the misfortune to place such that they played little part at the start of the battle.

Next post, Army composition, deployment, game conditions and the re-fight.


La Bataille de Montlhéry – 1465, par Michel Rimboud, University of Paris – Sarbonne.

La Bataille de Montlhéry, Wiki (French)

Blog, The Freelance History Writer, the Battle of Montlhéry.

Illustration: the Battle of Montlhéry, Par Auteur inconnu — [1], Domaine public, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87099766

Montlhéry on the Internet, Montlhéry.com – Historie.

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