31 July 1423, during the Hundred Years‘ War, 10 miles south of Auxerre in Burgundy, an Anglo-Burgundian army under the Earl of Salisbury defeated a Scottish-French host twice their size in the Battle of Cravant.
“The enemy saw 1 500 men or more all in view in the water up to their chain, their lances and pommels." (Jean de Wavrin “Le livre de trahisons de France envers la maison de Bourgogne“)
|A 15th century illustration of the Battle of Cravant from the “Vigiles de Charles VII” by Martial d'Auvergne (1420 – 1508).|
After Henry V’s death and his infant son’s coronation, war flamed up in France again.
The Dauphin, son of Charles the Mad who disinherited him and crowned Henry of England in his stead, began to invade Burgundian territory north of the Loire to establish communications with the Champagne, lost to him since the Treaty of Troyes. The town of Cravant was a thorn in the side of his advancing army and put under siege by his men from Armagnac, Lombard mercenaries and a large contingent of Scottish warriors under John Stewart who were there more or less only there to fight the English. The latter arrived from Auxerre with their Burgundian allies, trying to outflank the besiegers but were quickly outmaneuvered.
Both sides had learned their lessons from previous battles and were drawn up opposed along the banks of the small river Yonne, no flashy cavalry charges, knights were to fight in close orders and dismounted, both sides had their archers and crossbowmen and artillery, both had reasonable defensive positions, the Dauphinists just had twice the numbers of the Anglo-Burgundians. However, when a Burgundian artillery and English archery barrage brought the French centre into disorder, Salisbury ordered a quite unEnglish massive charge across the shallow river and turned the enemy’s disorder into a rout, while a charge of Robert Willoughby’s men across a small bridge separated the French from the Scots. The Scots tried to make a stand when the rest of the Dauphinists fled but where overwhelmed and slaughtered, almost to a man. The Anglo-Burgundians had won the day against the odds.
|Thomas Montacute, 4th Earl of Salisbury, charging across the river Yonne, another French 19th century depiction of the climax of the Battle of Cravant|
After the victory at Cravant, the two allies went separate ways and pursued their individual goals, mostly plundering, taking enemy nobles for ransom and besieging cities and castles until they reunited to defeat the Dauphinsts in the following year at Verneuil. But English dominance on the battlefields of France was on the skid already, with internal strife that ended in the Wars of the Roses and the Dauphin reasserting his followers more and more and the tables finally turned at the Siege of Orléans five years later.