The defeat of a French and Scots army on 31st July 1423 by the Earl of Salisbury near Auxerre in the Hundred Years War
The previous battle of the Hundred Years War is the Battle of Baugé
War: Hundred Years War.
Date of the Battle of Cravant: 31st July 1423
Place of the Battle of Cravant: at Cravant, near Auxerre, 50 miles south of Rouen and 100 miles west of Paris, in France.
Combatants at the Battle of Cravant: An English and Burgundian army against a Franco-Scottish army of the Dauphin of France.
Commanders at the Battle of Cravant: Thomas Montagu, Fourth Earl of Salisbury commanded the English army. Sir John Stewart of Darnley, Constable of the Scots army in France, commanded the Franco-Scottish army.
Size of the armies at the Battle of Cravant: The English army numbered around 4,000 men, with a Burgundian force of probably around 1,000 men. The Franco-Scottish army possibly comprised as many as 8,000 to 10,000 men.
Uniforms, arms and equipment at the Battle of Cravant: Knights increasingly wore steel plate armour with visored helmets. Their weapons were lance, shield, sword, various forms of mace or club and dagger. Many carries two-handed swords in battle. Each knight wore his coat of arms on his surcoat.
Shields were largely dispensed with in battle in the light of the increased defensive power of armour
There were contingents of archers with both the English and Scottish contingents.
The archers carried a powerful bow, capable of many aimed shots a minute.
For hand-to-hand combat archers carried swords, daggers, hatchets and war hammers. They wore jackets and loose hose. Archers’ headgear was a skull cap either of boiled leather or wickerwork ribbed with a steel frame.
As horses were particularly vulnerable to arrow-fire, it was the practice of the English, French and Scots to fight at close quarters on foot, the horses of the men-at-arms being sent to the rear for the duration of the main battle and resumed for flight or pursuit.
Winner of the Battle of Cravant: A decisive victory for the Anglo-Burgundian army of the Earl of Salisbury.
Events leading to the Battle of Cravant:
On the death of King Henry V in 1422, his brother the Duke of Bedford, became regent for the minority of Henry’s young son King Henry VI.
Bedford also took over Henry’s task in France of implementing the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, whereby, on the death of the French king Charles VI, the English king, now King Henry VI, would become King of France, with the Dauphin excluded from the French succession.
For the time being, this involved holding Normandy and the north of France, in co-operation with the vassals of the late Duke of Burgundy, while pushing back the areas of the country held by the Dauphin from his base in Bourges,
In the summer of 1423, the Dauphin formed a large army at Bourges. French troops were recruited from the area of the south of France that was loyal to him. The army incorporated a substantial Scots force and mercenaries from Aragon and Lombardy.
Sir John Stewart of Darnley, the ‘Constable of the Scots in France’, was given command of the army with the Comte de Vendôme as his deputy.
Stewart was directed to take his army into Burgundy, starting with the capture of the small town of Cravant on the River Yonne, 9 miles to the south of Auxerre.
Stewart marched to Cravant and invested the town.
The Duke of Bedford reacted promptly.
The newly arrived English reinforcements of 1,000 men were put under the command of the Earl of Salisbury, who was ordered to relieve the garrison in Cravant.
In addition, the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy sent a force of Burgundian troops to join Salisbury’s army.
Auxerre was named as the rendez-vous for the English and Burgundians.
The two forces assembled at Auxerre on 29th July 1423 and a council of war was held in Auxerre Cathedral.
Salisbury dominated the Council of War, one of his principal concerns being to ensure the two contingents, the English and the Burgundian, united and acted together.
Salisbury’s army set out from Auxerre on 30th July 1423, marching south down the east bank of the Yonne River. The day was extremely hot.
Four miles short of Cravant, the Dauphinist army was seen in position on the far side of a deep crevasse running east from the river bank.
Salisbury formed the view that the Dauphinist position was unassailable.
Salisbury’s army retraced its steps for several miles and crossed to the west bank of the River Yonne at Vincelles.
Salisbury resumed his march up the river on the west bank until he arrived opposite the town of Cravant.
The River Yonne was at this point slow moving, shallow and around 60 yards wide.
On the far side of the river lay the town of Cravant, its walls 160 yards from the river bank.
Salisbury arrived opposite the town to find the Dauphinist army had observed his movements, marched back to Cravant and now occupied the bank between the river and the town wall, ready to oppose his crossing of the Yonne.
Account of the Battle of Cravant:
Salisbury’s army formed on the west bank of the River Yonne, the English in the front in two divisions; Lord Willoughby commanding the right and the Earl of Salisbury the left.
The Burgundians formed up behind the two English divisions.
There was a pause of some three hours, at the end of which the Early of Salisbury decided to attack.
Salisbury shouted “St George! Banners advance” and rushed into the river followed by the English men-at-arms, while the archers discharged a shower of arrows at the French on the far side of the river.
The Burgundians followed and a savage struggle with the French and Scots took place on the far bank.
Willoughby’s right-hand division covered the bridge over the River Yonne leading to the town gate.
The bridge was defended by a contingent of Scots who resisted the English attack with determination.
Willoughby’s attack on the bridge began to make progress with the Scots falling back.
The battle was being closely watched by the Burgundian garrison of Cravant from the walls.
Seeing the Scots pushed back from the bridge the Burgundian commander led his garrison out of the town gate and attacked the French and Scots in the rear, causing them finally to give way and flee.
Due to the cramped area of the battlefield between the river bank and the town wall few French and Scots managed to get away.
It is said that only the Lombards and Aragonese escaped in any numbers, being the first to break ranks and flee.
A detachment of English troops was sent in pursuit of the French and Scots while the remainder of the army entered the gates of Cravant to be greeted with enthusiasm by the relieved townspeople.
Casualties at the Battle of Cravant:
The Scots are said to have lost 3,000 to 4,000 men.
The French are said to have lost around 1,200 men, of whom 300 or so were of noble birth.
It is said that up to 2,000 men from the Dauphinist army were taken prisoner, including Sit John Stewart and the Comte de Ventadour. In addition, Stewart lost an eye in the battle.
English and Burgundian casualties are not known. As it was a dynamic of medieval battles that the significant casualties were inflicted on the losing side as they attempted to escape the field, it can be taken that English and Burgundian casualties were a fraction of the French and Scots.
Follow-up to the Battle of Cravant:
Stewart’s army ceased to exist as a result of Salisbury’s victory and the English and Burgundian forces were enabled to embark on a campaign of taking castles and towns previously held for the Dauphin in Champagne and Burgundy and on the borders of Bourbon.
Anecdotes and traditions from the Battle of Cravant:
- Sir John Stewart of Darnley was referred to as the ‘Constable of the Scottish Army in France’.He was later made Comte d’Évreux. After his death in battle, Stewart was buried in Orleans Cathedral, as was his wife.
References for the Battle of Cravant:
Cursed Kings, Volume IV of the four-volume record of the Hundred Years War by Jonathan Sumption.
The Art of War in the Middle Ages Volume Two by Sir Charles Oman.
The Hundred Years War by Burne
British Battles by Grant.
The previous battle of the Hundred Years War is the Battle of Baugé