The Battle of Castillon, fought on July 17, 1453, marked the final clash in the long and bloody conflict known as the Hundred Years' War. This pivotal battle, which took place in south-western France, witnessed a monumental shift in the balance of power between England and France, leading to the end of English dominance on French soil.
The Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a conflict between England and France that endured from 1337 to 1453. Its origins can be traced back to the late 13th century, when King Edward III of England asserted his claim to the French crown, challenging the legitimacy of the Valois dynasty and igniting a bitter struggle for control. Initially, English forces enjoyed considerable success, gaining significant territories in France. However, the French monarchy gradually regrouped, reorganized its forces, and launched a resistance campaign against the English.
In 1451, as the tide of the Hundred Years' War shifted in favour of the French, King Charles VII of France embarked on a southern march, successfully seizing control of Bordeaux. The city, a long-standing English possession, harboured resentment towards its new French rulers and asked England for assistance in reclaiming their territory. However, political instability plagued England as King Henry VI battled bouts of insanity, while power struggles between the Duke of York and the Earl of Somerset raged on. Despite this, efforts were made to assemble an army led by the experienced commander John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.
On October 17, 1452, Shrewsbury arrived near Bordeaux with a force of 3,000 soldiers. True to their promise, the city's inhabitants expelled the French garrison and warmly received Shrewsbury's troops. While the English liberated surrounding areas, Charles spent the winter months raising a substantial army for an invasion of the region. Despite receiving reinforcements, Shrewsbury found himself severely outnumbered, with a mere 6,000 men at his disposal. As Charles advanced along three different routes, his forces spread out, launching attacks on numerous towns and villages in the vicinity.
The Battle of Castillon
In preparation for besieging Castillon, a French force of approximately 7,000-10,000 men, led by artillery expert Jean Bureau, established a fortified camp at the village. Eager to relieve Castillon and achieve victory against this detached French contingent, Shrewsbury headed to the village in early July. As Shrewsbury's army arrived on the battlefield, a scout brought news that the French appeared to be withdrawing. Still, Shrewsbury immediately ordered his men to form for battle and advanced without conducting a thorough reconnaissance of the French position. Advancing towards the French camp, the English forces were taken aback to discover the enemy lines manned and ready.
Undeterred by the unexpected resistance, Shrewsbury urged his men forward despite the barrage of arrows and artillery fire raining upon them. However, the English forces were unable to breach the French’s defences and suffered heavy casualties. As the assault faltered, French troops emerged and launched attacks on Shrewsbury's flank. With the situation rapidly deteriorating, Shrewsbury's horse was struck by a cannonball, causing it to collapse and trapping the commander under its weight. Then, a group of French soldiers broke free from their positions and overwhelmed Shrewsbury's guards, ultimately killing him. Meanwhile, the English forces began to retreat. Desperate to hold their ground along the banks of the Dordogne, they soon found themselves overwhelmed and forced to flee back to Bordeaux in disarray.
The Battle of Castillon, the final significant battle of the Hundred Years' War, inflicted significant losses upon the English forces, with an estimated 4,000 killed, wounded, and captured. In contrast, the French suffered minimal casualties, amounting to around 100. Following the battle, Charles continued his advance and successfully seized control of Bordeaux on October 19, after a prolonged three-month siege. Due to King Henry's deteriorating mental health and the subsequent outbreak of the War of the Roses, England found itself unable to effectively pursue its claim to the French throne. Negotiations between both countries led to the signing of the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475. This treaty established a lasting peace between the two nations, officially ending the Hundred Years' War.
- the hundred years war
- henry vi
- charles vii
- battle of castillon