John the Blind Charged Into Battle – While Blind
King John of Bohemia (1296 – 1346) gained the nickname John the Blind after losing his sight in 1336. He was a warrior of great renown, with a martial record of campaigning across Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean. He became Count of Luxemburg in 1309, and when his father in law, the king of Bohemia, died without male heirs, John inherited that realm through his wife and became Bohemia’s king in 1310.
He was a son of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII, but when his father died in 1313, John was too young to inherit the crown. So he backed Louis the Bavarian, who became Emperor Louis IV in 1314. Despite that early support, John eventually fell out with Louis IV after the latter sided with England against France in the Hundred Years War.
As king of Bohemia, John fought against Hungary, Austria, England, and the Russians. He campaigned in the Tyrol and northern Italy, and enlarged his kingdom by conquering Silesia, parts of Lusatia, and most of Lombardy. He went blind from opthalmia in 1336 while crusading against the pagan Lithuanians. Although celebrated as a warrior, he was an unpopular ruler because of heavy taxation that he imposed to pay for his lavish expenses.
John was a great Francophile, having been raised and educated in Paris. He was French in his outlook and sympathies, even sending his own son to be educated in Paris rather than in his own Bohemian capital of Prague. At the start of the Hundred Years War, king Philip VI of France asked for help against England’s Edward III. Notwithstanding his blindness, John rushed to help, met the French king in Paris in August of 1346, and marched with him to fight the English.
The armies met at the Battle of Crecy, on August 26th, 1346. Such was John’s prestige that, despite being blind, he was placed in charge of the French vanguard and a big part of the French army. The excitement, sounds, and scent of the battle awakened the old war dog in him, and he desperately wanted to join in. So he ordered his knights to tie their horses to his and ride into battle. That way, he could deliver at least one stroke of his sword against the English, and satisfy his honor by physically participating in the fight.
His knights obeyed, and tied to their horses, the blind king rode into battle. It ended badly. John the Blind, being blind, was unable to gauge just how far he had gone, and plunged in too deep into the English ranks. He ended up getting cut off and enveloped by the enemy, and in the ensuing melee, the blind king and all of his retinue were slaughtered.