2 – Battle of Poitiers (1356)
The Black Death ravaged Europe in 1348, and it was only in 1356 when England recovered in a financial sense. Edward’s son, also called Edward, Prince of Wales, and known as the Black Prince, launched another invasion of France. Philip had died in 1350, so the 16-year old prince faced King John II of France at the Battle of Poitiers on September 19, 1536. Edward had 6,000 troops but was significantly outnumbered as there were approximately 11,000 French soldiers.
Edward’s plan was to plunder central France, but he was intercepted a few miles from Poitiers. The English commander was forced into a battle he didn’t want, but the teenager conducted himself admirably. First, he wisely chose to move his army to a slope surrounded by a marsh and a stream. There was only a narrow gap in a hedge so the French could ride no more than a handful of knights through at a time.
Edward actually tried to sneak his army away from the battlefield, but the French spotted him and launched an attack. The prince quickly returned, ordered his knights to dismount and lined his archers up behind the hedge. The French force was divided into four units, but John made the mistake of ordering many of his knights to dismount to face the English on the ground. It was a strange move as it deprived them of the elements of surprise and mobility.
The French army did precisely what Edward hoped they would, the Knights still on horseback tried to ride through the gap in the hedge, but the enemy archers knocked them on the ground. The surviving knights were cut down in close combat. The French crossbowmen lined up behind the knights and were virtually useless as they had no chance to return fire. The Dauphin led another section of the army up the hill, but they were pushed back by the English reserves.
The third French section fled the battlefield so King John was left with the last group of soldiers and he attacked the English. However, Edward knew he had the advantage, so he ordered his entire army to attack barring a small cavalry force that went around the back. The result was a brutal session of hand-to-hand combat as the English archers used knives as they had run out of arrows. The English eventually overwhelmed the French and John was captured.
Over 5,000 French soldiers were killed or captured against 1,000 or so English casualties. The Dauphin assumed control of France but faced a popular rebellion. Edward III hoped to take advantage of the discontent by launching yet another invasion, but he failed to take the city of Reims after a siege. The English army was devastated by a freak hailstorm while in the town of Chartres, so Edward agreed to negotiate with the French.
The result was the Treaty of Bretigny (ratified in October 1360) whereby Edward abandoned his claim to the French crown and renounced control over several territories in exchange for increased land in Aquitaine. However, when King John II died in honorable captivity in London in 1364, the Dauphin, who became King Charles V after the death of his father, refused to agree to the terms of the treaty and ultimately reopened the conflict.