The Black Prince at War: the anatomy of a Chevauchée

The Black Prince at War: the anatomy of a Chevauchée

By Mollie Marie Madden

PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 2014

From Bibliothèque Nationale MS Fr. 2663

From Bibliothèque Nationale MS Fr. 2663

Abstract: The chevauchée, a fast-moving raid, was a common feature of English campaigns during the Hundred Years War and late medieval warfare more generally. These were highly complex, organized, and focused operations rather than unfocused raids with no other purpose but pillage and ravishment. The model of the army “living off the land” is untenable; some system of supply was necessary, even for an army pursuing a raiding strategy like that of the Prince of Wales’ 1355 campaign in southern France. The logistics of supply and the realities of geography and human topography helped determine the route the army followed and what it could accomplish.

The success of the chevauchée depended on the pre-existing system of purveyance and recruitment in England, rested upon an efficient supply train that accompanied the army, and relied on resupply from England. The Prince employed this raiding strategy to accomplish his aims, namely the punishment of the duke of Armagnac for his encroachments on English Gascony and disruption of the enemy’s ability to provision a military force. Moreover, the actions of the Anglo-Gascon army effectively demonstrated to the inhabitants of Languedoc that the French king and his lieutenants could not protect them from the English. Thus, the Prince also achieved Edward III’s larger strategic goal: the re-enforcement and projection of English royal authority and power in Gascony and France.

Introduction: On 19 September 1356 Edward of Woodstock (1330–1376), the Prince of Wales and often called the Black Prince, and his Anglo-Gascon army defeated King Jean II (1319– 1364) of France at the Battle of Poitiers. In many ways, this victory was the culmination of the Prince’s expedition that began in 1355. The Prince could not have anticipated such a triumph when he and his army left Plymouth in September 1355 and sailed to Bordeaux. His campaign was Edward III’s (1312–1377) response to the Gascon lords’ appeal for help in resisting the French, specifically the military actions of Jean I, count of Armagnac (1311–1373). The Prince campaigned through southern France—from Bordeaux to Narbonne and back—in the fall of 1355, but his success in 1355 is often overshadowed by the victory at Poitiers in 1356. The 1355 chevauchée is typically cast as the prelude to Poitiers. Indeed, a recent title states this relationship explicitly: In the Steps of the Black Prince: The Road to Poitiers, 1355–1356. While the two campaigns of 1355 and 1356 were part of the same expedition, each needs to be assessed and examined individually. The chapters that follow, then, focus on the 1355 chevauchée, not as the prelude to Poitiers but rather as a case study of the logistics of a chevauchée and fourteenth-century warfare more broadly. It is useful as a case study because there were no extraordinary events. It was typical in that the Prince’s army had to be transported across the Channel and cross through lands held by the English, Gascons, potential allies, and enemies, which necessitated that the army pursue a variety of strategies for acquiring supplies. This campaign demonstrates that a chevauchée needed logistical support; moreover, the logistics speak to the Prince’s goals for this specific campaign and more generally to Edward III’s grand strategy. Thus, the logistics are a method for understanding decisions made during a campaign, decisions that might otherwise remain opaque.

The Prince’s grande chevauchée of 1355 should be understood in the context of the Hundred Years War and its progress up until the Gascons appealed to Edward III for assistance.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Minnesota

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