Battle of Arques

This article is about the 1589 battle. For the 1303 battle, see Battle of Arques (1303).
Battle of Arques
Part of the French War of Religion (1587–1594) and the Anglo–Spanish War

Henri IV at Arques
Date15–18 September 1589
LocationArques-la-Bataille (Seine-Maritime), France
Result Anglo-French victory
Kingdom of France
Catholic League
Commanders and leaders
Henry IV of France
Roger Williams
Duke of Mayenne
8,000 French,
5,250 English
Casualties and losses
Heavy Heavy

The Battle of Arques occurred on 15–18 September 1589 between the French royal forces of King Henry IV of France and troops of the Catholic League commanded by Charles of Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne during the eighth and final war (1585-1598) of the French Wars of Religion. It was a victory for Henry IV.


At the death of Henry III of France, the Huguenot Henry of Navarre became by birthright the successor to the French throne (as Henry IV). Although he quickly declared his intention to "maintain and preserve the Catholic, apostolic and roman religion" of the country (French: "maintenir et conserver la religion catholique, apostolique et romaine"), the major French cities sided with the Catholic League and its leader, the Duke of Mayenne (younger brother to the deceased Henry I, Duke of Guise).

At that time, the royal army was in a shambles and Henry IV could only count on barely 20,000 men to conquer a rebellious country. In order to accomplish this task, he divided his troops into three commands: Henri I d'Orléans, Duke of Longueville (1568-1595) for Picardy, Jean VI d'Aumont for Champagne and Henry IV for Normandy (where he awaited reinforcements from Elizabeth I of England). On 6 August 1589, Henry set up camp with 8,000 men at the port of Dieppe.

The Duke of Mayenne sought to take back this key strategic port from Henry's forces and to drive him from Normandy. He drew together 35,000 troops, plus Cambrésis militias, Lorraine troops led by the Marquis de Pont-à-Mousson and a contingent of Spanish troops to attack the city.[1]

Knowing that an attack against an army of this size would be pointless, and that staying in the city of Dieppe would be suicidal, Henry (after consulting with the Duke of Longueville and the Duke d'Aumont) decided to go to the city of Arques (today called "Arques-la-Bataille") and to construct important military defenses (raising of areas, rebuilding fortifications).

The battle

The ruins of the château of Arques, today.

Between 15 and 29 September 1589, the troops of the Catholic League launched several attacks on Arques and the surrounding areas, but the Duke of Mayenne's forces were countered by royal artillery. The attacks were extremely deadly for both sides, and soon Henry IV's side found itself undermanned.

Henry's rescue came from the sea on 23 September: 4,000 English soldiers under Roger Williams sent by Queen Elizabeth had left England in several waves over three days.[2] Seeing these reinforcements, the Duke of Mayenne decided to retreat, leaving Henry IV victorious.

After the battle of Arques, Henri IV snatched a short rest in a neighbouring chateau, and before riding away he scratched with his diamond the following aspiration on one of the windows: " Dieu gard de mal ma mie. Ce 22 de Septembre 1589.-HENRI [3]

Notes and references

  1. Kinard pg 85
  2. Terry Breverton, "Williams, Roger" in Wales: A Historical Companion, Amberley, 2012.
  3. Page 67 of MEN, WOMEN, AND MINXES by Mrs. Andrew Lang , Published by Longmans, Green & Co 1912

See also

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