Battle of Taillebourg

Battle of Taillebourg
Part of the Saintonge War

The Battle of Taillebourg won by Saint Louis, by Eugène Delacroix (Galerie des Batailles, Palace of Versailles)
Date21 July 1242
LocationTaillebourg, Charente-Maritime (at the bridge over the Charente River)
Result Decisive Franco-Poitevin victory
Kingdom of France
County of Poitou
Kingdom of England
County of Poitou
Commanders and leaders
Louis IX of France
Alphonse of Poitiers
Henry III of England
Hugh X of Lusignan
est. 24,000 est. 22,300

The Battle of Taillebourg was a 1242 battle between the Capetian troops of Louis IX and his brother Alphonse of Poitiers, and the rebel followers of Hugh X of Lusignan and Henry III of England. It was fought over the bridge built over the Charente River, a point of strategic importance on the route between northern and southern France. The battle resulted in a decisive victory for the French, and the end to the Poitevin revolt.

A feudal revolt

The origin of this episode of the predecessor to the Hundred Years War, fought between France and England, was in the revolt of a Poitevin baron, Hugh X, lord of Lusignan. Lusignan had a long tradition of autonomy in the heart of Aquitaine, far from the successive capitals of the kingdoms of France and England, since having been attached to the kingdom of England with the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine with the English king. It was therefore to avoid the mistrust of the Poitevin barons with regard to a recent change in suzerainty (Poitou had been attached to the crown in 1214, at the peace of Chinon), and to make a home for his younger son Alphonse, that Louis VIII (‘the Lion’) had given Poitou in prerogative to Alphonse of Poitiers. This prince had been just 6 years old at the death of his father in 1226, and was therefore, like his elder brother Louis IX (Saint Louis), placed under the regency of his mother Blanche of Castile at the time.

Alphonse was not allowed to take possession of his fiefdom until the age of 18 years, which he did in 1240. On that occasion, he received the homage of the lords of the province, given even by the most powerful of them, Hugh de Lusignan. Hugh possessed several lands in Poitou, apart from his family stronghold, including the castle of Montreuil-Bonnin and, above all, the County of Marche.

In common with a number of Poitevin lords, Hugh could not accept the loss of autonomy which he had previously enjoyed and, like in 1173 – 1179, 1188 and 1194 against the king of England, and in 1219 – 1224, the Poitevin nobility formed a confederacy against their over-powerful sovereign. The starting point for the conflict was at Christmas time in 1241, when Hugh X of Lusignan, no doubt at the instigation of his wife, Isabelle of Angoulême, mother of Henry III of England, insulted the Count of Poitiers in his own palace, by refusing allegiance.

The Capetian reaction

Immediately, the Capetian family reacted. On 5 January 1242, Alphonse of Poitiers called together the Poitevin nobles at Chinon for Easter. The faithful lords, and others less loyal but nonetheless enemies of Lusignan, responded to the appeal, so also with Geoffrey IV of Rancon, Duke of Gençay. Although his mother Blanche had coped with baronial uprisings before and carried on the royal affairs since 1226, with the title "baillistre" (protector of the heir in feudal law), Louis IX decided to go to the assistance of his brother and take control of the country. He arrived at Chinon on 28 April and at Poitiers on 4 May, with an army of 30,000 men (knights and foot soldiers) and siege engines. On 9 May, he marched against the castle of Montreuil-Bonnin, the fortress of Lusignan. After having seized the tower of Béruges, Moncontour, Vouvant and Fontenay-le-Comte, he steered towards Saintes. At about this time, the King of England, Henry III, had landed at Royan, before rejoining his father-in-law, Hugh de Lusignan and Raymond of Toulouse, who sought redress for the Treaty of Paris of 1229 (which ended the Albigensian Crusade), under the terms of which he lost most of his lands. He was also accompanied by his brother Richard, Prince of Cornwall and Count of Poitiers in title, since 1225. The inevitable clash took place at Taillebourg.

Unfolding of the battle

The king of France was installed in the Château de Taillebourg, which overlooked the bridge over the Charente, a bottleneck and strategic passage between Saint-Jean-d'Angély and Poitou in the north and Saintes (which belonged to Lusignan) and Aquitaine in the South.

On 19 July, the two armies faced each other across the bridge, for which the battle took place. On 21 July the battle ended in a massive charge of the French knights, who sallied forth from the castle and harried their adversaries, who were compelled to flee to Saintes.

The second phase

After the Taillebourg engagement, which permitted them to control the eponymous strategic bridge, the Franco-Poitevins exploited their advantage. On 23-24 July, a more decisive battle took place at Saintes. The Anglo-Poitevins were beaten once more, in definitive fashion. Henry of England was not there at the time, having returned to Gascony after the setback at Taillebourg. These two actions constituted the Saintonge War.

The reckoning

The king of England signed a five-year truce, at Pons, on 1 August. A more lasting peace was concluded at Paris, on 4 December 1259. The king of France restored to Henry the lands the conquest of which may not be considered entirely legitimate (Quercy, Limousin and Saintonge), thinking that this noble gesture would assure him a time of peace with England and the possession of Poitou, Maine, Anjou and Normandy.

The settlement of the feudal revolt was less advantageous and more rapid for Hugh of Lusignan. His Poitevin castles were confiscated, rearmed and sold by Alphonse of Poitiers. His daughter Isabel of Lusignan was married to his enemy Geoffrey of Rancon, lord of Gençay, in 1250, who rebuilt his castle with the dowry.

As for Raymond VII, the peace of Lorris simply renewed the conditions which had been imposed previously.

Historical background note

In English history, the ‘Hundred Years’ War’ refers to the 116-year period between 1337 – 1453. In some French accounts, that period of conflict is referred to as the ‘Second Hundred Years’ War’, the first embracing the period of upheaval following the change in the balance of power between the French and English thrones from 1159 to 1259 after Henry II of England married Eleanor of Aquitaine gaining many French territories in the process and achieving territorial superiority over the French Kingdom, until the Treaty of Paris (1259). This period saw many conflicts such as the Anglo-French War (1202–1214) or the Battle of Taillebourg.

Works of art

Eugène Delacroix has represented the battle in his tableau "The battle of Taillebourg won by Saint Louis", which was presented to the ‘Salon’ in 1837. In it he has depicted all the spirit and ardour of the charge of the French knights.

See also


External links

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