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Battle of Winchelsea 29 August 1350

The Hundred Years War (which was of course not 100 years but 116 years, which evidently isn’t as catchy) was a series of battles between the Plantagenets/Angevins and the Valois. The House of Anjou’s forces comprised: Burgandy, Aquitaine, Portugal, Navarre, Flanders, Hainaut, Luxembourg, England, the Montfort house of Brittany and the Holy Roman Empire (always good to have the big guys on your side…). The House of Valois, younger sons who suceeded the House of Capet in Burgandy, were supported by France, Castille, Scotland, Genoa, Majorca, Bohemia, the Blois house of Brittany, and the Crown of Aragon (said in movie voice over tone this sounds like the Arthurian sword “the crown of Arragoooon”).

The 100 Years war is often characterised as one of those many occasions on which the French and the English had a rather big tiff, and though there are no shortage of such moments in history (or indeed in the present), this was a lot more convoluted. Firstly, the Kingdom of France was not France as we think of it today but rather part of the eastern side of modern France, and secondly more of what is now modern France, was Aquitaine (as in Eleanor of). So indeed yes, France and England were of different sides, but a fair bit of what was then France is now Belgium, and an even larger part of the side that the Kingdom of England supported is now the bulk of France. And if all that fails to convince you its worth keeping in mind that the English crown was part of the House of Plantagenet, which is itself part of the House of Anjou, which was based in Orléans and Angers.

Medieval Kingdom of France, Aquitaine and all the other bits that are now France

The Battle of Les Espagnols sur Mer or the Battle of Winchelsea was part of the 100 Years war and took place in August 1350. Castille, as an experienced and talented sea warring kingdom had provided support to the House of Valois in this capacity. Their support had on occasion been less warfare and more general piracy, but so too had that of the English naval support. After a series of attacks by Carlos De la Cerda, Castillian nobleman cum mercanary-mercantile-navalman, Edward III resolved to attack the Castillian fleet on its way back from Flanders. With his fleet comprising around 50 ships with a range of enchanting names from the romantic Isabelle, to the Awdry-esque Thomas and Edward, to the Beveridge -Bevan-esque Welfare.

Edward III

Don Carlos expected some level of attack and whilst in port at Flanders he had recruited mercenary soldiers (Belgium doesn’t only make chocolates they made not only ponytailed scary boy Jean-Claude van Damme remember, but the utterly terrifying Tintin and Poirot) and set about attacking Edward’s ships that were anchored at Winchelsea. Which is currently a very very very small village a couple of miles south of Rye, but then was an important trading and naval port.

The Castillians took the battering ram approach to warfare, and chose to steer their ship into the vessel of the King, which promptly began to sank. The Castillians made use of their mercenary archers from Flanders and proceeded to deplete a number of Edward III’s navy, whilst also taking advantage of their exceptionally tall ships and dropping hefty lumps of iron onto English ships. In amongst which also sank the vessel of the  Black Prince (so named because…well frankly pick one of a dozen reasons ranging from he actually was black, or at least part Turkish so probably a bit browner than most pasty anglo-saxons, to it being in regard to his coat of arms).

Edward III and Edward, Black Prince

Remarkably the English did not lose…

Robert Namur, who was later knighted, was taken by a large Castillian (no snickering at the back) and despite cries for help, his comrades proved deeply unhelpful. However, one of his squires, Hannequin, who was not later knighted, saved his master and enabled the Castillian vessel to be taken.  Then a further 14 enemy vessels were taken, and though the English suffered heavy losses they evenually won, and arrived at a truce with the Basques.


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