Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On July 27th in military 1214

On July 27th in military history….in 1214. French forces under Phillip Augustus of France defeat the forces of Otto IV of Germany and Count Ferrand of Flanders at the Battle of Bouvines. In 1214, at the insistence of Pope Innocent III, King John of England had formed an alliance with Otto and Count Ferrand to invade France. King John had possessions on the continent and wanted to expand them at the cost of the French.

The idea was that King John would lure Phillip’s army south by attacking out of his possessions in southwest France (the Gironde/Lot/Dordogne) and then the imperial forces of Otto and Count Ferrand would attack from the north and march unopposed into Paris. Unfortunately, due to the imperial forces taking too long to get moving, after a few skirmishes with Phillip, King John had sufficiently lost all interest with his part of the plan and returned to southwest France. In the meantime, Phillip returned to the north to meet the imperial forces of Otto and Count Ferrand that were concentrated in the area of Valenciennes.

The town of Bouvines is located between Lille and Tournai on the Belgian border. Phillip wanted an area that would be good for cavalry charges, so he moved his forces there. Both forces formed up with cavalry on the wings, infantry in the center and more cavalry in reserve. As the fighting started, skirmishing between cavalry forces started on the French right, but the main fighting was between the infantry in the center. The Flemish infantry started pushing the French center back and it wasn’t until Phillip arrived with his cavalry reinforcements that things started looking up for the French. In the meantime, the French cavalry on both wings routed the opposing cavalry forces and began closing inward to prevent the imperial center from retreating. Due to the devotion of a few Saxon knights, Otto was able to escape, but Count Ferrand was taken prisoner along with three other counts, 25 barons and over a hundred knights. One hundred and seventy imperial knights lost their lives along with thousands of foot soldiers on either side.

This battle is noteworthy as it is considered as the birth of the French nation. So now you see just how far back the loathing between the French and the English goes.


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