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The Battle of Bouvines 1214 AD

The Battle of Bouvines 1214 AD


It’s late spring of the year 1214. Due to his ever increasing power, French King Philip Augustus pushes his neighbours into forming an alliance against France, resulting in two formidable armies invading Philip’s domain, on two separate fronts. English King John Lackland together with his nephew Emperor Otto march to reclaim the Angevin dominions in France and subdue the French King. The war that follows will irrevocably change the political landscape of Western Europe and alter the very course of history. It is the beginning of the XIII century. The Kingdom of France is ruled by the fair and capable Philip II, aptly nicknamed, Augustus, by his supporters. Twenty years had passed since his coronation, and Philip came a long way from emerging ruler of feudal France, becoming a major figure of the political stage that was medieval Europe. Throughout the years he waged internal wars to subdue some of his disobedient vassals, who were often stronger and more influential than their sovereign. Philip also tried to involve himself in English internal affairs, as one of his primary goals was to diminish the English presence on the continent of Europe. He acted against King Henry II and later his son, Richard the Lionheart, renowned crusader and cruel, yet very talented, soldier. The latter was an equal to Philip as an opponent, yet Richard’s accidental death in 1199 temporarily halted the hostilities between the two kingdoms. As Richard didn’t leave a legitimate heir, the English crown passed to his brother, John Lackland, whom Philip supported for many years, at first against his father, Henry, and later against his brother. John’s ascension to the English throne was good news for Philip. He was aware that the new neighbouring monarch was quite unpopular among his people and couldn’t really compare to the deceased Richard. Though initially friendly, Philip soon realized the inherent weaknesses of the new English ruler, and began using his political talents and superior military position to strip John of his dominions in northern France. As a result, by 1204, prominent Angevin duchies and counties including Normandy and Brittany fell within Philip’s sphere of influence, and he soon made efforts to strengthen his control over these territories. Of course John didn’t give up and after reforming his military in 1205, he invaded France a year later in order to reclaim at least some of the lost regions. Though his campaign started well, as he managed to capture the city of Angers, the brief conflict ended in a stalemate. Eventually, the French forced to sail back to England. A truce period followed, which John used to modernize the English navy and gather resources for another planned assault on Northern France. But let’s stop here for a while and turn our focus to the East and the lands of the Holy Roman Empire. As early as the beginning of the XII century it was an arena of indirect rivalry between Kings of England and France, as the Germans were yet to become a major player in their on-going conflict. Long story short, following the death of the emperor, Henry VI, ten years earlier, two pretendents to the imperial throne emerged, Henry’s brother Philip of Swabia of the Hohenstaufen dynasty supported by the French, and Otto of Brunswick of the Welf dynasty supported by the English. Both crowned themselves as King of the Romans, and fought each other for domination, until Philip was murdered while attending the wedding of his niece in Bamberg in 1208. Most likely Otto wasn’t involved in Philip’s death, yet he seized the advantage and soon ascended the imperial throne. This presented a whole new opportunity for John of England. Though Otto was still busy dealing with strong opposition in Germany, he eagerly allied himself with his uncle John against the rising power of Philip Augustus, as the King of France still supported Otto’s enemies within the Empire. But while John forged alliances against Philip in the East, the French king was finishing fleet preparations for a planned invasion of England. Though John was being kept busy with internal problems, he swiftly thwarted the French invasion plans by suddenly assaulting Philip’s ships harboured in Flemish ports using his reinforced navy. The English King hoped to keep the momentum going, yet impending baronial unrest forced him to postpone the planned war campaign in Northern France to the following year. John managed to temporarily appease the English nobility in late 1213 and landed with his troops in La Rochelle at the beginning of February, the next year. Philip assembled an army and marched south to repel the invasion. But soon he was informed about the unexpected second attack, led by Emperor Otto through Flanders. The situation looked grim for Philip. Moreover, the Count of Flanders together with other nobles of bordering counties sided with John’s alliance and complemented the imperial army with their own forces. Fortunately, the invading armies failed to coordinate their attacks, which allowed the French King to divide his army, in an attempt to defend both fronts. While Philip’s son Louis was given the uneasy task of stopping John’s progress with troops his father had left him, Philip rushed back north to engage Otto’s army. He reached Flanders in late July, just in time to find that his opponents had finished mustering their forces. Philip’s advisors feared an open encounter with the stronger imperial army, and advised playing for time. Back in the Middle Ages, pitched battle between two large armies was regarded as a very risky solution, which could often result in a sudden and significant shift in power. King Philip heeded their council and initially hesitated, but eventually took up the gauntlet and moved his troops northward, seeking a suitable plain for cavalry manoeuvres. Otto was surprised when he learned of the French position, yet seeking battle, he marched to meet them. The opposing forces met on a plain east of Bouvines town and began deployment. We don’t know exactly how many soldiers Philip fielded, but modern estimates give him around five to six thousand infantry and a little more than one thousand mounted knights. While the composition of the allied forces was roughly similar to the French, Emperor Otto had more men at his disposal, possibly just under ten thousand soldiers in total. The battle started with skirmishes on Philip’s right flank, where French and Flemish knights charged at each other. Soon, Otto sent the centre of his main line forward and proper battle ensued. It was an even fight, as neither side was significantly stronger. While the Burgundy and Champagne contingents slowly pushed the Flemish flank back, English knights on the other side of the battlefield charged and gradually gained an upper hand fighting Philip’s left. Otto sent some of his reserve units to aid the Flemish on his left, but it was his right flank where the first signs of trouble started to appear. Unexpectedly, despite pushing and winning his engagement, William, Earl of Salisbury charged too far into the enemy line and was surrounded and seized by the French. Upon realizing that their commander was captured, the bulk of the English cavalry fled the battlefield. In the meantime, the majority of Otto’s left flank retreated due to losses, and while the battle still raged, the odds tipped towards the French side. Eventually, he saw that the enemy’s advantage was becoming insurmountable and retreated as well, narrowly escaping the battlefield using the help of Saxon knights. Philip’s troops prevailed and won the battle. While infantry casualties were more or less even on both sides, many of Otto’s knights were killed or captured. The battle was a huge success for Philip Augustus, not only because he killed many enemies in the course of battle, as losses were roughly equal, but predominantly because he managed to capture many important nobles, including Earl of Salisbury and the disobedient Counts of Flanders, Boulogne and Lorraine. The far reaching consequences of the Battle of Bouvines soon took root. Hearing that Otto had lost, King John Lackland retreated back to England and was forced to face the unrests among the enraged English nobility, brought on by the King’s failures. Soon the discontented barons revolted and England plunged into civil war, which eventually forced John to sign The Great Charter of the Liberties, limiting royal authority. But, well, that’s another story. It was a tough time for Emperor Otto as well, who only held the imperial throne for one year after the battle. He became increasingly unpopular and eventually was compelled to abdicate. Philip on the other hand, used the Bouvines victory to boost his royal authority and vastly extended his sphere of influence. After his death, eight years after the battle, it was apparent that forty years of his efficacious and just rule virtually transformed a mediocre feudal state into a leading European Kingdom, which from that point on constantly played the first fiddle in European politics.

100 thoughts on “The Battle of Bouvines 1214 AD

  1. So, If William of Salisbury didn’t charge that much and got captured, the right flank wouldn’t have retreated, the left one would have retreated anyway, but when Otto saw the two flanks escaping, he escaped, if William had not been captured, the flanks would have kept their position and Otto would have won, and John wouldn’t return to England and the two armies would have probably taken all of France.
    Conclusion: If William of Salisbury didn’t charge that much and got captured, France wouldn’t be here. Every French citizen should thank William.

  2. they are english troop in battle of bouvines too… not just Holy roman empire and in south the english army leave after lost again louis the lion son of the king philippe auguste !

  3. Actually one of your facts near the end wasn't quite right. It was specifically Philip's rivalry with Richard that prevented the Crusade from succeeding. Richard was a FAR better commander than the French king and embarrassed him multiple times during the early part of the crusade. When the crusaders retook Acre in July 1191, Richard's battle prowess and incredible arrogance humiliated Philip for the last time so he left the Holy Land with most of his army. Soon after returning to France, Philip began plotting against Richard. Had the crusade been united, they would have CRUSHED Saladin and reestablished the Crusader States. As it happened, Richard and Saladin–who greatly respected one another–agreed to leave the Holy Land in Islamic hands provided the Muslims granted religious freedom to Catholic pilgrims who journeyed there (which was the entire justification for the crusades in the first place). This so Richard could go home and defend his kingdom from Philip.

  4. The British always used ranged weapons and ships because they shit themselves at the prospect of having to fight anyone directly (like men); no wonder the modern-day British strategy consists of hiding their island, keeping a strong navy to prevent anyone from landing there so as to avoid having to fight anyone directly and, the most important part, BEG the United States (the UK's historic boyfriend), to please come save them. No wonder they've made so much of the battle of Trafalgar when, in real-life, it had a little practical immediate effect over France and Napoleon barely sighed when receiving the news. But the British keep celebrating that victory because fighting on sea is all they can do.

  5. It must have been the last time the French defeated the Germans, and also the last time the British fought on land (as they shit their pants at the prospect of fighting directly like men and the default British war strategy consists of hiding their island, keeping a strong navy to prevent anyone from landing there so as to avoid having to fight anyone directly and, the most important part, BEG the United States (the UK's historic boyfriend), to please come save them. No wonder they've made so much of the battle of Trafalgar when, in real-life, it had a little practical immediate effect over France and Napoleon barely sighed when receiving the news. But the British keep celebrating that victory because fighting on sea is all they can do.)

  6. Why dont the english attack from the north? Is there multiple reasons they chose to take a detour? Ive seen it in a second video now

  7. Leading role in european politics, well, that was before post-modern EU, Goldman Sachs, the Open Society and Fitch notation on public debt 🙂

  8. Haha these armies were soooo small compared to the ones that fought in the Balkans at the time.

  9. This is when you realized that France actually becoming France was a strock of luck…might very well have ended has England.

  10. Many of Otto knight were killed or captured???

    Let me correct you: 3 knights were killed during the entire battle, the immense majority were captured or routed. Most casualties are "footmen" and not "infantry" since the concept of infantry itself didn't existed (even if a sizeable footmen forces of flemish mercennaries fought in a dense circle, this wasn't near the idea of infantry, in medieval ages, the differentiation of footmen and horsemen are descriptive, not tactical, differences are between "men-at-arms", meaning knights and their retinues, "men of traits", meaning troops meant to use projectile, including close quarters people assisting them, and "men of horses", meaning exclusives forces of horsemen non-knights).

    Philippe wasn't looking for "a ground for cavalry fight", but instead a retreat due to the fact the battle happened a Sunday, a day of truce usually, Philippe was trying to avoid it (also because he hadn't the best french forces, which were left to the command of his son to fight the english, but most of his knights were "old veterans", who, through being more "cautious" and "wise" warriors, were also having doubt to engage the youngs knights of Otto army).
    The french success on right flank against the flemish was because they made charge first mounted sergeants instead of their knights. This for the end of disrupting flemish "conroy" (knights close charge formation) and force the flemish to waste their charge and break their lances on worthless opponents.
    Read Georges Duby "the Sunday of Bouvines", the best book about the battle above all, and Philippe Contamine "The war in Middle-Age".

  11. again a coalisation with the prussians wanted by the british….and again a big defeat !:) the british are always scared to fight alone ! bye bye little english man ! say hello for me to the perfide albion when you will be back home !!^^

  12. You should do the battle of the Catalaunian plains !
    That happened in France, it was the battle of the living people in France at that time (proto-France) vs Attila the hun !

  13. Actually there did was an engagement between Louis' forces and John's, at La Roche-aux Moines, which was a castle John's army had besieged. The castle was held by the Senechal of Anjou, which had just been appointed by Phillippe, and thus did not surrender. Louis arrived on the rear of John's army, forcing them to flee and abandon all his siege's equipment, preventing him from causing any further threat. Beside this point, big hail to this synthetic and very interesting video !

  14. If only Octavius and Julius where alive at that time with the Roman legions at their prime and knowledge of the current state of Europe they would crush all.

  15. Haha, the English world seldom see will tell the French victory, basically is tells the French defeat, does not know is the English country to France's natural hostility or wants to try to discredit the opponent, anyway for a history enthusiast to have the objective fair argument is very disgusted

  16. Medieval History: You don't like the hair of your king? Rebel. French defeats someone else than themselves? Rebel. Alliances? Rebel. War? Rebel.

  17. The cavalry form the Earl of Salisbury fleed from the battlefield= Its King John fault, we should reduce the power of the king. Wtf? Seems like a cheap excuse to reduce the power of the king. Maybe King John wasn`t such a tyrant after all…

  18. You need to develop an academic game to us based on this graphics that you made , with crusader kings mechanics influences ! i will certainly buy it.

  19. I think King Philip actually sent the Imperial Eagle to Otto's rival, Frederick; Otto ended being the only emperor of his dynasty and met a rather gruesome end some time after this battle. One of the rebels, the count of Boulogne, used to be a close friend of king Philip and received a lot of beneficts from their friendship, after this treason and his capture in this battle, he lost his possesions and spent the rest of his life in prison, King John's subsequent problems are well known, it is impressive how much this battle impacted all parts involved.

  20. The english became expert to burn our damn ships all over our history and the last time was in 1940! we wanted just some tea and pudding you morron!

  21. well done guys! but i hoped you'd mention something about Cathar crusade ongoing down the South at the same time. also, am sorry but your 1201 map isn't correct, County of Toulouse, Foix, Carcassonne were vassals of Kingdom of Aragon at that time

  22. As soon as somebody post a nice historic battle animated map like this one … We see the same % of stupid nationalists by thousand running into the chat to explain why "their nation" is right, better and stronger and why the other nations are bad, wrong and weaker! Those damn fucking % of assholes are the reason we have wars from the prehistoric times! My only consolation is that most of the time they will be the very first to die! May God bless the men of peace and progress and may the Devil take care of the others!

  23. Nice video, but I wish you also mentioned that this battle enabled Frederick II Hohenstaufen to become HRE and King of Sicily

  24. Great historically correct presentations of the most important battles of the past! Would love to see Baz Battles to cover the great battles of the US Civil War!!

  25. Its crazy to think that one man is responsible for making France such an important european country that extends into the present day

  26. A "mediocre feudal state" with one of the largest population in Europe, the biggest city in Europe (Paris), and its own nobles possessing the English crown: You're confusing the power of the royal authority with the power of the kingdom itself. Before that event the king of France indeed didn't have a lot of control over his very powerful nobles, the kingdom was thus politically fragmented (just to remind, the Angevin territories were still part of the kingdom of France, but just not (in practice) under the royal autority anymore). Despite that, it was objectively quite a significant kingdom for European standard, at the very least more than England (which I remind, didn't have french territories, it was a personal union, moreover a personal union of a french noble dynasty).
    What you're describing is just the rise of the royal autority over France.

  27. Romans, 100 AD : In the future, we will see Germania under roman rule and beyond to the mystic lands of Hibernia and maybe even India!

    1212 AD, Holy Roman Empire : Exists

  28. Fact: King Philippe is the Grand Father of the Saint-Louis one of the most amazing French kings !

  29. Philip's son Louis would go on to become king of England when those same English barons invited him to take the crown from John and so a French army landed unopposed in England. Louis ended up controlling half the country but the barons changed their minds about him when they realized they couldn't control what they were hoping would be their puppet. For a short time at least there was a King Louis of England.

  30. when English & German are remembered that France has the greasted military record in the world.

  31. ironic:
    because the English King lost and signed the Charter – England later became more advanced politically and became a great power
    because the French King won and extended his authority – France became too centralized, became less efficient, and got outmatched by England…

  32. Their's only one person who could stop England and the Holy Roman Empire beside for France

    THE ALMIGHTY ULM

  33. Instead of fighting each other, if the Europeans were united, they actually could have won the crusades and taken back the holy land from the Saracens for the Christians.

  34. Battle in the classical era:
    Alexander sensed the weakness in the Persian centre and charged, leading to a decisive breach in the Persian line, finally winning the battle.

    Battle in the medieval:
    Otto sent his men forward, but the odds tipped to the french side
    and the french won

  35. Treasurer: m,lord your campaigns have put a major strain on the coffers and we have amassed large sums of debt
    Richard: what about the spoils
    Treasurer: they are not enough to cover all the debt we’ll need to re-evaluate our spending…
    Richard: (slams fists down on table) I have a plan I’ll go get myself killed
    Treasurer: wait m,lord no…
    John: I’m king now cool now as first order of…
    Treasurer: (slams stack of papers down on desk)
    John: what is this
    Treasurer: the crown debt
    John: how much is it
    Treasurer: (walks over to window and jumps out)
    John: no, Tommen not really you were an annoying c**t

  36. Please can you do a series of battles from the third crusade?? I love the content and the way it’s displayed on this channel.

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