Battle of Cocherel/Bataille de Cocherel: May 16, 1364
Bertrand du Guesclin (for Charles V) v. Jean de Grailly (for Charles II of Navarre)
France, Charles V (The Wise), 1364 - 80. Blanc au K, 25mm. Obv: DEI:GRACIA in the inner circle, center is K surmounted by crown, with lis on both sides of the K. Rev: (lis)FRANCORV:REX in the inner circle. The center has a cross surmounted by a crown. The outer circle is +SIT:NOMEN,etc. D363, C47. Contemporary English coins: Edward III and Richard II.
Navarre, Charles le Mauvais (1349-1387), billon gros au buste (gros esterlin), Droit : Croix pattée. En légende intérieure: + KAROLVS: DEI: GRA. Revers : + NAVAR-RE: REX B. cour. de face. Bordure de onze lis. Ref.: B., 563; P.A., 3337; D., 1356. 3,31g. Très Rare. Image from Elsen - Elsen List 239 #673.
Battles home page (7.2)
In 1364 Jean II was prisoner of the English, captured at Poitiers and Charles (V) was his regent and beginning to assume the responsibilities, if not the name, of king. He was working to undo the Treaty of Bretigny, which gave the English significant holdings in France. He was coming to rely on Bertrand du Guesclin for military leadership. The battle description comes from several sources; Coyrn, Froissart and French Wikipedia. Text from Coyrn is preceded by (C).
(C): While they (Charles and Bertrand) were ... usefully occupied, King Jean in England served his country scarcely less well. On the 8th of April 1364 he died, some say of an over appreciation of the sumptuous hospitality offered to him at the English Court, and others of the dagger of a dissatisfied adversary at chess; each equally possible. His people mourned him deeply, not yet realizing that they had, indeed, "lost a chevalier and found a king" in the person of the Regent who, clothing himself in mourning with one hand, made ready with the other for his immediate coronation.
(C): Barely a month after the death of his father he was on the road to Reims. And as he journeyed, there came from Cherbourg Jean de Grailly, known as the Captal de Buch, the greatest of the Gascon captains, and at the time chief of all the forces of the King of Navarre and with him came some two thousand five hundred fighting men. Now the Captal, hearing that the Regent was on the road to Reims, thought he could do no better than throw himself between the young prince and his goal, and so prevent the coronation. But as he rode he came up with a herald, whom he recognized as belonging to King Edward; and seeing him, he cried, "King Falcon, what news?" (A chief of heralds was accorded the title of "Roi.") The herald told him how, that very morning, he had quitted a French army that was making all haste to come up with the Captal and his Navarrese.
"And how many may they be, gentle Falcon?"
"One thousand five hundred, Seignior, and all good fighting men. There is the Count of Auxerre with his French; Bertrand du Guesclin with Alain Keranlouet, Eustache de la Houssaye, and the rest of his Bretons; de Renty with his Normans; and from your own country of Gascony there are the followers of the Sire d'Albret: Petiton de Counon and Amanieu de Pommiers."
The Captal reddened with anger at the mention of the Gascons. "Falcon, Falcon," he cried, "is it good truth that you tell me? Gascons march against me?"
"By my faith, Seignior, yes."
"Then by the body of Saint Anthony! Gascons shall prove Gascons!"
(C): Many Gascons, angered at the cession of their territory to the English, deserted the cause of Navarre and embraced that of France.
(C): On the following day the Captal sent out his runners to discover the whereabouts of the enemy, and the French did the same; and so close were the armies to each other that the scouts had not two miles to go to satisfy their mutual curiosity. By seven o'clock in the morning the Navarrese came up with the French just this side of the river Iton, on the plain of Cocherel. The Captal came up over the top of a low, tree covered hill, and there, drawing up his battles, waited. The French, seeing him come, also waited, hoping that he would come down and give them battle on the open plain. But the Captal knew when he had the advantage of position, and that advantage he intended to keep, relying on the rashness of the French to allow him to profit by it. As the French waited the sun rose higher, and men began to shift uneasily under the heat of it on their mail. And not only the heat afflicted them, but hunger and thirst as well; for, counting on immediate battle, they had ridden forth without supplies, so that, save for a "soupe au vin" at dawn, nothing had passed their lips that day. The French captains met together in council, and most of them were for storming the heights without delay, but some were for waiting for the morrow. Noon came and went, and the heat grew more and more suffocating to those on the plain in the full glare of the sun; and here and there a man, overcome, toppled from his saddle. At last, realizing that the Navarrese would not come down, and seeing the growing distress of their own men, the French captains agreed to wait, in the hopes that the Captal's patience might be less long than their own.
Here's a map of the terrain. The line to the left marks the Bois de la Ronce, where Jean de Grailly gathered his forces. The line on the right indicates the village of Cocherel. Cocherel is on the Eure, the same river that runs through Chartres. The line under the Plain of Cocherel indicates a monument to Bertrand du Guesclin. The other line indicates the location of the present village of Jouy-sur-Eure. It is in a dip in the ground so troops coming down off the hill would go through a depression where they'd loose sight of a force on the Plain de Cocherel.
(C): As they hesitated and wavered, a little band of horsemen came towards them from the lines of the Navarrese. French prisoners they were who, seeing the faces of friends and relations among the ranks of their countrymen, came, as was the casual custom of the day, to pass the time of day with them until such time as the battle should start; and none stopped them or said them nay. When later the fighting was joined they would retire to the "side lines," each keeping eager eyes on his own particular "master" in the hopes of seeing him slain; for then he would be free to claim his arms and rush to the assistance of his friends. But now, intent on gossip, they came pricking over the narrow space between the two armies. When they heard the matter that the captains were discussing, they protested strongly against their intention of waiting until the next day, for the Captal expected reenforcements at any moment, they said; but, asked how to make the Captal come down from his hill and give immediate battle, they shrugged their shoulders and rode back from whence they had come; yet they left the French captains convinced that they must fight that day or not at all, for the Captal already outnumbered them by five to three.
(C): Then the first thing to do was to decide who should govern the fight, and whose rallying cry should be raised. All looked towards the Count of Auxerre, the highest among them in blood and birth. But Auxerre refused, saying, "I am still over young for such responsibility and such honor. This is the first pitched battle that ever I have seen so you choose a more experienced than I to lead you in it. Here are many who know better than I how such things are ordered; take one of them, I beg of you." The captains looked from one to the other in perplexity, and appealed once more to the young count, so far above them all in station. But he would not listen. "I will be your comrade this day," he said; "but command I will not." Then one of the captains turned his eyes towards Bertrand, and other eyes followed suit, until at last all were gazing at him where he sat apart, silently squinting at the sweat that ran down his nose while his betters decided the order of the day. Appealing to him, they found him to be less reluctant than the young Auxerre to assume responsibility and command; and when it was proposed that he should lead them as being the most experienced of them all, and that the cry of "Notre Dame! Guesclin!" should be raised, he agreed readily enough. Thus, having named a commander, all were prepared for an immediate assault of the heights where the Captal sat so stubbornly; but Bertrand raised his hand. "Gently, Seigniors! Gently! The enemy are as anxious as we are for the fight--or so I hope--but they must come down if they would have it; and come down I will make them, and I will show you how."
Here is the view Jean de Grailly had looking down to the Plain of Cocherel. He would be coming down on a diagonal, to the right. The darker group of trees is a dip in the ground, today's Jouy sur Eure, causing him to loose sight of Bertrand for a moment. He was looking at a series of hills across the Eure.
This is the perspective the French had. The first one shows the clearest view of the hill and the Bois de la Ronce. It is somewhat to the right of Guesclin's position. The second picture is closer to where Guesclin was positioned. It shows the hill but is somewhat obscured by the trees of Jouy sur Eure today. The river and crossing was to his back as he took this view. The third picture is to the right flank, showing the flatnes of the plain. I walked this field and picked up several pieces of old pottery, wondering if they were from this era. Back in London, a curator at the British Museum said they were probably 19th or 20th C.
(C): In a ragged line they came, because of their disordered start, and they found what the Captal had feared they would--the dismounted French, Bretons, and Gascons in solid battle array, wheeled about and waiting on foot to take them on the flank. Yet, in spite of the ill launched attack and the well ordered defense, the odds of numbers were heavily with the Navarrese, and the day was not to be won by a single feint well carried out. There was serious fighting to be done, and Gascon must prove Gascon to the hilt, and Breton too. Cries of "Notre Dame! Guesclin!" were answered by "Saint George! Navarre!" while the ominous "Tue! Tue! Tue!" made a staccato accompaniment to the whole.
The picture is supposedly Bertrand, a very flattering one given the physcial descriptions I've seen.
(C): Jean Jouel, riding gallantly, was the first to throw himself upon the solid squares of the dismounted enemy, and the first to be killed; and so earned for himself much glory, tho small profit. The young Auxerre, in his capacity of "comrade," fought with the best, and d'Albret set his Gascons hardily against those of the Captal. Bertrand, head lowered, went forward with the unwieldy charge of a bull. Excellent strategist but indifferent tactician, he was full of cunning before the event, but at the first sound of steel upon steel all his subtlety left him, and he was no more than a Breton fighting man, a "tete de Breton," bent on having his way at whatever cost. So, wrapping his Bretons about him as a man might a cloak about his swordarm, he plowed his way forward, hacking and hewing a road to where the banner of the Captal floated from a bush to make a rallying point for the Navarrese. Straight for it he went, and was pleased to come at it over the dead body of his ancient enemy, the Bastard of Moreuil. The banner down, he hacked his way back again, and only stopped when there was no longer anything left before him to hack at. His subordinates labored with a like good will, and by the time the sun was set the French captains were able to gaze upon a sight that had long been foreign to their eyes--that of a victorious field.
Foissart, in chapter CCXXII, took note of this defeat for the Anglo-Navarese force.
"How the Englishmen and Navarrois were discomfited at the battle of Cocherel, and how the young king of France made his brother duke of Burgoyne, and of the castles and fortresses that were after won."
"In this great battle, where that the Englishmen and Navarrois intended to follow to rescue the captal, whom they saw carried away before them, and of the French part sir Aymenion of Pommiers, sir Petiton of Curton, sir Soudic de Latrau and the lord d'Albret's company, they intended with a courageous will to dress them toward the captal's standard that stood on a bush, there was then a sore battle ; for the standard was well defended with good men of war, and specially with sir Bascle of Mareuil and sir Geoffrey of Roussillon there was many rescues, and many one hurt and cast to the earth: howbeit the Navarrois that were about the standard were overthrown, and the Bascle of Mareuil slain, and sir Geoffrey of Roussillon taken prisoner, and sir Aymenion of Pommiers no man could tell what became of him, whether he were slain or taken.' And when the captal's standard was taken and torn all to pieces, in the mean season the Bretons, Frenchmen, Picards, Normans and the Burgoynians fought valiantly, the which stood them well in hand to do, for the Navarrois had caused them somewhat to rescue, and there was dead of the French party the viscount Beaumont, the which was great damage, for he was a lusty young knight and was likely to have proved a noble man ; and his company with great pain carried him out of the field, as I heard recounted of them of both parties. It had not been seen afore in such a battle with such a number to be so well fought as this battle was, for they were all afoot hand to hand and were meddled together each party with other and fought with such weapons as they had, and there was many a great stroke given with axes of steel, and there was sore hurt sir Petiton of Curton and sir Soudic de Latrau in such ways that they could do no more good that day. Sir John Jouel, by whom the battle began, did that day many a feat of arms and was hurt in divers places of his body, and finally he was taken prisoner by a squire of Bretayne of the company of sir Bertram of Guesclin, and was carried out of the press. But there was slain of the French party the master of the cross-bows, and sir Louis of Haveskerke and divers other, and of the Navarrois the lord of Sault and many of his men, and the same day died prisoner sir John Jouel ; and there was taken sir William of Gauville, sir Peter of Saquainville, sir Geoffrey of Roussillon, sir Bertram of [the] Franc and divers other; but a few of the Navarrois (were) saved."
"This battle was in Normandy near to Cocherel on a Tuesday I the twentyfourth (actually it was the 16th) day of May the year of our Lord MCCCLXIV. After this discomfiture and that all the dead were despoiled, and every man taking heed to his prisoners and dressing of them that were hurt, and that the most part of the Frenchmen were repassed the bridge and drawing to their lodging right sore travailed and weary, the same season sir Guy of Gauville, son to sir William of Gauville, was departed the same morning from the garrison of Conches with a fifty spears, to the intent to have come to the captal or the battle began, wherefore they made great haste and came to the place whereas the battle had been. Then the Frenchmen that were behind cried to their company saying, `Turn again, sirs, behold here cometh more of our enemies' and sir Aymenion and his company were there ready, and when he saw the Navarrois, he set his standard a-high on a bush to cause the Frenchmen to draw thither. And when sir Guy heard them cry, `Our Lady, Guesclin !' and saw not the captal nor none of his company, but saw much people lie dead on the ground, then he perceived well that the Navarrois had been discomfited, and then he returned the same way he came. And that evening the Frenchmen took heed to their prisoners. Then there was much speaking and enquiring for the archpriest, when it was known that he was not at the battle, and his men excused him as well as they could. And the thirty that took the captal never ceased till they had brought him to the castle of Vernon. And the next day the Frenchmen dislodged and went to Rouen and there left part of their prisoners."
The battle is commenorated by a monument, noted on the map as the 'Pyramid de Guesclin.'
Finally, what follows is a briefer description from the French version of Wikipedia, which offers a number of minor differences with Coyrn's description.
"À partir de ses possessions normandes, Charles le Mauvais avait initié un blocus de Paris. En réaction Charles V requiert de Du Guesclin de dégager la Seine. Le captal de Buch réunit toutes les garnisons navarraise à sa disposition le 14 mai 1364 à Évreux afin de marcher contre le Breton. Ce dernier est parti le 11 mai de Rouen avec une troupe de taille équivalente. Plutôt que de couper la route à son adversaire, le captal, arrivé le 15 mai à Cocherel, dispose ses troupes suivant la stratégie anglaise sur une éminence voisine qu'il fait fortifier.
Il s'agit de la colline du Bois de la Ronce à 2 km du bourg. Pendant qu'ils se fortifient, les troupes de Du Guesclin arrivent à Cocherel et disposent leur campement sachant que les Navarrais préféreront tenir leur réduit fortifié que de tenter un coup de main. Les Anglo-Navarrais sont disposés en 3 batailles : la première avec les Anglais et les archers, aux ordres de Jean Jouel, la seconde menée par Jean de Grailly et la troisième par Bascle de Mareuil. L'étendard du captal, point de ralliement est disposé près d'un buisson épineux avec une garde de 60 hommes.
Les Français sont scindés en 3 batailles et une réserve : Du Guesclin commande celle qui fait face à Jean du Grailly, le comte d'Auxerre commande la seconde et Arnaud de Cervole l'archiprêtre la troisième. Pour simuler une armée plus importante Du Guesclin fait placer de nombreux étendards supplémentaire. L'arrière-garde se compose essentiellement de Gascons avec pour mission de prendre l'adversaire à revers et de lui capturer son étendard.
Déroulement de la bataille: La matinée se passe en négocations entre les camps, à l'intérieur des camps (choix tactiques, cri de guerre, etc.). Le captal de Buch fait croire aux Français qu'un renfort doit lui parvenir, quelques 1500 hommes supplémentaires, pour inciter les Français à se lancer à l'assaut. En effet les Anglo-Navarrais tiennent à rester sur leur positions et les Français, avertis des précédentes défaites (bataille de Poitiers) savent qu'une charge leur serait défavorable.
Du Guesclin, arrivé aux environs de 15 h, décide à son tour de feinter. Au son des trompettes, sa propre bataille commence à se retirer en arrière de l'Eure - cependant que les deux autres batailles restent face aux Anglo-Navarrais. À ce moment, Jean Jouel qui croit à cette retraite décide de faire charger sa bataille.
À ce moment Du Guesclin fait faire volte-face à ses hommes. La troupe de Jouel se trouve submergée par les trois batailles françaises et ses archers interviennent trop tard, alors que le combat est au corps-à-corps.
Un groupe de trente chevaliers gascons de l'arrière-garde, après avoir contourné le dispositif anglo-navarrais, capture le captal et son étendard. Baudouin, gouverneur de Lille, grand maître des arbalétriers de France est tué de même que Bascle de Mareuil et Jean Jouel. Privés de leurs chefs, les Anglo-Navarrais finissent par battre en retraite. Pierre de Sacquenville est fait prisonnier. Il est supplicié à Rouen.
In recognition for his services to France, Betrand was allowed to be buried at St. Denis, outside of Paris. St. Denis is the traditional burial places for the kings of France. He is the effigy from his tomb at St. Denis. His likeness is said to be very true to the original.
Entombed right next to him is another Constable of France, Louis de Sancerre (1342-1402). While he has nothing to do with Cocherel, to my knowledge, his presence at St. Denis reflects the regard with which he was held.
Coryn, M, The Black Eagle
Wikipédia, l'encyclopédie libre (5/07)