at Formigny had coinage so the appropriate coinage are
the royal issues on each side.
Henry VI (1422-61)
Calais Groat 1427-30 rosette/mascle, 26mm. Obv: HENRIC DI GRA REX ANGL Z
FRANC, crowned central portrait. Rev inner circle: VILLA CALISIE, outer
circle: POSVI DEVM ADJUTOREM MEVM (I have made God my helper), long
cross. Mint is Calais. S:1859, C:H64D-040/45.
By the end of the 1440s the English position in France had
seriously deteriorated. Charles VII had spent several years building a
professional army while the English allowed their forces and position to
stagnate. Due to conflicts at home, the English had not maintained the forces
in France necessary to preserve their French possessions. Early in 1450 the
English lost Honfleur, after having just previously lost Harfleur. Both
succumbed to brief sieges where French artillery played the decisive role. The
French were moving on technologically while the English were not.
made the English realize that their hold on Normandy
was in jeopardy and in response they raised a small army and sent it to
It was led by Thomas Kyriell and landed in Cherbourg. After a
costly siege where he took Valognes on the Cotentin Peninsula, and
after a reinforcement
from locally based troops, he made his way towards Bayeux. This
painting showing Kyriell's landing is from the Bibliotheque
Nationale de France.
At the same time Charles VII had four columns moving into
Normandy and advancing on Caen. One column was lead by the count of Clermont
and another by French constable Arthur of Bretagne, comte de Richemont. They were the two French
leaders who met Kyriell at Formigny.
Kyriell was aware of Clermont’s presence in the area (at
Carentan) when he crossed the estuary of the Vire on his way to Bayeux. They
were very close but Clermont did not challenge his passage, although the
citizens of Carentan did. Here is the lay of the land (see Map 1). Kyriell's
route is approximately traced out in red. He was heading towards Bayeux but
stopped near Formigny (circled in blue on the right side of the map). Clermont was
in Carentan (circled on the left side of the map) and Richemont was approaching
from the south, towards Trevieres (rising blue arrow).
On the 15th, Clermont advanced towards Kyriell’s position at
Formigny. Clermont had about 3000 men, while Kyriell had about 3800. The battle
description relies heavily on Alfred Burne’s description in The Agincourt War.
It unfolded in two stages, the first of which went to the English and the
second, the one that counts, to the French. The scene is laid out in Map 2,
from the Xenophon military history web site.
arranged his forces in a single line crossing the
road from Carentan. He had the small ruisseau de Formigny, a stream, at his
back. He aligned his forces across the road, covering a front of approximately
1000 yards, in a single line. The English strengthened their position by digging
pits to slow down calvary charges and placed their archers behind a row of
Clermont made two
sorties against the English position, one on foot and the other mounted, but
both were repulsed with French loses. Burne wonders if Kyriell was thinking of
the similar English strategy at Agincourt.
These two photos show views of Kyriell's right flank (first photo) and left flank (second photo)
At this point Today
the land is
mixed agricultural and residential use. The first photo shows the the
small stream that was at Kyriell's back. The second photo looks up to
the ridge over which Richemont appeared. The English position seems to
have looked up towards the French line. It was essentially a defensive
position, with the stream at their back, which prevented a rear flanking
forces crested a
ridge and were able to look down towards the English line. This photo
shows their view, looking towards the chapel Clermont built some years
later to give thanks for the French success.
Clermont brought up his two canon and they opened
fire on the English position, doing
damage to the archers. The canon were beyond long bow range so from their stationary
position they could not respond. This was an early use of canon and a sign of
the changing face of warfare. In the face-off between archers and canon, canon
wins. The English reliance on the longbow, which had stood them in such good
stead up to this point, was facing obsolescence.
response was to
charge the French gun position,
which they did, and over ran the site, killing the French gunners.
decisive, this set back put a damper on the French enthusiasm. It was
if the French would withdraw at this point or not. Kyriell did not
his success with an attack, which might have turned into a rout. This
painting from the Bibliotheque Nationale de France is a contemporary
image of the battle. Note the French canon on the left.
At about this point
, now late afternoon, Richemont arrived
from the south. He approached from Trevieres and climbed a ridge and was able to
get an overview of the battle. His arrival forced Kyriell to shift his line from straight
across the Carentan road to also protect his flank. Map 3 is from a detailed
IGN carte randonnee and shows the topography. To the left of Richemont’s arrow
of advance is the small height that allowed him to see the field.
consulted with Clermont, who has rallied his force.
Between them they had about 5000 troops, to the less than 4000 English
Both French forces advanced and broke the thin English line. The
overwhelmed and slaughtered. Kyriell was captured while most of his
There was a small group led by Matthew Gough who had sortied from
help Kyriell that managed to escape. This map (Map 4) from the formigny.free.fr
site shows the line of flight that the English took when their line was
broken. It also shows a supposed position for the 'artillerie Francais'
which is a little further back than the picture above that shows
Clermont's view of the English position. This photo is taken
right across from the M (monument marker) between the French and
In this fight
, the French experienced minimum casualties.
The Xenophon site gives their casualties as about 200, against more than 3000
on the English side.
had a chapel built here in
1486. It was closed when we visited, as was the Tourist Office due to
another battle commemoration going on - the June 6 1944 invasion at
Omaha Beach, just miles away. The chapel was regularly visited as a
historical site until 1793. After the Restoration, it passed into the
hands of Louis Philippe. After a period of decay, it was restored by
the count of Paris and transferred to the local community in 1963.
monuments to the French victory. The first was erected in 1824. It is
inscribed, in translation, "Here the Battle of Formigny was done, 15
April 1450 under the reign of Charles VII. The English lost a large
number of their warriors and were then forced to abandon Normandy, of
which they had been masters since 1417."
, and more elaborate
monument, dates from 1903. It is on the crossroads of the road on which
the battle was fought and the road to Formigny and Omaha Beach. It
celebrates the French victory and the two French leaders, Arthur of
Bretagne, comte de Richemont and Jehan de Bourbon, comte de Clermont.
The consequences of this engagement were
much more than a lost battle. There was now no English army in Normandy and the
duchy was soon lost to the French. The Hundred Year’s War was winding down. The
major, and final battle of the war was fought at Castillon in 1453.
Burne, A.H., The Agincourt War
, Wordsworth editions, Ware, reprinted
IGN Carte de Randonnee 1412 OT