of Brittany, died in 1341 without a clear male heir.
His intended heir, brother Gui de Penthievre, predeceased him. This
left claimants to the duchy his sister, Jeanne de Penthievre, who
married Charles de Blois, and his
half brother, Jean de Montfort. Through the marriage of Jeanne and
Blois, Blois became a claimant to the duchy. The contention between
Montfort set up a civil war in Brittany, commonly called the War of
Succession. In this conflict, Blois became a client of the French while
Montfort became a client of the English, hence this war was a part of
larger Hundred Years War, the conflict over succession to the French
Jean de Montfort
married (Jeanne) and they had a son. Jean
de Montfort died in 1345. His wife carried on the conflict for their son, who
was initially too young to take an active part in the fighting. He was only six when his
father died. He was protected in England.
These relationships can be seen on the war of Breton Succession genealogy page.
faction had its strength in the south and west
of Brittany while Blois had his strength in the north and east. La Roche
Derrien is in the NW corner of Brittany. In 1347 Sir Thomas Dagworth was the
English commander in Brittany. Charles of Blois led his own forces.
(chapter 141) describes the preliminaries like
this: “Three knights one day set out to besiege a town called la
Roche-d’errien: they had collected a number of men at arms on horseback, and
foot soldiers, and made some violent attacks upon the town; but it was so well
defended, that the English could not gain any advantage. The captain of the
garrison for lord Charles was Tassart de Guines, but three parts of the
inhabitants were more attached to the English than to the French; so they
arrested sir Tassart, and declared they would murder him, if he would not join
them in surrendering the place to the English. Upon this, he said he would
comply with whatever they wished: they then let him go, and advanced towards
the English army, whom they admitted into their town. Sir Tassart was continued
as before, governor of it. When the English returned to Hennebon, they left
with him a sufficiency of men at arms and archers, to defend the town and
castle. Lord Charles when he heard this, swore things should not go on thus.”
decided to lay siege to La Roche Derrien. This image is from Foissart, showing the siege of la Roche Derrien.
Charles' intention was to draw Dagworth into an open battle and hopefully defeat him.
The numerical odds were in Blois’ favor, in that he had a larger field army
La Roche Derrien
is situated on the river Jaudy. It is built
in a curve of the river, so the river bounds the town on the north and the west.
Looking at the IGN carte randonnee (Map 1), the river appears to narrow
considerably just south of the town.
Charles had an army of 4 – 5,000 troops.
They established four camps as their siege strategy. Blois
placed a force on left bank of the Jaudy
to guard that approach. It was located at Place Verte, an earlier
fortified location still extant in the 14th century (and today). On the
IGN map it
is the 'camp antique' circled in blue. On site, there is a marker
referring to it as 'Castel Du.' It is know by other names as well,
including 'Place Verte' and 'Chateau Noir.' It is an interesting
location. Today it
is overgrown, an inner flat area surrounded by two tall outer earthen
first picture shows its location and the view from Charles' camp. The
second shows the inner flat area today.
The next picture is of La Roche Derrien from Place Verte. The town is across the river. Charles' position is to the right of this view.
Where Blois camped, the land slopes
down to the town
from higher ground to the SE. The yellow road on Map 1 is the road to
Guingamp, a larger
Breton town and the direction from which Blois approached. In 1347 the
road to the left of the yellow was the main approach to la Roche
Derrien. This next picture is the view from Blois' camp to La Roche
Derrien. The second image is along his right flank, towards the right
side of the blue arc shown on Map 1. While Blois was able to look down
on La Roche Derrien, his troops were on fairly flat ground themselves.
Today this area is calles 'les Buttes.'
expected Dagworth to attack from the south, and
likewise expected the attack might be at night. He was concerned that his
forces would be rattled by an attack they could not see so he gave strict
orders that each position was to hold its ground and not come to the aid of
another group that might come under attack. He intended to use his own, larger
group, as the mobile relief force. This proved to be a major tactical mistake.
did in fact approach from the south with a smaller
Anglo-Breton force. He had about 1000 troops at his command, hence he was
outnumbered 4 or 5 to 1. Blois had split his forces into four divisions, two
strong and two weaker. Recall he placed one west of the Jaudy, in ‘Place Verte,’ circled in blue on Map 1. Blois
held his main force on the east side of the Jaudy, along the blue arc in Map 1.
Each of Blois’s main divisions was paired with a smaller division, to complete
the encirclement of the town. I placed an ‘X’ on the Map 1 approximately where
these groups were located.
had prepared the ground for the battle. His troops
were protected by palisades and he had the field cleared and ditches filled so
the ground to the south was open. His intention was to make an attack inviting
to Dagworth. If he was too well protected, Dagworth would probably not take the
risk to attack, given that he was so outnumbered.
The description of the battle relies heavily on Clifford
Rogers article “Sir Thomas Dagworth in Brittany, 1346-7: Restellou and La Roche
Derrien.” Dagworth took a twofold approach to his attack. The Franco-Bretons
expected the attack to come at Place Verte but Dagworth found those troops too
alert. He crossed the river and launched a feint loosely along the approach
road from Guingamp. This feint is marked with the smaller red arrow on Map 1 coming up
from the south. The feint was not unexpected but it still caused confusion
among the Franco-Bretons. Dagworth
then led his main force along the bluff above the river at Blois.
He wanted to prevent reinforcement from across the Jaudy. His attack, indicated
by the heavier red line, initially met success due to confusion among Blois’
forces. However, he was ultimately overcome by the weight of numbers against
him. Dagworth was both wounded and captured. The French pursued and killed the
writes about the action like this: “About midnight
sir Thomas Dagworth and sir John Hartwell armed one half of their people, and,
setting off in silence, fell upon one of the wings of lord Charles's army, and
slew a great number of his men. They remained in this action so long that the
whole army was roused and armed; they could not therefore retreat, without
encountering the whole of the lord Charles's force. They were surrounded, and
so sharply dealt with that they could not withstand the powers of the French.
Sir Thomas Dagworth was taken prisoner, after having been severely wounded. Sir
John Hartwell escaped as well as he was able, with all that he could bring off
with him, by making for the river. He related to sir Taneguy du Châtel the ill
success of their attack; and they held a council, whether they ought not to
return to Hennebon.”
At this stage
, it looked like things had gone Charles’ way.
The Anglo-Bretons were disorganized and demoralized, in retreat, while Blois was
complacent in perceived victory. About this time Garnier, the sire of Cadouadal
arrived with some additional troops and re-energized the Montfortists. He
argued, correctly, that Blois would think he had won a victory and would have
relaxed his guard. Besides, he argued, the English should rescue their leader.
This led to a second attack, one that surprised Blois. Dagworth was rescued but
in the fighting French superiority of numbers once again turned the tide and
Dagworth was captured a second time. Throughout all this Blois’ other divisions
held their positions, as he had commanded.
it was dawn and the Montfortist garrison in town
could see what was happening. They opened the gates and attacked Blois from the
rear. The English in Dagwoth's troop again engaged. Pressed on two sides, Blois was forced to retreat. He was unable to
communicate with his other, still unengaged divisions, and the fight turned
against him. He was wounded several times and finally forced to surrender.
This map from Le Fell shows the purported sortie from the town.
recounts this stage of the battle: “At the time
they were holding this council, whether to decamp or not, there came to them a
knight from the countess, called Garnier, lord of Cadoudal, with a hundred men
at arms who had been prevented from coming sooner. When he was informed of the
resolution they were about to take of returning, “Oh come,” said he, “arm
yourselves quickly, and mount your horses; and he that has no horse, let him
follow on foot; for we will go and look once more at our enemies, who are now
so elated that we shall be sure to conquer them.” Those that had horses soon
got themselves in readiness, and set out; and the foot followed them; so that,
about sun-rise, they came upon the army of the lord Charles, which they found
wrapped up in sleep, for they did not imagine they should have any more disturbance.
The English and Bretons began immediately to cut down and destroy tents and
pavilions, and to slay all those whom they had thus surprised; for they had
thought themselves so secure, they had not set any watch. Thus were those of
the party of lord Charles defeated, and all the barons of Normandy and Brittany
that were with him taken prisoners that night. The siege of la Roche-d’errien
was raised, and lord Charles conducted to Hennebon. Nevertheless the towns and
fortresses that he had before gained, still held out for him; for his wife, who
called herself duchess of Brittany, undertook most cheerfully to continue the
This image is from Foissart and shows the capture of Charles de Blois.
happened at the end of the battle unclear. The
unengaged French left the field but a number of knights, out of loyalty and to
avoid being called cowards, stayed and fought. They were killed or captured.
presents a map of the
battlefield with a number of notable landmarks (Map 2). IGN Map 1 with the blue
arc showing Blois' line corresponds to the space between ND
(Chapel de Notre Dame) and H (Hospital). Not evident from the map is
the fact that while ND appears to be on the river it is actually on a
high bluff right above the river. I'd estimate the height as 60 - 80
feet. Therefore, when sources talk about Dagworth approaching along the
river, the implication is the approach is along the bluff above the
there is a more recently
constructed chapel at the ND site. However, outside it is a cross of an
earlier chapel, likely the one there in 1347. The first picture is the
newer chapel at the ND location and the second is the older cross
outside the chapel.
presents a generally similar description of the
battle, in less detail than Rogers. Burne’s map (Map 3) shows the Anglo-Breton attack
from the south, but does not differentiate between the feint and the main
attack. Locationally, it is on the same ground as Rogers places it. His Chateau Noir is IGN's camp antique.
and others note this was a remarkable Anglo-Breton
victory. It happened against a much larger force and was achieved without the
support of archers, since the archers were ineffective in the dark. It ended
with the imprisonment of Charles de Blois and left his faction in the hands of
his wife, Jeanne.
is no monument on the
battlefield itself but the church in town has new stained glass windows
showing Blois' capture. Note that Blois' head is surrounded by a halo.
He was canonized because miracles were attributed to him. This 'miracle
power' continued to make him a thorn in Montfort's side even after his
Burne, A.H., The Crecy War, Wordsworth Editions, 1999.
Foissart, J., Chronicles, http://www.maisonstclaire.org/resources/chronicles/froissart/book_1/fc_b1_contents.html
Institut Culturel de Bretagne, http://www.skoluhelarvro.org/culture-bretagne/batailles/detail.php?id=85
Le Fell, G et M-L, La Roche-Derrien de nos jours aux origines, 2007
Rogers, C., “Sir Thomas Dagworth in Brittany, 1346-7:
Restellou and La Roche Derrien,” in The Journal of Medieval Military History,
vol. III, The Boydell Press, 2005