Battle of Muret: September
Peter of Aragon and Raymond VI of Toulouse vs. Simon de Montfort
Peter I (Peter II of Aragon)
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AR denero, .95gr. 18mm. Obv: PE TR RE X, central cross with four besants. Rev: BARCIHONA, central cross. Crusafont (1992) 300, Crus (1982) 144, Burgos 852, C&C (1992) 1731.
In 1212 Peter had been successful in Spain at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa where he defeated a Moorish army. This won him accolades from the Church. However, this changed the following year. In 1213 he crossed the Pyrenees as an ally of Raymond VI because Simon was attacking lands of the count of Foix and others who were Peter's vassals. Peter and Raymond planned to meet the crusader army south of Toulouse, at Muret.
Muret is on the Garonne, a two hour horse ride from Toulouse. The battle field was just west of Muret, between the Garonne and the small Saudrune river. The Toulouse militia had established a siege of Muret and were just outside the town. Peter had established his position NW of Muret, between the Saudrune and the Garonne. These two maps show the action. The first is from Sumption (168) and shows the disposition of the forces. The second from Roux-Perino (p181) shows the course of the action.
At Muret Raymond and Peter could not agree on a common strategy. Raymond wanted to take a defensive posture and Peter an aggressive one. Their camps were not together. While Raymond was acting defensively, Peter decided to attack and joined his calvary in the front line, a risky strategy since if he fell, his troops would collapse without leadership. Peter arranged his force in three groups, the first led by the count of Foix while he led the second himself. He was well protected between the Saudrune and a marsh.
At this point there is discrepancy in the accounts of the battle. Roux-Perino gives the first action to Peter's troops, who moved in a disorganized attack on the crusaders. The crusaders feigned a withdrawal and the count of Foix pressed the attack. The crusaders turned and were shocked by the impact of the Spanish charge. Montfort sent his second corps into battle and Peter also joined the fight. Peter, who was not wearing his own armor, was attacked and shouted he was the king - do not kill him, but it was too late. He fell to a lance and was killed. Sumption gives first action to the crusaders who charged the disorganized Aragonese line and pushed it back onto the second corps, at which point Peter became engaged, and killed. When word of his death spread, his army fled and it turned into a rout. This phase of the battle lasted about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Toulousain forces were besieging the town and weren't aware of the outcome of the battle. The crusaders turned on them and caught them in a pincer, between the mounted forces of Montfort and the defenders of the town. The crusaders routed them, forcing Raymond to flee to Toulouse.
Casualties ran to the thousands on the side of Toulouse and were minimal on the side of the crusaders. From Peter's perspective, his great fault was placing himself in a combat position and not in the reserve, where he could direct the battle. Wearing another's armor also would have made it difficult for his close guard to rally to and protect him, since he wasn't clearly identified. Likewise, in that armor he was not a ransom target but a knight to be killed. Montfort tended to place himself in reserve, where he could rally troops and direct the action when necessary.
Today the battlefield is an industrial area between an autoroute and commercial activity. There is no sense of what it was like in the 13th century. There is, however, a monument - actually two monuments, to the battle on a traffic circle just north of Muret. When I visited I had a coin of Peter II in my hand, making for a nice instance of physio-temporal asynchroneity.