The Medieval period was marked by constant warfare throughout Europe. The early medieval period witnessed warfare due to the collapse of the Roman Empire and the subsequent struggles of different Germanic tribes to fill the power vacuum.
To add to this, various outsiders such as the Moors in Iberia were attempting to gain entry into European heartlands and this meant constant warfare against the forces of Christendom.
To the East, the Byzantine Empire waged wars against the Muslims and waves of migrating tribes from further East. In the north, France and England remained pitted in fierce warfare over extended periods. All this resulted in many highly significant battles which permanently left their mark on the history of Europe. Some of the most famous medieval battles are as follows.
Battle of Tours (732)
The battle of tours was a decisive battle fought in north-east Iberia as a large Moorish army attempted to advance into Western Europe in 732. They were confronted by the might of the Frankish army under the leadership of Charles Martel.
Despite being a formidable army, the Moorish force was drawn into unfavourable terrain by the skillful strategy of Martel who was able to withstand the attacks of light Moorish cavalry with his veteran infantry.
The Franks not only repulsed the Moorish forces but also counter-attacked with success, routing a portion of the Moorish army and killing the Moorish leader, Abd al-Rahman. The expedition marked the maximum extent of Moorish incursion into Western Europe and was hailed as a decisive victory for Christendom which halted the advance of the Muslims.
Battle of Hastings (1066)
The battle of Hastings was fought between an invading Norman force under William the Conqueror and a defending Anglo-Saxon force under King Harold II. The battle came to be due to the contest between Harold and William over being the rightful heirs to the English throne.
Fought in Hastings in 1066, the battle saw Normans decisively defeat the Anglo-Saxons. King Harold was killed in the thick of the fighting and Anglo-Saxon armies were crushed. This effectively marked the end of the Anglo-Saxon reign in England, ushering in the Norman era. The battle permanently reshaped the military, political and social dynamics in England.
Battle of Bouvines (1214)
The battle of Bouvines was fought in 1214 between the forces of France and the allied forces of England and the Holy Roman Empire. Both England and the Holy Roman Empire aimed to mitigate the increasingly expansive influence of France in Western Europe. English King John hoped to regain English territories in Normandy by defeating King Philip II.
In the ensuing battle, King Philip II was able to tackle the allied armies with success. He defeated a large allied force near the town of Tournai after fierce fighting, closely escaping death. The victory marked a high point of French monarchy while at the same time spelling a very low point for English monarchy where the defeat led to the rebellion of the barons.
Battle of Nicopolis (1396)
The Battle of Nicopolis was fought between the forces of Ottoman Empire and an allied army of European kingdoms. The allied army laid siege to the town of Nicopolis in 1396, hoping to capture the town before the Ottoman Emperor could relieve the siege.
Their hopes proved futile as the Ottomans reached Nicopolis to meet the allied army for battle. In the ensuing battle, the allied force was decisively routed and most of it was destroyed at the hands of the Ottomans. For the Ottomans, the victory meant that they could continue to expand their influence and reach in the Balkans.
Battle of Agincourt (1415)
The battle of Agincourt was a part of the Hundred Years’ War between the English and the French. It was fought in Azincourt in 1415 with the English forces led by King Henry V while the French armies were commanded by Constable Charles. Henry V landed in France while laying claim to the French throne. After failed negotiations, this culminated in open battle between the two armies at Azincourt.
The battle was one of the conflicts where the English longbowmen played the most decisive role. Although outnumbered by the French, the English frontlines comprised of a thousands of longbow archers who fired a constant barradge of arrows into advancing French cavalry.
The result was a disaster for the French who were unable to withstand the hail of arrows. This eventually led to the routing of the cavalry, the killing of thousands of knights and a disastrous defeat for the French.
Battle of Castillon (1453)
The battle of Castillon was the final battle of the Anglo-French Hundred Years’ War. This was the also the first time in Western Europe that gunpowder weapons decisively influence the outcome of a battle.
Fought in 1453, the battle was an English attempt to gain back the control of Gascony. French troops were besieging Castillon at the time and English forces attacked the French camp. The French fired heavy gunpowder weapons in defence of the camp.
Hundreds of handguns were used by individual soldiers while heavy cannons were also used to bombard the enemy lines. The result was disastrous for the English who suffered heavy casualties as well as the loss of its leaders. The battle marked a decisive victory for the French bringing a conclusion to the long war with the English.
Battle of Bosworth (1485)
The Battle of Bosworth was a vital battle which affected the course of English history towards the late medieval period. The battle was fought in 1485 between the Lancastrian and Yorkist factions as part of the series of wars called the Wars of the Roses.
The Lancastrian army numbered at nearly 7000 was led by Henry Tudor who faced the Yorkist might numbered at 12,000 under Richard III. The initial thrust neared a Lancastrian defeat when a powerful northern lord, Lord Stanley, changed sides to support the Lancastrians.
This decisively tipped the scales in the favour of the Lancastrian army and the Yorkists were routed with Richard III dying in combat. Henry Tudor was then crowned the King of England, ushering in the glorious period of the Tudor dynasty in England.