The Battle of Castillon was fought between the English and French forces in 1453. The battle was fought as part of the protracted Hundred Years’ War between the two nations and the decisive victory of the French in Castillon marked the end of the war.
The French victory also sealed English fate on the continent, effectively ending any significant English footholds on the European mainland.
Prelude to the Battle
In 1451, French successfully captured Bordeaux from English control. This victory was considered a decisive end of the Hundred Years’ War but the English still considered it their right to reclaim their mainland territories.
Consequently, an English army landed on the mainland near Bordeaux in 1452 under the leadership of one of the most famous English military leaders of the period, John Talbot.
The English forces were able to retake the city of Bordeaux and expanded their control over the Western Gascony by the beginning of 1453. It was against this English campaign that French King Charles VII mustered his armies and headed for Bordeaux in mid 1453.
The Battle of Castillon In 1451, French successfully captured Bordeaux from English control.
English and French Preparations
On their advance to Bordeaux, the French army laid siege to the town of Castillon. While besieging the town, the French constructed an extraordinary artillery camp which was heavily fortified and included some 300 guns.
This was one of the earliest instances where artillery was used as the primary form of weaponry on a European battlefield. The French camp was further protected by a ditch at one side, palisades on the other sides and a river towards the fourth side.
English leader, John Talbot, had reached the mainland with 3000 men and reached as many reinforcements later. However, when advancing towards the French camp, he had 500 men-at-arms and 800 mounted archers with him.
Rather than prudently waiting for the rest of the English army, John Talbot engaged a small French group of archers and quickly defeated it. Urged on by this minor victory, the small English army didn’t wait for the rest of the army and advanced towards the main body of the French army.
The French army, in turn, was well protected by the artillery camp which proved lethal for the English and blew most of the English force under Talbot to pieces.
The rest of the English army arrived as the battle was ongoing so they quickly pursued Talbot into battle and met a similar fate at the hands of the French artillery. According to modern estimates, the English casualties numbered nearly 4000 while the French lost a mere 100 men in fighting. Within an hour or so of fighting, the French victory was decisive.
The Battle of Castillon was the last battle between the English and the French as part of the Hundred Years’ War. The outcome of the battle was overwhelmingly in favour of the French, effectively ending any influence of England on the mainland except the Pale of Calais.
The battle is considered historical in military warfare due to the extensive use of artillery which effectively neutralised the entire might of the English force which was wielding more conventional weapons.