10 Fascinating Facts About Bertrand du Guesclin

Bertrand du Guesclin, known as “The Black Dog of Brocéliande,” was a renowned French knight and military commander during the late Middle Ages. Born in 1320 in the Duchy of Brittany, his exceptional military prowess and strategic acumen made him a prominent figure in the Hundred Years’ War.

Bertrand du Guesclin being knighted
Bertrand du Guesclin – Knighted by French King

“Bertrand du Guesclin was one of the greatest military leaders of the late Middle Ages. His tactical genius, strategic brilliance, and fearless courage made him a legend in his own time.”

Kelly DeVries, American historian and military historian. DeVries is a leading expert on medieval warfare and has written extensively on the Hundred Years’ War.

As one of France’s most celebrated military leaders, Bertrand du Guesclin left an indelible mark on medieval history.

In this article, we delve into ten fascinating facts about this legendary figure and his remarkable exploits.

1. Humble Origins

Bertrand du Guesclin was born into a minor noble family in Brittany, France. His family estate was located in the small village of Brocéliande, surrounded by the mystical forest of the same name. Despite his modest beginnings, he would rise to become one of the most respected and feared knights in the kingdom.

2. An Early Vow

At the tender age of twelve, du Guesclin swore an oath to avenge his father’s death. This tragic event fueled his determination to become a skilled warrior and defend his family’s honor. He embarked on a journey to hone his martial skills, seeking the path of knighthood.

3. A Knight Errant

In the tradition of medieval knights, Bertrand du Guesclin wandered throughout France and neighboring countries as a knight errant, participating in tournaments and seeking challenges to prove his worth on the battlefield.

4. Defeating English Champions

During the early stages of the Hundred Years’ War, du Guesclin gained fame by defeating several English champions in single combat. His victories boosted French morale and earned him the favor of King Charles V, who would become his most significant patron.

5. Marshal of France

Charles V recognized du Guesclin’s exceptional talents and appointed him as a Marshal of France in 1370. This prestigious title placed him in command of the French army, and he played a crucial role in defending the realm against English and Navarrese invasions.

6. The Recapture of Le Mont-Saint-Michel

One of du Guesclin’s most remarkable feats was the recapture of the strategic abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel in 1379. Under his command, the French forces reclaimed the fortress from English control after a daring and audacious assault.

7. A Legendary Rivalry

Du Guesclin’s military prowess often pitted him against the equally renowned English knight, Sir John Chandos. The two respected each other as worthy adversaries, engaging in several encounters on the battlefield.

8. The War of the Two Peters

During the War of the Two Peters (1356-1375), Bertrand du Guesclin fought on behalf of King Henry of Castile against King Peter of Castile. He played a vital role in securing the throne for Henry, earning the gratitude of the Castilian monarchy.

9. Merciful and Chivalrous

Unlike many medieval warlords, du Guesclin was known for his chivalry and humane treatment of prisoners. He believed in treating his captives with respect and often released them on the promise that they would not take up arms against France again.

10. Death of a Legend

Bertrand du Guesclin’s illustrious military career came to an end when he succumbed to dysentery in July 1380. His death was mourned across France, and he was laid to rest at the Saint-Denis Basilica, where many French kings were buried.

“Du Guesclin was the perfect embodiment of the ideal knight: brave, loyal, and chivalrous. He was a master of the battlefield, but also understood the importance of diplomacy and alliances in achieving victory.”

Juliet Barker, British historian and author. Barker is known for her works on medieval England, including her biography of Edward III.

The legacy of Bertrand du Guesclin endures as a symbol of valor, chivalry, and devotion to his homeland. His contributions to French history and the Hundred Years’ War have left an indelible mark, securing his place as one of the most celebrated military figures of the Middle Ages.

Bertrand Du Guesclin Medieval Knight
Death of Bertrand Du Guesclin

“Du Guesclin was more than just a great warrior – he was a symbol of national identity and pride for the French people. His military exploits inspired generations of Frenchmen to fight for their country and defend their freedom.”

Georges Duby, French historian and medievalist. Duby was a prominent scholar of medieval society and culture, and is considered one of the most influential historians of his time.

Facts About Bertrand du Guesclin | Great Books

“Bertrand du Guesclin: The Black Dog of Brocéliande” by Jean Markale
This biography of du Guesclin is considered one of the best works on the subject. Markale explores du Guesclin’s life and career, his military successes and failures, and his legacy as a national hero of France.

“The Life of Bertrand du Guesclin: A Critical Edition and Translation” by Idelle Sullens
This book provides a comprehensive study of du Guesclin’s life and career, drawing on primary sources and offering new insights into his character and achievements.

“The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453” by Desmond Seward
This book provides a broader historical context for du Guesclin’s career, examining the political, social, and military factors that led to the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.

“The Black Prince” by Michael Jones
This biography of Edward, the Black Prince, who was one of du Guesclin’s most formidable opponents, offers a detailed look at the English side of the conflict and the personalities involved.

“Medieval Warfare: A History” by Maurice Keen
This book provides an overview of medieval warfare, including the tactics, weapons, and strategies used by knights like du Guesclin. It places du Guesclin’s military career in the broader context of medieval warfare and offers insights into the nature of war in the Middle Ages.