5 most important battles of the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages is an era of continuous wars and bloody battles. It was these battles that determined the fate of millions of people.

Battle of Poitiers, 732
Who versus whom: Kingdom of Franks vs Umayyad Caliphate.

Generals: Karl Martell . Abdur-Rahman ibn Abdallah.

Battle of Poitiers.

Before the battle. This was the time when the Arab states were constantly expanding their possessions, moving from the very west of Europe to the east. North Africa was already under their rule, as well as modern Portugal and Spain. The troops of the Omeyad Caliphate invaded the Kingdom of the Franks and reached the banks of the Loire. A little more, and this obstacle in their path would also be swept away. But Abdur-Rahman was opposed by an experienced commander Karl Martell, who was not a king in fact, but was in fact. Martell had experienced, battle-hardened soldiers at his disposal, but his army was based on infantry, while the Arabs relied on cavalry.

The course of the battle. Martell managed to take a more advantageous position on the hill, but the outcome of the battle was decided by the trick he used. The Franks’ infantry took the frontal blow of the Arab cavalry. She managed to withstand him, but the horsemen still broke through her ranks. At that moment, the Arabs learned that the Franks were attacking from the rear, and the cavalry rushed to help their own. In fact, only Martell’s scouts approached the rear of the Umayyad army, but the cavalry retreat caused panic in Abdur-Rahman’s army and quickly turned into a real flight. The Arab general tried to stop him, but was killed.

Results. The Arab invasion of Europe was stopped. The Umayyad Caliphate no longer threatened the borders of the Kingdom of the Franks. The grandson of Karl Martell, Charlemagne, was already waging war on enemy territory.

Battle of Hastings, 1066
Who versus whom: England vs Normandy.

Generals: Harold Godwinson. Wilhelm the Conqueror .

Battle of Hastings.

Before the battle. King Edward the Confessor of England died without leaving an heir. The Saxon nobility almost without hesitation chose the most powerful of their ranks – Harold Godwinson – as the new king. The problem is that there were other contenders for the English throne: the Norwegian king Harald the Severe and dreamed of conquering England and the Norman Duke William, to whom the throne seemed to have been promised by Edward the Confessor himself. The Saxon army coped with the Vikings quite easily. In the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harald the Severe was killed and his army put to flight. But before the Saxons had time to celebrate the victory, the Norman army of Duke William appeared from the south.

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The course of the battle. The Norman army was better armed than the enemy. Suffice it to say that the Saxons had almost no archers, let alone crossbowmen. However, neither William’s archers nor his heavy knightly cavalry could do anything with Harold’s army, which occupied positions on the dais. This height was impregnable for the Normans, and the Saxons would have won if they themselves had not left it. When Wilhelm’s cavalry retreated, Harold’s army rushed in pursuit. This chase arose spontaneously, the Normans managed to hold the line, stop the advancing ones and go on the offensive themselves. But the battle formation of the Saxons was disrupted, the height was unprotected, and therefore it was a matter of technology to finish off the enemy. Harold Godwinson fell on the battlefield with most of his troops.

Results. Saxony and England were conquered by the much more developed Normans, which led to dramatic changes in the life of the kingdom and its subjects. Suffice it to say that power was held by people who did not speak English and considered the Saxons, even the most well-born, to be something like pigs. Nevertheless, the years spent together led to the formation of a single nation, and only a few words in the English language now remind of the difference between Saxons and Normans.

Battle of Hattin, 1187
Who vs. Whom: Ayyubids vs. Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Generals: Saladin. Guy de Lusignan.

Battle of Hattin.

Before the battle. The ruler of Egypt, Saladin, successfully unified all the Muslim states of the Holy Land under his rule. His state included North Africa, Syria, part of the Arabian Peninsula and, of course, Egypt. All this created a serious threat to the existence of Christian states, founded about a hundred years earlier, after the First Crusade. Saladin approached Jerusalem, and the Christian leaders tried to decide how exactly to give him battle. The original plan – to hold a siege in Jerusalem – was not accepted due to the tough position of Gerard de Ridfort, Grand Master of the Knights Templar. It was he who insisted that the battle should be taken in an open field. The nominal king of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan, supported Ridfor, not yet knowing that he was signing the death warrant for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The course of the battle. One need not even mention the fact that there was no unity among the leaders of the Christian army. The Templar and Hospitaller Masters were reluctant to carry out Lusignan’s orders, and Raimund, Count of Tripoli, himself claimed the supreme command. But this simplified Saladin’s victory rather than defined it. Heat and thirst were far more important factors. Lusignan’s army made a transition through the sultry desert and did not have time to reach the water by sunset. The camp was set up in an open, unprotected area, and Saladin ordered dry bushes to be burned, which caused the headquarters of Christians to be clouded with acrid smoke. Lusignan ordered the troops to line up, but Saladin got ahead of him and attacked first. It was a rout.

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Results. Since the main forces of the three crusading states and two knightly orders were destroyed in the battle, the Christians were simply bled out. Saladin captured Jerusalem and launched an offensive. Undoubtedly, he would have knocked Christians out of the Holy Land decisively and irrevocably, had it not been for the intervention of Richard the Lionheart, who led the Third Crusade. His appearance saved the crusaders from immediate defeat, but it was after the Battle of Hattin that it became clear that the defeat of the crusaders was a matter of time.

Battle of Agincourt, 1415
Who versus whom: England vs France.

Leaders: Henry V . Charles d’Albret.

Battle of Agincourt.

Before the battle. France could have forgotten that it was at war with England. The Hundred Years War then entered the era of a long hiatus. But the young English king Henry V recalled this conflict and his rights to the French throne. The invasion of his troops caught France by surprise, and the general battle, which took place at Agincourt in 1415, was to determine the further course of the campaign.

The course of the battle. As it turned out, previous defeats had taught the French commanders nothing. They again relied on knightly cavalry and again allowed the British to thoroughly strengthen their positions before the battle. As a result, the formidable English archers once again shot the flower of French chivalry, the frontal attack crashed against simple fortifications, and the counteroffensive turned into a massacre of defenseless subjects of King Charles VI.

Results. Henry successfully completed the conquest of France and achieved his goal. He was proclaimed heir to the insane king Charles VI. France, of course, would have become part of England, if not for the early death of Henry. The throne was eventually won by his son Henry VI, who was crowned king of both England and France. But the two crowns were too heavy for the little boy’s head. As a result, he lost both, and France was saved by the triumphant appearance of Joan of Arc and the insidious cunning of the Dauphin Charles.

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Battle of Bosworth, 1485
Who is against whom. Yorkie vs Lancaster.

Generals. Richard III. Henry Tudor.

Battle of Bosworth.

Before the battle. The Yorkies won victory in the War of the Scarlet and White Roses and ruled England quite calmly. The throne was occupied by Richard III, the younger brother of the victorious king Edward IV. The problem was that Richard, under very dubious circumstances, deposed his nephew Edward V and more than once quarreled with prominent English aristocrats. The Lancastrian party, meanwhile, was led by Henry Tudor. His rights to this supremacy, as well as his origin, were highly questionable, but all other contenders for leadership had already been killed, so Tudor remained the only candidate. He took advantage of Richard’s conflict with the feudal lords and attracted the latter to his side. Tudor was also supported by his stepfather Thomas Stanley, the High Lord Constable of England.

The course of the battle. Richard III relied more on personal prowess than on the courage of his soldiers. The battle was in his favor, and he decided to get it over with. The king and his knights attacked the headquarters of Henry Tudor. It was a risk, but Richard believed he would be able to personally dispose of the claimant to the throne. He had every chance of this, but just at the key moment of the battle, Lord Stanley’s men attacked the king from the rear. Richard received a spear in the eye, and it was this blow, as it turned out five hundred years after the battle, became fatal both for him and for the entire York dynasty.

Results. Henry Tudor was crowned right on the battlefield. His victory ended the 30-year civil war in England, allowing the country to return to peaceful life. Richard III is the last English king to die on the battlefield. His grave was discovered only in 2013.

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