Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Therouanne & Enguinegatte

It's been a while but I have been on a long overdue holiday in France.
Whilst there I made a slight detour from my route to have a look at Therouanne & Enguinegatte, the site of the opening phases of Henry VIII's 1513 campaign at the head of a professional army 35'000 strong , arguably the finest in Europe at that time.
Enguinegatte or Guinegate as it is also known was the site of a skirmish referred to as the 'Battle of the Spurs' owing to the haste employed by the French gendarmes to leave the field. The site is a small village in an area of gently rolling pasture a few kilometers south west of the town of Therouanne which was beseiged by Henry's army.

One immediately apparent aspect is that due to a slight dip in the landscape you cannot see Therouanne from Enguinegatte and vice versa, so one can appreciate how the French were unaware of the English army in full array only a few moments away from them.

Therouanne is a much smaller and less greater town now than it was in 1513.
The siege was succesful and the town capitulated , after which Henry's pioneers and artillery, assisted by Maximilian's troops, razed the city to the ground leaving only the cathedral and the houses of the clergy adjoining it. The reasons are unclear for this, but the two main theories are either that Henry did not have the troops or resources to garrison and supply the town, or that he and Maximilian could not decide who should have the city so they destroyed it. For Maximilian's part this was a satisfactory outcome as the staunchly French city was a thorn in the middle of his Burgundian territory.

Being of strategic importance Therouanne was rebuilt and its fortifications repaired within two years of its sack only to be beseiged and razed to the ground yet again by an army under Charles V in 1537, again for the same reasons only this time he did a more thorough job.

When I arrived I was a little confused that I could not find any walls, towers or cathedral until the above was explained to me in broken French / English by the curator of the museum in Therouanne which is well worth a visit; it is only housed in four small rooms but is free and holds a modest collection of finds from the area.

Of particular interest were arquebus balls of various calibre, stone cannon balls from the siege, bodkin arrow heads, lance tips and funnily enough, a few spurs which could have pinpointed the engagement. However, there was also a battle here in 1479 which had heavy cavalry and archers on both sides so the finds could easily have been from that engagement.
There was one artefact which I believe pinpointed the 1513 campaign, this was a harness / bridle buckle with an embossed tudor rose, I must admit, it was definately a eureka moment looking at it in the display cabinet, one which immediately brought to mind looking at the tiny silver boar at the Bosworth museum.
So there you are , Henry got his puissance but not quite an engagement comparable to Flodden. There is certainly scope to wargame a few 'what if' scenarios as two sizeable armies were very close to one another. For further reading, and a couple of useable scenarios I reccomend Charles Cruickshank's 'Army Royal' or the later illustrated version 'Henry VIII & the invasion of France.' Both explain the campaign in astonishing detail and list a number of lesser known skirmishes which took place.
Coming soon, probably some more Tudors!


  1. Stuart
    Good to take the opportunity to combine hols and hobby and sounds like an interesting trip, which I'll try and make sometime...usually dashing thru north France as quick as poss to get to the sun! The books you recommend are both good - have you read Cruikshank's 'English Occupation of Tournai 1513-19' too?
    Have a look over at TAG workbench - some great Maximillian guards who'd be ideal for Henricians..

  2. Simon

    Cheers, I haven't seen that book, i'll have to put it on my Amazon wish list.

    The holiday was in Provence so unfortunately it had to be a short detour. I'd really like to go there again and explore the remains of the walls and battlefield at my leisure,plus Tournai isn't too far away (in comparison to Nice anyway!), i'll have to convince the wife somehow; 'i thought you liked walks,we've never been to Belgium etc etc'.

    I've just seen the TAG Maximilian guard; coupled with their papal guard that could be a really nice little unit of Yeomen. I've ordered their Spanish figures before and whilst they were good they're noticeably a bit on the slender side, i think i'll order these in July and see / hope they're not the same.

  3. Ah, any key historic sites I should see in Provence, as will be there in August myself! Planning day trip to Carcassonne (although it's largely 19th century rebuild, but I can convince myself otherwise for a day!).

  4. I was on the look out for things like that and didn't see that much although I did pay a visit to the artillery museum in Draguignan as it was free and I happened to be in the area, it had Mainly 17th(c)+ pieces but worth a visit (perhaps not too big a detour).

    If you're planning a day trip to Carcassonne from Provence then a drive of relatively equal distance could take you to Northern Italy if you can handle the nutcases they allow to drive on their roads.