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The Battle of Bouvines, was a medieval battle fought on 27 July 1214 near the town of Bouvines in the County of Flanders. It was the conclusive battle of the 1213–1214 Anglo-French War.

Battle of Bouvines
Part of the Anglo-French War (1213–14)
Bataille de Bouvines gagnee par Philippe Auguste.jpg
La Bataille de Bouvines, by Horace Vernet. (Galerie des Batailles, Palace of Versailles). The white Arabian horse and Moorish attendant (right) of Philippe Auguste at the Battle of Bouvines can be seen in this 19th-century painting.
Date 27 July 1214
Location Bouvines, County of Flanders, Kingdom of France
Result Decisive French victory[1]
Arms of the Kings of France (France Ancien).svg France Blason DE saint empire (une tête).svg Holy Roman Empire
Blason Nord-Pas-De-Calais.svg Flanders
Royal Arms of England.svg England
Blason Courtenay.svg Boulogne
Commanders and leaders
Arms of the Kings of France (France Ancien).svg Philip II, King of France
Blason Comtes Dreux.png Robert II, Count of Dreux
Arms of the Kings of France (France Ancien).svg Philip of Dreux
Blason Ducs Bourgogne (ancien).svg Eudes III of Burgundy
Armoiries Ponthieu.png William II of Ponthieu
Blason DE saint empire (une tête).svg Emperor Otto IV
Arms of Geoffrey of Anjou.svg William de Longespee  (POW)
Blason Courtenay.svg Renaud of Boulogne  (POW)
Blason Nord-Pas-De-Calais.svg Ferrand of Flanders  (POW)
Blason Lorraine.svg Theobald I, Duke of Lorraine  (POW)
Coat of arms of Brabant.svg Henry I, Duke of Brabant


  • 1,200–1,360 knights
  • 300 mounted sergeants
  • 4,000–6,000 infantry


  • 1,300–1,500 knights[a]
  • 7,500 infantry
Casualties and losses
Unknown 169 knights killed[4]
131 knights captured[4]
400–700 Brabantine infantry killed[4]
Heavy infantry casualties[5]
French and Imperial knights clashing
King Philip II of France's victory at Bouvines, by Vincent of Beauvais
Ferrand of Flanders and Renaud of Boulogne conveyed as prisoners to Paris

In early 1214, a great coalition was assembled against King Philip Augustus of France, consisting of the realms of Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, King John I of England, Count Ferrand of Flanders, Duke Henry I of Brabant, Count William I of Holland, Duke Theobald I of Lorraine, and Duke Henry III of Limburg. Its objective was to dismember the conquests made by Philip earlier in his reign. The English king's strategy and money were the keystone of the alliance. John would draw Philip's army southwest to Anjou, while the main army under Otto would advance from the north. Philip left a small force under Prince Louis against John and personally led a French army of 1,300 knights, 300 mounted sergeants and 6,000 infantry against Otto's 1,500 knights and 7,500 infantry.

After initial maneuvering in late July, the Allies made a hasty, disorganized march to catch the rearguard of the withdrawing French army near Bouvines on 27 July, intending to destroy it piecemeal. The Allied movement was spotted by a French observation post, alerting Philip, who quickly ordered his troops to form up for battle. The long Allied column deployed slowly into battle order, leaving the Allies at a disadvantage. The superior discipline and order of the French knights allowed them to carry out a series of devastating charges to shatter the Flemish knights on the Allied left wing and capture Count Ferrand after three hours of combat. In the center, the Allied knights and infantry under Otto enjoyed initial success, easily scattering the loose French infantry levies around King Philip. The Allied infantrymen nearly killed Philip with their hooked pikes. A counterattack by French knights smashed the isolated Allied infantry and Otto's entire center division fell back. Emperor Otto himself was attacked by several French knights and had to saved by his bodyguards. Otto fled the battle and his knightly followers were defeated by the French knights, who went on to capture the Imperial wagon standard. With the Allied center and left wing routed, only the right wing under Renaud of Boulogne and William de Longespee held on. They were killed, captured or driven from the field, with French infantry and cavalry overrunning a formation of 700 Brabantine pikemen from all sides, and killing all of them.

The crushing French victory dashed English and Flemish hopes of regaining lost territories. Philip solidified his conquests in Normandy and Brittany and Anjou, extended French sovereignty to Poitou and brought Flanders into French fold. Frederick II Hohenstaufen deposed the humiliated Otto as Emperor after the battle. King John was forced to agree to the Magna Carta in 1215 by his discontented barons and hand over English-occupied Anjou to Philip in a peace treaty. Counts Ferrand, Renaud and Longespee were captured and imprisoned. The balance of power in Europe shifted, with the Popes of the 13th century increasingly seeking the support of a powerful France.



In 1214, Ferdinand, Infante of Portugal, and Count of Flanders desired the return of the cities of Aire-sur-la-Lys and Saint-Omer, which he had recently lost to Philip II, King of France in the Treaty of Pont-à-Vendin. He thus broke allegiance with Philip and assembled a broad coalition including Emperor Otto IV, King John I of England, Duke Henry I of Brabant, Count William I of Holland, Duke Theobald I of Lorraine, and Duke Henry III of Limburg.

The campaign was planned by John, who was the fulcrum of the alliance; his plan was to draw the French away from Paris southward towards his forces and keep them occupied, while the main army, under Emperor Otto IV, marched on Paris from the north. John's plan was carried out at first, but the allies in the north moved slowly. John, after two encounters with the French, retreated to Aquitaine on 3 July.

On 23 July, after having summoned all his vassals, Philip had an army consisting of 6,000 to 8,000 soldiers.[2] The emperor finally succeeded in concentrating his forces at Valenciennes, although John was out of the picture, and in the interval Philip Augustus had counter marched northward and regrouped. Philip now took the offensive himself, and in maneuvering to get a good cavalry ground upon which to fight he offered battle (27 July), on the plain east of Bouvines and the river Marque.[6] Otto was surprised by the speed of his enemy and was thought to have been caught unprepared by the King of France[7] (who probably attracted the emperor into this trap[8]). Although he was under a Church interdict,[9] Otto, already an excommunicate,[10] decided to launch an attack on what was then the French rearguard. Philippe Auguste gave battle. His army quickly retreated.

The Allied army drew up facing south-westward towards Bouvines, the heavy cavalry on the wings, the infantry in one great mass in the center, supported by the cavalry corps under the emperor himself.[6] The French army took ground exactly opposite in a similar formation, cavalry on the wings, infantry, including the town militias in the centre, Philip with the cavalry reserve and the royal standard, the Oriflamme, in rear of the men on foot.[6] Philip's army contained about 2,000 knights (750 were from the royal demesne) and 2,000 mounted sergeants with the rest being infantry.[11]

Order of battleEdit

Even today, the evaluation of forces is controversial. The classic French historiography often refers to Coalition troops three times more numerous than those of the King of France. Philippe Contamine[12] is not of this opinion: "On the face of it, his opponents did not have a clear numerical superiority". It is said by William the Breton, chaplain to Philip at the Battle of Bouvines, that the lines of soldiers stood in line in a space of 40,000 steps (15 ha or 37 acres),[13] which leaves very little clearance and predisposes to hand-to-hand fighting (melee). William the Breton also says in his column that "the two lines of combatants were separated by a pretty small space".

Philip Augustus had then launched an appeal to the municipalities in northern France, in order to obtain their support.

Seventeen of the thirty-nine municipalities of the royal demesne answered the call for militia:

  • Arras sent 1,000 men.
  • Abbeville region sent 2,000 men.
  • Paris sent a corps of 2,000 men, 1,750 of whom fought on the battlefield.[14]

In total, the royal army totalled 7,000 soldiers.

The royal army was divided into three parts:

  • The right wing, composed of knights of Champagne and Burgundy, was commanded by the Duke of Burgundy Eudes and his lieutenants: III Gaucher de Châtillon Count of Saint-Pol, Count Wilhelm I of Sancerre, Count of Beaumont and Mathieu de Montmorency and Adam II Viscount of Melun. In the front of the right wing were men of arms and militia from the parishes of Burgundy, Champagne, and Picardy led by mounted sergeants from Soissons.
  • The central battle was conducted by Philip Augustus and his chief knights – William des Barres, Bartholomew of Roye, Girard Scophe known as "Girard the Sow",[15] William of Garland, Enguerrand III de Coucy and Gautier de Nemours. In front of the king and his knights were infantry from the towns of Île de France and Normandy.
  • The left wing, composed of knights and foot soldiers was led by Robert of Dreux, and Count William of Ponthieu. The main body of the left wing consisted of Breton police and militia from Dreux, Perche, Ponthieu, and Vimeux.

The bridge of Bouvines, the only means of retreat across the marshes, was guarded by 150 sergeants at arms of the king who formed the only reserve for the French.

Otto also divided his army into three groups:

At the extreme right, the English archers supported the flank of both the Brabant infantry and the nobles of the two Lorraines.[16]


The battle opened with a simultaneous cavalry charge between the French right and the Flemish left. The French quickly routed the Flemings, who retreated.[17] The serious fighting was between the two centers. The infantry of the Low Countries, who were at this time among the best in Europe, drove back the French. Philip led the cavalry reserve of nobles and knights to retrieve the day, and after a long and doubtful fight (in which he himself was unhorsed and narrowly escaped death), began to drive back the Flemings.[6]

Meanwhile, on the French left Robert de Dreux's troops are at first pressed by men led by William Longespée and Renaud de Dammartin are forced to defend the Bouvines bridge foot by foot. William Longespée was unhorsed and taken prisoner by Philip of Dreux, (a.k.a. the fighting Bishop of Beauvais) and the English soldiers fled. Mathieu de Montmorency captured twelve enemy banners (in memory of this feat, the shield of Montmorency includes an additional twelve eagles or sixteen altogether instead of four previously[18]).

On the other wing the French at last routed the Flemish cavalry and captured Ferdinand, Count of Flanders, one of the leaders of the coalition. In the centre the battle was now a melee between the two mounted reserves led by the King and the Emperor in person. Here too the Imperial forces suffered defeat, Otto himself being saved only by the devotion of a handful of Saxon knights.[6] The Imperial Eagle Standard was captured by the French.

The day was already decided in favour of the French when their wings began to close inwards to cut off the retreat of the imperial centre. The battle closed with the celebrated stand of Reginald of Boulogne (Renaud de Dammartin), a former vassal of King Philip, who formed a ring of seven hundred Brabant pikemen, and not only defied every attack of the French cavalry, but himself made repeated charges or sorties with his small force of knights. Eventually, and long after the Imperial army had begun its retreat, the gallant schiltrom formation was ridden down and annihilated by a charge of three thousand men-at-arms. Reginald was taken prisoner in the melee. The prisoners also included two other counts, Hainaut Ferrand and William Longespée, twenty-five barons and over a hundred knights. The death toll amounted to about 170 knights of the defeated party, and many thousands of foot soldiers on either side.[6]


According to Jean Favier, Bouvines is "one of the most decisive and symbolic battles in the history of France".[19] For Philippe Contamine, "the battle of Bouvines had both important consequences and a great impact".[20]

Philip returned to Paris triumphant, marching his captive prisoners behind him in a long procession, as his grateful subjects came out to greet the victorious king. In the aftermath of the battle, Otto retreated to his castle of Harzburg and was soon overthrown as Holy Roman Emperor by Frederick II, who had already been recognized as emperor in the south a year and a half prior. Count Ferdinand remained imprisoned following his defeat, while King John obtained a five-year truce, on very lenient terms given the circumstances.

Philip's decisive victory was crucial in ordering politics in both England and France. In the former, so weakened was the defeated King John of England that he soon needed to submit to his barons' demands and agree to the Magna Carta, limiting the power of the crown and establishing the basis for common law.[21] In the latter, the battle was instrumental in forming the strong central monarchy that would characterize France until the first French Revolution. It was also the first battle in the Middle Ages in which the full value of infantry was realized.[22]

Philip conquered most of Plantagenet's continental possessions, namely Anjou, Brittany, Maine, Normandy, and the Touraine, leading to the effective end of the Angevin Empire.


In thanksgiving for the victory, Philip Augustus founded the Abbey of Notre Dame de la Victoire, between Senlis and Mont l'Evêque.[23]

A detail of one of the stained-glass windows installed in the parish church of Bouvines in 1914

In 1914, to mark the seventh centenary, Félix Dehau had the parish church of Bouvines rebuilt with a number of stained-glass windows representing the history of the battle.[24]

In 2014, the eighth centenary was commemorated in Bouvines by an association called Bouvines 2014. A series of events, including an official ceremony and a show called "Bouvines la Bataille" gathering more than 6000 viewers in Bouvines.[25]

In popular cultureEdit

Documentaries about the battleEdit

The battle of Bouvines is the subject of one episode of the French documentary series Butterfly Effect (Points de repères in French) broadcast on Curiosity Stream in 2016, called "King Philippe of France and Richard the Lionheart of England".[26]


  • Frédéric Bey, Swords of Sovereignty: Bouvines 1214 and Worringen 1288, Au Fil de l'Épée series, Ludifolie Editions (2012).
  • [Rob Markham] Age of Chivalry Quad - [3w wargames 1992]



  1. ^ 600–650 Flemish, 425–500 Hainaulter, 275–350 for the rest


  1. ^ The government of Philip Augustus: foundations of French Royal power in the Middle Ages. University of California Press. 1986. p. 381. ISBN 978-0-520-07391-3. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Verbruggen 1997, pp. 245-246.
  3. ^ Verbruggen 1997, pp. 246-247.
  4. ^ a b c Verbruggen 1997, p. 255.
  5. ^ Verbruggen 1997, pp. 253–255.
  6. ^ a b c d e f   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bouvines". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 336–337.  This cites:
    • Charles Oman, History of the Art of War, vii. pp. 457–480
    • Kõhler, Kriegsgechichte, &c., i. 140
    • Delpech, Tactique au XIIIe siècle, 127.
  7. ^ The chroniclers say that Otto also strongly expressed his surprise to find himself facing the French army, while he believed they were on the run.
  8. ^ This is the hypothesis of the rhyming chronicles by Philippe Mousket: "At the approach of night, gathered the council, between him and his barons, For the good king, with his armies (around 21,555) wanted to go to Mortagne. But those of his followers knew not how to advise him. When everyone had said his piece, with the best of intentions, (v.21560) Girard the Sow spoke : "Sire, will you not go there; Truly, there are difficulties and harshness, and there are also three large villages and two small rivers beyond (v.21565) that prevent us passing to reach this place. But if you return towards your land, and the Flemings, who want war, if you turn back, will say that you flee, (v.21570) And when you follow this path with pride, with confidence, without any order, as all of us want to be Sire, and you, without crown or anger. Command a good rearguard, (v.21575) So that they are never separated. And also save your battles, and keep your soldiers close to their arms as a ruse. They will be ready if they are attacked. (v.21580) When you see the Flemings coming, they will be at your convenience." Everything was well accepted, and nothing more was discussed. they all went to sleep, (v.21585) And when the day came, the king drew up his battle, and made his orders to the troops. The carting and pack animals left the front during this time. (v.21590) "
  9. ^ The Elne synod decreed in 1027, that "It is prohibited to attack the enemy from the ninth hour on Saturday until the early hours of Monday"
  10. ^ Otto IV had promised Innocent III large territorial gains and support in the kingdom of Sicily. For failing to honour these promises, he was excommunicated in 1210 and 1211.
  11. ^ J. Bradbury, Philip Augustus: King of France 1180–1223, 283
  12. ^ The opinion of Philippe Contamine
  13. ^ La Philippide de Guillaume le Breton
  14. ^ Dictionary of streets and monuments in Paris and Louis Felix Lazarus 1879 Chapter III Page 13
  15. ^ Girard Scophe was called the Sow, due to the Latin equivalent of his name: scrofa
  16. ^ i.e. Duchy of Lorraine and County of Bar
  17. ^ Devries, Kelly, Martin Dougherty, Ian Dickie, Phyllis G. Jestice, and Christer Jorgensen. Battles of the Medieval World: 1000-1500. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006. p. 80-89.
  18. ^ Gabriel Eysenbach, History of Heraldry and the Science of Coats-of-Arms, 1848, p. 321. (Fr)
  19. ^ Dictionnaire de la France médiévale, Paris, Fayard, 1993, p. 176
  20. ^ Histoire militaire de la France (tome 1, des origines à 1715), Paris, PUF, 1992, p. 83
  21. ^ Halfond, Gregory I (2015). The Medieval Way of War: Studies in Medieval Military History in Honor of Bernard S. Bachrach. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 251–253. ISBN 978-1-4724-1958-3. 
  22. ^ Smedley, Edward. The History of France, from the Final Partition of the Empire of Charlemagne to the Peace of Cambray, p. 72, London: Baldwin and Cradock, 1836.
  23. ^ Auguste Morel, De Paris à Cologne, à Bruxelles, à Senlis, à Laon... itinéraire descriptif et historique, Libr. de L. Hachette et Cie., 1864, p. 280
  24. ^ Association Bouvines 2014 Le 700e anniversaire en 1914
  25. ^ Bouvines la Bataille Son et lumière
  26. ^


  • Georges Duby, The Legend of Bouvines (1990). In a careful study of the historiography of a single event, Duby examines how the Battle of Bouvines has been used and abused in French history.
  • Verbruggen, J.F. (1997) [1954]. De Krijgskunst in West-Europa in de Middeleeuwen, IXe tot begin XIVe eeuw [The Art of Warfare in Western Europe During the Middle Ages: From the Eighth Century to 1340]. Translated by Willard, S. (2nd ed.). Suffolk: Boydell Press. ISBN 0 85115 630 4. 

External linksEdit