Society - History
By: - at June 20, 2013

15 Stories of Hilarious Medieval Victories

The Medieval Age was full of deadly, vicious, and brutal times. The standard of living at the time was poor for the majority of people that weren't royalty. There was always a constant sense of danger lurking about, especially during times of War. In this era, there were no laws dictating what was inhumane or wrong to Mankind, so many people were subject to the brutality of medieval soldiers. Battles were waged all the time between countries at war, and at some times between the people of a country and the men who ruled them. It's important to understand the significance of all these battles, which would eventually shape the environment and borders of Modern Europe. The Hundred Years War between England and France was a huge factor in deciding who would rule the majority of Europe at the time.

medieval knights

15)  Battle of Hastings
The first battle that we're going to start off is with the intense Battle of Hastings, which happened on Oct. 14, 1066, just north of Hastings. This battle was known as one of the largest between the English and the Normans. William the Conqueror, a mighty Norman general, defeated the forces of King Harold II of England on this day, and it was considered one of the bloodiest battles in Medieval history.

Bayeaux Tapestry Battle of Hastings:
Bayeaux Tapestry Battle of Hastings

Two weeks prior to the battle occurring, William, who was the duke of Normandy, had just invaded England, looking for his rightful title to the English throne. Over 14 years prior, the English King Edward had promised William the title to the throne. However, upon his death, the title was given to Harold Godwine, the leader of the most noble family in England. William began by assaulting Pevensey, on the southeast coast with over 6,000 troops and horses. After conquering Pevensey, he marched his army on towards Hastings. The battle itself saw numerous casualties on both sides. An amazing and humorous thing happened during the battle. It is believed that King Harold was shot in the eye with an arrow. Rather than falling down from pain, history claims he was still fighting the battle with one eye completely gouged by the arrow. He is pictured in some medieval tapestries as pulling the arrow out with one arm and waving a sword with the other. He eventually perished from his wounds later on in the day, and William the Conqueror won the battle. William would later invade London with no problems and became the first Norman King of England.

14)  Battle of Northallerton
Also known as the Battle of the Standard, this battle was between the Scottish and the English on August 22, 1138 in Yorkshire. The Scottish forces were led by King David I, while the English were commanded by William of Aumale. This battle was one of two key battles during the English Civil War. This battle was fought on English territory, approximately two miles north of the town of Northallerton. The Scottish army had a higher amount of troops, but the English had planned an attack hours prior. The English army was able to repulse a series of Scottish attacks. One of the key points in this battle was the fact that although the English army was compromised of levied soldiers, with few knights and men-at-arms, they were able to use advanced armor and a series of arrow attacks to subdue the Scottish Army.

Northallerton Yorkshire England:
Northallerton Yorkshire England
 Photo Copyright Elliott Simpson

During this crazy morning battle, the Scottish employed the use of Galwegian infantry. These men were completely unarmored, and some were almost naked, charging head on into the English lines. The Galwegians that were not cut down with repeated English arrows were met with better armored English soldiers wielding swords and shields. The Scottish ended up retreating after suffering a huge loss of soldiers. One surprising fact from states that had the English decided to pursue the fleeing Scotsmen, they would have completely destroyed the army. There would be no hope of recovery for Scotland.

13)  Battle of Legnica
The Mongols of the Medieval times were considered to be devils on horseback by many European scholars of that time. The Battle of Legnica was between the Mongolian Empire of the East and a defensive force of a variety of European fighters under the Polish duke, Henry II the Pious of Silesia. The Mongols were originally attempting to pursue the fleeing Cumans, a group of people who inhabited the medieval Balkans. They were seeking refuge in the country of Hungary, and King Bela IV would not surrender to Batu Khan, the leader of the Mongols. Subutai, his brother, began to plan the eventual invasion of Europe. Many small battles were fought, and the two armies met in the area known as Legnica. The Mongol army that defeated King Henry's army was actually not an army but a large group of skirmishers. It was their original goal to meet up with a larger Mongol Army commanded by Subotai, which was two days away. They intercepted King Henry and the fight began.

Battle of Legnica

The battle was one-sided throughout the entire match-up. Historians have stated that the exact number of soldiers within the Mongol army was unknown, but assumed to be around 10,000. King Henry was assumed to have around 10,000 troops as well. The Mongolian hit and run tactics proved superior to the standard European way of battle. The forces of King Henry slowly began to die off from arrows and lancer attacks. A funny moment occurred when Polish cavalry were surging for an attack on an apparently weakened flank of the Mongol army, someone had shouted in Polish to run and retreat. Historians believe that the shout actually came from the Mongol army, from someone who understood and spoke Polish. Had this not have occurred, the forces of Henry might have been able to turn the tide of the war.

12)  Battle of Falkirk
One of our favorite battles in Medieval history, the Battle of Falkirk is a well-documented one. In case you're wondering why it sounds so familiar, it may be because this was one of the historic battles that took place in "Braveheart." Fresh off a defeat at Stirling Bridge, the English army was in need of its King. Edward, the current English king at the time, marched northwards through his country to engage William Wallace and the Scotsmen. Wallace employed "scorched-earth" tactics, which meant they would burn, pillage, and destroy anything in their pass north. This was to ensure that King Edward's army would not be able to stop and recover resources.

The 'Wallace Stone' at Brackenhirst:
Wallace rock Falkirk England
Copyright Robert Murray and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Edward eventually found out that the Scottish army was camped near Falkirk, a small area in Northern England. In the early morning of July 22, 1298, William Wallace devised a cunning plan to protect his army against a cavalry charge. He created long pikes out of the wood nearby to be driven into the ground. This would protect against a direct assault on his troops. The Knights under King Edward charged but were unable to break this defensive formation. One incredible thing happened after the failed attempt that shocked us. During a crucial stage of the battle, the Scottish Nobles turned their horses and retreated from battle, along with their armies. Edward eventually managed to dispatch Wallace's army, while Wallace himself was able to flee. The retreat of the Scottish nobles was most likely due to bribes and aspirations of power under English rule. Had they not retreated, and stood their ground, history could have seen a monumental change in events that have shaped today's European countries.

11)  Battle of Bannockburn
Bannockburn was the location in which the battle to decide the fate of Scotland would happen. On June 23 and 24, Scottish hero Robert the Bruce would challenge the army of King Edward II of England. Bruce was severely outnumbered, but what he lacked in men he made up for in superior strategic positioning. The men that fought for Bruce used terrain to their advantage, and eventually were able to rout the forces of Edward. Bannockburn was the key battle in the Scottish Wars of Independence. These were wars that would eventually allow Scotland to rid themselves of the oppressive English rule. This was one of the most famous battles in Scottish history. An interesting development happened during the beginning of the battle. An English knight was charging at Bruce across the battlefield. Bruce waited until the last moment before getting up in his stirrups and bringing his war ax smashing down on the knight's head, splitting it in two. This marked the end of the first day of battle, and lowered English morale severely.

Robert the Bruce Monument:
Robert Bruce memorial Scotland

The sheer number of English soldiers proved to be their downfall, and Edward was not able to maneuver his ranks efficiently. The English lost thousands of their soldiers, and King Edward II fled the battlefield. Robert the Bruce would eventually create a treatise that would allow Scotland to be free of English rule.

10)  Battle of Halidon Hill
Another great battle between the Scottish and the English was the Battle of Halidon Hill. King Edward Balliol of Scotland was overthrown in a coup during the Christmas of 1332. Backed by King Edward III, the two opened hostile action against Scotland by assaulting the town Berwick-upon-Tweed, which was under Scottish ownership. A Scottish army was a few days march away, ready to do battle against the English. The Scottish force was decimated by arrows and men-at-arms, and the most gruesome fighting took place at the English right flank. This battle was the first one King Edward III had ever participated in, and he learned tactics that he would later employ. An interesting fact is that King Edward III was only twenty years old, still approaching manhood during the Battle of Halidon Hill. The Battle of Halidon Hill can be coined as the bloodiest battle in Scottish history. Over six earls, 70 barons, 500 knights and hundreds of spearmen were slain by the English that day.

Halidon Hill battle site:
Site of the Battle of Halidon Hill
Photo Copyright Lisa Jarvis

9)  The Battle of Crecy
The Battle of Crecy is known as the beginning of The Hundred Years War, a devastating century long battle between the French and the English for domination of land. King Edward III was claiming the throne of France after the death of its King, Philip IV in 1337. On July 11th, King Edward III marched his army of 16,000 fully armored knights, infantry, archers, and men-at-arms to a peninsula on the North Coast of France. British Battles, a popular war history website, stated that this was when the King knighted his 16-year-old son Edward, who was Prince of Wales at the time. This 16-year-old Edward would go on to be known as The Black Prince, a scourge of terror for French soldiers during the Hundred Years War. As King Edward III was pillaging France, King Philip of France was preparing an army in Paris to destroy these pesky invaders. The French made numerous attempts to destroy the British Army, only to be repelled successfully by a lucky combination of archery and weather. The French lost, and King Edward III and his Black Prince would go on to secure the city of Calais.

map battle of crecy

8)  Battle of Shrewsbury
There were definitely some amazing aerial shows during this battle. The Battle of Shrewsbury was one of the first battles where the English were being attacked by the longbows that they invented. This battle is one that changed the course of English and French history. The sky was blackened with the hundreds of arrows being shot into the air at the same time. The reason behind the battle was that a noble family by the name of the Percys felt that King Henry IV had not rewarded them properly for their services. In 1403, the family started a rebellion, led by Sir Henry Percy. His plan was to join up with Welsh rebels to amass an even bigger army to attack any English threat. Sir Henry died during the battle and it was recorded in history as one of the quickest battles in England. The conflict only lasted a few hours, while many thousands had died. The only thing to recognize the battle at the site is a small parish church that conducts an anniversary every year.

This church is called Battlefield Church, and is north of Shrewsbury where Henry IV beat the rebel northern lords and killed Henry 'Hotspur' Percy:
battle of shrewsbury church

7)  Battle of Pinkie Cleugh
This is one of the funniest names of a Medieval battle on the list. The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh was yet another fight between English and Scottish forces. At the time, a cleugh was known as a narrow glen or valley in Gaelic. England's own Duke Edward of Somerset was sent to Scotland to retrieve a suitable bride for the 9-year-old King Edward VI. Although the battle was quite fast, it is considered by many scholars to be quite significant. This was the first battle where modern combat was fully used. Infantry, artillery, and naval bombardment were all being used during the battle. Edward Seymour of Somerset had ulterior motives for going to Scotland. He wanted to secure strategic garrisons that could be used against Scotland in the future. This was around the time that gunpowder firearms were being developed, and few soldiers had them. The English were beginning to outpace the rest of the countries at war in terms of technology advances. While the army remained relatively the same as everyone else, major advances in artillery provided the English with the necessary power to beat the Scottish.

Duke Edward of Somerset:
Duke Edward of Somerset

6)  The Battle of the Spanish Armada
The Spanish Armada battle was one of the biggest battles during the Anglo-Saxon War between England and Spain. Fighting would last for two weeks, with various skirmishes and small attacks between the ships that would occur during all times of the day. The battle itself started on July 19th. A captivating piece of information about this battle is the English's use of fire ships to provoke the Spanish Armada. The English lit a series of eight fire ships directed towards the Spanish fleet. Many captains did not want to see their entire ships get burnt down, so they cut their anchors and began to sail way from the port of Calais. The fleet eventually broke up and Spain was defeated. What had started out as an invasion plan eventually turned into a full-blown retreat, and Spain would have to rely on another method besides naval combat in order to expect a win against the powerful British. Another interesting fact about this battle was that this was around the first time that Sir Francis Drake was attempting naval combat.

Battle of the Spanish Armada

5)  First Baron's War
The First Baron's War was an interesting time in English history. The Archbishop of Canterbury and many other barons of England at the time did not like the way that King John was running the country. They gathered together to create a charter that the King would have to agree to. This charter would become infamous, and its name was the Magna Carta. This document contained duties, responsibilities, and outlined rules that the King had to follow in order to receive any kind of support from the Barons. King John would later to go to the pope to have the entire charter absolved, due to his reasoning that he was forced to sign it. At this time, France was interested in the conquering of England, and offered Prince Louis a chance to take the throne of England. Through many battles, including one small naval battle, King John was able to repel the French Invaders. What is strange about this war is that King John did not perish from any wounds or attacks. King John had food poisoning while marching. Upon reaching his castle, he died within the night.

First Baron's War tapestry

4)  Second Baron's War
The next of the Baron Wars would occur yet again due to an English King not performing his duties correctly. King Henry III had been squandering away the ruling of his country. The King had married Eleanor, a French noble, and brought all of her court with her. She and her court would eventually replace Henry's advisers and spend money on unnecessary things. The Barons thought it was time to intervene. Barons from all over the country gathered together and told the King their demands. Henry, however, would not take it and decided to conspire with King Louis IX of France to help him defeat the rebels. After a series of smaller battles throughout the month, King Henry and his son were captured by the barons. The funny thing about this battle was that the entire time it was being waged, King Henry had no idea the French court was making fun of him. Eleanor and the French court had their own intentions, and had created plans in case King Henry lost. Another interesting fact is that battles were waged in many of the baron's own territories. These territories would be burned and scarred, ruining them for years to come. In the baron's eyes, it was all necessary in order to get rid of the current King of England.

Tomb effigy, in gilt bronze, of Henry III of England:
tomb of king henry iii
 By Wikipedia Loves Art participant "Va_Va_Val" [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

3)  Battle of Bauge
Going back to The Hundred Years War, we have the infamous Battle of Bauge. It took place on March 21, 1421 in the area known as Bauge, east of Angers. The battle itself was relatively small, and the English, led by the Duke of Clarence, were eventually slaughtered because of their low numbers. One important factor in this battle was hope. After the French killed the Duke of Clarence, they felt that they had a superior chance in winning the war. However, the Duke was the brother of King Henry V, and he would become very temperamental. When Henry invaded France in June, later that year, he was known to be extremely brutal to his captives. One murderous recount stated that he hung an entire fortress of French soldiers, even after they surrendered.

Chateau de Bauge Castle of Bauge:
Chateau de Bauge Castle of Bauge
 By JC Allin (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2)  Battle of Northampton
This Battle of Northampton is yet another English versus English battle. Both sides consisted of extremely large armies, around 20,000 each, but there were relatively low casualties. The battle was a great victory for the Yorkists, and the Duke of York would become known as a hero upon returning to England, and eventually King. A hilarious piece of information about this battle is that after it, Queen Margaret, who was aspiring to take the throne from Henry VI with her son, would refuse to accept an agreement to end the Civil War.  She had not understood that if the Civil War ended and Henry VI passed, her son would have had a much better opportunity to take the throne.

map of the battle of Northampton

1)  Battle of Bosworth Field
The Battle of Bosworth Field marks the final battle in our countdown and the last significant battle during the War of the Roses. This war was of civil nature between the Lancaster House and York. It lasted almost half a century, with Englishmen killing Englishmen. The battle itself was fought on August 22, 1485 and the Lancastrians won, led by Henry Tudor. An interesting fact about this battle is that Shakespeare found it to be inspiring, creating a play, "Richard III," saying it was an unequivocal triumph of good over evil. The battle was of epic proportions with a total of three small standing armies for both sides. Another interesting fact about this battle is that the actual outcome and details are uncertain. Upon winning the battle, Henry hired chroniclers to portray him as a mighty, virtuous figure that upheld good over evil.

Battle of Bosworth field Richard III

Final Words
These battles all took place during a time when people had an average life expectancy of 30. This was because, if disease or starvation did not get you, the trouble of war would. All of these battles mark monumental changes in the history and shaping of Europe, especially around Western Europe. Although some of the battles did not have anything that was considered hilarious, there are some interesting and moving things that happened during the Medieval times. Out of all the battles listed here, England appears to be the most prevalent. This is due to the fact that during the Medieval times, England was constantly trying to expand and assert its power. Many smaller groups who did not want to be a part of England eventually became assimilated into their culture. Other, larger groups, died trying to fight for their freedom from British oppression. The Hundred Years War is still known as the longest lasting war ever.  There were many things that could have happened that could have shaped Europe differently.





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