The Hall of Battles is longer than the Hall of Mirrors, 394 feet, and is lined with huge paintings of French victories through the ages, including oils by Delacroix and Fragonard. Its creation was the idea of Louis-Philippe I, King of the French and it replaced apartments which had been occupied in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are literally hundreds of busts and 39 paintings, I will not present them all.
Tolbiac was the name of a small town nearby Köln in the very north of todays Germany. This town is now named Zülpich. In 496, a battle occurred there, between the Francs under the command of their King Clovis, and the Alamanni. As Clovis was losing the battle, he called upon the one God of his wife Clotilde, the God that she had preached to him since their marriage in 493, asking for his help. He subsequently won the battle and converted to Catholocism in about 498, which brought him the support of neighbouring Christians as well as that of the influential clergy. The top painting is by Ary Scheffer in 1837, I like the version from the Pantheon seen to the right much better by Paul-Joseph Blanc from 1881. This was a pivotal moment in French history.
The Battle of Pointiers, better known as the Battle of Tours in 732, followed 21 years of Umayyad Muslim conquests in Europe which had begun with the invasion of the Visigothic Christian Kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula in 711. This was fought near the border of Aquitaine, in southwestern France, between Tours and Pointiers. The battle pitted Frankish and Burgundian forces under Austrasian Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel, against an army of the Umayyad Caliphate led by ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, Governor-General of al-Andalus. The Franks were victorious, ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi was killed, and Charles subsequently extended his authority in the south. This battle is also considered to be a pivotal and historic, since the Franks were outmanned and a loss might have led to the Muslim conquest of all of Europe. Bataille de Poitiers 732 by Charles de Steuben 1834-1837 depicts a triumphant mounted Charles Martel facing ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi on the right at the Battle of Tours.
Subsequent Franks, including Charlemagne, pushed the Arabs back across the Pyrenees, establishing a buffer area in what is now northern Spain.
Charlemagne Receiving the Submission of Widukind at Paderborn in 785 by Ary Scheffer. Widukind was the leader of the Saxons against the Frankish king Charlemagne (later Holy Roman Emperor). In 782, when Charlemagne organized Saxony as a Frankish province and ordered forced conversion of the pagan Saxons of Widukind, the Saxons resumed warfare against the Franks. Charlemagne’s winter attacks of 784/785 were successful, and Widukind and his allies were pushed back beyond the River Elbe. Widukind surrendered in 785 in Charlemagne’s palace Paderborn and converted to Christianity.
Count Eudes (Odo, the count of Paris) Defends Paris Against the Vikings 885 by Victor Schnetz, commissioned in 1834. In 885 the Vikings under Rollo came up the Seine and laid siege to Paris (see my post), leaving only when they were paid off by King Charles the Fat.
La Bataille de Bouvines 1204 by Horace Vernet. The white Arabian horse and Moorish attendant (right) of Philippe II Auguste are shown with Henry II of England bowing, Count Ferrand of Flanders next to him and Otto IV of Germany on the horse to the left.
When William the Conquerer invaded England, he created a very complicated situation for England, Normandy and France (see my post on Normandy) Under the terms of the grant of Normandy to Rollo, the Duke of Normandy was a vassal of the King of France. However William and his son Henry I were at least equal in power to the King of France. Henry II ruled four territories: England, Normandy and Anjou. Furthermore, his wife Eleanor was ruler of the vast territory of Aquitaine. Conversely, King Louis VII had a relatively small Royal Domain with fickle vassals. Henry II soon came into conflict with Louis VII and the two rulers fought what has been termed a “cold war” over several decades. Henry expanded his empire, often at Louis’s expense, taking Brittany and pushing east into central France and south into Toulouse. Despite numerous peace conferences and treaties no lasting agreement was reached. This culminated in the Anglo-French War (1202-1214), fought mainly in Normandy, where the sons, King John of England fought King Philip II of France for domination. The end of the war came at the Battle of Bouvines (shown in the painting above in 1214), where Philip defeated England and its allies. The defeat was so decisive that King John of England was forced to sign the Magna Carta by his discontented barons. Philip was himself able to take undisputed control of Brittany, Normandy, Poitou, Maine and Anjou, enlarging the Royal Domain and creating a more powerful central monarchy in France.
The Battle of Taillebourg Won by Saint Louis 1242 by Eugène Delacroix. The bridge built over the Charente River was a site of strategic importance on the route between Northern and Southern France, in particular between Poitou in the north and Saintes (which belonged to Lusignan) and Aquitaine in the South and was the site of the Château de Taillebourg. This battle was an aftermath of the Battle of Bouvines (in which Poitou was ceded to the French) and a prelude to the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) between France and England. Alphonse of Poitiers was given his position at age 6 on the death of his father Louis XIII in 1226, while his brother Louis IX (he later became a saint) inherited the throne. When Alphonse came of age in late 1241, Hugh X of Lusignan revolted with the support of the English King Henry III. Louis IX came to the aid of his brother Alphonse. On July 21, 1242 the battle ended in a massive charge of the French knights who subsequently won, again strengthening the French crown, Henry III signed a truce for 5 years.
The Bataille de Mons-en-Pévèle 1304 by Charles-Philippe Larivière dipicts an uprising by Flanders in 1304 that was won by Phillip IV the Fair (to be honest it was a stand-off). The attack reached king Philip IV of France, who was wounded and his horse was killed. He barely escaped alive. After further minor battles, eventually the Treaty of Athis-sur-Orge was signed on 23 June 1305 which recognized Flemish independence, at the cost of the cities of Lille, Douai and Béthune, which were transferred to France, and the paying of exorbitant fines to King Philip IV. Flanders was part of France due to the treaty of Verdun (see my post) and is the northern part of present day Belgium ( the southern part is French speaking Wallonia). During the late Middle Ages, Flanders’ trading towns (notably Ghent, Bruges and Ypres) made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe.
The Battle of Cassel Won by Phillip VI 1328 by Henri Scheffer was the culmination of the Peasant Revolt in Flanders from 1323 to 1328 caused by both excessive taxations levied by the Count of Flanders Louis I and his pro-French policies. When the Hundred Years War started, Louis remained steadfast in his pro-French policy, even with the county being economically dependent on England. His actions resulted in an English boycott of the wool trade.
Entry of Charles VIII into Naples 1495. In 1489, Pope Innocent VIII, then being at odds with Ferdinand I of Naples, offered Naples to Charles, who had a vague claim to the Kingdom of Naples through his paternal grandmother, Marie of Anjou. Charles entered Italy with 25,000 men (including 8,000 Swiss mercenaries) in 1494 and marched across the peninsula, reaching Naples 1495. The speed and power of the French advance frightened the other Italian rulers, including the Pope and even Ludovico of Milan. They formed an anti-French coalition, the League of Venice. At Fornovo in 1495, the League defeated Charles who left Italy.
The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Italian Wars or the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars or the Renaissance Wars, were a series of conflicts from 1494 to 1559 that involved, at various times, most of the city-states of Italy, the Papal States, most of the major states of Western Europe (France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, England, and Scotland) as well as the Ottoman Empire.
The Battle of Marignano 1515, Francis I Orders His Troops to Stop Pursuing the Swiss, by Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard was fought during one phase of the Italian Wars (1494–1559) called the War of the League of Cambrai, between France and the Old Swiss Confederacy. It took place on September 13 and 15, 1515, near the town today called Melegnano, 16 km southeast of Milan. It resulted in a victory for French forces. The battle ended once and for all Swiss aspirations in Milan, and the Swiss Confederacy never again went to war against France or Milan again. The battle was largely won due to massed artillery by the French, a precursor to Napoleons formula for success.
The English needed a foothold on the continent to serve as a trading centre, since the French policy in Flanders had cut off trade. The Battle of Crécy took place in 1346 near Crécy in northern France, one of the most important battles of The Hundred Years War, which the French lost. In 1360 the Treaty of Brétigny assigned Guînes, Marck and Calais – collectively the “Pale of Calais” – to English rule in perpetuity, but this assignment was informally and only partially implemented. By 1453, at the end of the Hundred Years’ War, it was the only part of France to remain in English hands.
In the division of lands controlled by Charlemagne, the Treaty of Verdun, broadly divided Europe into France in the East, Germany in the west and a middle kingdom of Lothair which disintegrated almost immediately. It was reconstituted by marriage and aquisitions under the Valois Dukes of Burgundy in the 15th century. By then Burgundy stood less as a French fief and more as an independent state. Unfortunately, the last Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, died in battle without an heir in 1477. Louis XI of France declared the duchy to have become extinct and absorbed the territory into the French crown, leaving the English territory of Calais exposed.
The state of affairs might have remained unchanged but late in his reign, King Henry VIII attacked nearby Boulogne in 1544. He won Boulogne but it ended up a stand-off and in 1550, England surrendered the area around Boulogne. The 1558 seizure of Calais by France reconquered territory it had lost and put an end to two centuries of fighting between Spain, England, and France.
L’Entrée d’Henri IV à Paris 1594 by François Gérard in 1817 records the triumphant entry of the popular Protestant-turned-Catholic King Henry IV. This is covered in my Entrance to Versailles post.
The Bataille de Rocroy (Battle of Rocroi) 1643 by Francois Joseph Heim 1834 depicts a victory of the French army under the 21 year old d’Enghien, against the Spanish army under General Francisco de Melo late in the Thirty Years War. The Habsburg Spanish army of about 27,000 men, advanced from Flanders, through the Ardennes, and into northern France to relieve French pressure on the Franche-Comté and Catalonia. The Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) was a series of wars principally fought in Central Europe, involving most of the countries of Europe. It was one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history, and one of the longest continuous wars in modern history. In this battle, Enghien carried out a huge cavalry encirclement and used artillery to force the victory. The battle was of symbolic importance, as it was one of the few major battlefield defeats of a Spanish army in over a century and, moreover, a defeat of one its most famous units.
The Battle of the Dunes, fought in 1658, also known as the Battle of Dunkirk by Charles-Philippe Larivière 1837. It was a victory of the French army, under Turenne and Louis XIV, against the Spanish army. The Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659) was an aftermath of the thirty Years War. Dunkirk fell and the French gave it back.
Valenciennes prise d’assaut by Louis XIV 1677 by Van der Meulen Adam Frans depicts Louis XIV and his troops before the town of Valenciennes in 1677. Part of the Spanish Netherlands, France contested Spain’s claim to this region in the Dutch Wars (1672-1678) and successfully took this and other towns. Vauban commanded this operation and advocated a daylight attack to create surprise. Vauban, was a Marshal of France and the foremost military engineer of his age, famed for his skill in both designing fortifications and breaking through them. At 9:00 am, two companies of Musketeers, a hundred grenadiers, a battalion of Guards and a regiment of Picardy went over the top of the Grand Couronne. They achieved complete surprise lowered the drawbridge and entered the city, progressing from house to house, resulting in surrender. Vauban went on to be Louis XIV primary architect.
Marshal Villars leads the French charge at the Battle of Denain in 1712 by Jean Alaux 1839. This was part of The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), fought among several European powers, including a divided Spain, over the feared possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. Louis XIV thought he had a claim to the empty throne of Spain and fought for 13 years, mostly losing until this battle. The battle was not immediately recognised to be as decisive as it turned out to be, the opposition army was relatively unscathed. However, with the loss of Denain the Allied position began to unravel, and over the next few months the French recovered most of the towns they had lost in the region in previous years.
Marshal Maurice de Saxe at the Battle of Lauffeldt 1747 by Gouder. The Battle of Lauffeld, also known as the Battle of Lafelt or Battle of Maastricht, also Battle of Val, took place during the French invasion of the Netherlands. After their victory, France withdrew from the Netherlands in order to have some of its colonies returned. In France, there was a general resentment at what was seen as a foolish throwing away of advantages (particularly in the Austrian Netherlands, which had largely been conquered by the brilliant strategy of Marshal Saxe), and it came to be popular in Paris to use the phrases Bête comme la paix (“Stupid as the peace”) and La guerre pour le roi de Prusse (“The war for the king of Prussia”).
Does anyone but me see a pattern in the behavior of Louis XIV? I personally find his reasons for entering wars suspect and his behavior at the end ludicrous. I know these wars were complex but I really think Louis XIV fought wars to keep himself amused, much like a gambling addiction.
I am going to close with The Siege of Yorktown 1781 by Auguste Couder 1836. France under Louis XVI entered the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) in 1778, and assisted in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain, realized in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Most Americans are aware that the Marquis de Lafayette, left France in early 1777 to seek service in the American Revolution. Offering to serve at his own expense, the 19 year old was commissioned a major general in the Continental Army. Lafayette had developed into a loyal and excellent officer under Washington and, having demonstrated leadership in several battles, he was chosen to command the Continental forces in Virginia in 1781. Lafayette became one of three division commanders in the American army during the Yorktown campaign. The official commander of the 5500 French troops in America was the Comte de Rochambeau who graciously deferred to General Washington.
Galerie des Batailles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galerie_des_Batailles
Musée de l’Histoire de France: http://www.museehistoiredefrance.fr/
Archives National: http://www.archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/