Significant Battles in 'Henry the Sixth Part One'


Siege of Orleans  Execution of Joan  Fall of Rouen  Battle of Castillon

The Siege of Orleans

12 October 1428 – 8 May 1429

(1.2a-c, 1.4a-c, 1.5a, 1.6a, 2.1a-b, 2.2a; The Rise of Joan of Arc)

Melvin Bragg on the Siege of Orleans, BBC Radio 4

Siege of Orleans

Excerpted from Rickard, J (18 January 2011), Siege of Orleans, 4 February-March 1563,

The siege of Orleans (4 February-March 1563) was the last major military action of the First War of Religion, and ended after the assassination of Duke François of Guise, the last major Catholic leader in the field.

Guise had become the sole Catholic leader as a result of the battle of Dreux (19 December 1562). Although this had been a Catholic victory two of their leaders had been lost - Anne, duke of Montmorency having been captured and Marshal Saint-André captured and then murdered. On the Huguenot side the Prince of Condé had also been captured, leaving Admiral Coligny as the main Protestant commander.

In the aftermath of the battle Coligny retreated to the main Huguenot stronghold at Orleans, before on 1 February leaving the city with his German cavalry. François d'Andelot was left to command the defence of the city.

The duke of Guise reached Orleans on 4 February, and the siege began on the following day. On 6 February the Catholics had their first major success. The main city of Orleans, on the north bank of the Loire, was connected by a bridge to the suburb of Portereau on the southern bank. The suburb had weaker defences than the main city, but its walls were protected by two bastions, one garrisoned by Gascon infantry and the other by German infantry. Guise sent his main army to make a feint against the bastion held by the Gascons, while a small force captured the other bastion. The suburb was quickly in Catholic hands, and the defenders only just prevented them from crossing the bridge into he main part of the city.

The siege was noteworthy for one of the first uses of brass shells in warfare. The English Ambassador, Sir Thomas Smith, who was observing the siege with the Royal court at Blois, recorded his impressions in a letter to the Privy Council -

'I have learned this day, the fifteenth instant, of the Spaniards, that they of Orleans shoot brass which is hollow, and so devised within that when it falls it opens and breaks into many pieces with a great fire, and hurts and kills all who are around it. Which is a new device and very terrible, for it pierces the house first, and breaks at the last rebound. Every man in Portereau is fain to run away, they cannot tell whither, when they see where the shot falls'.

The nature of the siege, and of the entire war, changed dramatically on 18 February. The Royal siege works had progressed to the point where Guise was planning to launch an attack on the city on 19 February, and on the evening of the 18th he visited the works to inspect them. On his way back from this inspection he was shot and mortally wounded by a man on horseback. The assassin initially made his escape, but was later arrested when he became lost in the dark. The assassin, Jean Poltrot, lord of Mérey in Angoumois, was motivated by a desire to get revenge for Guise's persecution of the Huguenots. He was eventually executed for his crime, but outlived Guise, who died on 24 February 1563.

The death of Guise left Catherine de Medici free to begin peace negotiations. On 8 March the prince of Condé and the duke of Montmorency were both released, and a peace began on the same day. The basis of the Edict of Amboise was agreed on 12 March, and the treaty was signed by Condé on 18 March. The Huguenots won a limited amount of legal toleration, and four years of peace followed before the outbreak of the Second War of Religion.


The Execution of Joan la Pucelle

30 May 1431

(5.5a-c, historically in Rouen, but in Anjou in Shakespeare)


Solved at last: the Burning Mystery of Joan of Arc

Excerpted from Joan of Arc - Facts and Summary. ​

After such a miraculous victory, Joan’s reputation spread far and wide among French forces. She and her followers escorted Charles across enemy territory to Reims, taking towns that resisted by force and enabling his coronation as King Charles VII in July 1429. Joan argued that the French should press their advantage with an attempt to retake Paris, but Charles wavered, even as his favorite at court, Georges de La Trémoille, warned him that Joan was becoming too powerful. The Anglo-Burgundians were able to fortify their positions in Paris, and turned back an attack led by Joan in September.

In the spring of 1430, the king ordered Joan to confront a Burgundian assault on Compiégne. In her effort to defend the town and its inhabitants, she was thrown from her horse, and was left outside the town’s gates as they closed. The Burgundians took her captive, and brought her amid much fanfare to the castle of Bouvreuil, occupied by the English commander at Rouen.

In the trial that followed, Joan was ordered to answer to some 70 charges against her, including witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man. The Anglo-Burgundians were aiming to get rid of the young leader as well as discredit Charles, who owed his coronation to her. In attempting to distance himself from an accused heretic and witch, the French king made no attempt to negotiate Joan’s release.

In May 1431, after a year in captivity and under threat of death, Joan relented and signed a confession denying that she had ever received divine guidance. Several days later, however, she defied orders by again donning men’s clothes, and authorities pronounced her death sentence. On the morning of May 30, at the age of 19, Joan was taken to the old market place of Rouen and burned at the stake. Her fame only increased after her death, however, and 20 years later a new trial ordered by Charles VII cleared her name. Long before Pope Benedict XV canonized her in 1920, Joan of Arc had attained mythic stature, inspiring numerous works of art and literature over the centuries and becoming the patron saint of France.

The Fall of Rouen

29 October 1449

(3.2a-e, 3.3a; French re-take English territory)



Excerpted from Nicholle, David. The Fall of English France 1449-53 (Campaign). Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2012.

A well-coordinated assault by Charles VII and François I now reconquered much of Normandy in less than a year, largely because the English were hopelessly unprepared but also because the majority of the Norman population supported the French cause. Although the Duke of Burgundy was preoccupied with a rebellion in Flanders, the French were reportedly strengthened by some Burgundian troops while several French compagnies were redeployed from peacetime locations in the south, including some of Charles VII’s foreign forces. This French campaign was conducted by four separate armies, the first success being achieved by Pierre de Brézé, who seized the vital town of Verneuil on 19 July 1449. The place was supposedly betrayed by a local militiaman whom the English had beaten for sleeping at his post. On 6 August King Charles VII himself crossed the river Loire to take command, eventually joining forces with the army led by Jean de Dunois. On 8 August the French took Pont-Audemer and hardly a week then seemed to pass without another major English-held town or castle falling. On 26 August the inhabitants of Mantes forced the English garrison to surrender by seizing control of a tower and gate. Around the same time, Roche-Guyon was reportedly surrendered by its captain in exchange for an assurance that he could keep the lands of his French wife. In September, the Duke of Brittany formally handed over to King Charles VII’s representative all those places the Breton army had captured in western Normandy. Meanwhile, in southern Normandy the Duke of Alençon seized the major fortified city of Alençon, which had been beyond his control for decades. On 13 October there was a procession of children through Paris to give thanks for these astonishing victories, though the campaign was certainly not over. Three days later Charles VII and Dunois besieged the Norman capital of Rouen, which fell in less than a week. Here the English fought hard but not for long, the inhabitants being divided, some sending a deputation to England begging for support while others insisting that the garrison surrender. Edmund Beaufort was in overall command and agreed to negotiate. Realizing that no help could arrive from England in time, he agreed to surrender. His more belligerent subordinate, Talbot, was one of eight hostages handed over to the French while Beaufort and the garrison were allowed to march to English-held Caen.

The Siege of Bordeaux/The Battle of Castillon

17 July 1453

(4.5a, 4.6a; the Death of Talbot)

The Battle of Castillon

THE LOSS OF GUIENNE: The End of the Hundred Years' War

Excerpted from Oman, C. History of England from the Accession of Richard II to the Death of Richard III. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1906. 358-360.

"The fate of Guienne was at this moment in the balance. In 1451 Charles VII had turned his victorious arms from Normandy to the south. The Bastard of Orleans had captured one after another the outlying bulwarks of Bordeaux; Bourg and Blaye had fallen in May, Fronsac and Libourne early in June. No succours arrived from England, where the parliamentary struggle of 1451 was then at its height, and on June 30 the inhabitants of Bordeaux, with manifest reluctance, surrendered their city. On August 20 Bayonne, the last fortress where the English banner flew, had opened its gates, and the subjection of Guienne seemed complete. 

"But provincial independence was dear to the Guiennois; they were loyal in their hearts to Henry VI, and they chafed bitterly against the new taxes and the abrogation of old customs which the French conquest brought about. Within six months of the fall of Bayonne Gascon nobles and burghers were visiting London in secret, to pledge their faith that the whole province would rise in arms the moment that an English army showed itself on the Gironde. When the appeal was made to him not to wreck this fair chance of resuming the struggle with France, York [Richard, Duke of York], as the advocate of a vigorous war policy, could hardly refuse his aid. He consented, and a great effort was made to raise an army for the invasion of Guienne. In July, 1452, the veteran Talbot, who had been created Earl of Shrewsbury some years before, was commissioned to raise 3,000 men for that enterprise.

"The struggle of York and Somerset was suspended for a year and more, while both parties gave their aid for this attempt to rescue the last remnant of the English dominion in France. Talbot landed on October 17 in the Médoc; on the 21st the Bordelais threw open their gates to him. Within a few weeks most of the places around the great city were once more English. Then came winter, and nearly six months of respite before the slow-moving Charles of France launched his armies against Guienne. By this time Talbot had received reinforcements from England under his son Lord Lisle; with their aid he won back Fronsac, which all through the reign of Henry VI had been the frontier fortress of the English territory in Guienne. It was only in July, 1453, that the French appeared, in overwhelming force, and laid siege to Castillon on the Dordogne. 

"Talbot marched out to its relief, with every man, Gascon and English, that he could collect. On the 17th he fell furiously upon the besiegers, who were stockaded in a great entrenched camp. So well were they covered that the old earl did not see how he could turn his archery, the real strength of his army, to any account. Forming his whole force into a dense column, with the men-at-arms at the head, he marched straight at the trenches. Though torn to pieces by the French artillery, the assailants crossed the ditch, and strove time after time to force their way into the lines. They were repelled, and presently outlying contingents from other parts of the circumvallation came up, and began to take the English in flank and rear. At this moment Talbot was struck down by a cannon ball, which broke his leg. His sons and his body-squires fought fiercely in his defence, but were slain one after another. The French sallied out of their trenches, the English column broke up, and all was lost.  Talbot and Lisle were found dead side by side, and all the flower of their host had perished.

"Nothing can show better the loyalty of the Guiennois to the English cause than the fact that many of the smaller towns held out for two months after the disaster at Castillon, and that Bordeaux itself, though hopeless of succour, did not surrender till October 19, after it had stood a siege of eighty days. But this was the end; the French king took good care that his new subjects should not have another chance to rebel, and England for twenty years was in no condition to think of sending an army overseas. Yet the remembrance of their old connexion with the island realm long remained deep in the breasts of the men of Bordeaux; not only in the days of Edward IV, but so late as those of Henry VIII, secret messages were sent to England from the Gironde, and a vigorous attempt to recover Guienne might yet have found aid from within. Fortunately for both parties the attempt was never made.

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University of Waterloo

200 University Avenue West

Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1