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Author Topic: Battle of the Herrings  (Read 182 times)
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« on: April 17, 2007, 08:03:56 AM »

Battle of the Herrings

12 February 1429

   An English supply train of 300 wagons loaded chiefly with salted fish (hence the name of the battle) intended for the army besieging Orleans, was attacked en route from Paris by a Franco-Scottish army of some 4000 men under the Comte (Count) de Clermont. As the convoy escort numbered only some 500-1000 archers and 1000 - 2000 Parisian militiamen (all mounted) they were heavily outnumbered. Sir John Fastolf (the English commander) immediately drew up his wagons into a laager, with two openings before which his archers planted their stakes.

   Clermont, adapting his tactics to this unexpected move, ordered his men to hold back (though they were to remain mounted) while he brought up his crossbowmen and light artillery (with which he appears to have been amply provided) to bombard the English laager. This bombardment appears to have been having considerable effect when the Scots element within the French army (commanded by Sir John Stuart of Darnley) disobeyed   Clermont's instructions, dismounted and charged headlong against one of the defended openings; only to be mowed down by Fastolf's archers before they could close.

   The French mounted attack which accompanied or followed this futile assault similarly met with disaster, many horses impaling themselves on the stakes set by the archer's. Seeing this Fastolf seized his chance by mounting his archers and leading them out through the openings in a counterattack which broke and routed the French, the surviving Scots having already fled.

   The Franco-Scots had lost some 120 men-at-arms and 500 others (mostly Scots), while the English claimed to have lost only 4 men and a few wagon drivers who had tried to run away. However, if the French artillery bombardment was really as effective as the sources seem to imply then the English casualties must in reality have been somewhat higher than was claimed.


Learning is a treasure which accompanies its owner everywhere.
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2007, 10:10:01 PM »

The Battle of the Herrings from a fifteenth century manuscript.

John Fastolf

Sir John Fastolf (died 5 November 1459) was an English soldier, who has enjoyed a more lasting reputation as in some part the prototype of Shakespeare's Falstaff.

He was son of a Norfolk gentleman, John Fastolf of Caister, is said to have been squire to Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, before 1398, served with Thomas of Lancaster in Ireland during 1405 and 1406, and in 1408 made a fortunate marriage with Millicent, widow of Sir Stephen Scrope of Castle Combe in Wiltshire.

In 1413 he was serving in Gascony, and took part in all the subsequent campaigns of Henry V. in France. He must have earned a good repute as a soldier, for in 1423 he was made governor of Maine and Anjou, and in February 1426 created a knight of the Garter. But later in this year he was superseded in his command by John Talbot.

After a visit to England in 1428, he returned to the war, and on 12 February 1429 when in charge of the convoy for the English army before Orleans defeated the French and Scots at the battle of the Herrings. On 18 June of the same year an English force under the command of Fastolf and Talbot suffered a serious defeat at Patay. According to the French historian Jehan de Waurin, who was present, the disaster was due to Talbot's rashness, and Fastolf only fled when resistance was hopeless. Other accounts charge him with cowardice, and it is true that John, Duke of Bedford, at first deprived him of the Garter, though after inquiry he was honourably reinstated. This incident was made unfavourable use of by Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 1 (act IV scene I).

Fastolf continued to serve with honor in France, and was trusted both by Bedford and by Richard of York. He only came home finally in 1440, when past sixty years of age. But the scandal against him continued, and during Cade's rebellion in 1451 he was charged with having been the cause of the English disasters through minishing the garrisons of Normandy.

It is suggested that he had made much money in the war by the hire of troops, and in his later days he showed himself a grasping man of business. A servant wrote of him : "cruel and vengible he hath been ever, and for the most part without pity and mercy" (Paston Letters, i. 389). Besides his share in his wife's property he had large estates in Norfolk and Suffolk, and a house at Southwark, where he also owned the Boar's Head Inn. He died at Caister in November 1459. He was buried next to his wife Millicent in St Benet's Abbey in a specially built aisle on the South side of the abbey church. During the last decade of his life he was a close political ally and friend to John Paston, a Norfolk landowner, who came to fame through the Paston letters, a collection of over 1,000 of correspondence between members of the Paston family.

There is some reason to suppose that Fastolf favoured Lollardry, and this circumstance with the tradition of his braggart cowardice may have suggested the use of his name for the boon companion of Prince Hal, when Shakespeare found it expedient to drop that of Oldcastle. In the first two folios the name of the historical character in the first part of Henry VI is given as Falstaffe not Fastolf. Other points of resemblance between the historic Fastolf and the Falstaff of the dramatist are to be found in their service under Thomas Mowbray, and association with a Boar's Head Inn. But Falstaff is in no true sense a dramatization of the real soldier.

The facts of Fastolf's early career are to be found chiefly in the chronicles of Monstrelet and Waurin.

For his later life there is much material, including a number of his own letters, in the Paston Letters. There is a full life by William Oldys in the Biographia (1st ed., enlarged by Gough in Kippis's edition).

See also Dawson Turner's History of Caister Castle, Scrope's History of Castle Combe, James Gairdner's essay On the historical Element in Shakespeare's Falstaff, ap. Studies in English History, Sidney Lee's article in the Dictionary of National Biography, and DW Duthie, The Case of Sir John Fastolf and other Historical Studies (1907).

Falstaff has to be one of the favourite characters of literature.

Adolf Schr?dter: Falstaff and his page

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