Updated: Aug 9
The Battle of the Spurs or (Second) Battle of Guinegate took place on 16 August 1513. It formed a part of the War of the League of Cambrai, during the ongoing Italian Wars. Henry VIII & Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor were besieging the town of Thérouanne in Artois (now Pas-de-Calais). Henry's camp was at Guinegate, now called Enguinegatte.
In May 1513 English soldiers began to arrive in number at Calais to join an army commanded by George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Steward of the Household.
Shrewsbury commanded the vanguard of 8,000, & Charles Somerset, Lord Herbert the rearward of 6,000. King Henry VIII had arrived in person at Calais on 30 June 1513 with the main grouping, of 11,000 men. The army was provided by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey The English army included several different types of martial forces including cavalry, artillery, infantry & longbow using hardened steel arrows designed to penetrate armour more effectively. In front of the English king marched 800 German mercenaries.
Henry VIII had joined the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in the Holy League on 13 October 1511 with Venice & Spain to defend the Papacy from its enemies & France with military force.
The English men-at-arms & other heavy cavalry charged, just as the French were moving off, throwing them into disorder. To complete the French disarray the stradiots, who had been driven off from approaching the town by cannon fire, crashed in confusion into the flank of the French heavy cavalry, whilst a body of Imperial cavalry also arrived to menace their other flank.
Panic now seized the French cavalry, whose retreat now became a rout. In order to escape more quickly the French threw away their lances & standards, some even cut away the heavy armour of their horses. The chase went on for miles until the French reached their infantry at Blangy. Meanwhile, the smaller French force had been driven off, Sir Rhys ap Thomas capturing four of their standards. The initial cavalry clash took place between the village of Bomy & Henry's camp at Guinegate.
The day was soon called the "Battle of the Spurs" because of the haste of the French horse to leave the battlefield. In the summer of 1518 the English ambassador in Spain, Lord Berners, joked that the French had learned to ride fast at the "jurney of Spurres."
The Imperial Master of the Posts, Baptiste de Tassis sent news of the battle to Margaret of Savoy from Aire-sur-la-Lys in Artois;
"Early in the day the Emperor & the King of England encountered 8,000 French horse; the Emperor, with 2,000 only, kept them at bay until four in the afternoon, when they were put to flight. A hundred men of arms were left upon the field, & more than a hundred taken prisoners, of the best men in France; as the Sieur de Piennes, the Marquis de Rotelin, & others.
Henry sent his own account to Margaret of Savoy on the following day. He mentioned that the French cavalry had first attacked Shrewsbury's position blockading the town, capturing 44 men & wounding 22. An Imperial cavalry manoeuvre brought the French horse within range of the guns, & the French cavalry fled.
Prior to the battle (Henry VIII (Hall's Chronicle) wrote;
The English Expeditionary Force;
"The army thus lingering, ever desirous to be at the business that they came for, their victual (food) was much part garlic, & the Englishmen did eat of the garlic with all meats, and drank hot wines in the hot weather, & did eat all the hot fruits that they could get, which caused their blood so to boil in their bellies, that there fell sick three thousand of the flux, and thereof died 18 hundred men......"
The Battle of the Spurs was a relatively minor result in military terms, but one which was seized on by the English for propaganda purposes. Henry had led the army personally, complete with a large entourage. These campaigns had given Henry a taste of the military success he so desired
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