England,  ER,  France,  Western Europe

The Saintonge War


The Battle of Taillebourg, 21st July 1242 by Eugène Delacroix
The Battle of Taillebourg, 21st July 1242 by Eugène Delacroix

In previous posts, we have discussed the throne of England was intertwine with the family of the Lusignans, mainly through the link of Isabella of Angouleme.  For more information please see posts:  




In 1241, the Dowager Queen of England and the mother of the present king, Isabella of Angouleme, encouraged her new husband, Hugh de Lusignan, to rebel against King Louis of France.  The whole rebellion was kicked off by Isabella being angry about several things.  The king’s brother, Alphonse, was installed as the Count of Poitou.  This was traditionally a Plantagenet domain through Isabella’s mother in law, Eleanor of Aquitaine.  However, Isabella’s late husband, John, lost the battle of Bouvines in 1214 and lost the rights to most of his French lands.  Isabella felt her son, the earl of Cornwall, should have been made Count of Poitou.  She was also angry at having to give deference to the ladies of the French court, especially Louis’ wife Blanche.  It was a messy gathering all the way around and ended in Isabella and Hugh refusing to give allegiance to the new Count of Poitou.  It was a declaration of war.  

Hugh and Isabella were joined by Raymond of Toulouse, who had lost most of his lands in the Albigensian Crusade.  The French rebels counted on support from Isabella’s son, Henry III of England, and he provided, however slowly.  Henry and his brother Richard, earl of Cornwall, assembled a force of 30,000 at Royan and brought “30 tons of gold” in May 1242.  This was to oppose Louis’ army of about 50,000.  Henry sent letters to Louis stating he had come “to defend” his stepfather’s position.  His words fell on deaf ears.  Henry advanced his army to Tonnay-Charente in mid July.  Louis marched to meet him.  They were both after control of the only bridge over the Charente river, located at Taillebourg.  There was a small skirmish between Henry’s advance scouts and some French forces, and Louis followed it up immediately.  Creating a pontoon bridge across the Charente and using boats, Louis moved his entire army to the English side and attacked.  The Battle of Taillebourg ended in a massive charge of French knights, which forced the English to retreat to the city of Saintes.  The French lay siege to Saintes, but through negotiations with Richard, earl of Cornwall, persuaded them to wait until King Henry had escaped to Bordeaux.  The English lost the town, however, Simon de Montfort fought a successful rearguard action as they escaped.  Hug surrendered to Louis on July 24, 1242.  After this disaster, Henry and Louis signed a five year truce.  However, the unsuccessful war cost over 88,000 pounds.  Simon de Montfort was so disgusted with King Henry’s incompetence, according to historians he made the statement Henry should be locked up like Charles the Simple.


After the war, French influence spread through Hugh’s domains and his and Isabella’s children were less welcome there.  Henry encouraged his half siblings and relatives to travel to England and live with him at court.  Once there, Henry rewarded them with large grants of land and manors, which were taken from English lords.  This did not go over well.  By the end of the Poitevin migration, over 100 had made their way to England and had been awarded substantial incomes and lands.  The chronicles at the time, written by Matthew Paris and Roger de Wendover, took on a distinctly xenophobic tone and the term “Poitevin” took on a negative meaning.  Henry’s half siblings pursued personal grievances and feuds, and Henry did little to check them.  They were a visible reminder of his hope that he would someday regain the county of Poitou and his other lost French lands.   The other English lords did not like this at all.  The king and his half siblings were actively breaking Magna Carta.  Particularly critical of the Poitevins was Simon de Montfort.
And the seeds of the 2nd Barons War were sown.


Sources available on request