The Battle of Spurs

~16 Aug 1513~

Allied with his father-in-law, Ferdinand of Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian, and the Swiss, in 1513 Henry VIII of England entered into an offensive alliance against France. Henry VIII landed at Calais in the month of Jul, and soon formed an army of 30,000 men. Maximilian arrived with a small army but  a good corps of horse, and rather than fight as an ally he offered to be a General under Henry, this meant that Henry had to pay his army too, a hundred ducats a day for his table.

They invested Terouenne with an army of 50,000 men; and the Duc de Longueville, marching to its relief, was signally defeated on the l6 Aug, at Guinegate. Also known as the Battle of Bomy for the French village nearest the action, this battle was called the battle of Spurs, because the French used their spurs [i.e., they spurred their horses and fled the field] more than they did their swords.

The Battle was not a planned, set-piece battle, but a spontaneous pursuit by the English of French cavalry surprised in an attempt to resupply the town, intending to throw sides of bacon to waiting members of the hungry garrison. 

All went awry when the middle ward of the English army suddenly appeared directly in the path of the Frenchmen. Henry Algernon Percy, fifth Earl of Northumberland, commanded 500 Northumbrian light horse. Besides the English cavalry to their front, the French also found themselves assailed on their flanks by a detachment of English archers and a battery of light artillery deployed by Henry's ally the Emperor. In danger of being outflanked and encircled, and coming under a galling fíre from the archers, the French cavalrymen put spur to horse and fled, discarding weapons and horse armor to facilitate their escape.

The English cavalry pursued the fleeing enemy across the flat fields of Guingates east of Thérouanne. Desperate French officers tried to turn their men and make a fighting retreat, but only a few Frenchmen under the Chevalier Bayard were able to make a stand before a narrow bridge. Their action did not stem the rout, but it did buy time for the main force to reach safety. Nonetheless, the pursuing allies captured six French standards and a distinguished group of prisoners, including such nobles as the Duc of Longueville, captain of the 100 gentlemen of the French King's house; the steward to the French King "and 20 gentlemen in his charge"; the Lord Clermont, vice-admiral of France; the Lord Fayette; the Captain Bayart; the Lord Brye and the Lord Robert of St. Severyn.

Although not much of a battle in military terms, the encounter near Bomy was a glorious triumph for English honor and a marvelous enhancement to the military reputation of the English king. Although later reports said that Henry shared in the glory of pursuing the fleeing foe, he was well to the rear when the skirmish began and is unlikely to have had much of a personal role in it. 

The surrender of Thérouanne on 22 Aug added further luster to the Battle of the Spurs.

The English King laid siege to Tournay, which submitted after 8 days. Anthony Wingfield of Letheringham w as knighted for his part in the capture of Tournay. Henry made Thomas Wolsey Bishop of Tournay, for his help in France keeping the army fed.

Thomas Grey, second Marquis of Dorset; John De Vere, fifteen Earl of Oxford; Thomas Brooke, third Baron Cobham; Thomas Manners, Lord Ros; Thomas West, Lord De La Warr; Andrew Windsor, later Lord Windsor of Bradenham; John Hussey, later Lord Hussey of Sleaford; Sir Henry Wyatt; and Alexander Radcliffe of Ordsall conducted with distinction in the battle, and some were knighted.

Although Henry VIII captured the towns of Tournai and Therouanne and achieved a minor triumph at the Battle of the Spurs, the chief consequences of the war were the rise to prominence of Wolsey, who organized and supplied the king's campaigns, and the English victory at Flodden Field.

In 1514, Henry, stung by the faithlessness of his allies, made peace with France by arranging a marriage between his younger sister, Mary Tudor, and the aging Louis XII.

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