Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

The Battle of Formigny 1450

On this day in 1450, 570 years ago, there was fought the battle of Formigny in lower Normandy. It was to be one of the last battles of the Hundred Years War and marked the virtual end of English rule in Normandy, which had crumbled under French attack over the preceding nine months. As a result it is one of those battles which the English have forgotten and which the French commemorate. Since 2017 the new commune of which it is part has been known as Formigny La Battaile...

There is a decent account of the background to the campaign and of the battle itself on Wikipedia, which has links to other relevant entries. There are also  pictures of the village today showing memorials to the battle and slain. The article can be viewed at Battle_of_Formigny.

As the account shows things did not start too badly for the English in their defensive position, and it was only when they ventured or were coaxed out that it turned disastrous for them with heavy casualties. Two months later Caen fell and two months after that the last English base of Cherbourg surrendered. English rule over the mainland Duchy of Normandy, held since 1417-19, was finally lost.

Travelling west along the road from Bayeux towards Carentan and Cherbourg in 1992 on an historical study holiday our coach came through Formigny and, realising where I was, I looked around to take in the surroundings. At one level it was just another attractive French village with a river crossing. At another it was a place  charged with past events which resonated through the history of that Anglo-French conflict and process of self-definition.

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