Today is the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln (1217) which was fought between the forces of the future Louis VIII of France and those of Henry III of England. The battle was a major event of the First Barons' War and was instrumental in determining the future course of the English monarchy, and indeed English foreign policy, for centuries to come.
The Baron's War was fought over the succession of the English throne between supporters of Prince Louis of France's claim and those loyal to King John and his son Henry. In 1216 Louis, on the invitation of a cadre of powerful Barons who were opposed to King John, who was a deeply unpopular ruler, entered London and proclaimed himself King. John died in October and his nine-year-old son Henry was crowned.
Lincoln sat on the axis of a number of major trans-England routes which were important for trade and the business of government and so Lincoln was an obvious strategic location. The town had come out in support of Louis, however the Castle, which sat within the town walls, remained on the loyalist side under the command of Nicolaa de la Haye. Louis split his forces in two, one besieging Dover Castle and the other under the command of Thomas, the Comte du Perche ordered to lay siege to Lincoln Castle.
Acting as the young King Henry's protector and regent of England was William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. William was aged around 70 at the time of the battle, but he had gained a reputation as a knight of great skill and prowess, indeed following his death in 1219 he was eulogized by the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton as the "best knight that ever lived." Marshal rallied those still loyal to Henry and gathered an army of some 400 knights, 250 crossbowmen, and a larger auxiliary force of both mounted and foot soldiers at Newark. From there they marched to Lincoln, taking a circuitous route that allowed them to approach the city from the north. This was to be an important strategic decision as it meant Marshal's army would be able to take advantage of the high ground and avoid fighting an uphill battle, a task that would have severely hampered their offensive ability.
Louis' army knew of Marshal's advance but instead of engaging continued the siege in the hope of capturing a stronger strategic position. Marshal's army took the town's North Gate with little resistance. Crossbowmen then took up high positions, some on the rooftops of houses others gaining access to the Castle itself, and lay down volleys of bolts on Perche's men. Marshal's knights and footsoldiers then charged the besieging forces and for the next six hours a bloody battle would be fought in the streets between the Castle and Cathedral. Perche himself was killed as during combat an English knight called Reginald Croc, circumvented the Comte's heavy armour by thrusting his sword through a gap in his helmet's visor, killing him instantly. Reginald would also be dead before the battle's end.
The siege became a rout as the French army fled through the South Gate and back to Louis' main force at Dover. Marshal's army sacked Lincoln under the justification that it had supported Louis, an event later euphemistically called 'the Lincoln Fair'. The battle was to prove a turning point in the war, severely weakening Louis army and removing many of the barons who had supported him. French reinforcements, under the command of Eustace the Monk, were defeated in the English Channel at the Battle of Sandwich in August and with this Louis' hopes of gaining the throne were effectively over. Louis and his men returned to France in September 1217, shortly after signing the Treaty of Lambeth which forced him to give up his claim to the English throne.
This model was built by Brick to the Past's James Pegrum as part of a series of scenes on important events in British history. We will bring you further scenes from the Baron's War this summer; see them first by following us on Twitter or Facebook.
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