On May 20th 1217 Marshal led a royalist army to victory at the Battle of Lincoln. This proved a significant blow to Louis as it significantly reduced his operational ability and removed many of his supporters from the field. Following the battle Louis attempted to come to terms with his opponents, however negotiations broke down and hearing that Eustace the Monk would soon be sailing from France with reinforcements and supplies, he resolved to fight on.
Eustace appears to have been a remarkable character. Born into minor nobility in the French county of Boulogne, he is said to have studied black magic in Toledo, Spain, then become a Benedictine monk at St. Samer Abbey near Calais, left the monastery to avenge the murder of his father and then become a mercenary pirate, selling his services to both English and French monarchs at different times. Between 1205 and 1208 he had been in the employ of King John and with the sovereign's blessing had seized the Channel Islands. In 2012 he switched sides and became instrumental in Louis’ successful capture of London and the Cinque Ports at the start of the Baron’s War.
Marshal had heard of Eustace's fleet and on the 19th August he arrived in New Romney to summon the sailors of the Cinque Ports. The sailors were hard to persuade, having been poorly treated by King John, however they were persuaded to fight with the promise of rewards should they defeat the French. With the exception of a large cog supplied by Marshal himself, the English ships were generally smaller than those of the French. They numbered around 40, with around 16-18 larger vessels and 20 smaller ones. Marshal was persuaded to remain a shore and the fleet was led by Hubert de Burgh. One ship was even commanded by King John's illegitimate son, Richard FitzRoy.
When the French fleet sailed past Sandwich, de Burgh ordered the English ships to leave port. As the French sailed towards the Thames Estuary it held the advantageous windward position, however perhaps overconfidently and against Eustace’s advice, Robert of Courtenay decided to engage the English fleet. However when the French shortened sail, the English ships were able to gain the windward position and attack. Aided by their position, the English archers were able to inflict considerable damage on the enemy before the French bowmen were able to respond. The English also opened pots of lime which blew in the French faces blinding them to the oncoming attack.
With supplies low and his connection with the continent severed Louis lost all hopes of a victory. The Treaty of Lambeth was signed in September and Louis returned to France, having renounced 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. Be the first to see them by following us on Twitter or Facebook.