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More adventurous than the average bear

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Never to wear armour against him

"The news of the defeat at Formigny threw the English into the deepest gloom. ln one short campaign the French had destroyed their only remaining field army in Normandy, and now both John Talbot and Thomas Kyriel, their best captains, were prisoners in French hands. Suffolk set out to raise the men and money for a fresh expeditionary force, to be led by Sir John Fastolf, but the French were now sweeping all before them. The French advanced from Formigny to take Vire, Bayeux and, after a three-week siege, Caen, the old Norman capital, where they again first captured and then released the Duke of Somerset. Somerset fled to Calais and stayed there, rightly suspecting that the axe and block awaited him in England. Ponton de Xaintrailles then reappeared on campaign and besieged Falaise, a fief of John Talbot. The town surrendered in return for Talbot’s release, although Charles VII extracted a promise from the old knight that he would never again wear armour against him, a promise Talbot kept to the letter...

Talbot arrived at Castillon before dawn on 17 July, overrunning a detachment of French archers, whom he pursued with his cavalry towards the main French camp, Here, under advice from Jean Bureau, the French, anticipating an English assault, had entrenched themselves strongly, throwing up walls of earth and tree-trunks and erecting artillery positions containing over 300 guns of various calibre, many of which were hastily switched from the town walls to cover the approach of the English army. A little thought or a brief reconnaissance might have shown Talbot the inadvisability of leading his men against such a strong position, but a huge cloud of dust over the enemy camp, caused by the French bringing their horses into shelter, seemed to indicate fleeing cavalry. Thinking the French were in retreat, Talbot did not hesitate. Keeping to the terms agreed for his release at Falaise, in which he had sworn never again to wear armour against the King of France, he rode into battle unarmed and unarmoured, mounted on a white pony, sending wave after wave of men—at-arms and archers forward against the French lines. As at Formigny, it was a slaughter. French artillery broke up the English advance and, when the advance faltered, the gens d'ordonnance charged out to cut down the scattered knots of dazed archers and men-at-arms. Much had changed since Crécy and artillery had come to dominate the battlefield. In the midst of the battle, Talbot sat his pony, waving his men on to the attack, until a cannonball killed his horse, trapping him under its weight, and a French man-at-arms leapt over the parapet to finish him off with a battle-axe."

--- The Hundred Years War / Robin Neillands

"Talbot was an obvious target with his white hair, purple hat and scarlet gown"

--- The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare / Jim Bradbury
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