Combat of the 30
Combat des Trente
26 March 1351

Jean de Beaumanoir v. Robert Bramborough
War of Breton Succession

"Drink your blood Beaumanoir and your thirst will pass"

Battles home page HYW home page Main home page

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/line.gif

Neither of the leaders had coinage but those they represented did.

Charles of Blois (1345-64)
http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/ffbritchblois.jpg

Billon Gros au Lion, 26mm, 2.99gr. Obv: CHA ROL LVS DVX inner ring, +BNDICTV:SIT:NOME:DNI:NRI:HV:XPI, central cross. Rev: +MONETA BRITAN, central lion. Bigot 425; Jez.159. Image from monnaiesdantan.com, Alexis Bigot sale 11/2010.

Jean IV (1341-45) (1364-99)
http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/ffbritjean4.jpg

AR Gros, 28mm, 3.61gr. Obv: + IOHANNE DEI GRACIA DVX BRITANIE, central lion and shield. Rev: + XPC VINCIT XPC REGNAT XPC IPERAT V, central cross. Bigot 770; Jez 254. Image from monnaiesdantan.com, Alexis Bigot sale 11/2010.

Background

During this phase of the war of Breton Succession there was ostensibly a truce in the territory around Ploermel. The Monfortists were not honoring the truce and Jean de Beaumanoir, leader of the Franco-Breton forces in the area, issued a challenge to Robert Bramborough. They agreed to meet at a location to the west of Ploermel. This IGN map shows the regional location.

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/map-combat30a.jpg

Today the location is marked with a monument. IGN Carte Randonee 1019O shows the closer view of the site. The site is just north of the N24 and the Bois de Bon Coeur. The countryside is flat.

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/map-combat30b.jpg

This arranged combat turned out to be one of the great episodes in medieval combat, and one of the last instances of what we might think of as High Chivalry. It has been celebrated in art and literature. An early image is Combat des Trente by Pierre le Baud (1480). This is followed by Penguilly l'Haridon's Le Combat des Trente (both from Wikipedia).

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/im-combat30b.jpg

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/im-combat30a.jpg

The Franco-Bretons were represented by:

Sir Jean de Beaumanoir Constable of Brittany
Governor of Josselin
Sir Olivier Arrel
Sir Caron de Bosdega
Sir Geoffroy du Bois
Sir Yves Charruel
Sir Guy de Rochefort
Sir Jean Rouxelot
Sir Robin Raguenel
Sir Huon de Saint-Hugeon
Sir Jean de Tinté

Squires Geoffroy de Beaucorps

Hughes Capus-le-Sage
Olivier de Fontenay
Louis de Goyon
Alain de Keranrais
Guillaume de la Lande
Guillaume
de la Marche
Geoffroy
de Mellon (killed)
Olivier de Monteville
Maurice du Parc
Tristan de Pestivien
Guyon de Pontblanc
Geoffroy Poulard (killed)
Geoffroy de la Roche
Geslin
de Tré

The Anglo-Bretons were represented by:

Sir Robert Bramborough, Captain of Ploermel (killed)
Sir Robert Knolles (fought at Auray)
Sir Thomas Billefort
Sir Hugh Calveley (fought at Auray)
Sir Herve Laxaualan
Sir Richard Lalande

Squires & Men-at-Arms

John Plesington
Richard Gaillard
Hughes Gaillard
Huceton Clemenbean
Hennequin de Guenchamp
Renequin Herouart
Hennequin Le Mareschal
Raoulet d'Aspremont
Gaultier l'Alemant
Bobinet Melipart
Jean Troussel
Robin Ades
Perrot Gannelon
Guillemin-le-Gaillard
Jennequin Taillard
Rango-le-Couart
Raoul Prevot
Dardaine (killed)
Repefort
Croquart the German
Isannay Dagworth (nephew of Sir Thomas Dagworth)
Helecoq

This was violent combat, with deaths on both sides. Most combatants were wounded in the fight.

There are several good descriptions of the action. The first presented here is from Histoire de Bretagne, vol. i. p. 280 by the editor of Froissart's Chronicles cited below.

He notes with surprise that Foissart did not address this combat in his chronology. Both these accounts vary in the spelling of names and places.

After the death of Sir Thomas Daggworth, the king appointed Sir Walter Bently commander in Brittany. The English being much irritated at the death of Daggworth, and not being able to revenge themselves on those who slew him, did so on the whole country by burning and destroying it. The marshal de Beaumanoir, desirous of putting a stop to this, sent to Bembro (Bramborough), who commanded in Ploërmel, for a passport, to hold a conference with him. The marshal reprobated the conduct of the English, and high words passed between them; for Bembro had been the companion in arms to Daggeworth."

At last one of them proposed a combat of thirty on each side: the place appointed for it was at the halfway oak-tree between Josselin and Ploërmel; and the day was fixed for the 27th March, the fourth Sunday in Lent, 1351. Beaumanoir chose nine knights and twenty-one squires: the first were, the lord de Tinteniac, Guy de Rochefort, Yves Charruel, Robin Raguenel, Huon de St. Yvon, Caro de Bodegat, Olivier Arrel, Geoffry du Bois, John Rousselet, etc."

"Bembro could not find a sufficient number of English in his garrison; there were but twenty, the remainder were Germans and Bretons. Among them were, sir Robert Knolles, Croquart, Hervé de Lexualen, John Plesanton, Richard and Hugh le Gaillart, Jannequin Taillart, Ressefort, Richard de la Lande, Thomelin Billefort, Hugh Calverly, Robinet Melipars, Yfrai or Isannai, John Russel, Dagorne, and a soldier, named Hulbitée, of a very large size, and of great strength. Bembro first entered the field of battle, and drew up his troop. Beaumanoir did the same. Each made a short harangue to his men, exhorting them to support their own honour and that of their nation. Bembro added, there was an old prophecy of Merlin, which promised victory to the English."

As they were on the point of engaging, Bembro made a sign to Beaumanoir he wished to speak to him, and represented he had engaged in this matter rather imprudently; for such combats ought first to have had the permission of their respective princes. Beaumanoir replied he had been somewhat late in discovering this; and the nobility of Brittany would not return without having proved by battle who had the fairest mistresses. The signal was given for the attack. Their arms were not similar; for each was to choose such as he liked. Billefort fought with a mallet 25lbs. weight, and others with what arms they chose. The advantage, at first, was for the English; as the Bretons had lost five of their men. Beaumanoir exhorted them not to mind this, as they stopped to take breath; when, each party having had some refreshments, the combat was renewed. Bembro was killed. On seeing this, Croquart cried out, “Companions, don't let us think of the prophecies of Merlin, but depend on our courage and arms; keep yourselves close together, be firm, and fight as I do.” Beaumanoir, being wounded, was quitting the field to quench his thirst, when Geoffry du Bois cried out, “Beaumanoir, drink thy blood, and thy thirst will go off.” This made him ashamed, and return to the battle. The Bretons at last gained the day, by one of their party breaking on horseback the ranks of the English; the greater part of whom were killed. Knolles, Calverly, and Croquart, were made prisoners, and carried to the castle of Josselin. Tinteniac, on the side of the Bretons, and Croquart, on the English, obtained the prize of valour. Such was the issue of this famous combat of Thirty, so glorious to the Bretons, but which decided nothing as to the possession of the duchy of Brittany."

The second description of the combat presented here is said to be from Froissart's Chronicle (possibly a different, later version?) edited by Steven Muhlberger and from the Amiens version of the Chronicles.

In this same season as the siege of St.-Jean-d'Angely, there took place in Brittany a most marvelous deed of arms which should never be forgotten but which one should hold up as an example to encourage all knights bachelor. And so that you are better able understand the situation, you should know that there was constant war in Brittany between the parties of the two ladies, and so it was that Messire Charles of Blois was imprisoned. And the parties of the two ladies made war on each other through garrisons which held the various castles and fortified towns."

Messire Robert de Beaumanoir, a very valiant knight of a great family in Brittany, was castellan of Castle Joselin, where he had a great many men-at-arms of his lineage and other mercenaries. And it so happened one day that he came to be roaming near the town and castle of Ploërmel, whose castellan was a German mercenary named Blandebourch, who had with him a great many German, English, Breton and other foreign mercenaries and who were all of the party of the Countess of Montfort."

When Messire Robert saw that none of the garrison was coming out, he went to the gate and called out this Blandebourch, under a guarantee of safety, and asked him whether he had any companion, or perhaps two or three, who wished to joust with steel lances against three others, for the love of their ladies. Blandebourch replied and said that their ladies would hardly wish that they should get themselves killed in a single joust, for this kind of venture was over too soon."

But," he said, "I will tell you what we will do, if you like. We will choose twenty or thirty of our companions in the garrison and we will go to an open field and there we will fight as long as we can endure it; and let God give the victory to the better of us."

By my faith," replied Messire Robert de Beaumanoir, "you speak very well and I vow we will do just what you say; now, pick a day."

An appointment was made for the following Wednesday and they gave each other a firm truce up to that day; and under its terms Robert and his people departed. So they provided themselves with thirty companions, knights, squires and others taken from the garrisons, and Blandebourch also chose thirty from all his companions."

When the day had come, the thirty companions of Blandebourch heard Mass and then armed themselves and left for the field where the battle was to take place. And they dismounted and ordered all those who were there that none of them should be so bold as to intervene for any reason whatever. Thus did the thirty companions whom we will call "the English;" and they waited a long time for the other thirty, whom we will call "the French."

When these had come, they dismounted and gave the same command. And when they all had come face to face, they spoke a little, all sixty of them, and then stepped back a pace, each party to its own side. And then they made all their people retreat well back from field. Then one of them gave a signal and immediately they ran over and fought fiercely all in a pile, rescuing one another handsomely when they saw their companions in trouble."

Soon after they had come together, one of the Frenchmen was killed, but the others did not leave off fighting on this account. They held themselves as valiantly on both sides as if they had been all Rolands and Oliviers. In truth, I cannot say "These conducted themselves better than the others;" but they fought so long that they all lost strength and breath and ability to fight."

It seemed a good idea for them to stop and rest, and they rested by mutual agreement. They granted each other a truce until they had recovered and until the first who got up again should call the others back. At this point there were four French dead and two English. They rested a long time, and drank some wine which was brought to them in bottles, and tightened their armor which had broken and cleaned their wounds and bandaged them up."

Then they had rested enough, the first who got up made a sign and called the others. The battle recommenced as fiercely as before and it lasted a long time. And they conducted themselves very well in this second round. But finally the English were worsted; for as I heard tell from those who saw it, one of the Frenchmen, who was on horseback split them up and badly trod them underfoot. And so Blandebourch their captain and eight of their companions were killed. Messire Robert de Beaumanoir and his men took the rest as hostages back to his garrison. And that is how the affair went."

Today there are two monument on the Colonne des Trente site. The larger one was put up in 1819 after the Restoration. It is made up of 30 blocks of granite, one for each of the Franco-Bretons who fought. The text reads "Vive le Roi longtemps, les Bourbons toujour ... erected 1819 during the reign of Louis XVIII." The thirty names on the the monument are the Bloisists who fought and there is no mention of the Montfortists.

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/im-combat30-mon1.jpg

The second monument is set to the back of the site and is smaller and looks older. The text honors Beaumanoir.

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/im-combat30-mon2.jpghttp://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/im-combat30-mon2a.jpg

Nearby is the small church of St. Maude (close to La Croix-Hellean) where three Bretons killed in the fight are buried. It was not clear from the description at the memorial on whose side they fought. The church has the date 1431 carved on it, so this is likely the original church.

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/im-combat30-church.jpg

Finally, here is one final representation of the combat, from a placard at the Colonne des Trente.

http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/im-combat30-grauve.jpg

Sources

Froissart's Chronicles: http://www.maisonstclaire.org/resources/chronicles/froissart/book_1/fc_b1_contents.html

Muhlberger, S. A Collection of Account of Formal Deeds of Arms of the Fourteenth Century http://www.nipissingu.ca/department/history/muhlberger/chroniqu/texts/thirty.htm

Background and cause

The Breton War of Succession was a struggle between the House of Montfort and House of Blois for control of the Duchy of Brittany. It came to be absorbed into the larger Hundred Years War between France and England, with England supporting the Montforts and France supporting the Blois family. At the time of the Combat, the war had become stalemated, with each faction controlling strongholds at different locations within Brittany, but occassionally making sorties into one another's territory.

Robert Bemborough, a knight leading the Montfortist faction which controlled Ploërmel, was challenged to single combat by Jean de Beaumanoir, the captain of nearby Josselin, controlled by the Blois faction. According to the chronicler Froissart, this purely personal duel between the two leaders became a larger struggle when Bemborough suggested a combat between twenty or thirty knights on each side, a proposal that was enthusiastically accepted by de Beaumanoir.

The motivation for the combat is unclear. The earliest written sources present it as a purely chivalric exercise, undertaken to "honour" the ladies for whom the knights were fighting: referring to Joan, Duchess of Brittany (House of Blois) and Joanna of Flanders (House of Montfort). These woman were leading the two factions at the time, as Joan's husband was in captivity and Joanna's was dead (her son was a young child at the time). This is the account given by the contemporary chroniclers Jean le Bel and Jean Froissart, both of whom present the conflict as purely a matter of honour with no personal animosity involved.[3] Le Bel states that he had his information from one of the combatants. Froissart appears to simply copy le Bel's version.[3]

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/03/Millais_combat.jpg/220px-Millais_combat.jpg

Beaumanoir's knights kneel in prayer before battle. Illustration by J.E. Millais to Tom Taylor's translation of a Breton language ballad in Barzaz Breiz

However, popular ballads portrayed the cause differently. The earliest of these, written by an unknown local supporter of the Blois faction, depicts Bemborough and his knights as ruthless despoilers of the local population, who appealed to Beaumanoir for help. Beaumanoir is depicted as a hero coming to the aid of the defenceless people.[3] The poet also portrays Beaumanoir as a model of Christian piety, who puts his faith in God, in contrast to Bemborough who relies on the Prophesies of Merlin.[4] This version was standardised in Pierre Le Baud's History of the Bretons, written a century later, in which Bemborough's alleged cruelty is explained by his desire to avenge the death of Thomas Dagworth.

Whatever the cause, the fight was arranged in the form of an emprise —an arranged Pas d'armes— which took place at an area known as the chêne de Mi-Voie (the Halfway Oak) between Ploërmel and Josselin, between picked combatants. It was organised in the manner of a tournament, with refreshments on hand and a large gathering of spectators. Bemborough is supposed to have said,

And let us right there try ourselves and do so much that people will speak of it in future times in halls, in palaces, in public places and elsewhere throughout the world.

The words are recorded by Froissart:[5] "the saying may not be authentic", Johan Huizinga remarks, "but it teaches us what Froissart thought".[6]

Beaumanoir commanded thirty Bretons, Bemborough a mixed force of twenty Englishmen (including Robert Knolles and Hugh Calveley), six German mercenaries and four Breton partisans of Montfort. It is unclear whether Bemborough himself was English or German. His name is spelled in many variant forms, and is given as "Brandebourch" by Froissart, and also appears as "Bembro". His first name is sometimes given as Robert, sometimes as Richard. Both Le Bel and Froissart say he was a German knight, but historians have doubted this.[3] All the Blois-faction knights can be identifed, though Jean de Beaumanoir's given name is "Robert" in some versions. The names and identities of the Montforists are much more confused and uncertain.[3]

Battle

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2f/Combat_des_Trente_%28Le_Baud%29.jpg/220px-Combat_des_Trente_%28Le_Baud%29.jpg

 

Combat des Trente: an illumination in the Compillation des cronicques et ystoires des Bretons (1480), of Pierre Le Baud. The two strongholds of Ploërmel and Josselin are fancifully depicted within sight of eachother.

The battle, fought with swords, daggers, spears, and axes, mounted or on foot, was of the most desperate character, in its details very reminiscent of the last fight of the Burgundians in the Nibelungenlied, especially in the celebrated advice of Geoffroy du Bois to his wounded leader, who was asking for water: "Drink thy blood, Beaumanoir; thy thirst will pass" (Bois ton sang, Beaumanoir, la soif te passera).

According to Froissart, the battle was fought with great gallantry on both sides. After several hours of fighting there were four dead on the French side and two on the English side. Both sides were exhausted and agreed to a break for refreshments and bandaging of injuries. After the battle resumed, the English leader Bemborough was wounded and then killed, apparently by du Bois. At this point the English faction formed a tight defensive body, which the French repeatedly attacked. A German soldier called Croquart is said to have displayed the greatest prowess in rallying the Anglo-Breton defence.

In the end, the victory was decided by Guillaume de Montauban, a squire who mounted his horse and rode into the English line, breaking it. He overthrew seven of the English champions, the rest being forced to surrender. All the combatants on either side were either dead or seriously wounded, with nine on the English side slain. The prisoners were well treated and released on payment of a small ransom.

Reputation

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d0/Jehan_de_Beaumanoir_2.jpg/220px-Jehan_de_Beaumanoir_2.jpg

Statue of Jean de Beaumanoir in Dinan, representing him as a heroic figure

While the combat did not have any effect on the outcome of the Breton war of succession, it was considered by contemporaries to be an example of the finest chivalry. It was sung by trouvères, retold in the chronicles of Froissart and largely admired, and honoured in verse and the visual arts. A commemorative stone was placed at the site of the combat situated between Josselin and Ploermel. The renown attached to those who participated was such that twenty years later, Jean Froissart noticed a scarred survivor, Yves Charruel, at the table of Charles V, where he was honoured above all others due to having been one of the Thirty.

According to historian Steven Muhlberger, this chivalric version concentrates on "how the deed was done and not on who won. The willingness of all concerned to agree to rules and to actually observe them, to fight their best and not to run when injured or in danger of capture are the focus - and both sides are shown as equally worthy in that respect."[7]

Later, the combat came to be seen in very different terms, influenced by the most famous of the contemporary popular ballads on the topic. In this version the English knights are villains, and the Blois faction are loyal and worthy local warriors. The balladeer lists each fighter on both sides (though garbles several English names). He situates the Franco-Breton Blois faction as all local gentry and aristocracy performing their proper social duty to protect the people, thus justifying "the privileges that nobles held as brave defenders of the weak". The Montfortists are a melange of foreign mercenaries and brigands who "torment the poor people".[7] After Brittany was absorbed into France, this version was incorporated into French nationalist accounts of the Hundred Years War, which was portrayed as a heroic struggle against foreign invaders who sought to violate France. Since the French faction had lost the War of Succession itself, the Combat was promoted as a symbolic and moral victory. A large monumental obelisk was commissioned by Napoleon in 1811 to be placed at the site of the battle, but it was not built during his reign. It was eventually erected in 1819 by the restored Bourbon king Louis XVIII, after the fall of Napoleon, with an inscription stating "God give the King long life, the Bourbons eternity!" The inscription goes on to assert that the "thirty Bretons whose names are given as follows, fought to defend the poor, labourers and craftsmen and they vanquished foreigners attracted on the soil of the Country by fateful dissents. Breton posterity, imitate your ancestors!"[8]

Though the combat had much less significance for the English, the fact that it was won because one combatant mounted a horse to break the Anglo-Breton line was later portrayed as evidence that the Franco-Bretons cheated. Edward Smedley's History of France (1836) states that the manoeuvre "wears some appearance of treachery".[9] This version was fictionalised by Arthur Conan Doyle in his historical novel Sir Nigel, in which Bemborough (called Richard of Bambro' in the novel) accepts the rules of the challenge in a chivalric spirit, but the Franco-Bretons only win because Montauban, portrayed as Beaumanoir's squire, mounts his horse, when the conflict was supposed to be on foot, and rides upon the English trampling them.

A free English translation in verse of the ballad was written by Harrison Ainsworth, who gives the name of the English leader as "Sir Robert Pembroke". He is fancifully portrayed as the overall English leader after the death of Thomas Dagworth. Ainsworth argued that "Bembro" was originally "Pembroke" on the grounds that the Breton language version of the name was "Pennbrock". "Penn brock" means "badger head" in Breton, which had become a derogatory nickname for Bemborough in Breton ballads.[10]

The Combatants

Franco-Breton Force
Knights

  • Sir Jean de Beaumanoir, Constable of Brittany, Governor of Josselin
  • Sir Olivier Arrel
  • Sir Caron de Bosdegas
  • Sir Geoffroy du Bois
  • Sir Yves Charruel
  • Sir Guy de Rochefort
  • Sir Jean Rouxelot
  • Sir Robin Raguenel
  • Sir Huon de Saint-Hugeon
  • Sir Jean de Tinténiac

Squires

  • Geoffroy de Beaucorps
  • Hughes Capus-le-Sage
  • Olivier de Fontenay
  • Louis de Goyon
  • Alain de Keranrais
  • Guillaume de la Lande
  • Guillaume de la Marche
  • Geoffroy de Mellon
  • Guillaume de Montauban
  • Olivier de Monteville
  • Maurice du Parc
  • Tristan de Pestivien
  • Guyon de Pontblanc
  • Geoffroy Poulard
  • Simonet Pachard
  • Geoffroy de la Roche
  • Jean de Serent
  • Alain de Tinténiac
  • Maurice de Tréziguify
  • Geslin de Trésiguidy

Anglo-Breton Force[11]
Knights

  • Sir Robert Bemborough, Captain of Ploërmel
  • Sir Robert Knolles
  • Sir Thomas Billefort
  • Sir Thomas Walton
  • Sir Hugh Calveley
  • Sir Hervé Laxaualan
  • Sir Richard Lalande

Squires & Men-at-Arms

  • John Plesington
  • Richard Gaillard
  • Hughes Gaillard
  • Huceton Clemenbean
  • Hennequin de Guenchamp
  • Renequin Hérouart
  • Hennequin Le Mareschal
  • Raoulet d'Aspremont
  • Gaultier l'Alemant
  • Bobinet Melipart
  • Jean Troussel
  • Robin Adès
  • Perrot Gannelon
  • Guillemin-le-Gaillard
  • Jennequin Taillard
  • Rango-le-Couart
  • Raoul Prévot
  • Dardaine
  • Repefort
  • Croquart the German
  • Isannay
  • Dagworth (nephew of Sir Thomas Dagworth)
  • Helichon
  • Helecoq

† indicates that the combatant was killed. The English side lost nine killed in total and the remainder captured. The Franco-Breton side lost at least three and probably more. A number of them were captured during the fighting, but were released at the final outcome of the conflict.

References

1.        Combat of the Thirty (1351) in: John A. Wagner. Encyclopedia of the Hundred Years War. — Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006, p. 103.

2.        Jean Froissart's Chronicles Amiens ms. version.

3.        Henry Raymond Brush, "La Bataille de Trente Anglois et de Trente Bretons", Modern Philology, Vol. 9, No. 4, Apr., 1912, PP.511-544

4.        Pierre d'Hozier (ed), Pierre Le Baud, Histoire de Bretagne, avec les chroniques des maisons de Vitré et de Laval, Gervaise Alliot, 1638, p.310.

5.        Froissart, Chroniques, ed. S. Luce, c. iv. pp. 45 and 110ff, and pp. 338–340.

6.        Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages (1919) 1924:59.

7.        Muhlberger, Steven, "The Combat of the Thirty against Thirty", in L. J. Andrew Villalon, Donald J. Kagay (eds), The Hundred Years War (Part II): Different Vistas , BRILL, 2008 p.289-294.

8.        French: "Ici le 27 mars 1351, trente Bretons, dont les noms suivent, combattirent pour la défense du pauvre, du laboureur, de l'artisan et vainquirent des étrangers, que des funestes divisions avaient amenés sur le sol de la patrie. Postérité bretonne imitez vos ancêtres."

9.        Edward Smedley's History of France, Volume One, Baldwin and Craddock, 1836, p.194.

10.     Tom Taylor, Ballads and Songs of Brittany, Macmillain, 1865, p. 125.

11.     Oddly, the poem which makes this combat legendary and names these knights lists 31 names for the English side.

[RETOUR]