Book Review: The Black Prince and the Capture of a King: Poitiers 1356


by Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel

Oxford & Philadelphia: Casemate, 2018. Pp. vi, 220. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 9781612004518

The Triumph of English Archery

The authors, follow their well received The Road to Crecy, a “popular history” of the opening rounds (1336-1347) of the Hundred Years’ War, with this account of the next major phase, that culminated in English campaign of 1356, climaxing with the devastating defeat of the French at Poitiers. Although a relatively short work, this is surprisingly comprehensive.

After a reprise of the origins of the war and events through to the Battle of Crecy, they devote several chapters to examining the coming of campaign of 1356, covering including the surprisingly complex effects of the Black Death (1347-1351) on the combatants and their preparations for renewed war. They cover dynastic machinations, royal weddings, military systems and weaponry, notable persons, propaganda (Edward III turns out to have been a fine PR man), mobilization and logistics, and campaign planning. This is a lively account, as the authors touch on much popular lore, such as the origins of the Order of the Garter. This long introductory section ends with landing of the Black Prince’s army in Gascony in late 1355.

Three more chapters cover the movements of the armies in increasing detail, as the Black Prince led Chevauchées – plundering raids – across France, in order to force a battle with the forced of King Jean II. As these events unfold, their treatment from mid-August of 1356 to the eve of the battle, becomes increasingly detailed, finally reaching a daily basis. Their account of the battle itself, on September 19, 1356, is well told, and they supplement their treatment with an analysis of the evidence in an appendix.

The authors conclude with an overview of the results of the battle, notably the fallout from the capture of the hapless King Jean, who died a well-treated prisoner in 1364, and the 1360 Peace of Bretigny, an event which paused the war for nearly a decade, and arguably had positive effects for the French, as the moneys amassed for the royal ransom ended up financing a revival of the military resources.

The Black Prince and the Capture of a King, an excellent read for anyone unfamiliar with the war or this campaign, this will be less valuable, but still of some interest, for the more seasoned scholar of the subject.


Note: The Black Prince and the Capture of a King is also available in several e-editions



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close