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

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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

 

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


Buy it at Amazon.com




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