1341 saw a political crisis take shape as the result of the death of the Duke of Brittany without a male heir. Two rival claims were made, both in right of their wives, by Charles of Blois and John de Montfort.
Battle of Morlaix
The Battle of Morlaix was the third clash of the War of Breton Succession. Both sides were backed by their powerful English or French allies. At Morlaix, this is demonstrated by the fact that the army was commanded by the Earl of Northampton, William Bohun.
The battle is described in the Chronicle of Geoffrey the Baker:
“Finally, having already captured alled and unwalled towns and forts, they took by assault the castles of Brest and Temple-le-Carentoir. Now they had got control of the whole country, part surrendered and part destroyed, as far as the town of Morlaix. But here they were met by lord Charles de Blois with a huge army.
At this meeting of the enemy armies on open ground near Morlaix, the courage of both nations, the Frenchmen from Brittany and the English, was put to the test. Both sides fought so bravely in that battle that we never heard of the like happening in the battles of halidon Hill or Crécy or Poitiers. On the one side the commander was Charles de Blois, to whom the French tyrant had given that land as his dukedom, and on the other was William de Bohun earl of Northampton, whom the king of England had put in command of his army so that he might protect the rights of John Montfort, the natural duke of that land. These two commanders showed all the courage of high born heroes and would have preferred to lose everything rather than turn tail and leave the field and so show themselves shameful faint-hearts. Both sides fought with great courage. In fact no Englishman or Frenchman, unless he was a liar, would be able to say that the French had ever fought so bravely or for so long hand to hand on the field of battle, in all the wars in France up to the capture of John, the pseudo-king of the French. Three times that day both sides withdrew a little to get their breath back and take a rest as they leaned on their pikes, lances and swords. But in the end, as the French soldiers fled, the great hearted Charles was forced to take flight as well, while the English were left alone in peace and safety”.
While Geoffrey the Baker suggests that this was an English victory, historians are not as convinced. The English force made a tactical withdrawal into woods. They themselves were surrounded for several days, before the French army moved on.
Links on the Battle of Morlaix
Warfare History Network – William de Bohun: Masterful Defense at Morlaix
JSTOR – The Tactics of the Battles of Boroughbridge and Morlaix