Thursday 7 April 2022

The Marquis of Dorset's 1512 campaign

For our second game during Stuart's last visit we decided to cover a Tudor campaign that we have not yet explored, the Marquis of Dorset's 1512 expedition to Aquitaine. It's a campaign we have wanted to cover for a while now and we thought it would be interesting to see the English on a more southern European style battlefield as most of their campaigns were in the north. It also allowed us to play a game using loads of figures from Stuart's collection. As his main focus has been the 1513 invasion of France the campaign of the previous year is well covered by his armies. 

Dorset's 1512 Campaign 

Although the 1513 English invasion of France was the first military campaign Henry VIII took part in personally, it was not the first time he had sent his troops to foreign fields. 1511 had seen Lord Darcy travel to Spain in preparation for a Spanish campaign in North Africa that was being organised by the Spanish King, Henry's father-in-law, Ferdinand of Aragon. The campaign never happened and Darcy's troops fell to drinking and ill discipline. Hall's chronicle describes their behaviour; "The  Englishmen  which  went  a  lande,  fell  to  drinking  of  hote  wynes  and  were  scarce  masters of  theim  selfes,  some  ranne  to  the  stewes,  some  brake  hegges,  and  spoyled  orchardes  & vyneyardes,  and  orynges  before  they  were  ripe,  and  did  many  other  outragious  dedes". More successful was Sir Edward Poynings who commanded another 1,500 Englishmen to the Low Countries, in support of Margaret of Austria, daughter of Maximilian I, to aid in the war against Guelders.

1512 saw Henry's military ambitions increase considerably with Thomas Grey, Second Marquis of Dorset, leading over 7,000 infantry to Aquitaine, a territory that had been in English hands until the mid 15th Century. The army included a contingent of 500 Landsknecht under Guyot de Heulle, all dressed in white as described by Hall "a  gentleman  of  Flaunders,  called  Guyot  of  Guy,  came  to  the kyng   with   v.C.  Almaines  all  in  white,  whiche  was  cutte  so  small,  that it could  scarce  hold together". They were being sent to assist the Spanish King Ferdinand as part of the Holy League that had been formed by the "Warrior Pope" Julius II against France. The league included Spain, England and the Holy Roman Empire. The English were to recover Aquitaine for Henry whilst aiding Ferdinand, who would provide further troops as well as horses and wagons for the English supplies and artillery in his war against Louis XII of France.

The army landed in Pasaia in the Bay of Biscay in June 1512 and the promised Spanish assistance was slow in arriving. The troops were initially camped between Errenteria and Oiartzun but after complaints of the heat and humidity the English moved closer to the border with France, near Irun which was 40km from the Gascon capital Bayonne. Hall's chronicle describes the move "Then  the  Lorde  capitain  remoued  his  field,  and  toke  another  place nerer  Fountraby (Fuenterrabía),  more  plenteous  of  water  and  woodde,  and  there  pitched  his  felde,  euery daie  lookyng  for  aide  of  the  kyng  of  Arragon,  but  he  harde  of  none". The English proximity to France meant that a threatening mounted force did arrive prompting some of the English to cross the river Bidasoa, at which the French cavalry fled. Hall describes the skirmish on 28 June:

"The  Frenchemen  of  Bayon,  hearyng of  the  Englishemennes campe,  made  a  greate  askry betwene  the  riuer  of  saint  Maria  and  Bayon:  the  Englishmen  perceiuyng  thesame,  passed the  riuer  in  good  ordre  of  battail,  al  being  on  foote  for  lacke  of  the  horsemen  that  the  kyng of  Arragon  promised,  and  so  with  arrowes  chased  the  Frenchemen  on  horsebackes  that  thei fled,  and  many  horses  foundered,  and  many  a  man  was  brosed  or  thei  came  to  Bayon  :  at the  whiche  thenglishmen  laughed  &  lamented.  Firste,  to  see  their  cowardnes,  second,  to remembre  what  thei  might  haue  doen,  if  thei  had  had  horses  mete  for  their  purpose:  yet  all this  notwithstandyng,  thei  retired  to  their  campe  in  suche  ordre,  that  the  Spanyardes  wondered muche,  bothe  at  their  fierce  corage  and  sobre  ordre."

With no active campaigning the troops were difficult to control. The became prey to disease and drinking with fights breaking out amongst themselves and the locals. A fight between an English Soldier and Basque man in Irun led to the town being looted by the English and landsknecht and the deaths of some of the townspeople.

Following the looting of Irun the French attempted a surprise attack on the disorderly English army but, forewarned by a local Gascon, Dorset was able to ready his troops. He crossed the Bidasoa  and forced the French to withdraw. The English pursued the French force, plundering local villages and the town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz that lay between Bayonne and Irun. They reached the walls of Bayonne itself but were forced to withdraw having neither artillery with which to breach the walls or light cavalry that could scour the area and prevent the army from being ambushed or surrounded. 

Hall describes the raiding: "Then  one  daye  the  Frenchemen  whiche  hard  of  this  riot  and  trouble  in  the  hoste,  issued out  of  Bayon  toward  the  Englishe  mennes  armie,  the  Englishmen  hearing  therof,  marched toward  them,  &  when  the  French  men  perceiued  that  thei  wer  asskried,  thei  sodeinly  re- turned. Thenglishemenne  perceiuyng  that  the  Frenchemen  would  not  tary,  went  to  a  good toune  called  Sainct  Jhon  de  Luce,  and  brent,  robbed  and  killed  the  inhabitauntes,  and  so from  thence  spoiled  diuerse  other  villages,  aboute  the  borders  of  Guyan"

Whilst the English Captains had struggled with their ill disciplined army July 1512 had seen Ferdinand's Spanish forces successfully conquer Navarre. The presence of Dorset's army had meant the French did not cross into Navarre and attempt to stop the invasion and so had been of particular strategic use to Ferdinand of Spain. His emissaries attempted to persuade the English army to winter in Spain so a fresh campaign could begin in the Spring of 1513. This was a plan which Henry back in England supported, stating he would send reinforcements the following year for a new invasion of France. 

October saw Dorset fall ill, apparently being so weak that he asked where he was. Command  passed to Thomas Howard, later 3rd Duke of Norfolk who would be one of Henry's principal military commanders in the coming decades ( see for example:, and With the troops close to mutiny and refusing to spend any longer in Spain Howard organised a return to England. Much depleted by desertion and disease the English army sailed home from the ports of San Sebastian, Fuenterrabía, Errenteria and Getaria. The returning Captains faced a furious Henry and a subsequent investigation into the disastrous campaign. Despite the young King's anger this came to nothing, it seems he was more angry with his duplicitous father-in-law, Ferdinand, than any of his own commanders.

Dorset's army prepares to cross the Bidasoa. 

The battlefield. The English targets are the manor house, the roof of which can be seen in the foreground, the walled church in the centre and one of the buildings in the small village in the top right of the photo.


From the above account it is clear that little in the way of fighting took place during this campaign with the English being used as a distraction by Ferdinand so he could carry out his attack on Navarre. Our options were also limited by the fact the English had no artillery or cavalry in the campaign as these were meant to have been provided by Spain. We decided to base our game on the English facing the French cavalry across the Bidasoa river as this was an event which could have developed into a more serious clash.

With the river zig zagging across the board and counting as difficult terrain and cover the French deployed on one side with the English on the other. Both armies had to deploy in the middle 4ft of the table, 12" from their table edge. The English had to attempt to burn three target buildings (see the photo above) on the French side of the table whilst the French had to attempt to half the strength of the English Army which would force the English to retreat.

Burning the Buildings

To burn one of the 3 target buildings the English had to have at least one base from a unit in contact with it at the start of their activation phase. As an ordered activation, they could use that unit to try to set fire to the objective (instead of Moving, Attacking, or Shooting). If there were 7 or more models in the unit the fire started on a roll of 8+ on 2D6; if there were 6 or fewer models in the unit the fire was started on a roll of 9+ on 2D6.

Ill Discipline

In the encounters with the French in this campaign the English were ill disciplined whilst the French showed an unwillingness to come to blows with the invading army. To represent this each player had twelve cards dealt at the start of the game. At the start of their turn they could decide to play however many picture cards (ie king, queen or jack) they chose from those they had been dealt. Any picture cards played would mean they could move an enemy unit of their choice for that turn. The unit did not need to be activated and the movement would not affect the rest of that players turn but the target unit could not be activated for that players following turn. Units could not be moved off the table using this rule and only movement activations could be made, no shooting or attacking.

The opposing player could use any picture cards they had to counter this. If they decided to do this the player countering the move rolled a D6 and on a 4+ they got to move one of the opposing players units instead. If a 1-3 was rolled the card was spent and the player who originally played a picture card continued to move the target unit.

If a player decided to play 2 picture cards in a turn the opposing player would then have to play 2 to try and counter the moves, rolling a dice for each. 

Once players had run out of any picture cards they had been dealt they were not dealt anymore from the deck.

The Armies

For this game Stuart took command of Dorset's English whilst I took command of the French.

Thomas Grey, Second Marquis of Dorset and the English Army

1 Unit of Garrison Bill (Thomas Grey, Second Marquis of Dorset, Retinue Leader) 
1 Unit of Foot Knights (Thomas Howard)
2 Units of Shire Bill
2 Units of Garrison Archers
1 Unit of Landsknecht Pike (Guyot de Heulle)
1 Unit of Landsknecht Shot

The French, defenders of Bayonne

2 Units of Gendarmes ( 1 is the Retinue Leader)
2 Units of Men at Arms
2 Units of Ordonnance Archers (with lance)
1 Unit of Mounted Archers
1 Unit of Stradiots
1 Unit of Mounted Crossbowmen

As always the games were played with our renaissance version of Lion Rampant, "Renaissance Rampant". The picture captions are a good way to follow the game but a brief write up also follows below.

The lighter French horse, in the form of the mounted archers and crossbowmen, advance to defend the church.

The English army splash across the Bidasoa.

The church is defended by dismounted French archers and mounted crossbowmen.

Dorset's men rush across the river.

The battlefield as the English draw nearer.

As the French heavy cavalry hold back, English bill and landsknecht pike push forward.

The attack started with the English wading through the waters of the shallow River Bidasoa. The French heavy cavalry looked on but remained stationary whilst the lighter French horse rode forward to take up positions around the church which would be the first target of the English looting and burning. The French archers dismounted to use their bows and the mounted crossbowmen took up a position behind the church walls. They began to shoot at the English but to little effect as Dorset's men were hard to target in the river.

Both armies would demonstrate ill discipline during this clash, the first example of this was seen when the mounted crossbowmen gave up the cover of the church walls riding through the church gates and straight at the advancing landsknecht arquebusiers. The crossbowmen assumed the arquebusiers would be unable to fire at them on account of the landsknecht having just crossed the river. The landsknecht shot had kept their arquebuses and match well out the water and, with their powder dry, they were able to fire a deadly volley into the oncoming mounted crossbowmen. The volley killed enough of the horsemen to send the others in flight from the field.

Now it was the French dismounted archers who came under a rain of arrows from the English archers. The French sent their stradiots and lancers forward in an attempt to dislodge the English who were using the river bank as cover. With both the lancers and stradiots taking casualties the lancers charged the English archers but again the river offered the English protection and the charge faltered at the river bank. In a confused fight in the Bidasoa Dorset's archers defeated the light cavalry. The English assault across the river was looking unstoppable.

In a moment of ill discipline the French mounted crossbowmen race forward only to face a volley of shot from Guyot de Heulle's landsknecht arquebusiers. The surviving crossbowmen flee the battle.

As the mounted crossbowmen have fled mounted lancers and stradiots attempt to hold the French left flank.

Being stung by the arrows of the English archers the French lancers are provoked into a charge. The horsemen find it hard to get at the Englishmen in the river and are beaten in a confused melee in the shallow water.

  A group of English men at arms under Thomas Howard reach the church gates. Behind them an unruly gang of English soldiery follows, eager for loot!

De Heulle's "Almaines" advance on the French heavy cavalry.

The English have crossed the river, sustaining few casualties in the process.

The French have waited for the English to be across the Bidasoa before launching their heavy horse. A unit of men at arms are first into the fray charging the landsknecht pike block. Both units take casualties in the clash.

The English are into the church yard. Not wanting to engage in a melee with the English the French archers have mounted up and retreated from the attackers.

With the French light horse pushed back or routed the English, led by a group of men at arms under Thomas Howard, entered the church yard. With scant regard for the neutrality of the clergy the building was ransacked and put to the torch. Closer to the village Guyot de Heulle's landsknecht crossed the river to face the waiting French heavy cavalry. Sensing that now was their chance to throw back the English the French gendarmes and men at arms made a series of charges against the landsknecht and English infantry.

De Heulle's Germans fought bravely against numerous charges but were eventually put to flight. Ill discipline now became a problem for the English as bill and bow units rushed out of the river eager to loot the village. They were easy prey for the French heavy horse who succeeded in riding down both a unit of billmen and archers. For a moment it looked like the counter attack was going to work but as more English units closed in from the church yard it became clear that the French horse would be unable to turn the tide. Being threatened by fresh English men at arms and bill whilst being shot at by archers and de Heulle's landsknecht arquebusiers, who had not fled with the pikemen, the French defenders of Bayonne decided discretion is the better part of valour and spurred their horses into a hasty retreat. The local area was left to be pillaged and burnt by the English.

The English soldiery have little respect for the French church...

...and after everything of value is taken, it is set alight to the dismay of the local priests.

Having pushed back the French men at arms Guyot de Heulle's landsknecht pike are charged by a unit of gendarmes.

Another fierce clash takes place but the German pikemen are broken by the successive waves of heavy cavalry.

The battle in full swing with the church already burning and the landsknecht pike about to flee.

The French sense that victory may now be within their grasp and the gendarmes, men at arms and lighter lancers launch repeated charges at the advancing English.

A unit of English bill is defeated and the disordered survivors flee back across the river to the English camp.

The French cavalry have taken casualties but they regroup to prepare for more charges.

In the churchyard the Marquis of Dorset is berated by the priest for the actions of his unruly men. This is the only attack Dorset's unit have come under during the advance!

A unit of English archers is routed by the French lancers.

The French counter attack has not been enough to turn the tide and under a rain of arrows from the archers and shot from the landsknecht the French cavalry are forced to withdraw from the field.

 So a victory for Stuart's English in this game with the English using the shallow waters of the river as a kind of fortification from which to pour forth shot and arrows at the French cavalry. The "Ill Discipline" rule worked really well with Stuart playing it on the mounted crossbowmen, leading to their very quick demise, whilst I used it on two of the English units. It meant they came out of the cover of the river and could be ridden down by the French heavy horse. For a moment I thought this had let me back into the game, adding some real tension to the dice rolls, but it was not to be. It was great to finally cover this 1512 campaign, even if there was far more fighting and drama in our skirmish than actually took place in Dorset's historical one!


  1. Lovely looking walled church and figures, sounds like another close, fun game!
    Best Iain

    1. Cheers Iain, yes it was interesting to have the English on the field with my Italian Wars buildings, a different setting for them.

  2. As always the scenario, terrain and figures are all first class .... a wonderful looking game and the ra dome I'll discipline seems to have worked really well!

    1. Thanks rross, the ill discipline rules were fun and had a big affect on the game. We had to get something like that into this scenario as we wanted to cover the campaign but very little happened in the way of fighting in the historical one.

  3. Great Batrep and eye candy as always Oli. Enjoyed the read. Shame about the resilt :-)

    1. Cheers Hendrid, yes not a great result but it was entertaining nonetheless!