The Combat of the Thirty
Edited by Steven Muhlberger
On March 27, 1351, sixty armed men gathered in a field in Brittany, halfway between the two enemy castles of Josselin and Ploermel. Representing the garrisons of those two strongholds, these two groups of thirty men at arms they had appeared in this field with no strategic or tactical goal, other than to make good on their captains promise: 'We will go to an open field and there we will fight as long as we can endure it.'
The battle was fought until all on one side were dead or captured, and no one ran away. This showdown in the fields of Brittany attracted attention in its own time and the story has been retold in many eras since, standing as the subject of romantic inspiration and call to bold action for over six hundred years.
But was the Combat of the Thirty an admirable deed? Even in the fourteenth century, opinions were divided: some thought that it was a fight for no sensible reason, 'the product of presumption and rashness,' while others considered it a great demonstration of prowess, a word that designates a heroic combination of skill and courage.
Why did sixty men risk themselves in a fight to the finish on that spring day in Brittany six and a half centuries ago? Why did it attract attention and praise in its time? Why does it interest us still? In this volume Steven Muhlberger translates the historical accounts of the Combat and then examines both what contemporaries thought, and how the battle has been remembered through the centuries, giving readers a window into late medieval chivalric culture.
As a bonus, renowned 14th century arms and armour scholar Douglas Strong includes an appendix analysing the equipment used by English, Breton and French forces on that bloody day in 1351.
1. A Confrontation in Brittany
2. Jean le Bel's Account
3. An Anonymous Poet's Account: La Bataille de trente Anglois et de trente Bretons
4. Androw of Wyntoun's Account
Appendix 1: The Combatants and Their Arms
Appendix 2: Armor of the Combat of the Thirty, 1351 by Douglas Strong
Steven Muhlberger is professor of history at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario. His research has focused on chivalric culture, specifically the investigation of formal combats (duels, tournaments and jousts) in the later Middle Ages, particularly those of the Hundred Years War.
New Titles List
Deeds of Arms Series
- The Combat of the Thirty
- Royal Jousts at the End of the Fourteenth Century
- The Twelve of England
- Will a Frenchman Fight? - Chivalric Combat and Practical Warfare in the Hundred Years War