World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

French-Breton War

Article Id: WHEBN0046632980
Reproduction Date:

Title: French-Breton War  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: History of Brittany, Military history of Brittany
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

French-Breton War

French-Breton War

Fortresses of the Marches of Brittany during the 15th century
Date 1487–1491
Location Duchy of Brittany
Result French victory. Anne of Brittany marries Charles VIII of France.
Kingdom of France Duchy of Brittany
Holy Roman Empire
Kingdom of England
Kingdom of Castile and León
Commanders and leaders
Charles VIII of France
Louis II de la Trémoille
Francis II, Duke of Brittany
Anne of Brittany
Maximilian of Austria
Jean IV de Rieux

The conflict between the Duchy of Brittany and the Kingdom of France is divided into a series of military and diplomatic episodes between 1465 and 1491, until Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII of France. It eventually led to the end of the independence of Brittany.

The conflict followed the War of the Breton Succession, in which two parties, one pro-English and the other pro-French, clashed between 1341 and 1364.


  • Context 1
  • The four campaigns 2
    • 1487 Campaign 2.1
    • 1488 Campaign 2.2
    • 1489 Campaign 2.3
    • 1491 Campaign 2.4
    • Settlement 2.5
    • Aftermath 2.6
  • Sources 3
    • Bibliography 3.1
    • Notes and references 3.2


The first Treaty of Guérande (1365) settled the War of the Breton Succession. For more than two decades, two families, the Blois-Penthièvre and Montfort, contested the succession to the duchy of Brittany. The latter would eventually prevail. The rights of two families, however, are recognized:

  • the duchy is transmitted from male to male in the family of Montfort;
  • if there is no male descendant in the family of Montfort, it must pass to the males of the family of Penthievre.

This treaty does not exclude daughters from the succession, much less the transmission of rights (it stated that the duchy "will not return to women as long as there were male heirs"). The Montforts hardly showed their acceptance with respect to the treaty (John IV, Francis II). Finally, Penthièvre had lost hope after forfeiting their lands in 1420 (they had kidnapped and sequestered Duke John V).

But at the end of the reign of Francis II, the two families had no male heirs: Francis II had two daughters, and the last Penthièvre are women. Therefore, the following can claim the succession:

The chief of Montfort

  • the sisters Anne and Isabeau of Brittany, daughters of the reigning duke, last heirs of the family coming first in the order of succession to the duchy, but they are not men;
  • John II, Viscount of Rohan and Léon, husband of Marie of Brittany (daughter of Duke Francis I). Without the Treaty of Guérande, his wife would have become duchess from 1469, on the death of her older sister Margaret. To transform this rivalry into a combination, Jean II proposed to marry his sons Francis and Jean to Anne and her sister Isabella. Francis II refused it against the advice of his council and lineal logic. Later he will style himself as duke;
  • John de Chalon, Prince of Orange, son of Catherine of Brittany (sister of the Duke Francis II). He is the heir closest to Francis II after Anne and Isabeau;
  • Francis d'Avaugour, bastard son of Duke Francis II and Antoinette de Maignelais. He renounced before the Estates of Brittany his hypothetical rights.

The chief of Penthièvre The Estates of Brittany, who had no right or power in the matter, since these powers belonged only to the king, to whom Duke John V, had paid homage — deprived the Penthièvre of their rights to ducal succession after their "treachery" in 1420, the year Henry V of England, and essential supporter of the Montforts, conquered Paris. These rights shall be reviewed in 1447, while the King of France has just taken over Paris (1446) and Normandy (1447) and comes dangerously close to Brittany. Conditional restitution. Restitution against renunciation of succession rights to the ducal seat. After Charles VII crushed the English at Formigny (1450), the Duke of Brittany wrote to the Penthievre to indicate that he cancelled the conditional renunciation of the Penthièvre to the ducal estate):

  • John II, Count of Penthièvre (son of Nicole de Châtillon and Jean II de Brosse), but his mother had twice renounced her rights (she sold it in 1480 to Louis XI of France, confirmed in 1485);
  • Charles VIII, whose father Louis XI bought, on 3 January 1480, the succession rights to the duchy of Brittany from Nicole de Châtillon, countess of Penthièvre. He is recognized as the heir of Francis II by five Breton rebels in the Treaty of Montargis.
  • Alain I of Albret, half-brother of Françoise de Dinan, widower of Françoise de Blois-Bretagne, Countess of Périgord (died in 1481), herself cousin of Nicole de Châtillon, through whom he unsuccessfully claimed the county of Penthièvre. He wanted to marry Anne, and then to marry her to his son, John. He succeeded in betrothing Isabeau (younger sister of Anne) to his son, but Isabeau died before the marriage could take place.

Some contenders try to secure support: Charles VIII and John II gained some of the Breton nobility. Various matrimonial projects aimed to combine the rights of both branches on the same head.

To secure his family against these pretensions, Francis II had his daughters recognized by the Estates of Brittany as heiresses of the duchy, and is crowned Duchess Anne in Rennes, against the provisions of the Treaty of Guérande (1365).

The four campaigns

1487 Campaign

During the Mad War, at the end of May 1487, the French troops, nearly 15,000 men[1] entered Brittany. The army of the Duke of Brittany is concentrated towards Malestroit. It has 600 lances and nearly 16 000 foot soldiers, including many peasants.[2] However, the advance of French troops was meteoric: Ancenis, Châteaubriant, La Guerche and Redon fell to the French. Ploërmel attempted to resist, but falls after three days of bombardment and is taken on 1 June.[3] With this bad news, and political differences between the Breton nobles, the ducal army broke up. Not more than 4,000 men remained,[4] unable to rescue Ploërmel. Francis II fled to Vannes, and escapes to Nantes in case Vannes would also be taken.

In Nantes, the defense was organized. On June 19, French troops laid siege on the city. The siege was prolonged due to the effective Breton defense, the faithfulness of the people, the aid of foreign mercenaries, and the decisive support from Cornouaille and Léon, who broke the blockade. The French troops were held in check, and lifted the siege on 6 August.[5] However, the King of France managed to delivered Vitré on September 1, while the French army took Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier and then Dol-de-Bretagne.[6] Early in the year 1488, most Breton places, however, were recovered by the ducal army. Only Clisson, La Guerche, Dol, Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier and Vitré remained in the hands of the French.[7]

1488 Campaign

On January 20, 1488, the Dukes of Orleans and Brittany were declared rebels by the Parlement of Paris: they and their accomplices are no longer considered as rebellious vassals, but as subjects guilty of high treason. In spring, the Duke of Orleans recovered for his ally Vannes, Auray and Ploërmel. The viscounty of Rohan was forced to capitulate.

On April 24, following a judgment of confiscation is given against all the goods of Louis of Orleans. Alain of Albret obtained a subsidy from the Spanish court, and returned to Brittany with 5000 men. Maximilian of Austria also sent 1,500 men. While La Trémoille assembled his forces on the borders of the duchy, Lord Scales landed with 700 English archers, all volunteers. But while the King of the Romans was occupied by a rebellion in Flanders, supported by Marshal d'Esquerdes, the allies of the Duke of Brittany competed for the hand of Anne of Brittany: Louis d'Orléans, Alain d'Albret and Maximilian of Austria are all candidates.

Map of the 1488 campaign.

The war resumed in late March 1488. La Trémoille assembled the royal army of 15,000 men in Pouancé easily took Château de Marcillé-Robert on 28 March. On April 7, Francis II ordered the muster of Breton troops in Rennes. On April 15, the royal army laid siege in Châteaubriant, which fell eight days later. La Trémoille then went to Ancenis where he laid siege on the night of 12 to 13. The city fell against French artillery on May 19. As negotiations began with the Duke of Brittany, who sought a truce, La Trémoille attacked Le Loroux-Bottereau, which fell easily.[8]

On June 1, a truce concluded the negotiations. It is found beneficial for French, whose troops remain mobilized along the border, while the Breton nobles and peasants returned home.[9] La Trémoille anticipated the end of the truce, and on 17 June, he put his army on the march towards its next target, Fougères.[10] The breakdown of negotiations on July 9 precipitated Breton defeat; while the Breton army were reassembling, the royal army laid siege to Fougères. The city is regarded as one of the best defended, guarded by 2000 to 3000 men. In mid-July the Breton army was finally assembled, but it is too late to help in Fougères, which capitulated on the 19th, after a week of siege against the blows of the powerful French artillery.[5]

The French army then goes to Dinan, while the marshal of the Breton army Jean IV de Rieux, who began his march in the hope of helping Fougères, was reluctant to fight a pitched battle. On July 28, at the Battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, the Breton troops and their allies were decisively defeated: five to six thousand Bretons died, against 1500 of the French.[11][12] Following this defeat, Dinan surrendered in early August, but Rennes decided to resist. La Trémoille, wishing to avoid a lengthy and uncertain siege after the last siege of Nantes, chose to bypass Rennes, and attacked Saint-Malo, which preferred to surrender on 14 August.

On August 20, the peace was concluded in Anjou. The Treaty of Sablé did commit the Bretons on several points, including the Duke's promise not to marry his daughters without the consent of the King of France.

The Francis II, Duke of Brittany died on September 9 and Anne of Brittany became duchess in January of the following year. An amnesty is then given to Lescun, Dunois, and most of the vanquished. Louis of Orleans was imprisoned in a fortress and then pardoned by Charles VIII at his majority, three years later.

1489 Campaign

On 10 February 1489, the Treaty of Rennes is signed between the duchy of Brittany and England: King Henry VII provides 6,000 men from mid-February to November each year, which had to be maintained at the duchy's expense.

On 14 February, two pacts between Austria and Spain and Austria and England are signed in Dordrecht, against France; they are complemented by a March 27 Anglo-Spanish treaty in Medina del Campo.

Within the duchy, different ambitions clashed. The marshal of Rieux, the guardian of the duchess, is best placed to assemble, or choose the one who would best protect the Breton heritage. Alain d'Albret, with his meager rights, and mainly due to Nantes since 1489, is his ally, and his half-sister Françoise de Dinan, is the governess of Anne of Brittany.

The Viscount Jean de Rohan (who claims to inherit the duchy because of his ancestry and his wife Marie of Brittany) tries to conquer a part of the duchy beginning with an assault on Guingamp in November, but the Marshal of Rieux foiled him. He recommences in January 1489 with his brother Pierre Quintin and French reinforcements, and succeeds, then seizes without difficulty Hédé, Montfort, Moncontour, Quintin, Quimper, Lannion, Tréguier, Morlaix, Concarneau, and Brest in February with part of the ducal fleet. Only Concarneau resisted a siege of 15 days. He then demanded the hand of Anne for his son Jean. But Charles VIII, anxious about his progress, denied him this and forced him to submit.

The Chancellor Philippe de Montauban, Dunois, the Prince of Orange, Raoul de Lornay took the heiress with them, first in Redon, then flew towards Nantes, without entering it, the city being held by the Marshal of Rieux. Finally, the Duchess's party took refuge in Rennes, and despite the demands of the king on February 10, Anne was crowned in Rennes. However, the treasury is empty, the revenues of the domain were low: the jewels were sold, along with the plates. As this was not enough, they proceeded to force loans on cities (Francis II had already used this expedient). The chancellery required advances and loans (the Prince of Orange gave over 200,000 pounds, the Duke of Orleans 45,000). Devaluation, which started in 1472, is amplified; Finally, various communities redeemed their imposts (they pay one time a hundred times the annual amount, and were later released).[13]

The Austrians and Spaniards sent mercenaries in March and April (respectively 1500 and 2000 men who joined Anne of Brittany) and England (6000 men sent to Rieux). They were employed to retake Rohan towns in Lower Brittany (Lannion, Tréguier, Morlaix from May to October).

On 3 December 1489, the parties agreed to the Peace of Frankfurt, signed by Maximilian of Austria and the King of France on 22 July. He retained Brest, and other places he acquired since the Treaty of Sablé: Dinan, Fougères, Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier and Saint-Malo. Brittany dismisses its mercenaries. Peace lasts for a year, but both sides kept themselves armed.

In the summer of 1490, a peasant revolt broke out: the peasants of Cornouaille, led by John the Old, assembled and plundered the city of Quimper. They were massacred by the Spanish mercenaries at Pratanros.

On July 4, the Estates of Brittany met in Vannes. They ratified new imposts, granted new taxes. These additional resources allow them to pay:

  • Jean de Rieux, for retaining powerful forts in Lower Brittany, is absolved of accusations of treason, and receives a payment of 100,000 écus, plus 14,000 pension;
  • Alain I of Albret, who also obtains 100,000 écus, and the hand of Isabeau for his son Gabriel of Avesnes;
  • Françoise de Dinan, his half-sister.

These gifts represented four times the annual budget of the duchy, and were paid in installments.

1491 Campaign

On 2 January 1491, Alain d'Albret signed the Treaty of Moulins with the king: the city of Nantes was promised.

He seizes the castle of Nantes on 19 March. On April 4, Easter Sunday, the King of France entered the city, which offered no resistance, having been evacuated by the marshal of Rieux. The royal army has 50,000 men. Brittany is therefore regarded by the French as conquered: royal institutions were created (administration of finances with Jean François de Cardonne appointed Chief of Finances; the Prince of Orange was appointed lieutenant-general). In July, Rennes was besieged, where Anne's party with 12,000 men resisted, but with few provisions.

On October 27, 1491, Charles VIII convoked the Estates of Brittany in Vannes, to counsel Anne to marry the King of France. A preliminary interview in Laval requested these conditions:

  • the occupation of the duchy by the royal army;
  • the Viscount de Rohan appointed as lieutenant-general of the king for the duchy (governor);
  • the question on the right to the duchy must be submitted to a commission of 24 members;
  • Anne of Brittany must be authorized to join her Austrian husband.

After the siege of Rennes, marriage with the King of France was accepted on November 15, by the Treaty of Rennes: it guaranteed 120,000 livres to the Duchess, and 120,000 livres to the ducal treasury, to pay off the mercenaries to leave the duchy. The engagement took place on 23 November at Rennes, and the marriage on December 6 at the Château de Langeais.


The conflict is settled by various treaties, by which the King of France obtained the renunciation of the rights of the different possible heirs, and regulated various aspects of the succession, including the payment of debts of the Duchy.

  • the marriage contract between Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany:
    • both spouses mutually donate their right of succession to the other;
    • Jean de Chalons, prince of Orange and cousin of Anne of Brittany, abandons his rights to the King of France for 100,000 livres; he was appointed lieutenant-general of the king in Brittany (the king's representative for military affairs in the duchy)
  • Peace of Étaples, signed on November 3, 1492 with the King of England: the two sovereigns agree on the settlement of 620,000 gold crowns of the duchy's debts. This agreement frees the towns given as security.
  • the Treaty of Barcelona, signed on 19 January 1493, allows the resolution of the duchy's debts to the Spanish sovereigns, which also held some rights to the succession.
  • Later, Louis XII and Anne of Brittany put the Rohans on trial, who were thus deprived of their rights.
  • The privileges and rights of Bretons were confirmed (e.g. no new law without the consent of the Estates of Brittany, appointment of civil officers reserved only for Bretons or with authorization, no military service outside Brittany, the Bretons cannot be tried outside Brittany, imposts will be decided upon by the Estates...)


From a political standpoint, Brittany is therefore united to France, definitively according to chroniclers of the reign of Louis XII (only in 1532 according to the Breton writers and modern authors), then annexed and gradually assimilated. It loses its autonomy (under Charles VIII), before retrieving some of it in 1492 and 1499. This is, initially, a purely personal union.[14]

The majority of the nobility of the duchy and the bourgeoisie are generally satisfied with this marriage because peace has returned and the tax burden was greatly reduced. Soon after, the 1492 plot (which includes those forgotten in the settlement: the officers of the duchy, captains, burghers, hoping for ambitious positions, led by the Viscount of Rohan in conjunction with England) failed.

The Breton fleet, on the orders of Anne of Brittany, fought on the side of the French fleet, as shown in the Battle of Saint-Mathieu in 1512.



  • René Cintré, Les marches de Bretagne au Moyen Âge, 1992, 242 p.
  • Dominique Le Page & Michel Nassiet, L'Union de la Bretagne à la France, édition Skol Vreizh, 2003

Notes and references

  1. ^ Cintré, p.146
  2. ^ Le Page et Nassiet, p.76
  3. ^ Philippe Contamine (directeur), Des origines à 1715, Presses universitaires de France, Paris, 1992, in André Corvisier (directeur), Histoire militaire de la France, ISBN 2-13-043872-5, p 214
  4. ^ Le Page et Nassiet, p.77
  5. ^ a b Philippe Contamine, op. cit, p 214
  6. ^ Cintré, p.147
  7. ^ Cintré, p.148
  8. ^ Cintré, p.150-151
  9. ^ Le Page et Nassiet, p.90
  10. ^ Cintré, p.153
  11. ^ Le Page et Nassiet, p.91
  12. ^ Cintré, p.157
  13. ^ Jean-Pierre Leguay. La poursuite d’un drame, ou la fin du rêve d’indépendance, in Fastes et malheurs de la Bretagne ducale (J-P. Leguay et Hervé Martin coauteurs). Ouest-France Université, 1982. p 407-417
  14. ^ By this act, Britain is associated to the kingdom, rather than absorbed within it, by a strictly personal union of the two sovereigns. As a state within a state, the duchy will enjoy the advantages of economic openness to the kingdom, while avoiding, it is hoped, the abuse of "absolutism of the French" (Georges Minois, Anne de Bretagne, Fayard, 1999, p.399.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.