Battle of Fontenoy

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Battle of Fontenoy
contemporary French plan of the battle
contemporary French plan of the battle
date May 11, 1745
place on the Scheldt near Tournai , Belgium
output French victory
Parties to the conflict

Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain Great Britain Kurhannover United Netherlands Austria
Electorate of Braunschweig-LüneburgElectorate of Braunschweig-Lüneburg 
Republic of the Seven United ProvincesRepublic of the Seven United Provinces 
Habsburg MonarchyHabsburg Monarchy 

France Kingdom 1792France France


Wilhelm August, Duke of Cumberland

Moritz of Saxony

Troop strength
48,500 men 49,000 men

around 7,500 dead, wounded and missing

7,300 dead, wounded and missing

The Battle of Fontenoy on May 11, 1745 between the British , Hanoverians , Austrians and Dutch on the one hand and the French on the other hand took place near the Scheldt during the War of the Austrian Succession and ended with a victory for the French.


The 90,000-strong French army under the command of Marshal Moritz Graf von Sachsen , son of the Polish King August II , began the year 1745 with the siege of Tournai , an important fortress in southwest Flanders on the west bank of the Scheldt (now Belgium ) . The 48,500-strong “ pragmatic army ” of the allies under the command of the Duke of Cumberland then marched on Tournai to liberate the Dutch garrison and break up the siege ring.

Van Blaerenberghe's painting shows the British column broken through by the French lines

Moritz von Sachsen then posted 49,000 men of his army in a strong defensive position in the hills east of the Scheldt between the villages of Antoing , Fontenoy and a bastion on the edge of a forest (Bois de Barry), which was called Redoute D'Eu . These positions formed a triangle, the tip of which was pointed at the attackers. The pragmatic army reached the French positions on May 10th and attacked them on the morning of the following day. The main burden of the struggle was on the British.

Although Brigadier General Richard Ingoldsby did not carry out the attack on the Redoute D'Eu ordered several times by Cumberland and the attackers were therefore exposed to strong flank fire, a double column of 16,000 infantrymen under Lieutenant General Sir John Ligonier pushed onto the plateau between Fontenoy and the Redoute D'Eu before, broke through the French lines and caused confusion and heavy losses among the French. The French saved the situation by firing artillery at the attackers head-on and attacking the flanks with infantry and cavalry.

French and British Guards clash at the Battle of Fontenoy. Painting by Edouard Detaille .

Only after fresh Irish regiments in French service (the Irish Brigade ) attacked the battered British, they withdrew in an orderly manner to their starting positions. Meanwhile, Scottish troops had tried several times in vain to take Fontenoy.

After the battle ended, the pragmatic army withdrew, leaving the battlefield to the French, who did not pursue them. The losses of the British, Dutch, Austrians and Hanoverians, with 7,500 dead and wounded, were slightly higher than those of the victorious French with 7,300 dead and wounded. The main burden of the struggle had been with the British (4,041 dead and wounded).

A later well-known participant in the battle was Jeffrey Amherst , then adjutant to Sir John Ligonier. The behavior of the British infantrymen during the battle earned the French great respect and went a long way towards earning them the reputation of being among the best foot soldiers in Europe.

The loss-making victory at Fontenoy enabled Moritz von Sachsen to take Tournai and other Flemish fortresses during the year . The Pragmatic Army was weakened during the year when Cumberland had to withdraw to Britain with most of the British regiments to meet the Scottish uprising of 1745.


  • James Falkner: The battle of Fontenoy 1745. Saxe against Cumberland in the war of the Austrian succession. Pen & Sword Military: South Yorkshire, 2019. ISBN 978-1-5267-1841-9

Web links

Commons : Battle of Fontenoy  - collection of images, videos and audio files