Battle of Fornham

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Battle of Fornham
date October 17, 1173
place at Fornham, Suffolk
output Victory of the royalists
Parties to the conflict




Richard de Luci
Humphrey de Bohun
Reginald de Dunstanville
William d'Aubigny
William FitzRobert
Roger Bigod

Robert de Beaumont
Hugh Bigod

Troop strength
300 knights 8,000 Flemish mercenaries
some French knights


Destruction of the mercenaries

The Battle of Fornham was a military clash in medieval England in which royal troops led by Richard de Luci won against a rebel army led by Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl of Leicester and Lord High Steward . It took place on October 17, 1173 at Fornham All Saints , near Bury St Edmunds , in Suffolk .


In 1173, the eldest son of King Henry II of England , Henry the Younger , began a revolt against his father that was fought out both in England and in the French possessions of the House of Plantagenet (see: Angevin Empire ). The young Henry enjoyed the support of King Louis VII of France , Count Philip of Flanders and King William I of Scotland . The rebellion was also joined by a large number of discontented nobles both on the continent and in England, one of whom was the powerful Earl Robert de Beaumont of Leicester, who entrenched himself in his castle Breteuil in Normandy .

King Henry II entrusted the fight against the rebels in England to his justiciar Richard de Luci and devoted himself to the fight on the mainland. After landing with an army in Normandy, the king moved to Breteuil, which finally fell in early September 1173 and was destroyed. Roger de Beaumont but was able to flee with his followers to Count Philip of Flanders. From this he received an army of 8,000 Flemish mercenaries with whom he entered English soil on the coast of Suffolk on September 29. Here he joined forces with those of like-minded Earl Hugh Bigod of Norfolk and conquered the royal castle of Walton , which had once belonged to the Bigods. From their base in Framlingham, they also captured Haughley Castle on October 13th.

About the next target they got into a dispute, however, as Robert de Beaumont wanted to save his fief Leicester , which was just besieged by the Royal. The city had already fallen and burned down, only the castle withstood the siege. Earl William de Ferrers of Derby is said to have warned him about this move and predicted that he would sooner land in the Tower of London than he would reach Leicester. As the leader of the Flemings, Beaumont was ultimately able to prevail and moved with Bigod towards Leicester.

The battle

While the rebels were still arguing about how to proceed, the Justiciar Richard de Lucy had used the time to assemble an army of 300 knights at the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds , led by Constable Humphrey de Bohun. Furthermore, the Earls Reginald de Dunstanville of Cornwall, William d'Aubigny of Arundel and William FitzRobert of Gloucester, and Roger Bigod, the eldest son of the rebellious Hugh Bigod, sided with the royal cause.

Before the rebels could leave the borders of Suffolkshire, they were captured by the royal on October 17, 1173 near Fornham. These were under the banner of St. Edmund, led by the young Roger Bigod. According to the medieval chronicles, the battle that followed was quickly decided by the royal knights overcoming and capturing their opponents. The Earl of Leicester and his knights brought along from France were taken prisoner, Hugh Bigod was just able to escape from the battlefield. The earl's wife, who was armed and present in the battle, fell into a trench while escaping and was also captured. In contrast, under the Flemish mercenaries de Beaumont, no prisoners were taken and only a few managed to escape from the battlefield.


The Battle of Fornham was an important victory for King Henry II's troops against the rebels. With the defeat and capture of the King of Scotland at Alnwick in July 1174 , the rebellion on English soil was finally put down. On the mainland, the battle in favor of the king ended in September 1174 with a reconciliation with his sons.

The battle of Fornham and the rebellion were narrated by, among others, Radulfus de Diceto and Roger von Hoveden . The Trouvère Jordan Fantosme wrote a rhyming chronicle of these events and noted, among other things, that the royal troops consisted mainly of knights of English birth ( maint gentil chevalier d'Engleterre né ).



  • Raoul de Diceto, Ymagines Historiarum , ed. by William Stubbs: The Historical Works of Ralph of Diss , in: Rolls Series 68.1 (London, 1876), pp. 377-378
  • Roger of Hoveden, Chronica magistri Rogeri de Houedene II , ed. by William Stubbs in: Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 51 (1869), pp. 54-55
  • Roger of Hoveden, The annals of Roger de Hoveden, Vol. 1 , ed. by Henry T. Riley (1853), pp. 374-375
  • Jordan Fantosme, Chronicle of the war between the English and the Scots in 1173 and 1174 , ed. by Francisque Michel in: Publications of the Surtees Society 11 (1840), pp. 39-51

Individual evidence

  1. For the number of Flemings see Diceto. Hoveden named 10,000, Fantosme wrote hundreds and thousands.
  2. For the date, see Diceto. Hoveden named October 16, 1173.
  3. Jordan Fantosme, line 831; see Laura Ashe: Fiction and history in England, 1066-1200 , in: Cambridge studies in medieval literature 68 (2007), p. 102