The Combat of the Thirty

With the death John III, Duke of Brittany (in today’s northeast France), the Houses of Blois and Montford fought for control of the Duchy in the Breton War of Succession, a “subwar” of the Hundred Years War between England and France. On 26 March 1351, thirty Breton knights and squires from French aligned House of Blois, and thirty English, Breton, and German knights, with squires and men at arms from English aligned House of Montford met at the “Place of the Midway Oak”.

The field was located between the castles of Plomeril and Josselin in Brittany. The arranged chivalric melee was to end the bitter raiding that plagued the lands of both Houses. After hearing Mass together, the two groups exchanged pleasantries and small talk for several hours before lining up to fight on trodden ground. The first clash was an inconclusive brawl in which many were wounded. Both sides broke off combat to tend the injuries, mingle, and share wine with their foes.

The second melee was much bloodier than the first and the wounded included the Blois leader, Jean de Beaumenoir. When he asked for water and a stop to the combat, his second replied “Drink thy blood, Beaumanoir; thy thirst will pass”. The combatants of Blois eventually broke the Montfords after killing their leader, the Englishman Robert Bramborough, and riding down the unhorsed Germans who attempted to form a shield wall on the open ground. Seven were killed on the Montford side, three on the Blois side (including the leaders of both) and everyone else was wounded, most seriously.

Everyone captured recovered from their wounds and were released after a small ransom. House Blois would eventually control Brittany, or “Little Britain”: one of the Six Celtic Nations. Up to that point, Brittany was much more culturally aligned with their liegemen across the channel, the Cornish of the southwest Kingdom of England. However the House Blois renounced any ties to England and became part of France, where it remains today.

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