Monday, 20 April 2009

The 2nd Battle of the Dunes, Dunkirk, June 14, 1658

OK, so here I go again, pre-dating our chosen period by a bit. But at least the repercussions of this one overlap into the reign of Louis Quatorze. History is rife with "what if" possibilities: What if Ney had defied Napoleon, would the 100 Days have happened? What if Patton had to face Bradley, the tactician versus the "Soldier's General"? And thanks to WRG and various TV shows, what if the Vikings had faced the Samurai, or Alexander's Macedonians had faced Ceasar's legions?

Well, this one really happened. Arguably the two greatest commander's of their age, and both French, Louis II de Boubon, Prince de Condé and Henri, Vicomte de Turenne, faced off in the 2nd battle of the Dunes near Dunkirk during the Franco Spanish Wars (1653 - 1659). Condé had become involved in the French version of the Civil war, the Fronde. He was specifically involved in the Fronde of the Princes, so called because among the nobles rebelling against Cardinal Mazarin's rule and the power of the throne were Gaston of Orleans (the king's uncle); the great Louis II, Prince de Condé and his brother Armand, Prince of Conti; Frédéric, the Duke of Bouillon, and his brother Henri, Viscomte of Turenne (Turenne reconciled with Mazarin and the Court in 1651).

Plus, the battle itself featured French against French and English against English. The Franco-English fleet and army met the Franco-Spanish army (which included 2 English Royalist battalions loyal to King Charles, York/Bristol and Newbourgh). Unfortunately for Condé, he was not in overall command of the Franco-Spanish-English Royalist forces, that fell to Don Juan de Austria (John the Younger).

The Franco-English army (6 English battalions present, Morgan, Lillington, Alsop, Cochrane, Gibbons/Salmo and Lockhart) on the other hand, was ably commanded by Condé's old rival, Henri, Vicomte de Turenne. The battle was an overwhelming victory for the Franco-English forces of Turenne, and even involved the English navy shelling both the Spanish fleet and the beaches.

For added color and flavor, we even have Swiss, Walloon and German regiments to go with the Spanish, French and English. Some sources say there were even two Irish battalions in the Spanish army. A real gamer's delight from a painting perspective!

Following the defeat of the Fronde, and a great deal of political intercession by friends, Condé threw himself on the mercy of the newly-ascended young Louis XIV and was accepted back into the King's good graces. He did comment later in life that his greatest error in the Battle of the Dunes was in not insisting on overall command, as he still felt he could have defeated Turenne.

For more information on the Fronde, go here:

For a really excellent article on the Battle, with situational maps, we once again rely on the good Dr. Pierre Picouet's site, here:

Like I said out the outset, a little early for Louis Quatorze, but a battle that definitely effected his future reign as king. And a great scenario for a convention game, especially with the naval element present!


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