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Coordinates: 49°55′10″N 4°31′40″E / 49.91944°N 4.52778°E / 49.91944; 4.52778

Battle of Rocroi
Part of the Thirty Years' War
Duc d'Enghien at the Battle of Rocroi
Date 19 May 1643
Location Rocroi, France
Result Decisive French victory
 France  Spain
Duc d'Enghien Francisco de Melo
Count of Fuentes †
17,000 infantry
6,000 cavalry
14 guns [1]
19,000 infantry
8,000 cavalry
18 guns [1]
Casualties and losses
4,000 dead, wounded and captured [2] 7,000 dead and wounded
8,000 captured [2]

The Battle of Rocroi was fought on 19 May 1643, late in the Thirty Years' War. It resulted in a decisive victory of the French army under the Duc d'Enghien, against the Spanish army under General Francisco de Melo.



The Habsburg Spanish-Imperial army of about 27,000 men, advanced from Flanders, through the Ardennes, and into northern France to relieve French pressure on the Franche-Comté and Catalonia. The Spanish troops set siege to Rocroi, which lay athwart the route to the valley of the Oise. The French, under the command of 21-year-old Louis, duc d'Enghien, reacted quickly and forced a battle before the arrival of 6,000 Spanish reinforcements. The Spanish failed to block the route to Rocroi, which passed through a defile bordered by woods and marsh. Enghien advanced through the defile and assembled his force along a ridge looking down on the besieged town of Rocroi. The Spanish quickly formed up between the town and the ridge. The French army, some 23,000 strong, was arranged with two lines of infantry in the centre, squadrons of cavalry on each wing and with a thin line of artillery at the front. The Spanish army was similarly arranged, but with its infantry in their traditional tercios, or squares. The two armies bivouacked in their positions for the night.


Map of the troop dispositions

The battle began after dawn. The French army attacked, but the French infantry in the centre were bested by the Spanish. The cavalry on the French left, advancing against Enghien's orders was also thrown back. But the cavalry on the French right, under the command of Jean de Gassion, routed the Spanish cavalry opposite. Enghien was able to follow this up by attacking the exposed left flank of the Spanish infantry. Spanish cavalry made a successful counter-attack to drive off the French cavalry, but were checked by the advance of the French reserve.

Enghien now carried out a huge cavalry encirclement, sweeping behind the Spanish army and smashing his way through to attack the rear of the Spanish cavalry that was still in combat with his reserves. The Spanish horse was put to flight, leaving the Spanish infantry to carry on the fight. The French were twice repulsed by the stubborn Spanish squares, so Enghien arranged for his artillery and the captured Spanish guns to blast them apart.

The German and Walloon tercios fled from the battlefield, while the Spanish stayed on the field with their commander, absorbing four cavalry charges by the French, but never breaking the formation, notwithstanding heavy assistance of artillery. Young Enghien, the French commander, then offered surrender conditions just like those obtained by a besieged garrison into a fortress. Having agreed to those terms, the remains of the two tercios left the field with deployed flags and weapons.

Total Spanish losses were about 15,000 dead, wounded, or captured. French losses were about 4,000.


The battle was an important propaganda victory for Mazarin and Enghien, the future "Great Condé". It was also the first major battlefield defeat of a Spanish army in a century, although historians have noted that Melo's German, Walloon, and Italian troops actually surrendered first, while the Spanish infantry cracked only after repeated cavalry charges and a vicious spell under the French guns. In any case, Rocroi put an end to the supremacy of Spanish military doctrine. Spain continued with much success in its war against France in the main war fronts of Catalonia and Italy, where, after initially having lost control (in the former due to a local rebellion), it recovered most of its lost ground. However, these efforts against France left Spain so drained it was unable to supply adequate military resources against the simultaneous and ultimately successful Portuguese rebellion. It was not until the defeat at the Battle of the Dunes in 1658 (the Spanish forces were led then by the same d'Enghien, victor of Rocroi) that the linear formation had clearly superseded the tercio. The 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees ended the war in favor of France, affirming the new reality so loudly and prematurely proclaimed at Rocroi.

In media

A 2006 Spanish movie, Alatriste, directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes, portrays this battle in its final scene. The soundtrack features in this scene a funeral march, La Madrugá, composed by Colonel Abel Moreno for the Holy Week of Seville, played by the band of the regiment Soria 9, heir of that which participated in the battle, the oldest unit in the Spanish Army, and since nicknamed "the blood Tercio".


The sedan chair belonging to the Spanish infantry general Fuentes was taken as a trophy by the French and may be seen in Les Invalides museum in Paris. Fuentes was killed in the battle.


  1. ^ a b John Childs, Warfare in the Seventeenth Century. p. 74
  2. ^ a b John Childs, Warfare in the Seventeenth Century. p. 75


  • Dupuy, Trevor N., Harper Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. ISBN 0-06-270056-1

See also

External links

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