I know that Bertrand du Guesclin was the constable of France from 1369-1380, whose role in the "roll back" of English domination of France was second only to that of Joan of Arc.

Although he won a number of victories against the English, none of them were as spectacular as English victories at Crecy, Poitiers, or Auray. My understanding is that du Guesclin was renowned for his "Fabian tactics" and war of attrition. Because he was not a high ranking noble, many Frenchmen refused to serve under him, and his armies were smaller than French armies typically were, meaning that he enjoyed less favorable numerical odds than other French commanders. Yet he managed to regain a considerable part of western France during those eleven years.

How was that?

  • 4
    Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century also tells about him (pp. 226, viewable in Amazon' Look Inside the book).
    – Drux
    Dec 20, 2013 at 12:50

1 Answer 1


In the end progress in a war like this was made by capturing castles and cities, or keeping them. (the focus on big battles can be misleading) Bertrand du Guesclin did both. If it wasn't for him the english would have conquered Rennes and Nantes (and thus held Bretagne). He also advised charles to use a scorched earth tactic against the invasion of Richard III. Richard besieged many cities but failed to take any but Caen. (fun story, in the English wikipedia this is only rewarded one sentence: Yet a campaign in 1359, meant to complete the undertaking, was inconclusive. while it's rewarded half a page on the French.) He also helped Henri of Trastamare on the spanish throne, and as a bonus managed to lure several thousands of mercenaries (who had been living as robbers in france for decades) with him.

In the end the progress made by Du Guesclin was obtained by fighting against the free companies, defending castles and methodically besieging castle after castle, which is how he died

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    As we learned in Vietnam, a guerilla war is won hamlets and villages, not big cities. Basically, du Guesclin obtained control of the countryside.
    – Tom Au
    Dec 20, 2013 at 13:37
  • @TomAu I've also heard he paid for the food his men ate, to keep the people behind him.
    – Jeroen K
    Dec 20, 2013 at 14:26
  • That's why good guerillas do. At least according to Mao Tse-tung.
    – Tom Au
    Dec 20, 2013 at 16:00

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