Have there ever been (recorded) battles (in the middle-ages) which ended badly for all parties?

I would like to explain what could be meant by disaster giving to possible scenarios:

  • by disaster I don't mean there was no "winner" during or after the battle in means of fighting. The disaster could be that even if one party won the battle neither of the involved parties could profit from that due to some circumstances like new political/military alliances or something else...
  • also for example even if one of two parties won the battle both the Kings/Rulers/Leaders died during the battle and their former countries or properties fall into a disastrous war because of claims of inheritance or a kind of civil war or revolt against the Leaders started during the fight?
  • So a disaster or a bad ending could be a short/middle term result which wasn't in favour of neither of the involved parties!

An example which don't meet all my "conditions" I know was the Battle of Alcacer Quibir three Kings died but the battle didn't end up that bad for one party as they could hide the death of the King and the succession was could have been cleared without big trouble, as it seems!

This is explicitly an list question, so feel free to provide list answers.

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    @Medi1Saif Before your edit there was aboslutely no mention of middle-ages or whatsoever.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 17:37
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    @Semaphore yes you're right that was my fault, i added the tag and forgot to add the tagged "time Periods" in my first draft!
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 18:45
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    Is the question about battles only? Could the entire Byzantine-Sasanian War 602-628 serve as an example?
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 17:34
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    This is one of my favorites (though later than middle ages). In the Battle of Karansebes the Austrian army managed to attack itself, leading to devastation to "both sides". :)
    – AlaskaRon
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 0:42
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    Maybe also Five Battles of Kawanakajima 1553-1564. Although it's Japan, not Europe, but that's really the middle ages. The true war for the glory, which made both sides to waste time and resources and gave them nothing except legendary reputation.
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 14:09

5 Answers 5


The Battle of Nájera - Peter the Cruel hired his friend, the Black Prince (no, really) to beat the French-backed "rightful" ruler of Castile, Henry of Trastámara, to take back the crown. Since the generals on one side of the battle were known as "Peter the Cruel", "The Black Prince" and "John of Gaunt" (no, really), and the other side did not have any superhero-nicknames to counter, they did indeed kick the hell out of Castile and her French allies, lead by Henry.

This victory caused a falling out between Pedro of Castile and Edward, as Pedro reneged on paying the bill and instead kept busy living up to his nickname. Losing his powerful ally after a victorious battle prevented Peter the Cruel from cementing his rule, which resulted in his ultimate defeat at Henry's hands.

  • Finally an answer that fits the time period :)
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 14:17
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    the other side did not have any superhero-nicknames Well, actually they had Bertrand du Guesclin aka "The Eagle of Brittany" or "The Black Dog of Brocéliande". No good though.
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 14:56
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    For a really great book about this period, including the superheros above, I recommend The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle (gutenberg.org/ebooks/903)
    – DrMcCleod
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 19:56

Third Battle of panipat is what you are looking for -

The battle was fought between Ahmad Shah Durrani and Marattha Empire near Delhi (now capital of India) on 14th Jan 1761. Technically Ahmad Shah won the war however didn't gained much from it and had to return back to Afganistan. Estimated losses on both sides around 150,000 however more civilians were killed after Marattha were lost.

one of the source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Battle_of_Panipat

  • Interesting Answer but still a bit out of the focused time period, thanks for sharing!
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 12:38

I think you are looking for a Pyrrhic victory. See the battles of Ascalum and Herecleam.


  • Sounds good, but i thought middle ages would be more like 5th-15th Century!
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 9:00
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    @Medi1Saif Agree - was simply giving examples of the concepts - not a direct answer to the question. Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 16:09

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The Battle of Kosovo (Serbian: Косовска битка/Kosovska bitka, Turkish: Kosova Meydan Muharebesi) took place on 15 June 1389 between the army led by the Serbian Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović, and the invading army of the Ottoman Empire under the command of Sultan Murad Hüdavendigâr. The army under Prince Lazar consisted of his own troops, a contingent led by Serbian nobleman Vuk Branković, and a contingent sent from Bosnia by King Tvrtko I, commanded by Vlatko Vuković. Prince Lazar was the ruler of Moravian Serbia, and the most powerful among the Serbian regional lords of the time, while Vuk Branković ruled District of Branković located in a part of Kosovo and other areas, recognizing Lazar as his overlord. The battle was fought on the in Kosovo field, in the territory ruled by Branković, in Kosovo. Its site is about 5 kilometers northwest of the modern city of Prishtina.

It is difficult to assess the importance of the Kosovo Battle for world history. However, it is undeniable that the Battle of Kosovo was exceptionally significant not only for Serbia, but also for Europe and European Christian civilization.

It is a fact that on Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, the Serbs, without help from a single European nation, defended on Kosovo Field not only the frontiers of their own territory and lives of their people, but, at the risk of losing their national independence, they also defended the interests and security of Christian Europe. In the conflict of 2 rival civilizations, the Muslim and the Christian, the Serbs checked the wave of the Turkish invasion, interposed themselves as a wall between the Turks and Europe, and enabled Europe to make preparations for its own defense. It is questionable whether the history of Europe would have been the same without the Battle of Kosovo.

Reliable historical accounts of the battle are scarce. We still don't know who exactly won the battle. At one point, the bells of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris rang out in (maybe) erroneous salute to the Serbs' victory. But even if Serbs won the battle it was a pyrrhic victory.

Both armies were decimated out in the battle; both Lazar and Murad lost their lives, and the remnants of their armies eventually retreated from the battlefield. Murad's son Bayezid strangled his younger brother Yakub Çelebi upon hearing that their father had died, becoming the sole heir to the Ottoman throne. The Serbs were left with too few men to defend their lands effectively, while the Turks had many more troops in the east. Consequently, the Serbian principalities that were not already Ottoman vassals became so in the following years, one by one. Furthermore, in response to Ottoman pressure, some Serbian noblemen wed their daughters, including the daughter of Prince Lazar, to Bayezid. In the wake of these marriages, Stefan Lazarević became a loyal ally of Bayezid, going on to contribute significant forces to many of Bayezid's future military engagements, including the Battle of Nicopolis. Eventually, the Serbian Despotate would, on numerous occasions, attempt to defeat the Ottomans in conjunction with the Hungarians until its final defeat in 1459 and again in 1540.



Well, though it breaks the proposed time frame, I give an example from XVII century.

This is the Battle of Dmitrov, 1610, Russia which is the part of Time of Troubles - a dramatic series of events in Russian history.

In 1608-1610 Moscow was besieged by the pretender commonly referred as False Dmitriy II, who was supported by Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Russian tsar Vasili Shuisky, who took the throne after murdering in 1606 the previous Polish creature False Dmitriy I, wasn't able to do anything with that. Until his distant relative, young and promising general Mikhail Skopin-Shuisky in a highly successful campaign defeated Polish forces in several battles, and after the forementioned Battle of Dmitrov, finally raised the siege of Moscow and broke the hopes of False Dmitriy II for the Russian throne.

But the popularity of young general made him a big concern for the tsar (who, in turn, was extremely unpopular - he was the former protege of tsar Boris Godunov, who betrayed his son Feodor Godunov for False Dmitriy I, and later betrayed False Dmitriy I; moreover, Skopin-Shuisky had more dynastic rights on the Russian throne than tsar Vasili). So in a few weeks after his triumph 23-years old Skopin-Shuisky died.

Tsar Vasili was commonly accused in poisoning (and this supposition is also highly supported until nowadays), and in another three months he was made to abdicate and to take the monastic vows. Polish prince Vladislav was then proclaimed as Russian tsar. Vasili Shuisky was handed to Poles and sent to Warsaw where he died a prisoner two years later.

Needless to say, these events were also a blow for False Dmitriy II, who lost the support of Poland, and had to fight against his former allies in a desperate attempt to gain the throne. That was all in vain, and at the end of 1610 he was killed by conspirators.

Vladislav's reign wasn't for a long time too. The uprising of 1611 was unsuccessful, but in 1612 Minin and Pozharsky ousted Poles from Moscow. And in 1613 the elected tsar Mikhail I founded the new dynasty of Romanovs.

UPD. Talking about military tactics, under Dmitrov Russian army made heavy use of snowy Febrary. Polish elite cavalry was almost useless, while Skopin-Shuyski relied on about 4000 trained skiers. So he kept the initiative from the beginning to the end, attacking outposts, until on 20th Febrary 1610 he managed both to take a large fortification and to meet the reinforcements on the march. Although Russians still couldn't take the main fortress, but the blow was so hard that polish mercenaries later went to Smolensk, and False Dmitriy II fled.

  • It would be great if you could provide an English link to the Battle events
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 9:03
  • @Medi1Saif I was unable to find such one. After all, it was just the last point in the lengthy campaign, and English sources are not much verbose about this. I updated my answer.
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 12:09
  • well i tried to find English/German sources so far (have not tried French/Spanish as i'm not so fluent in them) and didn't find something helpful therefor a special thank for your effort!
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 9:44
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    @Medi1Saif Well, actually tsar Vasili's abdication was preceded by yet another military failure in a more famous Battle of Klushino, where his loyal yet pathetic brother Dmitriy Shuyski somehow managed to lose. But Russian historians are all agree that Skopin-Shuyski was really the last chance for the house of Shuyski to resist. It is also worth to note that many conspirators had been the friends of deceased Skopin-Shuyski and specially sought to avenge his death.
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 10:46

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