Battle of Renty, 13 August 1554

The battle of Renty (13 August 1554) was a minor French victory during an Imperial invasion of Picardy that was most notable as Charles V's last battle (Fifth Hapsburg-Valois War).

The main theatre of war in 1554 was on the north-eastern border of France. The year began with a French campaign in the Meuse valley, capturing Marienburg and Dinant. Charles responded by building new fortresses further downstream, around Liege. Henry then moved north from Dinant to attack Namur.

This threat drew Charles into the field for the last time. This forced the French to pull back from Namur. By mid-August the two armies were operating in the Pas-de-Calais. The French army was led by Anne, duke of Montmorency, Constable of France. It also included Francois, duke of Guise, one of the most successful French military commanders of the period, and Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France.

On 12 August the French began a siege of the castle of Renty. Early on 13 August Charles responded by sending his vanguard to capture the Bois Guillaume, a wood that was one of the keys to the French position. The Imperial attack hit the forces led by the Duke of Guise. At first he was badly pressed, but after gathering his forces he was able to defeat the Imperial attack.

Guise was unable to press his advantage as the woods were now filled with Imperial arquebusiers. Colingy now played a part in the battle, leading around 1,000-1,200 men into the woods and clearing out the gunners. 

This ended the battle, which rated as a minor French victory. Charles withdrew from the area, ending his active military career. He did send an army on a raid into Picardy, but didn't accompany it. Later in the same year Charles began the process of abdicating from his titles, a two-year long process.

Both sides were able to claim victory at Renty. Although the French had won the small battle, a few days later they decided to lift the siege, so Charles's operations had saved the castle.

The French commanders soon fell out over who deserved the credit for the victory at Renty. Montmorency and Guise were bitter rivals and Coligny was a supporter of Montmorency. The tension between the two camps would soon play a part in the outbreak of the First French War of Religion, the start of a long period of civil war within France.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 February 2015), Battle of Renty, 13 August 1554 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_renty.html

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