Battle of Sluys
The decisive naval Battle of Sluys (slœys, frequently anglicised as ˈslɔɪz), also called Battle of l'Ecluse was fought on 24 June 1340 as one of the opening conflicts of the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

. It is historically important in that it resulted in the destruction of most of France's fleet, making a French invasion of England impossible, and ensuring that the remainder of the war would be fought mostly in France.

The battle

The encounter took place in front of the town of Newmarket or Sluis
Sluis is the name of both a municipality and a town located in the west of Zeelandic Flanders, in the south-western part of the Netherlands....

, (French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 Écluse), on the inlet between West Flanders and Zeeland
Zeeland , also called Zealand in English, is the westernmost province of the Netherlands. The province, located in the south-west of the country, consists of a number of islands and a strip bordering Belgium. Its capital is Middelburg. With a population of about 380,000, its area is about...

. In the middle of the 14th century this was an open roadstead
A roadstead is a place outside a harbor where a ship can lie at anchor. It is an enclosed area with an opening to the sea, narrower than a bay or gulf. It has a surface that cannot be confused with an estuary. It can be created artificially by jetties or dikes...

 capable of holding large fleets; it later was silted up by the river Eede
Eede is a village in the Dutch province of Zeeland. It is located close on the Belgian border about 3 km south of Aardenburg, in the municipality of Sluis.Until 1941, Eede was a separate municipality....

. A French fleet, which the English king Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

, in a letter to his son Edward, the Black Prince
Edward, the Black Prince
Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine, KG was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and his wife Philippa of Hainault as well as father to King Richard II of England....

, put at 190 sail (French sources say 213 boats), had been collected in preparation for an invasion of England. It was under the command of the Breton knight Hugues Quiéret
Hugues Quiéret
Hugues Quiéret was a French nobleman, admiral and military commander. He was a knight, lord of Tours-en-Vimeu and of Hamicourt, in Picardie. Before becoming an admiral, he had been a conseiller, chambellan, maître d'hôtel du roi, then the seneschal of Beaucaire and Nimes from 1325 to 1332.He was...

, admiral for the king of France. Part of the fleet consisted of Genoese
Republic of Genoa
The Most Serene Republic of Genoa |Ligurian]]: Repúbrica de Zêna) was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, as well as Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean....

 galleys serving as mercenaries under the command of Egidio Bocanegra (Barbavera). Although many English historians speak of King Edward's fleet as inferior in number to the French, it is certain that he sailed from the Orwell
River Orwell
The River Orwell flows through the county of Suffolk in England. Its source river, above the tidal limit at Stoke Bridge, is known as the River Gipping. It broadens into an estuary at Ipswich where the Ipswich dock has operated since the 7th century and then flows into the North Sea at Felixstowe...

 on 22 June with 200 sail, and that he was joined on the coast of Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 by his admiral for the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

, Sir Robert Morley, with 50 more. Some in this swarm of vessels were no doubt mere transports, for the king brought with him the household of his queen, Philippa of Hainault
Philippa of Hainault
Philippa of Hainault, or, Philippe de Hainaut was the Queen consort of King Edward III of England. Edward, Duke of Guyenne, her future husband, promised in 1326 to marry her within the following two years...

, who was then at Bruges
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located in the northwest of the country....

. As, however, one of the queen's ladies was killed in the battle, it would appear that all of the English vessels were employed. According to some authors, the English had "160 to 180" sails.

Edward anchored at Blankenberge
Blankenberge is a town and a municipality in the Belgian province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the town of Blankenberge proper and the settlement of Uitkerke.On 1 January 2010 Blankenberge had a total population of 18,907...

 on the afternoon of 23 June and sent three squires to observe the position of the French. The Genoese Barbavera advised his colleagues to go to sea, but Béhuchet, who as Constable exercised the general command, refused to leave the anchorage. He probably wished to occupy it in order to bar the king’s road to Bruges
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located in the northwest of the country....

. The dispositions of the French were made in accordance with the usual medieval tactics of a fleet fighting on the defensive. Quiéret and Béhuchet formed their force into three or four lines chained together, with a few of the largest stationed in front as outposts. This was disastrous as it allowed the English to attack the left flank while the rest of the French fleet was paralyzed. King Edward entered the roadstead on the morning of the 24th, and after maneuvering to place his ships to windward, and to bring the sun behind him, attacked with showers of arrows from the longbowmen on board. They could fire five times faster than the Genoese crossbowmen. In his letter to his son he says that the enemy made a noble defense "all that day and the night after." His ships were arranged in two lines, and it may be presumed that the first attacked in front, while the second would be able to turn the flanks of the opponent. The battle was a long succession of hand-to-hand fighting, board
Boarding (attack)
Boarding, in its simplest sense, refers to the insertion on to a ship's deck of individuals. However, when it is classified as an attack, in most contexts, it refers to the forcible insertion of personnel that are not members of the crew by another party without the consent of the captain or crew...

ings, or the repelling of boarders. Many French ships were successfully boarded and captured after fierce battles. Genoese crossbowmen also managed to successfully board and capture two English ships. Edward makes no mention of any actual help given him by his Flemish allies, though he says they were willing; the French claim that they joined after dark. They also assert that the king was wounded by Béhuchet, but this is not certain, and there is no testimony save a legendary one for a personal encounter between him and the French commander, though it would not be improbable. It is a sure fact, though, that the King was wounded by either an arrow or a bolt during the battle.

By the end of the battle, the French fleet had been broken with the loss of only two English ships captured, and the water was reported to be thick with blood and corpses.
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