Battle of Ceresole

The Battle of Ceresole (or Cérisoles) took place on 11 April 1544, during the Italian War of 1542–46, outside the village of Ceresole d'Alba in the Piedmont region of Italy. A French army, commanded by François de Bourbon, Count of Enghien, defeated the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and Spain, commanded by Alfonso d'Avalos d'Aquino, Marquis del Vasto. Despite having inflicted substantial casualties on the Imperial troops, the French subsequently failed to exploit their victory by taking Milan.

Enghien and d'Avalos had arranged their armies along two parallel ridges; because of the topography of the battlefield, many of the individual actions of the battle were uncoordinated. The battle opened with several hours of skirmishing between opposing bands of arquebusiers and an ineffectual artillery exchange, after which d'Avalos ordered a general advance. In the center, Imperial landsknechts clashed with French and Swiss infantry, with both sides suffering terrific casualties. In the southern part of the battlefield, Italian infantry in Imperial service were harried by French cavalry attacks and withdrew after learning that the Imperial troops of the center had been defeated. In the north, meanwhile, the French infantry line crumbled, and Enghien led a series of ineffectual and costly cavalry charges against Spanish and German infantry before the latter were forced to surrender by the arrival of the victorious Swiss and French infantry from the center.

Ceresole was one of the few pitched battles during the latter half of the Italian Wars. Known among military historians chiefly for the "great slaughter" that occurred when columns of intermingled arquebusiers and pikemen met in the center, it also demonstrates the continuing role of traditional heavy cavalry on a battlefield largely dominated by the emerging pike and shot infantry.

Battle of Ceresole
Part of the Italian War of 1542–46
Battle of Ceresole (preliminary)

Movements before the battle; the Imperial advance from Asti is shown in red and Enghien's march from Carignano in blue.
Date11 April 1544
Near Ceresole d'Alba, southeast of Turin, present-day Italy
Result French victory
 France  Holy Roman Empire
Spain Spain
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of France Count of Enghien Spain Holy Roman Empire Alfonso d'Avalos
~11,000–13,000 infantry,
~1,500–1,850 cavalry,
~20 guns
~12,500–18,000 infantry,
~800–1,000 cavalry,
~20 guns
Casualties and losses
~1,500–2,000+ dead or wounded ~5,000–6,000+ dead or wounded,
~3,150 captured


The opening of the war in northern Italy had been marked by the fall of Nice to a combined Franco-Ottoman army in August 1543; meanwhile, Imperial-Spanish forces had advanced from Lombardy towards Turin, which had been left in French hands at the end of the previous war in 1538.[1] By the winter of 1543–1544, a stalemate had developed in the Piedmont between the French, under the Sieur de Boutières, and the Imperial army, under d'Avalos.[2] The French position, centered on Turin, reached outward to a series of fortified towns: Pinerolo, Carmagnola, Savigliano, Susa, Moncalieri, Villanova, Chivasso, and a number of others; d'Avalos, meanwhile, controlled a group of fortresses on the periphery of the French territory: Mondovì, Asti, Casale Monferrato, Vercelli, and Ivrea.[3] The two armies occupied themselves primarily with attacking each other's outlying strongholds. Boutières seized San Germano Vercellese, near Vercelli, and laid siege to Ivrea; d'Avalos, meanwhile, captured Carignano, only fifteen miles south of Turin, and proceeded to garrison and fortify it.[4]

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (Italian) - Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marquis of Vasto, in Armor with a Page - Google Art Project
Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto, in Armor with a Page (oil on canvas by Titian, c. 1533)

As the two armies returned to winter quarters, Francis I of France replaced Boutières with François de Vendôme, Count of Enghien, a prince with no experience commanding an army.[5] Francis also sent additional troops to the Piedmont, including several hundred heavy cavalry, some companies of French infantry from Dauphiné and Languedoc, and a force of quasi-Swiss from Gruyères.[6] In January 1544, Enghien laid siege to Carignano, which was defended by Imperial troops under the command of Pirro Colonna.[7] The French were of the opinion that d'Avalos would be forced to attempt a relief of the besieged city, at which point he could be forced into a battle; but as such pitched battles were viewed as very risky undertakings, Enghien sent Blaise de Lasseran-Massencôme, seigneur de Montluc, to Paris to ask Francis for permission to fight one.[8] Montluc apparently convinced Francis to give his assent—contingent on the agreement of Enghien's captains—over the objections of the Comte de St. Pol, who complained that a defeat would leave France exposed to an invasion by d'Avalos's troops at a time when Charles V and Henry VIII of England were expected to attack Picardy.[9] Montluc, returning to Italy, brought with him nearly a hundred volunteers from among the young noblemen of the court, including Gaspard de Coligny.[10]

D'Avalos, having waited for the arrival a large body of landsknechts dispatched by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, set off from Asti towards Carignano.[11] His total force included 12,500–18,000 infantry, of which perhaps 4,000 were arquebusiers or musketeers; he was only able to gather about 800–1,000 cavalry, of which less than 200 were gendarmes.[12] D'Avalos recognized the relative weakness of his cavalry, but considered it to be compensated by the experience of his infantry and the large number of arquebusiers in its ranks.[13]

Enghien, having learned of the Imperial advance, left a blocking force at Carignano and assembled the remainder of his army at Carmagnola, blocking d'Avalos's route to the besieged city.[14] The French cavalry, shadowing d'Avalos's movements, discovered that the Imperial forces were headed directly for the French position; on 10 April, d'Avalos occupied the village of Ceresole d'Alba, about five miles (8 km) southeast of the French.[15] Enghien's officers urged him to attack immediately, but he was determined to fight on ground of his own choosing; on the morning of 11 April 1544, the French marched from Carmagnola to a position some three miles (5 km) to the southeast and awaited d'Avalos's arrival.[16] Enghien and Montluc felt that the open ground would give the French cavalry a significant tactical advantage.[17] By this point, the French army consisted of around 11,000–13,000 infantry, 600 light cavalry, and 900–1,250 heavy cavalry; Enghien and d'Avalos each had about twenty pieces of artillery.[18] The battle came at a fortunate time for Enghien, as his Swiss troops were—as they had before the Battle of Bicocca—threatening to march home if they were not paid; the news of the impending battle restored some calm to their ranks.[19]



Battle of Ceresole (initial) en
The initial dispositions of the opposing armies; the French troops are shown in blue and the Imperial troops in red.

Enghien's troops were positioned along the crest of a ridge that was higher in the center than on either side, preventing the wings of the French army from seeing each other.[20] The French army was divided into the traditional "battle", "vanward", and "rearward" corps, corresponding to the center and right and left wings of the French line.[21] On the far right of the French position was a body of light cavalry, consisting of three companies under Des Thermes, Bernadino, and Mauré, with a total strength of around 450–500 men.[22] To their left was the French infantry under De Tais, numbering around 4,000, and, farther to the left, a squadron of 80 gendarmes under Boutières, who was nominally the commander of the entire French right wing.[23] The center of the French line was formed by thirteen companies of veteran Swiss, numbering about 4,000, under the joint command of William Frülich of Soleure and a captain named St. Julian.[24] To their left was Enghien himself with three companies of heavy cavalry, a company of light horse, and the volunteers from Paris—in total, around 450 troopers.[25] The left wing was composed of two columns of infantry, consisting of 3,000 of the recruits from Gruyères and 2,000 Italians, all under the command of Sieur Descroz.[26] On the extreme left of the line were about 400 mounted archers deployed as light cavalry; they were commanded by Dampierre, who was also given command of the entire French left wing.[27]

The Imperial line formed up on a similar ridge facing the French position.[28] On the far left, facing Des Thermes, were 300 Florentine light cavalry under Rodolfo Baglioni; flanking them to the right were 6,000 Italian infantry under Ferrante Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno.[29] In the center were the 7,000 landsknechte under the command of Eriprando Madruzzo.[30] To their right was d'Avalos himself, together with the small force of about 200 heavy cavalry under Carlo Gonzaga.[31] The Imperial right wing was composed of around 5,000 German and Spanish infantry under Ramón de Cardona; they were flanked, on the far right, by 300 Italian light cavalry under Philip de Lannoy, Prince of Sulmona.[32]

Order of battle at Ceresole
(listed from north to south along the battlefield)
(François de Vendôme, Count of Enghien)
(Alfonso d'Avalos d'Aquino, Marquis del Vasto)
Unit Strength Commander Unit Strength Commander
Light cavalry ~400 Dampierre Neapolitan light cavalry ~300 Philip de Lannoy, Prince of Sulmona
Italian infantry ~2,000 Descroz Spanish and German infantry ~5,000 Ramón de Cardona
Gruyères infantry ~3,000 Descroz
Heavy cavalry ~450 François de Vendôme, Count of Enghien Heavy cavalry ~200 Carlo Gonzaga
Swiss ~4,000 William Frülich of Soleure and St. Julian Landsknechte ~7,000 Eriprando Madruzzo
Heavy cavalry ~80 Sieur de Boutières
French (Gascon) infantry ~4,000 De Tais Italian infantry ~6,000 Ferrante Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno
Light cavalry ~450–500 Des Thermes Florentine light cavalry ~300 Rodolfo Baglioni

Initial moves

As d'Avalos's troops, marching from Ceresole, began to arrive on the battlefield, both armies attempted to conceal their numbers and position from the other; Enghien had ordered the Swiss to lie on the ground behind the crest of the ridge, while only the left wing of the Imperial army was initially visible to the French.[33] D'Avalos sent out parties of arquebusiers in an attempt to locate the French flanks; Enghien, in turn, detached about 800 arquebusiers under Montluc to delay the Imperial advance.[34] The skirmishing between the arquebusiers continued for almost four hours; Martin Du Bellay, observing the engagement, described it as "a pretty sight for anyone who was in a safe place and unemployed, for they played off on each other all the ruses and stratagems of petty war."[35] As the extent of each army's position was revealed, Enghien and d'Avalos both brought up their artillery.[36] The ensuing cannonade continued for several hours, but had little effect because of the distance and the considerable cover available to the troops on both sides.[37]

Battle of Ceresole start en
The first phase of the battle, including the Imperial advance, the rout of the Florentine cavalry, the division of the landsknechts, and the advance and retreat of the Spanish heavy cavalry.

The skirmishing finally came to an end when it seemed that Imperial cavalry would attack the French arquebusiers in the flank; Montluc then requested assistance from Des Thermes, who advanced with his entire force of light cavalry.[33] D'Avalos, observing the French movement, ordered a general advance along the entire Imperial line.[38] At the southern end of the battlefield, the French light cavalry drove Baglioni's Florentines back into Sanseverino's advancing infantry, and then proceeded to charge directly into the infantry column.[30] The Italian formation held, and Des Thermes himself was wounded and captured; but by the time Sanseverino had dealt with the resulting disorder and was ready to advance again, the fight in the center had already been decided.[39]

"A wholesale slaughter"

The French infantry—mostly Gascons—had meanwhile started down the slope towards Sanseverino.[30] Montluc, noting that the disorder of the Italians had forced them to a standstill, suggested that De Tais attack Madruzzo's advancing column of landsknechte instead; this advice was accepted, and the French formation turned left in an attempt to strike the landsknechte in the flank.[40] Madruzzo responded by splitting his column into two separate portions, one of which moved to intercept the French while the other continued up the slope towards the Swiss waiting at the crest.[41]

Swiss mercenaries and landsknechte engaged in a push of pike (engraving by Hans Holbein the Younger, early 16th century)
Battle Scene, after Hans Holbein the Younger
A variant copy of Holbein's engraving, showing the battle lines extended to both sides (engraving by unknown artist, early 16th century)

The pike and shot infantry had by this time adopted a system in which arquebusiers and pikemen were intermingled in combined units; both the French and the Imperial infantry contained men with firearms interspersed in the larger columns of pikemen.[42] This combination of pikes and small arms made close-quarters fighting extremely bloody.[43] The mixed infantry was normally placed in separate clusters, with the arquebusiers on the flanks of a central column of pikemen; at Ceresole, however, the French infantry had been arranged with the first rank of pikemen followed immediately by a rank of arquebusiers, who were ordered to hold their fire until the two columns met.[44] Montluc, who claimed to have devised the scheme, wrote that:

In this way we should kill all their captains in the front rank. But we found that they were as ingenious as ourselves, for behind their first line of pikes they had put pistoleers. Neither side fired till we were touching—and then there was a wholesale slaughter: every shot told: the whole front rank on each side went down.[45]

The Swiss, seeing the French engage one of the two columns of landsknechte, finally descended to meet the other, which had been slowly moving up the hillside.[46] Both masses of infantry remained locked in a push of pike until the squadron of heavy cavalry under Boutières charged into the landsknechts' flank, shattering their formation and driving them down the slope.[47] The Imperial heavy cavalry, which had been on the landsknechts' right, and which had been ordered by d'Avalos to attack the Swiss, recoiled from the pikes and fled to the rear, leaving Carlo Gonzaga to be taken prisoner.[48]

The Swiss and Gascon infantry proceeded to slaughter the remaining landsknechte—whose tight order precluded a rapid retreat—as they attempted to withdraw from the battlefield.[49] The road to Ceresole was littered with corpses; the Swiss, in particular, showed no mercy, as they wished to avenge the mistreatment of the Swiss garrison of Mondovì the previous November.[49] Most of the landsknechts' officers were killed; and while contemporary accounts probably exaggerate the numbers of the dead, it is clear that the German infantry had ceased to exist as a fighting force.[50] Seeing this, Sanseverino decided that the battle was lost and marched away to Asti with the bulk of the Italian infantry and the remnants of Baglioni's Florentine cavalry; the French light cavalry, meanwhile, joined in the pursuit of the landsknechts.[51]

Engagements in the north

On the northern end of the battlefield, events had unfolded quite differently. Dampierre's cavalry routed Lannoy's company of light horse; the Italians and the contingent from Gruyères, meanwhile, broke and fled—leaving their officers to be killed—without offering any real resistance to the advancing Imperial infantry.[52] As Cardona's infantry moved past the original French line, Enghien descended on it with the entire body of heavy cavalry under his command; the subsequent engagement took place on the reverse slope of the ridge, out of sight of the rest of the battlefield.[53]

Battle of Ceresole (end) en
The second phase of the battle, including the rout of the Neapolitan cavalry and the landsknechts, Sanseverino's withdrawal, Enghien's cavalry attacks, the retreat of the Spanish-German infantry, and the return of the French and Swiss infantry from Ceresole.

On the first charge, Enghien's cavalry penetrated a corner of the Imperial formation, pushing through to the rear and losing some of the volunteers from Paris.[54] As Cardona's ranks closed again, the French cavalry turned and made a second charge under heavy arquebus fire; this was far more costly, and again failed to break the Imperial column.[55] Enghien, now joined by Dampierre's light cavalry, made a third charge, which again failed to achieve a decisive result; fewer than a hundred of the French gendarmes remained afterwards.[56] Enghien believed the battle to be lost—according to Montluc, he intended to stab himself, "which ancient Romans might do, but not good Christians"—when St. Julian, the Swiss commander, arrived from the center of the battlefield and reported that the Imperial forces there had been routed.[57]

The news of the landsknechts' defeat reached Cardona's troops at about the same time that it had reached Enghien; the Imperial column turned and retreated back towards its original position.[58] Enghien followed closely with the remainder of his cavalry; he was soon reinforced by a company of Italian mounted arquebusiers, which had been stationed at Racconigi and had started towards the battlefield after hearing the initial artillery exchange.[59] These arquebusiers, dismounting to fire and then remounting, were able to harass the Imperial column sufficiently to slow its retreat.[60] Meanwhile, the French and Swiss infantry of the center, having reached Ceresole, had turned about and returned to the battlefield; Montluc, who was with them, writes:

When we heard at Ceresole that M. d'Enghien wanted us, both the Swiss and we Gascons turned toward him—I never saw two battalions form up so quick—we got into rank again actually as we ran along, side by side. The enemy was going off at quick march, firing salvos of arquebuses, and keeping off our horse, when we saw them. And when they descried us only 400 paces away, and our cavalry making ready to charge, they threw down their pikes and surrendered to the horsemen. You might see fifteen or twenty of them round a man-at-arms, pressing about him and asking for quarter, for fear of us of the infantry, who were wanting to cut all their throats.[61]

Perhaps as many as half of the Imperial infantry were killed as they were attempting to surrender; the remainder, about 3,150 men, were taken prisoner.[62] A few, including the Baron of Seisneck, who had commanded the German infantry contingents, managed to escape.[63]


The casualties of the battle were unusually high, even by the standards of the time, and are estimated at 28 percent of the total number of troops engaged.[64] The smallest numbers given for the Imperial dead in contemporary accounts are between 5,000 and 6,000, although some French sources give figures as high as 12,000.[65] A large number of officers were killed, particularly among the landsknechts; many of those who survived were taken prisoner, including Ramón de Cardona, Carlo Gonzaga, and Eriprando Madruzzo.[66] The French casualties were smaller, but numbered at least 1,500 to 2,000 killed.[67] These included many of the officers of the Gascon and Gruyères infantry contingents, as well as a large portion of the gendarmerie that had followed Enghien.[68] The only French prisoner of note was Des Thermes, who had been carried along with Sanseverino's retreating Italians.[69]

Despite the collapse of the Imperial army, the battle proved to be of little strategic significance.[70] At the insistence of Francis I, the French army resumed the siege of Carignano, where Colonna held out for several weeks. Soon after the city's surrender, Enghien was forced to send twenty-three companies of Italian and Gascon infantry—and nearly half his heavy cavalry—to Picardy, which had been invaded by Charles V.[71] Left without a real army, Enghien was unable to capture Milan. D'Avalos, meanwhile, routed a fresh force of Italian infantry under Pietro Strozzi and the Count of Pitigliano at the Battle of Serravalle.[72] The end of the war saw a return to the status quo in northern Italy.


A number of detailed contemporary accounts of the battle have survived. Among the French chronicles are the narratives of Martin Du Bellay and Blaise de Montluc, both of whom were present at the scene. The Sieur de Tavannes, who accompanied Enghien, also makes some mention of the events in his memoirs.[73] The most extensive account from the Imperial side is that of Paolo Giovio. Despite a number of inconsistencies with other accounts, it provides, according to historian Charles Oman, "valuable notes on points neglected by all the French narrators".[74]

The interest of modern military historians in the battle has centered primarily on the role of small arms and the resulting carnage among the infantry in the center.[75] The arrangement of pikemen and arquebusiers used was regarded as too costly, and was not tried again; in subsequent battles, arquebuses were used primarily for skirmishing and from the flanks of larger formations of pikemen.[76] Ceresole is also of interest as a demonstration of the continuing role of traditional heavy cavalry on the battlefield.[77] Despite the failure of Enghien's charges—the French, according to Bert Hall, held to their belief in "the effectiveness of unaided heavy cavalry to break disciplined formations"—a small body of gendarmes had been sufficient, in the center, to rout infantry columns that were already engaged with other infantry.[78] Beyond this tactical utility, another reason for cavalry's continued importance is evident from the final episode of the battle: the French gendarmes were the only troops who could reasonably be expected to accept an opponent's surrender, as the Swiss and French infantry had no inclination towards taking prisoners. The cavalry was, according to Hall, "almost intuitively expected to heed these entreaties without question".[79]


  1. ^ Arnold, Renaissance at War, 180; Blockmans, Emperor Charles V, 72–73; Oman, Art of War, 213.
  2. ^ Oman, Art of War, 229.
  3. ^ Oman, Art of War, 229. D'Avalos had captured Mondovì only a short time before.
  4. ^ Oman, Art of War, 229. Oman, citing Du Bellay, describes the new fortifications as "five bastions, good curtains between them, and a deep ditch".
  5. ^ Oman, Art of War, 229–30.
  6. ^ Oman, Art of War, 230. The Swiss, while trained as pikemen, had been raised by the Count of Gruyères from his own lands, rather than being traditional levies of the Swiss cantons; Oman cites Giovio's description of the men having been "raised from all regions of the Upper Rhone and the Lake of Geneva".
  7. ^ Knecht, Renaissance Warrior, 490; Oman, Art of War, 230. Oman notes that the garrison of Carignano included some of d'Avalos's best troops.
  8. ^ Knecht, Renaissance Warrior, 490; Oman, Art of War, 230. Oman notes that Du Bellay, seemingly having some dislike for Montluc, avoids identifying the messenger in his chronicle, describing him as "un gentilhomme" without giving his name.
  9. ^ Knecht, Renaissance Warrior, 490; Oman, Art of War, 230–231. The major source for Montluc's speech before Francis, and the ensuing debate, is Montluc's own autobiography; Oman writes that "his narrative cannot always be trusted, since he sees himself in the limelight at every crisis", but also notes that "it seems hardly credible that Montluc could have invented his whole graphic tale of the dispute at the council board, and his own impassioned plea for action". The requirement for Enghien's subordinates to agree to a battle is recorded by Du Bellay; Montluc does not mention it.
  10. ^ Knecht, Renaissance Warrior, 490; Oman, Art of War, 231. A full list of names is given by Du Bellay and includes Dampierre, St. André, Vendôme, Rochefort, and Jarnac.
  11. ^ Oman, Art of War, 231. The landsknechts in question were veteran troops, and had been specially equipped with corselets.
  12. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 186; Oman, Art of War, 231. Hall gives lower numbers than Oman, noting that they are estimates by Ferdinand Lot, and is the source for the specific proportion of arquebusiers in the Imperial army.
  13. ^ Oman, Art of War, 231. Oman writes that d'Avalos related this view to Des Thermes, who had been captured by the Imperial troops, telling him that "after Pavia the Spanish officers had come to think little of the French gendarmerie, and believed that arquebusiers would always get the better of them, if properly covered".
  14. ^ Oman, Art of War, 231–232, 234. The blocking force probably consisted of the companies of French infantry that had arrived as reinforcements during the winter.
  15. ^ Oman, Art of War, 232. The other route available to d'Avalos was a sweep south through Sommariva and Racconigi that would have exposed his flank to Enghien.
  16. ^ Oman, Art of War, 232.
  17. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 186. Hall notes that Montluc, by his own account, told Enghien, "Sir sir, what more could you have desired of God Almighty [than] to find the enemy... in the open field, [with] neither hedge nor ditch to obstruct you?"
  18. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 186; Oman, Art of War, 232–234. Oman notes that there are a variety of figures available for the strength of the French army; he gives "figures somewhat lower than Montluc's... and somewhat higher than Du Bellay's...". Hall gives the lower number for the infantry but the higher number for the heavy cavalry, in both cases from Lot, and notes that only around 500 of the heavy cavalry were actually gendarmes.
  19. ^ Oman, Art of War, 232. Francis had sent some forty thousand écus, which was less than a month's worth of back pay.
  20. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 186; Oman, Art of War, 234. Hall explicitly attributes much of the uncoordinated action during the battle to the poor visibility along the line. Black also mentions the topography as a source of confusion (Black, "Dynasty Forged by Fire,"43).
  21. ^ Oman, Art of War, 234. Oman suggests that this division seems to have been a theoretical one here.
  22. ^ Oman, Art of War, 234. Oman notes that the full strength of the three companies should have been 650 troopers, rather than the smaller number actually present.
  23. ^ Oman, Art of War, 234. The squadron under Boutières was also under-strength; it should have included a hundred troopers.
  24. ^ Oman, Art of War, 234. St. Julian commanded six of the companies, and William Frülich the other seven.
  25. ^ Oman, Art of War, 234. The heavy cavalry companies, commanded by Crusol, d'Accier, and Montravel, were also under-strength; the company of light horse, commanded by d'Ossun, was not, numbering about 150 men.
  26. ^ Oman, Art of War, 232–235. Descroz was given the command because the Count of Gruyères had not yet arrived.
  27. ^ Oman, Art of War, 235. The archers had been detached from the companies of heavy cavalry with which they normally operated.
  28. ^ Oman, Art of War, 234–235. The ridge occupied by d'Avalos' troops shared the same peculiarity of having a high center separating the two wings from each other; d'Avalos found that a knoll in the center was the only place from which he could observe his entire position.
  29. ^ Oman, Art of War, 231, 236.
  30. ^ a b c Oman, Art of War, 236.
  31. ^ Oman, Art of War, 236. The Imperial heavy cavalry was positioned directly across from Enghien's cavalry.
  32. ^ Oman, Art of War, 231, 236. Cardona's infantry consisted primarily of veterans from the African campaigns of Charles V.
  33. ^ a b Oman, Art of War, 235.
  34. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 235. Montluc's arquebusiers were drawn from the French and Italian infantry companies.
  35. ^ Oman, Art of War, 235. Hall also mentions the skirmishing (Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187).
  36. ^ Oman, Art of War, 235. The Imperial cannon were divided among two batteries near a pair of farms in front of the Imperial center and right wing, while the French artillery, similarly split, was adjacent to the Swiss in the center and the Gruyères contingent on the left.
  37. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 186; Oman, Art of War, 235. Hall notes that the artillery "was kept well back... and officers on both sides took care not to expose unshielded infantry to its fire".
  38. ^ Oman, Art of War, 235–236.
  39. ^ Oman, Art of War, 236. Oman, citing Du Bellay and Montluc, notes that Des Thermes, "thinking that he would have been better followed", drove deep into the enemy infantry before being unhorsed and taken prisoner.
  40. ^ Oman, Art of War, 236. The source for Montluc's role in this incident is his own narrative.
  41. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 237. Oman, praising Madruzzo's tactical skill in effecting the division, quotes Du Bellay's description of the movement: "Seeing that the French had changed their plan, the Imperialists made a parallel change, and of their great battalion made two, one to fight the Swiss, the other the French, yet so close to each other that seen sideways they still looked one great mass." Hall calls the movement "an extremely difficult maneuver".
  42. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 186–187. Hall notes that the later 16th-century system of arranging the infantry in square formations, with the arquebusiers drawn back into the center for protection, was probably not fully in place at Ceresole.
  43. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187.
  44. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187–188; Oman, Art of War, 237.
  45. ^ Oman, Art of War, 237. Hall gives a similar translation of Montluc's quote (but uses "a great slaughter" for "une grande tuerie"); he notes that it is unclear how Montluc "escaped the carnage he helped create" (Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187).
  46. ^ Oman, Art of War, 237. The Swiss waited until the French were "within twelve pike-lengths of their immediate adversaries" before starting from their position.
  47. ^ Black, "Dynasty Forged by Fire", 43; Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 237–238.
  48. ^ Oman, Art of War, 238. Oman notes that the actions of the Imperial cavalry are not mentioned in any French chronicle of the battle, but that Giovio records that they "disgraced themselves".
  49. ^ a b Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 238.
  50. ^ Oman, Art of War, 238. Oman suggests that the contemporary casualty figure of 5,000 out of 7,000 is exaggerated, but notes that Giovio's list of casualties records that "practically all their captains were killed". Black merely notes the landsknechts' casualties as "more than 25 percent" (Black, "Dynasty Forged by Fire", 43).
  51. ^ Oman, Art of War, 238. Baglioni's Florentines had been able to reform without incident, as they were not pursued by the French after the initial clash.
  52. ^ Black, "Dynasty Forged by Fire", 43; Oman, Art of War, 238–239.
  53. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 239. Oman is critical of Enghien, who "lost all count of how the battle was progressing elsewhere... forgetting the duties of a commander-in-chief".
  54. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 239. Oman compares the action here—"purely a matter of infantry versus cavalry"—to that of the Battle of Marignano.
  55. ^ Black, "Dynasty Forged by Fire", 43; Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 239. Oman refers to Du Bellay and Montluc for accounts of the "slaughter in the second charge".
  56. ^ Oman, Art of War, 239–240. Oman notes that the third charge was apparently encouraged by Gaspard de Saulx, sieur de Tavannes; according to his own narrative, he told Enghien that "the cup must be drained to the dregs" ("'Monsieur, il faut boire cette calice'").
  57. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 240. Oman is skeptical of Montluc's claim here, noting that "Montluc loves a tragic scene".
  58. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 187; Oman, Art of War, 240.
  59. ^ Oman, Art of War, 240. The arquebusiers had been detached to watch over the fords on the Maira River, some eight miles (13 km) away from the battle.
  60. ^ Oman, Art of War, 240.
  61. ^ Oman, Art of War, 240. Hall gives a similar translation of Montluc's account (Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 188).
  62. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 188; Oman, Art of War, 240–241. Hall quotes Montluc: "more than half were slain, because we dispatched as many of those people as we could get our hands on". Oman notes that the prisoners included about 2,530 Germans and 630 Spaniards.
  63. ^ Oman, Art of War, 240. Oman cites Giovio's account for this detail.
  64. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 217.
  65. ^ Oman, Art of War, 241. Oman does not consider the higher French numbers to be probable.
  66. ^ Oman, Art of War, 241. Oman notes that Giovio provides a full list of the slain captains, including "the heir of Fürstenberg, the Baron of Gunstein, two brothers Scaliger—Christopher and Brenno—Michael Preussinger, Jacob Figer, etc. etc.". Madruzzo was so heavily wounded as to be believed dead, but later recovered.
  67. ^ Oman, Art of War, 241. Oman considers the loss of 500 men reported in some French chronicles to be "obviously understated".
  68. ^ Oman, Art of War, 241. Oman notes the deaths of five captains of the Gascon infantry—la Molle, Passin, Barberan, Moncault, and St. Geneviève—as well as all the captains of the Gruyères band, including Descroz and Charles du Dros, the governor of Mondovì. Among the heavy cavalry, the dead included two of Enghien's squires and a large number of volunteers, including d'Accier, D'Oyn, Montsallais, de Glaive, Rochechouart, Courville, and several dozen more.
  69. ^ Oman, Art of War, 241.
  70. ^ Black, "Dynasty Forged by Fire", 43.
  71. ^ Oman, Art of War, 242.
  72. ^ Knecht, Renaissance Warrior, 490; Oman, Art of War, 242–243. Oman puts the battle on June 2, while Knecht has it occur on June 4.
  73. ^ Oman, Art of War, 243.
  74. ^ Oman, Art of War, 243. Oman notes that Giovio is "oddly wrong" in reversing the positions of the Swiss and the Gascons in the initial French line.
  75. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 188.
  76. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 188. Hall notes that the Imperial army, despite being better equipped with small arms, suffered more casualties than the French.
  77. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 188–190.
  78. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 188–189. Hall notes that Enghien "certainly had reason to expect better results than his charging troops achieved", as Cardona's infantry had been "in some disarray" when the French charges began.
  79. ^ Hall, Weapons and Warfare, 189–190. Hall writes of the episode—and the slaughter of much of the Imperial infantry despite their attempts to surrender—that "the new brutalities of sixteenth century warfare could hardly have been more cruelly exemplified".


  • Arnold, Thomas F. The Renaissance at War. Smithsonian History of Warfare, edited by John Keegan. New York: Smithsonian Books / Collins, 2006. ISBN 0-06-089195-5.
  • Black, Jeremy. "Dynasty Forged by Fire." MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 18, no. 3 (Spring 2006): 34–43. ISSN 1040-5992.
  • Blockmans, Wim. Emperor Charles V, 1500–1558. Translated by Isola van den Hoven-Vardon. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-340-73110-9.
  • Hall, Bert S. Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe: Gunpowder, Technology, and Tactics. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8018-5531-4.
  • Knecht, Robert J. Renaissance Warrior and Patron: The Reign of Francis I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-521-57885-X.
  • Oman, Charles. A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. London: Methuen & Co., 1937.
  • Phillips, Charles and Alan Axelrod. Encyclopedia of Wars. Vol. 2. New York: Facts on File, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-2851-6.

Further reading

  • Courteault, P. Blaise de Monluc historien. Paris, 1908.
  • Du Bellay, Martin, Sieur de Langey. Mémoires de Martin et Guillaume du Bellay. Edited by V. L. Bourrilly and F. Vindry. 4 volumes. Paris: Société de l'histoire de France, 1908–19.
  • Giovio, Paolo. Pauli Iovii Opera. Volume 3, part 1, Historiarum sui temporis. Edited by D. Visconti. Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1957.
  • Lot, Ferdinand. Recherches sur les effectifs des armées françaises des guerres d'Italie aux guerres de religion, 1494–1562. Paris: École Pratique des Hautes Études, 1962.
  • Monluc, Blaise de. Commentaires. Edited by P. Courteault. 3 volumes. Paris: 1911–25. Translated by Charles Cotton as The Commentaries of Messire Blaize de Montluc (London: A. Clark, 1674).
  • ———. Military Memoirs: Blaise de Monluc, The Habsburg-Valois Wars, and the French Wars of Religion. Edited by Ian Roy. London: Longmans, 1971.
  • Saulx, Gaspard de, Seigneur de Tavanes. Mémoires de très noble et très illustre Gaspard de Saulx, seigneur de Tavanes, Mareschal de France, admiral des mers de Levant, Gouverneur de Provence, conseiller du Roy, et capitaine de cent hommes d'armes. Château de Lugny: Fourny, 1653.

Coordinates: 44°48′N 7°49′E / 44.800°N 7.817°E


1544 (MDXLIV)

was a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1544th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 544th year of the 2nd millennium, the 44th year of the 16th century, and the 5th year of the 1540s decade. As of the start of 1544, the Gregorian calendar was

10 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which was the dominant calendar of the time.

1544 in France

Events from the year 1544 in France.

Alfonso d'Avalos

Alfonso d'Avalos d'Aquino, VI marquis of Pescara and II of Vasto (1502 – 31 March 1546), was a condottiero of Spanish-Italian origin.

Carlo Gonzaga (condottiero)

For the Dukes of Mantua, see Charles I, Charles III or Charles IV of MantuaCarlo Gonzaga (1525–1566) was an Italian military leader. At the Battle of Ceresole, he commanded the Imperial heavy cavalry, and was captured by the French when it fled from the field.


Ceresole may refer to:

Ceresole Alba, a municipality in the Province of Cuneo, Piedmont, Italy

Ceresole Reale, a municipality in the Province of Turin, Piedmont, Italy

Battle of Ceresole (1544) at Ceresole Alba

Ceresole Alba

Ceresole Alba is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Cuneo in the Piedmont region of Italy, located about 30 kilometres (19 mi) southeast of Turin and about 50 kilometres (31 mi) northeast of Cuneo.

Ceresole Alba borders the following municipalities: Baldissero d'Alba, Carmagnola, Montaldo Roero, Monteu Roero, Poirino, Pralormo, and Sommariva del Bosco.

The Battle of Ceresole was an encounter between a French army and the combined forces of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire during the Italian War of 1542–46. The lengthy engagement took place on 11 April 1544 outside the village.

Charles du Dros

Charles du Dros (fl. 1544) was the French governor of Mondovì during the Italian War of 1542, and was killed during the Battle of Ceresole.

Eriprando Madruzzo

Eriprando Madruzzo (died 1547) was an Italian mercenary captain. The brother of the Bishop of Trent Cristoforo Madruzzo, he fought in Hungary against the Turks at the service of Charles V.

During the Italian Wars, he commanded the Imperial landsknechts at the Battle of Ceresole in 1544, being wounded in the fray. The following year he was entrusted the security of the Council of Trent.

In 1546 Madruzzo took part to the wars against the Protestants in Germany, and died at Ulm in 1547.

Francis, Count of Enghien

François de Bourbon, Count of Enghien (23 September 1519 – 23 February 1546) was a French prince of the blood. He was the son of Charles de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme and Françoise d'Alençon.

Given command of the French army in Italy by Francis I of France during the Italian War of 1542, he was the French commander at the Franco-Ottoman Siege of Nice in 1543, and he led it to victory at the Battle of Ceresole in 1544.

His early death at the age of 26 was caused by an accident – specifically by the falling of a heavy chest – in the castle La Roche-Guyon. He was succeeded as Count of Enghien by his younger brother Jean.

Francis de Bourbon, Count of St. Pol

Francis I de Bourbon, Count of St. Pol, Duke of Estouteville (6 October 1491 – 1 September 1545), was a French prince and important military commander during the Italian Wars.

Francis was the second son of Francis, Count of Vendôme and Marie de Luxembourg, Countess of Saint-Pol. As such he was a prince du sang in France. His appanage, the countship of St. Pol, came from his mother's Luxembourg inheritance.

His marriage on the 9 February 1534 with the heiress Adrienne, Dame d’Estouteville, brought him several baronies which comprised the lands of the Norman House of Estouteville; Vallemont, Varengeville, Berneval and Cleuville. These were erected for Francis into the dukedom of Estouteville by royal letters patent registered 12 September 1534 in the Parlement of Rouen, the couple's marriage contract being registered by the Parlement of Paris on 16 April 1540. In 1537 he exchanged the countship of St. Pol for that of Montfort-l'Amaury with King Francis I, but in 1544 it was returned to him to enjoy as before the war.

He was knighted by Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard after the Battle of Marignano in 1515. He participated in the defence of Mézières in 1521, fought under Bonnivet and Bayard at the lost Battle of the Sesia (1524) and was made prisoner at the Battle of Pavia in 1525.

In 1527 he became governor of the Dauphiné, and was as such responsible for the French operations against Savoy and Piedmont. His army was destroyed and he was taken prisoner in the Battle of Landriano, until the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529.

He was present at the meeting between Francis I of France and Pope Clement VII in Marseille in 1533.

In 1542, he joined the Dauphin at Picardy and Luxembourg. In 1543, he was part of the French command against the English and Spanish in Picardy. In the Italian War of 1542–1546, he was charged with the conquest of Savoy. He advised against the Battle of Ceresole (1544), but was overruled by Blaise de Lasseran-Massencôme, seigneur de Montluc, who won the battle.

Gaspard de Saulx

Gaspard de Saulx, sieur de Tavannes (1509–1573) was a French Roman Catholic military leader during the Italian Wars and the French Wars of Religion.

Guigues Guiffrey

Guigues Guiffrey, lord of Boutières (born in the Tower House at Cheylas, France on 13 May 1497), was a French soldier in the Italian Wars. He married Gasparde Berlioz in 1526.

In 1521, he served under the Chevalier Bayard in the siege of Mézières in the Ardennes, and in 1524 he commanded a company of gendarmes in the defense of Marseilles against the Imperial forces.

The French king, Francis I, named him military governor of Turin, Italy, in 1537, but because of his mediocre administrative talents he served just a short time. He acquired the château of Touvet during the Dauphiné period.

In 1544, he commanded the French forces in the Piedmont but when he allowed the town of Carignan to fall to the enemy, he fell into disgrace and was relieved of his command. On the nomination of the Count of Enghien, he took part under the orders of this new general in the Battle of Ceresole, where he won fame through his skillful use of the cavalry charge. He ended his military career in fighting the English during the expedition on the Isle of Wight.

Italian War of 1542–1546

The Italian War of 1542–46 was a conflict late in the Italian Wars, pitting Francis I of France and Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII of England. The course of the war saw extensive fighting in Italy, France, and the Low Countries, as well as attempted invasions of Spain and England. The conflict was inconclusive and ruinously expensive for the major participants.

The war arose from the failure of the Truce of Nice, which ended the Italian War of 1536–38, to resolve the long-standing conflict between Charles and Francis—particularly their conflicting claims to the Duchy of Milan. Having found a suitable pretext, Francis once again declared war against his perpetual enemy in 1542. Fighting began at once throughout the Low Countries; the following year saw the Franco-Ottoman alliance's attack on Nice, as well as a series of maneuvers in northern Italy which culminated in the bloody Battle of Ceresole. Charles and Henry then proceeded to invade France, but the long sieges of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint-Dizier prevented a decisive offensive against the French.

Charles came to terms with Francis by the Treaty of Crépy in late 1544, but the death of Francis's younger son, the Duke of Orléans—whose proposed marriage to a relative of the Emperor was the foundation of the treaty—made it moot less than a year afterwards. Henry, left alone but unwilling to return Boulogne to the French, continued to fight until 1546, when the Treaty of Ardres finally restored peace between France and England. The deaths of Francis and Henry in early 1547 left the resolution of the Italian Wars to their successors.

Le Seigneur de Tais

Seigneur de Tais was a General of the Foot and a Colonel General of the Infantry of France. He was the commander of the French forces who fought at the Battle of Bonchurch. He also commanded the French infantry at the Battle of Ceresole.

Philip de Lannoy, 2nd Prince of Sulmona

Philip de Lannoy, 2nd Prince of Sulmona (4 November 1544 - 4 November 1561) was an Italian military leader in Spanish service. At the Battle of Ceresole, he commanded the Neapolitan light cavalry.

He was the son of Charles de Lannoy, 1st Prince of Sulmona.

Pierre Bontemps

Pierre Bontemps (c. 1505–1568) was a French sculptor known for his funeral monuments; he was, with Germain Pilon, one of the pre-eminent sculptors of the French Renaissance.

He executed most of the bas-reliefs on the tomb of King Francis I of France, representing the French victories at the battle of Marignano and the battle of Ceresole.

His also are the statues of the king, Queen Claude, the Dauphin, and Louis XII and Anne of Brittany on Louis' tomb in the Basilica of Saint-Denis. The figures from the tomb of Charles de Maigny (c. 1556) now reside in the Musée du Louvre.

In 1936, a sale of contents from the chateau of Monchy-Humières included a full-length marble tomb which had been used as a garden ornament. Originally thought to be of Louis, duc d'Humières (1628-1694), it was in fact Jean III d'Humières (died 1553), executed by Bontemps. This is also in the Louvre.

Pirro Colonna

Pirro Colonna (1500 – November 1552) was an Italian military leader in the service of Charles V during the Italian War of 1542. He commanded the garrison of Carignano during the French sieges of the city before and after the Battle of Ceresole.

Rodolfo Baglioni

Rodolfo (or Ridolfo) Baglioni (June 1512 – March 1554) was an Italian condottiero serving in the Imperial army during the Italian War of 1542. He was the son of Malatesta II Baglioni, from whom he inherited the lordship of Perugia, Bettona, Spello and other lands in Umbria.

At the Battle of Ceresole, he commanded the Florentine light cavalry. He was killed in action while fighting in Val di Chiana, in March 1554.

William Frülich of Soleure

William Frülich of Soleure (fl. 1544; Wilhelm Frölich in German) was a Swiss military leader; he was the commander of the Swiss mercenaries in French service at the Battle of Ceresole.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.