Battle of Valenciennes (1656)

The Battle of Valenciennes (16 July 1656) was fought between the Spanish troops commanded by Don Juan José de Austria against the French troops under Marshal Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne, in the outskirts of the town in the Spanish Netherlands, during the Franco-Spanish War. It was the worst of only a few defeats that the French Marshal Vicomte de Turenne suffered in his long career campaigning and is regarded as Spain's last great victory of the 17th century.[11]

Battle of Valenciennes
Part of the Franco-Spanish War
Siège de Valenciennes

The siege of Valenciennes
Date16 July 1656
Result Spanish victory[1]
 France Spain Spain
Commanders and leaders
Vicomte de Turenne
Maréchal La Ferté  (POW)
Juan José de Austria
Prince of Condé
25,000–30,000[2][3][4] 20,000[5][6]
Casualties and losses
2,000–7,000 killed or wounded[7]
1,277–4,400 captured[3][8][9]
500 killed or wounded[10]
Don Juan José de Austria as commander of the Spanish army.


On 18 May 1656 the French troops, commanded by Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne began to close in and surround the fortified town of Valenciennes which was defended by a Spanish garrison under the command of Francisco de Meneses.[5] The well organised siege began to exhaust the defenders. Towards the end of June, Don Juan José de Austria, the governor of the Spanish Netherlands, took the decision to come to the aid of Valenciennes as its situation was becoming unsustainable.[10]

The French army, consisting of 115 cavalry divisions and 31 of infantry, was divided into a further 2 divisions on each side of the river Scheldt, one of which was under the command of Turenne and the other, under Henri de La Ferté-Senneterre, with the communication problems that this caused.[10]

The battle

On the night of 15 July just as the fortress was about to surrender, the Spanish army arrived consisting of 81 squadrons of cavalry and 27 of infantry. Don Juan's army dug in about a league from the enemy, preparing to launch an offensive. Four attacks were organised:[10]

La batalla de Valenciennes
"The Battle of Valenciennes" Painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau

Condé came down on Marshal's section with such vigour it surprised and destroyed the French resistance.[10] Don Juan José de Austria stood out due to his brave action, unleashing his might on the French quarters.[10] Turenne then repelled a false attack from the Spanish on his quarters, and went to the aid of Maréchal La Ferté but it was in vain, so he felt obliged to retreat as far as Quesnoy, where he reorganised his forces.[10]

The Spanish captured 400 French officers including Maréchal La Ferté, lieutenant of Turenne and a further 4,000 soldiers (while French sources reduce these figures to 77 officers and 1,200 soldiers)[9] including their belongings and provisions, including an assault train consisting of 50 cannons and all the correspondence of the French command with their court, which allowed the extent of their forces to be known.[10] As for La Ferté's division only 2,000 managed to escape after tossing their arms and making a run for it in total disarray.[12]


The victory at Valenciennes lifted the French siege and contributed greatly to lifting the morale of the Spanish tercios, producing "one of those thunderous achievements that Spain came up with in better days."

However, Turenne had the presence of mind not to allow the French forces to be intimidated by the defeat. His rapid regrouping and redeployment of his forces prevented the Spanish from gaining a decisive advantage on the front.

Philip IV of Spain ordered a gold medal to be printed to commemorate the victory and he had it sent to Condé together with a saber, also made of gold.

For the Spanish, the great victory at Valenciennes proved counterproductive. Emboldened by the success, the Habsburg court at Madrid refused to compromise with French demands but Spanish forces were stretched to their limit despite the great victory.[9] The war dragged on until 1659, when the Spanish government finally signed the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which, with the loss of Dunkirk and nearby areas, was less favourable than would have been possible after the battle of Valenciennes.

See also


  1. ^ Stradling p.26
  2. ^ Bodart 1916, p. 87.
  3. ^ a b Hume p.276
  4. ^ Rodríguez p.190
  5. ^ a b Rodríguez p.191
  6. ^ Clodfelter p.41
  7. ^ Bodart 1916, p. 88.
  8. ^ Israel p.140
  9. ^ a b c Martín Sanz p.210
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Rodríguez p.192
  11. ^ Alcalá-Zamora p.59
  12. ^ Stanhope p.251


  • Bodart, G. (1916). Losses of Life in Modern Wars, Austria-Hungary; France. ISBN 978-1371465520.
  • Martín Sanz, Francisco (2003) La política Internacional de Felipe IV. Segovia. ISBN 978-987-561-039-2
  • Stanhope (5th earl.) Philip Henry (2005) The life of Louis, Prince of Condé, surnamed the Great. London.
  • Hume, Martin Andrew Sharp (2009) Spain Its Greatness and Decay. BiblioBazaar. LLC. ISBN 978-1-113-47089-8
  • Stradling, R.A. (1994) Spain's struggle for Europe 1598-1668. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-85285-089-0
  • Clodfelter, Micheal (2002) Warfare and armed Conflicts: A statistical reference to casualty and other figures 1500-2000. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-1204-4
  • Rodríguez, Ignacio Ruiz (2007) Don Juan José de Austria en la Monarquía Hispánica: Entre la política, el poder y la intriga. Madrid. Dykinson. ISBN 978-84-9849-029-9
  • Israel, Jonathan Irvine (1997) Conflicts of Empires: Spain, the Low Countries and the struggle for World Supremacy 1585-1713. London. CIPG. ISBN 978-1-85285-161-3

Coordinates: 50°21′29″N 3°31′24″E / 50.3581°N 3.5233°E

Alexander von Bournonville

Alexander von Bournonville, Alexander de Bournonville, Alexander II Hyppolite, Prince of Bournonville and third Count of Hénin-Liétard (Brussels, 5 January 1616 – Pamplona, 20 August 1690) was a Flemish military man. He held the titles of Field Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire, Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Viceroy of Catalonia (1678–1685) and Viceroy of Navarre (1686–1691).

He was the son of Alexander I de Bournonville, count of Henin, Order of the Golden Fleece (1585–1656) and Anne de Melun (1590–1666).

He married with María Ernestina of Arenberg, daughter of Philippe-Charles, 3rd Count of Arenberg and had 3 daughters and a son Alexander III de Bournonville (1662–1705), his successor.

He fought for the Holy Roman Empire in the Thirty Years' War and then for Spain in the Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659), where he distinguished himself in the Battle of Arras (1654) and the Battle of Valenciennes (1656).

He was awarded on 12 July 1658, in Madrid, by King Philip IV of Spain the title of Prince of Bournonville, now a place located in Pas-de-Calais near the frontier with Belgium.

In 1672, he fought as Imperial Field marshal in the Franco-Dutch War and was unable to defeat Vicomte de Turenne in the Battle of Entzheim, despite the Holy Roman Empire's numerical superiority.

In 1676 he entered again in Spanish service and was sent the next year to Messina to crush there the rebellion supported by France.

Bournonville later settled in Spain and became both Viceroy of Catalonia and Viceroy of Navarre.

Battle of Valenciennes

Battle of Valenciennes may refer to:

Battle of Valenciennes (1656), fought on 16 July that year during the Franco-Spanish War, resulting in a Spanish victory.

Battle of Famars or Valenciennes (1793), fought on 23 May, was a First Coalition victory on the borders of France which prepared the way for a siege of Valenciennes

Battle of Valenciennes (1918), fought between British, Canadian and German forces on 1 and 2 November resulting in an Allied victory

John of Austria the Younger

John of Austria (the Younger) or John Joseph of Austria (Spanish: Don Juan José de Austria) (7 April 1629 – 17 September 1679) was a Spanish general and political figure. He was the only bastard son of Philip IV of Spain to be acknowledged by the King and trained for military command and political administration. Don John advanced the causes of the Spanish Crown militarily and diplomatically at Naples, Sicily, Catalonia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Dunkirk and other fronts. He was the governor of the Southern Netherlands from 1656 to 1659. He remained a popular hero even as the fortunes of Imperial Spain began to decline. His feuds with his father's widow, Queen Mariana, led to a 1677 palace coup through which he exiled Mariana and took control of the monarchy of his half-brother Charles II of Spain. However, he proved far from the savior Spain had hoped he would be. He remained in power until his death in 1679.

List of battles (alphabetical)

Alphabetical list of historical battles (see also Military history, Lists of battles):

NOTE: Where a year has been used to disambiguate battles it is the year when the battle started. In some cases these may still have gone on for several years.

List of battles (geographic)

This list of battles is organized geographically, by country in its present territory.

Thomas-Claude Renart de Fuchsamberg Amblimont

Thomas Claude Bernard Renart de Fuschamberg, marquis d'Amblimont (1642 – 17 August 1700) was a French naval officer who was governor general of the French Antilles.

He is best known for his 1674 defense of Martinique against Dutch forces under Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, where he was captain of a warship that played a critical role in driving the Dutch land forces off their beachhead.

Franco-Spanish War

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