Pierre Terrail, seigneur of Bayard, 1475-1524

Pierre Terrail, seigneur of Bayard (1475-1524) was a French military leader who earned an impressive reputation during the Italian Wars and become known as the 'Fearless and blameless knight', while later commanders of promise were sometimes called the 'New Bayard'.

Bayard was born at Chateau Bayard near Grenoble. His family had a long history of military sacrifice, with most heads of the family for the previous two centuries dying in battle. Bayard became a page at the court of the Dukes of Savoy, then moved to the court of the Kings of France.

Bayard took part in Charles VIII's failed invasion of Naples (First Italian War/ Italian War of Charles VIII). He fought at the battle of Fornovo (6 July 1495) during the French retreat from Naples, and was knighted by Charles VIII after the battle.

In 1499 he took part in the French conquest of Milan (Second Italian War/ Italian War of Louis XII). He then moved to Naples to take part in the conquest of that kingdom.

The French soon fell out with their Spanish allies in this conquest, and Bayard found himself facing Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (El Gran Capitán), one of the best Spanish commanders of the period. Between August 1502 and April 1503 Cordoba was blockaded at Barletta. Bayard enhanced his reputation in the regular tournaments held between the lines.

At the battle of the Garigliano (28-29 December 1503) he was said to have defended a bridge for two hours against 200 men single-handed (the battle still ended as a Spanish victory). This exploit encouraged Pope Julius II to try and take Bayard into his service, but without success.

In 1508 Bayard took part in the siege of Genoa, and in 1509 the siege of Padua, adding to his reputation on both occasions.

In 1512 he was badly wounded at Brescia (February 1512), serving under Gaston of Foix, duke of Nemours. When it became clear that a battle was about to be fought at Ravenna he ignored his wounds and rushed to the scene, taking part in the battle of Ravenna (11 April 1512), a French victory marred by the death of Gaston of Foix late in the fighting. Once again Bayard enhanced his reputation during the battle.

When the English became involved in the fighting in 1513 Bayard was sent north to face them, but was captured at the Battle of the Spurs (or Guinegate) of 16 August 1513. His reputation was already so impressive that he was released without a ransom in tribute to his bravery.

In 1515 the new king Francis I appointed him lieutenant-general of Dauphiné. He took part in Francis I's first invasion of Italy, and fought at the French victory of Marignano (13-14 September 1515). After the battle Francis was knighted by Bayard, who was judged to have been the bravest captain in the battle.

In the autumn of 1521 an Imperial army under Count Henry of Nassau invaded eastern France. Mouzon fell quickly, and he then moved on to Mézières, where Bayard commanded a garrison of only 1,000 men. Despite a powerful artillery bombardment Bayard was able to hold the fortress until Francis I appeared with the main army. The siege was duly lifted on 27 September. Bayard was awarded the Order of Saint-Michel for his part in the defence.

In 1523 Bayard was part of a French army commanded by Guillaume de Bonnivet that was sent into Italy in an attempt to recover Milan (lost in the previous year). Bonnivet had some initial successes, but in the spring of 1524 a new Imperial army under Charles de Lannoy, Viceroy of Naples, caught the French by surprise and forced them to retreat. Bonnivet was wounded at Robecco, leaving Bayard in command of the rearguard. During the crossing of the Sesia (April 1524) he was mortally wounded by a harquebus ball. He had to be left behind by the retreating French, but was treated with great respect by the Imperial commanders and his body was returned to Grenoble.

Bayard was known as 'le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche' - without fear or blame. He was known to have no interest in plunder, almost unique amongst commanders of the period, as well as for his skilled use of reconnaissance.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 October 2014), Pierre Terrail, seigneur of Bayard, 1475-1524 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_bayard_pierre.html

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