François de Bourbon, Count of Enghien, 1519-1546

François de Bourbon, Count of Enghien (1519-1546) was a French commander who defeated an Imperial army at Ceresole in 1544 while only 25 but who died two years later in an accident and was thus denied a longer military career.

Enghien was the second son of Charles IV de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme (1489-1537). As a member of one of the most senior families in France his career began at a young age and he was made governor of Hainaut in 1537.

Enghien's brief military career came during the Fourth Hapsburg-Valois War (1542-44). This began with a four-pronged attack on Hapsburg territory. Enghien's brother Antoine de Bourbon, duke of Vendome, led one attack, but Enghien himself served with Charles, Duke of Orléans (a son of Francis I) who was operating in Luxembourg. Orléans conquered most of Luxembourg, but then withdrew to join his father, who was operating on the Spanish frontier.

In 1543 Francis operated alongside the Turks, who provided a fleet commanded by the able admiral Barbarossa. Enghien led the French element of the allied fleet and took part in the siege and sack of the Imperial city of Nice (August 1543).

Late in 1543 Enghien was appointed governor of Piedmont and the limited French positions in north-western Italy. He proved to be a successful commander in Italy. In February-April 1544 he captured Carmagnola, south of Turin. He then moved north to besiege Carignano, north-west of Carmagnola and nearer to Turin.

Enghien faced a larger Imperial army, commanded by the Marquis del Vasto, which was moving west to raise the siege of Carignano. He had permission to risk a battle and the two sides clashed at Ceresole (14 April 1544), south of Turin.

The battle began with an artillery duel but then developed into an infantry battle. Enghien's Swiss troops, supported by French cavalry, performed well against the Imperial landsknechts, but his left wing was threatened by a force of experienced Swiss and German infantry. Enghien sent his cavalry around the Imperial flanks and hit them in the rear. With the Imperial right defeated Del Vasto was forced to retreat, having lost three times as many men as the French. This was the first French victory over a large number of Spanish troops since the battle of Ravenna (1512), but neither battle had any significant long term impact.

Despite the French victory Imperial forces still held most of the fortresses in Lombardy, so progress was slow. He did advance as far east as Asti, half way between Turin and Alessandria, which fell to his forces later in the year. However Del Vasto was still active, defeating a force of Italian reinforcements heading to join Enghien at Serravalle (2 June 1544).

After his successes in Italy Enghien was appointed governor of Languedoc. He was killed in an accident in 1546, ending his career. He had been so influential with Francis that court rumour suggested that the 'accident' had been arranged by the Dauphin.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 February 2015), François de Bourbon, Count of Enghien, 1519-1546 ,

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