The origin of the conflict

 Brittany in 1488

 France in 1488

 The French aggression

The origin of the conflict :

 In the third part of the fifteenth century France was looking more and more towards Brittany, a rich and thriving economy made tempting to a King who was in conflict with other growing and ambitious states in Europe. This coveting of Breton riches was not new, any more than was the desire to curb the independant Breton spirit and character. With Machiavellic skill, French monarchs had gradually weakened the Breton Ducal strength and resolve, tempting and rewarding with favours and lands to the point that the Duc, François II at Nantes, found himself in regular conflict with his own supporters.
With the death of Charles the Bold at the seige of Nancy in 1477, Louis XI was thus free to concentrate on the plan to attach the Duchy of Brittany to France once and for all.It was by this time evident that Duc François would have no male heir to succeed him, and the time for a political move was ripe.
Since the Treaty of Guérande the Salt Law had ceased to exist in Brittany. Under this law, the succession to the Duchy would pass to the male heir of the House of Penthièvre. The problem now facing the Duc was that the House of Penthièvre no longer existed, it had been abolished by the Duc himself because of repeated and rebellious behaviour by his Barons and Dukes and their refusal to accept Ducal authority. And the second part of this problem was that Louis XI, having married Dame Nicole de Penthièvre, had repurchased these rights in 1480…
The Parliament of Paris clashed, therefore, with the States of Brittany, Duc François II wishing to name his elder duaghter Anne as sole heir to the Duchy. While the King of France threatened, cajoled and plotted, creating confusion in the situation as a whole he caused some surprise and a respite in the debate by suddenly dying.
Anne de Beaujeu, daughter to the deceased King, became Regent to her younger brother Charles and resolved to continue her father's work. The "Breton problem" must be solved once and for all…


Brittany in 1488 :

 The Duchy was not at all prepared for the conflict that was to come. Fierce international competition in the overseas trading at which the Bretons excelled, coupled with several bad harvests which were followed by the inevitable famines and shortages of food, the plague anew in Nantes, all had undermined the country's morale and the economy. The Ducal court, too, was not well run except where pleasures were concerned, and the country's defences were severly neglected, particularly since Brittany had remained neutral throughout the IOO Years War . The Duc was obliged to seek for the necessary finances to refurbish his army and repair damaged and neglected defences, and even resorted to mortgaging his Ducal properties for ready cash.


France in 1488 :

 Having conquered, and thereby dealt with, Burgundy, and being at peace -temporarily at least - with the English Court, the French Court could now turn its undivided attention to Brittany.
Louis XI's skilful undermining of the loyalties of several large Breton landowners had deprived the Duchy of its political and war leaders and had created an atmosphere of mistrust and unease throughout the land. These leaders, who ought to have been on the side of those who paid them taxes to protect them now found themselves in the opposite camp. This lack of responsibility to their own people was to cost the Duchy its independance…


The French aggression :

  On May 15th 1487 the French Army crossed the Marches of Brittany. Several places fell with little or no resistance -Ancenis, Châteaubriant, La Guerche, Vannes, Redon. Ploërmel resisted for three days and then finally succombed to a savage massacre. Nantes, well-prepared, held better against the french troops, but other towns fell before the onset of winter: Auray, Vitré, Dol.
Meanwhile, a volte - face by Maréchal Rieux, one of the Breton Dukes who had turned to the French side and who was by now tired of the manipulations and intrigues of the French court, regrouped several of the Breton leaders back on the side of their own people under the Ducal banner. A faint hope glimmered finally in Breton hearts…
At the beginning of 1488 the Bretons regained several towns, including Vannes. However, in April the French military campaigns began again in earnest with a fully armed, well - equipped army of mercenaries and the latest military weapons which would stand against a Breton army, inferior in number and tactical ability, very poorly armed and trained, but which was determined to defend its land and its young future Duchesse Anne, aged only twelve in the year 1488.