The Battle of Grandson

Battle of Grandson 1476 – Swiss Burgundian War

Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, engaged in 3 unsuccessful attempts against the Swiss, with the 3rd ending in his death.  The first encounter was the Battle of Grandson in 1476.   

There had been great tension between Alsace and Burgundy, beginning in 1469 when Charles acquired Alsatian land through the Treaty of St. Omer. The Alsatians, feeling threatened, entered into an alliance with King Louis XI, who already had his own conflicts with Burgundy.

In 1476, after Charles the Bold conquered the city of Lorraine, he gathered an army of 20,000 men and marched into Vaud canton where the Swiss began mobilizing against him. Charles quickly took the town of Grandson and laid siege to the castle.  The Swiss, seeing that relief was unlikely, agreed to surrender with a promise from Charles that their lives would be spared. However, after their surrender, Charles has the entire garrison executed to spite the Swiss.  

Charles moved north, making a base camp at Concise with an army of armored. Burgundian cavalry, English archers, German Arquebusiers, Flemish Pikemen and Italian light cavalry.  Meanwhile, a Bernese force of Swiss Pikemen and Halberdiers moved towards Concise using two routes; a coastal road and a high road through a wooded area. This gave the Swiss a very favorable position. The ones taking the coastal road formed into a square in the plain with rows of Pikemen, creating a barrier Charles’ army could not penetrate. Unknown to the Burgundians, this was not the entire Swiss force they were facing. After some time, with neither side gaining their position, Charles changed tactics and withdrew his cavalry. At this time the other Swiss division appeared over the hill from the high road. The Burgundian army panicked and fled. The Swiss, lacking mounted troops, were unable to capitalize on their surprise appearance.  Charles’ army escaped, leaving their possessions behind. The Swiss were left with the best of the Burgundian artillery. This included about 400 cannons, tapestries and jewels.  They only lost about 200 troops, with Charles losing about 300. But left with a strong army, Charles was able to regroup and continue his conquest.