The Battle of Villeneuve, 1481 AD

Extract from the report of the English Ambassador to the Milanese court to King Edward IV regarding the battle of Villeneuve

...while our Lord Milan had indeed given Savoy a most heavy blow, it was only to arouse the enmity of the Genoese. Word has reached me that the Savoyards have not only come to terms with their former enemies, very generous terms they are too for Genoa, if word is to be believed, but that soldiers formerly in Savoyard pay were instrumental in bring about Lagobambino's death.

Apparently, Corleoni, recently captain of Savoy, and defeated outside Aosta not last season as your Majesty will recall, was given command of the central battle, and it was his men that did Lagobambino to death. The Genoese then entered Aosta, ejected the unfortunate wretches still living there, these having survived the Milanese seige, now broken, and turned them out onto the land - having taken good care to seize all moveable goods first, of course, and confiscated what harvestable crops were to be found.

The surviving locals have for the most part trudged over the Alps to Geneva it seems, while the Genoese are rebuilding the fortifications in the Val d'Aosta with all haste...


This was the ninth battle fought in the campaign (being out of synchrony with the tenth battle). Following the defeat of the army of the Duke of Savoy (played by Jonathan Parks), commanded by the mercenary captain, Lorenzo Corleoni (played by Tim Driver) by Carboni Lagobambino (played by Corbon Loughnan), captain-general to the Duke of Milan (played by Brent Regan), the Savoyards were left without an army to defend themselves. While the Milanese were beseiging Aosta, they patched up a peace with their until-then enemies, the Genoese.

Peace came with a heavy price however: the seccession of their two remaining extra-territorial provinces, Lausanne and Aosta, to the Genoese. With no army to help their bargaining position, there was little they could do but to go along with the Genoese demands, and Lausanne was duly handed over to the Genoese, who promptly looted it of ready cash to pay for the large army they were hiring to replace the previous year's losses.

It only remained for the Genoese to march into Aosta, and here of course was a problem: the Milanese under Lagobambno were beseiging the city, intent on making it their own. When the Genoese senate informed the Duke of Milan that he now had no business in Aosta, it being Genoese, and the two states at peace, the Duke was not amused, and ordered the seige continued.

At this, the Genoese hired yet more men, including the rest of Corleoni's company that had just fought outside Aosta but a month or so before, and knew both the strength and numbers of the Milanese army, and descended from the passes into the Val d'Aosta, intent on relieving the seige.

Knowing that the Aostan garrison was by now very weak, Lagobambino could afford to leave a tiny covering force to watch the city, and moved a few miles westward past the village of Villeneuve and drew up his forces at the head of the valley. Unsure of whether some of the Genoese might make their route by the Grand St. Bernard pass rather than the Petit St. Bernard, he posted a few men to his northern flank to guard against that eventuality, while marshalling the bulk of his men facing westwards.

A few companies, both foot and horse, had been posted to the south at first light, hidden amongst some wooded ridges pressing out from the mountains, awaiting the Genoese, and to their rear were his few guns and the mens' baggage and supplies. The bulk of his forces, massed companies of elmetti lancers, were posted on the northern side of the Dora Baltea, here only a small river, now even shallower than normal after the summer's heat.

No sign of any enemy had been seen that morning when a strong wind whipped up the valley, bowling tents over, raising clouds of dust and causing confusion in the Milanese camp. In the excitement, nobody noticed the Genoese snaking down the valley, half-hidden as they were by the dust. By the time Lagobambino saw them for his own eyes, still nobody had informed him, assuming he must surely have been told. Hurredly he had the trumpets sounded to call his men to stations, but by the time his companies were ordered, the enemy had not only formed up for battle, but had advanced within gunnery range.

The small scrubby rise just to his army's front that he had planned on deploying his handgunners on had already been seized by their Genoese rivals, and even now he could make out their crossbowmen struggling forwards towards it in an effort to reinforce their skirmishers, knowing too that it would be the pivotal point of the battle.

For the Genoese commander, Giovanni Ambulatore (played by Andre Evers) had devined that his arrival had for some reason esceped the notice of the enemy. Detailing his colleague Walter de Brienne IV (played by Bryan Sowman) to take command of the heavy foot and artillery, and make as best speed as he could, he ordered Corleoni's men to race for the hill, while he followed up closely behind to reinforce them. Luck held, and not only did they gain the hill, but the swirling gusts convinced Logobambino that his own few handgunnerss would be unlikely to be able to take it back unaided in the face of such enemy numbers.

Thus frustrated in being able to dominate the centre ground, Lagobambino knew it would take all his skills to find a chink in the enemy's line, outnumbered as he was. 'Where had they got so many men from'?, he wondered not a few times, and wishing once more his Duke had spent rather more money training extra militia rather than helping pay for useless trading missions to God-only-knows-where - conducted by these very same Genoese no less!

Thus he detailed some of his light horsemen forwards to entice the enemy onwards, goading the enemy with geers and taunts. Given the numbers to his front, it was obvious that there would be no flank march from the north, so he recalled the men guarding the northern approaches, and sent them to assist his mounted crossowmen to the front. The strong winds made for poor shooting however, and the Genoese seemed to take no appreciable losses, while a few of his own men were ridden down by the boldest of the Genoese lancers. Still, they were drawing Ambulatore's men forward, and that was the main thing.

Deployment Map

To the south, the Genoese heavy foot trudged slowly forwards, occasionally being sniped at by Milanese skirmishers, escorting their bombards forwards, but the 'road' here was so bad as to be unusable, and they made slow progress.

In the centre, Lagobambino skirmished with Corleoni's men on the hill, trying to draw them down onto the flatter ground where his own men would have a better chance. The Genoese foot were having none of it however, but eventually some Genoese lancers crested the rise. They immediately advanced down the slopes, thinking to clear the ground to their front of the Milanese handgunners, but Lagobambino's reserve lancer squadrons stopped them in their tracks.

Corleoni's own squadrons then moved up to assist the Genoese elmetti, and a more general melee ensued. Lagobambino devined that he himself seemed once again to be the prime target of Corleoni's advance, and so he positioned himself in the front line in order to hasten their approach. To the north, he ordered his men to replace his light horse, and Ambulatore's lancer squadrons soon took up the challenge, and seeing all was set as he wanted it, Lagobambino had the general charge sounded.

To the north, he had drawn Ambulatore forwards, while succesfully withdrawing his own light horse to the rear to form a reserve line; in the centre the ducal guards thundered forwards, engaging Corleoni's horse that was now too far forwards to be easily supported by their foot on the hill, and to the south, the Genoese heavy foot had been tied up successfully by a few skirmishers

Everything seemed perfect, but fate intervened against him. Once the lines of charging horsemen had impacted, things started to go wrong. When Genoese squadrons pushed too far forwards, isolating themselves, and exposing their flanks to the Milanese reserves, they shrugged off the reinforcements with ease. In contrast, his own men seemed to make no useful headway, and some squadrons even broke at the first shock of impact leaving holes that had to be plugged immediately or else risk destruction in detail.

Even his own personal men, hand-picked, seemed to lack their usual elan, and became so involved protecting themselves that they negelected their commander's safety. Turning around, searching for him, his plumed helm could not be found, but then his riderless horse was seen galloping to the rear.

Word spread around the Milanese army that he had fallen, although counter-rumours that he was still alive spread too, and the army did not falter immediately. However, deprived of their leader, the Milanese lacked determination, and soon Ambulatore, leading from the front as usual, broke the wing opposite him, pursuing them hotly. Lagobambino's remaining squadrons faltered, and then were driven from the field by a fresh charge of Corleoni's men, just as it looked that the Milanese infantry arriving from the south might regain the centre hill. These withdrew in good order, while the Genoese horse pursued their opposite numbers.

Casualties were heavy, yet nowhere near as great as they may have been, since the Genoese seemed more concerned with looting the Milanese supplies than ensuring their owners' destruction. Some Genoese had lost their lives too in the fierce cavalry melee around Lagobambino's position, notably the lieutenant-captain Troylo da Rossano, but few held that his loss was great compared to discovery of Lagobambino's body at the base of the hill which had been his downfall.

Once Ambulatore called off the pursuit, they advanced upon Aosta which gladly threw open it's gates to receive their liberators. More fool them! They soon wished they had surrendered to Lagobambino instead, since the victorious Genoese rounded up all the inhabitants and ejected them from the city, and then set down to comprehensively sack the place. Evidently news had not reached them through the seige lines of Lausanne's fate at the hands of their 'protectors'.


This page last modified: December 9, 1998

Return to the campaign introduction.