Exactly 800 years ago on Sunday, in a field next to what is now the airport of Lille, a battle was fought which determined the history of England.
Today few people in the UK have heard of Bouvines. It has none of the ring of an Agincourt or a Crecy. Probably that is because England lost it. But the battle of 27 July, 1214, was just as significant as England’s later victories over the French. Maybe more so.
“Bouvines is the most important battle in English history that no-one has ever heard of,” says John France, professor emeritus in medieval history at Swansea University. “Without Bouvines there is no Magna Carta, and all the British and American law that stems from that. It’s a muddy field, the armies are small, but everything depends on the struggle. It’s one of the climactic moments of European history.”