To say that the King of Bohemia blindly rushed into battle is not an indictment on his judgment; it is a statement of fact. The Bohemian monarch lost his eyesight when he was 40 years old, thus earning him the nickname John the Blind. He met his end in battle, choosing to charge against the enemy despite never having regained his vision.
John of Bohemia (August 10, 1296 – August 26, 1346), also called John of Luxembourg and John the Blind, was the eldest son of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII and his wife Margaret of Brabant.
John suffered from a genetic condition that robbed him of his eyesight, but it could not dampen his courage. Despite the loss of his vision, he went on a crusade in Lithuania and impressed everyone with his ability to command his men without impairment.
In 1346 France and England were at war. France’s King Philip VI requested help from John’s military. John readily sent his troops to assist, and as an added bonus, he came along. The two kings were meeting at Abbeville when word came that England’s King Edward III was trapped between the sea and the Somme.
Rushing to the scene of the battle, John was not content to merely sit back and receive reports of the fighting. He ordered his knights to tie their horses to his and to lead him into the battle so he could personally take part in the fighting.
While no one can doubt John’s courage, his judgment and his fighting techniques were certainly lacking that day. Once close to the center of combat, he swung his sword around so violently and with such little direction that his own knights were as much at risk of being hit as the English. Being much distracted by their king’s actions, as well as fighting off their own attackers, the knights were unable to prevent their king from meeting his end at the Battle of Crécy.
More than 600 years would pass before we would learn more details of John’s final moments. In 1990 an examination of John’s skeleton revealed a stab injury to his eye socket. A weapon with a triangular cross section had been pushed right into his skull. Another stab injury was found to his left shoulder blade, penetrating into his chest and probably hitting vital organs leading to a swift, if not immediate death. They also discovered that his right hand had been severed by three blows with a blade, presumably to make theft of his rings and other personal items easier.
In this way, John the Blind breathed his last. He rushed into battle blind, but not blindly.
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