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Navies of the Old World -- Bretonnia

lcmiracle#6727lcmiracle#6727 Registered Users Posts: 1,327


The Bretonnian lands are dotted by many castles across the plains and divided by the many rivers and forests. Whilest to the north, where the borders of Bretonnia with the Empire is separated by the Grey Mountains, to the west is a lengthy coastline along which fishes and commerce are abundant.
Trade is the lifeblood of the costal people, for Bretonnian wine is famed across the world and in high demand; and though the merchants are regarded no different from a peasant legally and worse socially in Bretonnia, they are often far richer than the lords they apparently serve. (WFRP2E:Knights of the Grail p10,25)
The most important port in Bretonnia is within the city of L'Anguille, which was built by the Elves before their departure from the Old World in ages past. As it sits on the mouth of the river Sannez, the city receives traffics from the King's seat at Couronne and receives a lot of trade as a result (Grail p9). Within its ancient and mighty walls dotted the more recent human homes for sailors, fishermen and traders.

In L'Anguille the merchants rule the town; since Duke Taubert had elected to ventured inland as to be as far from the sea as he could years ago, they lined the city with watch towers with cannons. L'Anguille has no other major towns for the coastline of the Dukedom were often perilous cliff sides, and most settlements lay in the interior, where the soil were fertile and the people, in contrast to the city folks, are humble and unadventurous (Grail p45).

The perilous Dragon's Maw off the coast of L'Anguille (Grail p46)
The chief rival to the port at L'Anguille is the port of Bordeleaux, where even the nobles take the worship of the sea god Manann far more sincerely than elsewhere in the Kingdom; the seaborne Temple of Manann in Bordeleux even forbids Grail Knights and Damesls from setting foot upon its floating decks. The fact that the port of L'Anguille is easily the better trading port has caused much rivalry between the two Dukedoms. Unlike its rival Dukedom L'Anguille, Bordeleaux is host to over a dozen other natural harbours; like its rival, however, there is a drastic divide between the Bordelens who live along the coast and those who live inland, and the coastal noblemen are as likely to send their son on an errantry tour as they are to send them on a ship (Grail p58).

Another significant Bretonnia port is in the city of Brionne, which sits at the mouth of the river Brienne (Grail p61). The Dukedom of Aquitaine, despite her proximity to the coast, has no major ports due to a lack of suitable locations (Grail p47).
There is one other port of Brettonia, much preferred to be forgotten by many, is Mousillon -- the city of the eponymous Dukedom that sits at the mouth of the River Grismerie. With the Dukedom in disgrace, the swamp lands around the city is threatening to consume the port; yet, by some dark miracle it lingers on (Grail p83). Ships that flies no flags run the Bretonnian blockade at night, bringing goods and slaves in and out of the duchy (WFRP2E:Barony of the Damned p16).

Above: Map of Mousillon

The Bretonnia Fleet

The Bretonnians are arguably the best human sailors in the world; the great sails billowing in the wind upon their elegent ships is a majestic sight to behold. While Bretonnian ships have fewer cannons in total against the Imperial ships, all their guns are broadside. Using their mastery of the sail, their ships are as fast in the wind as they are against, which they use to position themselves so as to outgunn their foes with mighty broadsides.

Depicted: Bretonnian ships breaking through the imperial line

The smallest of their ship-of-the-line uses the catapult, which cannot target enemy ships in lower sections, nor fire at targets too close to itself, and unlike cannons, does not penetrate better in close range (nor worse from far distances); though the projectiles may crush through the hit area above and damage the parts beneath.

Galleons are built in the King's shipyard, using choice oak timbers, whose laying of the keel is a notable occasion marked by religious services. The launch of each Galleon is accompanied by the announcement of a holiday.

Corsairs are the greatest ships-of-line in the Bretonnian navy, their broadsides strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.

Buccaners are crewed by individuals chartered by the King, often villainous individuals spared the gallows for a life of servitude upon a Buccaneer. These criminals lack the dicipline of those serving on the larger vessels, and are kept in line with harsh punishments. Bretonnian Admirals do not think twice before sending these vessels to their doom in combat.

Flights of Pegasus Riders sometimes accompany the fleets. In combat they weave through a forest of masts and sails, and charge onto enemy ships upon their winged steeded to engage in melee.

History of the Bretonnian Navy

Strangely for a people so proud of their maritime traditions, scarcely little has been revealed of the proud founding of her navy, nor the organisations of his majesty's fleets. What is known for certain is that the Bretonnians has lived on the coasts for a tremendously long time.
According to the scholar Adelround of Couronne, in his treatise titled "History of Bretonnia", L'Anguille was already considered a "grand port", thanks to the foundation laid by the Elves (Bretonnia 6th edition p9). Whether this is an anachronism, it is reasonable to presume that the maritime origin of Bretonnia predates the founding of the nation. Indeed, in present-time, L'Anguille is famed for the sights of the Bretonnian Galleons as well as other ships of the fleet, which are often found docked there (WFRP4E: Sea of Claws p10).

The Bretonnians faced many foes along her coast. Norscan raids have long troubled the land. When the Tomb King Settra awoke to find his Empire under the sands, he ordered his fleet raised from the tomb pits and began raiding the human lands to the north, bringing back living slaves in order to rebuild his lost domains. In year 197 of Bretonnian reckoning (1175 IC), the tomb fleet returnted to Bretonnia. This time, Admiral Henri Lamorte de L'Anguille met the Tomb King Amenemhetum the Great at Savage Point, and triumphed (Bretonnia p39). In 1449 IC, it is known, that the Crusade against Araby took place. Bretonnian and other ships carried the Knights of Bretonnia and their allies to victory against the forces of Sultan Jaffar (WFRP2E: Tome of Salvation p199). It was said that the fleets of the human nations had been so mobilised, that no other vessels could be found to carry a second Bretonnian army led by Baron Tybalt, and they were forced to march there (Bretonnia 5th edition p14). What naval engagement that must have taken place, is unrecorded.

Yet even the great Bretonnian navy had its share of defeat in the past. When the Plague Fleet of the Chaos Lord Kharan the Blighted came to Bretonnia in the year 1028 (2006 IC) and slayed King Louis, burning and pillaging across the Kingdom for a year uncontested, surely he must have repelled the mighty Bretonnian navy first in order to do so (Bretonnia 5E p68).

Source: Warhammer Armies Warriors of Chaos 8th edition, page 14.

In 1342 (2320 IC) the loathsome ratmen raided the Bretonnian ports in winter, whilst her fleet was anchored, and destroyed many ships. The king at the time had to contribute monies to the Dukes in order to rebuild the Bretonnian navy. This suggests that individual Bretonnian fleets are under the command of their respected Dukes.

Source: Warhammer Armies Bretonnia 6th edition page 39.


I initially intended for this article to also include info on the other human nations' navies. Sadly, it once again got too long, and I felt compelled to make that part an independent article. There's certainly more to come, however, as I am constantly revising my plans as it goes and certainly hope to cover everything naval that I can get my hands on.


  • #153592#153592 Registered Users Posts: 493

    Very good work, your post is very interesting thank you ! :)

    I would really like the maritime aspect of Bretonnia to be developed in Total War Warhammer through the character of Alberic de Bordeleaux. Because I really appreciate this character, but I find that he looks very generic Bretonnian Lord in the end when he deserves better ! A maritime orientation on the Cult of Manann instead of the Lady of the Lake would correspond to him well I think.

    I would see several things:

    - The first would be that he could have a ship integrated into his army (similar to the Vampire Coast) so, even if his starting position in Lustria is interesting, if a player decides to go elsewhere by sea he could do it and survive the travel time thanks to this, it could be a great opportunity! We could also see arriving (or not if we want to leave this originality to him) a generic Bretonnian Lord of captain, who would also have a ship included in his army (but who would be a much less good fighter than a classic Bretonnian Lord).

    - The second would be to give him a real originality with respect to Manann, because if we see the character of Bohemond Beastslayer arrive in the future, the 2 risks of duplication... So I would see Alberic losing his Heroic Killing Blow ( for the benefit of Bohemond who would have this ability which would suit him better) and instead transform Alberic into a half-melee-half-caster hybrid, allowing him thanks to Manann's Trident to cast up to 6 spells (instead of only one ). I would see his spells being rewards for special quests that would allow them to be unlocked as the campaign progresses. 3 spells could be from the lore of the depths, and 3 spells could be from the lore of the storm!

    - In 3rd I would see an orientation of the roster dedicated to Manann, Alberic could have specific units linked to Manann linked to a special building (such as the legendary building of the Temple of Manann in Bordeaux or in his own ship), and he could have penalties or restrictions on units linked to the Lady of the Lake (in terms of number or upkep or recruitment). The units provide could be, for example, a Bombard (a Cannon as in the old versions of the RPG of Warhammer and in Manowar), corsairs (which would be like a kind of Free Company Militia or a Sartosa Free Company), we could have a melee version with two melee weapons and a version with pistols or handguns. These units could normally be limited for other Bretonnians (eg a maximum of 4) but unlimited for Alberic de Bordeleaux's faction.

    We would then have a truly unique Alberic, with a maritime-oriented theme and the Cult of Manann that would suit him perfectly. And that would leave the field open for the addition of a Bohemond Duke of Bastonne without it facing a duplicate since they would then be different. All while integrating and justifying earlier versions and different versions of Bretonnia that were offered to us in the past, in reality it was just a different time or a time when the Cult of the Lady was less strong or involved and or other Cults, such as that of Manann had a more prominent place within Bretonnia.

  • Fingolfin_the-Golden#2157Fingolfin_the-Golden#2157 Registered Users Posts: 7,997
    Yes, they do have a navy in other games.

    BEARS, Beets, Battlestar Galactica 🧝‍♀️ Pandas too please CA!
  • sykall#1105sykall#1105 Registered Users Posts: 3,138
    This reminds me again why I like Alberic de Bordelaux. Yes he is a minor figure at best, but I quite enjoy him. Especially as he is somewhat the Eddard Stark amongst Bretonnian lords. You mostly have to replace references to the North with references to the Sea and Bordelaux.

    After all he is a religious deviant whose patreon is a god whose worships outdates the predominant cult of the rest of the country. In addition he is a stern and dutybound figure who takes each part of his office seriously. Like drilling his knights to be in top condition, or investing much in land and sea based administration. Which is in contrast to the other dukedoms flamboyent tendencies. Also "Honour is all, chivalry is all".
    Filling the white spots - 7 made-up factions to enrich the empty parts of the WFB setting
  • Oldblackeyes#2875Oldblackeyes#2875 Registered Users Posts: 283
    Thank you, enjoyed the read a lot.
  • PoopEnjoyer#8141PoopEnjoyer#8141 Registered Users Posts: 17
    Naval battles in warhammer total war would have been awesome, but I perfectly understand how difficult and expensive it would be for CA.
  • #93734#93734 Registered Users Posts: 333
    The thing that I don't get is, if Bretonnia uses cannon artillery in their navy, why don't they get cannon artillery for their land armies? Maybe its a chivalry thing? Still, cannon artillery should be an option for Alberic's land armies, no?
  • lcmiracle#6727lcmiracle#6727 Registered Users Posts: 1,327
    #93734 said:

    The thing that I don't get is, if Bretonnia uses cannon artillery in their navy, why don't they get cannon artillery for their land armies? Maybe its a chivalry thing? Still, cannon artillery should be an option for Alberic's land armies, no?

    It is implied (and perhaps stated outright in some novels) that, since the navy is not on Bretonnia soil, thus are exempt from the code of chivalry that forbids the use of the gun. So as long as any proper Knight is concerned, they fight on land, they eschew the gunpowder weapons. This, I believe, is the accepted answer.

    Out of universe though, Man O' War came out in 1993, Bret 5th edition army book in 1996, where Bretonnia offically lost access to all guns in the fantasy battles game. Prior to this, they were a more medieval army against the Empire's reinassance vibe, true, but not full arthurian. In 5th edition they went with the romanticized Aurthurian whimsy (for what it's worth, I've always viewd the overly noble-bright 5E as a minstrels' coloured telling of the nation to their noble patrons), and thus eschewed gunpowder all together.

    Roleplay has a hobbit of fixing internal inconsistencies where they can. Per the Knights of the Grail supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition, gunpowder is actually monopolized by the merchants. This is due to the fact that Bretonnian peasant law (to whose class the merchants legally belong) does not forbid peasants from using gunpowder, whereas the nobility class are loathed to use them.

    Thus allowing merchant brotherhoods to gain near monopoly of the firearms

    And the merchants do keep their (very not taken kindly of) privileges with a combination of bribery (several Bretonnian dukedoms in the Grail are extremely corrupt due to their Dukes take fighting monsters or doing other knightly things above governorship) and threat of guns:

    I'd postulate, therefore, not only are the Knights not want to use firearms -- including cannons -- the merchants also avoid selling them to the nobility in fear of losing their leverage. Couple this with the fact that the coastal merchants are highly dependent upon trade, I say it's the merchants that facilitated that the Bretonnian navy have guns to better protect their lucrative trade routes.

    Incidentally, Bordeleaux has cannons on their watch towers, but they are put there by merchants, and not entirely for repelling foreign invaders...

    All sourced from Knights of the Grail supplement for WFRP 2nd edition. (pages 27, 33, 44, 45, 102)
  • #93734#93734 Registered Users Posts: 333
    ^^ Thanks man, great stuff, good research.

    Maybe Bretonnia should have some merchant mercenary gun units? Might be interesting? Maybe too much like Empire?
  • #93734#93734 Registered Users Posts: 333
    How interested are you in a "Man-of-War" type Warhammer naval game from CA?
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