In spring 1642, cardinal Richelieu concentrated his forces to besiege the city of Perpignan in the province of Roussillon, leaving the rest of his armies in a defensive position. In Flanders, the Spanish governor Francisco de Melo decided in a war council to attack some fortress in French hand in an attempt to distract some French troops from the main front. In April 1642, Francisco de Melo concentrated a powerful army and started his campaign taking Lens the 19th of April and later the important fortress of la Bassée which surrender after 22 days of siege. In front the two French armies (Count of Harcourt and Maréchal de Guiche) maintained a defensive position avoiding an open battle to save the fortress. After the loss of la Bassée the French armies separated, Harcourt, with 17 000 men to cover the region of Boulogne and de Guiche with 10 000 men to cover the Champagne and Vernandois. Learning the split of the French forces, the Spanish react quickly, sending the main army against de Guiche leaving just covering force in front of Harcourt’s army. For some reason de Guiche refuse to take cover behind the river Escaut and decided to entrench his army at on a hill in front of the village of Honnecourt-sur-Escaut, and wait the Spanish attack. The 26 of May Francisco de Melo take position in front of de Guiche and occupy a dominanrt position on the same hill.
On the 9th of November, 1641, the prince-cardinal Ferdinand died at Brussels in his thirty-third year; Don Francisco de Mello, a nobleman of highly reputed talents, was the next who obtained this onerous situation. He commenced his governorship by a succession of military operations, and after taking some towns, and defeating the marshal De Guiche in the battle of Honnecourt tarnished all his fame by the great faults which he committed in the famous battle of Rocroi. The duke d'Enghien, then twenty-one years of age, and subsequently so celebrated as the great Condé, completely defeated De Mello, and nearly annihilated the Spanish and Walloon infantry. The military operations of the Dutch army were this year remarkable only by the gallant conduct of Prince William, son of the prince of Orange, who, not yet seventeen years of age, defeated near Hulst, in 1642, under the eyes of his father, a Spanish detachment in a very warm skirmish.