Battle of Agincourt

From Academic Kids

Template:Battlebox The Battle of Agincourt was fought on October 25, 1415, Saint Crispin's Day, in northern France as part of the Hundred Years' War between the slightly outnumbered army of King Henry V of England (previously wrongly thought highly outnumbered, see below) and that of Charles VI of France, the latter under the command not of the incapacitated king himself but of the Constable Charles d'Albret and various notable French noblemen of the Armagnac party.

Contents

The Campaign

Henry V had invaded France for several reasons, including: that by fighting a popular foreign war he would strengthen his position at home; and he hoped that he could improve his financial position by, either gaining lands in France which would secure him revenue, or by taking noble prisoners who would pay ransoms, or by extorting money from the French King to go home, in a version of "Danegeld" which English kings had succeeded in doing before.

His army landed in Northern France on 13 August 1415 and besieged the port of Harfleur. The siege of Harfleur took longer than expected, the town surrendered on 22 September and the English army did not leave until 8 October. The campaign season was coming to an end, and the English Army had suffered many casualties through disease. Henry decided to move his army to the port of Calais, the only English stronghold in northern France, where they could re-equip over winter for the campaign season of 1416.

During the siege, the French had been able to call up a large feudal army which d'Albret deployed skilfully between Harfleur and Calais, mirroring the British manoeuvres along the river Somme, thus preventing them from reaching Calais without a major confrontation. The end result was that d'Albret managed to force Henry into fighting a battle that, given the state of his army, he would have preferred to avoid.

The catastrophic defeat that the French suffered at the Battle of Agincourt allowed Henry to fulfill all his campaign objectives. He was recognised by the French in the Treaty of Troyes (1420) as regent and heir to the French throne. This was cemented by his marriage to Catherine of Valois, the daughter of King Charles VI.

Henry V did not live to inherit the throne of France. In 1422, while securing his position against further French opposition, at the age 34 he died of dysentery, 2 months before Charles VI. He was succeeded by his young son, Henry VI, during whose reign the English were expelled from all of France except Calais by French military successes, encouraged by Joan of Arc, under the new French king, Charles VII.

The Battle

The battle was fought in the defile formed by the wood of Agincourt and that of Tramecourt, at the northern exit of which the army under d'Albret, constable of France, had placed itself so as to bar the way to Calais against the English forces which had been campaigning on the Somme. The night of the 24th of October was spent by the two armies on the ground, and the English had but little shelter from the heavy rain which fell. Early on the 25th, St Crispin's day, Henry arrayed his army (about 1000 men-at-arms, 5000 archers, and a few thousand other footmen). It is probable that the usual three "battles" were drawn up in line, each with its archers on the flanks and the dismounted men-at-arms in the centre; the archers being thrown forward in wedge-shaped salients, almost exactly as at the Battle of Crcy. The French, on the other hand, were drawn up in three lines, each line formed in deep masses. They were 50% more numerous than the English, but restricted by the nature of the ground to the same extent of front, they were unable to use their full weight (compare Bannockburn); further, the deep mud prevented their artillery from taking part, and the crossbowmen were, as usual, relegated to the rear of the knights and men-at-arms. All were dismounted, save a few knights and men-at-arms on the flanks, who were intended to charge the archers of the enemy. Prior to the battle, King Henry spoke to his troops from a little gray horse. French accounts state that in his speech he told his men that he and the dukes, earls and other nobles had little to worry about if the French won because they would be captured and ransomed for a good price. The common soldier on the other hand was worth little and so he told them that they had better fight hard.

map

For three hours after sunrise there was no fighting; then Henry, finding that the French would not advance, moved his army farther into the defile. The archers fixed the pointed stakes, called palings, which they carried to ward off cavalry charges, and opened the engagement with flights of arrows. It should be noted that these palings were an innovation: at Crcy and Poitiers, two other similar battles between the French and the English, the archers had not had them. The chivalry of France was not an army but a group of knights who came together by request from Charles VI. They were undisciplined and careless of the lessons of the battles of Crcy and Poitiers, and were quickly stung into action; the French mounted men charged, only to be driven back in confusion. The constable himself headed the leading line of dismounted men-at-arms; weighted with their armour, and sinking deep into the mud with every step, they yet reached and engaged the English men-at-arms. For a time the fighting was severe. The thin line of the defenders was borne back and King Henry was almost beaten to the ground. But at this moment the archers, taking their hatchets, swords or other weapons, penetrated the gaps in the now disordered French, who could not move to cope with their unarmoured assailants, and were slaughtered or taken prisoners to a man. The second line of the French came on, only to be engulfed in the mle; its leaders, like those of the first line, were killed or taken, and the commanders of the third sought and found their death in the battle, while their men rode off to safety. The only success for the French was a sally from Agincourt castle behind the lines. Ysambart D'Agincourt took over the King's baggage. Thinking his rear was under attack Henry ordered the slaughter of the captives, who could easily have armed themselves with the weapons strewn about the field. The nobles and higher officers, wishing to maintain their ability to ransom the captives, refused and the task fell to the common soldiers. Though Henry's actions may have been savage, if the captives were to arm themselves his army would have been crushed between the French forces and the hostages.

In the morning Henry came back to the battlefield and killed any wounded French who survived the night in the open, though all the nobility had already been taken way and any commoners left on the field were too badly injured to survive without extreme medical care not available for them in the immediate aftermath of the battle. The total loss of the English is stated at thirteen men-at-arms (including Edward, Duke of York, grandson of Edward III) and about 100 of the footmen. The French lost 5000 of noble birth killed, including the constable, 3 dukes, 5 counts and 90 barons (see below); 1000 more were taken prisoner, amongst them the duke of Orlans (the Charles d'Orlans of literature) and Jean Le Maingre, marshall of France.

Notable casualties

A modified explanation of the battle

Recent experiments at Agincourt and elsewhere suggest that the English archers inflicted little damage on the heavily armored French knights and men-at-arms with their arrows because of the recent adoption of steel (rather than iron) for armor.

However these limited sets of tests were made for a television program about Agincourt:

  • The draw weight of the longbows used may or may not have been correct. It is unlikely that they were using bows with the average draw weight of those found on the Mary Rose;
  • The bodkin arrow heads which were used in the tests was one of many possible designs;
  • The tests assumed that the majority of armour was steel of consistent quality and that the arrow heads were of iron, when they too might have been steel;
  • It failed to test what would happen at close range with arrows aimed at weak points in the armour.
  • The tests also failed to account for the fact that the average English archer was the master of his trade able to consistently hit targets in excess of two hundred yards.

It is possible, then, that most of the casualties of the archery were the less-armored horses, causing the mounted fighters to be thrown down onto the muddy ground, where they had difficulty in arising. In addition, the French troops were exhausted by struggling through the quagmire which they were churning up on the battlefield and arrived piecemeal at the English line of battle.

A second feature contributing to the French defeat was the funnel-shaped battlefield that caused the French forces to converge as they approached the English lines. As they moved forward, they jostled each other and tripped over the bodies of the fallen horses and men. It is possible that many actually suffocated as they were trampled into the mud by the following soldiers and knights. This suggestion has been supported by computer models and video footage used to study crowd disasters at football grounds and music concerts.

Into this chaos, the lightly armored archers moved, much more nimbly than the heavily armored French, and were able to inflict severe damage on the enemy with their short swords, knives, mallets, and other weapons. This suggests that the archers did considerably more damage as infantry than as archers.

The Battle of Agincourt as an English patriotic myth

The Battle of Agincourt, although almost six centuries old, is still well remembered in England. Along with the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Waterloo, it often comes back as a French-bashing theme in the English tabloid press. Until recently, it was feted as one of the greatest victories in British military history, but recent scholarly work showed that the scale of English triumph at Agincourt was overstated for almost six centuries.

For a very long time, the official version was that Henry V's army was largely outnumbered by the French. From the Second World War until the early 2000s, historians believed the odds were at least four to one. However, recent scholarly research conducted by Professor Anne Curry, professor of medieval history at Southampton University, revealed that the figures had been exaggerated over the centuries for patriotic reasonsTemplate:Ref. Curry studied the original enrolment records at the National Archives in London and the National Library of France in Paris, and she found out that there were more English and Welsh troops than previously thought, and far fewer on the French side.

According to her own research, the French still outnumbered the English and Welsh, but only by a factor of three to two (12,000 Frenchmen pitted against 8,000 Englishmen and Welshmen). Her findings are given credit by other medieval scholars in the academic community.

According to Curry, the Battle of Agincourt was a "myth constructed around Henry to build up his reputation as a king". Allegedly, the legend of the English as underdogs at Agincourt was definitely given credence in popular English culture with Shakespeare's Henry V in 1599. In the speech before the battle, Shakespeare puts in the mouth of Henry V the famous line "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers".

See also

Bibliography

External references

Notes

  1. Template:NoteHenry Vs payroll cuts Agincourt myth down to size (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-523-1632547,00.html) by Richard Brooks, Arts Editor of Sunday Times May 29, 2005. A review of Ann Currys Agincourt: A New History, see Bibliographycs:Bitva u Azincourtu

de:Schlacht von Azincourt eo:Batalo de Azincourt fr:Bataille d'Azincourt nl:Slag bij Agincourt ru:Битва при Азенкуре ja:アジャンクールの戦い he:קרב אז'נקור sv:Slaget vid Azincourt

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