The Battle of Agincourt was fought between the French and the English during the Hundred Years War. The English were victorious in battle due to their strong leadership, under Henry V, and superior weaponry, predominantly the longbow. This battle is widely referenced today due to the overwhelming odds and victory that occurred.
Shakespeare immortalized Agincourt in his historical play, King Henry V, through the eyes of England's king. Although King Henry still makes some prominent appearances, Agincourt examines this battle from the perspective of a common soldier. Critics agreed that the nonstop action and gory violence may not appeal to all readers...
The French had a far superior force in numbers but they lacked the English training, discipline and organisation. They became overconfident thinking that as they outnumbered the English by so much that they would easily win. The French king, Charles VI, was both weak and mentally ill. As such he was unfit to lead his army so it was delegated to Charles D’Albert who was the Constable of France and also to Boucicault, the Marshal. Even though they were both experienced soldiers, capable of commanding the army effectively, they were looked upon with scorn by the French knights (and nobles). It was seen that the two commanders were not of high enough a social rank to command knights and so many orders were ignored on purpose. This was a fatal flaw for the French and led to the slaughter of their forces.
In 1414, King Henry V of England began discussions with his nobles regarding renewing the war with France to assert his claim on the French throne. He held this claim through his grandfather, Edward III who begun the Hundred Years' War in 1337. Initially reluctant, they encouraged the king to negotiate with the French. In doing so, Henry was willing to renounce his claim to the French throne in exchange for 1.6 million crowns (the outstanding ransom on French King John II - captured at Poitiers in 1356), as well as French recognition of English dominion over occupied lands in France.
Henry V had no intention of going to France to start a war; he believed that he was the rightful heir to certain lands within France due to treaties that were made many years prior to his rule. His main goal was to leave some men behind to stake his claim to the land as the rightful heir. Since Henry believed that he was the rightful heir to the land, he believed that the citizens living there were his rightful subjects, therefore he ordered his men to be civil and not harm any locals. Henry V truly tried to implement a code of chivalry within his knights.
Lack of authority
The disorganisation of the troops is often attributed to the fact that France's King Charles VI was weak and mentally ill at the time. He handed authority over to Charles d'Albert, Constable of France, and Boucicault, both experienced soldiers.
But their rank was not considered high enough to deserve respect from the French nobles in the army and their commands were largely ignored. In comparison Henry V was widely regarded as a charismatic commander, and was respected by his troops.
Use of longbow arrows
In the longbow, the English had perfected an extraordinary weapon that gave them a considerable advantage over the French crossbow. A trained archer could shoot six aimed arrows a minute which could wound at 400 yards, kill at 200 and penetrate armour at 100 yards.
The continuous volleys of English arrow fire also maddened the French horses, which trampled through the close-packed ranks of French foot soldiers.
English Longbowmen French Mounted Knights
English Men at Arms French Crossbowmen
First French Attack French Men at Arms
Second French Attack French Bombards
The English were vastly outnumbered, but due to superior weaponry and leadership by Henry V they were able to thwart their French enemies. The main weapon that helped the English to achieve their victory was the English longbow versus the French crossbow. The longbow could fire more arrows during a given minute and the string could be detached to prevent damage, unlike the crossbow which was able to be fringed and damaged prior to ever going into battle.
Historic Memorial Site. Azincourt (Agincourt in English) is a town in Northern France, 35 miles (56 km) south of Calais. A key battle of the Hundred Years War took place here on October 25, 1415, in which English forces under Henry V defeated a French army that outnumbered them by at least 3 to 1. It has gone down in legend as one of England's greatest military victories. Henry's army lost between 200 to 400 men (including the Duke of York and the Earl of Suffolk), while French casualties were estimated as high as 10,000. Among the latter were commander-in-chief Charles of Albret, three dukes, five counts, some 90 barons and over 1500 knights. No Englishmen were buried at Agincourt; Henry had their corpses piled into a barn which was then burned to the ground.
As the English army marched north, it was dogged by a French force intent on bringing Henry to battle. The French were able to slip ahead of Henry and block his path to the sea at Agincourt. On the morning of October 25, the two armies faced one another on a recently plowed field muddied by an overnight rain and constricted by woodlands on either side. The majority of Henry's army was made up of archers; the remainder consisted of armored knights who fought on foot. His opponent's force consisted primarily of knights who fought on foot and on horseback, supported by archers. Although estimates of the relative strength of the two armies vary, there is no argument that the English were vastly outnumbered.
The two enemies faced one another, exchanging taunts designed to provoke an attack. Henry marched his force close enough to allow his archers to unleash a hail of arrows upon the French. The French knights charged forward only to be caught in a slippery quagmire of mud. To make matters worse, the French attackers were unable to effectively swing their broadswords because of the tight quarters of the battlefield and the continuing forward rush of their comrades behind them. Henry's archers fired lethal storms of arrows into this dense mass of humanity until the French began to retreat. The archers then dropped their bows, picked up what weapons they could find and joined the English knights in slaying their foe. The setting sun left a battlefield heaped with the bodies of thousands of French knights and the cream of France's ruling class. The English had dealt their enemy a disastrous blow.
A village of northern France west-northwest of Arras. On October 25, 1415, Henry V of England decisively defeated a much larger French army here. The victory showed the effectiveness of troops equipped with longbows over heavily armored knights.
Uniforms, arms and equipment: Knights wore steel plate armour of greater thickness and sophistication than at Creçy with visored helmets. Two-handed swords were coming into vogue as the battle weapon of the gentry. Otherwise weapons remained the lance, shield, sword, various forms of mace or club and dagger. Each knight wore his coat of arms on his surcoat and shield.
The English and Welsh archers carried a more powerful bow than their fathers and grandfathers under Edward III and the Black Prince. Armour piercing arrow heads made this weapon more deadly than its predecessor, stocks of thousands of arrows being built up in the Tower of London in preparation for war.
No one can ever take away the shocking victory by Henry and his “band of brothers,” as Shakespeare would famously call them, on St. Crispin’s Day, Oct. 25, 1415. They devastated a force of heavily armored French nobles who had gotten bogged down in the region’s sucking mud, riddled by thousands of arrows from English longbowmen and outmaneuvered by common soldiers with much lighter gear.
The heavy clay-laced mud behind the cattle pen on Antoine Renault’s farm looks as treacherous as it must have been nearly 600 years ago, when King Henry V rode from a spot near here to lead a sodden and exhausted English Army against a French force that was said to outnumber his by as much as five to one.
War: Hundred Years War.
Date: 25th October 1415.
Place: Northern France
Combatants: An English and Welsh army against a French army.
Generals: King Henry V of England against the Constable of France, Charles d’Albret, Comte de Dreux.