Armoured men-at-arms in battle

A battle that was fought between the english and frech as part of the so called 100 years war. One of the minor powers in medieval Europe was the English kingdom, but it waged a persistant war against one of the mightiest, the French kingdom, for some 114 years. The war was not continuous and actually some sort of peace solutions were negotiated during that time. However they never held for long. This is also one of the battles that has become iconic to the war for the english nationalist feelings.

Young and  rash king of England Henry V attacked French soil and besieged the port of Harfleur. The French were assembling a relief force. Though the siege took longer than intended, the french could not raise a big enough force to meet the english besiegers in time. When the siege was over so was the campaingn season. Henry wanted to demonstrate his power since the prolonged siege of one town had been a bit of a disappointment to him, and marched the army towards Calais the only city loyal to the English in the region. The French army shadowed his adwance, but Henry decided to give battle in a terrain of his own choise, rather than to wait when will the french attack his diseased and tired army.

The French had a ratio of 3 gendarmes to one english men-at-arms. Typically to the aristocratic arrogance the French did not count the English archers to be much of a foe. The French main force dismounted to advance towards the English line on a muddy field which had been ploughed and softened by a rain. On that slippery slope they clambered uphill towards the English archers who poured a rain of arrows at them. By the time the French reached the English line exhausted and pushing and showing each other the English men-at-arms joined battle with them on foot. Because the battle field was a narrow opening between forest thickets the French could not fully use their superior numbers. Those numbers turned against them as the men behind would only push the front line against the arms and weapons of the defending English. Then the French reserve that had stayed mounted charged the English picket line, but was unable to penetrate. They retreated through their own infantry and panic spread. During the moments of the panicking retreat most French, who died that day, were trampled to death by their own great numbers.

It would have been a glorious victory for the English unless their baggage train had not been totally looted by the local French knights who had not participated in the frontal assault led by the french constable and the Dauphin. As a result the english army was in enemy territory without any means, supplies, food, or money to pay the troops. Even the English crown was stolen. The local French led by Ysembart d’Azincourt had utilized the guerilla tactics presented allready by the French marshall Bertrand du Guesclin, with success.

The battle has been debated much. It is usually thought to have been a decisive English victory. Mainly by the english who see it as a proud moment in their national history. I disagree, because of the various results of the battle. Mainly the fact that though it cost the French dearly they achieved their objective to drive the invading English army of the French soil.

The English longbow has been seen as a simple technical device, that made the english victory possible against overwhelming odds. Will Shakespeare even wrote a play to bolster the english royal line and their “historical” victory at agincourt. Many English historians have been so nationalistic in their views, that they have gone long ways to explain this magnificent victory. By the terms of real life it is a classical example of a war fought very badly indeed on both sides. The French have been less prone to make a number of it, for they won the over all war, so one battle more or less is not going to change that. Besides, for the french it was a Pyrrhic victory to say the least. To the pride of the French chivalry it was yet a nother blow on their illusion of superiority. One they could not afford again during the same generation. To the English it was a moral victory, but a defeat even at that. They could not possibly remain on French soil, or renew their attack on the next summer. The good thing it resulted was a peace between the warring nations, though after a short grasp and gathering of strength both were at it again.

It is not the only battle that did not really end the war, or lead to any decisive conclusion in the history, but there is allways some fool to praise the magnificent victory and other fools who believe there actually was one. Such wars are waged even today. The results seem to be that everybody looses. Exept maybe the weapons manufacturers…

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