Against All Odds: THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT

by Sarah Masih

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare or simply a military history person, then you know about King Henry V. He was a monarch in England from 1413 to 1422. King Henry V was one of the most renowned English kings.


He led two successful of France and eventually full control of the French throne. He was known for one particular achievement, which was in the Battle of Agincourt.



The Battle of Agincourt was fought between England and France.


To this day, it is considered one of the most fascinating battles to ever have been fought.


Many books were inspired by this battle. Including ‘Henry V’ by Shakespeare, ‘The White Company’ by Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Iron King’ by Maurice Druon, ‘Blood Red, Sister Rose’ by Keneally, ‘Timeline’ by Micheal Crichton and ‘A Knights Tale’ by Brian Helgeland.


The Battle of Agincourt was one of the many battles fought during the Hundred Years War. Fought between the kingdoms of England and France, the Hundred Years War lasted from 1337-1453.


They fought for the land of Guyenne, which belonged to the English but remained an estate of land for the French. There also remained the question of the crown.


Since the French king had died without any successors to the throne. Two men both from either side of the battle decided that the crown would be theirs. Five different generations of kings fought in the war.



You may find yourself asking: Why was this particular battle so interesting?


The answer lies deep within history. The victory of England was considered highly unpromising. France had a huge army with high-tech weapons, whereas the English didn’t have either. The English found themselves heavily outnumbered and unprepared.



Before this battle, Henry’s men had been stationed in Normandy where they had laid siege on one village. They stood their ground till the town surrendered.


During that time, almost half of the men died due to diseases and battle wounds. After gaining their land, they decided to flee back to England, where they were supposed to re-group with their fellow soldiers.


However, when they were crossing Calais, they found themselves surrounded by twenty-thousand French soldiers. The English had walked right into a trap.



The English were tired and sick, whereas the French were well-fed and well-rested.


Though this battle was inevitable, neither side rushed to fight.


The English thought that waiting for the French to attack was the best strategy, and the French general was too experienced to attack first.


During the night, the British unpacked their belongings and prepared food. They chatted amongst themselves until they were ordered to stop by Henry. Henry commanded both armies to function in complete silence. This order had two reasons.


Firstly, it would teach his own army discipline.


Secondly, it would make it harder for the French to ambush them during the night. Thanks to Henry’s thinking a French ambush was suspended during the night, as the English were prepared for the attack.


The battle took place on open ground between two forests at 11am on October 25th.


Henry’s army was up at dawn ready for battle. He gave a speech to his army raising their morals and bringing them closer together.


He stated that he would fight on his feet just like the rest of his army, as they were brothers. His speech reminded the soldiers that they weren’t only fighting for their families but also for the honor of the English crown.


As time passed, both sides realized that none of them wanted to make the first move.


Slowly, Henry ordered his army to slowly march forward.


He didn’t want to rush into battle, and he wanted to make sure that his soldiers didn’t exhaust themselves before the fight.


Steadily, the English army inched closer and closer to the French army.


All of a sudden, Henry commanded his army to shoot the longbows. This caught the French by surprise and they were unable to act quickly.


This action scared the horses and the men on the horses. The French ordered the horses from the flanks to attack, but a large number of flanks were with the army positioned in the forests.


Next came the cavalry, because of the muddy field between the two armies, the cavalry was unable to move quickly. Due to their slow rate of movement, the English were able to easily aim towards them.



French soldiers assembled onto the battlefield. Moments later they realized that the English had set up stakes guarding their location. This resulted in many riders to be stuck between the pieces of sharp wood. This made the soldiers an even easier target.


As the cavalry quickly retreated back, the first-division marched forward. Pushing through the muddy fields and turning their heads away from the winter sun, they bravely marched towards the English line.


Being on foot made it easier to climb through the stakes, but harder to march across a field full of mud. The French lost many of its soldiers during those moments, but they continued their walk toward the English.


As the French finally arrived at the English lines, they started an attack. The English soon realized that their longbows were ineffective now, due to the armies being closer to each other.


They rushed forward with axes and swords, instead. This led to a large number of wounds and deaths leaving a pile of nobles and soldiers lifeless on the battlefield.


Seeing the first-division being slaughtered, the second-division of the French army began their journey to the other side of the field. Since the first-division had not yet cleared the path it got crowded really fast.


The French retreated, deciding that they had no chance of victory. Many of the nobles gave up their lives. A few of the first-division survived, the second-division was running away and the third stood quietly on the other side of the battle-field.


Led by a living noble of the French army, some soldiers were extracted from the battlefield to attack the English camp. Henry, being alert of his surroundings, quickly sent some of his men to protect their camp.


During this time, the third-division also made a move. They tried to counter-attack the English with all they had. The raid on the camp was stopped and the third-division was also massacred. Soon, the third-division retreated, but the English still held many of their soldiers captive.


I wish I could say that the battle ended in peace, with the French running away and the hostages left alive. But this was not the case.


The French soldiers were killed. Their arms and feet were cut off, and those who resisted were stabbed in the eye.


This battle made Henry V one of the most popular English kings to have reigned. He and his army had won a heroic victory in the worst circumstances.


Sadly, his reign did not last. He died soon after, but not before expanding his kingdom. His efforts ensured that his son would be the heir to the French throne.


The English domination continued until 1429 when Jean d' Arc arrived at the siege of Orleans and signaled the return of the French, which resulted in the ultimate winner of the Hundred years war.



Sources:

1) https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/oct/25/battle-of-agincourt-600th-anniversary-linda-davies

2) https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/battle-of-agincourt

3) https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/oct/24/battle-of-agincourt-literature-hundred-years-war

4) https://www.history.com/topics/british-history/henry-v-england

5) https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/hundred-years-war

6) https://www.learning-history.com/medieval-wars-battle-agincourt-1415/

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