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Battle of Agincourt

Battle of Agincourt

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The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin's Day
Saint Crispin's Day
Saint Crispin's Day falls on 25 October and is the feast day of the Christian saints Crispin and Crispinian , twins who were martyred c. 286...

), near modern-day Azincourt
Azincourt
Azincourt is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France.-Geography:Situated 12 miles north-west of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise on the D71 road.-Etymology:...

, in northern France. Henry V
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

's victory crippled France and started a new period in the war, during which Henry married the French king's daughter and his son, Henry VI
Henry VI of England
Henry VI was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regents. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the violent dynastic civil wars, known as the Wars...

, was made heir to the throne of France (although Henry VI failed to capitalize on his father's battlefield success).

Henry V led his troops into battle and participated in hand-to-hand fighting. The French king of the time, Charles VI
Charles VI of France
Charles VI , called the Beloved and the Mad , was the King of France from 1380 to 1422, as a member of the House of Valois. His bouts with madness, which seem to have begun in 1392, led to quarrels among the French royal family, which were exploited by the neighbouring powers of England and Burgundy...

, did not command the French army himself as he suffered from severe, repeating illnesses and moderate mental incapacitation. Instead, the French were commanded by Constable
Constable of France
The Constable of France , as the First Officer of the Crown, was one of the original five Great Officers of the Crown of France and Commander in Chief of the army. He, theoretically, as Lieutenant-general of the King, outranked all the nobles and was second-in-command only to the King...

 Charles d'Albret
Charles d'Albret
Charles d'Albret was Constable of France from 1402 until 1411, and again from 1413 until 1415. He was also the co-commander of the French army at the Battle of Agincourt where he was killed by the English forces led by King Henry V....

 and various prominent French noblemen of the Armagnac party
Armagnac (party)
The Armagnac party was prominent in French politics and warfare during the Hundred Years' War. It was allied with the supporters of Charles, Duke of Orléans against John the Fearless after Charles' father Louis of Orléans was killed at the orders of the Duke of Burgundy in 1407...

.

The battle is notable for the use of the English longbow
English longbow
The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

, which Henry used in very large numbers, with English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 and Welsh
Welsh people
The Welsh people are an ethnic group and nation associated with Wales and the Welsh language.John Davies argues that the origin of the "Welsh nation" can be traced to the late 4th and early 5th centuries, following the Roman departure from Britain, although Brythonic Celtic languages seem to have...

 archers forming most of his army. The battle is also the centrepiece of the play Henry V
Henry V (play)
Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

, by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

.

Documenting the Battle


The battle of Agincourt is well-documented from at least seven contemporary accounts, three of whom were eye-witnesses. The approximate location of the battle has never been in dispute and remains relatively unchanged after 500 years. Immediately after the battle, Henry summoned the heralds of the two armies who had watched the battle together and settled with the principal French herald, Montjoie, on the name of the battle, Agincourt- after the nearest fortified place. Two of the most frequently cited accounts come from French sources, Jean Le Fevre
Jean Le Fevre
Jean Le Fevre was a Burgundian chronicler and seigneur of Saint Remy. He is also known as Toison d'or because he served as King of Arms to the Order of the Golden Fleece. Of noble birth, he adopted the profession of arms and with other Burgundians fought in the English ranks at Agincourt...

 de St. Remy, who was present at the battle, and the Enguerrand de Monstrelet
Enguerrand de Monstrelet
Enguerrand de Monstrelet , French chronicler, belonged to a noble family of Picardy.In 1436 and later he held the office of lieutenant of the gavenier at Cambrai, and he seems to have made this city his usual place of residence...

. The English eyewitness account comes from the anonymous Gesta Henrici Quinti, believed to have been written by a chaplain in the King's household, who would have been in the baggage train at the battle.

Campaign



Henry V
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

 invaded France following the failure of negotiations with the French. He claimed the title of King of France through his great-grandfather Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

, although in practice the English kings were generally prepared to renounce this claim if the French would acknowledge the English claim on Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

 and other French lands (the terms of the Treaty of Bretigny
Treaty of Brétigny
The Treaty of Brétigny was a treaty signed on May 9, 1360, between King Edward III of England and King John II of France. In retrospect it is seen as having marked the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years' War —as well as the height of English hegemony on the Continent.It was signed...

). He initially called a great council in the spring of 1414 to discuss going to war with France, but the lords insisted that he should negotiate further and moderate his claims. In the following negotiations Henry said that he would give up his claim to the French throne if the French would pay the 1.6 million crowns outstanding from the ransom of John II
John II of France
John II , called John the Good , was the King of France from 1350 until his death. He was the second sovereign of the House of Valois and is perhaps best remembered as the king who was vanquished at the Battle of Poitiers and taken as a captive to England.The son of Philip VI and Joan the Lame,...

 (who had been captured at the Battle of Poitiers
Battle of Poitiers (1356)
The Battle of Poitiers was fought between the Kingdoms of England and France on 19 September 1356 near Poitiers, resulting in the second of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years' War: Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt....

 in 1356), and concede English ownership of the lands of Normandy, Touraine, Anjou, Brittany and Flanders, as well as Aquitaine. Henry would marry Princess Catherine, the young daughter of Charles VI
Charles VI of France
Charles VI , called the Beloved and the Mad , was the King of France from 1380 to 1422, as a member of the House of Valois. His bouts with madness, which seem to have begun in 1392, led to quarrels among the French royal family, which were exploited by the neighbouring powers of England and Burgundy...

, and receive a dowry of 2 million crowns. The French responded with what they considered the generous terms of marriage with Princess Catherine, a dowry of 600,000 crowns, and an enlarged Aquitaine. By 1415 negotiations had ground to a halt, with the English claiming that the French had mocked their claims and ridiculed Henry himself. In December 1414, the English parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 was persuaded to grant Henry a "double subsidy", a tax at twice the traditional rate, to recover his inheritance from the French. On 19 April 1415, Henry again asked the great council to sanction war with France, and this time they agreed.

Henry's army landed in northern France on 13 August 1415 and besieged the port of Harfleur
Harfleur
-Population:-Places of interest:* The church of St-Martin, dating from the fourteenth century.* The seventeenth century Hôtel de Ville .* Medieval ramparts * The fifteenth century museums of fishing and of archaeology and history....

 with an army of about 12,000. The siege
Siege of Harfleur
The siege of Harfleur, Normandy, France began 18 August 1415 and ended on 22 September when Harfleur surrendered to the English.-Background:Henry V invaded France following the failure of negotiations with the French...

 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. Rather than retire directly to England for the winter, with his costly expedition resulting in the capture of only one town, Henry decided to march most of his army (roughly 9,000) through Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 to the port of Calais
Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

, the English stronghold in northern France, to demonstrate by his presence in the territory at the head of an army that his right to rule in the duchy was more than a mere abstract legal and historical claim. He also intended the manoeuvre as a deliberate provocation to battle aimed at the dauphin, who had failed to respond to Henry's personal challenge to combat at Harfleur.

The French had raised an army during the siege which assembled around Rouen
Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

. This was not strictly a feudal army, but an army paid through a system similar to the English. The French hoped to raise 9,000 troops, but the army was not ready in time to relieve Harfleur. After Henry V marched to the north the French moved to blockade them along the River Somme. They were successful for a time, forcing Henry to move south, away from Calais, to find a ford
Ford (crossing)
A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading or in a vehicle. A ford is mostly a natural phenomenon, in contrast to a low water crossing, which is an artificial bridge that allows crossing a river or stream when water is low.The names of many towns...

. The English finally crossed the Somme south of Péronne, at Béthencourt and Voyennes and resumed marching north. Without the river protection, the French were hesitant to force a battle. They shadowed Henry's army while calling a semonce des nobles, calling on local nobles to join the army. By 24 October both armies faced each other for battle, but the French declined, hoping for the arrival of more troops. The two armies spent the night of 24 October on open ground. The next day the French initiated negotiations as a delaying tactic, but Henry ordered his army to advance and to start a battle that, given the state of his army, he would have preferred to avoid, or to fight defensively: that was how Crécy
Battle of Crécy
The Battle of Crécy took place on 26 August 1346 near Crécy in northern France, and was one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years' War...

 and the other famous longbow victories had been won. The English had very little food, had marched 260 miles in two and a half weeks, were suffering from sickness such as dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

, and faced much larger numbers of well equipped French men at arms. The French army blocked Henry's way to the safety of Calais however, and delaying battle would only further weaken his tired army and allow more French troops to arrive.

Preparation for battle


The battle was fought in the narrow strip of open land formed between the woods of Tramecourt
Tramecourt
Tramecourt is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Tramecourt is located 16 miles east of Montreuil-sur-Mer on the D71 road and on the other side of the battlefield of Agincourt....

 and Agincourt
Azincourt
Azincourt is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France.-Geography:Situated 12 miles north-west of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise on the D71 road.-Etymology:...

 (close to the modern village of Azincourt). The French army was positioned at the northern exit so as to bar the way to Calais
Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

.


English deployment


Early on the 25th, Henry deployed his army (approximately 1,500 men-at-arms
Man-at-arms
Man-at-arms was a term used from the High Medieval to Renaissance periods to describe a soldier, almost always a professional warrior in the sense of being well-trained in the use of arms, who served as a fully armoured heavy cavalryman...

 and 7,000 longbowmen) across a 750-yard part of the defile
Defile (geography)
Defile is a geographic term for a narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills. It has its origins as a military description of a pass through which troops can march only in a narrow column or with a narrow front...

. The army was organised into three "battles" or divisions, the vanguard led by the Duke of York
Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Sir Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, 2nd Earl of Cambridge, Earl of Rutland, Earl of Cork, Duke of Aumale KG was a member of the English royal family who died at the Battle of Agincourt....

, the main battle led by Henry himself and the rearguard, led by Lord Camoys
Thomas de Camoys, 1st Baron Camoys
Thomas de Camoys, 1st Baron Camoys, KG , was an English peer and soldier.De Camoys was the son of Sir John de Camoys. In August 1383 he was summoned to the House of Lords as Lord Camoys. He fought in the Hundred Years' War and commanded the left wing of the English Army at the Battle of Agincourt...

. In addition, Sir Thomas Erpingham, one of Henry's most experienced household knights, had a role in marshalling the archers. It is likely that the English adopted their usual battle line of longbowmen on either flank, men-at-arms and knights in the centre. They may also have deployed some archers in the centre of the line. The English men-at-arms in plate and mail were placed shoulder to shoulder four deep. The English and Welsh archers on the flanks drove pointed wooden stakes
Archer's stake
An archer's stake was an anti-cavalry defence used by longbowmen in the 15th and 16th centuries.-Origins:At the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 Turkish archers were stationed behind a barrier of stakes...

 into the ground at an angle to force cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 to veer off. This use of stakes may have been inspired by the Battle of Nicopolis
Battle of Nicopolis
The Battle of Nicopolis took place on 25 September 1396 and resulted in the rout of an allied army of Hungarian, Wallachian, French, Burgundian, German and assorted troops at the hands of an Ottoman force, raising of the siege of the Danubian fortress of Nicopolis and leading to the end of the...

 of 1396, where forces of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 used the tactic against French cavalry.

The English made their confessions before the battle, as was customary. Henry, worried about the enemy launching surprise raids, and wanting his troops to remain focused, ordered all his men to spend the night before the battle in silence, with having an ear cut off the punishment for disobeying. He told his men that he would rather die in the coming battle than be captured and ransomed.

On the morning of the battle, Henry made a speech, emphasising the justness of his cause, and reminding his army of previous great defeats the kings of England had inflicted on the French. The Burgundian sources have him concluding the speech by telling his men that the French had boasted that they would cut off two fingers from the right hand of every archer, so that he could never draw a longbow again. (Whether this was true is open to question; death was the normal fate of any soldier who couldn't be ransomed.)

French deployment


By contrast, the French were confident that they would prevail and were eager to fight. The French believed they would triumph over the English not only because their force was larger, fresher, and better equipped, but also because the large number of noble men-at-arms would have considered themselves superior to the large number of archers in the English army, whom the French (based on their experience in living memory of using and facing archers) considered relatively insignificant. The chronicler Edmond de Dyntner stated that there were "ten French nobles against one English", ignoring the archers completely.

The French were arrayed in three lines or "battles". The first line was led by Constable D'Albret, Marshal
Marshal of France
The Marshal of France is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank. It is granted to generals for exceptional achievements...

 Boucicault
Jean Le Maingre
Jean II Le Maingre , called Boucicaut was marshal of France and a knight renowned for his military skill.He was the son of marshal Jean I Le Maingre, also called Boucicaut...

, and the Dukes of Orléans and Bourbon
John I, Duke of Bourbon
Jean de Bourbon was Duke of Bourbon, from 1410 to his death and Duke of Auvergne since 1416. He was the eldest son of Louis II and Anna d'Auvergne...

, with attached cavalry wings under the Count of Vendôme
Louis, Count of Vendôme
Louis of Bourbon-La Marche , younger son of John I, Count of La Marche and Catherine de Vendôme, was Count of Vendôme from 1393 and Count of Castres from 1425 until his death....

 and Sir Clignet de Brebant. The second line was commanded by the Dukes of Bar
Edward III of Bar
Edward III of Bar was made marquis of Pont-à-Mousson by his father Robert I of Bar in 1399 and held it until his death...

 and Alençon and the Count of Nevers
Philip II, Count of Nevers
Phillip II, Count of Nevers was the youngest son of Philip the Bold and Margaret III of Flanders....

. The third line was under the Counts of Dammartin and Fauconberg. The Burgundian chronicler, Jean de Wavrin, writes that there were 8,000 men-at-arms, 4,000 archers and 1,500 crossbowmen in the vanguard, with two wings of 600 and 800 mounted men-at-arms, and the main battle having "as many knights, esquires and archers as in the vanguard", with the rearguard containing "all of the rest of the men-at-arms". The Herald of Berry uses somewhat different figures of 4,800 men-at-arms in the first line, 3,000 men in the second line, with two "wings" containing 600 mounted men-at-arms each, and a total of "10,000 men-at-arms", but does not mention a third line.

Approximately 8,000 of the heavily armoured French men-at-arms fought on foot, and needed to close the distance to the English army to engage them in hand-to-hand fighting. If they could close the distance, however, they outnumbered the English men-at-arms by more than 5-to-1, and the English longbowmen would not be able to shoot into a mêlée without risking hitting their own troops. Many of the French men-at-arms had fathers and grandfathers who had been humiliated in previous battles such as Crécy
Battle of Crécy
The Battle of Crécy took place on 26 August 1346 near Crécy in northern France, and was one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years' War...

 and Poitiers
Battle of Poitiers (1356)
The Battle of Poitiers was fought between the Kingdoms of England and France on 19 September 1356 near Poitiers, resulting in the second of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years' War: Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt....

, and the French nobility were determined to get revenge. Several French accounts emphasise that the French leaders were so eager to defeat the English (and win the ransoms of the English men-at-arms) that they insisted on being in the first line. For example: "All the lords wanted to be in the vanguard, against the opinion of the constable and the experienced knights".

There appear to have been thousands of troops in the rearguard, containing servants and commoners whom the French were either unable or unwilling to deploy. Wavrin gives the total French army size as 50,000. He says: "They had plenty of archers and crossbowmen but nobody wanted to let them fire [sic]. The reason for this was that the site was so narrow that there was only enough room for the men-at-arms."
Most of the rearguard played little part in the battle, with English and French accounts agreeing that many of the French army fled after seeing so many French nobles killed and captured in the fighting.

Terrain


The field of battle was arguably the most significant factor in deciding the outcome. The recently ploughed land hemmed in by dense woodland favoured the English, both because of its narrowness, and because of the thick mud through which the French knights had to walk. An analysis by Battlefield Detectives
Battlefield Detectives
Battlefield Detectives is a forensic documentary television series that aired on the History Channel from 2003 to 2006. The series explores famous battles focusing on the battlefield itself, and tell its story based on recent scientific research...

has looked at the crowd dynamics of the battlefield. The 1,000–1,500 English men-at-arms are described as shoulder to shoulder and four deep, which implies a tight line about 250–300 men long (perhaps split in two by a central group of archers). The remainder of the field would have been filled with the longbowmen behind their palings. The French first line contained men-at-arms who had no way to outflank the English line. The French, divided into the three battles, one behind the other at their initial starting position, could not bring all their forces to bear: the initial engagement was between the English army and the first battle line of the French. When the second French battle line started their advance, the soldiers were pushed closer together and their effectiveness was reduced. Casualties in the front line from longbow arrows would also have increased the congestion, as the following men would have to walk around (or over) the fallen. The Battlefield Detectives episode states that when the density reached four men per square metre, soldiers would not even be able to take full steps forward, lowering the speed of the advance by 70%. Accounts of the battle describe the French engaging the English men-at-arms before being rushed from the sides by the longbowmen as the mêlée
Mêlée
Melee , generally refers to disorganized close combat involving a group of fighters. A melee ensues when groups become locked together in combat with no regard to group tactics or fighting as an organized unit; each participant fights as an individual....

 developed. The English account in the Gesta Henrici says: "For when some of them, killed when battle was first joined, fall at the front, so great was the undisciplined violence and pressure of the mass of men behind them that the living fell on top of the dead, and others falling on top of the living were killed as well". Although the French initially pushed the English back, they became so closely packed that they are described as having trouble using their weapons properly. The French monk of St. Denis says: "Their vanguard, composed of about 5,000 men, found itself at first so tightly packed that those who were in the third rank could scarcely use their swords", and the Burgundian sources have a similar passage. In practice there was not enough room for all these men to fight, and they were unable to respond effectively when the English longbowmen joined the hand-to-hand fighting. By the time the second French line arrived, for a total of about eight thousand men (depending on the source), the crush would have been even worse. The press of men arriving from behind actually hindered those fighting at the front.

As the battle was fought on a recently ploughed field, and there had recently been heavy rain leaving it very muddy, it proved very tiring to walk through in full plate armour. The French monk of St. Denis describes the French troops as "marching through the middle of the mud where they sank up to their knees. So they were already overcome with fatigue even before they advanced against the enemy". The deep, soft mud particularly favoured the English force because, once knocked to the ground, the heavily armoured French knights had a hard time getting back up to fight in the mêlée. Barker states that some knights, encumbered by their armour, actually drowned in their helmets. Their limited mobility made them easy targets for the volleys from the English archers. The mud also increased the ability of the much more lightly armoured English archers to join in hand-to-hand fighting against the French men-at-arms.

Opening moves


On the morning of 25 October the French were still waiting for additional troops to arrive. The Duke of Brabant
Anthony, Duke of Brabant
Anthony, Duke of Brabant, also known as Antoine de Brabant, Antoine de Bourgogne and Anthony of Burgundy , was Duke of Brabant, Lothier and Limburg. Anthony was the son of Philip II, Duke of Burgundy and Margaret III of Flanders, and brother of John the Fearless...

 (about 2,000 men), the Duke of Anjou
Louis II of Naples
Louis II of Anjou was the rival of Ladislaus as King of Naples. He was a member of the House of Valois-Anjou.-Biography:...

 (about 600 men), and the Duke of Brittany
John VI, Duke of Brittany
John VI the Wise , was duke of Brittany, count of Montfort, and titular earl of Richmond, from 1399 to his death...

 (6,000 men, according to Montstrelet), were all marching to join the army. This left the French with a question of whether or not to advance towards the English.

For three hours after sunrise there was no fighting. Military textbooks of the time stated "Everywhere and on all occasions that foot soldiers march against their enemy face to face, those who march lose and those who remain standing still and holding firm win". On top of this, the French were expecting thousands of men to join them if they waited. They were blocking Henry's retreat, and were perfectly happy to wait for as long as it took. There had even been a suggestion that the English would run away rather than give battle when they saw that they would be fighting so many French princes.

Henry's men, on the other hand, were already very weary from hunger, illness and marching. Even though he knew as well as the French did that his army would perform better on the defensive, Henry was eventually forced to take a calculated risk, and move his army further forward to start the battle. This entailed pulling out the long stakes pointed outwards toward the enemy which protected the longbowmen, and abandoning his chosen position. (The use of stakes was an innovation for the English: during the Battle of Crécy
Battle of Crécy
The Battle of Crécy took place on 26 August 1346 near Crécy in northern France, and was one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years' War...

, for example, the archers were instead protected by pits and other obstacles.) If the French cavalry had charged before the stakes had been hammered back in, the result would probably have been disastrous for the English, as it was at the Battle of Patay
Battle of Patay
The Battle of Patay was the culminating engagement of the Loire Campaign of the Hundred Years' War between the French and English in north-central France. It was a decisive victory for the French and turned the tide of the war. This victory was to the French what Agincourt was to the English...

. However, the French seem to have been caught off guard by the English advance. The tightness of the terrain also seems to have restricted the planned deployment of their forces.

The French had originally drawn up a battle plan that had archers and crossbowmen in front of the men-at-arms, with a cavalry force at the rear specifically designed to "fall upon the archers, and use their force to break them," but in the event, the archers and crossbowmen were deployed behind and to the sides of the men-at-arms (where they seem to have played almost no part, except possibly for an initial volley of arrows at the start of the battle). The cavalry force, which could have devastated the English line if it had attacked while they moved their position, charged only after the initial volley of arrows from the English. It is unclear whether the delay occurred because the French were hoping the English would launch a frontal assault (and were surprised when the English instead started shooting from their new defensive position), or whether the French mounted knights instead did not react quickly enough to the English advance. French chroniclers agree that when the mounted charge did come, it did not contain as many men as it should have; Gilles le Bouvier states that some had wandered off to warm themselves and others were walking or feeding their horses.

In any case, within extreme bowshot from the French line (approximately 300 yards), the longbowmen dug in their stakes and then opened the engagement with a barrage of arrows.

The French cavalry attack


The French cavalry, despite being somewhat disorganised and not at full numbers, charged the longbowmen, but it was a disaster, with the French knights unable to outflank the longbowmen (because of the encroaching woodland) and unable to charge through the palings that protected the archers. John Keegan
John Keegan
Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...

 argues that the longbows' main influence on the battle was at this point: armoured only on the head, many horses would have become dangerously out of control when struck in the back or flank from the high-elevation shots used as the charge started. The mounted charge and subsequent retreat churned up the already muddy terrain between the French and the English. Juliet Barker quotes a contemporary account by a monk of St. Denis
Saint Denis Basilica
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis is a large medieval abbey church in the commune of Saint-Denis, now a northern suburb of Paris. The abbey church was created a cathedral in 1966 and is the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Denis, Pascal Michel Ghislain Delannoy...

 who reports how the panicking horses galloped through the advancing infantry, scattering them and trampling them down in their headlong flight. The Burgundian sources also say that the mounted men-at-arms retreated back into the advancing French vanguard.

The main French assault


The constable himself led the attack of the dismounted French men-at-arms. French accounts describe their vanguard alone as containing about 5,000 men-at-arms, which would have outnumbered the English men-at-arms by more than 3 to 1, but before they could engage in hand-to-hand fighting they had to cross the muddy field under a bombardment of arrows.

The plate armour of the French men-at-arms allowed them to close the 300 yards or so to the English lines while being under what the French monk of Saint Denis described as "a terrifying hail of arrow shot". However, they had to lower their visors and bend their heads to avoid being shot in the face (the eye and airholes in their helmets were among the weakest points in the armour), which restricted both their breathing and their vision, and then they had to walk a few hundred yards through thick mud, wearing armour weighing 50–60 pounds.

The French men-at-arms reached the English line and actually pushed it back, with the longbowmen continuing to shoot until they ran out of arrows and then dropping their bows and joining the mêlée. When the English archers, using hatchet
Hatchet
A hatchet is a single-handed striking tool with a sharp blade used to cut and split wood...

s, sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

s and other weapons, attacked the now disordered and fatigued French, the French could not cope with their unarmoured assailants (who were much less hindered by the mud). The impact of thousands of arrows, combined with the slog in heavy armour through the mud, the heat and lack of oxygen in plate armour with the visor down, and the crush of their numbers meant they could "scarcely lift their weapons" when they finally engaged the English line.The exhausted French men-at-arms are described as having been knocked to the ground and then unable to get back up. As the mêlée
Mêlée
Melee , generally refers to disorganized close combat involving a group of fighters. A melee ensues when groups become locked together in combat with no regard to group tactics or fighting as an organized unit; each participant fights as an individual....

 developed, the French second line also joined the attack, but they too were swallowed up, with the narrow terrain meaning the extra numbers could not be used effectively, and French men-at-arms were taken prisoner or killed in their thousands. The fighting lasted about three hours, but eventually the leaders of the second line were killed or captured, as those of the first line had been. The English Gesta Henrici describes three great heaps of the slain around the three main English standards.
According to contemporary English accounts, Henry was directly involved in the hand-to-hand fighting. Upon hearing that his youngest brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Pembroke, KG , also known as Humphrey Plantagenet, was "son, brother and uncle of kings", being the fourth and youngest son of king Henry IV of England by his first wife, Mary de Bohun, brother to king Henry V of England, and uncle to the...

 had been wounded in the groin, Henry took his household guard and stood over his brother, in the front rank of the fighting, until Humphrey could be dragged to safety; the king received an axe blow to the head which knocked off a piece of the crown that formed part of his helmet.

The attack on the English baggage train


The only French success was an attack on the lightly protected English baggage train, with Ysembart d'Azincourt (leading a small number of men-at-arms and varlets
Squire
The English word squire is a shortened version of the word Esquire, from the Old French , itself derived from the Late Latin , in medieval or Old English a scutifer. The Classical Latin equivalent was , "arms bearer"...

 plus about 600 peasants) seizing some of Henry's personal treasures, including a crown. Whether this was part of a deliberate French plan or an act of local brigandage
Brigandage
Brigandage refers to the life and practice of brigands: highway robbery and plunder, and a brigand is a person who usually lives in a gang and lives by pillage and robbery....

 is unclear from the sources. Certainly, d'Azincourt was a local knight but he may have been chosen to lead the attack because of his local knowledge and the lack of availability of a more senior soldier. In some accounts the attack happened towards the end of the battle, and led the English to think they were being attacked from the rear. Barker, following the Gesta Henrici, believed to have been written by an English chaplain who was actually in the baggage train, concludes that the attack happened at the start of the battle.

Henry orders the killing of the prisoners


Regardless of when the baggage assault happened, there was a point after the initial English victory where Henry became alarmed that the French were regrouping for another attack. The Gesta Henrici puts this after the English had overcome the onslaught of the French men-at-arms, and the weary English troops were eyeing the French rearguard ("in incomparable number and still fresh"). Le Fevre and Wavrin similarly say that it was signs of the French rearguard regrouping and "marching forward in battle order" which made the English think they were still in danger.

In any event, Henry ordered the slaughter of what was perhaps several thousand French prisoners, with only the most illustrious being spared. His fear was that they would rearm themselves with the weapons strewn upon the field, and the exhausted English would be overwhelmed. Though ruthless, it was arguably justifiable given the situation of the battle; perhaps surprisingly, even the French chroniclers do not criticise him for this. This marked the end of the battle, as the French rearguard, having seen so many of the French nobility captured and killed, fled the battlefield.

Aftermath


Due to a lack of reliable sources it is impossible to give a precise figure for the French and English casualties. However, it is clear that though the English were outnumbered, their losses were far lower than those of the French. The French sources all give 4,000–10,000 French dead, with up to 1,600 English dead. The lowest ratio in these French sources has the French losing six times more men than the English. The English sources vary between about 1,500 and 11,000 for the French dead, with English dead put at no more than 100.

Barker identifies from the available records "at least" 112 Englishmen who died in the fighting (including Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Sir Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, 2nd Earl of Cambridge, Earl of Rutland, Earl of Cork, Duke of Aumale KG was a member of the English royal family who died at the Battle of Agincourt....

, a grandson of Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

), but this excludes the wounded. One widely used estimate puts the English casualties at 450, not an insignificant number in an army of about 8,500, but far fewer than the thousands the French lost, nearly all of whom were killed or captured. Using the lowest French estimate of their own dead of 4,000 would imply a ratio of nearly 9 to 1 in favour of the English, or over 10 to 1 if the prisoners are included.

The French suffered heavily. Three dukes, at least eight counts, a viscount and an archbishop died, along with numerous other nobles. Of the great royal office holders, France lost her Constable, Admiral, Master of the Crossbowmen and prévôt of the marshals. The baillis of nine major northern towns were killed, often along with their sons, relatives and supporters. In the words of Juliet Barker, the battle "cut a great swath through the natural leaders of French society in Artois, Ponthieu, Normandy, Picardy." Estimates of the number of prisoners vary between 700 and 2,200, amongst them the Duke of Orléans
Charles, duc d'Orléans
Charles of Valois was Duke of Orléans from 1407, following the murder of his father, Louis I, Duke of Orléans, on the orders of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy...

 (the famous poet Charles d'Orléans) and Jean Le Maingre
Jean Le Maingre
Jean II Le Maingre , called Boucicaut was marshal of France and a knight renowned for his military skill.He was the son of marshal Jean I Le Maingre, also called Boucicaut...

 (known as Boucicault) Marshal of France
Marshal of France
The Marshal of France is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank. It is granted to generals for exceptional achievements...

. Almost all these prisoners would have been nobles, as the less valuable prisoners were slaughtered.

Although the victory had been militarily decisive, its impact was complex. It did not lead to further English conquests immediately as Henry's priority was to return to England, which he did on 16 November, to be received in triumph in London on the 23rd. Henry returned a conquering hero, in the eyes of his subjects and European powers outside of France, blessed by God. It established the legitimacy of the Lancastrian monarchy and the future campaigns of Henry to pursue his "rights and privileges" in France. Other benefits to the English were longer term. Very quickly after the battle, the fragile truce between the Armagnac and Burgundian factions broke down. The brunt of the battle had fallen on the Armagnacs and it was they who suffered the majority of senior casualties and carried the blame for the defeat. The Burgundians seized on the opportunity and within 10 days of the battle had mustered their armies and marched on Paris. This lack of unity in France would allow Henry eighteen months to prepare militarily and politically for a renewed campaign. When that campaign took place, it was made easier by the damage done to the political and military structures of Normandy by the battle.

It took several years' more campaigning, but Henry was eventually able to fulfil all his objectives. He was recognised by the French in the Treaty of Troyes
Treaty of Troyes
The Treaty of Troyes was an agreement that Henry V of England and his heirs would inherit the throne of France upon the death of King Charles VI of France. It was signed in the French city of Troyes on 21 May 1420 in the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt...

 (1420) as the regent and heir to the French throne. This was cemented by his marriage to Catherine of Valois
Catherine of Valois
Catherine of France was the Queen consort of England from 1420 until 1422. She was the daughter of King Charles VI of France, wife of Henry V of Monmouth, King of England, mother of Henry VI, King of England and King of France, and through her secret marriage with Owen Tudor, the grandmother of...

, the daughter of King Charles VI.

French


Notable casualties included:
  • Antoine of Burgundy, Duke of Brabant and Limburg
    Duke of Brabant
    The Duchy of Brabant was formally erected in 1183/1184. The title "Duke of Brabant" was created by the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in favor of Henry I, son of Godfrey III of Leuven . The Duchy of Brabant was a feudal elevation of the since 1085/1086 existing title of Landgrave of Brabant...

     (b. 1384)
  • Philip of Burgundy
    Philip II, Count of Nevers
    Phillip II, Count of Nevers was the youngest son of Philip the Bold and Margaret III of Flanders....

    , Count of Nevers and Rethel
    Counts and dukes of Rethel
    This is a list of counts and dukes of Rethel. The first counts of Rethel ruled independently, before the county passed first to the Counts of Nevers, then to the Counts of Flanders, and finally to the Dukes of Burgundy. In 1405 the County became part of the Peerage of France, and in 1581 it was...

     (b. 1389)
  • Charles I d'Albret
    Charles d'Albret
    Charles d'Albret was Constable of France from 1402 until 1411, and again from 1413 until 1415. He was also the co-commander of the French army at the Battle of Agincourt where he was killed by the English forces led by King Henry V....

    , Count of Dreux, the Constable of France
    Constable of France
    The Constable of France , as the First Officer of the Crown, was one of the original five Great Officers of the Crown of France and Commander in Chief of the army. He, theoretically, as Lieutenant-general of the King, outranked all the nobles and was second-in-command only to the King...

  • John II, Count of Bethune (b. 1359)
  • John I, Duke of Alençon
    John I of Alençon
    John I of Alençon, called the Sage , was the son of Peter II of Alençon and Marie de Chamaillard. In 1404, he succeeded his father as Count of Alençon and Perche. He was made Duke of Alençon in 1414.He commanded the second division of the French army at the Battle of Agincourt...

     (b. 1385)
  • Frederick of Lorraine, Count of Vaudemont
    Frederick of Lorraine
    Frederick of Lorraine was Count of Vaudemont.He was the son of Duke John I of Lorraine and younger brother of Charles II. In 1393, Frederick married Margaret the heiress of Vaudemont and Joinville, and became Count of these lands in her right...

     (b. 1371)
  • Robert, Count of Marles and Soissons
  • Edward III of Bar
    Edward III of Bar
    Edward III of Bar was made marquis of Pont-à-Mousson by his father Robert I of Bar in 1399 and held it until his death...

     (the Duchy of Bar lost its independence as a consequence of his death)
  • John VI, Count of Roucy
  • Jean I de Croÿ
    Jean I de Croÿ
    Jean I de Croÿ, Seigneur de Croÿ et d'Araines, Baron de Renty et de Seneghem was the founder of the House of Croÿ .-Biography:His parents were Guillaume, seigneur de Croÿ and Isabeau de Renty....

     and two of his sons
  • Waleran III of Luxembourg, Count of Ligny
    Waleran III of Luxembourg, Count of Ligny
    Waleran III of Luxembourg , Count of Ligny and Saint Pol, was a French nobleman and soldier.He was the son of Guy of Luxembourg, Count of Ligny and Mahaut of Châtillon, Countess of Saint Pol. He succeeded his father in 1371, after his death at the Battle of Baesweiler...

  • Jan I van Brederode
    Jan I van Brederode
    Jan van Brederode was lord of Brederode and during his life abbot and soldier.-Life:Jan was the son of Reinoud I van Brederode and Jolanda van Gennep. In 1390 he succeeded his father as the 7th lord of Brederode...


English and Welsh


Notable casualties included
  • Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
    Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
    Sir Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, 2nd Earl of Cambridge, Earl of Rutland, Earl of Cork, Duke of Aumale KG was a member of the English royal family who died at the Battle of Agincourt....

     (b. 1373)
  • Michael de la Pole, 3rd Earl of Suffolk
    Michael de la Pole, 3rd Earl of Suffolk
    Michael de la Pole, 3rd Earl of Suffolk was an English nobleman, the eldest son of Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk and Katherine de Stafford....

  • Dafydd Gam
    Dafydd Gam
    Dafydd ap Llewelyn ap Hywel , better known as Dafydd Gam or Davy Gam, was a Welsh medieval nobleman, a prominent opponent of Owain Glyndŵr, who died at the Battle of Agincourt fighting for King Henry V, King of England in that victory against the French...

     (Davy Gam) Welsh hero who reputedly saved Henry V's life at Agincourt

Numbers at Agincourt


Anne Curry
Anne Curry
Anne Elizabeth Curry is a British historian. She is Professor of Medieval history at the University of Southampton, former editor of the Journal of Medieval History, and a specialist in the Hundred Years' War, especially the Battle of Agincourt. She is also President of the Historical Association...

 in her 2005 book Agincourt: A New History, argues (based on research into the surviving administrative records) that the French army was about 12,000 strong, and the English army about 9,000, giving odds of 4–3. By contrast, Juliet Barker
Juliet Barker
Juliet R. V. Barker FRSL is a British historian, specialising in the Middle Ages and literary biography. She is the author of a number of well-regarded works on the Brontës, William Wordsworth, and medieval tournaments...

 in her Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle (also published in 2005) argues the English and Welsh were outnumbered "at least four to one and possibly as much as six to one". She suggests figures of about 6,000 for the English and 36,000 for the French, based on the Gesta Henricis figures of 5,000 archers and 900 men-at-arms for the English, and Jean de Wavrin's statement "that the French were six times more numerous than the English". The 2009 Encyclopædia Britannica uses the figures of about 6,000 for the English and 20,000 to 30,000 for the French. The 1911 Britannica used somewhat different figures of 6,000 archers, 1,000 men-at-arms and "a few thousands of other foot" for the English, with the French outnumbering them by "at least four times".

With one of the lowest estimates for the size of the French army and also one of the highest estimates for the size of the English army, Curry is currently in a minority in suggesting that the odds were as near equal as 4–3. While not necessarily agreeing with the exact numbers Curry uses, some historians have however given support to her assertion that the French army was much smaller than traditionally thought, and the English somewhat bigger. Bertrand Schnerb, a professor of medieval history at the University of Lille, has said that he thinks the French probably had 12,000–15,000 troops. Ian Mortimer, in his 2009 book 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory, notes how Curry "minimises French numbers (by limiting her figures to those in the basic army and a few specific additional companies) and maximises English numbers (by assuming the numbers sent home from Harfleur were no greater than sick lists)", but agrees that previous estimates have exaggerated the odds, and suggests that "the most extreme imbalance which is credible is fifteen thousand French troops against 8,100 English: a ratio of about two-to-one".

However, Clifford J. Rogers, professor of history at the United States Military Academy at West Point, has recently argued that archival records are too incomplete to substantially change his view that the English were outnumbered about 4–1. Juliet Barker also disagrees with Curry's arguments in the acknowledgments section of her 2005 book on Agincourt, saying: "Surviving administrative records on both sides, but especially the French, are simply too incomplete to support [Curry's] assertion that nine thousand English were pitted against an army only twelve thousand strong. And if the differential really was as low as three to four then this makes a nonsense of the course of the battle as described by eyewitnesses and contemporaries."

Those supporting a greater imbalance have generally put more store by contemporary (and especially eyewitness) accounts. The Gesta Henrici gives plausible figures for the English of 5,000 archers and 900 men-at-arms, but Mortimer notes it is "wildly inaccurate" in stating the English were outnumbered 30–1, and there have also been doubts as to how much it was written as propaganda for Henry V. The proportions also seem incorrect, as from surviving records we know that Henry set out with about four times as many archers as men-at-arms, not five and a half times as many. Those who have supported the Gesta figures for the English army have generally thought that although the English army may have left Harfleur with eight or nine thousand men, it is plausible that after weeks of campaigning and disease in hostile territory they would have lost two or three thousand fighting men; however Mortimer states: "Despite the trials of the march, Henry had lost very few men to illness or death; and we have independent testimony that no more than 160 had been captured on the way."

As Mortimer notes, the Burgundian numbers for the size of the French vanguard of 8,000 men-at-arms in the vanguard with 1,400 (or 2,400) men-at-arms in the wings correspond roughly with the figures of ten thousand men-at-arms recorded by the duke of Berry's herald. The Burgundians also recorded 4,000 archers and 1,500 crossbowmen in the "vanguard", which would suggest "fourteen or fifteen thousand fighting men". (It should be noted that the Burgundians actually give the total size of the French army as an implausible 50,000, and the numbers they use do not correspond closely to the odds they describe. Using very similar numbers, Jean Le Fevre
Jean Le Fevre
Jean Le Fevre was a Burgundian chronicler and seigneur of Saint Remy. He is also known as Toison d'or because he served as King of Arms to the Order of the Golden Fleece. Of noble birth, he adopted the profession of arms and with other Burgundians fought in the English ranks at Agincourt...

 states that the English were outnumbered 3–1, whereas Wavrin states that the English were outnumbered 6–1.)

One particular cause of confusion may have been the number of servants on both sides. Mortimer suggests that because there was a much higher proportion of men-at-arms on the French side, the number of non-combatants was much higher. Each man-at-arms could be expected to have a page, who would have ridden one of his spare horses. If the French army had an extra 10,000 men mounted men (as opposed to only 1,500 extra for the English), then "the English probably did see an army about three times the size of their own fighting force".

It is open to debate whether these should all be counted as non-combatants; Rogers (for example) accepts that the French probably had about 10,000 men-at-arms, but explicitly includes one "gros valet" (an armed, armoured and mounted military servant) per French man-at-arms in his calculation of the odds. There may therefore be less difference between some of these different historians' positions on the numerical odds than there initially appears, given that the various accounts generally agree that the battle was almost entirely fought between the French men-at-arms and the English army, with French crossbowmen, archers, and other infantry playing little or no part.

Popular representations



Soon after the English victory at Agincourt, a number of popular folk songs were created about the battle, the most famous being the Agincourt Carol
Agincourt Carol
The Agincourt Carol is an English folk song written some time in the early 15th century...

, produced in the first half of the 15th century. Other ballads followed, including King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France
King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France
King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France is a British ballad which recounts a highly fictionalized version of the Battle of Agincourt and the events surrounding it....

, raising the popular prominence of particular events mentioned only in passing by the original chroniclers, such as the gift of tennis balls before the campaign.

The most famous cultural depiction of the battle today, however, is through William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's Henry V
Henry V (play)
Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

, written in 1599. The play focuses on the pressures of kingship, the tensions between how a king should appear - chivalric, honest and just - and how a king must sometimes act - Machiavellian and ruthless. These tensions are illustrated in the play by Shakespeare's depiction of Henry's decision to kill some of the French prisoners, whilst attempting to justify it and distance himself from the event - this moment of the battle is portrayed both as a break with the traditions of chivalry, and as key example of the paradox of kingship. Shakespeare's depiction of the battle also plays on the theme of modernity - Shakespeare contrasts the modern, English king and his army with the medieval, chivalric, older model of the French. Shakespeare's play presented Henry as leading a truly British force into battle, playing on the importance of the link between the monarch and the common soldiers in the fight. The original play does not, however, feature any scenes of the actual battle itself, leading critic Rose Zimbardo to characterise it as "full of warfare, yet empty of conflict."

The play introduced the famous "Saint Crispin's day" speech; Shakespeare has Henry give a moving narration to his soldiers just before the battle, urging his "band of brothers" to stand together in the forthcoming fight. One of Shakespeare's most heroic speeches, critic David Margolies, describes how it "oozes honour, military glory, love of country and self-sacrifice", and it forms one of the first instances of English literature linking solidarity and comradeship to success in battle. Partially as a result, the battle was used as a metaphor at the beginning of the First World War, when the British Expeditionary Force's attempts to stop the German advances were widely likened to it.

Shakespeare's version of the battle of Agincourt has been turned into three films - by Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

 in 1944
Henry V (1944 film)
Henry V is a 1944 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play of the same name. The on-screen title is The Cronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France . It stars Laurence Olivier, who also directed. The play was adapted for the screen by Olivier, Dallas...

, by Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from Northern Ireland. He is best known for directing and starring in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays including Henry V , Much Ado About Nothing , Hamlet Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from...

 in 1989
Henry V (1989 film)
Henry V is a 1989 film directed by Kenneth Branagh, based on William Shakespeare's play The Life of Henry the Fifth about the famous English king. Branagh stars in the title role, and wrote the screenplay. The film was highly acclaimed on its release....

, and by Peter Babakitis in 2004. Made just prior to the invasion of Normandy, Olivier's gives the battle what Sarah Hatchuel has termed an "exhilarating and heroic" tone, with an artificial, cinematic look to the battle scenes. Branagh's version gives a longer, more Realist
Realism (arts)
Realism in the visual arts and literature refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation...

 portrayal of the battle itself, drawing on both historical sources and images from the Vietnam and Falkland Wars. Babakitis uses digital effects to exaggerate realist features during his battle scenes, producing a more avant-garde
Experimental film
Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema. Experimental film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties. Experimental cinema has built its history through the texts of theoreticians...

 interpretation of the fighting at Agincourt.

The battle remains an important symbol in popular culture. For example, a mock trial of Henry V for the crimes associated with the slaughter of the prisoners was held in Washington, D.C. in March 2010, drawing from both the historical record and Shakespeare's play. Participating as judges were Justices Samuel Alito
Samuel Alito
Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and has served on the court since January 31, 2006....

 and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The trial ranged widely over the whether there was just cause for war and not simply the prisoner issue. Although an audience vote was "too close to call", Henry was unanimously found guilty by the court on the basis of “evolving standards of civil society”.

See also

  • V sign
    V sign
    The V sign is a hand gesture in which the index and middle fingers are raised and parted, while the other fingers are clenched. It has various meanings, depending on the cultural context and how it is presented...

    , for more on the "two-fingers salute" which some claim derives from the gestures of longbowmen fighting in the English army at the battle of Agincourt.

Footnotes

  • a. Pronunciation: The story of the battle has been retold many times in English, from the fifteenth-century Agincourt song
    Agincourt Carol
    The Agincourt Carol is an English folk song written some time in the early 15th century...

     onwards, and an English pronunciation of ˈædʒɨn.kɔrt has become established. Merriam-Webster
    Merriam-Webster
    Merriam–Webster, which was originally the G. & C. Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, is an American company that publishes reference books, especially dictionaries that are descendants of Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language .Merriam-Webster Inc. has been a...

     has a small audio file here. The modern tendency, however, is to use a style closer to the original aʒɛ̃kuʁ, such as /ˈædʒɨnkɔr/ or /ˈæʒɨnkʊər/, as exampled in this interview with Juliet Barker
    Juliet Barker
    Juliet R. V. Barker FRSL is a British historian, specialising in the Middle Ages and literary biography. She is the author of a number of well-regarded works on the Brontës, William Wordsworth, and medieval tournaments...

     on Meet the Author, here.
  • b. Dates in the fifteenth century are difficult to reconcile with modern calendars: see Barker (2005) pp. 225–7 for the way the date of the battle was established.

Books

  • Adams, Michael C. (2002) Echoes of War: a thousand years of military history in popular culture. Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press. ISBN 9780813122403.
  • Barker, Juliet
    Juliet Barker
    Juliet R. V. Barker FRSL is a British historian, specialising in the Middle Ages and literary biography. She is the author of a number of well-regarded works on the Brontës, William Wordsworth, and medieval tournaments...

     (2005). Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle (U.S. Title: Agincourt : Henry V and the Battle That Made England.) London: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316726481.
  • Cantor, Paul A. (2006) "Shakespeare's Henry V: From the Medieval to the Modern World," in Murley and Sutton (ed) (2006).
  • Curry, Anne
    Anne Curry
    Anne Elizabeth Curry is a British historian. She is Professor of Medieval history at the University of Southampton, former editor of the Journal of Medieval History, and a specialist in the Hundred Years' War, especially the Battle of Agincourt. She is also President of the Historical Association...

     (2000). The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations. The Boydell Press. ISBN 0851158021.
  • Curry, Anne
    Anne Curry
    Anne Elizabeth Curry is a British historian. She is Professor of Medieval history at the University of Southampton, former editor of the Journal of Medieval History, and a specialist in the Hundred Years' War, especially the Battle of Agincourt. She is also President of the Historical Association...

     (2005) (paperback edition 2006) . Agincourt: A New History. Pub: Tempus UK. ISBN 978-0-7524-2828-4
  • Dupuy, Trevor N.
    Trevor N. Dupuy
    Trevor Nevitt Dupuy was a Colonel, United States Army, retired, soldier and noted military historian.-Biography:Born in New York, the son of noted military historian, R. Ernest Dupuy, Trevor followed in his father's footsteps. Trevor Dupuy attended West Point, graduating in the class of 1938....

     (1993). Harper Encyclopedia of Military History. Pub: New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-270056-8
  • Hatchuel, Sarah. (2008) "The Battle of Agincourt in Shakespeare's, Laurence Olivier's, Kenneth Branagh's and Peter Babakitis's Henry V," in Hatchuel and Vienne-Guerrin (eds) (2008).
  • Hatchuel, Sarah and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin. (eds) (2008) Shakespeare on Screen: the Henriad. Rouen, France: Laboratoire ERIAC. ISBN 9782877754545.
  • Keegan, John
    John Keegan
    Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...

     (1976). The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. Pub: Viking Adult. ISBN 978-0-14-004897-1 (Penguin Classics Reprint)
  • Margolies, David. (2006) "Henry V and ideology," in Hatchuel and Vienne-Guerrin (eds) (2008).
  • Murley, John Albert and Sean D. Sutton. (eds) (2006) Perspectives on politics in Shakespeare. Oxford: Lexington Press. ISBN 9780739116845.
  • Woolf, Daniel. (2003) The Social Circulation of the Past: English historical culture, 1500-1730. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199257782.

Articles


Other

  • The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
    Fitzwilliam Museum
    The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge, located on Trumpington Street opposite Fitzwilliam Street in central Cambridge, England. It receives around 300,000 visitors annually. Admission is free....

     Macclesfield Psalter CD

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