Battle of Agincourt summary
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory in the Hundred Years' War. The battle took place on Friday, 25 October 1415, in northern France. Henry V's victory at Agincourt, against a numerically superior French army, crippled France and started a new period in the war, during which, first, Henry married the French king's daughter and, second, his son, Henry VI, was made heir to the throne of France (although Henry VI later failed to capitalise on his father's battlefield success).
- On the morning of 25 October the French were expecting thousands more troops to join them. They were blocking Henry's retreat, and could wait for as long as it took since Henry's men were very weary from hunger, illness and marching.
- Armies of this time were expected to perform better on the defensive but Henry was forced to take a calculated risk, hopping to provoke a French attack. He moved his army further forward abandoning his chosen position and advanced within extreme bowshot from the French line (approximately 300 meters). Then the longbowmen dug in stakes to protect them from attacks and opened the engagement with a long range barrage of arrows.
- The French cavalry, despite being somewhat disorganised and not at full numbers, charged the longbowmen. French archers were not used in the battle.
- The French knights were unable to outflank the longbowmen (because of the encroaching woodland) and unable to charge through the forest of sharpened stakes that protected the archers. The French cavalry retreated but their attacked disturbed the already muddy terrain between the French and the English.
- The Constable of France himself led a new attack of the dismounted French men-at-arms. They had to walk a few hundred meters through thick mud wearing armour weighing 50–60 pounds (20–30 kg) under a hail of arrow shot.
- Despite the arrows and the dificult terain the French men-at-arms reached the front of the English line and pushed it back, with the longbowmen on the flanks continuing to shoot at point blank range.
- When the archers ran out of arrows they dropped their bows and using hatchets, swords and the mallets they had used to drive their stakes in, attacked the now disordered, fatigued and wounded French men-at-arms massed in front of them. The exhausted French could not cope with the thousands of lightly armoured longbowmen assailants (who were much less hindered by the mud and weight of their armour) combined with the English men-at-arms.
- At this moment 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. The 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 only French success was an attack on the lightly protected English baggage train. There the French seized some of Henry's personal treasures, including a crown.
- Perhaps influenced by the baggage assault and seeing signs that the French rearguard was assembled for another attack Henry ordered the slaughter of what were perhaps several thousand French prisoners, sparing only the most high ranked—presumably most likely to fetch a large ransom. Henry's fear was that the prisoners would rearm themselves with the weapons strewn about the field, and that the exhausted English would be overwhelmed.
- This action marked the end of the battle, as the French rearguard, having seen so many of the French nobility captured and killed, fled the battlefield.