Who's Who

The Battle of Agincourt, October 25, 1415

A.H. Burne analyses the key factors that led to what would be a major victory in the Hundred Years' War.

The rival armies went to rest, but few to sleep, on the eve of that fateful day of St. Crispin 1415, in very different physical and mental states. The English had marched for seventeen days with only one day’s rest and had covered 260 miles, an average of fifteen miles per day.

The greater part of the army, it is true, was mounted, but there remained an appreciable portion of archers on foot. The French had not experienced such a trying and exhausting time. They had certainly marched with speed, covering about 180 miles in ten days, but all but a tiny portion of the combatants were mounted. The mental state of the two armies was even more dissimilar.

The English believed that they would most of them lose their lives in the inevitable battle next day. The idea of surrender does not seem to have entered the heads of any of them. It was to be literally a case of “do or die”. They prepared solemnly for the contest, saw to their weapons, confessed and were shriven, and laid themselves down to rest on the rain-soaked open field.

Well might they despair of victory. They had seen the enormous French army, over four times as numerous as their own, which was scarce 6,000 strong, of whom less than 1,000 were men-at-arms, the rest being archers (for they had no artillery). It was a small army, but it was homogeneous and it possessed a degree of discipline that was quite unique for that epoch. Let a French contemporary, whose sympathies were French, testify on this score. The monk of St. Denys declared:

Want the full article and website archive access?

Subscribe now

Already a member? Log in now

 

Recent stories