10 Facts About the Battle of Agincourt

Tristan Hughes

3 mins

24 Oct 2018

Image credit: Harry Payne / Commons.

On 25 October, also known as St Crispin’s Day, 1415, a combined English and Welsh army gained one of history’s most remarkable victories at Agincourt in north eastern France.

Despite being heavily outnumbered, Henry V’s tired, beleaguered army triumphed against the flower of the French nobility, marking the end of an era where the knight dominated the battlefield.

Here are ten facts about the Battle of Agincourt:

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1. It was preceded by the Siege of Harfleur

Although the siege eventually proved successful, it had been long and costly for Henry’s army.

2. The French army positioned themselves near Agincourt, blocking Henry’s route to Calais

The French army’s clever manoeuvring forced Henry and his beleaguered army to fight if they were to have any chance of reaching home.

3. The French army consisted almost entirely of heavily-armoured knights

These men were the warrior elite of the time, equipped with the best arms and armour available.

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4. The French army was commanded by the French marshal Jean II Le Maingre, also known as Boucicaut

Boucicaut was one of the greatest jousters of his day and a skilled tactician. He was also aware of the past defeats the French had suffered at English hands at both Crecy and Poitiers the previous century and was determined to avoid a similar outcome.

5. Henry’s army consisted mainly of longbowmen

A self-yew English longbow. Credit: James Cram / Commons.

These men trained every single week and were highly-skilled professional killers. This was no doubt helped by English law, which made archery practice compulsory every Sunday to ensure the king always had a steady supply of archers available.

6. Henry made the first move

Henry advanced his army further up the field to a position protected by woodland on either side in his hopes to entice the French knights forwards.

7. The English longbowmen deployed sharpen stakes to protect them from cavalry charges

The stakes also tunnelled the French knights towards Henry’s heavily armed infantrymen in the centre.

The longbowmen had protected their positions on the flanks of Henry’s army with stakes. Credit: PaulVIF / Commons.

8. The first wave of French knights was decimated by the English longbowmen

As the knights charged forwards, the longbowmen rained volley after volley of arrows down on their opponents and decimated the French ranks.

A 15th-century miniature of the Battle of Agincourt. Contrary to the image, the battlefield was chaos and there was no exchange of archer fire. Credit: Antoine Leduc, Sylvie Leluc and Olivier Renaudeau / Commons.

9. Henry V fought for his life during the fray

When the French knights clashed with the English heavy infantry at the height of the battle, Henry V was in the thickest of the action.

Supposedly the English king suffered an axe blow to his head which knocked off one of the crown’s jewels and was rescued by a Welsh member of his bodyguard, Daffyd Gam, who lost his life in the process.

10. Henry had more than 3,000 French prisoners executed during the battle

One source claims Henry did this because he was worried the captives would escape and rejoin the fighting.

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