Famous Battles in History King Henry V at Agincourt

About the famous battle at Agincourt in the Hundred Years' War between King Henry V of England and the French.



When peace negotiations failed, the ambitious King Henry V of England prepared to invade France, thus resuming the Hundred Years' War. The French dauphin, son of the insane King Charles VI, sent Henry a box of tennis balls by way of advising him that it was better to play tennis than war. Henry replied that he preferred lobbing cannonballs at Frenchmen.

In 1415 Henry landed in France and captured Harfleur, but he lost half of his men in battle and to dysentery. With only 6,000 men, Henry marauded northward, heading for the port of Calais. Meanwhile the French gathered a 20,000-man army. This army was composed mainly of armored knights and men-at-arms, while two thirds of the English army were archers, armed also with battle-axes.

Forty miles south of Calais, near the village of Agincourt, the French army blocked Henry's route north. The battlefield was a corridor 1,000 yd. wide between two forests, with the French at the north end and the English at the south. The French assembled into three ranks, while Henry formed a single line, concentrating his archers on the flanks.

On Oct. 25, the weather was clear, but an overnight rain had turned the plowed fields into a morass. At 11:00 A.M., the English archers advanced and showered the French with arrows. The first French line plodded forward, weighted down by armor and mud. After suffering heavy casualties, they reached the line of English archers. But the English, exchanging bows for battle-axes, routed the French, who were immobilized by their own armor. The second French line advanced only to meet the same fate. A head-high mound of dead and wounded Frenchmen and horses grew in front of the English line.

At this point, Henry decided to take no prisoners. Wounded and captured French were massacred with axes and arrows. The third and last French line, viewing their comrades' corpses heaped in the mud, prudently dispersed. English archery, cumbersome French armor, and mud had defeated the French, 7,000 of whom lay dead. English losses were between 400 and 1,600.

Agincourt opened the door for Henry's subsequent conquest of Normandy. It made England the most powerful kingdom in Europe, and France the weakest. However, the English victory was to be offset by Henry's premature death in 1422 and the appearance of Joan of Arc.

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