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The Battle of Agincourt in 1415: Facts & Overview

Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

The lesson below is an overview of the Battle of Agincourt (1415) as well as its social, military, and political impact on ''The Hundred Years' War''. You'll also be able to test your knowledge on the material with a quiz!

The Hundred Years' War

The Hundred Years' War was actually three wars fought between the English and French and their allies, but they were all pretty much part of one big, ongoing conflict. The wars were fought in 1337-1360, 1369-1389, and 1415-1453 and revolved around two separate claims. The English kings insisted that their descent from Isabella daughter of Philip IV made them the legitimate kings of France. The French, meanwhile, had been following a policy of absorbing the English possessions on the continent, usually while England was distracted in wars with Scotland, in an effort to restrict their growing power.

In 1415, the French had won the last war and had taken several English continental lands. Henry V, the King of England wanted many of them back. The French, respecting his superior army, made a magnanimous offer but Henry refused. He landed on their shores, but was only able to capture a single major city before the fighting season came to a close and he was forced to return to England.

A Lopsided Battle

Outmaneuvered by a larger force in trying to get to the port at Calais, Henry V was forced to give battle before more French forces arrived. Henry marched into a narrow defile between the Tramecourt Woods and the village of Agincourt. Henry had only about 1,500 men-at-arms, or landed men who were not nobles, against 8,000 French men-at-arms and 1,000 knights. However, the English also had 7,000 longbowmen versus 1,900 French crossbowmen and archers.

Battle of Agincourt
Agincourt

Henry advanced his army to within bow range and stationed his bowmen on the edges of the battlefield. This move basically forced the French to fight. The French knights charged, but were driven back by the longbowmen. They were followed by the first wave of men-at-arms, who were slowed by the terrain and harried by the longbowmen. As they faltered, the second wave came, but they had the additional obstacle of climbing over their dead comrades. A third wave, if there was one, was ineffectual. When the bowmen charged from the flanks, the French surrendered. Records of the battle indicate a total disaster for the French with an overwhelming number of soldiers injured, dead, or captured.

Military and Political Significance

In the short term, Henry was able to go back to England safely and was there hailed as a victor. Burgundy, an ally of France until the battle, took advantage of the French loss to sever their ties and march on Paris itself. A longer-term bit of political significance was that the battle gave Henry the initial momentum he needed. He would eventually force the French into a treaty that was to his advantage.

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