Skip to comments.Centuries Later, Henry Vís Greatest Victory Is Besieged by Academia
Posted on 10/24/2009 10:38:13 AM PDT by Saije
The heavy clay-laced mud behind the cattle pen on Antoine Renaults farm looks as treacherous as it must have been nearly 600 years ago, when King Henry V rode from a spot near here to lead a sodden and exhausted English Army against a French force that was said to outnumber his by as much as five to one.
No one can ever take away the shocking victory by Henry and his band of brothers, as Shakespeare would famously call them, on St. Crispins Day, Oct. 25, 1415. They devastated a force of heavily armored French nobles who had gotten bogged down in the regions sucking mud, riddled by thousands of arrows from English longbowmen and outmaneuvered by common soldiers with much lighter gear. It would become known as the Battle of Agincourt.
...Agincourts status as perhaps the greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history and a keystone of the English self-image has been called into doubt by a group of historians in Britain and France who have painstakingly combed an array of military and tax records from that time and now take a skeptical view of the figures handed down by medieval chroniclers.
The historians have concluded that the English could not have been outnumbered by more than about two to one. And depending on how the math is carried out, Henry may well have faced something closer to an even fight, said Anne Curry, a professor at the University of Southampton who is leading the study.
Those cold figures threaten an image of the battle that even professional researchers and academics have been reluctant to challenge in the face of Shakespearean prose and centuries of English pride...
Its just a myth, but its a myth thats part of the British psyche, Ms. Curry said.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
"And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day..."
Anybody else fond of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V film interpretation?
THe same people who will be writing about Obama’s “Victory in Afghanistan”.
My recollection was that the battle of Agincourt proved the tactical superiority of well trained lowbowmen, whose skill could take down knights in armor from a safe distance. The longbow, propelling a metal tipped arrow, pierced the knight’s armor. The carnage was the beginning of the end for the mounted knight in armor.
“My recollection was that the battle of Agincourt proved the tactical superiority of well trained lowbowmen, whose skill could take down knights in armor from a safe distance. The longbow, propelling a metal tipped arrow, pierced the knights armor. The carnage was the beginning of the end for the mounted knight in armor.”
Always my understanding too. Whether the English were outnumbered or not, a bunch of guys walking around in leather took down a a bunch of guys on horses wearing armor. Horses and armor were one of the main bases the nobility had for controlling the peasants in that era. So it was the symbolic beginning of the end for horses and armor both militarily and as an instrument of oppression.
In fact, I believe it was very illegal then for a commoner to have armor—which just proves that human nature never changes—guys with power always come to the same conclusions.
No, that would be gunpowder that did that. Bodkin (armour piercing) arrows could only penetrate good quality plate armour at extremely close range and if the angle was good....
You forgot another key factor... the terrain. Henry V and his commanders selected a strong defensive position with a narrow front that acted as a funnel. The French knights were increasingly jammed together making them an ideal target. Had the battlefield not been so muddy the French would probably have got round to flanking them out of the postion.
The Bodkin-tipped arrow was as much to kill the horse as anything. Once the knight is dismounted he’s much less of a threat.
At Agincourt the French Knights evidently resorted to a charge on foot, either because a significant majority of their cavalry mounts were disabled, or because they saw the futility of further mounted charges.
“At Agincourt the French Knights evidently resorted to a charge on foot, either because a significant majority of their cavalry mounts were disabled, or because they saw the futility of further mounted charges.”
I saw a show on the History Channel where they did soil analysis and determined that because of the clay content the soil wouldn’t drain. It had been raining heavily and they suspect the heavy chargers couldn’t negotiate the mud.
Saw the same program. I also remember the computer-aided “traffic analysis” that they did to show how jammed up the French knights were. They were so jammed, the theory went, that they couldn’t employ their weapons and were easily taken prisoner by the English infantry — even the archers.
A lot of the French Knights were killed after the battle by their captors. Some say that this was evidence of a command failure on Henry’s part. Those Knights were worth a lot of ransome money if Henry could have gotten them in-hand. Instead the English yeoman just butchered them. It’s also possible that Henry didn’t want these knights repatriated when he knew he might have to fight them again.
“Those Knights were worth a lot of ransome money if Henry could have gotten them in-hand.”
I’ve been re-reading “A Distant Mirror” by Barbara Tuchman and ransoming Knights WAS a big business.
I was fascinated by the TV show and I seriously wouldn’t have wanted to be there in the lines.
“Henry V”, Christopher Allmand
...But anything and everything noble is to be denigrated by the left.
Love it. Best film Brannagh’s ever made. I especially liked the casting of Derek Jacobi as the chorus.
That was my understanding as well. Evened the odds against the French knights on horseback.
I loved that movie! It was especially graphic showing how the knights were bogging down in the clay that had been reduced to muck. They couldn’t even drag their feet out of it!
Sounds like “Cowpens”.
ME ME ME!
Even have the soundtrack music to the St. Crispin’s Day Speech scene in an iPod “Psych Music” playlist.
Excellent! The Latin requiem at the end was very moving, the comic French scene between the princess and her attendant was charming, if a little precious. The death of Falstaff and the fall of Henry’s old group of roisters teaches a tough lesson about politics,
The French also had large numbers of men at arms, who were nearly as well armored as the knights and had similar problems with the mud.
Thanks Saije and Pharmboy.
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I am. I watch it every Oct about this time.
Before the first Gulf War I sketched a plan to liberate Kuwait on a restaurant napkin for a friend. Double envelopment. Armor to the west and Marines from the east, by sea. In the end Schwarzkopf decided he didn't need the eastern prong because the Marines at sea had forced the Iraqis to man the coast, thinning the front line and accomplishing the main mission without firing a shot.
Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more . . . .
I love the film, too.
This story is a typical example of the leftist demoralization wing of their movement. Anything noble, inspiring, nationalistic will be denigrated if they can manage it.
They are despicable people.
True. The accomplishment should not be slighted. The fact is they were at the end of a long campaign season trying to get to the coast, they were in enemy territory, they were outnumbered by even these people's account two to one and the weather was turning foul. It was a desperate fight and one of history's great battles.
And horses collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
Even before effective firearms there were disciplined bodies of Swiss & German pikeman that were used to deter heavy cavalry charges. Early muskets were only marginally better than a well-handled bow and a lot less reliable when it rained. So while you're right that the firearm ultimately displaced the armored knight from the battlefield, their ranks had been thinning for some time due to a rediscovery of a combined arms tactical system (indirect fire supporting ranks of pike).
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