1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agincourt

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AGINCOURT (Azincourt), a village of northern France in the department of Pas de Calais, 14 m. N.W. of St Pol by road, famous on account of the victory, on the 25th of October 1415, of Henry V. of England over the French. The battle was fought in the defile formed by the wood of Agincourt and that of Tramecourt, at the northern exit of which the army under d’Albret, constable of France, had placed itself so as to bar the way to Calais against the English forces which had been campaigning on the Somme. The night of the 24th of October was spent by the two armies on the ground, and the English had but little shelter from the heavy rain which fell. Early on the 25th, St Crispin’s day, Henry arrayed his little army (about 1000 men-at-arms, 6000 archers, and a few thousands of other foot). It is probable that the usual three “battles” were drawn up in line, each with its archers on the flanks and the dismounted men-at-arms in the centre; the archers being thrown forward in wedge-shaped salients, almost exactly as at Crécy (q.v.). The French, on the other hand, were drawn up in three lines, each line formed in deep masses. They were at least four times more numerous than the English, but restricted by the nature of the ground to the same extent of front, they were unable to use their full weight (cf. Bannockburn); further, the deep mud prevented their artillery from taking part, and the crossbowmen were as usual relegated to the rear of the knights and men-at-arms. All were dismounted save a few knights and men-at-arms on the flanks, who were intended to charge the archers of the enemy. For three hours after sunrise there was no fighting; then Henry, finding that the French would not advance, moved his army farther into the defile. The archers fixed the pointed stakes, which they carried to ward off cavalry charges, and opened the engagement with flights of arrows. The chivalry of France, undisciplined and careless of the lesson of Crécy and Poitiers, was quickly stung into action, and the French mounted men charged, only to be driven back in confusion. The constable himself headed the leading line of dismounted men-at-arms; weighted with their armour, and sinking deep into the mud with every step, they yet reached and engaged the English men-at-arms; for a time the fighting was severe. The thin line of the defenders was borne back and King Henry was almost beaten to the ground. But at this moment the archers, taking their hatchets, swords or other weapons, penetrated the gaps in the now disordered French, who could not move to cope with their unarmoured assailants, and were slaughtered or taken prisoners to a man. The second line of the French came on, only to be engulfed in the mêlée; its leaders, like those of the first line, were killed or taken, and the commanders of the third sought and found their death in the battle, while their men rode off to safety. The closing scene of the battle was a half-hearted attack made by a body of fugitives, which led merely to the slaughter of the French prisoners, which was ordered by Henry because he had not enough men both to guard them and to meet the attack. The slaughter ceased when the assailants drew off. The total loss of the English is stated at thirteen men-at-arms (including the Duke of York, grandson of Edward III.) and about 100 of the foot. The French lost 500 of noble birth killed, including the constable, 3 dukes, 5 counts and 90 barons; 1000 more were taken prisoners, amongst them the duke of Orleans (the Charles d’Orléans of literature).

See Sir Harris Nicolas, Battle of Agincourt; Fortescue, History of the British Army, vol. i.; and H. B. George, Battles of English History.