Agincourt or Azincourt?
The Battle of Agincourt is a name that evokes one of the most disastrous military debacles in the history of France!
But first, for us French, Agincourt is Azincourt!
The British changed the z into g, as at the time spelling was not fixed.
So we’ll talk about the Battle of Agincourt, and the village of Azincourt.
Azincourt is located in the Pas-de-Calais.
This a region has always been an invasion route, because of its geographical situation and direct access to England.
The Battle of Agincourt was fought during the Hundred Years War.
This war consisted of sporadic conflicts that opposed the French to the English for 116 years!
The interesting fact is that this historic battle was not fought on a vast territory, like modern day battles.
It was indeed fought in a clearing located between the woods of Azincourt and Tramecourt!
The site of the Battle of Agincourt has today left place to cultivated land on the outskirts of the village.
It difficult to realize, when visiting the site, that this was where the French nobility was almost annihilated during the 15th century!
The conflict originated during the 11th century with the rise of the Plantagenêts dynasty, the counts of Anjou.
One of their prominent members, Henry Plantagenêt married Alienor of Aquitaine shortly before becoming Henry II of England.
The huge share of the kingdom of France Alienor brought in her dowry, was added to their existing estates of Normandy and Brittany.
Henry’s descendants always believed they had rights on the crown of France and constantly tried to invade France.
They captured Calais in 1347, a strategic port and citadel they would control until 1557!
Battle of Agincourt, a battle that could have been avoided!
On 13 August 1415 the English attempted a new invasion and successfully landed at Chef-de-Caux near Harfleur.
They besieged Harfleur from August 17 to October 7, when they eventually captured the harbour, thus establishing a bridgehead in Normandy.
From there, Henry V planned to march towards Paris, but renounced his project as he feared that the poor weather would most likely jeopardize the success of his expedition.
He therefore opted to march towards Calais, where he and his troops would embark for England.
This was when Charles VI, also known as Charles the Mad because of his recurrent attacks of insanity, took the most irrational decision of his reign!
He sent troops after the English to prevent them from reaching Calais and return to England.
His men caught up with the English in the village of Azincourt on October 24.
Battle of Agincourt, the battle won by Welsh archers
Azincourt is where one of the biggest military debacles of France’s medieval history took place on October 25, 1415!
The 1000 English armed men on foot and 5000 Welsh archers were tired by long weeks of campaigning and fighting.
The French troops amounted to 18,000 men, 3000 noble knights, 300 archers and the rest armed men on foot.
One might think that the French had the upper hand!
Not at all, and there are several reasons for this!
The site of the Battle of Agincourt was a long strip stretching between the woods of Azincourt and Tremecourt.
The French were positioned at the foot of a slope, in the middle of freshly plowed fields and by a stream.
There they spent the night preceding the battle, under a downpour that turned the stream into a torrent (this was October!) and the soil into deep mud.
French and English started to negotiate at the beginning of the morning of October 25, 1415.
The French demanded that the English renounced their pretension to the throne of France.
The English refused, however, they were prepared to return Harfleur and other strongholds of Northern France in exchange for the right of access to Calais.
The negotiations failed, the Battle of Agincourt was fought at 11am.
The English men on foot were positioned in the centre of the battlefield.
The archers defended their flanks where they had installed several rows of stakes destined to break the advance of the French cavalry.
The bad weather had disastrous consequences for the French.
Men and horses slipped and got stranded in the mud, and struggled to reach the English positions at the top of the slope.
Riders who had fallen of their horses, became trapped under of the weight of their armour and struggled to get back on their feet in the slippery mud.
Exhausted by the effort, many drowned.
Trapped between the English soldiers and Welsh archers, they also fought on open ground.
The excessive numbers of French combatants was another major element that contributed to their disastrous defeat.
In close ranks, they had absolutely no range of motion, and fought shoulder to shoulder.
The wounded and terrified horses tried to escape, but got bogged down and trampled anyone in their path.
The men were stuck in the mud up to their knees and found themselves blocked by the bodies of dead soldiers and horses.
All this took place under continuous fire of the 5000 Welsh archers’ arrows.
Their longbows had a scope of 100m and could easily pierce an armour as such a distance.
To add to this disaster, the French archers could not use their powerful crossbows which had been made unusable by the heavy downpour.
The French underwent enormous loss before reaching the English lines.
Those who eventually succeeded in doing so, were simply massacred.
The carnage lasted till 5pm.
The King of England even ordered his men to kill the French prisoners (men on foot) to prevent any troop rebellion.
The Battle of Agincourt was one of the deadliest battles of medieval France.
Not only the French chivalry was defeated and annihilated by simply archers, but also by an army one-third of its own size!
Agincourt is moreover considered as the official the end of French chivalry.
Among the 6000 French knights killed, were five counts and 90 barons, not to mention the 1000 Knights captured and eventually released in exchange of astronomical ransoms – if they could pay!
The French nobility lost an entire generation of young men.
The site of the Battle of Agincourt
Today it is impossible to imagine the horror of this historic debacle that annihilated the French in only 7 hours!
The site of the Battle of Agincourt has left place to cultivated land located between the villages of Azincourt, Tremecourt and Maisoncelle, and bounded roughly by the D104, and D71E3.
The Welsh archers were initially positioned near Maisoncelle, then advanced at the level of the current Rue Henri V – D71
The memorial of the Battle of Agincourt is located at the intersection of D107E2 and D104.
From spring to autumn, metal silhouettes representing the archers, are installed along the road, on the positions they had during the battle.
We know that after the battle, the English burned the bodies of their dead in a barn in Maisoncelle.
The French were buried in a mass grave located along the D104, on the Tremecourt side.
The spot is quite easy to miss when driving as there is no sign on the road.
You have to look for a calvary nestled in the center of a small clearing hidden in a coppice.
A commemorative plaque was placed on the pedestal of the calvary.
The museum of the Battle of Agincourt – Centre Historique Médiéval is located in the heart of the village and is easy to recognize as it has the shape of a longbow!
Department of Pas-de-Calais – Azincourt
Coordinates: Lat 50.462982 – Long 2.128470