Agincourt 600 Years in the National Conscious – Pt.1 – An Introduction

The Battle of Agincourt, 15th-century miniature

The Battle of Agincourt, 15th-century miniature

Before I get on with the introduction and the subject at hand let me first tell you what the format of this series of posts will be. I’m going to be publishing a series of 5 posts (this being the first) on the subject of the battle of Agincourt. It the 600th anniversary of this battle on Sunday (25th October) and I wanted to do something bigger than usual to mark it. This will take the form of five posts, the first of which (this one) will be a quick intro to the topic. The second and third posts will describe the lead up to the battle and some of the events preceding it. The fourth post will briefly cover the battle (it will by no means be an encyclopedia of what occurred) but it will give you a flavour of what occurred. The fifth post will (in my opinion be the most interesting) cover the battle in the British National Identity. This will involve how the battle has been incorporated in cultural work (like Shakespeare’s Henry V) but also how its been invoked in some of Britain’s darkest hours. Anywho’s lets get this started!

As the weak autumn sun rose over a muddy stretch of field in northern France one of the most famous battles in English history was just getting started. The date is October 25th 1415, it is a Friday, and the two
armies stand motionless staring across the dead ground sizing each other up. The French force (whose numbers are estimated to be somewhere between 12,000 and 36,000) stare across at the much smaller English force (whose numbers are estimated to be somewhere between 6,000 and 9,000). The days leading up to the battle have been hard on both forces with heavy rain turning the field into a quagmire of mud, ground which does not favour battle. By the end of the day over 10,000 men will have died and 1,500 will have been taken prisoner.

The battle will go down in history as the day David beat Goliath, the day the English scored a crushing blow to the French in the Hundred Years war. It will be a story that will become part of the British National identity, that of the plucky underdog overcoming apparently insurmountable odds. Before we get to the battle itself and its consequences for the British identity let us first go back to two months before the battle took place and get to grips with a campaigning season that seemed on the verge of disaster.

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