On October 25, 1415, the feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, on a field near the village and castle of Agincourt, an English army under King Henry V defeated a much larger French host. Agincourt would be the last great English victory of the long series of conflicts that came to be called, collectively, the Hundred Years' War. Five years after it, Henry V would claim the throne of France itself. Agincourt is also, thanks to William Shakespeare, the medieval battle with the greatest cultural legacy. Many who are otherwise unfamiliar with the Hundred Years' War know of Harry the King and his band of brothers. Last and certainly not least, Agincourt is a touchstone of Englishness. It supposedly saw the plucky, tenacious ordinary Englishman, the yeoman, wield the trusty national weapon, the longbow, to humble the arrogant French chivalry.
This episode of Great Battles in History plunges into the context, course, and consequences of the battle of Agincourt. Following this Part One introduction, Part Two details why and how the great kingdoms of France and England entered into the ruinous series of conflicts called the Hundred Years’ War. Part Three examines the English armies. It explains how a military revolution transformed these armies into the most fearsome fighting force in Christendom. In Part Four, we will trace the opening years of the Hundred Years’ War, a phase that culminated in the momentous battle of Crécy. Part Five focuses on the Black Prince, the outstanding commander of the war. We will see how his triumph at the battle of Poitiers brought England to the verge of complete triumph. Part Six describes how the French recovered and reversed the tide of the war. In Part Seven, we are introduced to King Henry V and will see how he revived the war against the French. Part Eight traces the events that led to Saint Crispin’s Day on the fields of Agincourt. Part Nine takes us to the bloody carnage that took place on those fields. The episode then concludes in Part Ten which tells how the English first won, then lost France.
A note to listeners: I am posting parts one to five, the first half of the Battle of Agincourt episode, today. Parts six to ten will appear in the coming days. Thanks so much for your patience. I hope you enjoy the episode.