BATTLE OF AGINCOURT

The battle of Agincourt was fought and won by the English against the French in less than a couple of hours on an autumn Friday morning on a muddy ploughed field.

The date was Friday 25th October 1415 to be exact.

Agincourt was just one of the many battles fought on French soil during the One Hundred Years War.

The reason it happened at all, the war rather than the actual battle, was for a sovereign to rule over two kingdoms, England and France.

King Henry V led thousands of troops across the English channel from Southampton to besiege the fortified garrison town of Harfleur at the mouth of the Seine River.

Presumably to then continue a push towards the French capital, Paris which lay on the river Seine but instead the King sets out on an illogical and exhausting 200 mile march over three weeks towards Calais.

Only to meet the ‘beef’ of French resistance afrer finally crossing the river Somme and thirty miles before actually reaching Calais.

It seems inconceivable that a militia of less than six thousand should prevail against a military force of at least twice that number.

But the simple truth on the day was that the English were better trained and disciplined in combat, better strategically positioned between two forests and more tactically astute.

It was a case of the longbow versus the crossbow and there could only be one winner when the longbow could aim twelve shots a minute and the crossbow only three.

Is it not an overstatement that an Englishman should shed blood and fight for King and Country in such a professional manner and yet still be denied a democratic voice of petition of human rights before his sovereign King in a Parliament?

What is more, it must have seemed slightly ironic that Agincourt was fought by resolute but exhausted men from both sides with little to no footwear in absolutely atrocious conditions on a day celebrated to be the Patron Saint of Leather and Shoe Making, St. Crispin.

Many years later, an Englishman named William Shakespeare, whose ancestor had supposedly fought in the battle and shot a fatal arrow at a French Duke, would glorify the battle and the achievement of the English King in a play performed in a theatre before an audience for social entertainment.

We might suppose that this Englishman, in the Elizabethan era in which he lived, more than one hundred and sixty years later, while making a journey as a teenager to a catholic seminary in the north of France, made a nostalgic pitstop at the very place of the battle.

William Shakespeare would have understood in the stillness, solemnity and serenity of the visit that greater numbers did ultimately hold the advantage and France was able to withstand a permanent English advance into its territories

Whether by direct consequence or not, Henry V achieved his two objectives in crossing the English channel that particular autumn.

Firstly, he married Princess Catherine of Valois, the youngest daughter of the French King but at the price of a substantial dowry to the French monarchy.

And second, he was decreed to become the King of France as well as England.

Alas, Henry V died on French soil before he could be crowned.

We can therefore only imagine and speculate what might have happened if that coronation had taken place.

There is one further irony to the story which is perhaps both a parody and a paradox.

The English playwright of whom I have written witnessed the spectacle of a Scottish King, James Stuart, passing into England to be crowned at Westminster Abbey as King of two nations.

Not, of course, a united kingdom of England and France but of England and Scotland.

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