Battle of Agincourt, 1415
This account of the famous battle of Agincourt comes from Enguerrand de Monstrelet (d.1453), governor of Cambrai and supporter of the French crown.
CHAPTER CXLIII - THE KING OF FRANCE COLLECTS A GREAT BODY OF MEN-AT-ARMS FROM ALL PARTS OF HIS KINGDOM TO OPPOSE THE ENGLISH. THE SUMMONS HE ISSUES ON THE OCCASION.
When the king of France and his council heard of the surrender of Harfleur to the king of England, they consequently expected that he would attempt greater objects, and instantly issued summonses for raising in every part of the kingdom the greatest possible force of men–at-arms. The better to succeed, he ordered his bailiffs and seneschals to exert themselves personally throughout their jurisdictions, and to make known that he had sent ambassadors to England, to offer his daughter in marriage to king Henry, with an immense portion in lands and money, to obtain peace, but that he had failed; and the king of England had invaded his realm, and besieged and taken his town of Harfleur, very much to his displeasure. On this account, therefore, he earnestly solicited the aid of all his vassals and subjects, and required them to join him without delay. He also dispatched messengers into Picardy, with sealed letters to the lords de Croy, de Waurin, de Fosseux, de Crequi, de Heuchin, de Brimeu, de Mammez, de la Viefville, de Beaufort, d'Inchy, de Noyelle, de Neufville, and to other noblemen, to order them instantly to raise their powers, under pain of his indignation, and to join the duke of Aquitaine, whom he had appointed captain-general of his kingdom. The lords of Picardy delayed obeying, for the duke of Burgundy had sent them and all his subjects orders to hold themselves in readiness to march with him when lie should summon them, and not to attend to the summons of any other lord, whatever might be his rank. This was the cause why the above-mentioned men-at-arms were in no haste to comply with the king's summons: fresh orders were therefore issued, the tenor of which was as follows:
“Charles, by the grace of God king of France, to the bailiff of Amiens, or to his lieute–nant, greeting. Whereas by our letters we have commanded you to make proclamation throughout your bailiwick, for all nobles and others accustomed to bear arms and follow the wars, instantly to join our very dear and well-beloved son, the duke of Aquitaine, whom we have nominated our captain‑general of the kingdom. It is now some tune since we have marched against our adversary of England, who had, with a large army, invaded our province of Normandy, and taken our town of Harfleur, owing to the neglect and delay of you and others, in not punctually obeying our orders ; for from want of succours our noble and loyal subjects within Harfleur, after having made a most vigorous defence, were forced to surrender it to the enemy. And as the preservation and defence of our kingdom is the concern of all, we call on our good and faithful subjects for aid, and are determined to regain those parts of which the enemy may be in possession, and to drive them out of our kingdom in disgrace and confusion, by the blessing of God, the holy Virgin Mary, and with the assistance of our kindred and loyal subjects.
You will therefore, by these presents strictly enjoin every one within your jurisdictions, on the duty they owe us, to lose no time in arming themselves, and in hastening to join our said well-beloved the duke of Aquitaine; and you will proclaim these our orders in the most public manner, and in the usual places, that no one may plead ignorance of the same; and that under pain of being reputed disobedient, and having their goods confiscated, they fail not to come to our assistance, sufficiently armed and mounted. Such as, from illness or old age, may be prevented coming shall send, in their stead, persons well armed and accoutered, with their powers to join us, or our said son. Should any difficulties be made in obeying these our commands, you will enforce obedience by seizing on the lands of such as may refuse, placing foragers within their houses, and by every other means employed on such occasions, that they may be induced to join with us in expelling the enemy from our kingdom with disgrace and confusion.
You will likewise enjoin, in addition to the above, that all cannon, engines of war, and other offensive or defensive weapons that can be spared from the principal towns, be sent to our aid without delay, which we promise to restore at the end of the war. You will use every possible diligence in seeing to the execution of these our commands; and should there be any neglect on your part, which God forbid, we will punish you in such wise that you shall serve for an example to all others in like manner offending. We command all our officers of justice, and others our subjects, punctually to obey all your directions respecting the above; and you will send an acknowledgment of the receipt of these presents to our loyal subjects the officers of our chamber of accounts in Paris, to be used as may be thought proper.
Given at Meulan, the 20th day of September, in the year of Grace 1415, and of our reign the 36th.” Thus signed by the king and council.
When this proclamation had been published at Paris and Amiens, and in other parts of the kingdom, the king sent ambassadors to the dukes of Burgundy and Orleans, to require that they would, without fail, instantly send him five hundred helmets each. The duke of Orleans was at first contented to send his quota, but afterward followed with all his forces. The duke of Burgundy made answer that he would not send, but come in person with all the chivalry of his country, to serve the king; however, from some delay or dispute that arose between them, he did not attend himself, but the greater part of his subjects armed and joined the French forces.
CHAPTER CXLIV - THE KING OF ENGLAND MAKES HIS ENTRY INTO HARFLEUR. THE
REGULATIONS WHICH HE ORDAINED. HE
RESOLVES TO MARCH TO CALAIS. THE DISPOSITION AND GOVERNMENT OF THE FRENCH.
The town of Harfleur surrendered to the king on the appointed day: the gates were thrown open, and his commissioners entered the place; but when the king came to the gate, he dismounted, and had his legs and feet uncovered, and thence walked barefooted to the parochial church of St. Martin, where he very devoutly offered up his prayers and thanksgivings to his Creator for his success. After this, he made all the nobles and men-at-arms that were in the town his prisoners, and shortly after sent the greater part of them out of the place clothed in their jackets only, taking down their names and surnames in writing, and making them swear on their faith that they would render themselves prisoners at Calais on the Martinmasday next ensuing, and then they departed. In like manner were the inhabitants constituted prisoners, and forced to ransom themselves for large sums of money. In addition, they were driven out of the town, with numbers of women and children, to each of whom were given five sous and part of their clothing. It was pitiful to see and hear the sorrow of these poor people, thus driven away from their dwellings and property. The priests and clergy were also dismissed; and in regard to the wealth found there, it was immense, and appertained to the king, who distributed it among such as he pleased. Two towers that were very strong, and situated on tile side next the sea, held out for ten days after the surrender of the town; but then they surrendered also. The kind of England ordered the greater part of his army home, by way of Calais, under the command of leis brother the duke of Clarence and the earl of Warwick. His prisoners and the great booty he had made were sent by sea to England, with his warlike engines. When the king had repaired the walls and ditches of the town, he placed in it a garrison of five hundred men-at-arms and one thousand archers, under the command of the governor sir John le Blond, knight: he added a very large stock of provision and of warlike stores.
After fifteen days’ residence in Harfleur, the king of England departed, escorted by two thousand men-at-arms and about thirteen thousand archers, and numbers of other men, intending to march to Calais. His first quarters were at Fauville and in the adjacent places: then, traversing the country of Caux, he made for the county of Eu. Some of the English light troops came before the town of Eu, in which were several French men-at-arms, who sallied out to oppose them: in the number was a most valiant man-at-arms, called Lancelot Pierres, who, leaving attacked one of the English, was struck by him with a, lance, which piercing tile plates of his armour, mortally wounded him in the belly, and being thus wounded, he was killed by the Englishman; to the great grief of the count d’Eu and many of the French. Thence the king of England marched through Vimeu, with the intent of crossing the river Somme at Blanchetaqne, where his predecessor, king Edward, had passed when he gained the battle of Crecy against Philip de Valois; but learning from his scout, that the French had posted a considerable force to guard that ford, he altered his route, and marched toward Arraines, burning and destroying the whole country, making numbers of prisoners and acquiring a great booty.
On Sunday, the 13th of October, he lodged at Bailleul in Vimeu, and thence crossing the country, he sent a considerable detachment to gain the pass of the Pont-de-Reinyl; but the lord de Vaucourt, with his children and a great number of men-at-arms, gallantly defended it against the English. This constrained king Henry to continue his march, and quarter his army at Hangest-sur-Somme and in the neighbouring villages.
At that tinge, the lord d’Albreth, constable of France, the marshal Boncicaut, the count de Vendome grand master of the household, the lord de Dampierre, calling himself admiral of France, the duke d’Alencon, the count de Richemont, with a numerous and gallant chivalry, were in Abbeville. On hearing of the line of march which the king Of England was pursuing, they departed thence and went to Corbie and Peronne, with their army near at hand, but dispersed over the country to guard all the fords of the river Somme against the English. The king of England marched from Hangest to Ponthieu, passing by Amiens, and fixed his quarters at Boves, then at Herbonnieres, Vauville, Bainviller, the French marching on the opposite bank of the Somme. At length the English crossed that river on the morrow of St. Luke's day, by the ford between Betencourt and Voyenne, which had not been staked by those of St. Quentin as they had been ordered by the king of France. The English army were quartered at Gache, near the river of Miraumont; and the lords of France, with their forces, retired to Bapaume and the adjacent parts.
CHAPTER CXLV - THE KING OF FRANCE AND SEVERAL OF THE PRINCES OF THE
BLOODROYAL HOLD A COUNCIL AT ROUEN, AND RESOLVE ON FIGHTING THE ENGLISH.
While these things were passing, the king of France and the duke of Aquitaine came .to Rouen, and on the 30th day of October a council was held to consider how they should best act, in regard to opposing the king of England. There were present at this council the king of Sicily, the dukes of Berry and Brittany, the count de Ponthieu, youngest son to the king of France, the chancellors of France and of Aquitaine, with other able advisers, to the amount of thirty-five persons. When the matter had been fully discussed in the king's presence, it was resolved by thirty of the said counsellors, that the king of England should be combated. The minority of five gave substantial reasons against fighting the English army at the time they had fixed on; but the opinion of the majority prevailed. The king of France instantly sent his commands to the constable, and to his other captains, to collect incontinently as large a force as they could, and give battle to the king of England. Orders were likewise dispatched through every part of the realm for all noblemen accustomed to bear arms to hasten day and night to the constable's army wherever it might be. The duke of Aquitaine had a great desire to join the constable, although his father had forbidden him; but, by the persuasions of the king of Sicily and the duke of Berry, he was prevailed on to give it up.
The different lords now hastened with all speed to unite their men to the army of the constable, who, on his approach towards Artois, sent the lord de Montgaugier to announce to the count de Charolois, only son of the duke of Burgundy, the positive orders he had received to give battle to the English, and to entreat him most affectionately, is the king's and constable's name, to make one of the party. The lord de Montgaugier met the count de Charolois at Arras, and was well received by him and his courtiers. When he had explained the cause of his coming to the count in presence of his council, the lords des Robais and de la Viefville, his principal ministers, replied, that the count would make sufficient haste to be present at the ensuing battle, and on this they parted. Now, although the count de Charolois most anxiously desired to combat the English, and though his said ministers gave him to understand that he should be present, they had received from the duke of Burgundy express orders to the contrary, and they were commanded, under pain of his highest displeasure, not to suffer him to go on any account. In consequence, to draw him farther off, they carried him from Arras to Aire. To this place the constable sent again to request his support; and Montjoye, king-at-arms, was dispatched to him with a similar request from the king of France. However, matters were managed otherwise by his ministers, and they even contrived to keep him secretly in the castle of Aire, that he might not know when the day of the battle was fixed. Notwithstanding this, the greater part of the officers of his household, well knowing that a battle must be near at hand, set out, unknown to him, to join the French in the ensuing combat with the English. The count de Charolois, therefore, remained with the young lord d’Antoing and his ministers, who at last, to appease him, were forced to avow the positive orders they had received, not to permit him to be present at the battle. This angered him very much; and, as I have been told, he withdrew to his chamber in tears.
We must now return to the king of England, whom we left at Monchy-la-Gache. He thence marched towards Ancre, and quartered himself at Forceville, and his army at Cheu and the adjacent parts. On the morrow, which was Wednesday, lie marched near to Lucheux, and was quartered at Bouvieres-l’Escaillon; but his uncle the duke of York, who commanded the van division, was lodged at Fienench, on the river Canche: it is true, that this night the English were quartered much apart, in seven or eight different villages. They were, however, no way interrupted; for the French had advanced, to be beforehand with them, at St. Pol and on the river Aunun. On the Thursday, the king of England dislodged from Bouvieres, and marched in handsome array to Blangy: when he had there crossed the river, and ascended the heights, his scouts saw the French advancing in large bodies of men-at-arms to quarter themselves at Rousiauville and Agincourt, to be ready to combat the English on the ensuing day.
On this Thursday, Philip count de Nevers, on his return from a reconnoitering party about vespers, was knighted by Boucicaut marshal of France, and with him many other great lords received that honour. Shortly after, the constable arrived near to Agincourt; and the whole French army, being then formed into one body, was encamped on the plain, each man under his banner, excepting those of low degree, who lodged themselves as well as they could in the adjoining villages. The king of England quartered his army at a small village called Maisoncelles, about three bow-shots distant from the enemy. The French, with all the royal officers, namely, the constable, the marshal Boucicaut, the lord de Dampierre and sir Clugnet de Brabant, each styling himself admiral of France, the lord de Rambures, master of the crossbows, with many other princes, barons, and knights, planted their banners, with loud acclamations of joy, around the royal banner of the constable, on the spot they had fixed upon, and which the English must pass on the following day, on their march to Calais.
Great fires were this night lighted near to the banner under which each person was to fight; but although the French were full one hundred and fifty thousand strong, with a prodigious number of wagon's and carts, containing cannon and all other military stores, they had but little music to cheer their spirits; and it was remarked, with surprise, that scarcely any of their horses neighed during the night, which was considered by many as a bad omen. The English, during the whole night, played on their trumpets, and various other instruments, insomuch that the whole neighbourhood resounded with their music; and notwithstanding they were much fatigued and oppressed by cold, hunger, and other discomforts, they made their peace with God, by confessing their sins with tears, and numbers of them taking the sacrament; for, as it was related by some prisoners, they looked for certain death on the morrow.
The duke of Orleans sent, in the nighttime, for the
count de Richemonte, who commanded the duke of Aquitaine’s men and the
Bretons, to join him; and when this was done, they amounted to about two hundred
men-at-arms and archers: they advanced near to the quarters of the English, who,
suspecting they meant to surprise them, drew up in battle array, and a smart
skirmish took place. The duke of Orleans and several others were, on this
occasion, knighted; but the action did not last long, and the French retired to
their camp, and nothing more was done that night. The duke of Brittany was, at
this time, come from Rouen, to Amiens, to join the French with six thousand men,
if the battle had been delayed until the Saturday. In like manner, the marshal
de Longny was hastening to their aid with six hundred men. He was quartered that
night only six leagues from the main army, and had set out very early the
following morning to join them.
CHAPTER CXLVI - THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH MEET IN BATTLE ON THE PLAINS OF
AGINCOURT. THE ENGLISH GAIN THE VICTORY.
On the ensuing day, which was Friday the 25th of October, in the year 1415, the constable and all the other officers of the king of France, the dukes of Orleans, Bourbon, Bar, and Alencon; the counts de Nevers, d’Eu, de Richemonte, de Vendome, de Marle, de Vaudemont, de Blaumonte, de Salines, de Grand Pre, de Roussy, de Dampmartin, and in general all the other nobles and men-at-arms, put on their armour and sallied out of their quarters. Then, by the advice of the constable and others of the king of France’s council, the army was formed into three divisions, the vanguard, the main body, and the rearguard. The van consisted of about eight thousand helmets, knights, esquires, four thousand archers, and fifteen hundred crossbows. This was commanded by the constable, having with him the dukes of Orleans and Bourbon, the counts d’Eu and de Richemonte, the marshal Boucicaut, the master of the crossbows, the lord de Dampierre admiral of France, Sir Guichart Dauphin, and some others. The count de Vendome, and others of the king's officers, were to form a wing of fifteen hundred men-at-arms, to fall on the right flank of the English; and another wing, under the command of sir Clugnet de Brabant, admiral of France, sir Louis Bourdon, and eight hundred picked men-at-arms, was to attack the left flank: with this last were included, to break in on the English archers, sir William de Savenses, with his brothers sir Hector and sir Philippe, Ferry de Mailly, Aliaume de Gaspamines, Allain de Vendome, Lamont de Launoy, and many more. The main battalion was composed of an equal number of knights, esquires, and archers, as the van, and commanded by the dukes of Bar and Alencon, the counts de Nevers, de Vaudemont, de Blallmont, de Salines, de Grand-pre, and de Roussy. The rearguard consisted of the surplus of men-at-arms, under the orders of the counts de Marle, de Dampmartin, de Fauquembergh, and the lord de Louvroy, governor of Ardres, who had led thither the garrisons on the frontiers of the Boulonois.
When these battalions were all drawn up, it was a grand sight to view; and they were, on a hasty survey, estimated to be more than six times the number of the English. After they had been thus arranged, they seated themselves by companies as near to their own banners as they could, to wait the coming of the enemy; and while they refreshed themselves with food, they made up all differences that might before have existed between any of them. In this state they remained until between nine and ten o'clock in the morning, no way doubting, from their numbers, but the English must fall an easy prey to them. Some, however, of the wisest of them had their fears, and dreaded the event of an open battle.
The English on that morning, perceiving that the French made no advances to attack them, refreshed themselves with meat and drink. After calling on the Divine aid against the French, who seemed to despise them, they dislodged from Maisoncelles, and sent some of their light troops in the rear of the town of Agincourt, where, not finding any men‑at-arms, in order to alarm tile French they set fire to a barn and house belonging to the priory of St. George at Hesdin. On the other hand, the king of England dispatched about two hundred archers to the rear of his army, with orders to enter the village of Tramecourt secretly, and to post themselves in a field near the van of the French, there to remain quiet until it should be proper time for them to use their bows. The rest of the English remained with king Henry, and were shortly after drawn up in battle array by sir Thomas Erpingham, a knight grown grey with age and honour, who placed the archers in front, and the men-at-arms behind them. He then formed two wings of men-at-arms and archers, and posted the horses with the baggage in the rear. Each archer planted before himself a stake sharpened at both ends.
Sir Thomas, in the name of the king, exhorted them all most earnestly to defend their lives, and thus saying he rode along their ranks attended by two persons. When all was done to his satisfaction, he flung into the air a truncheon which he held in his hand, crying out, “Nestrocque!” and then dismounted, as the King and the others had done. When the English saw sir Thomas throw up his truncheon, they set up a loud shout, to the very great astonishment of the French. The English seeing the enemy not inclined to advance, marched toward them in handsome array, and with repeated huzzas, occasionally stopping to recover their breath. The archers, who were hidden in tile field, reechoed these shouts, at the same time discharging their bows, while the English army kept advancing upon the French.
Their archers, amounting to at least thirteen thousand, let off a shower of arrows with all their might, and as high as possible, so as not to lose their effect: they were, for the most part, without any armour, and in jackets, with their hose loose, and hatchets or swords hanging to their girdles; some indeed were barefooted and without hats. The princes with the king of England were the duke of York, his uncle, the earls of Dorset, Oxford, Suffolk, the earl marshal, the earl of Kent, the lords Cambre, Beaumont, Willoughby, sir John de Cornewall, and many other powerful barons of England.
When the French observed the English thus advance, they drew up each under his banner, with his helmet on his head: they were, at the same time, admonished by the constable, and others of the princes, to confess their sins with sincere contrition and to fight boldly against the enemy. The English loudly sounded their trumpets as they approached, and the French stooped to prevent the arrows hitting them on the visors of their helmets; thus the distance was now but small between the two armies, although the French had retired some paces. Before, however, the general attack commenced, numbers of the French were slain and severely wounded by the English bowmen. At length the English gained on them so much, and were so close, that excepting the front line, and such as had shortened their lances, the enemy could not raise their hands against them. The division under sir Clugnet de Brabant, of eight hundred men-at-arms, who were intended to break through the English archers, were reduced to seven score, who vainly attempted it. True it is, that sir William de Saveuses, who had been also ordered on this service, quitted his troop, thinking they would follow him, to attack the English, but he was shot dead from off his horse. The others had their horses so severely handled by the archers, that, smarting from pain, they galloped on the van division and threw it into the utmost confusion, breaking the line in many places. The horses were become unmanageable, so that horses and riders were tumbling on the ground, and the whole army was thrown into disorder, and forced back on some lands that had been just sown with corn. Others, from fear of death, fled; and this caused so universal a panic in the army that great part followed the example.
The English took instant advantage of the disorder in the van division, and, throwing down their bows, fought lustily with swords, hatchets, mallets, and bill-hooks, slaying all before them. Thus they came to the second battalion that had been posted in the rear of the first; and the archers followed close king Henry and his men-at-arms. Duke Anthony of Brabant, who had just arrived in obedience to the summons of the king of France, threw himself with a small company (for, to make greater haste, he had pushed forward, leaving the main body of his men behind), between the wreck of the van and the second division; but he was instantly killed by the English, who kept advancing and slaying, without mercy, all that opposed them, and thus destroyed the main battalion as they had done the first. They were, from time to time, relieved by their varlets, who carried off the prisoners; for the English were so intent on victory, that they never attended to making prisoners, nor pursuing such as fled. The whole rear division being on horseback, witnessing the defeat of the two others, began to fly, excepting some of its principal chiefs.
During the heat of the combat, when the English had gained the upper hand and made several prisoners, news was brought to king Henry that the French were attacking his rear, and had already captured the greater part of his baggage and sumpter-horses. This was indeed true, for Robinet de Bournouville, Rifart de Clamasse, Ysambart d'Agincourt, and some other men-at-arms, with about six hundred peasants, had fallen upon and taken great part of the king's baggage and a number of horses, while the guard was occupied in the battle. This distressed the king very much, for he saw that though the French army had been routed they were collecting on different parts of the plain in large bodies, and he was afraid they would renew the battle. He therefore caused instant proclamation to be made by sound of trumpet, that every one should put his prisoners to death, to prevent them from aiding the enemy, should the combat be renewed. This caused an instantaneous and general massacre of the French prisoners, occasioned by the disgraceful conduct of Robinet de Bournouville, Ysambart d'Agincourt, and the others, who were afterward punished for it, and imprisoned a very long time by duke John of Burgundy, notwithstanding they had made a. present to the count de Charolois of a most precious sword, ornamented with diamonds, that had belonged to the king of England. They had taken this sword, with other rich jewels, from king Henry's baggage, and had made this present, that, in case they should at any time be called to an account for what they had done, the count might stand their friend.
The count de Marle, the count de Fauquemberg, the lords de Louvroy and du Chin, had with some difficulty retained about six hundred men-at-arms, with whom they made a gallant charge on the English; but it availed nothing, for they were all killed or made prisoners. There were other small bodies of French on different parts of the plain; but they were soon routed, slain, or taken. The conclusion was a complete victory on the part of the king of England, who only lost about sixteen hundred men of all ranks; among the slain was the duke of York, uncle to the king. On the eve of this battle, and the following morning, before it began, there were upwards of five hundred knights made by the French.
When the king of England found himself master of the field of battle, and that the French, excepting such as had been killed or taken, were flying in all directions, he made the circuit of the plain, attended by his princes; and while his men were employed in stripping the dead, he called to him the French herald, Montjoye, king-at-arms, and with him many other French and English heralds, and said to them, “It is not we who have made this great slaughter, but the omnipotent God, and, as we believe, for a punishment of the sins of the French.” He then asked Montjoye, to whom the victory belonged; to him, or to the king of France? Montjoye replied, that the victory was his, and could not be claimed by the king of France. The king then asked the name of the castle he saw near him: he was told it was called Agincourt. “Well then,” added he, “since all battles should bare the names of the fortress nearest to the spot where they were fought, this battle shall, from henceforth, bare the ever durable name of Agincourt.”
The English remained a considerable time on the field, and seeing they were delivered from their enemies, and that night was approaching, they retreated in a body to Maisoncelles, where they had lodged the preceding night: they again fixed their quarters there, carrying with them many of their wounded. After they had quitted the field of battle, several of the French, half dead and wounded, crawled away into an adjoining wood, or to some villages, as well as they could, where many expired. On the morrow, very early, king Henry dislodged with his army from Maisoncelles, and returned to the field of battle: all the French they found there alive were put to death or made prisoners. Then, pursuing their road toward the seacoast, they marched away: three parts of the army were on foot, sorely fatigued with their efforts in the late battle, and greatly distressed by famine and other wants. In this manner did the king of England return, without any hindrance, to Calais, rejoicing at his great victory, and leaving the French in the utmost distress and consternation at the enormous loss they had suffered.
From, The Chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet, translated by Thomas Johnes (London, 1840), vol. 1.