On October 25, 1415, during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) between England and France, Henry V (1386-1422), the young king of England, led his forces to victory at the Battle of Agincourt in northern France. After further conquests in France, Henry V was recognized in 1420 as heir to the French throne and the regent of France.
Battle of Agincourt: Background
Two months before the Battle of Agincourt began, King Henry V crossed the English Channel with some 11,000 men and laid siege to Harfleur in Normandy. After five weeks the town surrendered, but Henry lost half his men to disease and battle casualties. He decided to march his army northeast to Calais, where he would meet the English fleet and return to England. However, at Agincourt a vast French army of some 20,000 men stood in his path, greatly outnumbering the exhausted English archers, knights and men-at-arms.
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Battle of Agincourt: October 25, 1415
The battlefield lay on 1,000 yards of open ground between two woods, which prevented large-scale maneuvers and thus worked to Henry’s advantage. On the morning of October 25, the battle commenced. The English stood their ground as French knights, weighed down by their heavy armor, began a slow advance across the muddy battlefield. The French were met by a furious bombardment of artillery from the English archers, who wielded innovative longbows with a range of 250 yards. French cavalrymen tried and failed to overwhelm the English positions, but the archers were protected by a line of pointed stakes. As more and more French knights made their way onto the crowded battlefield, their mobility decreased further, and some lacked even the room to raise their arms and strike a blow. At this point, Henry ordered his lightly equipped archers to rush forward with swords and axes, and the unencumbered Englishmen massacred the French.
Almost 6,000 Frenchmen lost their lives during the Battle of Agincourt, while English casualties stood around several hundred. Despite the odds against him, Henry had won one of the great victories in military history.
Battle of Agincourt: Aftermath
After further conquests in France, Henry V was recognized in 1420 as heir to the French throne and the regent of France. He was at the height of his powers but died just two years later of camp fever near Paris.