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Author: Raphael Holinshed
Editor: James Mardock
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Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1587 (Selection)


56Agincourt

Before Agincourt (p. 552)

The Duke of York that led the vanguard (after the army was passed the river) mounted up to the height of an hill with his people and sent out scouts to discover the country, the which upon their return advertised him that a great army of Frenchmen was at hand, approaching towards them. The duke declared to the king what he had heard,King Henry rideth forth to take view of the French army. and the king thereupon, without all fear or trouble of mind, caused the battle which he led himself to stay, and incontinently rode forth to view his adversaries [TLN 2241-42], and that done, returned to his people, and with cheerful countenance [TLN 1824-29] caused them to be put in order of battle, assigning to every captain such room and place as he thought convenient, and so kept them still in that order till night was come, and then determined to seek a place to encamp and lodge his army in for that night.

57There was not one amongst them that knew any certain place whither to go in that unknown country, but by chance they happened upon a beaten way, white in sight, by the which they were brought unto a little village where they were refreshed with meat and drink somewhat more plenteously than they had been divers days before. Order was taken by commandment from the king, after the army was first set in battle array, that no noise or clamor should be made in the host [TLN 1914-31], so that in marching forth to this village, every man kept himself quiet. But at their coming into the village, fires were made to give light on every side, as there likewise were in the French host [TLN 1797-98], which was encamped not past two hundred and fifty paces distant from the English [TLN 1753]. The chief leaders of the French host were these: the Constable of France, the marshal, the admiral, the Lord Rambures, Master of the Crossbows, and other of the French nobility, which came and pitched down their standards and bannersThe number of the French men three score thousand. Enguerant. in the county of Saint Paul, within the territory of Agincourt, having in their army (as some write) to the number of threescore thousand horsemen, besides footmen, wagoners, and other [TLN 2443-44].

58They were lodged even in the way by the which the Englishmen must needs pass towards Calais, and all that night after their coming thither made great cheer and were very merry, pleasant, and full of game. The Englishmen also for their parts were of good comfort, and nothing abashed of the matter, and yet they were both hungry, weary, sore-traveled, and vexed with many cold diseases [TLN 1806-17]. Howbeit reconciling themselves with God by housel and shrift, requiring assistance at his hands that is the only giver of victory, they determined rather to die, than to yield, or flee [TLN 2025-23]. The day following was the five-and-twentieth of October in the year 1415, beingThe battle of Agincourt, the 25 of October 1415. then Friday, and the feast of Crispin and Crispinian [TLN 2284], a day fair and fortunate to the English, but most sorrowful and unlucky to the French.

59The morning of battle (pp. 553).

In the morning, the French captains made three battles. . . . The French esteemed six to one English.The Frenchmen being ordered under their standards and banners made a great show, for surely they were esteemed in number six times as many or more than was the whole company of the Englishmen, with wagoners, pages and all [TLN 2245]. They rested themselves, waiting for the bloody blast of the terrible trumpet, till the hour between nine and ten of the clock of the same day, during which season, the constable made unto the captains and other men of war a pithy oration, exhorting and encouraging them to do valiantly, with many comfortable words and sensible reasons [TLN 2186-2208]. King Henry also, like a leader and not as one led, like a sovereign and not an inferior, perceiving a plot of ground very strong and meet for his purpose, which on the back half was fenced with the village wherein he had lodged the night before, and on both sides defended with hedges and bushes, thought good there to embattle his host, and so ordered his men in the same place, as he saw occasion, and as stood for his most advantage.

60The order of the English army and archers.First, he sent privily two hundred archers into a low meadow, which was near to the vanguard of his enemies but separated with a great ditch, commanding them there to keep themselves close till they had a token to them given to let drive at their adversaries; beside this, he appointed a vanguard, of the which he made captain Edward Duke of York, who of an haughty courage had desired that office [TLN 2280], and with him were the lords Beaumont, Willoughby, The vanguard all of archers.and Fanhope, and this battle was all of archers. The middle ward was governed by the king himself, with his brother the Duke of Gloucester, and the earls of Marshall, Oxford, and Suffolk, in the which were all the strong billmen. The Duke of Exeter, uncle to the king, led the rearward, which was mixed both with billmen and archers. The horsemen like wings went on every side of the battle.

61Archers the greatest force of the English army.Thus the king, having ordered his battles, feared not the puissance of his enemies, but yet to provide that they should not with the multitude of horsemen break the order of his archers, in whom the force of Abr. Fl. Out of Fabian pag. 392 and Polychron.his army consisted -- for in those days the yeomen had their limbs at liberty, sith their hosen were then fastened with one point, and their jacks long and easy to shoot in, so that they might draw bows of great strength, and shoot arrows of a yard long, beside the head -- he caused stakes, bound with ironA politic invention. sharp at both ends, of the length of five or six foot, to be pitched before the archers and of each side the footmen like an hedge, to the intent that if the barded horses ran rashly upon them, they might shortly be gored and destroyed. Certain persons also were appointed to remove the stakes, as by the moving of the archers occasion and time should require, so that the footmen were hedged about with stakes, and the horsemen stood like a bulwark between them and their enemies, without the stakes. This deviceHall. of fortifying an army was at this time first invented, but since that time they have devised caltrops, harrows, and other new engines against the force of horsemen, so that if the enemies run hastily upon the same, either are their horses wounded with the stakes, or their feet hurt with the other engines, so as thereby the beasts are gored, or else made unable to maintain their course.

62King Henry, by reason of his small number of people to fill up his battles, placed his vanguard so on the right hand of the main battle, which himself led, that the distance betwixt them might scarce be perceived, and so in like case was the rearward joined on the left hand, that the one might the more readily succor another in time of need. When he had thus ordered his battles, he left a small company to keep his camp and carriage, which remained still in the village [TLN 2453-56], and then calling his captains and soldiers about him, he made to them a right grave oration,King Henry's oration to his men. moving them to play the men, whereby to obtain a glorious victory, as there was hope certain they should, the rather if they would but remember the just cause for which they fought and whom they should encounter, such faint-hearted people as their ancestors had so often overcome [TLN 1102-4]. To conclude, many words of courage he uttered to stir them to do manfully, assuring them that England should never be charged with his ransom, nor any Frenchmen triumph over him as a captive, for either by famous death or glorious victory would he (by God's grace) win honor and fame [TLN 1604, 2337-41].

63It is said, that as he heard one of the host utter his wish to another thus: "I would A wish.to God there were with us now so many good soldiers as are at this hour within England!" [TLN 2259-61] The king answered:

64I would not wish a man more here than I have. We are indeed A noble courage of a valiant prince.in comparison to the enemies but a few, but if God of his clemency do favor us and our just cause, as I trust he will, we shall speed well enough [TLN 2262-67]. But let no man ascribe victory to our own strength and might, but only to God's assistance, to whom I have no doubt we shall worthily have cause to give thanks therefor. And if so be that for our offenses' sakes we shall be delivered into the hands of our enemies, the less number we be, the less damage shall the realm of England sustain. But if we should fight in trust of multitude of men, and so get the victory (our minds being prone to pride), we should thereupon peradventure ascribe the victory not so much to the gift of God as to our own puissance, and thereby provoke his high indignation and displeasure against us. And if the enemy get the upper hand, then should our realm and country suffer more damage and stand in further danger. But be you of good comfort, and show yourselves valiant. God and our just quarrel shall defend us, and deliver these our proud adversaries, with all the multitude of them which you see (or at the least the most of them), into our hands.

65The French before the battle (pp. 553-54)

Whilst the king was yet thus in speech, either army so maligned the other, being as then in open sight, that every man cried, "Forward! Forward!" The dukes of Clarence, Gloucester, and York were of the same opinion, yet the king stayed awhile lest any jeopardy were not foreseen, or any hazard not prevented. The Frenchmen, in the meanwhile, as though they had been sure of victory, made great triumph, for the captains had determined before how to divide the spoil [TLN 1786-87], and the soldiers the night before had played the Englishmen at dice [TLN 1807-8]. The noblemen had devised a chariot wherein they might triumphantly convey the king captive to the city of Paris, crying to their soldiers, "Haste you to the spoil! Glory and honor!" -- little weening, God wot, how soon their brags should be blown away.

66Another call for Henry's ransom (p. 554)

Hall.Here we may not forget how the French thus in their jollity sent an herald to King Henry to inquire what ransom he would offer [TLN 2325-27]. Whereunto he answered that within two or three hours he hoped it would so happen that the Frenchmen should be glad to common rather with the Englishmen for their ransoms than the English to take thought for their deliverance, promising for his own part that his dead carcass should rather be a prize to the Frenchmen than that his living body should pay any ransom [TLN 2370-73].

67The battle begins (p. 554)

When the messenger was come back to the French host, the men of war put on their helmets, and caused their trumpets to blow to the battle. They thought themselves so sure of victory that divers of the noblemen made such haste towards the battle that they left many of their servants and men of war behind them, and some of them would not once stay for their standards; as amongst other the Duke of Brabant, when his standard was not come, caused a banner to be taken from a trumpet and fastened to a spear, the which he commanded to be borne before him instead of his standard [TLN 2233-35].

68But when both these armies, coming within danger either of other, set in full order of battle on both sides, they stood still at the first, beholding either other's demeanor, being not distant in sunder past three bowshots. And when they had on both parts thus stayed a good while without doing anything -- except that certain of the French horsemen, advancing forwards betwixt both the hosts, were by the English archers constrained to return back -- advice was taken amongst the Englishmen what was best for them to do. Thereupon, all things considered, it was determined that sith the Frenchmen would not come forward, the king with his army embattled (as ye have heard) should march towards them, and so leaving their truss and baggage in the village where they lodged the night before, only with their weapons, armor, and stakes prepared for the purpose, as ye have heard.

69These made somewhat forward, before whom there went an old knight, Sir Thomas Erpingham,The English gave the onset. a man of great experience in the war, with a warder in his hand; and when he cast up his warder, all the army shouted, but that was a sign to the archers in the meadow, which therewith shot wholly altogether at the vanguard of the Frenchmen, who when The two armies join battle.they perceived the archers in the meadow and saw they could not come at them for a ditch that was betwixt them, with all haste set upon the foreward of King Henry, but ere they could join, the archers in the forefront and the archers on that side which stood in the meadow so wounded the footmen, galled the horses, and cumbered the men of arms that the footmen durst not go forward, the horsemen ran together upon plumps without order, some overthrew such as were next them, and the horses overthrew their masters, and so at the first joining the Frenchmen were foully discomforted and the Englishmen highly encouraged.

70When the French vanguard was thus brought to confusion, the English archers cast away their bows and took into their hands axes, mauls, swords, The vanguard of the French discomforted.bills, and other hand weapons, and with the same slew the Frenchmen until they came to the middle ward. Then approached the king, and so encouraged his people, that shortly the second battle of the FrenchmenTheir battle beaten. was overthrown, and dispersed, not without great slaughter of men; howbeit divers were relieved by their varlets and conveyed out of the field. The Englishmen were so busied in fighting and taking of the prisoners at hand that they followed not in chase of their enemies, nor would once break out of their array of battle. Yet sundry of the Frenchmen strongly withstood the fierceness of the English when they came to handy strokes, so that the fight sometime was doubtful and perilous. Yet as part of the French horsemen set their course to have entered upon the king's battle, with the stakes overthrown, they were either taken or slain. Thus this battle continued three long hours.

71The king that day showed himself a valiant knight, albeit almost felled by the Duke of Alençon [TLN 2684-85]; yet with plain strength he slew two of the duke's company, and felled the duke himself, whom when he would have yielded, the king's guard (contrary to his mind) slew out of hand. In conclusion, the king, minding to make an end of that day's journey, caused his horsemen to fetch a compass about, and to join with him against the rearward of the Frenchmen, in the which was the greatest number of people.

72The attack on Henry's camp and the killing of the prisoners (p. 554)

When the Frenchmen perceived his intent, they The French rearward discomfited.were suddenly amazed and ran away like sheep, without order or array [TLN 2464-65]. Which when the king perceived, he encouraged his men and followed so quickly upon the enemies that they ran hither and thither, casting away their armor; many on their knees desired to have their lives saved [TLN 2435].

73In the mean season, while the battle thus continued and that the Englishmen had taken a great number of prisoners, certain Frenchmen on horseback, whereof were captains Robinet of Bourneville, Rifflart of Clamas, Isambert of Agincourt, and other men of arms to the number of six hundred horsemen, which were the first that fled, hearing that the English tents and pavilions were a good way distant from the army without any sufficient guard to defend the same, either upon a covetous meaning to gain by the spoil or upon a desire to be revenged, entered upon the king's camp and there spoiledThe king's camp robbed. the hales, robbed the tents, brake up chests, and carried away baskets, and slew such servants as they found to make any resistance [TLN 2526-33]. For which treason and haskardy in thus leaving their camp at the very point of fight, for winning of spoil where none to defend it, very many were after committed to prison, and had lost their lives if the dauphin had longer lived.

74But when the outcry of the lackeys and boys which ran away for fear of the Frenchmen thus spoiling the camp came to the king's ears, he, doubting lest his enemies should gather together again and begin a new field [TLN 2521], and mistrusting further that the prisoners would be an aid to his enemies or the very enemies to their takers indeed if they were suffered to live, contrary to his accustomed gentleness commanded by sound of trumpet that every man, upon pain of death, should incontinently slay his prisoner [TLN 2522-23]. When this dolorous decree and pitiful proclamationAll the prisoners slain. was pronounced, pity it was to see how some Frenchmen were suddenly sticked with daggers, some were brained with poleaxes, some slain with mauls, other had their throats cut, and some their bellies paunched, so that in effect, having respect to the great number, few prisoners were saved.

75The end of the battle and its aftermath (4.7-4.8), 1415 (pp. 554-55)

When this lamentable slaughter was ended, the Englishmen disposed themselves in order of battle, ready to abide a new field, and also to invade and newly set on their enemies. . . . Some write that the king, perceiving his enemies in one part to assemble together as though they meant to give a new battle for preservation of the prisoners, sent to them an herald, commanding them either to depart out of his sight, or else to come forward at A right wise and valiant challenge of the king.once and give battle, promising herewith that if they did offer to fight again, not only those prisoners which his people already had taken, but also so many of them as in this new conflict which they thus attempted should fall into his hands, should die the death without redemption [TLN 2581-90].

76The Frenchmen, fearing the sentence of so terrible a decree, without further delay parted out of the field. And so about four of the clock in the afternoon, the king, when he saw no appearance of enemies, caused the retreat to be blown, and gathering his army Thanks given to God for the victory.together, gave thanks to almighty God for so happy a victory, causing his prelates and chaplains to sing this psalm: In exitu Israel de Aegypto, and commanded every man to kneel down on the ground at A worthy example of a godly prince.this verse: Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. Which done, he caused Te Deum, with certain anthems to be sung, giving laud and praise to God without boasting of his own force or any Titus Liviushuman power [TLN 2835-44]. That night he and his people took rest and refreshed themselves with such victuals as they found in the French camp, but lodged in the same village where he lay the night before [TLN 2834].

77In the morning, Montjoy king-at-arms and four other French heralds came to the king to know the number of prisoners, and to desire burial for the dead [TLN 2598-2611]. Before he made them answer (to understand what they would say), he demanded of them why they made to him that request, considering that he knew not whether the victory was his or theirs [TLN 2612-15]. When Montjoy by true and just confession had cleared that doubt to the high praise of the king, he desired of Montjoy to understand the name of the castle near adjoining. When they had told him that it was called The battle of Agincourt.Agincourt, he said "Then shall this conflict be called the battle of Agincourt" [TLN 2618-20]. He feasted the French officers of arms that day, and granted them their request, which busily sought through the field for such as were slain. But the Englishmen suffered them not to go alone, for they searched with them [TLN 2647-49], and found many hurt, but not in jeopardy of their lives, whom they took prisoners and brought them to their tents. When the King of England had well refreshed himself and his soldiers that had taken the spoil of such as were slain, he with his prisoners in good order returned to his town of Calais [TLN 2846-47]. . . .

78There were taken prisoners Charles Duke of Noble men prisoners.Orléans, nephew to the French king, John Duke of Bourbon, the Lord Boucicault, one of the marshals of France (he after died in England), with a number of other lords, knights, and esquires, at the least fifteen hundred, besides the common people [TLN 2793-98]. There wereThe number slain on the French part. Englishmen slain. slain in all of the French part to the number of ten thousand men, whereof were princes and noblemen bearing banners one hundred twenty and six; to these, of knights, esquires, and gentlemen, so many as made up the number of eight thousand and four hundred (of the which five hundred were dubbed knights the night before the battle), so as of the meaner sort, not past sixteen hundred [2799-2807]. Amongst those of the nobility that were slain, these were the chiefest: Charles Lord d’Albret, High Constable of France; Jacques of Châtillon Lord of Dampier, Admiral of France; the Lord Rambures, Master of the Crossbows; Sir Guichard Dauphin, Great Master of France; John Duke of Alençon; Antony Duke of Brabant, brother to the Duke of Burgundy, Edward Duke of Bar, the Earl of Nevers, another brother to the Duke of Burgundy; with the earls of Marle, Vaudémont, Beaumont, Granpré, Roucy, Fauquemberge, Foix, and Lestrelles, beside a great number of lords and barons of name [TLN 2810-19].

79Of Englishmen there died at this battle EdwardEnglishmen slain. Duke York, the Earl of Suffolk, Sir Richard Kyghley, and Davey Gam, Esquire, and of all other not above five-and-twenty persons [TLN 2821-23], as some do report; but other writers of greater credit affirm that there were slain above five or six hundred persons.Rich. Grafton. Titus Livius saith that there were slain of Englishmen,Titus Livius. beside the Duke of York and the Earl of Suffolk, an hundred persons at the first encounter. The Duke of Gloucester, the king's brother, was sore wounded about the hips and borne down to the ground so that he fell backwards with his feet towards his enemies, whom the king bestrid and like a brother valiantly rescued from his enemies, and so saving his life, caused him to be conveyed out of the fight, into a place of more safety. . . .