Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle


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British history buffs, readers of Shakespeare's Henry V. The Battle of Agincourt is one of the most, if not the most, famous battles in British history. I didn't know that until reading this book. After capturing the French town of Harfleur, which was lost because the French monarchy neglected to send protection from the English, Henry V and his army trudged on toward Calais.

What later resulted was the battle of Agincourt, in which Henry's army defeated the French even though they were outnumbered six to one although the exact ratio varies from scholars. Barker did a great deal of research for her book, giving numerous names, dates, ancestries and even romantic entanglements of some of the battle's participants. She gives the details of nearly every aspect of battle, e. I never thought I would be as engrossed with medieval history as I was while reading this book. For a nonfiction book filled with dates and names that I can't pronounce, Agincourt was actually not a difficult read.

I was a bit intimidated when I picked it up at the library, but it proved to be much easier than expected. It makes me want to check out other books pertaining to this period in European history. All has been meticulously researched. Jan 15, Bou rated it really liked it Shelves: A detailed account of the preparations, execution and aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt, the battle that made England Henry V, son of the usurper Henry IV, made two promises: By this, he had made himself a hostage to fortune, and by not living up to his promises this would be used as an excuse for every sort of A detailed account of the preparations, execution and aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt, the battle that made England Henry V, son of the usurper Henry IV, made two promises: By this, he had made himself a hostage to fortune, and by not living up to his promises this would be used as an excuse for every sort of opposition.

For Henry V, that he should become king of France was Gods will. From the start, he prepared for war. He succeeded in getting the support of the church, made sure the Scots would not trouble him and made his peace at home. Once this was done, he set sail for France. France in the meantime, was embroiled in a civil war which was just concluded with the Peace of Arras.

This was to the advantage of Henry V, where he could land unopposed and take Hanfleur, without encountering any resistance. It was in his long marck to Calais where he would win his spurs. The battle itself was won against all odds. The fine fleur of the French royalty would be massacred and allow the further conquest of Normandy later on. This book gives a detailed overview of the battle itself, but also the buildup that went before.

It therefore is a good introduction to the events surrounding the battle and sets it in a broader historical context. One thing that did not live up to the promise to the title is the fact that in general the book gives a good account of the battle itself, it does not sufficiently explain why this battle "made England", as promised in the title. All in all, 4 stars. Feb 21, J. Bryce rated it really liked it Shelves: Great overview of Henry V's first campaign in France, that resulted in the taking of Harfleur and the huge English victory at Agincourt.

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The real story behind one of Shakespeare's best remembered History plays! Highly recommended as a popular account of the Agincourt campaign. Jan 27, Mike rated it liked it Shelves: While 'Agincourt' is clearly a well-researched work, Juliet Barker breaks little new ground. The organisational and motivational abilities and piety and chivalry of Henry V have never been in doubt; nor have the insanity of King Charles VI of France, the cowardice of his son, the dauphin, or the divided nature of the French aristocracy many of whom behaved in a remarkably chivalrous way themselves of the day.

Barker's insistence on disagreeing with recent historians of the period, without givin While 'Agincourt' is clearly a well-researched work, Juliet Barker breaks little new ground. Barker's insistence on disagreeing with recent historians of the period, without giving much evidence to the contrary, as well as her seeming inability to fault a single action Henry undertook, grate after a while. The story is well told, with facts and figures in the right places, concentration on the correct characters Raoul de Gaucourt, who, still suffering from the dysentery which had afflicted him at the siege of Harfleur, gave himself up as a prisoner of Henry at the appointed date , etc, but questions remain unanswered in this work as to Henry's risking the lives of his 6, men against a much larger and fitter French force.

The piety of the day is insufficient explanation for this and other actions, which Barker glosses over with too reverential a tone for an historical work. Sep 30, Frederick rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a well researched book, and I learned much more about 15th century chivalry than I expected. Barker provides ample detail from contemporary sources, usually presenting the reader with the range of accounts provided at the time as well as what the "received" understanding is today. Occasionally, she asserts her own opinion in contrast to general opinion.

I bought the book to learn how Henry was able to win the battle of Agincourt, and I did learn that through this book. My only criticism i This is a well researched book, and I learned much more about 15th century chivalry than I expected. My only criticism is that while from time to time I found myself skimming past the abundant detail about, say, which French nobles fetched how much ransom, the chronology of the actual battle was not nearly as detailed as I had hoped.

Oct 26, Kerry rated it really liked it. Oh my goodness I just love Juliet Barker's historical writing. Clear lovely sentences, strong narrative pacing, and well chosen examples from primary sources. Best of all, she points out interesting or important parts of the historical events that aren't in the popular understanding of the story. Apr 09, B. Richardson rated it really liked it. Dan Carlin, the voice of Hardcore History, often says, "History is better than fiction. It is probably the best researched and written book on Agincourt that I have come across.

Even as Barker describes Henry V's world with rich detail, she keeps us moving forward in an easily readable book that is expertly written. I did not want to put it down and as soon ass I reached the final page, I went to look if Barker has a follow-up book on Henry's 2nd campaign. To my delight she d Dan Carlin, the voice of Hardcore History, often says, "History is better than fiction. To my delight she does and Conquest will be bumped to the top of my reading list as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. The only thing that keeps me from giving it a full five stars is that Barker falls into the common trap of giving us too much economic detail.

Because people of this time tended to keep a much better record of economic and monetary transactions than they did of other aspects of life, a disproportionate amount of the record historians have to pull from is of a fiscal nature. They, in turn, have a tendency to write a disproportionately large amount of their work on the same. While Barker is not nearly so bad as some others, I do believe she spent more time and detail than was necessary for a work this size writing on how Henry was able to finance his campaigns.

Jul 01, Nick. Schwarzenbach rated it really liked it. There are some remarkable leadership lessons in the first half of this interesting account of Henry V's Agincourt Campaign. The last third of the book captures the aftermath of war, noting in detail the decimation of a good portion of the French nobility, and the lengthy hostage negotiations for those who were captured. For me, this last bit was a slog, and I'd recommend to the casual reader that it might not be a good investment of time to stay with it until the end.

For the more academically i There are some remarkable leadership lessons in the first half of this interesting account of Henry V's Agincourt Campaign. For the more academically inclined, there are likely better ways to get data on the aftermath of the conflict. Although I have always been interested in History, majored in U.

History in college, and have almost exclusively read History books since, I never knew much about Agincourt except that it was a major English victory during the Hundred Years War. When the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt passed last month, I decided to learn some more about the battle and chose Agincourt: The book is roughly divided into three sections. The second section covers the campaign itself, including the siege of Harfleur, the fractious nature of the French, the Battle of Agincourt itself, and the reasons why the French lost. The third section explains the effect the battle and campaign had on both the French and English and looks at what happened to members of both the English and French nobility in years that followed, foreshadowing future conflict between the two.

She does an excellent job in bringing Henry V to life, showing how there were both practical and moral motivations for many of his actions. While reading Agincourt, I was particularly struck by two things: Henry V seems to have been an extraordinary leader — experienced, energetic, practical, and pious with a commanding personality.


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He seems to have recognized talent and ability and let bygones be bygones within reason when the situation called for it. The organizational and leadership differences between the English and the French were simply night and day and came down to Unity of Command; the English had it and the French did not.

The English had once clear commander and leader in Henry V. The French had no once clear commander in the field and as a result many of the nobility were at the front trying to do the same thing — advance their chivalric reputation. That ended up being one of the primary reasons the battle was lost, there was no one central leader to assign responsibilities then hold those commanders responsible as Henry V did with the English. I not only learned a lot about Henry V and the Agincourt Campaign, it whetted my appetite to learn more about the Hundred Years War and what came before and after Agincourt.

The English Kingdom of France, and it will be my next read. The only complaint that I have is one that I have with many military histories — a lack of maps.

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The Kindle version of Agincourt has no maps. Maps of where the English landed in France, their positions in the siege of Harfleur, movements of the French toward the English, and maps of the battlefield and movements during the battle would make the campaign, siege, and battle much easier to visualize and make it much easier to understand where the forces were in relation to each other. If the print version has maps, it would definitely be a five star book, but the Kindle version is a four star book for the lack of maps. In the fourteenth century, nation-states as we know them did not exist.

There was a England, and a France, but their borders were more fluid -- and entangled. The English crown held title to much of France through marriage and ancestry, and because the English royal house descended from a Franco-Norman duke, the king of England was technically a vassal of France. This created the kind of tension released only with knights and massed formations of archers: One of the most memorable episodes of the war was the upset at Agincourt, in which a small English force triumphed against a larger French array.

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His own father was a naked usurper who died early fighting resistance to his claim, and though the cloud of scandal was mostly lifted by the time the handsome young Harry succeeded, it hovered still. France needed addressing, however: England's prosperity came from trade, lately the Channel had become dangerous for shipping. Securing the coast would make it easier for England to smother piracy, and if the lush interior of France became a crown possession, so much the better!

It was not to be, however. Initial hopes for a display of overwhelming force against the French countryside fell apart during a siege of a French harbor, Harfleur. The port was taken eventually, but its defenders' obstinacy cost the English army dearly. By the time the gates opened, the invading force's strength had been sapped by disease. His numbers too much for the battered city to sustain, Henry decided to retire to the English held-port of Calais. He could limp to safety only through a country of enemies, whose watch over the rivers prevented a quick dash north.

After watching the dwindling army for several days, the French finally checked the king's march near the tiny village of Azincourt. Grossly outnumbered and weakened by sickness, the English should have been crushed. Instead, the Battle of Agincourt turned out to be one of the greatest upsets in western history. The section on the actual battle isn't enormous, this is a story of why Agincourt happened and why it was important, and while the full story of the battle is delivered with talent, this isn't a military history.

Unto the breach

The reasons for victory are there: Henry drawing the French into battle on ground of his choosing, in an area that undermined the French cavalry and allowed the English to make the most of their excellent longbows -- and when the French desperately pushed through the mud and rain of death to assail the archers, the English knights pounced! In later campaigns Henry would achieve his aims briefly against the French crown; history would see them reversed, however, squandered by less heroic successors. No one save historians can remember the Treaty of Troyes -- but Agincourt has achieved greater fame.

Not only did it save Henry from capture or death, but the miraculous upset seemed to impress upon the English that regardless of the spurious actions of his father, Harry was God's own anointed. Why else would he have been spared? It was a triumph of not just arms, but belief. There are undoubtedly more detailed military histories of the battle, but Barker's narrative gives the reader both a heroic champion whose surprising victory comes as a delight, and a lot of background information on early 15th-century English society and trade.

For an introduction to the battle, it's quite serviceable and easy reading. Mar 07, A rated it liked it. This is a book that took me a while to get through, mostly because my expectations were out of line with what the book could have provided. I was looking for deep tactical analysis of the battle itself, instead the book proved to be a comprehensive look at all aspects of the campaign which lead to the battle of Agincourt, from its formation to its conclusion and beyond.

Military textbooks of the time stated: They were blocking Henry's retreat, and were perfectly happy to wait for as long as it took. There had even been a suggestion that the English would run away rather than give battle when they saw that they would be fighting so many French princes. Henry's men, on the other hand, were already very weary from hunger, illness and marching. Even though Henry knew as well as the French did that his army would perform better on the defensive, he was eventually forced to take a calculated risk, and move his army further forward to start the battle.

The tightness of the terrain also seems to have restricted the planned deployment of the French forces. The French had originally drawn up a battle plan that had archers and crossbowmen in front of their men-at-arms, with a cavalry force at the rear specifically designed to "fall upon the archers, and use their force to break them," [43] but in the event, the French archers and crossbowmen were deployed behind and to the sides of the men-at-arms where they seem to have played almost no part, except possibly for an initial volley of arrows at the start of the battle.

The cavalry force, which could have devastated the English line if it had attacked while they moved their stakes, charged only after the initial volley of arrows from the English. It is unclear whether the delay occurred because the French were hoping the English would launch a frontal assault and were surprised when the English instead started shooting from their new defensive position , or whether the French mounted knights instead did not react quickly enough to the English advance.

French chroniclers agree that when the mounted charge did come, it did not contain as many men as it should have; Gilles le Bouvier states that some had wandered off to warm themselves and others were walking or feeding their horses. The French cavalry, despite being somewhat disorganised and not at full numbers, charged towards the longbowmen, but it was a disaster, with the French knights unable to outflank the longbowmen because of the encroaching woodland and unable to charge through the forest of sharpened stakes that protected the archers.

John Keegan argues that the longbows' main influence on the battle at this point was injuries to horses: Juliet Barker quotes a contemporary account by a monk of St. Denis who reports how the wounded and panicking horses galloped through the advancing infantry, scattering them and trampling them down in their headlong flight from the battlefield. The plate armour of the French men-at-arms allowed them to close the 1, yards or so to the English lines while being under what the French monk of Saint Denis described as "a terrifying hail of arrow shot".

A complete coat of plate was considered such good protection that shields were generally not used, [47] although the Burgundian contemporary sources specifically distinguish between Frenchmen who used shields and those who did not, and Rogers has suggested that the front elements of the French force used axes and shields.

He considers a knight in the best quality steel armour would have been more or less invulnerable to an arrow on the breastplate or top of the helmet, but would still have been vulnerable to shots hitting the limbs, particularly at close range. This head lowered position restricted both their breathing and their vision.

Increasingly they had to walk around or over fallen comrades.

Battle of Agincourt

The surviving French men-at-arms reached the front of the English line and pushed it back, with the longbowmen on the flanks continuing to shoot at point-blank range. When the archers ran out of arrows, they dropped their bows and using hatchets , swords and the mallets they had used to drive their stakes in, attacked the now disordered, fatigued and wounded French men-at-arms massed in front of them.


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  6. The French could not cope with the thousands of lightly armoured longbowmen assailants who were much less hindered by the mud and weight of their armour combined with the English men-at-arms. The impact of thousands of arrows, combined with the slog in heavy armour through the mud, the heat and difficulty breathing in plate armour with the visor down [51] , and the crush of their numbers meant the French men-at-arms could "scarcely lift their weapons" when they finally engaged the English line.

    Rogers suggests that the French at the back of their deep formation would have been attempting to push forward and quite literally add their weight to the advance, without realising that they were hindering the ability of those at the front to manoeuvre and fight, actually pushing them into the English formation of lancepoints.

    After the initial wave, the French would have had to fight over and on the bodies of those who had fallen before them. In such a "press" of thousands of men, Rogers finds it plausible that a significant number could have suffocated in their armour, as is described by several sources, and is also known to have happened in other battles. The French men-at-arms were taken prisoner or killed in the thousands. The fighting lasted about three hours, but eventually the leaders of the second line were killed or captured, as those of the first line had been.

    The English Gesta Henrici describes three great heaps of the slain around the three main English standards. Upon hearing that his youngest brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester had been wounded in the groin, Henry took his household guard and stood over his brother, in the front rank of the fighting, until Humphrey could be dragged to safety. The king received an axe blow to the head, which knocked off a piece of the crown that formed part of his helmet. The only French success was an attack on the lightly protected English baggage train, with Ysembart d'Azincourt leading a small number of men-at-arms and varlets plus about peasants seizing some of Henry's personal treasures, including a crown.

    Certainly, d'Azincourt was a local knight but he might have been chosen to lead the attack because of his local knowledge and the lack of availability of a more senior soldier. Barker, following the Gesta Henrici , believed to have been written by an English chaplain who was actually in the baggage train, concludes that the attack happened at the start of the battle. Regardless of when the baggage assault happened, at some point after the initial English victory, Henry became alarmed that the French were regrouping for another attack.

    The Gesta Henrici places this after the English had overcome the onslaught of the French men-at-arms and the weary English troops were eyeing the French rearguard "in incomparable number and still fresh" [34]. It seems it was purely a decision of Henry, since the English knights found it contrary to chivalry , and contrary to their interests to kill valuable hostages for whom it was commonplace to ask ransom.

    Henry threatened to hang whoever did not obey his orders. In any event, Henry ordered the slaughter of what were perhaps several thousand French prisoners, sparing only the highest ranked presumably those most likely to fetch a large ransom under the chivalric system of warfare. According to most chroniclers, Henry's fear was that the prisoners who, in an unusual turn of events, actually outnumbered their captors would realize their advantage in numbers, rearm themselves with the weapons strewn about the field and overwhelm the exhausted English forces.

    Contemporary chroniclers did not criticise him for it. Such an event would have posed a risk to the still-outnumbered English and could have easily turned a stunning victory into a mutually-destructive defeat, as the English forces were now largely intermingled with the French and would have suffered grievously from the arrows of their own longbowmen had they needed to resume shooting.

    Keegan also speculated that due to the relatively low number of archers actually involved in killing the French knights roughly by his estimate , together with the refusal of the English knights to assist in a duty they saw as distastefully unchivalrous and combined with the sheer difficulty of killing such a large number of prisoners in such a short space of time, the actual number of French knights killed might not have even reached the hundreds before the reserves fled the field and Henry called an end to the slaughter.

    The lack of reliable sources makes it impossible to give a precise figure for the French and English casualties dead, wounded, taken prisoner. However, it is clear that though the English were outnumbered, their losses were far lower than those of the French. The French sources all give 4,—10, French dead, with up to 1, English dead. The lowest ratio in these French sources has the French losing six times more men than the English.

    More books by Juliet Barker

    It has been possible to name at least individuals from the French army killed in the battle and over prisoners. The English sources vary between about 1, and 11, for the French dead, with English dead put at no more than Using the lowest French estimate of their own dead of 4, would imply a ratio of nearly 9 to 1 in favour of the English, or over 10 to 1 if the prisoners are included. The French suffered heavily. Three dukes , at least eight counts , a viscount , and an archbishop died, along with numerous other nobles. In the words of Juliet Barker, the battle "cut a great swath through the natural leaders of French society in Artois , Ponthieu , Normandy , Picardy.

    Although the victory had been militarily decisive, its impact was complex. It did not lead to further English conquests immediately as Henry's priority was to return to England, which he did on 16 November, to be received in triumph in London on the 23rd. It established the legitimacy of the Lancastrian monarchy and the future campaigns of Henry to pursue his "rights and privileges" in France. Very quickly after the battle, the fragile truce between the Armagnac and Burgundian factions broke down.

    The brunt of the battle had fallen on the Armagnacs and it was they who suffered the majority of senior casualties and carried the blame for the defeat. The Burgundians seized on the opportunity and within 10 days of the battle had mustered their armies and marched on Paris. When that campaign took place, it was made easier by the damage done to the political and military structures of Normandy by the battle.

    Notable casualties most named by Enguerrand de Monstrelet [70] include: Among the circa 1, prisoners taken by the English, were the following French notables: The Hooligans of Kandahar: Not All War Stories are Heroic. Not all true war stories are heroic. Mismanaged and overlooked by command, a group of soldiers must fight to survive in Afghanistan.

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    Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention french army juliet barker battle of agincourt middle ages english army hundred years king henry invasion of france fighting men well written years war excellent job made england english archers siege of harfleur military historian civil war english and french medieval warfare highly recommended. There was a problem filtering reviews right now.

    Please try again later. I enjoyed this book very much. There has been a criticism that the actual battle didn't get enough coverage, but the title refers to "The King, The Campaign, The Battle", and I found the first two points very interesting. The battle was quite short, and very bloody, so I don't know how writing about it could have been extended. The history of Henry V was very interesting. One could become king almost by default in medieval times. Being on hand when father died and the first son was off fighting was an easier way to get the crown. Charles VI intermittent madness when he believed himself to be made of glass.

    The French civil war or disputes that were ongoing at the time kept France divided. All of great help to Henry. I did rush a bit through the Rewards of Victory, and the long lists of names of the fallen. I also admit I didn't read the last two chapters. What seemed like criticism of a fellow author was a bit unwarranted from my point of view.

    Also I won't be checking out the Agincourt memorials. All in all, a very good book. This is an excellent book. I learned a lot about social structure and warfare in the late medieval period. It's a bid tedious at first unless you're into sifting through various lineages as they relate to claims to the English throne. After you wade through its beginning the book explodes into very informative detail on raising, equipping, and leading an army.

    If that too sounds tedious, there's enough insight into the character of the people involved to keep it interesting. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Ms Barker does an excellent job of telling a detailed account of Agincourt. This battle ranks as one of the famous amongst many in military history. This narrative is different in that Ms Barker relates a decisive battle to a larger campaign.

    With the skill and detail of a staff officer, she takes the reader from concept of the operation to execution. Her research is thorough and she deftly captures the complexities of running military operations. She skillfully weaves the human cost. Not only to the dead on the field but also the women and children left behind. A wonderful read for military leaders, historians and humanists alike. This is history at its best:

    Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle
    Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle
    Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle
    Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle
    Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle
    Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle

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