What they didn't tell you about Agincourt

stuck agincourtCaptured Knights were always ransomed back except at the battle of Agincourt where they were killed. Why?

King Henry had no recourse. His own army was about to hand over England and him to the French knights.

Henry's Army of ~6,600 men captured about 8,000 of the 11,200 French knights when their horses got stuck in the mud. Almost all accounts state that there were more knights taken prisoner than there were English soldiers.

Distilled down to one sentence what happened was this. Suddenly instead of being killed each of the 6600 poor English foot soldiers were gong to receive nearly a kings ransom (about $12.5 Million today) for releasing the captured knights. That immediately and completely corrupted most of them into considering the French Knights additional request to include King Henry as part of the deal.

That should put every thing in a different light for those of you who are interested in this historical event..


All except a very of the Englishmen were trained as archers and half of them had no other weapons.

The ransoming of Knights works well, which was the tradition, but only when you have captured a few. The peasant soldiers get money from the process and the rich knight gets to live. It's different when you have captured 8,000.

However Agincourt was in the middle of the hundred years war and half the French Knights had been captured and ransomed at least one time previously. The English found out from previously capture knights that on the average they had already killed an median number of 4 English foot soldiers (over 5.5 was the average).* Some had been captured 4 times before and that meant they had killed 22 Englishmen. Henry did not like that.

Another problem was that about half the 'French' knights were not from France but from other European countries. They had joined the French side like Hitler did Franco's side in the Spanish revolution to test his men, weapons and strategy. They were mercenaries. Henry liked this far less.

Once they had been captured the French knights all wanted to go home so they could get ready to kill more Englishmen in another few years. The 8,000 captured French Knights meant 44,000 more dead Englishmen at the next battle. Henry liked that least of all.

About the beginning of the 100 years war (in 1300 AD) England's population was about 5 million and France 20 million. In the 80 years that had passed England's manpower had dropped until the French had 10 (up to 25) times the available men for their army. The English had almost no men by the time of Agincourt to make an army. When those few men went to war it meant they were not growing crops. There were actually many stories recorded of men who planted, went to fight, were killed and of course they never harvested their crops but get this: there were so few men left in England to farm that most of their crops never got harvested. The Irish or Scots sent some men just for that harvest. Henry did not like this at all

'I was told' the following was France's reason for the war but no proof was given to me. The French court had decided in the 1300's that they had too large a population using the Medieval farming techniques and wanted to take over England but there was a catch. France calculated that in 20 years they could bleed England so dry of men that they could easily walk right into England without any resistance and then kill all of the men and boys that were left. That's what I was told was Frances reason for the 100 years war and Henry believed it fully but no proof was given to me. Henry disliked this.

When 1 knight was captured for every 50 soldiers it was considered a great catch that earn each of those knights about the equivalent of a quarter million dollars (150,000 British pounds) in today's money. That would make their families happy for about 10 years.

 What they really wanted was to catch 1 knight for every 20 soldier which had only happened once before. That was a jackpot for the foot soldier. At  Agincourt it was more like 1 to 1 and that turned everything upside down. 1/50th of a ransom made an entire peasant family happy for 10 years and suddenly they were about to get 50 times that much. That amount was about $12.5 million (7.5 million British pounds) for each English peasant soldier.

That much money corrupted them really fast. Within seconds in fact. They were talking about buying castles in front of King Henry and they did not even realize he was listening in. Let me explain that: Closing yourself off in a castle in England without a title (a title meant that you were patriotic and could be trusted) was prima facie evidence of treason and it was considered treason. King Henry had suddenly become extremely expendable due to his sudden unimportance to them. In fact he feared they might see him as standing in their way of getting their own castle.

The captured knights were frankly trying to negotiate to buy their freedom with one big payoff and they were starting ask questions as feelers to find out if the English soldiers would be willing to throw in King Henry as part of the deal. Henry hated this most of all because his men were likely to do it.

Henry put a stop to all of the above at Agincourt when he killed all the French knights that he had captured. He liked this most of all.

The Battle of Agincourt did not happen quite as the history books state. (If it had then I could be doing something else a lot more fun.)
Fake Agincourt
Several questions can only be answered by what I have recalled. The conflicts they create cannot be resolved by what present day historical records say happened.

1. The French were under the impression that the field was not soft mud in order to have ridden across it without checking first. For this to happen:

2. They thought that the English had gone across it earlier that day. Otherwise they would have sent a few men to test it first.

3. They also had to feel that time was of the essence or they would have also taken the time to check it.

4. The two armies could not have been set up at opposite ends of the field for any time at all, as it was reported, or the French would have known it was soft mud. A dog would have walked on it or a knight would have ridden part way across it and found out how soft it was.

This is how I remember reading about how the battle actually unfolded when I read the actual reports 400 years ago. My research on the both the Battle of Agincourt and the 100 years war was so extensive and exhaustive that I even read the original battle reports that Henry V sent to London. A friend of mine in the French court, a courtesan, got 6 lashes when she got caught smuggling out the French battle reports per my request in order to achieve the greatest accuracy possible. Perhaps you have heard of my little opus which I needed the information for? It is known as the play King Henry V (Act 4 Scene 3)

Henry VHenry's forces were running away from those 12,000 4 legged 15th century French tanks that were closing in on his 6000 weak shambles of an army. They were scared to death.

He saw the field was really a muddy pool in a slight depression with grass growing over the top of it, in fact it was almost a swamp, so he had his men walk around the field through the trees then walk out on the field at the other end and wait. Then they waited until a few French arrived at the far end of the field (where they had just been). Then he had his men turn away from the French so they looked like they were running away.

Henry wrote numerous times that he thought the French knights would never fall for that trick since it had been used several times before. He was certain they would send a person to check the field to see if was passable but guess what?

The French had blood lust in their eyes so they just charged right through the field really fast on their horses to trample the supposedly retreating English. Since the English soldiers were mainly archers the knights would have then used maces (sharp edged clubs,) and war hammers to bash in the non-armored and relatively defenseless heads and bodies of the English archers. 2/3 of the French had maces and 1/4 war hammers and the rest flails at Agincourt. Flails (balls on chains) could end up uselessly wrapped around a bow so they rarely used them on archers. Flails were like a whip and were so fast that they were favored in other situations because the speed made them hard to block.

Knights would typically go right through the lines of soldiers trampling and maiming about half of them, then turn around and do it 3 or 4 more times. After that it was just moaning men on the ground a dead bodies. They would usually finish them all off with their swords. The knights would suffer almost no losses this way. Knight's didn't give peasants/foot soldiers any quarter if they could avoid doing so. As far as the French knights were concerned even their own foot soldiers were in the same class as rats. The English Knights had a lot more respect for their own peasants/foot soldiers hence they trusted them with the only weapon that could penetrate their own armor, that ultimate pre-handgrenade fragging device, the English longbow. The French officers could have given their own peasants long sticks to make bows out of but then the French peasants would have probably used them on their own knights. In Europe only England treated their peasants half way decent and that is why only the English used the heavy hitting armor piercing longbow.**

Chivalry and a sense of fair play was reserved for knights, officers and royalty.

So the French knights charged. While the horses of the knights ran fast they stayed on top of the soil because the grass was a fibrous sod mat sitting on top of mud. About halfway across they started to break through the sod. The French knights were coming down on the English so fast that the English archers all thought for sure they were going to die in less than 20 seconds. The English archers then fired but not to any great avail.

When the knights were about 3/4 of the way to their objective the English archers fired again and this time to a bit greater avail when it caused the horses to slow down. Then the horses hoves all broke through the turf that they had been running on top of. Horses know to stop when that happens so they don't break their own legs. Down their hoves all went to almost 1 1/2 feet. 

That is where they stayed stuck, planted like trees, almost to their knees. The mud not only created a suction the horses could not pull their hooves out of but the sod acted like a wet fiber gasket that closed in on their legs after their hoves went through it sealing out the air which might have broken the suction keeping their legs stuck solid.

1,000 came in the first wave and got stuck. Then the English shot them at point blank range with their heavy draw longbows and heavy bolts as more French Knights arrived at the opposite end of the field. Seeing the fight these new knights waited until they were about 1,200 before they charged in to join the fight and they also got stuck in the mud. This went on until over 8,000 knights were stuck in the mud.

Over 10,000 French knights went into the field and (I think) only about 3,300 made it out. Nearly all of the knights that got off their horses and walked off the field escaped capture and death. It was not that many which did that. For a knight to leave his horse is like a policeman giving up his gun to a bad guy. 

Those that stayed on their horses were easily captured by the very men they intended to trample and massacre.

Henry repeated his amazement 10 times in one letter and 4 on just one page about how the French Knights had fallen for that old trick. It had been used against the French twice already! One time by Henry V and one time during the 100 years war but it was never used so fruitfully as it was at Agincourt.


Note: I'll relate other information that I recall but I can't be certain if it was what I read about the Battle of Agincourt or another battle in the 100 years war such as the Battle of Poitiers. 

French Armor 1555It was standard practice to allow a captured knight to keep his mount, saddle and armor with him but not his weapons. He might even be able to keep his sword some times, on his word of honor to another knight, that he would not use. However, promises to peasants, who were the ordinary soldiers, did not have to be kept and the soldiers did not expect them to be kept.

Since getting hit with brass knuckles can kill a person, then what do you think a punch with 'steel knuckles' on a 'steel gauntlet' connected to a 'steel arm' which is part of a suit of armor would do when it hit a person?  Like this very solid 1555 suit of French armor at the Met.

CrushArmor was also used as a major weapon as when used by a well trained knight. It could crush someone just like the tank (left) is crushing that 'peasant's' automobile.The armor on a knight made him the tank of the 15th century.

There were 50-100 ways a knight could use just his armor to kill someone that I knew of and I was a woman (I bought armor for the queen's guards so I knew a bit about it). Mostly a knight would just cock one of their metal fingers (let it bend backwards if it was jointed) and then ram it right through an eye, the socket and into their enemy's brain and then just move it around so they would then die real fast. They could and did do the same exact thing through a man's temple. I guess more often they would just punch them. That was like hitting someone with a metal pipe because the armor around a knights arm was just a length of 3" pipe about 3' long weighing about 6 pounds.

steamboatRemember there were more captured French knights than there were English captors. It was like winning the silver dollar jackpot when the paddle boat casino hits a rock (or on the right a bridge) and you have to swim to shore. It's a bad idea to take any of your winnings.

In their armor the knights were immune to the English swords but they could kill the foot soldiers  with one punch. Shatter the jaw and the man died an excruciating death by starvation. They were all trained to break a horses leg belonging to an enemy knight with just a kick against it's straightened knee. So you can imagine what damage they could do to a foot soldier just by kicking them.

After I put this info on this page I realized it may have been another battle where the French Knights were allowed to keep their armor.  I just can't remember for certain which battle that happened at. I only read the report one time and that was over 400 years ago. So maybe I should remove this section until I know for certain it was at Agincourt.

I would rather supply you with less words than to accidentally supply you with false words and trust me I would only supply you with words that are false or confusing by accident.  All manner of deceptions automatically return and become self deception. That I can't afford.


7 foot bow*Since nobody knew how to multiply they usually couldn't figure out averages but they could figure out the median number. They would list the captured knights according to the number of English soldiers they had killed and then fold the list in half. When they opened the parchment up the median was the number closest to the fold.

**The heaviest long bow was larger than the 6 foot bows people think they were. You are going to disbelieve this but the one's they used for penetrating armor were about 8 feet long. I know what you are thinking, 'I don't believe him, he has to be wrong this time.' Well check out the archer on the right with his ~7 foot bow. That is not an Englishman. That is in the Netherlands where they did not use the long bow. So that must be a regular bow, then how long is a long bow?

I've already told you. 8 feet.

That archer is from the painting The Archery Festival  c. 1493 at the Web Gallery of Art. It's Flemish. If you know of a painting of an 8 foot bow then please send it.

8 foot longbowThis is how an 8 foot longbow compared to the 4 foot bow of most countries both visually and technically.

It is more accurate because it is more stable and not prone to being affected by warped arrows.

It was actually much more powerful though I am not certain of all the reasons. 

Using some simple science that was not known 400 years ago it's easy to figure out why an 8 foot long bow was more powerful than a 4 foot bow.

Since it is a curve a 4 foot bow with a 150 pound pull actually has about 100 pound pull half way back.

An 8 foot bow probably actually would have had a 225 pound pull if it was ever pulled all the way the back. Since it was only pulled half way back then it only took 150 pounds to draw an 8 foot bow. They actually had more power than a 4 foot bow with a 225 pound pull. I used to use an almost 10 foot longbow in one English life when I was a man.

If you want to know more about the science Gareth Rees is a physicist that has figured it all out.


Previous Page
All rights reserved. © J Pinil, Inc. 2006