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 V 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 3,800 of the 11,200 French knights who headed their army of about 30,000. However many accounts state that there were more knights taken prisoner than there were English soldiers. What isn't in question is the fact that it had rained for two weeks solid and everyone was practically swiming. Put simply the French knights got stuck in the mud.

Distilled down into two sentences what happened was this. Suddenly instead of being killed each of the 6600 poor English foot soldiers were going to receive nearly a kings ransom of about a million quid today (about $1.25 Million) for releasing the captured knights. That immediately and completely corrupted most of them into considering the French Knights additional request to include King Henry V 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 few 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 3,800.

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. They had each probably killed over a dozen 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 wanted to go home so they could get ready to kill more Englishmen in another few years. The 3,800 captured French Knights meant up to 40,000 more dead Englishmen at the next battle. Since the English Army would have been smaller than 40,000 the entire army would have been wiped out. 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 up to 20 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 about half of the 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 early on that they had too large a population to feed (using Medieval farming techniques). So they wanted to take over England. Both to farm the additional land as well as to limit their own population through deaths on the battlefields. France calculated that in a few 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 earned each of those knights the equivalent of about $50,000 dollars (~40,000 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 soldiers which had only happened once before. That was a jackpot for the foot soldier. At  Agincourt it was more like 2 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 25 times that much. That amount was about $1.25 million (~1 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 V and they did not even care that 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 V had suddenly become extremely expendable due to his sudden unimportance to them. In fact he feared that they were about to 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 to ask questions as feelers to find out if the English soldiers would be willing to throw in King Henry V 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 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 present day historical records.

1. The French were under the impression that the field was not soft mud so they rode across it without checking. 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 out.

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.
According to the actual reports that I read 400 years ago this is how the battle actually unfolded. My research on 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 got 6 lashes when she got caught smuggling out the French battle reports per my request in order to achieve the greatest accuracy possible. She got two petticoats for her troubles. 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 6600 weak shambles of an army. His men 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.

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 the French would send a person to check the field to see if was passable but they didn't.

The French had blood lust in their eyes so they just charged right through the field really fast on their horses to trample the weaker English army. 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 there were just moaning men on the ground and 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 regularly in battle.*

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 1- 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.

Over 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 3,800 French knights were stuck in the mud.

Over 10,000 French knights went into the field and (I think) only about 6,000 made it out. Nearly all of the knights that got off their horses and walked off the field escaped capture and death. There were 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 but it was never used so fruitfully as it was at Agincourt.


Note: I'll relate other information as I recall it but I can't be certain if these fact are exclusively about the Battle of Agincourt or if indeed some of the facts are about another battle in the 100 years war which I researched 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 it. 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 a dozen ways or more that 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. 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" metal 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 from the slot machines or you will sink and drown.

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 *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. 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. At least 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 or longer bow then please send it. It is well known that the Samurai of Japan often used bows that were 10 feet long.

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.

The amount of pull needed is a curve. Since a 4 foot bow had to be pulled all the way back that last bit was very hard.

An 8 foot bow was only pulled about half way back so it took a lot less to pull back. 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.


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