King Henry the Fifth of England led an expedition of about 7,500 men through the coastal provinces he claimed, fighting several battles against similar numbers, and being victorious in each. As they were approaching the coast to return to England, they were confronted by a newly gathered French army numbering over 40,000, 1,500 of them being mounted knights, and many crossbowmen. They were under the control of the Constable of France Charles De Aubret.
The British who had marched a long way, were tired, hungry and dispirited with their many wounded they were carrying back home, relied mainly on their Welsh Longbow men.
The battle was just outside the village of Agincourt with woods between the opposing armies, and Henry saw that to approach him the armies would have to take it in turn to march through the gap in the trees. He concentrated his bowmen so that their arrows would fall in that gap, knowing that each French knight would try to force his own army through that narrow gap to be the first to engage the British. This poem is from the French view, as the Constable addresses his generals, his armoured knights.
"Let battle commence, to the glory of France,
strike down those tents, the host will advance,
Tell all my men, that De Aubret is here,
and those British they tremble, as they face us in fear.
My forty thousand men. You knights in array.
Such a brave sea of flags, for this is our day.
Look at the enemy, seven thousand poor fools,
as fearful they stare, and their ardour it cools.
Hungry, tired and cold they wait,
for you lords to cut them down.
Like oxen they await their fate,
no one can take our crown.
I see the field just there it narrows,
you must take it in turn to go.
So off you go my lordships,
and deal the killing blow.
But you must not try to impress me,
and force your men to the fore.
it narrows just there, you can surely see,
and that wages a foolish war."
THE CONSTABLE RETIRES - AND LATER
"God! It's a killing ground for arrows,
see how they fall like snow.
I warned them that it narrows,
the crush and chaos grow.
The dead they mount before me,
my thousands lying slain.
The Welsh Longbow has beaten me,
the French crown, the English gain."
The English lost 112 men killed, but the falling British arrows
killed over 10,000 on this St Crispin’s Day Friday 25th of October 1415.