Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

Morning of the Battle of Agincourt

by Sir John Gilbert

(English painter,  1817-1897)

ON the morning of the battle of Agincourt the English troops were in a pitiable condition. They were weakened by illness and exhausted by the five weeks' siege of Harfleur. Food was scanty, and Henry was endeavoring to fall back to Calais. This was at best a long and dangerous march. At the river Somme he succeeded in going a long way around and so crossing the stream, but when he came to the little village of Agincourt, the French were lined up against him only a quarter of a mile away. They had three or four times his numbers, and battle could not be avoided. The English could have had little hope of success; but the result was a repetition of the story of Crécy. The French had learned little of warfare since that day, and they still encased themselves in heavy armor. Terror-stricken as they were at the tempests of yard-long arrows of the English bowmen, they fought bravely. In a final charge they struggled to gallop their horses through the clinging, muddy clay, but were thrust back by the stern English pikes. The English lost a few hundred, the French perhaps ten thousand. Sad reports went over France, for their princes and nobles and the very flower of their chivalry were either slain or taken prisoners.

This picture shows the English forces just before the battle. At this solemn moment, when their destruction seemed imminent, the Host was raised in sight of all the army and the soldiers bowed their heads in prayer.

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