Agincourt: ‘We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers’

The Battle of Agincourt was fought on October 25, 1415, during the Hundred Years’ War. It is a renowned historical event that has captured the imagination of scholars and enthusiasts alike.

This iconic battle between the English and French forces holds great significance due to its unexpected outcome and the strategic brilliance displayed by the English under the leadership of King Henry V.

Let’s have a closer look into the details of the Battle of Agincourt, examining its origins, the build-up to the conflict, the positioning of the armies, the forces involved, the duration of the battle, the weaponry utilised, and the resulting casualties.


The origins of the Battle of Agincourt can be traced back to the ongoing hostilities between England and France during the Hundred Years’ War. This prolonged conflict, which lasted from 1337 to 1453, was characterised by intermittent truces and periods of intense warfare as the English sought to assert their claim to the French throne.

In 1415, King Henry V , seeking to exploit the internal strife, launched an invasion of France. He embarked on a campaign that would ultimately lead to the Battle of Agincourt.

The build-up to the battle involved strategic manoeuvring and clashes between the English and French forces. As Henry V advanced through northern France, he encountered significant resistance from the French. They sought to halt the English advance and protect their territory.


Meanwhile, Henry V’s army faced numerous challenges, including supply shortages, inclement weather, and constant harassment from French forces.

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The French, under the command of Constable Charles d’Albret and Marshal Jean Boucicaut, deployed their forces strategically, aiming to prevent the English from reaching the English-held port of Calais.

Before the Battle of Agincourt, King Henry V of England made a strategic decision to march towards Calais. The reason for this move was to secure a safe route for his army in case of a French counterattack. It was also to seek reinforcement and supplies from England if necessary.

Calais, located on the northern coast of France, was under English control at the time. It served as an important English port and stronghold. It provided a secure base for English operations in France, as well as a convenient point of entry and exit for troops and supplies. By heading towards Calais, Henry V aimed to ensure that his army had a well-protected and easily accessible retreat option, which was crucial considering the risks involved in the campaign.

The Field

The armies met near Agincourt and battle became imminent. Both armies sought advantageous ground for the impending battle. The English army, consisting primarily of longbowmen and infantry, recognised the significance of defensive positions in their battle strategy.

They carefully selected a narrow strip of land near the village of Agincourt. This was surrounded by woods and with limited open space, which would impede the French cavalry and play to the strengths of the English longbowmen. On the other hand, the French, confident in their superior numbers and heavily armoured knights, aimed to exploit their cavalry’s strength and planned to engage the English in open combat.

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The numbers of French knights and English and Welsh soldiers in the Battle of Agincourt remain a topic of debate . Estimates suggest that the French army numbered around 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers. This included a significant contingent of knights renowned for their chivalry and martial prowess.


In contrast, the English army consisted of approximately 6,000 to 9,000 men. The majority of these being archers from England and Wales. The English forces, although heavily outnumbered, possessed a remarkable advantage in their longbowmen, who would prove instrumental in the upcoming battle.

The English, utilising their longbows with devastating effect, unleashed a barrage of arrows that rained down upon the French ranks. The longbowmen, armed with their iconic weapons capable of piercing armour and inflicting fatal wounds from a distance, wrought havoc among the French forces. The muddy conditions of the battlefield further hindered the French cavalry’s ability to manoeuvre effectively, leading to chaos and confusion within their ranks.

The Battle

On the morning of the battle, the French army, led by Constable Charles d’Albret, Marshal Jean Boucicaut, and several other prominent nobles, advanced towards the English position. The French outnumbered the English significantly and most were heavily armoured knights and men-at-arms.

As the battle commenced, the French cavalry charged towards the English line but were met with a barrage of arrows from the longbowmen. The longbows, a formidable weapon in the English arsenal, proved devastatingly effective against the French knights, who struggled to manoeuvre in the boggy terrain.

The French cavalry’s charges became disorganised and were met with fierce resistance from the English men-at-arms.

The Tide Turns

Despite their initial success, the French soon faced significant challenges. The narrow battlefield restricted their movements and prevented the full deployment of their forces. The weight of their armour and the muddy ground made it difficult for the French knights to advance effectively. In contrast, the English longbowmen continued their relentless volleys of arrows, causing havoc among the French ranks.

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This scene continued for hours leaving the French with no option but to keep sending wave after after of mounted knights.

In addition to the longbowmen, the English also had men-at-arms who fought alongside the archers. These men were equipped with various weapons, including swords, maces, and poleaxes. They formed a defensive line and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the French troops who managed to reach the English positions.

The battle continued for several hours, with the English maintaining their defensive position and repelling the French attacks. The French knights, weighed down by their armour, suffered heavy casualties as they struggled through the mud and faced the lethal showers of arrows. The English, on the other hand, inflicted significant damage on the French, particularly targeting the exposed men-at-arms.

King Henry V
Henry V fighting at the Battle of Agincourt.

The fighting at the Battle of Agincourt was intense and brutal, as both sides engaged in close combat amidst the chaos of the battlefield.

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Eventually, the French army became demoralised and disorganised, and the English seized the opportunity to launch a counterattack. Led by Henry V, the English forces pushed forward, exploiting the weakened French lines. The French resistance crumbled, and many of their troops were captured or killed.

In the Armoury

The weaponry employed by both sides showcased the contrasting military tactics of the English and French. The English relied heavily on the longbow, a weapon known for its long range accuracy and piercing power.

The Longbow

The longbowmen played a pivotal role in the Battle of Agincourt, effectively neutralizing the threat posed by the French knights. These skilled archers, trained from a young age in the use of the longbow, were able to unleash a volley of arrows that could penetrate armour and cause severe casualties among the enemy ranks. The longbow, with its superior range and rate of fire, provided the English with a significant advantage over the French.

In addition to the longbow, the English forces also utilised other weapons commonly found in medieval warfare. Infantry soldiers wielded weapons such as spears, swords, and axes, which they used in close combat against the French infantry and knights. These weapons allowed for effective defence against enemy attacks and gave the English soldiers the ability to engage in hand-to-hand combat when necessary.

The English army was also supported by a contingent of Welsh archers, who, like their English counterparts, were renowned for their skill with the longbow.

French Knights

On the French side, the knights formed the core of their military strength. These heavily armoured warriors rode on horseback and were equipped with lances, swords, and maces. The French knights relied on their superior training and experience in mounted combat to charge the enemy lines and break their formations.

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However, the muddy terrain and the barrage of arrows from the English longbowmen disrupted the French cavalry charges, rendering them less effective in their attacks.

The Battle of Agincourt resulted in significant casualties on both sides, but the losses suffered by the French were particularly devastating. The exact number of casualties is a subject of debate among historians, but it is estimated that thousands of French soldiers, including a large number of knights, were killed or captured during the battle.

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The English, despite their numerical disadvantage, suffered considerably fewer casualties. The combination of their defensive position, the effectiveness of the longbow, and the unfavourable conditions on the battlefield played a significant role in their success.


The Battle of Agincourt had far-reaching consequences for both England and France. For the English, it was a resounding victory that boosted the morale of the nation and solidified King Henry V’s reputation as a skilled military leader.

The battle also had a significant impact on the course of the Hundred Years’ War, as it demonstrated the effectiveness of the English longbow and highlighted the vulnerability of heavily armoured knights in the face of concentrated missile fire.

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On the French side, the defeat at Agincourt was a severe blow to their military and national pride. It exposed weaknesses in their strategies and tactics, leading to a revaluation of their approach to warfare. The battle also highlighted the importance of adapting to changing military technologies, as the effectiveness of the longbow shifted the balance of power on the battlefield.

A Heroic King

In conclusion, the Battle of Agincourt was a pivotal moment in medieval warfare. It showcased the strategic brilliance of the English under the leadership of King Henry V and the devastating effectiveness of the English longbow.

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The battle’s outcome, with the outnumbered English emerging victorious over the French knights, had profound implications for the conduct of warfare and influenced the course of the Hundred Years’ War.

The Battle of Agincourt remains a testament to the power of tactical innovation, superior weaponry, and effective use of terrain in determining the outcome of a battle.


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