The Battle of Agincourt marked a turning point in the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. How long did the battle last?
The Battle of Agincourt likely lasted less than three hours, on October 25, 1415. Some estimates suggest that it lasted less than an hour, with French forces overwhelmed by English longbowmen while trying to fight through the extremely muddy terrain.
For more on the Battle of Agincourt and its duration, read on.
Hundred Years’ War
The Hundred Years’ War, conducted between 1337 and 1453, was waged over the right to rule the Kingdom of France. It was born out of centuries of complicated genealogy that included the rulers of both England and France.
Both the English and French monarchs were descended from King Philip IV of France. The English were descended from Philip’s daughter, Isabella of France, who had married Edward II in 1308. The French were descended from Isabella’s cousin, Philip of Valois, who inherited the throne as Philip VI.
English kings maintained this claim throughout subsequent generations. It passed to Richard II, the Plantagenet King of England. In 1399, Henry Bolingbroke usurped Richard and became Henry IV before dying in 1413.
The throne passed to Henry’s son, who became Henry V. Meanwhile, Charles VI was reigning in France. Charles had suffered from bouts of mental illness throughout his life and Henry saw an ideal opportunity to press his claim to the throne of France.
Henry offered to renounce his claim, on the condition that France paid an outstanding ransom and granted Henry certain holdings in French territory. The offer was rejected.
In 1415, Henry crossed the Channel from England to France with an army of approximately 11,000. He captured Harfleur, in Normandy, after a costly five-week siege. Henry lost roughly half of his men, who were killed in battle or succumbed to diseases while encamped.
Ill-prepared for another battle, the English army marched northeast for Calais, where it would set sail home for England. The French army intercepted the English, who were outnumbered. The discrepancy in army size has been debated ever since but is generally accepted as having been at least three to one in favor of the French.
Though the French had numbers in their favor, the conditions benefitted the English. The battlefield, near the village of Azincourt, had recently been plowed and had also been subjected to a week of heavy rainfall.
As a result, the terrain consisted mostly of deep mud. The French army contained many knights and other heavily armored soldiers but their speed was greatly hindered by the conditions. The English prepared defenses against the cavalry, driving pointed wooden stakes into the ground for protection against charges.
In addition, the majority of Henry’s army consisted of longbowmen. As the French charged, they were bombarded by longbows with a range reaching as far as 250 yards. The first French cavalry charge failed to break through the English defensive line, and subsequent attacks had no greater success as the battlefield became ever more congested.
The French army, weighed down by armor and facing constant bombardment from arrows, was quickly exhausted. Henry ordered his men to attack with melee weaponry in an order which quickly brought an end to the fighting and a remarkable victory for the English.
Popular estimates suggest that there were approximately 6,000 French casualties and 400 English. Many French nobles, who had been taken captive, were executed during the battle, as Henry believed his army was being flanked from the rear.
The Battle of Agincourt is believed to have lasted less than three hours, with some estimates that it lasted just half an hour. Even so, it was one of the most famous victories in English history, immortalized in William Shakespeare’s “Henry V”.
Henry V returned to England as a hero, having answered any questions regarding whether or not he deserved to sit on the English throne. The war also earned him the French throne. He signed the Treaty of Troyes, which included marriage to Catherine of Valois, the daughter of Charles VI.
Charles agreed that Henry would become the King of France upon his death. Henry, however, would never be crowned. He died in 1422, shortly before the death of Charles VI.
The Kingdom passed to Henry’s infant son, Henry VI. Charles’ son, le Dauphin, would go on to win his father’s throne with the assistance of Joan of Arc, becoming Charles VII.