The Battle of Agincourt is one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years War. Who won the Battle of Agincourt?
The English army led by King Henry V defeated the French during the Battle of Agincourt by both taking advantage of the Agincourt battlefield’s terrain and the well-executed tactics of Henry V.
The battle was fought on an open, narrow field surrounded by forest on all sides. The French attackers heavily outnumbered the forces of King Henry V, but the use of focused barrages by the English archers fended off the attackers and inflicted heavy French casualties in the initial stage of the battle.
As the columns of French attackers marching uphill became more congested due to the narrow confines of the battlefield and their heavy armor, Henry V sent a wave of his soldiers downhill, annihilating the French troops.
Read on to learn more about the English victory of the Battle of Agincourt.
The Hundred Years War
The Hundred Years War was a series of conflicts that were fought between French and English rulers between 1337 and 1453. These conflicts were largely fought for control of the French monarchy.
When French king Charles IV died without an heir, King Edward III of England declared that he was the rightful king of France, citing the fact that Charles IV was the brother of his mother Isabella.
Instead, Philip IV was crowned the King of France and soon after conquered the Aquitaine region of France, which was owned by the English. The Hundred Years War officially began as Edward III invaded the French Kingdom in response.
The French Kingdom had a massive advantage over the English at the beginning of the war, as it was much wealthier and had a much bigger population. The English were able to match this French superiority with their skilled military leaders and especially the use of their longbow-wielding archers.
Decades after this initial invasion, King Henry V of England sought to be the rightful leader of France and invaded the French Kingdom in 1415, ending a relatively peaceful period of the Hundred Years War.
The Battle of Agincourt
King Henry V sailed across the English Channel in 1415 with 11,000 English troops and laid siege to the town of Harfleur in Normandy, France. Though the defenders of the town would eventually surrender, King Henry lost half of his men during the battle, mostly due to illness.
With his troop strength greatly diminished Henry V marched to the English Channel to return to England but was met by a large French force of 20,000 men.
Henry V was greatly outnumbered but he brilliantly used the terrain of the Agincourt battlefield to his advantage. The battle was fought on a narrow, open field that was surrounded by forest on all sides, which kept the larger French force from conducting large-scale maneuvers against the smaller English force.
A heavy rainstorm from the night before turned the ground of the battlefield into a muddy sludge, making it difficult for the heavily armored French knights to charge uphill towards the defensive English positions.
King Henry V expertly used his long-bow wielding archers, who caused massive French casualties at the beginning of the battle. The cramped, narrow battlefield created a perfect chokepoint for the English archers to rain arrows down on the slow-moving French soldiers.
The French cavalry was then sent in to overwhelm the English archers, but could not penetrate the defensive barricade protecting the English positions. As the French ranks became increasingly congested, King Henry sent down a wave of his troops that annihilated the encumbered French ranks.
An estimated 6,000 French soldiers were killed during the Battle of Agincourt, while the English only lost 400 men despite being greatly outnumbered. The battle severely damaged both the troop strength and prestige of the French military, while improving the image and morale of the English.
The Battle of Agincourt is considered one of the defining battles of the Hundred Years War.
Henry V would go on to win more English victories throughout France, eventually accomplishing his goal of becoming the heir to the French throne. Henry would die before ever being crowned King of France.
The French would eventually completely push the English out of French territory, marking the end of the Hundred Years War. The war would help the cement national identities of both the English and French and establish England as an island kingdom, isolated from the rest of continental Europe.