back to article Agincourt actually an even scrap, historians claim

Revisionist historians from both sides of the Channel have come to the disagreeable conclusion that Henry V's forces at Agincourt were not actually outnumbered four to one by the opposing French. According to the Telegraph, "painstaking research of military and tax records" has revealed Henry actually boasted "at least 8,700 …

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But they still agree...

...that we still won? Didn't they?

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I don't believe it.

Not without a Playmobil reconstruction.

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Silver badge

Whatever

We still gave them a pasting.

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Troll

Get out your plastic longbowmen

"where they got bogged down and slaughtered by the longbowmen (all 11 of them, against 430,000 knights, according to new El Reg research)"

Massive-scale widescreen playmobil reconstruction, or it didn't happen.

Hugh

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Headmaster

Yet another Estimate

There have been many attempts by historians to estimate the numbers, based on various sources, and there are some wildly different results. What makes this estimate special?

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Happy

CESM

We know they all ran away!!!

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<No Subject>

Playmobil reconstruction or it never happened

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Pirate

El Reg research is wrong

"all 11 of them, against 430,000 knights, according to new El Reg research"

I'm sorry to tell you this, but whilst you are correct about the number of longbowmen (11), the estimate of the enemy is incorrect... there were actually 430,001 of them... Which gives an average kill of 39091 each (39091 * 11 = 430,001)

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Joke

Ahh ...

I think I know what happened. These new historians are counting all the English "trusty servant Patsies" whose sole job was to bang coconut halves together, so as to make it appear like there were horses and many more silly English kiniggets than there actually were.

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Anonymous Coward

"but it’s a myth that’s part of the British psyche."

Are they sure about that? Ask your average teen or school leaver to name the man in charge at Agincourt and he'll ask if that's the new shop opposite Tesco.

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Anonymous Coward

The french have a new tactic...

... to improve their national pride - if you can't win a war, then at least try your hardest to make it sound like you weren't defeated in an embarassing mega-FAIL.

And as for the boggy ground, I thought frogs were amphibious...

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1346 - that was the real deal

The whole Agincourt myth is down to Shakespear - who used Agincourt because he was writing about Henry the fifth. Henry V was the fourth in a series of plays about the English monarchy, and so he was rather obliged to use Agincourt as his battle in the play.

However, the story, itself, is a conflation of what happened at the Battle of Crécy, 69 years previously, to the English under Edward III. That victory very much resembles the popular myth about Agincourt, and was decisive because at the time, the English tactics were largely unknown in Europe.

By Agincourt, this type of fight had become well established. A succession of textbook victories against both the French and the Scots had been recorded by Froissart and his like, over the previous 7 decades. Henry V would be employing third or fourth generation professional longbow soldiers - many of them probably from the northern French territories, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The French had even given up trying to carry out these massed assaults on horseback, by this point, so even the famous cavalry charge, from Lawrence Olivier's portrayal of Shakespeare's play, bears more resemblance to Crécy than Agincourt.

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Military and tax records?

All well and good and will give an accurate* depiction of the size of the army Henry started with and that last is rather important.

Several months of maneuvers and skirmishing in the field running up to the decisive engagement at Agincourt later and you end up with the number first thought of. Old news, move along, nothing to see here.

*Assuming that none of his nobles were claiming recompense for a few more men than they actually had. Perish the thought.

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@AC 13:06 GMT

I think your confusing a French tactic with a US tactic. They then go on to make a film showing how the loss was actually a win and thereby setting the record "straight" :-)

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Grenade

Whatever

Either way, an awful lot of people died in horrific circumstances. But it's OK, because it's clean entertaining History, just like those meaningless 'so-and-so-many Iraqi civilians' figures.

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History

History is written by the victor.

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@AC 12:59

"Ask your average teen or school leaver to name the man in charge at Agincourt and he'll ask if that's the new shop opposite Tesco."

From experience, I would suggest that half of the history teachers might give the same answer

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Joke

Did you..

check Wikipedia on this??

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Troll

The English won, nah !

it was Welsh longbow men who won, all 8 of them as Evans the String, Williams the Green and Di the Death, all had a day off on account of them having to practice in the chapel choir.

And both the English and the French are gonna et whooped at the rugby this year.

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Unhappy

We (emasculated) happy few...

So in essense, the English-to-French manliness ratio has been shifted to the favor of our Gallic brothers? Does this mean the Brits have been been temporally and fractionally emasculated? And to think that Caesar that the Belgians were the tough tribe to beat. Ouch. That's harsh news.

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Oh, yeah, right!

So we are meant to accept the views of the latest bunch of Politically Correct 'No-one's a loser, everyone wins for taking part...' pansies, over 600 years of history? What's next, the Charge of the Light brigade was in fact a bet over who had the fastest horse, miles from a battle? Rorke's Drift was in fact a wild party that got out of control and no Zulu's were involved?

And it's no use blaming Shakespeare, this was written about in the time of Richard III too, and that was when it was in living memory. It's amazing how modern historians 'uncover' evidence that no one has ever 'uncovered' before, merely by reading records that were widely available before, but with a 'modern' eye.

As for the French, Charles de Gaulle said after the liberation of Paris:

"We are back home in Paris which is on its feet to liberate itself and which has been able to achieve it singlehanded."

So frankly I am amazed that the French still lost at Agincourt in French textbooks.

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Flame

@nuke: what makes this estimate special/ TGIFriday

That it's based on expenditure, thus (quite safely) assuming nobody went there on an unpaid lark, but also assuming all those paid were on the battlefield.

Knowing UK workers, I'd bet 1/3 was in the pub having given their punchcard to a colleague, 1/3 was in the pub with their own (and possibly others') punchcards forgotten in their pocket, and various other sickies/cornercutting/. Please note this battle occured on a friday afternoon, 'nuff said.

The french habit of getting heavily armoured knights bogged down and slaughtered is well documented (see e.g. 11/07/1302, slaughtered by flemish peasants -- came back next year for devastating revenge though).

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revisionists :(

I am all up for promoting harmony with the rest of europe as long as the froggies admit that they lost fair and square.

They out numbered us 4:1 at suffered at the hand of the English and welsh longbows.

Oh, and froggies its called Boyles law.

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Grenade

In a Hollywood movie.....

The Americans win at Agincourt against all odds....

Hand grenade coz... well ...

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Azincourt

What a coincidence - I just read the historical novel Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell yesterday, and the author added an interesting appendix on his research. He cited various sources as estimating anything from 8000 to 50,000 French facing 5000 to 9000 English. Apparently exaggerated English estimates of French strength at the time were as high as 150,000, recalling some of the wild estimates of aircraft losses by both sides from the Battle of Britain. Estimating troop strength in a battle has always been difficult, particularly so from poor quality medieval sources. Many of those who started out with either side may have fallen sick (disease was rampant in the English force), fallen behind the troop movements, or returned home. Cornwell's take was that clearly contemporary sources agreed that there was a significant mismatch between the forces, and they were closest to the event.

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Bronze badge

"a myth that’s part of the British psyche"

'One of the researchers, professor Anne Curry of Southampton University, said of the “we few, we happy few” legend: “It’s just a myth, but it’s a myth that’s part of the British psyche."'

With respect, if it's any nation's psyche, it is an English and, possibly, Welsh one (many of the archers were Welsh) and not Britain's. It was, of course, cemented in the nation's mind by Shakespeare.

I suppose that we could give a nod to Laurence Olivier that turned it into a British theme in his 1944 film Henry V (although the battles scenes were filmed in Ireland). However, I suspect these days it doesn't resonate much with the Scots.

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@ Ian

we'll have none of that white feather waving conshy talk in here thank you!

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Grenade

@connor

That would would Charles de Galle, "I'm right behind you France" as he sat sipping a fine cognac in deepest London. Wasn't recently a Frenchie, may have been old shorty himself that said of the D-day remembrance that it was for the French and Americans. Convienently forgetting the British, Polish, Canadians et al. who were also there. Bloody republicans all the same eventhough the French claim to detest the Yanks. Weird world.

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Boffin

@Apparently exaggerated English estimates of French

You also need to add in Propaganda, which has existed for at least over 2500 years and probably as long as humans have been fighting and talking about it.

Throughout history there are many examples of leaders using Propaganda, Rhetoric & Machiavellian behavior and its used by all sides vying for power over others.

Put simply, some people lie for their own gain. Too many people forget to take lying and intentional misinformation into account, yet its very important to notice it throughout history and in modern politics.

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Your history will be re-factored with new facts.

Happy Crispins Day from the New World!

The latest thing I read about Agincourt in one of my history mags said that the French attacked in armor, uphill in the mud, in a straggling wedge formation. They were formed in three "battles" with all the French nobility in the first one since they didn't want to have to share the loot or glory. The other two never really got in the fight.

The first was slaughtered, not by arrows, but by the unarmored, shoeless , bowmen who attacked the flanks of the exhausted French, toppled them into the mud and then hammered daggers through the vision slits of their helmets.

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@Oh, yeah, right!

"So frankly I am amazed that the French still lost at Agincourt in French textbooks."

So am I - after all, they did win at Waterloo in 1815 didn't they?

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@AJames

..."estimating anything from 8000 to 50,000 French facing 5000 to 9000 English"

So, maybe the English outnumbered the French 9000 to 8000? Perfect!

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Coat

Isn't That The Battle Where the Welsh...

...suffered an outbreak of the Hershey Squirts, and half the archers had their broggans around their ankles while they plinked French knights?

"Into the britches, once more..."

History is made so much more FUN by filling in the little details...

Mine's the one with the Immodium AD in the pocket...

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end of feudalism and the longbow

Having to practice the longbow on Sundays was part of the price freed serfs had to pay for the settlement following the peasants revolt. The black death and the peasants revolt had reduced both taxes and military expenditure, so to avoid loss of military effectiveness, commoners had to train with the longbow and be prepared to fight. Previously, warfare had been the preserve and basis of the aristocracy. The French nobility at Agincourt were taken completely by surprise, expecting easily to defeat what they had thought to be a much smaller, hungry, tired and dysentric rabble.

It is rumoured that the V sign started with English archers showing French knights this sign as disrespect, to indicate that they had not previously been captured, resulting in amputation of fingers needed to use the longbow.

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Headmaster

to be PC

wouldn't that be 11 longbowpersons of mixed origin and gender?

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Stop

And both the English and the French are gonna get whooped at the rugby this year.

French yes, English No. I'll bet you a pint on it.

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Happy

Playmobile?

Why would you want to see a recreation of a bunch of skewered frogs?

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English won?

Then how come England dosent have territory on continental Europe any more? why are the English public suffering from eroding civil rights? Because they have a stiff upper lip and live in the past ? probably.

England once so mighty and proud. Today at the pub watching footsie and getting drunk.

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Agincourt

Perhaps a Playmobil illustration is needed to better explain the battle to the "unhappy many..."

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Anonymous Coward

RE: "a myth that’s part of the British psyche"

Steven Jones wrote:

> 'One of the researchers, professor Anne Curry of Southampton University, said of the

> “we few, we happy few” legend: “It’s just a myth, but it’s a myth that’s part of the

> British psyche."'

>

> With respect, if it's any nation's psyche, it is an English and, possibly, Welsh one (many

> of the archers were Welsh) and not Britain's. It was, of course, cemented in the nation's

> mind by Shakespeare.

I'd never even heard of this "We few, we happy few" thing before and I'm 100% British and quite well educated... so it's not part of the British psyche, is it? Part of the English psyche, maybe but confusing the two around my neck of the woods usually results in a smack in the mouth. Or a chibbing, depending on how English (and/or unapologetic) you are.

> I suppose that we could give a nod to Laurence Olivier that turned it into a British theme

> in his 1944 film Henry V (although the battles scenes were filmed in Ireland). However,

> I suspect these days it doesn't resonate much with the Scots.

Ha, Henry V wasn't a Scottish king, the film is so old that it's haunted and you're right, it doesn't resonate much with the Scots - in the same way that the English aren't that interested with myths from French history (despite pinning those three French lions [from Aquitaine] to their football strips ;)

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@English won?

Cos we bankrupted ourselves saving said frenchies and others from the facists about 60 years ago...and by giving the yanks all our gold to help out out a bit...They should have done it for free really considering they are all English anyway...

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Anonymous Coward

"against 430,000 knights"

The Register doesn't have a render-farm that powerful, unfortunately.

As for Agincourt, although interesting history, it's just another feel-good cultural artifact to feed to the Britards, along with the names of all kings and queens since some Anglo/Saxon/Viking/Celt/Roman bloke managed to stay out of the mud for a whole fortnight, thus "earning" the dual privileges of royalty and ensuring that generations of schoolchildren would be institutionally bored with the minutae of the trivia of his progeny's petulant comings and goings, instead of learning about more relevant and profound historical events.

But as long as the massed Britards can wave the flag of St George while jeering and pouring back the Carling, why bother trying for anything better? People might actually learn something about the nature of authority instead of blaming Johnny Foreigner for everything. Couldn't have that!

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FAIL

Pity the Poor Horses

They were just fleeing from the vicious French horse eaters (cased in tin cans [as MREs: Men, Ready to Exterminate] and still on the horses' backs) to the safety of the British lines when the poor equine darlings became collateral damage to the longbowmen.

Oh, the horror, the horror....

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 07:36

> Then how come England dosent have territory on continental Europe any more?

Gibraltar.

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