Agincourt: the greatest British victory in medieval history?
The English mowed down the French knights with just a lightly armed force fighting with the welsh longbow. As indeed had the English on many earlier occasions in the 'hundred years war'. Agincourt has however become one of our defining English legends while Crecy and Poitiers have not. However what is victory, we won the battle but not the war. Indeed there are numerous other possible battles with the British as the winner, Clive's victory at Plassey for example. So does it matter if Agincourt is not really the greatest victory?
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crucial point in history
According to this account the English and Welsh army were wrought with disease their numbers dwindling even before the battle began, thus the account of the ‘number of paid soldiers’ does little justice to and can not realistically depict the numbers of Soldiers ‘actually/really’ fighting on the battlefield.[[ http://www.historytimes.com/fresh-perspectives-in-history/medieval-history/437-the-battle-of-agincourt-1415%5D%5D
The battle was a classic case of the little man ousting/overruling/defeating the giant/abominable/interminable enemy against all odds. Of grand heroism that changed the tides of battle/war/history. No other English battle was as grand or bravely fought. The courage displayed by these men of history is worthy of the greatest, most aggrandizing honourable mentions. It was pivotal and might I add, crucial in the course of ‘the hundred years’ war and the greatest battle in history.
The Conquest of France
The victory allowed the English to make substantial advances into France. The Treaty of Troyes (May 21st 1420) gave the throne of France to Henry V upon the death of Charles VI of France.
Ultimately however its consequences were not nearly so rosy. Henry V and Charles VI both died in 1422, accordingly Henry V's son Henry VI inherited the thrones of England and France. However despite the Treaty of Troyes being reaffirmed by the Treaty of Amiens (1423) the Dauphin Charles disputed Henry VI's rule. The Military situation turned slowly in favour of France, and the English were finally expelled from all French Territory bar Calais after the battle of Castillion in 1453.
The war was exhausting to both England and France, the failures of the late period of war lead to Civil war in England, the Wars of the Roses, also subject to many Shakespearian plays. All England was left with was a proud claim to the French crown which encouraged further rash wars with France, notably by Henry VIII this claim lasted until another Treaty of Amiens, in 1801.
In all the effects of the battle were largely negative, never leading to permanent conquests or any period of peace, and itb is in these areas that the worth of a victory should generally be judged, Plassey in 1757 or Quebec in 1759 are both battles that lead to large and lasting conquests, Waterloo one that lead to a period of peace, so in a way any of these would be greater 'British' victories.
“Exaggerated accounts of numerical/strength disparity”
Ann Curry, a professor at the University of South Hampton; begs to differ. Self-aggrandising versions of the battle, including those touted by celebrity personalities such as the Bard, pumped up Agincourt to excessively and fictionally more than what it really was. She points out that the worst odds that the English and Welsh would realistically have faced were 2 French soldiers against 1 British.
Curry's research concludes there were significantly more English and Welsh troops than most historical accounts tell us and the French side wasn’t an interminable force of nature. She estimates the number of soldiers representing the British (Henry’s army) to be 8000 and reports 12000 from the French. She backs the accuracy of her estimates by the fact that she used recorded figures of paid soldiers/recruits from both sides.
An anonymous clergyman first reported the strength of each side in the battle to be “900 English and Welsh men-at-arms and the 5,000 archers” — and said that the French had “30 times as many”. This blatantly ballooned figure is suspect to anyone who has the mathematical skills to realize that 30 times 5,900 is a number that cannot be accommodated by 12000 paid recruits on the French side. Mirages, delusions and thus hyperbolic accounts of fighting an interminable force, by unnamed obscure players are not uncommon in the pages of history. [[http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article527697.ece]]
16th-century chroniclers including Edward Hall and a scribe writing for “my master, the Duke of Ormonde” still said Henry’s men were outnumbered by at least 10 to one.- 10 to 1 is still impossible unless only 1200 Brits survived dysentery(from eating stale food, possibly), depression/home-sickness(from missing their abandoned kith and kin) and unsanitary conditions. I repeat ‘impossible’.
Even if the historical evidence does not concur with historical accounts, Agincourt was undoubtedly a huge inspiration for all the British victories that followed, thus it is crucial and prevalent in enriching the British psyche to be eternally motivated to win-win-win and keep-up the never-say-die attitude.
Hypothetically, suppose the French won Agincourt. Then the British would presently be French and the world would be very different; to say the very least.
The British Raj
Perhaps, the greatest British success, in defeating and then conquering an adversary was with no bloodshed at all? The conniving intelligent colonization of now, four Countries in ‘the common wealth’ was a crafty and amazing masterpiece in the art of war.
Using commonsense, a friendly hand, the promise of education, development and progress to imprison a king, kill his sons, push the Mughal Empire to a defeatist resounding fall and using the policy of ‘divide and rule’ to keep dissenters at rest for centuries was an incredible and amazing feat. What a marvel to achieve all that, without shedding a single drop of British blood, and under the veiled farce of a do-gooder business/company, providing salvation for the ignorant superstitious masses of a nation.
Yes; it came to an end ‘centuries’ later but, the rule itself , the victory over India; would probably qualify as the greatest ,most humanitarian and bloodless battle in all of history.
The British raj cannot qualify as a 'battle',as no armies met on a battlefield.
But the Battle of Plassey[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Plassey]] is significant and important in stamping the company's rule over India and Hoodwinking the French. There was the shedding of British Blood, and also that of natives of the sub-continent.
Again if the British did not feel they could take on the French they would never indulge in such an endeavor. The confidence and the pomp generated from the preceding victory at Agincourt is unparalleled and was the giant motivation that drove this victory and others.
Half the hype charged by ‘Henry the fifth’
Shakespeare though perhaps the greatest Playwright ever, was very eager to please the ruling monarchy. And weaving inaccurate accounts to suit that purpose was not beneath him.
In the play ‘Macbeth’ because Banquo’s descendants had ascended the throne in Shakespeare's time. The bard depicted Banquo as an innocent bystander in and oblivious of the murder of king Duncan, and put all the blame on, in traditional sexist fashion: Lady Macbeth, the three (also fictional) witches and Macbeth. “Accurate” historical accounts state that both Macbeth and Banquo plotted to kill and then brutally murdered the former king.
So, good old Will did the same in the writ of Henry the fifth.
“I’ve always assumed the French massively outnumbered Henry’s forces,” said Richard Holmes, the military historian. “But now it is very hard to go against Curry’s figures.”
The point is that however exaggerated the case may have been, the French did outnumber the British at least by 4000 soldiers which is not a small number.
Therefore, the ailing underdog won , and whenever the weaker side wins it uplifts the spirits of the people behind it.
The win motivates those people to charge on against all odds and keep believing/hoping because something bigger/more-powerful than any force against them, is on their side.
This motivation/confidence can then amount to a self-fulfilling prophesy.
A great English not 'British' Victory
Since Britain did not exist before 1707 or to be generous 1603 Agincourt cant be the greatest British victory at all, the other constituent parts of Britain, that is Scotland and Wales were hostile to England. Wales had recently been in rebellion under Owain Glyndwr which petered out in 1412/13. Scotland remained aloof of the French civil war into which Henry V was intervening, but it only did so under English duress with their King James I held captive in London.
According to the source articles both Welsh and English soldiers fought the French. But if the morale of the English and Welsh died out because of a 'loss' in this battle , the French would have the upper-hand and any British victory thereafter would be nipped in the bud. Therefore, as this victory, albeit only of the English and Welsh was the foundation block of All 'British' victories in succession, it can and should be honoured as the greatest of them all. Since without Agincourt none of those pursuant successes would occur/Augur
The conquest of Sindh
simply because Napier's "I have sinn'd" was a very witty line.
What do you think?