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Agincourt

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Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!

25th October 1415 (St Crispin's Day)

Characteristic English pluck defeating typical French snobbery. The English, having had a good weekend away to France despite the weather, were returning to Calais having not really achieved very much other than catching dysentery when they discovered their route home blocked by a large army of Frenchmen.

Both sides set up camp and generally glowered at each other. Meanwhile, it rained. Come the day of the battle, the rain had gone, and the English took up positions at one end of a muddy field. Showing a bit of ingenuity, Henry V orders sharpened stakes placed in the ground facing the French.

The French, expecting a walk over, acted with impatience. The French King sent forward Genoan mercenary crossbowmen but doesn't allow them to find and take their protective pavaises (huge wooden shields to protect them whilst they reload) to save time. Their crossbow strings got wet in the rain (it not being possible to remove the string easily like you can a longbow). The longbowmen had simply removed their bowstrings and placed them in their metal helmets (source of the phrase keep it under your hat) to keep the strings dry. The Frog crossbows were hopelessly out ranged due to both the wet strings and fact that the weapon is a crossbow with a short 'stroke' or string movement. Unprotected, out-ranged and bogged down, they were shot to pieces in the middle of the muddy field.

The frog knights, the flower of the French nobility, then decided to charge up the middle of the field (one wonders why they didn't simply go around). Unfortunately, in the excitement they ran over their own crossbowmen. The irony was that they did this because the Genoans had broken and fled! The French! Killing people who flee! Hahahaha! Oh the irony! Perhaps they were jealous of the Genoans stealing a great French tradition! The Genoans swore never to serve the French Monarchy again after that.

The charge would have been magnificent but for the aforementioned muddy field, the bottle neck in the field that caused the Knights to bunch up and the fact that there was an arrow storm smacking them in the face. Amazingly, the froggies struggled through the mud, injured horses and corpses, reached the English line of stakes and, for second or two, it all looked a little iffy for the Englanders.

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KICK HIM IN THE VOOLNERABLES!

But dismounted English men at arms and commoner infantry (armed with poleaxes, spears, swords, hammers and a very English weapon, the bill) generally hacked the living shiite out of the lumbering and very tired French knights ... and lo, so it was that the French knights broke resulting in a great English victory.

Many many captives were taken for ransom and there was much rejoicing as the English economy looked to take a HUGE boost. However it was not to be. The rumour of another French battle of knights flanking the English positions caused Henry to order the slaying of the captives. His men at arms (thinking of their mortgages and future debt under a labour government) refused however the archers (your medieval chav) whipped out their chibs and offed a significant portion of the entire French nobility.

Moral: English, even when outnumbered, suffering from disease and low supplies and poor weather can still beat the stuffing out of the French. The battle ensured the reputation of Henry V who made the french agree for him to become king of France on the death of the French king. Of course Henry V would die pretty soon after this, which wasn't a very wise thing to do, on balance.

Exciting Trivia! According to a popular legend the two-fingers salute (the insult, not Churchill's one) comes from the gestures of longbowmen at the Battle of Agincourt. The story claims that the French claimed that they would cut off the arrow-shooting fingers (middle and index finger) of all the longbowmen after the English had been beaten. But also, the English decided to win the battle afterall, and showed off their two fingers, still intact.

A second rumour suggests that one of the names at the time for shooting a longbow was to "pluck yew" given that longbows were made of yew (can you see where i'm going with this?) and that as the bowmen walked past the captive French, they taunted them by saying, "We can still pluck yew!" and this fairly soon evolved into the wonderful insult that is "F*ck you"! However, whilst the first story does have some credibility, the second is most probably apocryphal. But it's a nice story.

Much information on this wiki page and this one.

See also Henry V, Frog, French and Yet another occasion when the slovenly Frogs were given a richly deserved slapping