In a year of multiple anniversaries, sometimes the lesser-known ones are forgotten. I hope this will not be the case for the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt – one of England’s most momentous historic battles which passed into legend, leading Shakespeare to pen his evocative Henry V.
As we all know, the history of England is closely entwined with that of France, our most respected ally and most dastardly foe! Both French and English kings and queens have ruled in both countries with the pendulum swinging back and forth between nationalities since William the Conqueror. It’s in our blood to poke fun at the French & vice versa (national pastime on both sides of the channel) but let anyone else do so, woe betide – we will defend them to the hilt.
Agincourt is just one of those battles, when England this time reigned supreme – part of the Hundred Years War between our two great nations with various monarchs suggesting their claim to the various thrones should be honoured – or lands regained. It was a breakdown in diplomacy which lead to Agincourt – and a fit and healthy English Henry V who fought bravely alongside his troops against an absent and ailing French king. The odds were in the French favour with a 3:1 numeric superiority apparently whilst the English and Welsh numbered just 12,000 troops but using wit, mud and guile, managed to win the day. This victory eventually led to a crippled France, Henry marrying the French king’s daughter and Henry’s son, Henry VI, becoming heir to both thrones.
Why my interest? Well, the fleet – one of the largest fleets ever assembled – was moored in the South of England – in the Solent actually and Henry V stayed at my favourite local landmark, Portchester Castle until they left for Chef de Caux on 11th August 1415. This battle may have also instigated the birth of the British Royal Navy which is very important to the city of Portsmouth. Various reports tell of a fleet of anything between 700 – 1,500 ships moored between Southampton Water, Beaulieu and Portchester – what a sight that must have been.
When the fleet left the protection of the Solent out past the Isle of Wight, a flock of swans swam around the fleet, a good omen apparently for victory. Was this battle also the start of the V for victory sign (she says delicately …)? With the French saying they would cut off the fingers of the long-bowmen, the English responded in the time-honoured fashion, signalling their defiance at the French lines.
If you want to visit the site of the battle, there’s some debate about its whereabouts but recent reports have it at around 45 miles south of Calais, between the woods of Azincourt (Agincourt to the British) and Tramecourt.
For a brief history, there’s the wonderfully succinct and oh so British humoured Horrible Histories ….
Or, of course, just read Shakespeare’s masterpiece, visit Portchester Castle and dream, looking out to sea.
Contributor and photographer: Sue Lowry
Follow A3Traveller on Twitter: @A3Traveller and Sue Lowry on Google +, YouTube, Linkedin, Flickr and Pinterest. I also operate another blog for my company, Magellan PR – http://www.magellanstraits.com. They can be followed on Twitter: @MagellanPR, on Google+, on YouTube, on Pinterest and on Facebook.