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land and France were embroidered. But what struck the English more than the gold and sparkling gems was the bright lively blue eye of the hero, whose countenance, like that of Edward the Third on the like occasion, was serenely cheerful. As he rode from rank to rank, he said a few inspiriting words to each. He told them that he had made up his mind to conquer or to die there—that England should never have to pay a ransom for him. He told the archers that the French had sworn an oath to cut off the three fingers of their right hand to unfit them for their craft; and he reminded them of the atrocities committed at Soissons, where two hundred brave Englishmen (prisoners of war) had been hanged like dogs. “We have not come,” said the heroic king, “into our kingdom of France like mortal enemies; we have not burnt towns and villages ; we have not outraged women and maidens like our adversaries at Soissons. They are full of sin and have no fear of God.” As the king passed by one of the divisions, he heard a brave officer, Walter Hungerford, expressing a wish that some of the gallant knights and stout archers who were living in idleness in merry England could be present on the field. "No!" cried King Henry, “I would not have a single man more. If God gives us the victory, the fewer we are, the more honour ; and if we lose, the less will be the loss to our country. But we will not lose ; fight as you were wont to do, and before night the pride of our numberless enemies shall be humbled to the dust." The disparity of numbers was indeed appalling; the French, at the most moderate calculation, being as six to one.
“God's arm strike with us ! 'tis a fearful odds." But they had gained little from experience. Their leaders had crowded the immense host in fields between two woods, where there was not room to deploy or to mancuvre with any facility. They could hardly have chosen a worse position. The rain had made some of the fields impassable to horses bearing the weight of men in heavy armour. This, which was so great a difficulty to the French and which made their cavalry almost useless, presented no obstacle at all to the English foot, who were lightly accoutred, and could plant their stakes the easier into the ground from its softness.
A close parallel has been drawn between the battles of Crecy and Azincourt; but in some respects they were different. The French, warned and tutored it may be by the old Duke of Berri, did not begin the action, but waited to be attacked, every man sitting down on the ground near to his own banner. King Henry had calculated on the sure and inextricable confusion of the first movement of so groat a force on such close and difficult ground; and he patiently awaited their attack. During this time he distributed a little food and some wine among his men, who sat down on the ground and quietly ate their breakfasts ; even as their forefathers had done on the field of Crecy. While the small and compact force of Henry was governed by one master will, the loose large multitude of the French was distracted by the conflicting opinions of many and presumptuous men. The Constable by right of his office was commander-in-chief; but there were with him many princes and others, and the Duke of Orleans, the Count of Nevers, and a host of young gentlemen who had just put on their knightly spurs, and had never earned them; and these were either impatient of the Constable's control or held contrary opinions to him, while the young and untried knights were all anxious to begin the battle and wanted to charge the English at once without any preconcerted plan. But the more cautious Constable, it appears, would fain have waited the arrival of fresh reinforcements under the Marshal de Loigny and the Duke of Brittany, who were on their march and expected in the course of a day or two. It seemed disgraceful, with such odds, to wait for more, but the Constable prevailed. As the morning
wore away the Constable sent Messire Guichard Dauphin and the Sire de Helly to the English camp, with an offer of a free passage to Henry, if he would, on his part, restore Harfleur, together with all the prisoners he had made, and give up his pretensions to the throne of France. But Henry, undismayed by the large force before him, was as bold now as he had been in his own capital, and would only treat upon the same conditions. If he had allowed himself to be amused by the Constable with these negotiations a day or two longer, his army would have been starved outright. Seeing then that the French had no intention to come to him, he determined to go to them. He threw out two detachments,-the one to lie in ambush on the left flank of the French, the other to the rear, where, when the battle began, they were to set fire to a barn and house belonging to the priory of St. George at Hesdin, and so create an alarm. These maneuvres were executed ; and the two detachments, both composed of archers, got to the posts appointed, and lay in wait without being perceived by the enemy.
128.—THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT.—(Continued.)
PENNY MAG. This “marvellous, fierce, and cruel battle” abounds in striking and stirring pictures ; the first onset of the English is, perhaps, one of the most striking of them all.
It was towards the hour of noon when Henry gave the brief but cheering order -“ Banners Advance !” And then the venerable Sir Thomas Erpingham, the commander of the archers, a knight grown gray with age and honour, threw his truncheon into the air, exclaiming—“Now strike !” The distance between the two armies was less than a quarter of a mile. The English came on in gallant array, until the foremost were within bow-shot of the French. Then the archers stuck their stakes in the ground before them, and set up a tremendous shout. Their loud huzzas were instantly echoed by the men that lay concealed on the left flank of the French, who, the next minute, were assailed by a tremendous shower of arrows both in front and flank. The French had few bowmen or none at all, for that weapon was considered unworthy of knightly hands, and the princes had insolently rejected the service of the burghers and other plebeians, holding that France ought to be defended only by men of gentle blood. Messire Clignet, of Brabant, thought that he could break the English archers with the lance, and he charged with twelve hundred horse, crying “Mountjoye! St. Denis !” But the ground was soft and slippery ; the flight of arrows that met them right in the face was terrific. Some were slain ; some rolled horse and horseman on the field ; others turned their horses' heads; and of the whole twelve hundred, not above seven score followed their chiefs up to the English front, where the archers, instead of wearing steel armour, had even thrown aside their leathern jackets that they might have a freer use of their nervous arms. But between the defence of the sharp stakes, and the incessant flight of their arrows, very few of the French lances reached those open breasts. Such of the knights as stood their ground, stooped their heads as the arrows went through their
vizois ; confused and blinded, they scarcely knew what they were doing. They lost the command of their horses, which, wounded in many places, became mad with pain, and galloped back, joining the other fugitives, and breaking the first division of the French army. Three horses only penetrated beyond the stakes, and they were instantly slain. The confusion of the French was now very great. Everywhere within reach of the arrows the French horses were capering about, or rushing wildly through the lines, doing mischief to their own army and causing the wildest uproar. Columns got mixed; the words of command
were disregarded : and while the timid stole to the rear, the brave ail rushed forward to the van, crowding the division that was over-crowded before in that narrow space. More than once they were so huddled together that they had not room to Couch their lances. Meanwhile the English, removing their stakes, came on with still more tremendous " bruit and noise ;” the French made a slight retrograde movement, and then, so badly had the ground been chosen, they got into some newly ploughed corn-fields, where their horses sunk almost to their saddle-girths, stuck fast, or rolled over with their riders. Seeing that the van-guard was thoroughly disordered, the English archers left their stakes, which they did not use again, and slinging their bows behind them, rushed into the thickest of the mêlée, with their bill-hooks and hatchets. There, they themselves being almost without clothing, and many of them both bare-footed and bare-headed, the English archers laid about them with their bare sinewy arms, and hit fearful knocks against the steel-clad knights of France. The Constable, and many of the most illustrious of the French knights, were presently killed by these despised plebeians, who, without any assistance from the chivalry of England, dispersed the whole body. Then the second division opened to receive the sad remnants of the first—a movement attended with fresh disorder. At this moment Duke Anthony of Brabant, who had just arrived on the field, but who, in his impatient haste, had left his reinforcements behind him, headed a fresh charge of horse, but he was instantly slain by the English, who kept advancing and destroying all that opposed them. The second division of the French, however, closed up, and kept its ground, though the weight of their armour made them sink knee-deep in the mire. Henry now brought up his men-at-arms, and calling in his brave English bowmen, he formed them again into good order. These lightly equipped troops found little inconvenience from the nature of the soil : they had the free use of their limbs ; they were as fresh as when they first came into the battle. They gave another loud huzza as the king led them on to a fresh charge. It was now that the real battle took place, and that Henry's life was repeatedly put in the greatest peril. His brother, the Duke of Clarence, was wounded and knocked down, and would have been killed or made prisoner, if Henry had not placed himself by his fallen brother's side and beaten off the assailants. Soon after, a band of eighteen knights, bearing the banner of the Lord of Croy, who had bound themselves with an oath to take or kill the King of England, made a furious charge upon him. One of these knights struck the king with his mace or battle-axe, and the blow was so violent that Henry staggered and fell on his knees; but his brave men instantly closed round him, and killed every one of the eighteen knights. The Duke of Alençon then forced his way up to the English royal standard. With a blow of his battle-axe he beat the Duke of York to the ground; and when Henry stood forth to defend his relative, he hit him over the head and knocked off part of the gold crown which he wore on his helmet. But this was the last blow that Alençon ever struck: the English closed upon him ; and, seeing his danger, he cried out to the king, “ I surrender to you—I am the Duke of Alençon.” Henry held out his hand. It was too late--the Duke was slain. His fall finished the battle, for his followers fled in dismay; and the third division of the French army, which had never drawn sword, and which was in itself more than double the number of the whole English force, fell back, and galloped from the field. Up to this point the English had not embarrassed themselves with prisoners, but they now took them in heaps. An immense number were thus secured, when Henry heard a terrible noise in his rear, where the priests of his army were sitting on horseback among the baggage, and he soon saw a hostile force drawn out in that direction. At the same time the retreating third division of the French seemed to rally and raise their banners afresh. But it was a false alarm. The body in the
rear were only some five or six hundred peasants who had entered Maisoncelles and had fallen upon the baggage in the hope of obtaining plunder and driving off some of the English horses; and what appeared a rallying in front was only a momentary halt, for the third division were presently galloping off the field harder than ever. As soon as Henry discovered his mistake he gave orders to stop the carnage and to look after the wounded. Then, attended by his principal barons, he rode over the field, and sent out the heralds, as usual, to examine the coats of arms of the knights and princes that had fallen. This was a mournful task ; for sixteen hundred brave Englishmen lay upon the field, among whom were the Earl of Suffolk and the Duke of York. In their death Shakspere has presented us with a most touching picture.
But much greater and much more frightful was the loss on the side of the French: “never had so many and such noble men fallen in one battle. In all there perished on the field eight thousand gentlemen, knights, or squires, including one hundred and twenty great lords that had each a banner of his own. The whole chivalry of France was cropped. Seven near relations of King Charles—Brabant, Nevers, the Duke of Bar and his two brothers, the Constable d'Albret, and Alençon—were all slain. Among the most distinguished prisoners, who were far less numerous than the dead of the same class, were the Duke of Orleans, the Count of Richemont, the Marshal Boucicault, the Duke of Bourbon, the Counts of Eu and Vendome, and the Lords of Harcourt and Craon.
While his people were occupied in stripping the dead, Henry called to him the herald of the King of France, the king-at-arms, who was named Mountjoye, and with him several other heralds, both English and French, and he said unto them, “We have not made this slaughter, but the Almighty, as we believe, for the sins of France.” And after this he asked them to whom the honour of the victory was due? Mountjoye replied, "To the King of England; to him ought victory to be given, and not to the King of France.” Then Henry asked the name of the castle that he saw pretty near to him. They answered that it was called Azincourt. “Then,” quoth Henry, “ since all battles ought to be named after the nearest castle, let this battle bear henceforward and lastingly the name of the battle of Azincourt."
The Duke of Orleans, who had been dragged out wounded from among the dead, was sorely discomfited at the sudden turn affairs had taken. Henry went up to console him : "How fare you, my cousin ?" said he ; "and why do you refuse to eat and drink ?” The duke answered that he was determined to fast. “Not 80,— make good cheer," said the king mildly; "if God hath given me grace to win this victory, I acknowledge that it is through no merits of mine own. I believe that God hath willed that the French should be punished ; and if what I have heard be true, no wonder at it; for they tell me that never were seen such a disorder, such a licence of wickedness, such debauchery, such bad vices as now reign in France. It is pitiful and horrible to hear it all, and certes the wrath of the Lord must have been awakened ?” And in truth Henry could hardly have spoken worse of France at this time, than it spoke for itself.
On the next morning, when the English left Maisoncelles, the king and the duke of Orleans rode side by side, conversing in a friendly manner. The army passed over the field of battle. They stripped some of the bodies, and when they were gone some of the neighbouring peasantry came to the scene of horror to do the same frightful work. But the Count of Charolais, atterwards Philip the Good, eldest son of the duke of Burgundy, was at the castle of Aire, not far from the field of battle, in which he had heen prevented from joining by the strict orders of his father; and when he heard the doleful news he was inconsolable, and refused to take any nourishment. But he sent the bailiff of Aire and the abbot of Ruis
seauville to superintend the burial of the French, while he himself attended the funeral of his two uncles the dukes of Brabant and Nevers. The abbot and the bailiff bought twenty-five roods of land, and on this land three immense deep pits were dug, and five thousand eight hundred men were cast into them. Then the bishop of Guines went down, sprinkled holy water upon the ground, and blessed this vast sepulchre of the aristocracy of France. Many hundreds, who had friends living near, were buried with more decency in the neighbouring churches, or carried to their own castles.
The English conquerors marched slowly on to Calais, for they were heavy laden with the weight of their spoil
. When they got there Henry called a council of war. Sickness still prevailed in his skeleton of an army : disease and want raged in all the near provinces of France. He had not only saved his honour, but had gained the greatest military glory : he wanted men, he wanted money. All these considerations pointed homeward, and it was determined that he should forthwith return to England.
“ Then,” says honest John Stow, “with all vigilance the navy was prepared, and by the king's commandment the lords and great estates of the prisoners of France, to a great number, were brought into that ship wherein the king was determined to pass the sea. At this their passage the sea was marvellously boisterous and rough, insomuch that two of the English ships perished in the floods, by reason whereof the French prisoners were so encumbered and vexed that the day of their passage seemed to them no less bitter and terrible than that day wherein they were taken at Azincourt ; nor they could not marvel enough how the king should have so great strength so easily to resist and endure the rage and boisterousness of the sea, without accombrance and disease of his stomach !”
The people of England were literally mad with joy and triumph. At Dover they rushed into the sea to meet him, and carried him ashore on their shoulders. Every where on his way noblemen, priests, and people came forth to welcome him; and on his entrance into London, the mayor, with the aldermen and crafts, to the number of four hundred, riding in red, with hoods red and white, met him at Blackheath, coming from Eltham, and so conducted him in triumph through the city, where the gates and streets were garnished and hung with precious cloths of arras, and where the people got drunk on something more than joy, for the conduits through the city ran none other than good and sweet wines, and that abundantly. There were many towers and stages in the streets, richly adorned, and upon the height of them sat small children singing praises and lauds unto God; for King Henry would have no ditties made in honour of his victory, but ascribed it wholly unto God. Loud were the plaudits of the people in honour of Henry; and during his whole reign there was scarcely a complaint made against him or his ministers -nothing beyond a faint expression of regret that his wars in France should keep him so long away from his loving subjects.
129.-THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT.