If you Visited Agincourt Today…

by Scott Manning on October 25, 2013

Clifford J. Rogers believes the Battle of Agincourt (1415) is “probably the most richly documented of all medieval battles,” but nothing beats visiting the actual battlefield.

Here is what you can expect if you visited Agincourt today.

The people of Agincourt do not hide the fact that tourists streaming through their town are there for the battle. There is a Medieval Times feel, as cartoonish wooden props are sprinkled throughout the town. It may seem hokey, but I am sure kids love it. Military History requires some imagination, so just ignore it!

agincourt-paintedthings

There is an extensive battle museum with interactive exhibits, videos, and relics from the period. I spent over an hour going through everything.

Among the relics is the only archaeological discovery from the battlefield, a French spur found in 1936. This alone is worth the price of admission.

agincourt-spur

Some of the exhibits in the museum are geared toward kids, but adults can enjoy them too. However, I am not sure who the target audience is in some instances. For example, the statue of Henry V with a projected face, quoting Shakespeare was odd. Unfortunately, the projection of Henry’s face was slightly off, producing a horrific effect that made him look like he had a stroke.

As for the battlefield, you have to be tenacious if you want to do more than drive around it. The map the museum hands out has you do a circle around the battlefield. Notice the clashing swords in the center of the map with no indication of where to park and walk out to that spot.

agincourt-map

The kind Frenchman running the gift shop in the museum initially refused to tell me the best spot to park in order to trek the battlefield. He was concerned about the “dangerous” streets teaming with cars. I immediately had flashbacks of darting across Market St in downtown Philadelphia. After I pushed him a little, he gave me some tips.

The only monument on the battlefield is a medieval-looking one, erected in 1991. There were other monuments here before, but they fell victim to wars and revolutions of the past 600 years.

agincourt-monument

The obelisk bares only the town name and date of the battle. Simple and perfect.

agincourt-monument-closeup

Next to the monument is a map of the battle. While useful for interpretation, the whole setup is roughly 1,000 yards from the actual fighting.

agincourt-orientation

There are two superb spots to see where the action took place. The first spot is on the corner of Hameau de la Gacogne and Rue de Tramecourt. You will need to park your car on the side of the road, cross the street to the west, and get your shoes dirty. This is the intersection.

firstposition

This marks the right flank of Henry V’s initial position on the battlefield. Here, he sat for hours while the French did the same 1,000 yards to the northwest. This would have been his view.

agincourt-firstposition

Henry eventually decided to move his line forward so that his longbowmen could be in range of the French knights.

You can access Henry’s second position on Rue Henri V. This is the same view the English longbowmen and men-at-arms would have had as 1,000s of mounted knights charged their way. The longbowmen would have had time to fire roughly 85,000 arrows before the first knight reached the English lines.

agincourt-secondposition

Eventually, the French sent in men-at-arms who charged to their death. Estimates vary, but Clifford J. Rogers believes that of roughly 14,000 Frenchmen upwards of 6,000 died. Among the ranks of the English were a mere 8,000 men, inspiring Winston Churchill to rank Agincourt “as the most heroic of all the land battles England has ever fought.”

Recommended Reading

My favorite book on Agincourt is Anne Curry’s The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations. Curry breaks down all the known written histories of Agincourt over the centuries, providing English translations and rich commentary on each. If you are looking for something with a little more narrative, her Agincourt: A New History is superb as well. In this work, she provides the latest insights on the numbers of men in service to Henry V.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michael Curry October 25, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Love this. Thanks!

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2 Mark Schweitzer October 25, 2013 at 7:48 PM

Very nice photos…thanks for posting. Another great piece on this battle is found in John Keegan’s book, The Face of Battle – which memorably (and very practically) demonstrates how the English achieved their victory.

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3 Scott Manning October 25, 2013 at 8:20 PM

Mark, thank you for the comment. I am a huge Keegan fan. In fact, his was the first history I read on Agincourt. You could say it ruined me for all other modern narratives.

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4 Andy Hall October 26, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Face of Battle is rightfully a classic. That, and his autobiographical introduction to Six Armies in Normandy, are (for my money) his best writing.

Curry’s New History is a great read, particularly for someone like myself not well versed in the subject.

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5 Jimmy Dick October 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM

It is always nice to see actual photos of the location with references. I love the pics with the actual eyes on the ground view Henry would have had. That helps in showing why he made the decisions he made.

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6 Candice Shy Hooper October 26, 2013 at 4:04 PM

What a terrific post! My husband and I are just beginning to plan a tour of Frgch battlefields, which will include Agincourt, so this is a great beginning. Thanks!

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7 Jim Schmidt November 7, 2013 at 10:40 AM

GREAT post and great photos! One of the best productions I’ve seen was one of Richard Holmes’s “War Walks” TV documentary episodes for Agincourt…two things really stood out: a) he actually started his “walk” by following the route that the English took to Agincourt including some of the river crossings and b) he also made the point about the missing monuments but it also made my heart ache for that country that for centuries it has been a crossing ground and a battlefield for so many armies. Again, great post.

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8 Scott Manning November 7, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Jim, thank you for the kind comment. I had a hoot out there. I will track down that Richard Holmes documentary. Sounds like a good one.

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9 Jim Schmidt November 7, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Scott – I think you’ll find it here:

http:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgeyIYa-OMQ

there is also a companion book

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