Info Favorites Register Log in Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Agincourt 1415, towards a new history of the battle. Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Daniel Staberg

Location: Gothenburg/Sweden
Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Likes: 2 pages
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 568

PostPosted: Tue 12 Dec, 2006 4:24 pm    Post subject: Agincourt 1415, towards a new history of the battle.         Reply with quote

Few medieval battles are as famous as the battle of Agincourt, and over the years it has been seen as the most splendid of the English victories during the 100-Years war. In 2005 Professor Anne Curry published her latest research in a book titled "Agincourt, A New History', a book which extensivly challenged large parts of the traidtioanl view of the campaign and the battle. In thread I'll try to present this research and it's impact on the study of the battle.

The English Army of 1415

There can be no doubt that the king tried to raise as large an army as possible for his invasion, but how large was it? Given the survival of so many financial records for the army that Henry raised, it is possible to be fairly certain of its size. Altogether, twenty-six peers entered into indentures to provide 5,222 men. We have evidence of fifty-seven knights (both banneret and bachelor, and including Michael de la Pole junior, who inherited the duchy of Suffolk during the campaign) who contracted for a further 2,573 men. Those who indented below knightly rank produce a total of 1,306 men. A thousand archers were provided from Lancashire and South Wales. The figure for Cheshire is problematic, since only 247 seem to have received par yet 650 archers and fifty men-at-arms may have been intended. Around 900 men, mainly serving as archers, were raised from the offices of the royal household. That gives a total of 11.248 soldiers, of whom 2,266 were men-at-arms (20.1 per cent). If the higher Cheshire figures are used, then the total would be 11.791, with 2,316 men-at-arms (19.6 per cent). The eighteenth-century list of indentures printed by Nicolas suggests that others indented for whom we now have no information surviving. For instance, he notes 250 men-at-arms and 250 archers under Sir John Devereux (possibly a Gascon, since the ratio is more typical of that area than England) which cannot be traced in any of the documentation in The National Archives. He also gives 20 + 60 under William de la rote, younger son of Suffolk, bur the retinue list of the earl suggests that he served within his company. The total number of combatants likely exceeded 12,000 and was boosted by the non-military groups such as the miners and carpenters.

We know also that some captains had recruited more men than their indenture required. These men are listed in the musters as 'men beyond the number' (oultre le nombre). Although these were only small numbers, they were useful in filling vacancies as they arose. In some companies, most notably the archers from South Wales and the retinue of the Earl of Arundel, almost all of those invalided home were replaced by others, as will be discussed in Charter 5. This again suggests that these supernumeraries were with the army or else crossed later, since there is a reference in the council minutes of March 1417 to the fact that not all troops were able to find shipping at the outset. There is also evidence of 560 support men (120 miners, 124 carpenters, 150 stonemasons, forty smiths, sixty waggoners, and 120 labourers). In addition, Sir John Tiptoft crossed to Bordeaux in mid-August with eighty men-at-arms and 400 archers. While we cannot count these troops into the king's campaign, it is important to bear them in mind, as also the troops in Wales, the Scottish marches and Calais, in order to gain a full impression of the military investment of Henry at this point. Even if the paid troops did not much exceed 12,000, this was still a very large army by the standard of English expeditions to France, although larger forces had been raised for Scotland, as in 1400. Henry's army was three times the size of the army sent under Clarence in 1412. No expedition between 1369 and 1389 had exceeded 6,000 men. That of 1389 may have numbered 10,000, bur to find larger armies; we need to go back to the pre-Black Death period. Recent research has suggested that the army that Edward III took to France in 1346 totalled 14,000 troops.
A New History, page 70-71

The traditional estimate of the army at the start of the campaign has been some 2500 men-at-arms and 8000 archers. Prof. Curry’s review of the army presents a sligthly lower number of men-at-arms (2266/2316 v. 2500) and a larger number of archers (8982/9475 v. 8000).
The missing men-at-arms are almost certainly those of Sir John Devereux’s untraceable retinue mentioned above. Unfortunately Prof. Curry does not differentiate between mounted archers and foot archers. Earlier, incomplete, reviews of the records suggest roughly a 50/50 split between those two groups (52% mtd archers, 48% ft. archers to be exact).

So how large was the English army after the siege of Harfleur?


How many men had he lost? There is no doubt that 300 men-at-arms and 900 archers were put into garrison since the figures are noted in the records of the privy council. Gunners, carpenters and masons recruited for the campaign were also detailed into Harfleur for its defence and rebuilding. The Gesta suggests that 5,000 were invalided home but gives no figures for the dead or deserters. The Burgundian chroniclers place the mortality total at 2,000 and the number of those invalided home as 500 knights and esquires, in addition to those o flower rank. Appendix B tabulates the figures for the size of Henry's army as given by chronicles at various stages of the campaign. Not all writers distinguish between the different phases. But for the army as it left Harfleur, the lowest figure is that given in the Gesta and Liber Metricus of 900 men-at-arms and 5,000 archers. This has been accepted by historians as accurate. French sources cite higher figures for the army at all stages. We do not have to rely, however, on narrative sources, since there are financial records for the English army on which we can draw. Because Henry did not want to give par to men who were no longer in a position to serve him, the post-campaign accounts give details of those who died at the siege or were invalided home. In addition, since Harfleur remained in English hands, the cost of those put into garrison could be transferred to another budget.
Using these materials, what conclusions can we come to on the size of Henry's army as he set out on his march? We can immediately deduct the 1,200 detailed in to garrison. It is interesting to see how this was managed. The post-campaign accounts show that 285 of those put into garrison were drawn from nineteen retinues. In ten cases, the captain entered the garrison with his whole company; William, Lord Botreaux was also detailed into the garrison with the whole of his retinue of sixty men, but became ill and returned to Dover on 19 October, leaving his company in the garrison under the command of Sir Andrew Ecton (or Acton). In the remainder, only part of the retinue was placed in Harfleur. Three retinues provided only one man, the Duke of York eight. Thirty-two of the 159 who had crossed with the Earl of Suffolk, who had himself died at the siege, were put into garrison. In the case of whole retinues it is easy to suggest the rationale. In the case of Suffolk's men, it may be that they were recovering from dysentery and were considered a risk to take on the march, but not so ill that they should go home.
A further insight can be gleaned from muster roll of the Harfleur garrison for the first quarter of 1416.82 It records the names of 1,198 men, consisting of an earl, four barons, twenty-two knights, 273 men-at-arms and 898 archers. Several of
those known to have been transfer red into garrison in early October were still there. It is likely that the retinues of the remaining peers (Dorset, Edward, Lord Hastings and William, Lord Clinton) had also been transferred in their entirety to the garrison before Henry began his march, but they do not have post-campaign accounts surviving. The majority of those in the 1416 muster were therefore probably men who had served in Harfleur since its surrender. Others were men like John Fastolf, who had crossed in the Earl of Suffolk's retinue but had been invalided home, only to return to France to join the garrison and to be knighted by the time of the grant to him of the nearby lordship of Frileuse on 29 January 1416.85 Fastolf's pattern of service reminds us again of the possibility that men invalided home were not necessarily out of the war thenceforward.
The post-campaign accounts reveal very few losses from deaths at the siege. Michael de la Pole,Earl of Suffolk died on 18 September. Two of his archers also died, and permission was given for two men-at-arms and four archers to accompany his body home for burial. Sir John Southworth, one of the commanders of the archers from Lancashire, died on 27 September. 87 Two men-at-arms and thirteen archers in the retinue of Thomas, Earl of Arundel died between 24 September and 3 October. Deaths are found in thirteen other retinues. In all, therefore, there is record of the demise of fifteen men-at-arms (counting peers and knights in this category) , twenty-one archers and one member of the retinue of the sergeant tailor, William Tropenell. 89 Not all may have died from disease. Monstrelet refers to some soldiers being killed by French crossbows.
Many more men were invalided home, including four nobles, Clarence, the Earl Marshal, and the Earls of March and of Arundel. The latter returned to England on 28 September, and made his will at his castle of Arundel on 10 October, where he died three days later. In addition to the post-campaign accounts, we have another source for those who returned home. Because Henry was extremely concerned about desertion after the fall of Harfleur, those allowed to go back to England had to have royal permission to do so. The administration of this was given to the chamberlain and steward of the household. Lists were drawn up which suggest that a mustering system was used, probably as men went on board the ships. These lists add to the information in the accounts, but caution has to be exercised in using them as a source for calculating the size of the remaining army. Because of fears of desertion, the lists do not only record men-at-arms and archers but also servants and others going home with their masters. We cannot simply count all of the names in the lists, as has been done in the past.
In addition, we can see considerable discrepancies between the numbers on the sick list and in the post-campaign accounts. The best example is presented by the Earl of Arundel. The sick list for his retinue names nineteen men-at-arms and sixty-eight archers as well as three minstrels. This appears to be a considerable loss out of the 100 men-at-arms and 300 archers with which he had departed. His post-campaign account, however, shows that the retinue that continued on the campaign was only six men-at-arms under strength. It had been possible to find replacements for two-thirds of the men-at-arms and all of the archers who had died or were being invalided home. The retinue list presented with the post-campaign account gives the names of incoming as well as departing soldiers, as well as the dates between 24 September and 3 October on which the replacements were made. Either reinforcements had crossed or else extra soldiers had crossed in the first place in the hope of gaining employment.
This situation makes it difficult to know the real impact of disease at the siege, since we do not have post-campaign accounts for all of the retinues with members appearing on the sick lists. Simply counting the names of soldiers in the lists could therefore exaggerate the actual loss to the army size as a whole. The royal household and its support groups appear to have been particularly hard hit by disease. One of the lists of sick includes office-holders such as William Kynwolmersh, cofferer, and Master Lewis, the armourer, as well as eight of the sumpter men, two wheelwrights, six of the pavilioners, sixteen of the smiths (including Baldwin Smith of Aldgate in London), twenty-six of the masons and fifty-four of the labourers. Many of those going home were therefore not front-line troops. The latter did incur losses. At least fifty of the Welsh archers and eleven of the Cheshire archers went home. Overall, around 1.330 soldiers can be shown to be returning home. These include at least 183 men-at-arms and 753 archers, with the remainder undifferentiated. Adding in the dead and those detailed to the Harfleur garrison, we come to a total of 2.568, without taking into account the fact of replacements. Since the army that left England contained a minimum of 11.248 men and most likely nearer 12,000, we can prove that Henry still had at least 8,680 soldiers with him on his march and at the battle. He probably had more since the departing army was larger and replacements were found for some of those invalided home. A working total of at least 9,000 is therefore credible.
A New History, page 113-131.

1. Are the post-campaign records of the number of deaths complete?
37 Deaths during a four or five week siege are very light losses indeed. The number can be seen as almost improbably low. Unfortunately, the sources provide few details of the losses incurred during the actual fighting; even the chroniclers are mostly silent on the subject except for a few snippets such as Monstrelet (see above).

What were the French losses during the siege?
Looking at Juliet Barker’s account of the siege the French garrison was reduced to 260 out of 400 ‘men-at-arms’. However Barker does not seem to know or to take into account that the French retinues were split into 2/3 men-at-arms and 1/3 missile troops and thus describe all professional fighting men inside Harfleur as men-at-arms. So the number of 260 ‘survivors’ could merely indicate that all French men-at-arms remained alive at the end of the siege.
Even if the French did loose 140 professional fighting men during the siege it is not improbable that their losses were in fact high than those of the English. The garrison was severely outgunned as far as gunpowder artillery and conventional siege engines were concerned. The French missile troops were few i number compared to the 9000 English archers, at the most some 150 professionals and an unknown number of town militia. Furthermore, the French garrison had exposed it self by launching several sorties, all of which had been beaten back, presumably with loss. So it is quite possible that the French lost more men than the English in actual combat.

Even if the number of deaths are increased 10 times to account for unrecorded deaths by disease and combat we still arrive at a number below 400.

2. Is the ‘sick list’ complete, does it contain all those given Royal consent to return home to England?
Well the authors seem to have varied opinions about this. Curry essentialy views it as a fairly complete record while others such as Juliet Barker calls the list 'incomplete' while proving not explaination or soruces for that conculsion.
I tend to prefer Curry's version since she is the historian who has done the most reserach into the original documents and records tather than relying on what has been published by others.

Given the high degree of control (for a 15th Century army) which Henry V possesed it is IMHO possible to assume that most of the men give Royal leave to return home are indeed recorded on the list (Which holds 1693 names in total)

3. Desertion
As mentioned above Herny V was concered about desertions followign the capture of Harflerur and took measuers to prevent that any man returned to England without his consent. Such measuers are not fool prooof even today and some deserters would undoubtedly have slipped throug the net. How many? It is impossible to say.

4. Replacements & Reinforcements
The records of Arundels retinue clearly show that the losses suffered during the siege could replaced to a surprisingly high degree. However the lack of sources makes it hard to tell if Arundel's retinue was the exception or just one of many retinues which recived replacements prior to marching of towards Calais. There is a possibility that the English army which marched out from Harfleur had a fighting well over 9000 strong. At the very least it is possible to assume that the 'unknown' replacements would have partly or wholly reduced the impact of any 'unkown' losses.

How large was the army at the actual battle?


For the English army we have much firmer evidence of size. As we saw, the army had been reduced by 2,568 men as a result of the siege. Not all of the losses can be differentiated between men-at-arms and archers, bur if we simply divide the number equally we can suggest that there were at least 1,593 men-at-arms and 7,139 archers at the battle, a total of 8,732 men. [Curry makes a calcualtion error since she has previous calcualted the lowest possible strenght at 8680 men. an error of 52 men] This is a minimum figure, taking the army size at its lowest possibility at departure. If the higher Cheshire figures are used, then the relevant figures are 1,643 men-at-arms and 7,632 archers, a total of 9,275 men.

The English army, at a few hundred either side of 9,000 men, was not small by contemporary standards. What made it distinctive, and what made it very different from its French counterpart, was its composition. It had a relatively small number of men-at-arms bur high numbers of archers. In terms of proportions, men-at-arms made up less than one quarter of the whole force.
A New History, page 187

Attrition during the march to Calais
One thing not mentioned by Prof. Curry is attritional losses during the march to Calais, after all the army conducted a 16 day march prior to the battle while only carrying supplies for 8 days. Even if the army was able to keep itself supplied by foragign and outrignt plunderin gof the area it moved through even the best and most disciplined of armies lost men to destertion or as stragglers. Given that the daily pace was slow, a large part of the army was mounted and that the army was mostly a force of proffesionals/volunteers the number of stragglers and deserters woudl probably have been low.
Most of the men would have been in decent shap at the start of the march since those who had been ill had been invalided home.

Even if we allow for a loss of 10% of the army through strategic consumption Henry V would still have fielded a force of close to 8000 men as battle was joined, a significantly large force than the previously accepted of 6000 men. (And do note that losing 10% of the army in 16 days are quite severe losses) It would have required a loss of more than 2800 men during a 16 day period for the army to be reduced to size claimed by the Gesta. Such horrendous losses would have left traces in the sources and are quite unlikely given the conditions of the march.

Keeping in mind the other factors affecting the size of the army mentioned previously it is IMO quite clear that the English army was much stronger than the 900 men-at-arms and 5000 arhcers of the 'traditional' history of the battle. The exact size may not be as cut and dried as Curry claims but an army of 8000 men is still a significant improvment over the barely 6000 men of the traditional version. and it is entirely possibler that the arrival of replacements before the army left Harfleur resulted in an army of well over 9000 men on the day of battle.

The French army of 1415
The traditional view of the French army at Agincourt is a huge army of 24.000 to 36.000 men possibly includign as many as 14.000 men-at-arms. These numbers are essentialy conjecture base loosly on primarily the so called Burgundian cronicles of Waurin, Monstrelet and Le Fevre. Few English language authors have explained in any detial how this huge army was raised at a time when France was weakend by Armagnac-Burgundian civil war. I've not found a description which eqauls Anne Curry's study which is why I've tried to quote it in full below.


Two further questions remain about the French. The first is what formation they chose to adept; the second how large their army was. The fullest and clearest description is given by the Berry HeraId. Although this is a late chronicle, it is to be expected that a herald would have an interest in the commands assigned to specific individuals. His account makes for particularly interesting reading when compared with the battle plans, and includes intriguing figures. He suggests that the French drew up only two battles. The van contained the marshal and constable with 3,000 men-at-arms, Bourbon with 1,200, and Orleans with 600, commanded on his behalf by the Sire de Gaules. This gives a total size for the French vanguard of 4,800. The main battle comprised the Duke of Bar with 600 men, the Count of Nevers with 1,200, the Count of Eu with 300, the Count of Marle with 400, the Count of Vaudemont, brother of the Duke of Lorraine, with 300, and the Count of Roucy and Braine with 200, as well as the Duke of Brabant, who brought few men, and the barons of Hainault who put themselves under his banner. The main battle therefore totalled at least 3,000. On the right wing was Richemont, with the Vicomte de Belliere and the Lord of Combourg, with 600 men-at-arms. On the left wing was the Count of Vendome, Guichard Dauphin (described as the grand master of the royal household), the Lords of Ivry, Hacqueville, Aumont and La Roche Guyon, as well as the household officers of the king, together totalling 600 men-at-arms. There is a later reference to a group of horsemen led by Clignet de Brabant and others which was ordered to strike against the enemy. The total number was therefore 9,000, plus the smaller groups for which numbers are not given. Remember that at the end of August, a royal order had indicated the king's intention of raising an army of 6,000 men-at-arms and 3,000 archers. The figure given by Berry Herald appears identical, although it must be borne in mind that he does not distinguish between the kinds of troops.
What is noticeable in his account is that the vanguard was over one-and-a-half times as large as the main battle. It would seem that Orleans and d'Albret had placed themselves in the vanguard, while the Rouen plan had put them in the main battle. This 'front loading', as it were, of the French army tallies with comments in chronicles that everyone rushed to be in the front. The French deliberately created a very large vanguard because they considered they could smash the very small number of English men-at-arms with ease. The main battle included many of those who had been placed in the rearguard in the Rouen plan. The Count of Marle (whose seat lay to the north of Laon) was Robert de Bar, nephew of the duke. The seat of the Count of Roucy and Braine lay just to the south of Laon, and Vaudemont took his title from a place of that name south of Nancy. The duchy of Bar itself lay just to the west of Nancy. 15 This main battle was therefore largely made up of men from the area of the Marne and Meuse, in addition to the Count of Nevers, brother of Duke John of Burgundy. That only two battles were formed may have been the result of the non-arrival of those who had been expected to be present. Since du Chastel did not come, command of the left wing at the battle was given to the Count of Vendome.
In des Ursins's second account of the battle, he also has the French forming only two battles. He does not name any commanders but says that the lords wanted to be in the 'first battle', which totalled 5,000 men 'who never wielded a blow'. His 'second battle' is described as containing 3,000, eXcluding the gros valets, archers and crossbowmen. There was als o a cavalry company to break the archers, which was intended to be 400-strong. The numbers are very close to those given by the Berry Heraid. The Gesta and the Liber Metricus also say that the French formed two battles. In the Gesta the vanguard was made up of the nobles and the pick of the men, all armed with spears. The author makes the ridiculous suggestion that it was 'thirty times more than all of our men put together'. On each flank there were squadrons of cavalry to break the archers. The rearguard was mounted, giving the chronicler the opportunity to remark that they looked as though they were 'marc ready to flee than to tarry'. 16 Only the wings of cavalry are mentioned by Titus Livius and the Pseudo-Elmham, although both also comment that the French line was so wide in extent that the field was not able to hold the whole force, and that it was thirty-one deep, a figure chosen for effect and to give a false impression of accuracy. Since it is close to the Gesta's figure of thirty-fold, it may derive from a popular nation circulating after the battle.

The remaining French chroniclers, however, speak of the French drawing up three battles - 'l'avant garde' (vanguard) , 'la bataille' (main battle) , and 'l'arriere garde' (rearguard) , as they are named in Fenin and the Chronique de Ruisseauville. The Religieux speaks of the vanguard as comprising 5,000 men, commanded by the Count of Vendome and Guichard Dauphin. The last-named is also placed in the van by the Burgundian chroniclers, who also put there the constable and marshal, the Dukes of Orleans and Bourbon, the Counts of Eu and Richemont, the Sire de Rambures and the Sire de Dampierre. The Burgundian chroniclers place in the main battle the Dukes of Bar and Alell!;:on and the Counts of Nevers, Vaudemont, Blamont, Salm, Grandpre and Roucy, a list that has many similarities with that given by the Berry Herald. They give the commanders of the rearguard as the Counts ofMarle (whom Berry places in the main battle) , Dammartin and Fauquembergues, and the Sire de Longroy. They also place Vendorne and the officers of the king on Olle wing, with 1,600 men, and Clignet de Brabant and Louis de Bosredon, with 800 mounted men, on the other, to attack the English archers. The Religieux assign this task to 1,000 of the best troops and add as leader the Sire de Gaules, whom des Ursins has commanding the troops of the Duke of Orleans in the van. In Ruisseauville, the Sire de Gaucourt is named alongside Clignet de Brabant. Dynter names only Clignet, giving him 1,200 men.
The Burgundian chroniclers do not give figures for the main battle or the rearguard but they do for the van, which they claim contained 8,000 men-at-arms, knights and esquires, 4,000 archers and 1,500 crossbowmen, giving a total of 13,500. There is mention in the account of the Religieux of an intention that 4,000 of the best crossbowmen should march in front, but the chronicler tens us that these troops were given permission to depart by the lords of the army on the pretext that they had no need of their help. Dynter gives a slightly different version of this. He speaks of the French putting the archers, crossbowmen and infantry in the rear, not wanting their aid, since they wished to capture the king of England by hand-to-hand fighting. This takes us back to the fact that the vanguard had been increased in size and noble presence. The Religieux speaks of the leaders each claiming for themselves the honour of leading the van. Fenin also claims that the majority of nobles and the flower of the army were put into the vanguard.

There is therefore confusion and discrepancy among the chronicles on the number of battles, and between the wings and the groups intended to break the English archers. Some consistent features emerge, however. One is that cavalry was assigned to this last purpose. We shall discuss this action in more detail in the next chapter. The second consistency is that the vanguard was the largest battle and that it included many of the leading nobles. The plan was to create as large a van as possible so that the English men-at-arms would be completely overwhelmed by the weight of the first French attack. The vanguard as deployed on the day probably absorbed the two wings under Vendome and Richemont. It is this that explains the observation of Titus Livius and Pseudo-Elmham that the French formation was too broad for the field. It is also possible that the French battles were not one directly behind the other, as historians have tended to assume, bur were obliquely positioned, so that they stretched across the field as well as containing many rows of men.
The third consistency is the lack of participation of archers and crossbowmen. Only the Religieux account hazards a number, and also explains why they did not fight. The initial intention bad been to raise 3,000 archers alongside 6,000 men-ar-arms. Par records for the army indicate that some retinues contained archers as weil as men-ar-arms. The semonce des nobles cailed on men to bring along archers and crossbowmen as well as men-at-arms. Vet where were all of these archers at the battle? A solution is provided by the Burgundian chroniclers, who suggest a mixed composition of men-at-arms, archers and crossbowmen for the van and main battle, although no clarification is given of the order in which each group was intended to proceed. Was it that the bowmen were required to fight as general infantry rather than as archers? This would increase further the weight of the French van guard in their plan to overwhelm the English men-at-arms, bur it presupposes the French bowmen had full armour and were integrated within the' chevalerie' of the men-at-arms and their leaders. To know whether this is a credible interpretation requires more work to be done on archers in France in this period. Other possibilities are that the numbers of archers bad not been raised as intended. Charles V bad made efforts in the 1360s and '70s to build up a force of longbowmen and crossbowmen from the towns, bur there are some signs that the lack of war from the late 1380s bad caused decay in French archery. Certainly many of the units in the par records for 1415 contain men-at-arms only. In 1416 the French recruited 550 crossbowmen from Genoa, bur there had been no move to provide foreign troops in the previous rear, although some Spanish names are to be found in companies of crossbowmen in the par records. 17 Other possibilities are that the gens de trait were used in earlier stages of the campaign bur released before the battle (as the Religieux implies), or that they were at the battle bur held back in a rearguard and never deployed. In the Gesta there is an indication that the French did use crossbow fire. A further possibility is that the gens de traitt were used bur that chroniclers simply do not mention them. After all, they bad plenty of other disasters to report. They also tended to pursue a blame culture which singled out the French nobles, knights, esquires and others of gentle status who fought as men-at-arms, collectively called the' chevalerie', for the shame of the defeat.

The problem of the gens de trait makes it particularly difficuIt to know how many soldiers the French had at the battle. Appendix B shows the great variety of figures cited in chronicles. The most obvious feature is that English sources accredit the French with much larger numbers than do their own chroniclers. The English estimates, stretching from 60,000 to as high as 160,000, are completely impossible. France was not able to raise armies of this size until several centuries later. It is not surprising that the English should exaggerate French numbers and minimise their own, since this made Henry's victory seem all the greater. The Burgundian chroniclers also give a high total number of 50,000, although the figures for the constituent elements of vanguard, wings etc. are lower. These writers were also keen to heighten the sense of defeat, since it was the fault of a government that was largely Armagnac-controlled. The figures given in other French chronicles are more circumspect. The lowest, 10,000, is found in the Berry Herald and in Gruel's Chronique de Richemont. In both cases, the English army is said to be larger, aIthough only marginally so. Figures for those killed and taken prisoner at the battle are not very useful in helping us to gauge total army size. As we shall see in Chapter 10, fewer than 700 in total can be identified by name and chroniclers' estimates are as unreliable for casualties as they are for the army size as a whole. Can we ascertain more reliable figures from the pay records? At the end of August, the intention was to raise an army of 6,000 men-at-arms and 3,000 archers. As in England, this would be made up of companies of various sizes under individual lords. Each company would itself be made up of smaller groups under knights and esquires. For three lords, we have firm evidence of the size and composition of the company intended to be under their command. The Count of Vendome was raid for 300 escuiers (men-at-arms) and 150 gens de trait, the Duke of Berry for 1,000 + 500, and the Sire de Ligne for 120 + 60. For the other lords known to have companies in September and October, such as d' Albret and Alencon, we have details of some of their constituent groups but not of the total number of troops. However, it is unlikely that any would have had as many men as were expected of the Duke of Berry. As in Henry V's army, the largest retinues in the French army would have been held by the members of the royal family, with those of highest status having the largest retinues. Des Ursins tells us that both Burgundy and Orleans were asked to provide 500 men-at-arms. The letter of Duke John dated 24 September mentions a royal request for 500 men-at-arms and 300 archers. This may imply that Orleans had been asked to provide the same number of archers. Gruel speaks of 500 men under Richemont. What is uncertain, however, is whether these contingents fell within the 9,000 strong army. In the case of Richemont and all others, such as d'Albret, Alenyon etc, known to be in active service with the army tracking Henry's progress along the Somme, we can suggest that they did. Richemont was leading not only his own men but also troops from the Dauphin's household. The Dauphin had requested troops from the town of Mantes but we do not know how many were provided. Although the Count of Marle can be shown to have companies under his command from early October, the other lords from the Marne and Meuse area, such as Roucy, Braine and Bar, joined the army only af ter it moved away from the Somme. This also applies to the Duke of Bourbon, whose companies appear from 12 October when he joined the king and Dauphin at Rouen. Even if we consider Burgundy's numbers as outside the 9,000-strong army, a problem arises over whether the troops brought by his brothers, the Count of Nevers and the Duke of Brabant, lay within the contingent requested of Duke John or whether they were separate. For Brabant we have some information derived from the archives of towns and from the duke's recette generale. The exact size of his company remains elusive bur the financial records reveal that 219 horses were used in the expedition, which implies that the duke's men-at-arms cannot have exceeded this number. They were mainly men of his household, although troops were also requested from Louvain, Brussels and Anvers (Antwerp). The latter may have sent fifty-seven men, presumably mainly archers and crossbowmen, although there is evidence of a reluctance to raise troops. The town companies were ordered to assemble at Cambrai, to which the duke's vassals and officials elsewhere in his duchy were to send their men. How many arrived at the battle in time is uncertain. Only thirty-seven men under the duke can be identified by name, and the Burgundian chroniclers suggest that the majority of his men did not travel as quickly as he did and therefore did not participate in the battle

Although muster rolls show that men-at-arms served as individuals, some would have been accompanied at their own expense by gros varlets, military servants who had limited defensive and offensive equipment and who could be given some function in combat, as the BL plan indicates. There were some urban militias, although these contingents were rarely more than fifty-strong. We know that some companies were summoned from the towns of the north. Contamine mentions four places in this context. The first is Senlis, although we have no idea of how many men, if any, were sent. The same is true of Saint-Omer. Amiens is known to have provided thirty crossbowmen (arbaletriers) and twenty-five shieldmen (pavesiers). Tournai paid for two months' service its customary company of fifty arbaletriers and twenty pavesiers, led by Ernoulle Muisit, who had also commanded the urban militia in 1412, but it is possible that these men were guarding the king at Rouen rather than serving at the battle. It could be argued that the army must have contained at least 6,000 men-ar-arms and 3,000 gens de trait, since those were the numbers planned for in terms of par, bur we have no guarantee that they were achieved or that all of the companies in evidence in September and early October were still in service at the time of the battle. We can assume that we should add additional numbers for soldiers brought by Orleans, Bourbon, Nevers, Brabant and others from the northern and eastern areas, who joined the army late in the day. These cannot have numbered more than 2,500, to which we need to add about 500 or so who responded within Picardy to the second issue of the semonce of 20 September. The presence of local men is evidenced by deaths in the battle. All in all, this suggests a total around 12,000, with at least two-thirds of its strength being men-at-arms.

This may seem a small figure but it is not incompatible with what we know of French armies in this period. Although armies of 15- 16,000 men were raised in the 1380s, these had been drawn from the whole kingdom. In 1415 there was very little recruitment south of the Loire save for the companies of Bourbon and Orleans. In June 1414 the king had hoped to raise an army of 10,000 men-at-arms and 4,500 gens de trait for war against Burgundy, but there is no firm evidence that this was achieved. Furthermore, in 1415 some troops were kept to protect the king in Rouen and to ensure the defence of Paris. The military resources available to the French in 1415 were limited. It is possible that Burgundy could have been called upon to make a larger contribution, had there not been so much mistrust towards him. In the summer of 1414 he had probably raised 2,250 troops for the defence of his lands. The army at Agincourt would also have been larger if Brittany had arrived in time, although Basin's figure of 10,000 troops under his command is not credible.
A New History page 181-187

1.The Gros Varlets
The armed military servants know variously as ‘gros varlets’ or ‘valets de guerre’ fulfilled certain tactical roles in all three known French battle plans from the early 15th Century, specifically they were used to reinforce the wings of mounted men-at-arms tasked with attacking English archers and/or the English camp & baggage train. However it is almost impossible to determine their number at Azincourt since they were not directly paid and recruited by French Crown but served at the expense of their men-at-arms. A few extant documents suggest a 1:1 ratio of men-at-arms and valets earlier in the century, however not all valets were equipped to fulfil the military role envisioned for the gros varlets. Nor did all men-at-arms posses the economic means necessary to maintain a valet of any kind in service.
In the end all that can said is that the number of gros varlets was significant enough for tem to be given a role in the original French battle plan. However it is impossible to tell if they numbered 500, 1000 or 2000.

IMO Anne Curry has shown beyond a doubt that the English army was larger and that the French army was much smaller that previously assumed. In the second part of the article I'll look at how this affects the current understandign fo the battle, look at the rebutals to Prof. Currys reserach and take a look as some of here other conclusions about the battle.
View user's profile Send private message
Greg Coffman

Location: Lubbock, TX
Joined: 24 Aug 2006
Reading list: 4 books

Posts: 254

PostPosted: Tue 12 Dec, 2006 7:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


My apologies to Mr. Staberg.

I was in the wrong. I mean no offence.

Last edited by Greg Coffman on Wed 13 Dec, 2006 1:01 pm; edited 2 times in total
View user's profile Send private message
Ryan A. C.

Joined: 22 Mar 2004
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 147

PostPosted: Tue 12 Dec, 2006 9:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I really enjoyed reading through that. Thanks for posting!

I guess this means I have to go pick up another book now. Laughing Out Loud
View user's profile Send private message
Daniel Staberg

Location: Gothenburg/Sweden
Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Likes: 2 pages
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 568

PostPosted: Wed 13 Dec, 2006 12:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Coffman wrote:
(You do have permission to post this, right?)

Hardly needed given that I'm perfectly within the bounds of academic quotations which at least here in Sweden require full quotations of any text used to support ones reserach. Now quoting the full book or enitre chapters would have been a diffrent thing.

Strange that you have not questioned any one else making quotations in this forum.
View user's profile Send private message
Randall Moffett

Location: Northern Utah
Joined: 07 Jun 2006
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 2,118

PostPosted: Wed 13 Dec, 2006 6:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


I am somewhat Biased in this topic but It indeed can be fairly accurate to use the records of 37 deaths. The reason behind it is how the English military worked at this time. All men recieve payment. Lists of men are needed for the king to pay for men present, wounded and killed. When men are wounded or killed they still get paid as does the man who replaces them who is then present. It would be more likely that a military leader would lie that more were injured or killed then less as to gain more money for 'replacement' men. Pay records cannot be infalible but can be trusted more than any other source from the period I know of.

As far as men who are deserting.... TO WHERE??? Big Grin , seriously thought, being an englishman in hostile territory would be a very bad idea. Transport from and to the continent is paid for by the king. Many of these men would not have the ability to return home without the logistics of the king and his finances. Also in the 14th century men being sent home had to have papers allowing them to. If caught they faced prison or death. In most of the major ports who would have commerce with France (which lessened in the war) they had men monitering all men entering ports. I am sure it happened but the majority of desertion happened before crossing the channel not after. The legal records I have seen very rarely comment on deserters who desert once in france. It happened but I imagine in English armies in small numbers.

Just a few thoughts,

View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis

Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Wed 13 Dec, 2006 6:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, actually I'm of the view that the French army might have been that much larger than the English force, but there was a rough parity between the forces that actually engaged in the field because the English only fought the small cavalry wings, the vanguard (first battle), and the mai nbattle (second battle). The chronicles that mention an organization into three battles also make it clear that the bulk of the third battle fled without engaging the English, so the discrepancy between the accounts may not be as serious as we think.

So, I think the French might have fielded a force on the order of 30,000 or even 60,000, but the number who actually engaged on the battlefield was probably quite close to Curry's estimate of 8000-9000 on the English side against 9000-12,000 on the French. This actually makes more sense if we consider that the English might have counted the French by visual estimate, with the result that they lumped together the camp followers with the fighting elements of this army. So there might have been 60,000 men in total, with around 20,000-30,000 fighting men among them, and around 9,000-12,000 men who actually engaged the English.

I've read part of the book too, but it wasn't my own so I didn't get the chance to read as far as the part concerning the progress of the battle itself. it would be nice if you could summarize it here.
View user's profile Send private message
Bryce Felperin

Location: San Jose, CA
Joined: 16 Feb 2006

Posts: 552

PostPosted: Wed 13 Dec, 2006 10:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's an excellent book and I highly recommend it. It's not often that you get to read a new book on a well researched topic and find out that the author has done even further research that re-enlightens the reader on such a worn topic. It's a very good work.
View user's profile Send private message
Gordon Frye

Location: Kingston, Washington
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
Reading list: 15 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 1,191

PostPosted: Mon 18 Dec, 2006 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for posting that, Daniel. As always, your posts are informative and thought-provoking.



"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger

Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Agincourt 1415, towards a new history of the battle.
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum

All contents © Copyright 2003-2020 — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum