Battle of Agincourt | Facts, Summary, & Significance | Britannica

Source: Battle of Agincourt | Facts, Summary, & Significance | Britannica

Battle of Agincourt, (October 25, 1415), decisive battle in the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) that resulted in the victory of the English over the French. The English army, led by King Henry V, famously achieved victory in spite of the numerical superiority of its opponent. The battle repeated other English successes in the Hundred Years’ War, such as the Battle of Crécy (1346) and the Battle of Poitiers (1356), and made possible England’s subsequent conquest of Normandy and the Treaty of Troyes (1420), which named Henry V heir to the French crown.

Henry V and the resumption of the Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War was a discontinuous conflict between England and France that spanned two centuries. At issue was the question of the legitimate succession to the French crown as well as the ownership of several French territories. The struggle began in 1337 when King Edward III of England claimed the title “King of France” over Philip VI and invaded Flanders. It continued as a series of battles, sieges, and disputes throughout the 14th century, with both the French and the English variously taking advantage. When Henry V acceded to the English throne in 1413, there had been a long hiatus in the fighting. A truce had been formally declared in 1396 that was meant to last 28 years, sealed by the marriage of the French king Charles VI’s daughter to King Richard II of England. However, a need to reassert his authority at home (as well as his own ambition and a sense of justice) led Henry V to renew English claims in France. England had been fraught with political discord since Henry IV of the house of Lancaster (father of Henry V) had usurped the throne from Richard II in 1399. Since then there had been tension between the nobility and the royal house, widespread lawlessness throughout the kingdom, and several attempts on Henry V’s life. The situation in England, coupled with the fact that France was weakened by its own political crisis—the insanity of Charles VI had resulted in a fight for power among the nobility—made it an ideal moment for Henry to press his claims.

When the French rejected Henry’s substantial territorial demands, he arrived in Normandy in August 1415 with a force of about 12,000 men and laid siege to the city of Harfleur. The city capitulated within six weeks, but the siege was costly. It lasted longer than Henry had anticipated, and his numbers were significantly diminished as a result of casualties, desertions, and disease. Departing from Harfleur on October 8, Henry marched northward toward the English-held port of Calais, where he would disembark for England, with a force of 1,000 knights and men-at-arms and 5,000 archers. Unable to cross the Somme River because of French defenses, he was forced to take a detour inland and cross farther upstream. The delay allowed a large French force, led by the constable Charles d’Albret and the marshal Jean II le Meingre (called Boucicaut), to intercept him near the village of Agincourt on October 24. The English were not in an ideal condition to fight a battle. They had been weakened by the siege at Harfleur and had marched over 200 miles (more than 320 km), and many among them were suffering from dysentery.

By most contemporary accounts, the French army was also significantly larger than the English, though the exact degree of their numerical superiority is disputed. Common estimates place the English army at about 6,000, while the French army probably consisted of 20,000 to 30,000 men. This suggests that the French could have outnumbered the English 5 to 1. At least one scholar puts the French army at no more than 12,000, indicating that the English were outnumbered 2 to 1. It seems clear, however, that the English were at a decided numerical disadvantage.

“That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day”

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d

(William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, scene 3)

Early in the morning on October 25 (the feast day of St. Crispin), 1415, Henry positioned his army for battle on a recently plowed field bounded by woods. His men-at-arms were stationed in the centre, flanked by wedges of archers who carried longbows that had an effective range of 250 yards (229 metres). The terrain favoured Henry’s army and disadvantaged its opponent, as it reduced the numerical advantage of the French army by narrowing the front. This would prevent maneuvers that might overwhelm the English ranks.

Fighting commenced at 11:00 AM, as the English brought their longbows within killing range and the first line of French knights advanced, led by cavalry. The field that the French had to cross to meet their enemy was muddy after a week of rain and slowed their progress, during which time they endured casualties from English arrows. When the first French line reached the English front, the cavalry were unable to overwhelm the archers, who had driven sharpened stakes into the ground at an angle before themselves. This was an innovative technique that the English had not used in the Battles of Crécy and Poitiers. Eventually the archers abandoned their longbows and began fighting hand-to-hand with swords and axes alongside the men-at-arms.

The next line of French knights that poured in found themselves so tightly packed (the field narrowed at the English end) that they were unable to use their weapons effectively, and the tide of the battle began to turn toward the English. As the English were collecting prisoners, a band of French peasants led by local noblemen began plundering Henry’s baggage behind the lines. Thinking it was an attack from the rear, Henry had the French nobles he was holding prisoner killed. The third line of the French army, recoiling at the pile of corpses before them and unable to make an effective charge, was then massacred swiftly.

The battle probably lasted no longer than three hours and was perhaps as short as half an hour, according to some estimates. While the precise number of casualties is unknown, it is estimated that English losses amounted to about 400 and French losses to about 6,000, many of whom were noblemen.

Significance and legacy of Agincourt

After the victory, Henry continued his march to Calais and arrived back in England in November to an outpouring of nationalistic sentiment. Contemporary accounts describe the triumphal pageantry with which the king was received in London on November 23, with elaborate displays and choirs attending his passage to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Agincourt Carol, dating from around this time and possibly written for Henry’s reception in London, is a rousing celebration of the might of the English. The effect of the victory on national morale was powerful. Agincourt came on the back of half a century of military failure and gave the English a success that repeated victories such as Crécy and Poitiers. Moreover, with this outcome Henry V strengthened his position in his own kingdom; it legitimized his claim to the crown, which had been under threat after his accession.

Most importantly, the battle was a significant military blow to France and paved the way for further English conquests and successes. The French nobility, weakened by the defeat and divided among themselves, were unable to meet new attacks with effective resistance. Henry managed to subjugate Normandy in 1419, a victory that was followed by the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, which betrothed Henry to King Charles VI’s daughter Catherine and named him heir to the French crown.

The Battle of Agincourt was immortalized by William Shakespeare in his play Henry V.

Julia Martinez

Battle of Hastings | Summary, Facts, & Significance | Britannica

Battle of Hastings, battle on October 14, 1066, that ended in the defeat of Harold II of England by William, duke of Normandy, and established the Normans as the rulers of England. Learn more about the background and details of the Battle of Hastings in this article.

Source: Battle of Hastings | Summary, Facts, & Significance | Britannica

Battle of Hastings, battle on October 14, 1066, that ended in the defeat of Harold II of England by William, duke of Normandy, and established the Normans as the rulers of England.

Throughout his reign, the childless Edward the Confessor had used the absence of a clear successor to the throne as a bargaining tool. In 1051, after a breach with Godwine, the earl of Wessex and the most powerful man in England, Edward probably designated William, a cousin, as his heir. Upon Godwine’s death in 1053, his son Harold became earl of Wessex, and Harold spent the next decade consolidating his power and winning favour among the nobles and clergy. According to Norman accounts, among them the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold subsequently swore an oath of fealty to William and promised to uphold William’s claim to the English throne. Nevertheless, on his deathbed (January 5, 1066) Edward granted the kingdom to Harold, who, with the backing of the English nobility, was crowned king the next day.

By this time, however, William controlled, directly or by alliance, every harbour from the Schelde to Brest. His father-in-law, Baldwin V of Flanders, was regent of France, and Geoffrey III, the count of Anjou and his only dangerous neighbour, was distracted by rebellion. With a solemn blessing from Pope Alexander II and the emperor’s approval, William prepared to enforce his claim to the English crown. He persuaded the Norman barons to promise support and recruited thousands of volunteers from BrittanyMaine, France, Flanders, Spain, and Italy. The organization of supplies and transport for this miscellaneous host and the imposition of disciplined Norman cohesion upon them were probably William’s supreme military achievements.

Harold mobilized his fleet and army in May, repelled his outlawed brother Tostig’s raids on the south and east coasts, and concentrated his large fleet off Spithead and his militia along the HampshireSussex, and Kentish coasts. Ready to move early in August, William’s transports were kept in port by north winds for eight weeks, first in the Dives estuary until September 12, then at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. Meanwhile, the English militia, short of supplies after four months’ fruitless waiting, lost morale and were dismissed on September 8. Harold’s ships were brought back to the Thames, with many being lost en route. The English Channel was thus left open, and the best chance of destroying William’s army was lost. About that time Harald III Sigurdson, king of Norway and another claimant of the English crown, allied himself with Tostig and entered the Humber with 300 ships. There he defeated the forces of Edwin, earl of Mercia, and his brother Morcar, earl of Northumbria, in a heavy battle at Gate Fulford, outside York (September 20). This battle not only crippled Harald’s forces, but also left the two earls incapable of raising another army that year. King Harold, hearing of this invasion, left London immediately with his housecarls and such thanes and shire militia as he could muster, and by forced marches surprised the invaders at Stamford Bridge on September 25, utterly destroying them and killing Harald and Tostig.

On September 27 the wind changed, and William crossed to England unopposed, with an army of 4,000 to 7,000 cavalry and infantry, disembarking at Pevensey in Sussex. He quickly moved his forces eastward along the coast to Hastings, fortified his position, and began to explore and ravage the area, determined not to lose touch with his ships until he had defeated Harold’s main army. Harold, at York, learned of William’s landing on or about October 2 and hurried southward, gathering reinforcements as he went. By October 13 Harold was approaching Hastings with about 7,000 men, many of whom were half-armed, untrained peasants. He had mobilized barely half of England’s trained soldiers, yet he advanced against William instead of making William come to meet him in a chosen defensive position. The bold yet ultimately unsuccessful strategy is probably explained by Harold’s eagerness to defend his own men and lands, which William was harrying, and to thrust the Normans back into the sea.

William, warned of Harold’s approach, determined to force battle immediately. At dawn on October 14 William moved toward Harold’s army, which was occupying a ridge 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Hastings. William disposed his army for attack—archers and crossbowmen in the front line, his heavy infantry in the second, his knights in three divisions in the rear, Normans in the centre, Bretons and French on left and right, respectively. Harold’s English army, lacking archers and cavalry, prepared for defense on the protected summit of the ridge. Their position was not wholly favourable; William’s advance was unexpected, and Harold had to fight where he stood or retreat. He placed himself, his housecarls, and his other trained troops around his standard at the summit of the ridge (where the high altar of Battle Abbey was later placed), grouping his other troops along the crest for about 400 yards (365 metres) westward and about 200 yards (about 180 metres) eastward, at which points the slope became steep enough to protect both flanks. The front was too small: some men, finding no fighting room, withdrew; the rest, in too close order, made a perfect target for arrows.

The easy slope allowed William’s knights an open approach, against which Harold relied on the close “shield wall” formation of his trained troops to hurl back and dishearten the enemy. The heavily armoured knight, riding a powerful charger and holding couched a heavy thrusting lance, was still 100 years away. Norman armour was flimsy, the horses light and unprotected, and the knights, using javelins, maces, and swords, had to engage the English infantry hand-to-hand. Harold’s hopes depended on keeping his line unbroken and his casualties light, thus exhausting and demoralizing the Normans.

William’s archers opened at close range, inflicting many casualties but suffering heavily from the English slings and spears. William therefore threw in his cavalry, which was so badly mauled by English infantry wielding two-handed battle-axes that it panicked and fled. William himself checked and turned them, counterattacking a large body of Englishmen who had broken ranks in pursuit. William pressed his cavalry charges throughout the day, interspersing them with flights of arrows, and annihilating considerable numbers of Englishmen whom he drew from their positions by feigning retreat twice. The defense, hard-pressed, depleted, and tiring, was worn down and slowly outnumbered. Harold’s brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine, fell, and, according to the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold himself was killed late in the afternoon when he was struck in the eye by an arrow. The leaderless English fought on until dusk, then broke; a last rally in the gloom caused the Normans further casualties and endangered William himself. As darkness fell, the English scattered, leaving William the winner of one of the most daring gambles in history. After the battle his army moved to isolate London, where William I was crowned king on December 25.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

12 of the Most Important Tudor Women | History Hit

Source: 12 of the Most Important Tudor Women | History Hit

Between 1485 and 1603, England was ruled by members of the Tudor family: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

Despite most women being relegated to serve their husband or father, there were many who wrote humanist texts, built enormous houses, ran vast estates and even ruled as Queen.

Here are 12 of the most important.

1. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

A painting considered to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

Margaret Pole was the niece of Richard III – who Henry VII had slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Until her dying day, Margaret asserted her Yorkist allegiance and become a focus for rebellion. She was considered such as threat that Henry VIII ordered her execution in 1541.

2. Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth was the daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, who were leaders of the Yorkist cause. Her brothers were the ‘Princes in the Tower’.

A copy of Hans Holbein the Younger’s lost 1537 Whitehall painting. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York stand behind Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.

The marriage between Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor marked a union between the Houses of York and Lancaster, and the red and white Tudor rose was born. Elizabeth and Henry had eight children, who, through marriage, became monarchs of England, Scotland and France.

3. Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots

The eldest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Margaret was the sister of Henry VIII. She was married to James IV of Scotland from 1503-1513, which united the royal houses of England and Scotland. After her husband’s death, Margaret acted as regent for her son James V, from 1513-1515.

A drawing of Margaret.

4. Catherine of Aragon

Catherine ruled as Queen of England from June 1509 until May 1533. She was the daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.

At three years old she was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, who was heir apparent to the English throne. After Arthur’s death, Catherine was married to his younger brother Henry, who grew increasingly frustrated after she failed to deliver a male heir.

Catherine of Aragon.

For six months in 1513, she served as regent of England as Henry was abroad in France. Her rousing speech about emotional courage seemed to be an important factor in the English victory at the Battle of Flodden. She was also a prominent humanist, and counted scholars such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Thomas More as her friends.

5. Elizabeth Blount

‘Bessie’ Blount was a mistress of Henry VIII. On 15 June 1519, Blount bore the king what he had always craved – a son. Henry Fitzroy, the only illegitimate son of Henry VIII, was later Duke of Richmond and Somerset and Earl of Nottingham.

Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy.

6. Anne Boleyn

The second and perhaps most infamous wife of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536, when she was executed.

Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Henry first caught eyes on her when she served Catherine of Aragon as a maid of honour. To accommodate a marriage to Anne and divorce Catherine, Henry had no choice but to leave the Catholic Church and establish the Church of England.

Anne was the mother of Elizabeth I.

7. Catherine Parr

Catherine had four husbands, the third of which was Henry VIII who she outlived by a year. She enjoyed a close relationship with Henry’s three children, taking personal interest in their education and playing an important role in the Third Succession Act, which restored Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession.

Catherine Parr was treated as queen dowager after Henry’s death.

After Henry’s death, Catherine acted as queen dowager and was allowed to keep royal jewels and dresses.

8. Lady Jane Grey

Jane was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, through their daughter Mary, who became Queen of France.

She was exceptionally well educated in humanist studies, and as a committed Protestant, Edward VI saw her as an ally. In 1553, Edward’s will placed Jane in line to inherit the throne, effectively removing his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth from the line of succession and ignoring the Third Succession Act.

‘The Execution of Lady Jane Grey’ by Paul Delaroche, 1833.

Jane was proclaimed queen on 10 July 1553 but support quickly waned and the Privy Council abandoned her. Lasting just over a week, she became known as the ‘Nine Days Queen’. Although Mary initially spared her life, she became viewed as a threat to the Crown, and was executed the following year.

9. Mary I

Mary married Phillip II of Spain.

Mary was the eldest child of Henry VIII to survive to adulthood. As the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, she was a staunch Catholic. After expelling Lady Jane Grey to regain her place on the throne, Mary attempted to reverse the English Reformation begun by her father and restore Roman Catholicism.

The executions of Protestants earned her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’. She was married to Phillip of Spain.

10. Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I in her coronation robes, which were patterned with Tudor roses and trimmed with ermine.

Elizabeth was the final monarch of the Tudor dynasty, ruling from 1558-1603. She depended heavily on a group of advisers led by William Cecil. Together they established a middle way in the religious debates, as Elizabeth became the Supreme Governor of the English Protestant church, but insisted on greater tolerance of English Catholics.

Elizabeth never married and she became referred to as the ‘Virgin Queen’. Her 44 year reign was marked by England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and a flowering of English drama, led by playwrights Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare.

11. Bess of Hardwick

Bess of Hardwick was the most powerful woman in England, after the queen.

Born into a modest background, Bess married four times and acquired an enormous fortune to become the second most important woman in England, after the queen. She is famed for building Hardwick Hall, which gave rise to the rhyme ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall’.

Bess was famed for building Hardwick Hall, which is adorned with her initials.

12. Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary reigned over Scotland from 1542 to 1567. She was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, who died when Mary was six days old. She married Francis, the Dauphin of France, and later her half-cousin, Lord Darnley.

Their son, James, would become James I of England, uniting the two kingdoms. She was executed by her cousin, Elizabeth I, in 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle.

Mary, Queen of Scots. Her son became James I of England, and James VI of Scotland.