Monday, 14 May 2012

The Battle of Agincourt

 In which a man with a squint saves the day and someone gets kicked in the groin

 The Battle of Agincourt, all got started after the French took exception to King Henry V’s excessive capers around their countryside.  He’d been chivvying the town of Harfleur for a few weeks and had left a good deal of structural damage there. 

On his way back to Calais to catch a ferry to England Henry bumped into the French army who had parked straight across the main road at Agincourt.  Though they had missed the shin-dig at Harfleur their motto was “Better late than never.”

  The French army glistened in the evening light.  25,000 of them, mainly noble men-at-arms, were putting on the Ritz and plated up to the nines.  The English, who were only 8,500 and suffering bowel complaints looked at this silver road block and said “Goodness!” 

  In one thing the English were blessed.  Their captain was their very own King who had the inspirational knack needed for such occasions.  He could put a bit of spin on his words and make men feel good about things.  The French King, fearing he was made of glass, was back in Paris trying not to smash.

Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt - by ajleon

 Next morning the French swaggered about in their new armour and ordered coffee and croissants.  Henry, at the other end of the pitch, was giving a motivational team talk to his men whom he had wedged tightly into a sort of alleyway between to woods.

  To get things going, the English Longbowmen stepped forwards and spent a few minutes confetti-ing the French like newly-weds.  Not liking it much the French ordered a cavalry charge to run the yeomen from the field.  Now the records are a bit sketchy here, but as the cavalry set off in their resplendent garb towards the archers, for some reason about 30% were missing.  Where they had gone missing to is a bit of a mystery.  Even moving the furniture and looking behind things didn’t reveal them....

  It is a common belief that the bodkin arrows of the English laid low the mighty French knights.  This is not true.  The resplendently garbed knights were advertising new steel armour and the arrows fairly pinged off them.  However, and here’s the crux of it, a knight’s horse is not made out of steel and with 50,000 arrows per minute falling all around in a confined space, the paintwork was going to get scratched. 

  Before long, the French appeared to be sitting atop large hedgehogs and were feeling silly.  As they neared their foes, lo, the rascals had put sharp pointy sticks in the ground and the French cavalry were foxed.  Miffed beyond description they about-turned and scurried off.

  It was now the turn of the noble Men-at-Arms to stomp over the 300 yards that stood between them and their English counterparts.  They were zesty and light-hearted and may even have linked arms and sung a saucy ballad or two.  But something now became apparent that would complicate matters.

  Shortly before the Agincourt hoedown, locals from the villages had been out and about ploughing up all the fields they could get an ox into.  Then, the very night before the battle, it had rained like a hosepipe.  As the French ranks tip-toed from furrow to furrow, they felt uneasy on their pins.  The recent cavalry stampede had left the ground like churned butter.

  The trudge was heavy going and with visors down, peripheral vision was nought.  Imagine the consternation then when a horde of hedgehog creatures with resplendently dressed men atop came hurtling into them followed by a hail of arrows.  Some people shook fists, others slipped and left their Sunday best needing a dry clean.  The horsemen pulled their collars up to avoid being identified.

  When the first line of French noblemen at last arrived at the English doorstep they were all out of puff and found space to be at a premium.  The field had tapered starkly from one end to the other and whilst marching the French had had the distinct feeling that they were walking the wrong way up a loud-hailer.  The flanks folded inwards and those at the front were startled to find their arms wouldn’t rise above their waists.   For a full ten minutes the English had but to step forward, raise their opponent’s visor and poke him in the eye.

  For the French, the embarrassment of being so bodily close to one another was further compounded where the near-sighted second rank inadvertently got all tied up in the dance.  The sound was comparable to an energetic concerto played upon the saucepans.

  Henry, watching the French fervently compacting themselves together in a game of extreme sardines, saw he’d been handed cake and sent a regal invitation to the archers to join the rough-housing.  This they did with commendable vigour.  Their arrival was most unwelcome.

  The French nobles believed that one should only scrap with one’s social equals and had expected the peasant Longbowmen to observe etiquette and keep out of things.  The peasants were improvisers and their tactics involved a great deal of jumping and the use of mallets, which can render a helmet a deuced uncomfortable thing to wear.

  Mud was everywhere and was absorbing feet up to the shins.  For the cloth footed archers this was not to trialsome.  The metal plimsolls of the French warlords, though, formed a tight seal and gave the impression to those wearing them that their foot was down the nozzle of an industrial vacuum cleaner.

  After an hour of squashing, the first rank went home and the second rank had a bit of space.   Humphrey the Duke of Gloucester (the Kings brother) now received a knee to the groin and gasped whilst cupping himself.  The knee had belonged to Jean I Duke of Alencon, a hard-nosed fighter who didn’t think twice about scrotal ethics.  And it was during this little foray of Jean’s that the fickleness of battle is best illustrated. 

  After groining Humphrey, Jean turned and poked Edward the Duke of York, who fell off his horse with a sort of ‘slap’ sound and adhered to the floor like a large strip of Velcro.  Looking for his hat-trick Jean landed a glancing blow on the noggin of Henry, slicing an ornament from his crown.  Henry saw stars and was set to meet his Maker when Jean was felled by a Welshman called Dafydd Gam, who, for some reason we are told, had a pronounced squint.

  For the most part though, the French were glued to the spot in the mud whilst the nimble archers fluttered about swatting with their mallets.  A good few were dragged behind the English lines as keepsakes to show the family back home. 

  However, when a delinquent knight got in amongst the English baggage, laughing at the underwear and setting fire to Henry’s tartan twin set, Henry got upset.  Fearing that he was outflanked, Henry ordered all the captured noblemen to be executed before they could be freed.

  When the French saw this they decided that everything was getting too ripe and ran.  Henry’s men whooped and hussared a good deal but wept over the state of their suitcases which would not be able to hold the duty-free.

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