The harvest was nearly white.
France was prostrate, the land ravaged and denuded, bled of her children, bled of her wealth. Illustrious captains dead, defeated, captured, her armies destroyed and dispersed, her people in despair, hope dying, vitality seeping away in a war, now, almost one hundred years old. Her arrogant attacker, victories, their blood lust, came upon her once again. Now as the final battle for her soul approached she was all but helpless against this, her most dangerous foe.
One last effort against the curs(e)d Saxon, Bauge* had given her a momentary breathing space, nothing more. Just time to raise her last army, to bring in her allies, the Scots, the lombardians, the remains of her nobility, the remains of France.
At dawn on the 17th August 1424 with the Oriflamme raised the French and their allies marched out of the walled city of Vernuiel and onto the plain that lay before them. In their courage, lay the fate of France. On the city walls, the population watched in silence as the great host past through the North gate.
People in the city began to point, not at the French, but at movement 4 miles to the North, towards the forest of Piseux.
The 'Goddamns'*were here!
Moving like lean grey wolves, the English moved out of the forest on that, hot August morning and made straight for the French army, forming up before them, little more than a league distant. To their left the towers and walls of Vernuiel stood out blue and indistinct against an azure sky.
The English battles maneuvered into the 'Agincourt' formation. My Lord Bedford ( Thomas Lancaster ), noting the ground much favouring cavalry put this tried and tested formation into practice, placing 4000 of his archers on the left, 4000 to his right and 1800 men at arms in the centre two ranks deep. The archers were to be protected by the by now usual hedgehog of stakes cut from the forest bivouac.
The French centre under Armalle consisted of 4000 men at arms, 10,000 Scots men at arms and archers under Archibold Douglas,( our old friend from Homildon hill ) 4000 cavalry on the right, 2000 French plus 2000 lombardian mecenaries' with the much vaunted armour, rumoured to be impervious to the sheaf arrow. Confidence mixed with anxiety permeated the schizophrenic Frenchmen, only the Scots, confident as usual, in their own prowess and numbers, proud, issued no quarter.......none was forthcoming.
Bedford and Salisbury advanced to within bow shot of the French host at around 4 of the clock. The archers of his left division proceeded to hammer in their stakes. Being a hot summer, the ground had baked hard, much difficulty was encountered in the placement of their hedgehog. Observing this the French cavalry seized their chance and charged the English bowmen, running down those too slow to move into the protection of the men at arms. With tremendous esprit de corps the archers rallied and merged with the centre of Bedfords army. The cavalry swept through the now none existent left wing, instead of reforming and charging the archers again, carried on to the baggage train, which lay 1/4 mile away. Unknown to them, ( the French ) it was guarded by 2000 archers of the rear guard, who, seeing the battle before them, itched to be involved, they were about to get the itch scratched.
2000 French cavalry charged toward the rear guard, were met by archers who had had time to drive in their stakes, were dreadfully mauled, veered off the battlefield and were seen no more. Meanwhile the lombardian cavalry charged toward the left of the English but the archers that had re formed in with the centre battle, shot them away before they could close. Seeing easier pickings in the baggage, like the French horse before them, veered away and made straight for it.
Aware of and perhaps despite the Italian claim that they could withstand the sheaf, the archers of the rear guard awaited the Italian charge with interested confidence. I say this because I have in my possession a description of the battle from one of my ancestors who fought for my Lord Salisbury and who was in the rear party.
His name was William de France and this is his transcript;
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