How English Archers Sealed Victory at Agincourt in 1415

When we think of medieval warfare, one image that often comes to mind is that of knights in armor charging towards each other on horseback. However, at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, it was a different weapon that proved to be a game-changer: the English longbow.

While the French army was heavily armored and reliant on cavalry charges, the English army placed their trust in the longbowmen, whose deadly accuracy and range proved to be devastating against the French forces. The English longbow ultimately secured a victory for King Henry V and his army, and forever changed the course of European warfare.

Key Takeaways:

  • The English longbow was a crucial weapon in the English victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
  • The French army was heavily armored and reliant on cavalry charges, while the English army used longbowmen for their range and accuracy.
  • The devastating impact of the longbow arrows contributed significantly to the English triumph.
  • The Battle of Agincourt forever changed the course of European warfare and cemented the reputation of English longbowmen.

The Historical Context of the Battle of Agincourt

The Battle of Agincourt is one of the most famous battles in medieval history, fought on October 25, 1415, between the English and French armies during the Hundred Years’ War. At the time, the English army was led by King Henry V, while the French forces were commanded by Charles d’Albret, Constable of France.

The Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts between England and France, with intermittent periods of peace, lasting from 1337 to 1453. The war was fought over a variety of issues, including disputes over the French throne, economic interests, and territorial ambitions.

The Battle of Agincourt was a significant battle in the long-running conflict, as it resulted in a decisive English victory that would have a lasting impact on both sides. The battle took place in northern France, and the English army was substantially outnumbered by the French forces, but they would ultimately emerge victorious thanks to their use of a powerful weapon— the English longbow.

The Political Climate at the Time of the Battle

During the Hundred Years’ War, both England and France were undergoing significant political changes. In England, King Henry V had recently come to power and was determined to assert his authority over France. Meanwhile, in France, the country was divided by political factions, and the royal family was weakened by political infighting.

The Battle of Agincourt took place during a period of political turmoil in France, which likely contributed to the French army’s defeat. Nonetheless, it was a major setback for the French, and the battle would have significant consequences for both England and France in the centuries that followed.

The Role of the Longbow in English Warfare

The longbow was a powerful weapon that was extensively used by the English army during the medieval period. It was the backbone of English warfare and a formidable weapon that played a significant role in many battles. The longbow was a tall bow, over six feet in length, made of yew wood and capable of shooting arrows over 200 yards. Its superior range and accuracy made it an indispensable tool for the English army.

The longbow’s use in battles was widespread and highly effective. Longbowmen formed a crucial part of the English army, and their skill in wielding this weapon was unmatched. They could fire up to ten arrows a minute, and the long and sturdy shaft of the arrow could pierce through armor, making it a deadly weapon that few could defend against.

The Longbow’s Dominance on the Battlefield

The dominance of the longbow on the battlefield is evident from its role in many historical battles, such as the Battle of Crecy, Poitiers, and most notably, the Battle of Agincourt. At Agincourt, the English army, led by King Henry V, faced a larger French army. The English army deployed longbowmen in the front lines, who were tasked with taking down as many French knights as possible before they could reach the English positions.

Using their longbows, the English archers were able to mow down large numbers of the French army, including many of its armored knights. The French army had no defense against the longbow, and as a result, many of the French knights were killed before they could even reach the English lines. The longbow played a pivotal role in the English victory at Agincourt, and its reputation as a deadly weapon only grew.

The Decline of the Longbow

Despite its effectiveness, the longbow’s importance in English warfare began to decline in the 16th century. The advent of gunpowder and firearms made archery obsolete, and the longbow was gradually phased out of the English army. Its use was limited to hunting, and it was no longer seen as a powerful weapon of war.

However, the longbow’s legacy lived on, and it remains a symbol of English military prowess and of a bygone era. The longbow’s remarkable range and accuracy, coupled with the skill of the English archers, helped to shape the course of English history and its influence on warfare.

The French Army at Agincourt

The French army at Agincourt was one of the most powerful armies in Europe at the time, with an estimated 12,000 knights and men-at-arms, and up to 20,000 archers and crossbowmen. Led by Charles d’Albret, Constable of France, their strategy was to overwhelm the English with a massive cavalry charge and heavy infantry assault.

The French knights were heavily armored, wearing full plate mail and carrying lances, swords, and maces. They rode large, powerful horses that were bred for combat. The French infantry was made up of crossbowmen, who were highly skilled at long-range shooting, and men-at-arms armed with pikes and poleaxes.

Despite their impressive numbers and weaponry, the French army faced several challenges on the battlefield at Agincourt. The conditions were muddy and wet, which made it difficult for the knights to maneuver and diminished the effectiveness of the French crossbowmen. Additionally, the narrow battlefield and dense forest on either side prevented the French from deploying their cavalry effectively.

The French Army’s Strategy

The French army decided to split their forces into three groups – two flanking groups of knights and men-at-arms, and a center group of crossbowmen and infantry. They hoped to use their numerical superiority to crush the English army and force a quick victory.

The French advanced slowly towards the English lines, firing their crossbows and advancing their men-at-arms. However, this allowed the English to unleash volleys of arrows from their longbows, which proved devastating to the French knights and horses. The French center was soon bogged down by the muddy terrain and could not break the English lines.

The French flanking groups attempted to outflank the English, but this strategy was foiled by Henry V’s deployment of archers and dismounted men-at-arms in the woods on either side of the battlefield.

Despite their initial advantages, the French army was unable to break the English lines and suffered heavy losses, with an estimated 6,000-10,000 men killed, including many high-ranking nobles.

The English Army’s Defensive Strategy

The English army’s defensive strategy at Agincourt was centered on the use of longbowmen, whose weapons had superior range and accuracy compared to the French crossbows and archers.

The English deployed their longbowmen in three ranks, with the first rank kneeling and the second and third ranks standing. This formation allowed the archers to maintain a steady rate of fire while avoiding being trampled by French cavalry.

In addition to the longbowmen, the English also dug pits and trenches in front of their position to impede the French knights and infantry, forcing them to approach on a narrow front.

The English also placed sharpened wooden stakes, known as abatis, in front of their position to slow down the French cavalry and make it easier for the longbowmen to pick them off.

The combination of longbowmen, pits, trenches, and abatis proved highly effective in impeding the French advance and allowing the English to maintain their defensive position.

The Devastating Impact of Longbow Arrows

During the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the English longbowmen proved their worth by unleashing a relentless barrage of arrows at the French army, causing chaos and destruction.

The longbow arrows were made of seasoned yew wood and measured around six feet in length. When fired, they could reach a distance of up to 250 yards with deadly accuracy, making them a formidable weapon against the French forces.

The impact of the longbow arrows was devastating, particularly against the heavily armored French knights. The arrows could penetrate their armor, causing severe injuries and even death. The French infantry was also vulnerable to the longbow arrows, as they could easily pierce through their shields and armor.

The English longbowmen were able to fire up to 12 arrows per minute, allowing them to keep a constant barrage of deadly projectiles raining down on the French army. The constant barrage of arrows caused the French to panic and lose formation, making them easy targets for the English forces.

The accuracy and power of the longbow arrows proved to be a decisive factor in the Battle of Agincourt, giving the English army a significant advantage over the French forces.

The French Counterattacks and Their Failures

The French army, while outnumbered, still possessed a formidable force at the Battle of Agincourt. They attempted numerous counterattacks against the English army, but were ultimately unsuccessful.

The French cavalry charged at the English, but the narrow terrain and the longbow arrows made it difficult for them to maneuver. Many knights were killed by arrows or bogged down in the mud. The French infantry soon followed, but they too were met with a barrage of deadly arrows from the English longbowmen.

“The French were so closely packed that when one went down, he could not fall without dragging others with him.” – Jean Le Fevre, chronicler of the Battle of Agincourt

The French’s attempts to break through the English lines failed repeatedly. Their armor did not provide enough protection against the lethal longbow arrows, and their crossbowmen could not match the range of the English archers. The French became disorganized and panicked, their morale plummeting as the battle progressed.

Despite the efforts of their leaders, including the Duke of Alençon and the Constable of France, the French army could not overcome the English defense. The English longbowmen wreaked havoc on the French ranks, and the French ultimately suffered a devastating defeat.

The Aftermath of the Battle

The French suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Agincourt. Thousands of French soldiers were killed, while the English losses were minimal. The battle marked a significant turning point in the Hundred Years’ War, as it demonstrated the effectiveness of the English longbow in battle.

The defeat at Agincourt was a humiliation for the French, and the longbowmen became celebrated heroes in England. The battle solidified England’s position as a military power in Europe and inspired later victories, including the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.

While the French continued to use knights and heavy cavalry, the Battle of Agincourt showed the limitations of their tactics against the longbow. The battle also foreshadowed the decline of the longbow as a primary weapon in warfare, as technological advancements like firearms and artillery would soon come to dominate the battlefield.

Overall, the French counterattacks at Agincourt proved futile in the face of the English longbow. The devastating impact of this simple yet deadly weapon demonstrated the importance of innovation and adaptability in warfare, and left a lasting legacy in European military history.

The Turning Point: Henry V’s Leadership

Henry V’s leadership was the turning point in the Battle of Agincourt. He not only inspired his troops with his speech before the battle but also displayed remarkable tactical acumen during the fight.

Henry V’s decision to position the longbowmen in a dense formation behind a row of wooden stakes was a masterstroke. This formation limited the French cavalry’s ability to charge and protected the archers from being overrun.

In addition, Henry V led by example. He fought alongside his men and was willing to put himself in harm’s way to achieve victory. His leadership and bravery inspired his troops to continue fighting despite being outnumbered and outmatched by the French.

Henry V’s leadership was also evident in his ability to adapt to changing circumstances. When the French attempted to flank the English army, he promptly ordered his troops to adjust their formation and repel the attack.

It is clear that without Henry V’s leadership, the English would not have been victorious at Agincourt. His strategic decisions, inspirational speeches, and willingness to lead from the front were critical to the English triumph over the French.

In the aftermath of Agincourt, Henry V’s reputation as a military leader soared. He had secured his position as one of the most effective commanders of his time and cemented his place in history as a hero of English military lore.

Aftermath and Legacy of Agincourt

The Battle of Agincourt was a crucial event in the history of European warfare, with profound implications for the political and military balance of power on the continent. The defeat of the French army by a small English force armed with longbows demonstrated the effectiveness of this weapon and the superiority of English tactical strategies.

The aftermath of the battle was marked by several significant developments. It contributed to the consolidation of English rule in France, providing Henry V with a stronger position in negotiations over territorial control. Moreover, it inspired a wave of national pride and admiration for the English longbowmen, who had become widely recognized for their bravery and skill on the battlefield.

The influence of the Battle of Agincourt extended far beyond its immediate historical context, shaping the course of European warfare for centuries to come. The use of longbows became increasingly popular among European armies, and the lessons learned from the battle were incorporated into the development of new tactics and strategies.

The victory at Agincourt also played a role in the cultural and literary history of Europe. The battle was celebrated in poems, songs, and other works of art, highlighting the enduring impact of this iconic moment in history.

The Legacy of English Longbowmen

The success of the English longbowmen at Agincourt left an indelible mark on military history, influencing the evolution of warfare tactics and weapons. The longbow remained a popular weapon among English soldiers for several centuries, but it gradually fell out of favor as new technologies and tactics emerged.

Despite its decline, the longbow continued to be celebrated as a symbol of English military prowess and national identity. It remains a powerful cultural icon, appearing in literature, art, and popular media as a testament to the bravery and skill of the English soldiers who fought at Agincourt.

The Evolution of Warfare and the Decline of the Longbow

The Battle of Agincourt marked the peak of the longbow’s dominance in English warfare. However, as the evolution of warfare progressed, the longbow’s effectiveness began to decline. By the end of the 15th century, the longbow had been replaced by firearms, which offered greater range and firepower.

The decline of the longbow was influenced by several factors. The first was the development of plate armor, which made it harder for the longbow arrows to penetrate. As a result, crossbows and firearms became more popular in the battlefield as they could penetrate armor. In addition, the use of pikes by infantry became more prominent and provided a better defense against cavalry charges, which were previously countered by the longbow’s mobility.

Another factor that contributed to the decline of the longbow was the expense and skill required to maintain and use it. The longbow required regular maintenance, and the practice of archery was time-consuming and required extensive training. This made it less viable compared to firearms, which were easier to handle and required less skill to use effectively.

Despite the decline of the longbow, its legacy continued to influence warfare. The longbow’s range and accuracy inspired the development of other ranged weapons, such as the musket and rifle. The tactics employed by longbowmen, particularly in terms of positioning and mobility, were also adopted by later armies.

In conclusion, the evolution of warfare, including the development of armor, pikes, and firearms, led to the decline of the longbow. While its effectiveness waned, its legacy lived on and influenced the development of future weaponry and tactics.

The Longbow’s Triumph at Agincourt

The Battle of Agincourt in 1415 was a turning point in European warfare, and the English longbow played a vital role in the English victory. The longbow’s triumph on the battlefield cemented its place in history as one of the deadliest weapons of its time.

Superiority of the Longbow

The longbow’s superior range and accuracy were unparalleled by any other weapon of its time. Its long shaft allowed for greater draw weight and more powerful shots, making it effective against heavily armored knights and infantry alike. The English longbowmen were highly skilled and could fire up to 12 arrows per minute, providing a continuous hail of deadly projectiles that decimated the French army.

Strategic Defensive Positioning

The English army’s defensive strategy relied heavily on the use of longbowmen and their strategic positioning on the battlefield. Henry V ordered his archers to form a line of stakes, which impeded the French cavalry charge and funneled the heavily armored French knights into a narrow space where the longbowmen could pick them off with ease. The longbowmen were also positioned on the flanks of the English army, where they were protected by marshy terrain, giving them a clear and unobstructed view of the advancing French army.

Devastating Impact on the French Army

The longbow’s impact on the French army was devastating. The sheer number of arrows raining down on the French troops caused panic and confusion, as the English longbowmen continued to fire without cease. The arrows penetrated armor and could pierce through two inches of solid oak, making them doubly effective against the French knights. The battle was a massacre, with the French losing an estimated 6,000 men compared to the English loss of just 400.

Legacy of Agincourt

The Battle of Agincourt was the pinnacle of the longbow’s triumph, and its impact on European warfare was far-reaching. Its effectiveness as a weapon of war led to changes in the way armies were recruited, trained, and equipped. The fame of the English longbowmen and their role in the victory at Agincourt lived on for centuries and contributed to the mythology of English military prowess.


The longbow’s triumph at Agincourt was a testament to its power and effectiveness on the battlefield. Its legacy lives on as a symbol of England’s military might and technological innovation. Though the longbow eventually fell out of favor in the face of changing warfare tactics and technology, its triumph at Agincourt remains a defining moment in European history.


Q: What was the significance of the English weapon in defeating the French at Agincourt in 1415?

A: The English weapon, known as the longbow, played a crucial role in the victory at Agincourt. Its superior range and accuracy helped the English archers to decimate the French forces.

Q: Can you provide some background information on the Battle of Agincourt?

A: The Battle of Agincourt took place in 1415 during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. It was a significant military engagement where the English, led by King Henry V, achieved a decisive victory against the French.

Q: How did the longbow contribute to English warfare?

A: The longbow was a game-changer in English warfare. Its use in battles provided the English with a weapon that had superior range and accuracy compared to other weapons of its time.

Q: What was the French army like at Agincourt?

A: The French army at Agincourt was composed of heavily armored knights and infantry. They had a numerical advantage over the English and were confident in their superior forces.

Q: What was the defensive strategy adopted by the English army?

A: The English army adopted a defensive strategy at Agincourt. They positioned their longbowmen strategically on the battlefield, taking advantage of their superior range and accuracy to repel the French attacks.

Q: How devastating were the longbow arrows?

A: The impact of longbow arrows on the French army was devastating. They were able to penetrate armor and caused severe casualties among the French knights and infantry.

Q: Did the French attempts to counterattack fail?

A: Yes, the French attempts to counterattack the English longbowmen failed. The superior range and accuracy of the longbow allowed the English to repel these assaults and maintain their defensive position.

Q: How did Henry V’s leadership contribute to the English victory?

A: Henry V’s leadership was a turning point in the battle. His strategic decisions and inspirational leadership motivated the English troops and played a crucial role in the English victory at Agincourt.

Q: What was the aftermath and legacy of Agincourt?

A: The aftermath of Agincourt had a long-lasting impact on European warfare. The fame of the English longbowmen spread, and the battle became a symbol of English military success.

Q: Why did the longbow decline following Agincourt?

A: The decline of the longbow can be attributed to changes in warfare tactics and technology. As armor became more advanced, the longbow’s effectiveness against heavily armored troops diminished.

Q: What was the pivotal role of the longbow in the English victory at Agincourt?

A: The longbow played a pivotal role in the English victory at Agincourt. Its superior range, accuracy, and devastating impact on the French forces were instrumental in securing the English triumph.