This Sunday marks the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. A major English victory in the Hundred Years’ War, the battle saw England, led by Henry V, defeat a French army under a sky that was said to have grown ‘dark with arrows’. It is still regarded today as one of England’s and King Henry V’s greatest military victories and this year a number of events, exhibitions and an Alderney coin struck by The Royal Mint will mark 600 years since the Battle of Agincourt.
Historians estimate that the French army had 12-15,000 soldiers gathered at Agincourt, mainly men at arms. By contrast, Henry V’s English army had only 8-8,500, the majority being archers.
Considering the victory to be theirs, the French celebrated the night before the battle, their frivolity heard by Henry’s men who, under their king’s orders, waited for the sunrise in silence. On the day of the battle the French were unprepared, and quickly fell into disarray when they faced the arrow storm of Henry’s archers – the longbow was a formidable long-range weapon.
The French had planned to knock the English archers out of the fight with a cavalry charge but they could not find enough men to join the attack on horseback, fearing that arrows would harm their horses. King Henry, meanwhile, had ensured his archers were protected by a wall of stakes, and by flanking woodland. The French charge failed, but the retreating cavalry clashed into the French men-at-arms advancing on foot. The arrow storm slowed down their advance, causing the men to crowd in on each other. They were so tightly packed they could not raise their weapon arms. Some fell, others piled on top of them and in the mud some suffocated, and some fell at the mercy of Henry’s archers.
After the victory, Henry V made for Calais and then returned to England, greeted by fanfare at his entry to London on 23 November.
Characterised by the muddy terrain, the deadly longbows used by the English and Welsh archers, and the strategic tactics employed by King Henry V, the Battle of Agincourt story may date back six centuries, but it is still documented to this day. Literature and on stage depiction in William Shakespeare’s Henry V help bring the story of the Battle of Agincourt to life, and now an Alderney coin joins them.
The coin has been designed by Royal Mint Engraver, Glyn Davies, whose design for the Battle of Agincourt coin places the audience right at the heart of the scene:
“The idea behind my approach to the design was to show the overwhelming odds against the diseased and weakened English army that defeated that of the French. Although the battle is famed for the use of the Longbow, much of the disaster that befell the French army was, however, due to their belief in a chivalrous code of conduct.
I tried to get a sense of the mayhem and confusion that the French forces fell into and the significant role the archers performed in the battle. The design shows a lightly armoured archer in the foreground with a hatchet or hammer, weapons thought to have caused damage and deaths to the French knights as did suffocation in the mud. The French are depicted in heavy armour and on horseback. Trees surround the field as they also played a significant role in the French defeat.”
King Henry V coins
Having struck coins for the monarchs of Britain for more than 1,000 years, The Royal Mint would certainly have once struck coins for King Henry V. So, we dived deep into the Royal Mint Museum collection to find a few examples of the coins that may have made the journey with those English and Welsh Archers to Agincourt.
If you would like to see more coins from the museum’s collection, take a look at our Instagram.