Tag Archive | Peel history

Peel Agincourt Diary: 31 October

The food set aside for the army by the king has gone, and we are in the hands of the victualers and the greedy townsfolk of Calais. The cook says that he has had nothing but hard bargaining for food with said victualers and townsfolk. What they ask for bread, that very staff of life, is astonishing. I do not understand how good Christians can do this to their fellow Christians.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 30 October

Sir Geoffrey reviewed his company’s accounts today. He noted and decried the costs for the medical care of for Sir Guillaume, one of his prisoners. A dead captive brings no ransom, as old Sir Robert has had to remind the archers regularly. Under the laws of war, a captor must support his prisoner while that unfortunate remains in his keeping. Although providing medical care is not required, Sir Geoffrey has ordered that the bills be paid. He also wondered aloud where he was going to find the money to transport the prisoners over the sea to England which must needs be done if they are to be kept safe while their ransoms are paid.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 29 October

Today the king made his triumphal entry into Calais. He was met at the gates by Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick and captain here, and a crowd of townsfolk who greeted King Henry with glad cries. The king and his people entered into the town escorted by all the priests and clergy of the place bearing crosses and the banners of their places and singing Te Deum. We could hear the crowds hailing him as he passed. He is lodged now in the castle, although it is said that he stopped on his way there at the Church of St. Nicolas to give thanks for his victory.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 28 October

This evening we reached the fortified town of Guînes and are now safely within the Pas-de-Calais. The king was welcomed with due solemnity by the captain of the garrison. He and his people and his prisoners have gone within the walls. The army was not welcome within and so we marched on the last few miles to Calais, where the gates were also closed to us. The great leaders have been admitted, among whom Sir Geoffrey does not yet stand, and we now make camp in sight of the walls.

Three days of marching has exhausted all we gained from the French baggage train but, through God’s mercy and the wise preparations of our good king, medicine and beer and food has been prepared in anticipation of our arrival. Although there is a dire shortage of bread.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 27 October

The progress we make is slow. Many of our horses were killed or stolen away during the battle. More are now set to carrying those wounded men, French prisoners and Englishmen alike, who are injured such that they can not walk. I think as many as three in four of our men now walk rather than ride.

There was a skirmish, somewhere near Boulogne if I have been informed correctly, and several archers were captured. It is the only trouble we have had with the French since the battle, and I pray God that it will be the last.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 26 October

Early in the morning King Henry led his prisoners on a penitential walk across the battlefield, where great numbers of the nobility who had been killed for their lord, the king of France, still lay, stripped naked as the day they were born. Those of his men who followed the king still found living among the dead. Any who could identify themselves as being of noble both were taken prisoner. All others, including those too severely wounded to travel, were put to death.

When the time came to march, the king had the army set to traveling formation with three battles and each man in all his armor. He rescinded the order for the gentlemen to wear their cote armors, even though we know now that it was not all of France that stood against us on the field at Azincourt. There are lords whose hosts may yet seek us out to our discomfort.

May God keep us safe, and the Blessed Virgin and St. George watch over us.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 12)

I began to wonder what would happen to the mortal remains of the countless dead who lay upon the field. There were far too many to see proper Christian burial by our people. I did not even know if all of our own dead will receive proper rites, as they should. I went to the edge of the battlefield to offer prayers for the repose of those souls. Rain was falling and I imagined it as the tears of the our Savior and His saints for all the good Christian souls sent to judgement this day. When I came upon the site of the king’s God-given victory, I saw that there were men and women moving among the dead. From bits of talk that I heard, I knew them to be French. What our people had not taken from the dead, they did. I heard exclamations from one group, then a weak voice calling for succor. That group drew into a tight knot. I thought that I saw a glint of metal and there followed a scream that stopped abruptly. These people were busy for a few moments before the departed, carrying burdens. I knew what I had witnessed was no more or less than our own peopled had done, but the thought that these French men and women were so far into the shadow of the devil’s wings so as to do as they had done to their own countryman made my soul shiver. I fled back to our camp.

Thoughts of the dead still beset me. I take small comfort in knowing that at least our fallen nobles will receive their due, as is right and proper. I have been told that the corpses of the duke of York and the earl of Suffolk, since they can neither be embalmed nor encased in lead to seal in the putrefaction, are being prepared. They have been quartered and are now being boiled in order that the flesh may come away from the bones. When this is accomplished, their bones will be reverently placed in a small coffer that they may be carried back to England for interment with all due ceremony in a final resting place fit for their station.

I will pray for their souls and all the souls of the departed until God, in His mercy, sends me sleep.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 11)

As evening approached it began to rain again. The king said it was too late to resume the march and retired to his lodging in Maisoncellle. I think he reasons that it is more than the hour, for the men are desperately tired and cannot sustain further effort. The victuals we have taken from the French baggage train will refresh us all and be most welcome after the deprivation we have suffered for so long.

As weary as they are the soldiers are moving about the battlefield, searching among the slain for treasure. Some are seeking arms and armor to replace their own that has been lost or damaged, others do so in order to sell it for gain. Two of Sir Geoffrey’s archers have clattered back into camp with enough harness to equip themselves as men-at-arms twice over.

The scavenging activities, although right and proper for our people as the day’s victors, have come to the king’s attention. He is mindful of the continuing threat from the French, either through ambush or renewed direct opposition. Overburdened with loot, the army would be vulnerable. Further, we have yet some distance to travel before we reach the safety of the Pas de Calais and, despite this night’s bounty, food will remain scarce until we reach that haven. He now orders that no one is to acquire more than he needs for himself. All the rest of the arms and armor is to be brought to a certain barn and burned, that it might not fall back into the hands of the French to our detriment. There is much grumbling, but the king’s will is being done.

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 10)

At some point in time, during the confusion of the battle, a party of French fell upon our baggage train, slaying and stealing. Many horses were taken or run off and even some of the king’s own carts were plundered. [When the losses were accounted, the pillagers took 219 pounds,16 shillings in cash as well jewels including a gem-studded golden cross worth 2166 pounds, a piece of the True Cross, the king’s crown, his state sword, and the seals of the English chancery. – Ed.]

Peel Agincourt Diary: 25 October (entry 9)

Our England has reason to rejoice and reason to grieve. Let us rejoice at the victory gained and the deliverance of her men, and let us grieve for the suffering and destruction wrought in the deaths of Christians. Let not our people ascribe the triumph to their own glory or strength; rather let it be ascribed to God alone, from Whom is every victory, lest the Lord be wrathful at our ingratitude, and at another time turn from us His victorious hand, which Heaven forbid.

Much could be written of how the battle went and likely, one better versed in arms and the ways of battle will do so. I have seen valiant French men-at-arms force their horses forward on the rain-soaked field, their formations broken by the mud. I have seen the sky so darkened by arrows such that a man could not be faulted if he thought a cloud had passed before the sun. I have seen men and horses fall beneath good English arrows, and heard the pitiful screaming of wounded horses as they lay dying or ran, maddened, back the way they had come or straight into the advancing French vanguard.  Some were without riders and others carried their riders along whether they willed it or not, for such was the frenzy of the animals that only the greatest of riders might have had the skill to restrain their steeds.

I have seen steadfast French men-at-arms struggle through a quagmire made much worse by the retreating horses. I could see the men-at-arms as they came, slowly. No more did man stand shoulder to shoulder with his companion, but each lurched forward, as best he could. Their heads they bent as if into a storm wind. They did this in part from the effort of slogging through mud that was in some places as deep as a man’s calf but also so that their faces might be protected from falling arrows. Some fell and struggled to their feet to come on again and others lay fallen, killed or wounded beyond their strength to continue. Others were suffocated by mud in their armor. And always those behind pressed forward in their eagerness to reach us.

I saw our English line stagger under the weight of their onslaught.  Our valiant men were pushed back six feet in some places, twelve in others. I myself fell on my face before the great merciful God, crying aloud in bitterness of spirit that God might yet remember us and the crown of England and, by the grace of His supreme bounty, deliver us from this iron furnace and the terrible death that menaced us.

God Almighty, in His mercy, and the most noble St. George were with us, and the line held. Our men-at-arms recovered their ground and the fighting was fierce. Our archers continued to shoot into the French, deadly at such close quarters, and when they had no more arrows, they cast aside their bows and took up their swords and axes and even the leaden mauls they had used to hammer in their stakes and fell upon the the enemy. Our marvelous God sent strength into the limbs of our men, which want of food and rest had previously weakened and wasted, took away from them their fear, and gave them dauntless hearts. Never, I think, have Englishmen ever fallen upon their enemies more boldly or with a better will.

At first, the press was so great and so desperate that no prisoners were taken. All the French men-at-arms, without distinction of person, were killed where they fell. The great numbers of the French then became their great weakness. Men pressed together, at first to come to grips with ours, but later because their own pushed behind them. Their mass became so entangled that the French men-at-arms could not wield their weapons. Some were bludgeoned down unable to defend themselves and others were pushed down or stumbled. Any who went down found themselves unable to rise and many were crushed underfoot or beneath the growing pile of bodies.

As there was great honor in even the least blow struck against a king, the French men-at-arms strove mightily to reach King Henry beneath his banner. The king’s brother Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, was struck a grievous blow and fell at his brother’s feet. Our valiant king, blessed of God, stood straddling his fallen brother and defended his body with his own prowess at great peril of losing his own life until his companions could rally to aid and carry the fallen duke back to safety.

For three hours, men struggled beneath the judging eye of the Almighty. At some point the French main battle merged with the vanguard in the press. The great Oriflamme, that sacred banner of France, went down and was never seen again. Ever more weary, the French slackened in their assault and prisoners began to be taken. Then someone shouted that the French had rallied and another that they were going to attack again for their rearguard was forming a battle line. With our people so few and weary, the great fear was that the French, mounted and in great number and still fresh, would soon fall upon us. King Henry ordered that all save the most eminent prisoners were to be killed lest they should involve our men in utter disaster in the fighting that would ensue. [Strictly speaking, what Henry ordered was against the law of arms, as a captor was obliged to protect his prisoners from those who would do them harm. In practical terms, the king could afford to do little else as the safety of his own men was an overriding priority and he could not, while facing the possibility of a fresh force that he likely believed outnumbered him, afford the chance that the prisoners would take up arms again in such circumstances and attack from his rear, an event that likely would have assured the destruction of the English army. Indeed, Christine de Pisan in writing on proper chivalric conduct some years earlier, said that a prince had the right to execute an opponent who had been captured and handed to him if the prince was convinced that great harm would befall him and his people if he allowed the prisoner to go free. -Ed.]

As it came to pass, most of the French rearguard never came to battle as a whole, for large numbers fled when it became clear to them that God had sided with us English. The counts of Dammartin and Fauquenbergue and the sire de Laurois, into whose command had been given that battle, sought to change that judgement. With those they could rally to their banners, they charged to save what they could of French honor. Like all those who had ridden at us before, they fell beneath English arrows into the mud. All save Dammartin and a certain Clinget de Brabant were killed.

I know not if those men-at-arms still fighting ours in the press understood the fate of their companions or if their courage finally failed seeing that our soldiers, inspired by St. George and given strength by the Sovereign King of heaven, with King Henry at the forefront still were fighting them as strongly as they had from the beginning. Those engaged with our men who still had their horses, turned to flight. Other fell back, and whether their pages brought them their horse nor not, fled as well.

When it was clear that God had made His judgement and that there would be no more fighting for the day, the king sent for the heralds, who, both French and English, had sat aside the whole day that they might observe the battle and know its course and thus proclaim the dying of those noble men who strove there upon. He formally requested of Montjoie, chief of the French heralds, whether the victory had fallen to the English or the French. Montjoie was forced to admit that God had given the victory to King Henry, thus proving his cause was just. The king then asked him the name of the castle that lay nearest the field because all battles ought to bear the name of the nearest fortress, village, or town to the place where they were fought. Montjoie said that the castle of which he enquired was named Agincourt and the king replied that this battle would now and forever be known as the battle of Agincourt.