It established the legitimacy of the Lancastrian monarchy and the future campaigns of Henry to pursue his "rights and privileges" in France. The fighting lasted about three hours, but eventually the leaders of the second line were killed or captured, as those of the first line had been. French chroniclers agree that when the mounted charge did come, it did not contain as many men as it should have; Gilles le Bouvier states that some had wandered off to warm themselves and others were walking or feeding their horses.  Henry returned a conquering hero, seen as blessed by God in the eyes of his subjects and European powers outside France. Keegan also speculated that due to the relatively low number of archers actually involved in killing the French knights (roughly 200 by his estimate), together with the refusal of the English knights to assist in a duty they saw as distastefully unchivalrous, and combined with the sheer difficulty of killing such a large number of prisoners in such a short space of time, the actual number of French prisoners put to death may not have been substantial before the French reserves fled the field and Henry rescinded the order. Nonetheless, so many readers have forwarded it to us accompanied by an "Is this true?" because when a spectator started to hiss, he called the attention of the whole audience to him with an obscene movement of his middle finger. Morris also claims that the mad emperor Caligula, as an insult, would extend his middle finger for supplicants to kiss. Theodore Beck also suggests that among Henry's army was "the king's physician and a little band of surgeons". ", Estimates of the number of prisoners vary between 700 and 2,200, amongst them the dukes of Orlans and Bourbon, the counts of Eu, Vendme, Richemont (brother of the Duke of Brittany and stepbrother of Henry V) and Harcourt, and marshal Jean Le Maingre.. The Hundred Years' War. There is a modern museum in Agincourt village dedicated to the battle. Barker, following the Gesta Henrici, believed to have been written by an English chaplain who was actually in the baggage train, concluded that the attack happened at the start of the battle. The version that I tell explains the specific British custom of elevating two fingers as a rude gesture. The ransoming of prisoners was the only way for medieval soldiers to make a quick fortune, and so they seized every available opportunity to capture opponents who could be exchanged for handsome prices. A complete coat of plate was considered such good protection that shields were generally not used, although the Burgundian contemporary sources distinguish between Frenchmen who used shields and those who did not, and Rogers has suggested that the front elements of the French force used axes and shields. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2019 with bachelor's degrees in English Language and Literature and Medieval Studies. The historian Suetonius, writing about Augustus Caesar, says the emperor expelled [the entertainer] Pylades . They shadowed Henry's army while calling a semonce des nobles, calling on local nobles to join the army. The English and Welsh archers on the flanks drove pointed wooden stakes, or palings, into the ground at an angle to force cavalry to veer off. , The French vanguard and main battle numbered respectively 4,800 and 3,000 men-at-arms. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1991 ISBN 0-471-53672-5 (pp. This would prevent maneuvers that might overwhelm the English ranks. The approximate location of the battle has never been disputed, and the site remains relatively unaltered after 600 years. Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore [soldiers would] be incapable of fighting in the future. Humble English archers defeated the armoured elite of French chivalry, enshrining both the longbow and the battle in English national legend. Battle of Agincourt, (October 25, 1415)Battle resulting in the decisive victory of the English over the French in the Hundred Years' War. Henry threatened to hang whoever did not obey his orders.  Modern historians are divided on how effective the longbows would have been against plate armour of the time. , During the siege, the French had raised an army which assembled around Rouen. Many people who have seen the film question whether giving the finger was done around the time of the Titanic disaster, or was it a more recent gesture invented by some defiant seventh-grader.  Le Fvre and Wavrin similarly say that it was signs of the French rearguard regrouping and "marching forward in battle order" which made the English think they were still in danger. Rogers, Mortimer and Sumption all give more or less 10,000 men-at-arms for the French, using as a source the herald of the Duke of Berry, an eyewitness. Wikipedia. His men-at-arms were stationed in the centre, flanked by wedges of archers who carried longbows that had an effective range of 250 yards (229 metres). The campaign season was coming to an end, and the English army had suffered many casualties through disease. In the words of Juliet Barker, the battle "cut a great swath through the natural leaders of French society in Artois, Ponthieu, Normandy, Picardy. Im even more suspicious of the alleged transformation of p to f. , Most primary sources which describe the battle have English outnumbered by several times. The brunt of the battle had fallen on the Armagnacs and it was they who suffered the majority of senior casualties and carried the blame for the defeat. Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience. First of all, the word pluck begins with the blend pl, which would logically become fl if the voiceless bilabial plosive p has actually transformed into the labiodentalfricative f, which is by no means certain. The French had originally drawn up a battle plan that had archers and crossbowmen in front of their men-at-arms, with a cavalry force at the rear specifically designed to "fall upon the archers, and use their force to break them," but in the event, the French archers and crossbowmen were deployed behind and to the sides of the men-at-arms (where they seem to have played almost no part, except possibly for an initial volley of arrows at the start of the battle). The battlefield was a freshly plowed field, and at the time of the battle, it had been raining continuously for several days. Eventually the archers abandoned their longbows and began fighting hand-to-hand with swords and axes alongside the men-at-arms. In the ensuing negotiations Henry said that he would give up his claim to the French throne if the French would pay the 1.6million crowns outstanding from the ransom of John II (who had been captured at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356), and concede English ownership of the lands of Anjou, Brittany, Flanders, Normandy, and Touraine, as well as Aquitaine.  (The use of stakes was an innovation for the English: during the Battle of Crcy, for example, the archers had been instead protected by pits and other obstacles. The Roman gesturemadeby extending the third finger from a closed fist, thus made the same threat, by forming a similarly phallic shape. , The most famous cultural depiction of the battle today is in Act IV of William Shakespeare's Henry V, written in 1599. Loades, M. (2013). In the song Hotel California, what does colitas mean? [b] The unexpected English victory against the numerically superior French army boosted English morale and prestige, crippled France, and started a new period of English dominance in the war that would last for 14 years until France defeated England in the Siege of Orlans in 1429. The Battle of Agincourt forms a key part of Shakespeare's Henry V. Photo by Nick Ansell / POOL / AFP) Myth: During the Hundred Years War, the French cut off the first and second fingers of any. The Battle of Agincourt was immortalized by William Shakespeare in his play Henry V. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. The struggle began in 1337 when King Edward III of England claimed the title King of France over Philip VI and invaded Flanders. This suggests that the French could have outnumbered the English 5 to 1. Originally representing the erect phallus, the gesture conveyssimultaneously a sexual threat to the person to whom it is directed andapotropaicmeans of warding off unwanted elements of the more-than-human. ( here ). The Gesta Henrici places this after the English had overcome the onslaught of the French men-at-arms and the weary English troops were eyeing the French rearguard ("in incomparable number and still fresh"). The Battle of Agincourt was another famous battle where longbowmen had a particularly important . At least one scholar puts the French army at no more than 12,000, indicating that the English were outnumbered 2 to 1.  In his study of the battle John Keegan argued that the main aim was not to actually kill the French knights but rather to terrorise them into submission and quell any possibility they might resume the fight, which would probably have caused the uncommitted French reserve forces to join the fray, as well. Moreover, with this outcome Henry V strengthened his position in his own kingdom; it legitimized his claim to the crown, which had been under threat after his accession. In March 2010, a mock trial of Henry V for the crimes associated with the slaughter of the prisoners was held in Washington, D.C., drawing from both the historical record and Shakespeare's play. The idea being that you need two fingers to draw a bow, which makes more sense, and thus links up a national custom with a triumphant moment in national history! , The French army had 10,000 men-at arms plus some 4,0005,000 miscellaneous footmen (gens de trait) including archers, crossbowmen (arbaltriers) and shield-bearers (pavisiers), totaling 14,00015,000 men. There had even been a suggestion that the English would run away rather than give battle when they saw that they would be fighting so many French princes. The image makes the further claim that the English soldiers chanted pluck yew, ostensibly in reference to the drawing of the longbow. This was an innovative technique that the English had not used in the Battles of Crcy and Poitiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore be incapable of fighting in the future. In the Battle of Agincourt, the French threatened the English Soldiers that they would cut off their fingers and when they failed the Englishmen mocked them by showing their fingers. Juliet Barker quotes a contemporary account by a monk from St. Denis who reports how the wounded and panicking horses galloped through the advancing infantry, scattering them and trampling them down in their headlong flight from the battlefield. But frankly, I suspect that the French would have done a lot worse to any captured English archers than chopping off their fingers. Despite the numerical disadvantage, the battle ended in an overwhelming victory for the English. And for a variety of reasons, it made no military sense whatsoever for the French to capture English archers, then mutilate them by cutting off their fingers. Battle of Agincourt. Thus, when the victorious English waved their middle fingers at the defeated French, they said, "See, we can still pluck yew! Since pluck yew is rather difficult to say, like pheasant mother plucker, which is who you had to go to for the feathers used on the arrows for the longbow, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative f, and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger salute are mistakenly thought to have something to do with an intimate encounter. Barker states that some knights, encumbered by their armour, actually drowned in their helmets.. On 25 October 1415, an army of English raiders under Henry V faced the French outside an obscure village on the road to Calais. Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say (like "pleasant mother pheasant plucker", which is who you had to go to for the feathers used on the arrows), the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative 'f', and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute are mistakenly thought to have something to do with an intimate encounter. Rogers suggested that the French at the back of their deep formation would have been attempting to literally add their weight to the advance, without realising that they were hindering the ability of those at the front to manoeuvre and fight by pushing them into the English formation of lancepoints. Adam Koford, Salt Lake City, Utah, Now for the facts. Poitiers 1356: The capture of a king (Vol. The town surrendered on 22 September, and the English army did not leave until 8 October. The Battle of Agincourt took place during the the Hundred Years' War, a conflict which, despite its name, was neither one single war nor did it last one hundred years.  Such an event would have posed a risk to the still-outnumbered English and could have easily turned a stunning victory into a mutually destructive defeat, as the English forces were now largely intermingled with the French and would have suffered grievously from the arrows of their own longbowmen had they needed to resume shooting. The legend that the "two-fingered salute" stems from the Battle of Agincourt is apocryphal Although scholars and historians continue to debate its origins, according to legend it was first. Image source The English had very little food, had marched 260 miles (420km) in two and a half weeks, were suffering from sickness such as dysentery, and were greatly outnumbered by well-equipped French men-at-arms. Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem. The city capitulated within six weeks, but the siege was costly. King Charles VI of France did not command the French army as he suffered from psychotic illnesses and associated mental incapacity. The English eyewitness account comes from the anonymous author of the Gesta Henrici Quinti, believed to have been written by a chaplain in the King's household who would have been in the baggage train at the battle. Common estimates place the English army at about 6,000, while the French army probably consisted of 20,000 to 30,000 men. It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows that the symbolic gesture is known as "giving the bird".  Curry and Mortimer questioned the reliability of the Gesta, as there have been doubts as to how much it was written as propaganda for Henry V. Both note that the Gesta vastly overestimates the number of French in the battle; its proportions of English archers to men-at-arms at the battle are also different from those of the English army before the siege of Harfleur. Soon after the battle started, it had thousands of English and French soldiers and horses running through it. The fact that Winston Churchill sometimes made his V-for-victory gesture rudely suggests that it is of much more recent vintage. An account purporting to offer the historical origins of the obscene middle-finger extended hand gesture (varously known as "flipping the bird," "flipping someone off," or the "one-finger salute") is silly, and so obviously a joke that shouldn't need any debunking. At issue was the question of the legitimate succession to the French crown as well as the ownership of several French territories. Julia Martinez was an Editorial Intern at Encyclopaedia Britannica. A Dictionary of Superstitions.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992 ISBN 0-19-282916-5 (p. 454). The field that the French had to cross to meet their enemy was muddy after a week of rain and slowed their progress, during which time they endured casualties from English arrows. Fighting commenced at 11:00 am, as the English brought their longbows within killing range and the first line of French knights advanced, led by cavalry. The point is, the middle-finger/phallus equation goes back way before the Titanic, the Battle of Agincourt, or probably even that time Sextillus cut off Pylades with his chariot. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore be incapable of fighting in the future. The 'middle finger salute' is derived from the defiant gestures of English archers whose fingers had been severed by the French at the Battle of Agincourt. Updates? Agincourt. The French nobility, weakened by the defeat and divided among themselves, were unable to meet new attacks with effective resistance. It forms the backdrop to events in William Shakespeare's play Henry V, written in 1599. Nicolle, D. (2004). " On top of this, the French were expecting thousands of men to join them if they waited. After a difficult siege, the English forces found themselves assaulted by a massive French force. , Accounts of the battle describe the French engaging the English men-at-arms before being rushed from the sides by the longbowmen as the mle developed. Many folkloric or etymological myths have sprung up about its origin, especially the widely quoted one about the interplay between the French and English soldiery at the battle of Agincourt 1415, where the French threatened to amputate the middle fingers of the English archers to prevent them from drawing their bows, which of course is absolute Thepostalleges that the Frenchhad planned to cut offthe middle fingers ofall captured English soldiers,to inhibit them fromdrawingtheir longbowsin futurebattles. The French monk of St. Denis says: "Their vanguard, composed of about 5,000 men, found itself at first so tightly packed that those who were in the third rank could scarcely use their swords," and the Burgundian sources have a similar passage. (Even if archers whose middle fingers had been amputated could no longer effectively use their bows, they were still capable of wielding mallets, battleaxes, swords, lances, daggers, maces, and other weapons, as archers typically did when the opponents closed ranks with them and the fighting became hand-to-hand.). The English account in the Gesta Henrici says: "For when some of them, killed when battle was first joined, fall at the front, so great was the undisciplined violence and pressure of the mass of men behind them that the living fell on top of the dead, and others falling on top of the living were killed as well.". , Regardless of when the baggage assault happened, at some point after the initial English victory, Henry became alarmed that the French were regrouping for another attack. The battle remains an important symbol in popular culture. They write new content and verify and edit content received from contributors.  Albret, Boucicaut and almost all the leading noblemen were assigned stations in the vanguard. By 1415, negotiations had ground to a halt, with the English claiming that the French had mocked their claims and ridiculed Henry himself. King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415 by Sir John Gilbert, Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport, Lancashire. , Henry's men were already very weary from hunger, illness and retreat.  The mounted charge and subsequent retreat churned up the already muddy terrain between the French and the English. As John Keegan wrote in his history of warfare: "To meet a similarly equipped opponent was the occasion for which the armoured soldier trained perhaps every day of his life from the onset of manhood. Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem. It continued as a series of battles, sieges, and disputes throughout the 14th century, with both the French and the English variously taking advantage. The Battle of Agincourt is one of England's most celebrated victories and was one of the most important English triumphs in the Hundred Years' War, along with the Battle of Crcy (1346) and Battle of Poitiers (1356). One of the most renowned.  The bailiffs of nine major northern towns were killed, often along with their sons, relatives and supporters. After the battle, the English taunted the survivors by showing off what wasn't cut off. Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. This famous weapon was made of the native English yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as plucking the yew. Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, See, we can still pluck yew! Over the years some folk etymologies have grown up around this symbolic gesture. By 24 October, both armies faced each other for battle, but the French declined, hoping for the arrival of more troops. . Keegan, John. Agincourt 1415: The Triumph of the Longbow: Directed by Graham Holloway.  The museum lists the names of combatants of both sides who died in the battle. New York: Penguin Books, 1978 ISBN 0-140-04897-9 (pp. Details the English victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt. They might also have deployed some archers in the centre of the line.  Shakespeare illustrates these tensions by depicting Henry's decision to kill some of the French prisoners, whilst attempting to justify it and distance himself from the event. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. The king received an axe blow to the head, which knocked off a piece of the crown that formed part of his helmet. Fixed formatting. It supposedly describes the origin of the middle-finger hand gesture and, by implication, the insult "fuck you". It was often reported to comprise 1,500 ships, but was probably far smaller. It did not lead to further English conquests immediately as Henry's priority was to return to England, which he did on 16 November, to be received in triumph in London on the 23rd. News of the contrivance circulated within Europe and was described in a book of tactics written in 1411 by. The archers were commanded by Sir Thomas Erpingham, another elderly veteran. It may be difficult to pinpoint exactly when the middle finger gesture originated, but some historians trace its roots to ancient Rome.  On account of the lack of space, the French drew up a third battle, the rearguard, which was on horseback and mainly comprised the varlets mounted on the horses belonging to the men fighting on foot ahead. The number is supported by many other contemporary accounts. This symbol of rocking out is formed by tucking the middle and index finger and holding them in place with the thumb. , The surviving French men-at-arms reached the front of the English line and pushed it back, with the longbowmen on the flanks continuing to shoot at point-blank range. The impact of thousands of arrows, combined with the slog in heavy armour through the mud, the heat and difficulty breathing in plate armour with the visor down, and the crush of their numbers, meant the French men-at-arms could "scarcely lift their weapons" when they finally engaged the English line. Its origins can be traced back to 1066 . If the two-fingered salute comes from Agincourt, then at what point was it reduced to one finger in North America? query that we are duty bound to provide a bit of historical and linguistic information demonstrating why this anecdote couldn't possibly be accurate: The 'Car Talk' show (on NPR) with Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers have a feature called the 'Puzzler', and their most recent 'Puzzler' was about the Battle of Agincourt. The . After several decades of relative peace, the English had resumed the war in 1415 amid the failure of negotiations with the French. Henry V and the resumption of the Hundred Years War, That fought with us upon Saint Crispins day, https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Agincourt, World History Encyclopedia - Battle of Agincourt, Warfare History Network - Miracle in the Mud: The Hundred Years' War's Battle of Agincourt, Battle of Agincourt - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). 33-35). giving someone the middle finger Mortimer also considers that the Gesta vastly inflates the English casualties 5,000 at Harfleur, and that "despite the trials of the march, Henry had lost very few men to illness or death; and we have independent testimony that no more than 160 had been captured on the way". This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. And although the precise etymology of the English word fuck is still a matter of debate, it is linguistically nonsensical to maintain that that word entered the language because the "difficult consonant cluster at the beginning" of the phase 'pluck yew' has "gradually changed to a labiodental fricative 'f.'" , Shakespeare's play presented Henry as leading a truly English force into battle, playing on the importance of the link between the monarch and the common soldiers in the fight.  In 2019, the historian Michael Livingston also made the case for a site west of Azincourt, based on a review of sources and early maps. By most contemporary accounts, the French army was also significantly larger than the English, though the exact degree of their numerical superiority is disputed. This moment of the battle is portrayed both as a break with the traditions of chivalry and as a key example of the paradox of kingship. The English won in a major upset and waved the body part in question at the French in defiance. The two armies spent the night of 24 October on open ground. Kill them outright and violate the medieval moral code of civilized warfare?  The original play does not, however, feature any scenes of the actual battle itself, leading critic Rose Zimbardo to characterise it as "full of warfare, yet empty of conflict.  [b] Henry V 's victory at Agincourt, against a numerically superior French army. He claimed the title of King of France through his great-grandfather Edward III of England, although in practice the English kings were generally prepared to renounce this claim if the French would acknowledge the English claim on Aquitaine and other French lands (the terms of the Treaty of Brtigny).  Other ballads followed, including "King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France", raising the popular prominence of particular events mentioned only in passing by the original chroniclers, such as the gift of tennis balls before the campaign. The English Gesta Henrici described three great heaps of the slain around the three main English standards.  It is likely that the English adopted their usual battle line of longbowmen on either flank, with men-at-arms and knights in the centre. Maybe it means five and was a symbol of support for Henry V? [Adam attaches the following memo, which has been floating around the Internet for some time.] Why is the missionary position called that? The body part which the French proposed to cut off of the English after defeating them was, of course, the middle finger, without which it is impossible to draw the renowned English longbow.
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