There is no man — unless he had been present — that can imagine or describe truly the confusion of that day; especially the bad management and disorder of the French, whose troops were out of number.
Continuing Battles that Began The Hundred Years War,
our selection from Froissart’s Chronicles by Sir John Froissart published in around 1400. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in five easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Battles that Began The Hundred Years War.
Place: In Picardy, France
When the King of France saw them coming back, he halted his army; and the knights, pushing through the crowd, came near the King, who said to them, “My lords, what news?” They looked at each other, without opening their mouths, for neither chose to speak first. At last the King addressed himself to the Lord Moyne, who was attached to the King of Bohemia, and had performed very many gallant deeds, so that he was esteemed one of the most valiant knights in Christendom. Lord Moyne said: “Sir, I will speak, since it pleases you to order me, but under the correction of my companions. We have advanced far enough to reconnoiter your enemies. Know, then, that they are drawn up in three battalions, and are waiting for you. I would advise, for my part — submitting, however, to better counsel — that you halt your army here and quarter them for the night; for before the rear shall come up and the army be properly drawn out, it will be very late; your men will be tired and in disorder, while they will find your enemies fresh and properly arrayed. On the morrow you may draw up your army more at your ease and may reconnoiter at leisure on what part it will be most advantageous to begin the attack; for, be assured, they will wait for you.” The King commanded that it should be so done, and the two marshals rode, one toward the front, and the other to the rear, crying out, “Halt banners, in the name of God and St. Denis.” Those that were in the front halted, but those behind said they would not halt until they were as forward as the front. When the front perceived the rear pressing on they pushed forward, and neither the King nor the marshals could stop them, but they marched without any order until they came in sight of their enemies. As soon as the foremost rank saw them they fell back at once in great disorder, which alarmed those in the rear, who thought they had been fighting. There was then space and room enough for them to have passed forward, had they been willing so to do; some did so, but others remained shy. All the roads between Abbeville and Crécy were covered with common people, who, when they were come within three leagues of their enemies, drew their swords, bawling out, “Kill, kill,” and with them were many great lords that were eager to make show of their courage. There is no man — unless he had been present — that can imagine or describe truly the confusion of that day; especially the bad management and disorder of the French, whose troops were out of number.
The English were drawn up in three divisions and seated on the ground. On seeing their enemies advance they rose up and fell into their ranks. That of the Prince was the first to do so, whose archers were formed in the manner of a portcullis, or harrow, and the men-at-arms in the rear. The earls of Northampton and Arundel, who commanded the second division, had posted themselves in good order on his wing, to assist and succor the Prince if necessary. You must know that these kings, earls, barons, and lords of France did not advance in any regular order, but one after the other, or any way most pleasing to themselves. As soon as the King of France came in sight of the English his blood began to boil, and he cried out to his marshals, “Order the Genoese forward and begin the battle, in the name of God and St. Denis.” There were about fifteen thousand Genoese cross-bowmen, but they were quite fatigued, having marched on foot that day six leagues, completely armed and with their cross-bows. They told the constable they were not in a fit condition to do any great things that day in battle. The Earl of Alençon, hearing this, said, “This is what one gets by employing such scoundrels, who fall off when there is any need for them.” During this time a heavy rain fell, accompanied by thunder and a very terrible eclipse of the sun, and before this rain a great flight of crows hovered in the air over all those battalions, making a loud noise. Shortly afterward it cleared up and the sun shone very bright, but the Frenchmen had it on their faces and the English on their backs. When the Genoese were somewhat in order and approached the English they set up a loud shout in order to frighten them, but they remained quite still and did not seem to attend to it. They then set up a second shout and advanced a little forward, but the English never moved.
They hooted a third time, advancing with their cross-bows presented and began to shoot. The English archers then advanced one step forward and shot their arrows with such force and quickness that it seemed as if it snowed. When the Genoese felt these arrows, which pierced their arms, heads, and through their armor, some of them cut the strings of their cross-bows; others flung them on the ground and all turned about and retreated quite discomfited. The French had a large body of men-at-arms on horseback, richly dressed, to support the Genoese. The King of France seeing them thus fall back cried out, “Kill me those scoundrels, for they stop up our road without any reason.” You would then have seen the above-mentioned men-at-arms lay about them, killing all they could of these runaways.
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