Two armies face each other across the sodden fields of Normandy. In the distance, against the woods, the smaller of the two forces is ensconced in an orderly fashion behind a protective line of stakes, with archers standing behind them: there is little movement as they await an attack. The army in the foreground, by contrast, is full of movement: but it is more akin to confusion than purposeful manoeuvres. There is no sign of a commander of royal blood, as might be expected when a huge national host has gathered. Instead, groups of men are trying to find their positions among unfamiliar faces, while their leaders argue over precedence. The archers of this army, who should be in the vanguard, are at the rear; the cavalry are hardly to be seen, and seem unsure whether they should dismount or not. The commanders are in council, arguing as to their tactics: a battle plan has been drawn up, but the marshal who prepared it is now suggesting a change of approach, hoping to blockade his opponents and starve them into surrender. Then the unexpected happens: the enemy, supposedly on the defensive, move forward, and establish themselves within firing range. A hail of arrows is launched, and the confusion in the other army becomes near-chaos.
This is the opening of the Battle of Agincourt, on St Crispin's Day, 25 October 1415, from the perspective of the French army. If we go over to the English side, we might paint a very different picture: a half-starved ragged army facing a vastly superior French force, with no