Monthly Archives: April 2016

Five Missing Kings And Queens And Where We Might Find Them

As 2016 starts, the current public interest in hunting for royal burials shows no indication of abating. Hardly has actually the dust begun to choose Richard IIIs pricey brand-new tomb in Leicester than work is beginning on finding the resting place of another middle ages emperor, Henry I (d. 1135), in Reading (like Richard III, Henry is also thought to be under a car park).

Meanwhile, the Church of England is stoutly refusing to permit DNA tests to be brought out on bones believed to be those of the princes in the Tower who vanished in 1483, and who might be buried in Westminster Abbey.

With the honourable exception of Alfred the Great (d. 899), whose bones were disappointingly for some probably not found in recent Winchester excavations, this interest has actually had the tendency to focus on the kings of England after 1066 at the expenditure of earlier kings, kings of British kingdoms other than England and queens. That is probably typical of the wider public consciousness of and interest in the Middle Ages, but its not precisely representative of the period. So here are five amazing royal burials that present puzzles deserving of interest and that may help include simply a bit of diversity, too.

1. Oswald of Northumbria (d. 642)

Oswald was an aggressive leader of the northern kingdom of Northumbria, but embraced Christianity with all the zeal of the transform that he was. He so impressed the Irish missionary Aidan by his acts of charity that the latter seized his arm and exclaimed: May this hand never ever perish! Sure enough, it didnt, continuing to be uncorrupted after Oswalds death (or so the story goes).

The St Oswald antique. Brudersohn/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

However it wasnt simply Oswalds hand that had an amazing fate. Oswald was killed on the battleground by pagan Mercians and the Welsh, and his head and limbs put on stakes. Some of these remains were later on taken to the abbey of Bardney in Lincolnshire. When this fell under Viking rule in the tenth century, the West Saxon royal household mounted a raid to steal the royal continues to be and bring them back to English-controlled land. What occurred next isn’t completely clear, but for the contemporary bone hunter the problem isn’t really a lack of evidence its too much of it. In the Middle Ages, 5 different establishments declared to own Oswalds head, from Durham in England through to Hildesheim in Germany, whose stunning head reliquary survives to this day.

2. Eadgyth (d. 946)

Until Oswalds bones are situated, the oldest determined remains of any English or British royalty are those of a lady, Eadgyth, child of King Edward the Senior citizen. And theyre not even in England. Eadgyths brother King Aethelstan sent her and her sister Eadgifu to Germany to enable Duke Otto of Saxony to take his pick of the 2 for marriage. Otto selected Eadgyth, and when he ended up being emperor, she was anointed as his queen. She stayed in Germany until her death in 946.

Eadgyth and her hubby Otto I, Magdeburg Cathedral. Chris 73/Wikimedia, CC BY

In 2008 her burial place in Magdeburg in Germany was opened and, although carbon dating failed, isotopic tests confirmed that the remains were certainly Eadgyths. But whats confusing is that not all Eadgyth was actually in the lead casket: her hands and feet were nowhere to be found and the majority of the skull was missing out on. Exactly what occurred to these? Experts at the time of the exhumation suggested that thieves had struck looking for holy antiques however Eadgyth wasnt generally considered a saint, so the secret stays.

3. Harold II (d. 1066)

Bayeux tapestry: the death of Harold. Lucien Musset’s The Bayeux Tapestry

Everyone understands exactly what took place to King Harold on the battlefield of Hastings in 1066 however what took place later on? Confusion set in early. A modern text, The Tune of the Battle of Hastings, says that he was buried on a cliff top; a later source claims he endured the fight and lived for several years as a hermit; but other texts and most historians suggest he was buried in Waltham Abbey, which he had endowed.

Naturally, there is now much talk of discovering his burial place. But even if the tomb could be discovered, could we make sure that it was really Harold inside it? According to the 12th-century Waltham chronicle, Harolds face was injured beyond recognition by battlefield wounds and the fallen king was identified for burial only by mysterious secret marks on his body known to his concubine, Edith Swanneck. Can we be quite sure that Edith could not have been misinterpreted?

4. Margaret (d. 1093)

Margaret was another victim of the Norman conquest, however one whose life took a happier turn than Harolds. Descended from King Alfred the Great, she was brought up in exile in Hungary prior to weding the Scottish king Malcom III. She was dealt with as a saint not long after her death and her chapel can still be seen in Edinburgh castle. A gospel book she owned likewise endures in London.

Shrine of St Margaret, Dunfermline Abbey. Kim Traynor/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

But what stays of Margaret herself is in other places. She was buried in Dunfermline Abbey on her death, however later on her head was removed and required to Edinburgh as a relic and in the confusion of the Reformation it wound up in France, where it was lost in the revolution. Other parts of Margarets body were transferred to Spain by Philip II. When Queen Victoria spent for the restoration of Margarets tomb in Dumferline, it was probably for that reason the remediation of a cenotaph.

However, in 1862, a Scottish Catholic bishop travelled to Spain to request the return of some of Margarets remains. He properly secured a relic, which he brought with him back to Edinburgh where it remained for a century. In 2008, this relic obviously part of Margarets shoulder was ceremonially restored to St Margarets church in Dunfermline.

5. Llwelyn ap Gruffydd (d. 1282)

Llwelyn was the last leader of an independent Wales and satisfied his fate withstanding English imperialism in the shape of Edward I. Barely had he been killed than his head was cut off and sent out to London (though this was less grisly than the treatment portioned to Llwelyns previous ally, the rebel baron Simon de Montfort, whose testicles were curtained over his decapitated head). Llwelyns head was stuck on a pike at the Tower of London, where it stayed for more than a years to impress observers.

Cwmhir Abbey. Eirian Evans/geograph. org.uk, CC BY-SA

What occurred to the rest of Llwelyn isn’t really particular. He was probably buried at Cwmhir Abbey in central Wales. But the archbishop of Canterbury at the time wasnt completely sure of this as well as composed a letter to look for confirmation. The abbey is now in ruins, but no historical excavations have taken place to certify the last resting location of (the majority of) the last independent Welsh ruler.

Charles West, Senior Lecturer in Middle ages History, University of Sheffield

 

Check out more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/five-missing-kings-and-queens-and-where-we-might-find-them

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Five Missing Kings And Queens And Where We Might Find Them

As 2016 starts, the current public interest in hunting for royal burials shows no indication of abating. Hardly has actually the dust begun to choose Richard IIIs pricey brand-new tomb in Leicester than work is beginning on finding the resting place of another middle ages emperor, Henry I (d. 1135), in Reading (like Richard III, Henry is also thought to be under a car park).

Meanwhile, the Church of England is stoutly refusing to permit DNA tests to be brought out on bones believed to be those of the princes in the Tower who vanished in 1483, and who might be buried in Westminster Abbey.

With the honourable exception of Alfred the Great (d. 899), whose bones were disappointingly for some probably not found in recent Winchester excavations, this interest has actually had the tendency to focus on the kings of England after 1066 at the expenditure of earlier kings, kings of British kingdoms other than England and queens. That is probably typical of the wider public consciousness of and interest in the Middle Ages, but its not precisely representative of the period. So here are five amazing royal burials that present puzzles deserving of interest and that may help include simply a bit of diversity, too.

1. Oswald of Northumbria (d. 642)

Oswald was an aggressive leader of the northern kingdom of Northumbria, but embraced Christianity with all the zeal of the transform that he was. He so impressed the Irish missionary Aidan by his acts of charity that the latter seized his arm and exclaimed: May this hand never ever perish! Sure enough, it didnt, continuing to be uncorrupted after Oswalds death (or so the story goes).

The St Oswald antique. Brudersohn/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

However it wasnt simply Oswalds hand that had an amazing fate. Oswald was killed on the battleground by pagan Mercians and the Welsh, and his head and limbs put on stakes. Some of these remains were later on taken to the abbey of Bardney in Lincolnshire. When this fell under Viking rule in the tenth century, the West Saxon royal household mounted a raid to steal the royal continues to be and bring them back to English-controlled land. What occurred next isn’t completely clear, but for the contemporary bone hunter the problem isn’t really a lack of evidence its too much of it. In the Middle Ages, 5 different establishments declared to own Oswalds head, from Durham in England through to Hildesheim in Germany, whose stunning head reliquary survives to this day.

2. Eadgyth (d. 946)

Until Oswalds bones are situated, the oldest determined remains of any English or British royalty are those of a lady, Eadgyth, child of King Edward the Senior citizen. And theyre not even in England. Eadgyths brother King Aethelstan sent her and her sister Eadgifu to Germany to enable Duke Otto of Saxony to take his pick of the 2 for marriage. Otto selected Eadgyth, and when he ended up being emperor, she was anointed as his queen. She stayed in Germany until her death in 946.

Eadgyth and her hubby Otto I, Magdeburg Cathedral. Chris 73/Wikimedia, CC BY

In 2008 her burial place in Magdeburg in Germany was opened and, although carbon dating failed, isotopic tests confirmed that the remains were certainly Eadgyths. But whats confusing is that not all Eadgyth was actually in the lead casket: her hands and feet were nowhere to be found and the majority of the skull was missing out on. Exactly what occurred to these? Experts at the time of the exhumation suggested that thieves had struck looking for holy antiques however Eadgyth wasnt generally considered a saint, so the secret stays.

3. Harold II (d. 1066)

Bayeux tapestry: the death of Harold. Lucien Musset’s The Bayeux Tapestry

Everyone understands exactly what took place to King Harold on the battlefield of Hastings in 1066 however what took place later on? Confusion set in early. A modern text, The Tune of the Battle of Hastings, says that he was buried on a cliff top; a later source claims he endured the fight and lived for several years as a hermit; but other texts and most historians suggest he was buried in Waltham Abbey, which he had endowed.

Naturally, there is now much talk of discovering his burial place. But even if the tomb could be discovered, could we make sure that it was really Harold inside it? According to the 12th-century Waltham chronicle, Harolds face was injured beyond recognition by battlefield wounds and the fallen king was identified for burial only by mysterious secret marks on his body known to his concubine, Edith Swanneck. Can we be quite sure that Edith could not have been misinterpreted?

4. Margaret (d. 1093)

Margaret was another victim of the Norman conquest, however one whose life took a happier turn than Harolds. Descended from King Alfred the Great, she was brought up in exile in Hungary prior to weding the Scottish king Malcom III. She was dealt with as a saint not long after her death and her chapel can still be seen in Edinburgh castle. A gospel book she owned likewise endures in London.

Shrine of St Margaret, Dunfermline Abbey. Kim Traynor/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

But what stays of Margaret herself is in other places. She was buried in Dunfermline Abbey on her death, however later on her head was removed and required to Edinburgh as a relic and in the confusion of the Reformation it wound up in France, where it was lost in the revolution. Other parts of Margarets body were transferred to Spain by Philip II. When Queen Victoria spent for the restoration of Margarets tomb in Dumferline, it was probably for that reason the remediation of a cenotaph.

However, in 1862, a Scottish Catholic bishop travelled to Spain to request the return of some of Margarets remains. He properly secured a relic, which he brought with him back to Edinburgh where it remained for a century. In 2008, this relic obviously part of Margarets shoulder was ceremonially restored to St Margarets church in Dunfermline.

5. Llwelyn ap Gruffydd (d. 1282)

Llwelyn was the last leader of an independent Wales and satisfied his fate withstanding English imperialism in the shape of Edward I. Barely had he been killed than his head was cut off and sent out to London (though this was less grisly than the treatment portioned to Llwelyns previous ally, the rebel baron Simon de Montfort, whose testicles were curtained over his decapitated head). Llwelyns head was stuck on a pike at the Tower of London, where it stayed for more than a years to impress observers.

Cwmhir Abbey. Eirian Evans/geograph. org.uk, CC BY-SA

What occurred to the rest of Llwelyn isn’t really particular. He was probably buried at Cwmhir Abbey in central Wales. But the archbishop of Canterbury at the time wasnt completely sure of this as well as composed a letter to look for confirmation. The abbey is now in ruins, but no historical excavations have taken place to certify the last resting location of (the majority of) the last independent Welsh ruler.

Charles West, Senior Lecturer in Middle ages History, University of Sheffield

 

Check out more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/five-missing-kings-and-queens-and-where-we-might-find-them

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Why is the UK still printing its laws on vellum? – BBC News

Image copyright UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Image caption The UK’s law is on scrolls. In a tower

After a reprieve, the UK is to continue printing and storing its laws on vellum, a paper made from calf or goat-skin. But shouldn’t these traditions give way to digital storage, asks Chris Stokel-Walker.

Last week the House of Lords decided to end the printing of laws on vellum for cost reasons. But now the Cabinet Office is to provide the money from its own budget for the thousand-year-old tradition to continue.

Vellum lasts a long time. Dig into the archives of the UK’s parliament and pull out the oldest extant law and you’ll find a very old document. It was first inscribed in 1497.

Over time, ordinary paper can deteriorate rapidly, while vellum is said to retain its integrity for much longer. Original copies of the Magna Carta, signed more than 800 years ago on vellum, still exist.

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption The Brudenell Magna Carta, document on vellum, dated 12 October 1297

The proposed change was a move to higher-quality archival paper. But are politicians missing the point?

 

Sharon McMeekin, of the Digital Preservation Coalition, an advocacy and advice group for digital recordkeeping, thinks so.

“People have been bemoaning the loss of history by changing to archival paper,” she explains. “I think people are missing the point there. Truly representing the context and history in which these records were made require them to be kept in a digital format. It’s more representative of the technologies and communication methods used today.”

So why in the digital age do we keep physical records of documents at all?

There’s a simple answer, says Adrian Brown, the director of parliamentary archives, who oversees a collection including 8km-worth of physical records of parchment, paper and photographs in the 325ft tall Victoria Tower at the western edge of the Palace of Westminster.

In the tower, scrolls of vellum are piled up in a vast repository, spooled in a range of different sizes, looking superficially much as they would have done hundreds of years ago.

Image copyright Alamy

“We simply respond to the way parliament chooses to create its records,” Brown says. “In this case those are still going to be physical – though the proportion that is digital will increase over time.”

But there are other reasons, too.

“In many circles there’s still a real discomfort around digital archiving, and a lack of belief that digital can survive into the future,” explains Jenny Mitcham, digital archivist at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York.

The whole concept of digital storage is a relatively new innovation, and the path by which it could survive through the years is not clear.

“We don’t have the ability to look back and say we know for a fact in 200 years time we’ll still have this stuff,” reasons Mitcham. “We can’t prove that fact without a time machine.”


What is vellum?

Image copyright Wellcome Library, London

Vellum is made from calf-skin. The word shares its derivation with the word “veal” from the old French “velin” (Collins Dictionary) or “veelin” (Petit Robert).

Vellum is made by first soaking calf-skin in a lime wash, says calligrapher and illuminator Patricia Lovett. The lime causes the hair follicles to expand, making it easier to scrape fat and fur from the skin. This is done with a curved-bladed knife called a “scudder”.

The prepared skin is then washed and stretched onto a wooden frame, and scraped further with a lunar knife to raise the nap and create a more even thickness. Finally the skin is left to dry; the length of time depends on the ambient temperature, humidity and the individual qualities of the skin.

Patricia Lovett, calligrapher

Watch vellum being made on BBC 4’s Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings


There’s an excellent example of how a digital archive can quickly run into problems.

Between 1984-86 the BBC Domesday Project engaged more than a million people from around Britain.

Children at more than 9,000 schools helped compile a statistical survey, personal thoughts and memories. The data was stored on special laserdiscs, then seen as a technology of the future.

Nearly two decades later, there were virtually no extant disc players able to read the specially formatted discs. After a lot of work, the data was made readable, but the case for digital archiving had suffered a setback.

“Examples like that imply that digital is more fragile than physical,” Mitcham laments.

Mike Tibbetts, one of the two creators of the Domesday Project, wrote in 2008 that “the fault in all this lies not in the lack of vision or foresight by the technologists but that, at least in the UK, the national systems of data preservation and heritage archiving simply don’t work reliably or consistently.”

This is the issue, according to Jenny Mitcham. Just as preserving a physical archive requires careful consideration of temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure to prevent paper from turning brittle and breaking, so digital archives need to be tended to.

“There’s certainly truth in the fact that if [a] digital [format] is neglected, it’ll become obsolete,” she says. “But if it’s brought into a digital archive, and that digital archive is well set up and knows what it’s doing, migrating and actively managing files over time, the chances those files will be readable in the future are vastly improved.”

Adrian Brown lists the difficulties in maintaining paper records – “decay, chemical changes that happen in the physical items; you’ve got insects and animal damage; the effects of temperature and light and humidity and dust. Tearing, rubbing, those kinds of issues.”

But with digital, there are different risks. “One of the things about digital information is that it’s not fundamentally human-readable,” he explains. “You need some kind of technology to turn it into something understandable. Technology as we know changes very rapidly; what you can find is your way of turning those 1s and 0s into meaningful information can be threatened if you don’t take precautions.”

Image copyright Patricia Lovett
Image caption Lee Mapley of William Cowley Parchment Works works on a sheet of vellum

And, as anyone who has lost beloved holiday snaps to a hard drive failure knows, IT systems are far from infallible.

“With digital, the last thing you want to do is put it somewhere and leave it alone,” Mitcham says. “There are things you need to do over time to make sure everything’s okay with it.”

Documents are migrated from one file format to another as old versions of applications become outdated. It’s also necessary to check information hasn’t been lost in the transition.

Backup copies are continuously made, and placed in different locations. Checksums, a process to make sure errors have not wormed their way into files, are run weekly.

So archives are indeed moving from pieces of paper to bits and bytes. The British Library keep a physical copy of every book, magazine and newspaper printed in the United Kingdom as part of the principle of “legal deposit”, a law which has existed since 1662.

But since 2013, electronic records of websites, blogs, CDs and electronic journals have also come under the catchment of the legal deposit law.

Advocates point out digital records have their advantages over paper documents.

Metadata associated with electronic files can give an insight into the messy creation of a work, rather than a polished final document. It’s sometimes possible to view how long someone spent typing up a record, and even to see what they changed between drafts.

And just as with 500-year-old vellum, there’s history in our hard drives, too.

“I get excited by digital archaeology,” Mitcham admits. “If you find a pile of 5 inch floppy disks, I get a buzz out of that. Being able to find out what’s on those discs, look through old Wordstar files, and get an idea for how computing has moved on through time, that’s fascinating.”

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35569281

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Was the Battle of Agincourt really a victory for Wales? – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It is believed Henry V’s army was increased by 500 Welsh archers at Agincourt

The Fight of Agincourt 600 years back is among the most famous English military successes – but should it truly be remembered as a victory for Wales?

Marking a major transition in the Hundred Years’ War, the battle on 25 October 1415 was fought over the English kings’ claim to the French throne.

However, legend has it that at Agincourt – like at the 1346 Battle of Crecy – Welsh longbowmen held the secret to English success.

Henry V’s army of around 8,000 was outnumbered by as much as 5 to one, yet 500 nimble-fingered Welsh archers had the ability to cut the heavily-armoured French knights to ribbons after catching them in a slim cleaning.

The majority of them originated from Monmouthshire, the birthplace of Henry V, where their ventures are kept in mind in Monmouth’s Agincourt Square – along with a stained glass window in Brecon Cathedral.

 

To mark the 600th anniversary of the battle, throughout 2015 a group of enthusiasts from around Brecon and Monmouthshire have been staging a series of occasions to discuss this not likely medieval alliance.

Owain Glyndwr

Bryan Davies, the organiser of Agincourt 600 Wales – Cymru, has actually been interested with the contending folklores ever because he saw the Agincourt roll of honour at Brecon Cathedral as a boy.

“Even then I remember wondering why numerous Welshmen from these towns and villages strung out along exactly what would ultimately become the A40 went to combat in an English army; especially considering that this was all taking location at the very same time as Owain Glyndwr’s disobedience,” he said.

“The biggest draw – then as now – was cash. A longbowman could make sixpence a day while a ploughman made twopence.

“But also some owed loyalty to Norman Marcher lords, while others signed up to make amends for having actually backed the wrong side after Glyndwr’s rebellion failed.”

Yet Swansea University’s Welsh historian, Dr Matthew Stevens, believes that maybe the English and Welsh were never such unusual bed-fellows after all.

“Glyndwr’s disobedience truly had its popular support in north Wales,” he said.

“When he marched south he burnt-out as many Welshmen as he did Norman inhabitants.

“But even going back as far as Edward I’s reign, Welsh archers were an important part of English armies. In 1298, simply 16 years after Wales was conquered, they existed in numbers at the Fight of Falkirk.

“It’s wrong really to consider a national Welsh identity at this time.

“Individuals had much more of a sense of regional commitment, and whether it be a Welsh prince or a Marcher lord, guys in south Wales were much more most likely to remain devoted to the individual on whom they depended for their own success.”

‘Iron shortage’

But if the reasons for why Welshmen defended an English king are clear, it’s harder to describe how they became so knowledgeable with the longbow in the first place.

Although Dr Stevens believes he may have an idea.

“As early as 1283 Gerald of Wales describes the males of Gwent as being highly knowledgeable longbowmen, and to comprehend why possibly you have to look at the natural deposits offered to them,” he included.

“It appears strange considering the metal industries of the 19th and 20th centuries, however at the time of Agincourt there was in fact a significant shortage of iron in south Wales.

“Whilst a suit of armour and heavy swords would have to be created at terrific expense, from iron imported from Spain, arrows and spears only needed a tiny metal point.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-34618197

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Medieval Armour

Read more: http://imgur.com/gallery/ssNVi

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How the Longbow Ended Knights in Shining Armor

Edward III was the grandson of Edward I, the infamous Longshanks of history (think English King in Braveheart), and he really lived up to grand-dads legacy. Over his 33 years of rule he fought an unbelievable number of battles, captured and held prisoner two kings, and at the end of it got France to sign over 1/3 of their kingdom. But this was the beginning, now he was fighting the French King Philip VI about which one of them should be the king of France. Edward, obviously, was based in England. Philip was in France. Edwards problem was to demonstrate how he was the rightful ruler of France, and how to convince the population of that as well. His options were limited to really just two: Outright conquest (not viable because France was much bigger and Edward really could not sustain an army overseas for that long), or successfully embarrassing Philip to the degree that both the people of France, as well as chunks of the nobility, would see Philip as so weak and ineffective that they would come over to Edward on their own. Enter the Chevauchee.

 

Chevauchee, which can mean either a simple horse processional (ie a casual ride with your buddies), or cavalry charge if taken literally, actually refers to a larger idea: A massed raid, moving through enemy country and burning/looting/smashing as broad a swathe of land as possible. For a modern American example see the American Civil War and Shermans March to the Sea, but much more brutal.

Normally this sort of thing was done to collect loot, and capitalize upon an enemys weakness or lack of speed. But Edward had a second issue in mind, he wanted to fight, not just run. According to historian Rogers, the chevauchee in this case was a deliberate lure to bring Philip and his nobles to a pitched battle.* Even though Edward knew well that meant fighting outnumbered he had a deliberate reason for this. The justification, again, was to demonstrate Philips weakness. Not only could he (Philip) not protect his people from the depredations of Edwards army, but even when he caught up to the English if he was defeated despite having much greater numbers the confidence Edward was trying to undermine could likely crumble.

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By the measure of the other battles I have talked about thus far (Cannae and Verdun) you might not think the numbers involved in this battle are very impressive. None of the contemporary accounts match each other and modern historians generally believe the French numbers were exaggerated, for a variety of reasons. So the total number of combatants here was probably in the range of 40-50,000 troops total.

Edward, it is estimated, probably initially landed in the second week of July 1346 with around 15,000 men. Broken down this was probably around 2,700 men-at-arms (knights, esquires and their like), 2,300 light spearmen from Wales, and maybe as many as 7,000 of Edwards secret weapon the longbowmen from both Wales and England. (See some video explanations here and here, but if you really want to geek out ) The rest was a combination of light cavalry, mounted archers (with short-bows) and other troops. But that is not how many he had at the time of the battle a month-and-a-half and several hundred miles later. By that point he had already fought a couple of small battles, and having captured many prisoners along the way, sent them back to England under guard for later ransom. So at the time of the actual Battle of Crecy it is likely that he was down to around 10,000 men.

A brief word about those longbowmen. The weapon was one that first came into play when Edwards grandfather finally crushed the Welsh people as an independent entity and wrapped them into what was becoming Britain. Because of the topography of Wales, and to some degree their own sub-culture, the Welsh had always focused on more lightly armed and armored soldiery. Theirs was a way of war that focused on hit-and-run, and when pressed, to pull back into their mountainous central retreats. Central to this centuries-long military evolution by the Welsh (prior to Edward Longshanks finally crushing them at the end of the 1200s) was the use of bows and spears. For them, therefore, bigger bows meant longer range and the ability to beat the more heavily armored English upon occasion. The Welsh longbow became their most feared tool of war. And so when Longshanks finally extracted fealty-through-submission from the Welsh he took the best parts of their abilities, the things that had caused him the most problems, and incorporated them into his own armies. By the time Edward III came to the thrown the technology had spread, and would continue to spread, across more and more of England. But the best of them were, still, the Welsh longbowmen with their 6 long war bows which had a pull weight of 120, 140, or even 170 pounds. That is a serious weapon.

Philip had a wider range of troops, and undoubtedly quite a few more. Although original accounts put the number under French command at as much as 8 times as large as the English, that is mostly discounted now. The best historians seem to be comfortable with a number between 30,000-40,000; the majority of which were mounted knights and mounted men-at-arms. The next largest contingent was actually crossbow-carrying mercenaries from Genoa, of whom there were perhaps as many as 8,000 at the battle.

That morning of 26 August the English army made a deliberate and casual march to the northeast, to Crecy and some high ground directly astride the French Armys route. The French were coming from 14 miles to the south. This ground had been selected earlier by several of Edwards primary subordinates, deliberately to allow the English an anchor both of their flanks on poor terrain and to give them an uphill advantage. The English arrived around mid-morning and set about preparing the battlefield. Among other things they dug thousands of 1 wide holes to their front to trip up the French cavalry. Then they set up with three successive lines of infantry in the middle, and wings consisting of the archers on each flank. Nobody was mounted at this point.

The French, for their part, marched pell-mell from their location as soon as their scouts returned and informed the King Philip that the English were setting up for battle. Yes, we know that Philip was under some serious political pressure at this point. After all, so far Edward had pretty much marched unopposed across a good chunk of the north of France, at one point within mere miles from Paris. Philip was already embarrassed by the fact that he could not even stop Edward at any of the rivers, the Seine and the Somme, which could have stalled the latter and forced a change in the campaign. So politically he had to fight, and he had to fight soon. But there was another aspect to this calculation at the Operational Level of War: Food.

Edward, recently, had captured a large store of food, so he was well set. Given the relative rates of speed of the two armies he could have continued on his merry way to the north, picking any one of a number of harbors from which to be resupplied or to leave. Plus, his army was smaller. Philip, on the other hand had a comparatively massive army (larger than most cities of the day, barring London and Paris), and with that theoretical advantage came a very real pressure: he had a lot of hungry mouths to feed and nothing even remotely resembling a modern military logistics system to provide food and fodder for 30,000 men and probably in excess of 100,000 horses. Nor could he loot the countryside of his own people, as Edward had been doing, for obvious reasons. So fight he would, as soon as possible.

Sources differ again here as to what happened next. Quite a few later historians took the line that the French arrived at the battlefield and immediately rushed into battle without getting set and attacking deliberately. This is almost certainly untrue, as the first forces committed were those Genoese mercenary crossbowmen, and mercenaries dont rush into battle for the love of fighting. They go in deliberately, when ordered to do so by the man paying the bills. Yes, the French nobles were itching for a fight, but Philip at least held them together until the whole army was on-hand. But they did appear to attack rather quickly after their massed arrival, and that things fell apart fairly quickly after that.

In a way it doesnt really matter, because the result was the same. Pitting the Genoese crossbowmen against the English longbowmen was a losing proposition for the former, both because of range and rate of fire. The Genoese were slaughtered, and started retreating. Of course this annoyed the assembled French nobility, who then decided to attack their OWN mercenaries from behind. Nice move that one.

Next came the first of several mounted French cavalry attacks. We know that there were three general assaults (the first of which swept through the Genoese, slaughtering them as they went but also getting disorganized. The second and third waves, following, could not see what was going on up front and crowded forward themselves, increasing the chaos on the French side all the more and creating what the modern military might call a target rich environment for the English longbowmen on the flanks. All of these French attacks came to ruin. None of them seriously broke through even the first line of the English knights and men-at-arms on foot in the center. Where there were some local penetrations reserves from the second line (not even the third) of the English, stepped up and crushed it, even as the longbows continued to pour in the arrows from the sides. In the end it was a complete and utter rout.

Casualties, like the numbers present overall, are somewhat problematic to nail down precisely. In part this is because the chroniclers of the time focused on the nobility and just gave sort of a mild hand-wave at the lesser ranks. So we know that among the French both Philips younger brother, and his nephew, were killed, as was the King of Bohemia (a French ally), as well as another seven counts and viscounts, eight barons, and some 80 bannerets, as well as a full 1,542 knights and esquires. The Genoese, who started with roughly 8,000, were essentially wiped out. We have only estimates for the common French soldiers. Overall you might assign a total loss of perhaps 8-10,000 total killed or captured.

The English lost around 300 men, as best we can tell.

 

 

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