|To all intents and purposes our
Entwistle hero, Sir Bertine Entwissell, should
have had a short life, having been slain at
Agincourt at the age of 21, and not to have
suffered this same fate some 38 years later in
The reason he was not is the miracle of
Agincourt, one of the greatest victories in the
face of outstanding odds in the history of
On October 25, 1415 (Saint Crispin's Day) an
exhausted, sick, hungry and depleted army
defeated the French, who fought on their own
ground and out numbered the English four-to-one.
Sir Bertine Entwistle, and we would presume
perhaps his father before him, had been loyal supporters
of the House of Lancaster (Kings Henry IV, V
& VI), the prevailing royal
dynasty of the day.
In those times of much treachery amongst
nobles in the Kingdom loyalty meant a lot and
young Bertine would have been doubly valued by
the 26 year old King Henry V because of his
intimate knowledge of France, having spent time
there as a child - ward to a French noble
The expeditionary force of now six thousand
Englishmen (having already lost 2000 soldiers
and 2,000 too sick to fight) were in retreat,
destined for the safe port of Calais, from where they intended to escape to England.
But the army was intercepted at Agincourt by
the French Constable Charles d'Albret and an
army 25,000 strong.
The French army included heavily armoured
cavalry and infantry and total annihilation of
the English troops seemed
The French appeared to have everything going
for them except one thing: nature turned against
them - a religious man, as Henry V was, thought that God had stepped in and taken a hand in his
It rained and rained and rained until the
battlefield, a vast cornfield, became a total
quagmire. Mired in the mud the French cavalry
were easy prey for the English archers.
Likewise, the heavily armoured French infantry
became bogged down, slipping and falling -
knights in full armour could not get up again if
they fell, without assistance.
Struggling to keep on their feet the French
soldiers were cut to pieces by the highly mobile
English raiders with their hatchets, hooks and
For each and every Englishman killed, many,
many more French soldiers were slain. Around 500 French
noblemen died that day.
Estimates vary as to the English losses.
Shakespeare claims 4 nobles and 25 troops, but
the most widely accepted estimated figure is
100-200 English dead.
French losses are more accurately known. The
French themselves have claimed between 8,000 and
11,000 of whom 1,200-1,800 were slaughtered
prisoners. A whole generation of French nobles
had been destroyed; there was barely a French
noble family without losses and many family
lines ended that day.
The victory gave King Henry V the greatest
fighting reputation of all English monarchs and
the day resulted in Bertine receiving his
knighthood from the King. It also paved the way
for English domination of France until the
middle of the 15th century.
The army returned to England, but further expeditionary
forces won battle after battle until in 1420
French King Charles VI agreed that on his death
Henry would become King of France, and gave his daughter
Catherine in marriage to Henry.
Henry's glory did not last - too famous to
live long - Henry died in 1422 of dysentery. A few years later
France produced its own hero - Joan of Arc, who
reversed the English fortunes, leading
eventually to the loss of all Henry's
territories except Calais.
Shakespeare's Henry V contains one of the
best descriptions of the actual battle of
Agincourt, which forms a major part of his play.
The famous pre-battle oration is one of the most
stirring pieces of English literature.
Saint Crispin's Day Speech
from Henry V by William Shakespeare
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day
Sir Bertine had gained lands in France after
the victory but eventually returned to England
with the King's losses.
Sir Bertine went on to the ripe old age of
59, still a loyal Lancastrian, living at
Entwistle Hall, Entwistle, Lancashire.
for Henry V's son, Henry VI, at the first of the
Wars of the Roses battles - St Albans 1455 and
that's another story.