Battle of Crecy

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The Battle of Crécy (1346) in which the English defeated the French, was the first major land battle of the Hundred Years War and the first major European engagement in which cannon played a part. It was the first of the Anglo-French engagements notable for the ascendency of the Anglo-Welsh longbow.

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Edward III of England had made an unexpected landing in Normandy, but found himself barred from his desired advance south towards English holdings by the French burning bridges across the river Seine. Stalled in northern France, he managed to bring the French to battle at Crécy on 26th August 1346

The English knights and men-at-arms dismounted and stood, flanked by archers. The French sent forward mercenary Genoese crossbowmen, but a rain-shower had loosened their bowstrings and the English archers had no problem keeping them at bay. Then the English used their "bombards" (cannon) and the crossbowmen retreated in panic - straight into the path of a French cavalry attack. The longbowmen started bringing down the French horses and the battle became a melée in which the fresh English knights and men-at-arms were victorious.

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Only near the end were horses brought forward for the English and the French were routed. Examples of senseless bravery on the French side included the blind King of Bohemia who had himself tethered to his supporters and led into the fray – all of them perished.

King Edward directed the battle from a nearby windmill. His son, the young Edward the Black Prince can be said to have been “blooded’’ by this battle. He was in the forefront of the battle and, at a crucial stage, the king said “..let the boy earn his spurs,...”.

The victory allowed Edward to march on Calais and take the city, which the English were then to hold for more than 200 years.

Further reading

  • Ayton, Andrew,and Sir Philip Preston. The Battle of Crecy, 1346 (2007)
  • Nicolle, David. Crécy 1346: Triumph of the longbow (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Rothero, Christopher. Armies of Crecy and Poitiers (1981) excerpt and text search
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