A personal history commemorating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt by a direct descendant of nobility who fought on both sides of the battle.
Few events in history have had such a lasting impact as Agincourt. On that fateful day exactly 600 years ago this Oct. 25, armies allied to King Henry V of England and King Charles VI of France met in the decisive battle of the Hundred Years’ War. Though the war continued for several years after Agincourt, the English victory at Agincourt ensured, through Henry’s later marriage to Charles’ daughter Katherine, future stability and equitable relations between France and England, conditions that would provide the foundation for the emergence of both countries’ modern national identities. Though there is no shortage of historical analyses of the battle and war, famed explorer and prolific author Fiennes (Cold: Extreme Adventures at the Lowest Temperatures on Earth, 2013, etc.) provides a unique perspective of medieval history as a direct ancestor of nobility that fought for both the English and French at Agincourt. To understand how such a seeming contradiction could be true, the author begins his conversational and well-paced history at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, in which William of Normandy’s conquest of Britain enmeshed the politics of the French crown with the English. As a result, William’s victory set in motion the series of events that would lead directly to the Hundred Years’ War. As for Fiennes, whose lineage can be traced all the way back to Charlemagne, his ancestors controlled the Boulogne region of France and were allied to William. Receiving patronage for their loyalty, they controlled areas of both England and their native France. However, subsequent kings tested allegiances, and eventually, Fiennes’ ancestors would be divided by ensuing conflicts before facing off at Agincourt.
Fiennes does his ancestors justice with this fascinating and immensely readable narrative of Agincourt.