The Battle of Crecy
The Battle of Crecy took place 10 years into the Hundred Years’ War, which wasplayed out between some of Europe's major powers. One of the wars’ main belligerents Edward III, had instigated the start of the war by declaring himself the King of France. There were several reasons for this, all stemming from territorial claims going back to the Norman invasion. When King Phillip VI of France annexed English lands in Aquitaine, Edward responded with military action. The war had progressed well for France until this point but Edward was determined to turn the tide.
Marching his army out of the stronghold of Calais with his son Edward the Black Prince, King Edward engaged a formidable French army at Crecy in Normandy. The English King chose a strong defensive position on a forward facing slope and lined his secret weapon, his Longbowmen, on the crest of the hill behind his dismounted knights.
With superior numbers and driven by a code of chivalry, the French readied to attack. Edward being a pragmatist, had no concern for rules of chivalry and knew that the French would not be able to resist a full on assault. As soon as mercenaries from Genoa came within range, the Longbowmen rained down their arrows causing horrendous casualties. The Genoese, who were supposed to soften up the English were routed and while fleeing, mounted French knights pursued and cut them down for being cowards. The French knights then turned to attack. They too were to take huge casualties from the longbow. By the time they reached the English line, they found it all but impregnable. The Black Prince led the defensive line himself and proved an exemplary commander. The French army bravely charged time and again at the English line but the longbows took more and more casualties. The dead and dying created further obstacles for the attackers and with their casualties growing into the thousands, the French army retreated. The English had won a massive victory and secured their lands on the continent. However, this period of almost continuous war would drag on another 107 years until 1453. During this time, there were numerous military advances of which the longbow was the first, and it signalled an end to the ideal of chivalry on the battlefield. In time, firearms would play an important part as Europe became defined along Nationalist lines. Rivalries became enshrined and alliances defined that would influence Europe through to the 19th century.