Avant Azincourt, préparer la flotte

Chroniques sur la Guerre de Cent Ans. Article en  accès libre : Henry V and the crossing to France : reconstructing naval operations for the Agincourt campaign, 1415, Journal of Medieval History, Volume 43, 2017.

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Introduction. The Battle of Agincourt, 1415, has attracted much attention from scholars. Yet much of the academic focus in this phase of the Hundred Years War centres on the English king, the army, the battle and its aftermath.

Much less research has been carried out on the maritime logistics that underpinned Henry V’s invasion of France. This article seeks to address this lacuna by focusing on three key areas of the naval operations in 1415. Firstly, it will assess the numbers of foreign ships that participated in the crossing. Secondly, it will reconstruct the process of gathering English ships. Finally, it will analyse the naval patrols put to sea over 1414 and 1415 which were designed to protect the gathering transport armada.

Conclusion. This article has reconstructed one of the most important logistical operations of the Hundred Years War. The lack of navy payrolls has created challenges, but nonetheless it is possible to point to four key conclusions.

  • Firstly, the fleet that sailed out of the Solent and from other points in August 1415 probably numbered 700 ships.
  • Secondly, English ships formed two-thirds of the fleet.
  • Thirdly, there was a sophisticated and well-planned series of naval operations, which probably involved 20 or 30 ships, designed to guard the coast and protect the gathering transport ships.
  • Fourthly, the project fell short of Henry’s expectations and did not assemble a fleet sufficient for his needs.

Yet, we should not be harsh in our judgement. Organising logistical operations on this scale was one of the most difficult tasks any medieval government could attempt, made more complex by Henry’s intention to conduct a campaign of conquest by sieges and carry an army equipped to this end. It is worth stressing that Edward III’s attempts to requisition the fleet of 1346 had taken over nine months.

Viewed in this context, Henry’s ability to organise in six months a fleet of a similar size was a significant achievement. It is a perfect example of the ingenuity and sophistication of the English war machine at this time, and it helps to explain how England managed to maintain a war against a more populous and richer kingdom for so long.

The fleet of 1415 marked the beginning of a new phase of the Hundred Years War, but it also saw the passing of the great logistical operations that stretched back to the campaigns of Edward III. After the Agincourt campaign, the English would never again during the Hundred Years War assemble a fleet of this magnitude..

Pour aller plus loin : la bataille d’Azincourt (Wikipédia).

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Classé dans A. Histoire médiévale, C. Nouvelle Aquitaine (Aquitaine Poitou Charentes), E. Sciences humaines et sociales

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