How did Henry V win the Battle of Agincourt?

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1. English underdogs

At the Battle of Agincourt, England lost just a few hundred men: the French army lost thousands.

England and France had been bitter enemies for years. When they met on the battlefield – 600 years ago – on 25 October 1415, the odds were stacked against English King Henry V. He had fought a hard-won siege at the port town of Harfleur in Northern France, losing many men. He then lead his army through the French countryside to the English-held territory of Calais. They were exhausted, their numbers depleted by dysentery and demoralised, and now the French stood in their path near the French village of Azincourt.

Yet just three hours later, Henry won a battle which is still celebrated as one of England's most stunning military successes. Find out how Henry beat all the odds to clinch a remarkable victory against the French at Agincourt.

2. A cast of kings and nobles

In Henry V’s era, kings and dukes fought alongside common soldiers. Click below to reveal the key players in the Battle of Agincourt.

Popular king

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King Henry V

Image: Getty

Henry had experienced military failures but he was a strong and charismatic leader. Despite his army's exhaustion, his presence boosted morale.

Seasoned British commander

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Duke of York

Image: Getty

Henry employed knowledgeable military commanders. His cousin, the Duke of York, was a trusted councillor and raised a retinue of 400 to support the king.

Absent king

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Charles VI

Image: Getty

Charles’s frequent bouts of insanity had plunged France into turmoil. He was not present at the battle, so the French lacked a clear line of command.

Young upstart

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Duke of Orleans

Image: Mary Evans

A lack of clear leadership meant inexperienced noblemen, like this 21-year-old-Duke, usurped the authority of more seasoned French commanders.

3. The battlefield in numbers

On the battlefield at Agincourt

Henry didn't choose to fight at Agincourt but secured a strong defensive position. He placed archers on the flanks and in nearby woods, ready to attack the French advance. He also ordered archers to put sharpened wooden stakes along their front line.

BBC / Professor Anne Curry

4. CLICKABLE: The medieval machine gun

Many believed the English longbow was the biggest factor in Henry’s success. Click to reveal what made it such an effective killing machine:

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Image credit: BBC/ Neal Street Productions, from 'The Hollow Crown' (2012)

5. Henry plays his hand well

Click through this timeline to discover how the Battle of Agincourt unfolded for Henry and his men.