Friday, 4 November 2011

Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell

Cornwell has a knack of finding interesting periods of military history as a setting for his novels and Azincourt (Agincourt to you and me) is another winner. Its the middle of the long struggle between the Plantagenets and the Valois for the throne of France that came to be known as the hundred years war. This fascinating period marks the end of the age of chivalry. New tactics and new weapons meant that heavily armoured nobility on horseback were no longer invincible gods of the battlefield. At the time of Agincourt the Plantagenets of England seem to grasp the new realities more quickly than their Valois adversaries and in a number of critical battles the nobility of France were decimated by foolhardy charges against disciplined armies of massed archers.

As well as the battle of Agincourt itself Cornwell also describes the   siege of Harcourt which proceeded it.The tale of how a few hundred determined defenders held off King Henry's thousands is fascinating in itself.

There is a story tying it all together of course involving a young English archer who joins the army to get away from a death sentence at home. Needless to say his trouble follows him and he must contend with mortal enemies form home while trying to fight off the French.

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