: Agincourt (9780061578908) : Bernard Cornwell : Books
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by Bernard Cornwell
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • Publishing date: 01/01/2010
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780061578908
  • ISBN: 0061578908


Book Description

"The greatest writer of historical adventures today" (Washington Post) tackles his richest, most thrilling subject yet--the heroic tale of Agincourt.

Young Nicholas Hook is dogged by a cursed past--haunted by what he has failed to do and banished for what he has done. A wanted man in England, he is driven to fight as a mercenary archer in France, where he finds two things he can love: his instincts as a fighting man, and a girl in trouble. Together they survive the notorious massacre at Soissons, an event that shocks all Christendom. With no options left, Hook heads home to England, where his capture means certain death. Instead he is discovered by the young King of England--Henry V himself--and by royal command he takes up the longbow again and dons the cross of Saint George. Hook returns to France as part of the superb army Henry leads in his quest to claim the French crown. But after the English campaign suffers devastating early losses, it becomes clear that Hook and his fellow archers are their king's last resort in a desperate fight against an enemy more daunting than they could ever have imagined.

One of the most dramatic victories in British history, the battle of Agincourt--immortalized by Shakespeare in Henry V--pitted undermanned and overwhelmed English forces against a French army determined to keep their crown out of Henry's hands. Here Bernard Cornwell resurrects the legend of the battle and the "band of brothers" who fought it on October 25, 1415. An epic of redemption, Agincourt follows a commoner, a king, and a nation's entire army on an improbable mission to test the will of God and reclaim what is rightfully theirs. From the disasters at the siege of Harfleur to the horrors of the field of Agincourt, this exhilarating story of survival and slaughter is at once a brilliant work of history and a triumph of imagination—Bernard Cornwell at his best.

Historical Notes on Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell

The battle of Agincourt (Azincourt was and remains the French spelling) was one of the most remarkable events of medieval Europe, a battle whose reputation far outranked its importance. In the long history of Anglo-French rivalry only Hastings, Waterloo, Trafalgar, and Crécy share Agincourt’s renown. It is arguable that Poitiers was a more significant battle and an even more complete victory, or that Verneuil was just as astonishing a triumph, and it’s certain that Hastings, Blenheim, Victoria, Trafalgar, and Waterloo were more influential on the course of history, yet Agincourt still holds its extraordinary place in English legend. Something quite remarkable happened on 25 October 1415 (Agincourt was fought long before Christendom’s conversion to the new-style calendar, so the modern anniversary should be on 4 November). It was something so remarkable that its fame persists almost six hundred years later.

Agincourt’s fame could just be an accident, a quirk of history reinforced by Shakespeare’s genius, but the evidence suggests it really was a battle that sent a shock wave through Europe. For years afterward the French called 25 October 1415 la malheureuse journée (the unfortunate day). Even after they had expelled the English from France they remembered la malheureuse journée with sadness. It had been a disaster.

Yet it was so nearly a disaster for Henry V and his small, but well-equipped army. That army had sailed from Southampton Water with high hopes, the chief of which was the swift capture of Harfleur, which would be followed by a foray into the French heartland in hope, presumably, of bringing the French to battle. A victory in that battle would demonstrate, at least in the pious Henry’s mind, God’s support of his claim to the French throne, and might even propel him onto that throne. Such hopes were not vain when his army was intact, but the siege of Harfleur took much longer than expected and Henry’s army was almost ruined by dysentery.

The tale of the siege in the novel is, by and large, accurate, though I did take one great liberty, which was to sink a mineshaft opposite the Leure Gate. There was no such shaft, the ground would not allow it, and all the real mines were dug by the Duke of Clarence’s forces that were assailing the eastern side of Harfleur. The French counter-mines defeated those diggings, but I wanted to give a flavor, however inadequately, of the horrors men faced in fighting beneath the earth. The defense of Harfleur was magnificent, for which much of the praise must go to Raoul de Gaucourt, one of the garrison’s leaders. His defiance, and the long days of the siege, gave the French a chance to raise a much larger army than any they might have fielded against Henry if the siege had ended, say, in early September.

Maps of the Battlefield (Click to Enlarge)

England and France, 1415:
One of the most dramatic victories in British history, the battle of Agincourt--immortalized by Shakespeare in Henry V--pitted undermanned and overwhelmed English forces against a French army determined to keep their crown out of Henry's hands.

The French Coast:
The British campaign, which started at Harfleur, ended more than two months later on 25 October at Agincourt.
Henry's army landed in northern France on 13 August 1415 and besieged the port of Harfleur.
The Battle Lines:
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” – William Shakespeare, Henry V

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  • When the going gets tough...
    From Amazon

    I have seen Cornwell's books on my library book shelf for some time now, but put off attempting any of them because I knew that many of them are set in wartime and that isn't my usual favorite subject. This author really helped me to get into the head of the main characters and made it more than just a wartime battle (but it was a lot of battle as well). As I anticipated, this was a male dominated novel - there was really only one woman in the whole book, but she was pretty significant. It was a very different angle and perspective to look at the world from. At every stage of the novel I learned something new about medieval warfare: terminology, fighting formations, strategy, armor, archery. One of the things that I loved was the very lengthy, detailed historical note at the end of the book. The author gives credit, and recommendations, to the authors that he read and was inspired by. He also notes where there are discrepancies in the accepted historical research. This was incredibly interesting because there is currently research ongoing about how large the sizes of the 2 opposing armies were. The true answer could make a huge difference as to how inspiring this story is. The characters were awesome! I LOVED the main character, Nick Hook. He was flawed but the author embraced that flaw and it built into a wonderful character. His bad characters were a range of evil, from not so bad to purely evil. I am glad that there was a range of characters and flaws in everyone because it made them more real. As a little note, because this was an audiobook that I read, the narrator was great and there was dramatic music at the beginning and end of each disk that really set the mood. I would certainly read more by this author and probably again in audio format. I think that his books would definitely appeal to both men and women who are interested in this time period. It was very war focused but still kept my attention.

  • Close your eyes periodically and you're in the mud of Agincourt
    From Amazon

    On that day in 1415 when Henry the Vth turned in his saddle to survey the field--- His army outnumbered, outgunned, cold and hungry--- King Henry saw French prisoners in his rear and 8,000 French Men of War to his front. And by his next battlefield order (3 words) history was made! A RIVETING Story!

  • predictable plot
    From Amazon

    The author is a good wordsmith, but lousy plot writer. The book takes the reader on a completely predictable journey that, at times, is simply banal. Battle scenes are filled with the arcane and detailed descriptions of various armor and weapons so the the reader knows that the author has done his homework, not to contribute significantly to the story line. Character development is minimal.

  • Mud, blood and bowmen
    From Amazon

    Mr Cornwell is an author I have come to know and greatly appreciate in recent years. Many members of the public will be familiar with the excellent "Sharpe" series of books-cum-TV series with Sean Bean, but Mr Cornwell is a prolific historical writer whose quick, snappy prose and non stop action ensure a rollicking good read in all his novels to date, "Azincourt" not being the least of these. If any historical errors occur in Mr Cornwell's period research, the average reader can easily overlook discrepancies as the novel engrosses one's interest from page to page. Nick Hook, the hero of the piece, is a young English bowman of exceptional skill but whose rebellious nature and tendency for trouble sees him having to flee England and join Henry V's invasion army of France. A formula not unlike Mr Cornwell's previous novels runs throughout the story; the down and out hero of modest origin whose hard life experiences somehow do not destroy a strong inner core of decency, the beautiful yet feisty heroine and a maniacal villain who stalks the hero and his girl throughout the pages like the Black Plague. Although this formula is repetitious, it ensures a flowing storyline and reader interest. I for one can appreciate the no-nonsense, down to earth approach Mr Cornwell takes with his characters, and he has the rare ability to paint colourful, full bodied individuals without a surfeit of words. In "Azincourt" I particularly like the larger than life depiction of Nick Hook's commander in the field, Sir John Cornewaille, a hard bitten, fire eating old warrior who thinks nothing of slaughtering his fellow man, but who honours women, values his own men as equals and champs at the bit if anyone perceives he is, after all, a rather decent man at heart under the hard crust. As with many of Mr Cornwell's previous works, the corruption,ignorance and warped practices of much of the medieval clergy pervades throughout. From the grim execution of the Lollard heretics at the start of the novel, we are introduced to Nick's nemesis, Sir Martin. This well born priest portrays a saintly outer shell to the world, but in reality it conceals a sadistic serial rapist and maniacal killer - in this, he is reminiscent of Richard Sharpe's earlier nemesis, Sergeant Hakeswill. We are also treated to an excellent depiction of,literally, "the father in law from hell" - Nick chances to save the fair Melisande at the well depicted sack of Soissons and marries her, only to find out she is the favourite bastard daughter of the deadly Sire de Lanferelle - "The Lord of Hell" - who is none too pleased at having an English archer as a son in law and thinks nothing of hacking off English archers' fingers. There are excellent descriptions of the appalling conditions of the day, namely the siege of Harfleur and the battle of Azincourt itself. Any glamourous ideals the reader may have of the chivalry of medieval battle vanish immediately as Mr Cornwell paints a realistic vista of mud, blood, and all out butchery on a grand scale that is all too vivid in the reader's mind. One can almost feel the crunching of bone and ripping of flesh and sinew with each swing of the poleaxe - a favourite weopon of archers of the period. The carnage of the muddy furrows of Azincourt field is therefore brought brilliantly to life in the novel's climactic scenes. Lusty, full bodied and setting a cracking pace, this novel spins a rollicking good historical yarn. This is not for the politically correct or the faint hearted, as Mr Cornwell is a most graphic writer with a fine understanding of the true nature of war and men at war. For the average reader, forget searching for the finer points of historical accuracy, settle back and just enjoy.

  • I'm so glad I discovered this author
    From Amazon

    I've never read anything from Bernard Cornwell before, and picked this up without knowing much about him. I am SO GLAD I found this author, and can't wait to read more. It's an awesome novel dealing with one of the pivotal battles of the Middle Ages. I'd heard about Agincourt from studying Renaissance history, but this novel brings it to life so clearly. It was like I was right there with the archers. I also really cared about the characters, so the story was really fascinating, in addition to being a really interesting perspective of middle-ages battles. I really learned a lot from this book, and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in this time period, in warfare of the middle ages, and in a really good story!

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