I have now been to the sites of all three of the great French defeats (Crécy in 1346, Poitiers in 1356, and Agincourt in 1415) and one great French victory, Patay, of the One Hundred Sixteen Year’s War. What I find most interesting in visiting these battlefields is not what I find but what I don’t find.
In July of 1346, after several failed invasion attempts through Flanders, Edward III landed in Normandy and set about pillaging peasants and property taking the French nobles jobs. The two armies met at Crecy in Picardy. If you read my last post, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? you already know the outcome. Same song sung thrice. English army greatly outnumbered takes the high ground, vainglorious French attack and are slaughtered by English archers. It’s not until Patay in 1429 that the French realized their path to victory, until now believed cowardly, was to kill the defenseless English archers before attacking the rest of their army. This is the battle that Falstaff is branded a coward, subsequently striped of his garter, and becomes the Shakespeare’s clown drunk. Falstaff was bringing up reinforcements to aid Sir John Talbot when he discovered the enfolding disaster. He, rightly, decided not to go over there and allowed Talbot to alone suffer one of England’s greatest defeats of the war. Tide turner. Talbot taken.
What I found at the sites of the three great French losses are markers, plaques, plywood cutouts, monuments and descriptive text. However, at the site of their great victory, Patay, I found nothing but an empty field of recently harvested hay. What does that say?