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THE BATTLE OF CRECY
 IN July 1346, the truce being over. King Edward sailed
for Normandy, taking with him
a large army and his eldest son, the Prince of Wales.
Having landed, Edward marched through the country,
taking town after town. St.Cloud, the town named, you remember, after a hapless
little prince, was burned, and
the English troops advanced almost to the gates of Paris.
Philip at once prepared to join his army at St. Denis.
The old blind King of Bohemia
had come with his son Charles and his knights to help
the French king, and was
awaiting him there, as was also a band of archers from
Italy, who had been paid to
fight for the French army.
The citizens of Paris were alarmed by the approach of
Edward's troops, and begged
the king not to leave them.
"My good people," answered Philip, "have ye no fear;
the English shall come no
nigher to you; I am away to St. Denis to my
men-at-arms, for I mean to ride against
these English and fight them in such fashion as I may."
So Philip joined his troops and set out in pursuit of
the English, who had now
turned northwards and were marching toward the river
Somme. The French were about a
day's journey behind, but they hoped to overtake them
at the river, for they knew
that Philip had ordered all the bridges to be either
broken down or fortified.
When Edward heard from his captains that it was
impossible for the army to cross the
river, he was, says Froissart the chronicler, "not more
joyous or less pensive,
 and began to fall into a great melancholy." For
well he knew that the enemy
was not far behind.
But Philip was triumphant. He believed that the English
were already in his power.
He would starve them there between the river and the
sea, or force them to fight
against his army, which was larger and stronger than
Just when the English were most despondent, however, a
ford was discovered. For King
Edward had himself sent for some French prisoners,
promising them freedom
and gold if they would tell him a spot where the army
might safely cross the river.
And one prisoner proved a traitor, for he led the
English to the point where the
Somme enters the sea. Here at low tide it was easy to
cross, so the English
bestirred themselves, and as the tide was ebbing they
plunged into the water.
Guarding the opposite bank, by Philip's orders, was a
knight, Sir Godemars de Foy,
with about twelve thousand men. They also leaped into
the river, and meeting the
English in the middle of the stream they did their
utmost to bar the passage. Many,
both French and English, were drowned or slain.
But the English archers, from the farther side, never
ceased to speed their arrows
among the enemy, until at length the French began to
yield, and, in spite of all Sir
Godemars could do, to turn and run. They were pursued
by the English, who overtook
and scattered them, and thus Edward and his army were
soon safe on the other side of
By this time the tide had again begun to rise, and
Philip, coming up, found it
impossible to follow the enemy, though his men killed
some of the rearguard who had
Edward now marched on until he reached a small village
called Crécy. Here, on rising
ground, on August 26, 1846, the army took up its
 The English were in three divisions. In the van
or forefront was the king's
young son, the Prince of Wales, who was only seventeen
years of age. As the armour
he wore was always black, he was called the Black
Prince. On the field of Crécy the
young prince was to win his spurs.
King Edward, having divided his army, mounted upon a
pony, and with a white staff in
his hand he rode from rank to rank, bidding his men
fight bravely for the honour of
Froissart tells us that some of the soldiers were sad
because the French army was so
much larger than their own. But the presence of the
king so cheered them that those
who "had before been disheartened felt reheartened on
seeing and hearing him."
When the king had reviewed the whole army he gave
orders that the men should be
given food. So, sitting down on the ground, the
soldiers ate their morning meal, and
rested until the French should arrive.
Meanwhile, Philip's army was on its way, its ranks all
in disorder. The king
commanded four knights to ride forward to find out what
the enemy was doing.
They soon returned to tell how the English, rested and
refreshed, awaited them on
the summit of a little hill. Looking at the straggling
ranks of their own men, they
then advised Philip to halt and let the soldiers rest
and have food. "For the
English," they said, "are cool and fresh, and our men
are tired and in disorder."
So Philip commanded his marshals to call a halt. They
at once rode along the ranks,
crying, "Halt banners, by command of the king, in the
name of God and St. Denis!"
At the cry the soldiers in front halted, but those
behind still pressed forward,
wishing to be the first to see the enemy.
When the soldiers in front saw that if they stood still
they would lose their
position, they too began to march on, heedless of the
order of their king.
Before they were aware they were close to the English;
 and, taken by surprise,
the van of the army halted, while those behind still
pressed forward, until the
French army was little more than a pushing, struggling
mob of men.
King Edward, with some men-at-arms, had withdrawn to a
windmill which stood on the
hillock, whence he could see the unbroken ranks of his
own men and the confusion in
the ranks of the French.
"They are ours," cried the men-at-arms, before ever the
battle had begun.
Philip, seeing the English whom he hated, no longer
wished to delay the battle, and
he cried aloud to the hired archers, "Archers, begin
the battle, in the name of God
and St. Denis!"
But the archers were tired, and had expected to rest
before they fought. Their bows,
too, were slack, and they were in no mood to obey the
While they hesitated a sudden storm broke upon the
army. Thunder roared, lightning
flashed, while rain fell in torrents, wetting the
strings of the foreign archers.
But the English kept their crossbows dry beneath their
coats. It was only a passing
storm, and soon the sun shone out, blinding the eyes of
the French army.
Then at length the hired Italian archers unwillingly
advanced, shouting and singing,
thinking thus to frighten the English. But they paid no
heed to the foreign
The Italians drew their bows. In a moment the sturdy
archers of England had taken
one step forward, and sent their arrows among the
enemy. So sharp and fleet they
sped that "it looked like a fall of snow."
Never had the Italians felt such stinging arrows. They
were everywhere, around them,
above them, beneath them. It was impossible to escape
from these terrible darts.
At length, in despair, they flung down their bows and
turned to flee.
Philip saw them throw their bows away, and in terrible
 anger he bade the
French soldiers kill the cowards. As the soldiers
obeyed, the English arrows still
sped swift unerring, until Italian archers and French
soldiers fell together in a
Meanwhile, on another part of the field, the Black
Prince was being hard pressed by
the French. Though he was fearless and fought
gallantly, the English knights were
anxious lest the prince should be slain. So they sent a
messenger to the king to beg
him send more men to the aid of his son.
Edward, watching from the windmill as the battle raged
ever more fiercely, asked:
"Is my son dead or unhorsed, or so wounded that he
cannot help himself?"
"Not so, my lord, please God," answered the messenger,
"but he is fighting against
great odds, and is like to have need of your help."
"Then return to those who sent you," said the king,
"and tell them not to send for
me, whatever chance befall them, so long as my son is
alive; and tell them that I
bid them let the lad win his spurs; for I wish, if God
so deem, that the day should
When the old blind King of Bohemia heard that the
battle was going against the
French, he asked his knights, "Where is my son
But they would not break the old king's heart by
telling him that his son had fled
from the battlefield. Instead they lied, saying that
Charles was doubtless fighting
in another part of the field.
Then the blind king begged his knights to lead him to
the front of the field, that
he too might strike a blow for victory.
So the knights gathered up their horses' reins, and
tied themselves together that
they might not be separated. Then placing the king
before them they rushed into the
fray "like madmen bent upon sudden death." But before
 death came the blind
King of Bohemia had "struck a good blow, yea three and
four, and so did all those
who were with him."
"THEY RUSHED INTO THE FRAY LIKE MADMEN BENT UPON SUDDEN DEATH."
When the battle of Crécy was over, the blind King was
found dead, while his knights
and their horses still tied together lay slain beside
Philip fought bravely, but his heart was heavy, for he
knew the day was lost. It
was nightfall when he rode away from the battlefield,
attended by only four barons.
When they reached the Castle of Broye they halted. It
was dark and late and the
castle gates were shut, the bridge drawn up.
"Who knocks?" cried the castellan from the tower, as
the fugitives roused him by
their thundering knocks.
"Open, castellan!" said Philip. "It is the unhappy King
Then the keeper of the castle hastened down, lowered
the drawbridge, and opened the
gates to the king and his barons. After refreshing
themselves with wine they set out
again at midnight, and before dawn entered Amiens,
where the king stayed until what
was left of the French army reached him there.