Battle of Crécy

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Coordinates: 50 ° 15 '27.2 "  N , 1 ° 54' 3.4"  E

Battle of Crecy
Illumination in the Chroniques of the historian Jean Froissart for the battle of Crécy
Illumination in the Chroniques of the historian Jean Froissart for the battle of Crécy
date August 26, 1346
place Near Crécy-en-Ponthieu
output Decisive English victory
Parties to the conflict

Royal Arms of England (1340-1367) .svg Kingdom of England

Blason pays for FranceAncien.svg Kingdom of France Genoese mercenaries. Kingdom of Mallorca. Holy Roman Empire
Armoiries Gênes.svg
Armoiries Majorque.svg
Holy Roman Empire Arms single head.svg


Royal Arms of England (1340-1367) .svg Edward III. Edward of Woodstock John Chandos
Arms of the Prince of Wales (Ancient) .svg
Blason Jean Chandos.svg

Blason pays for FranceAncien.svg Philip VI

Troop strength
approx. 12,000 approx. 20,000-25,000

low (well below 1000, possibly less than 100 men)

approx. 10,000 (possibly higher)

Tactical representation of the course of the battle

The Battle of Crécy on August 26, 1346 marked the beginning of the Hundred Years War on mainland Europe. In this battle at what is now Crécy-en-Ponthieu in the Somme department , the armies of Edward III. of England and Philip VI. from France opposite. Edward III. won a decisive victory.

Starting conditions

Although the chronicles put the beginning of this long war in 1337, English soldiers first appeared in large numbers in France during the campaign of 1346, from where the English were replaced by the French King Philip VI in 1337 . had been ousted from the House of Valois .

The French presented with the troops of Philip VI. and his allies, the Bohemian King John of Luxembourg (a childhood friend of Philip who had committed himself to serve in the alliance) and Charles IV , son of John, without feudal obligations, positioned an army of around 25,000 men against the numerically inferior, but tactically more disciplined and better positioned English army of King Edward III. and his sixteen-year-old son Edward, later known as the "Black Prince" .

Troop strength

The troop strength of both armies varies greatly in the sources. What is certain is that the French army was clearly numerically superior to the English troops. In modern research it is assumed that up to 20,000 or 25,000 men fought on the French side, but a smaller army is sometimes assumed.

The English army was significantly smaller and, according to modern estimates, comprised a maximum of 12,000 men. Half the troops were long archers. In Crécy, the English troops fought exclusively on foot.

Formation of the English army

The English army was organized as follows:

The archers were positioned on the left and right flanks, where some cannons were also located.

Formation of the French army

The French army was organized as follows:


Edward III. had assembled his troops in three meetings. The right wing to the town of Crécy under the command of the Prince of Wales, the left under the command of the Earls of Northampton and Arundel. The center (under Edward III) was withdrawn and also served as a reserve. Cannons were in the center and on the right wing. The archers were positioned slightly in front of the front and stood "une fourme de une herse ", which means something like "checkerboard". This allowed the second link to fire together with the first. Probably the third, fourth and fifth ranks only shot when denser masses were attacking or more distant targets were to be reached with a high bow shot. Otherwise the dead or injured were constantly replaced from the rear members.

Since the English army consisted primarily of archers, the English king had his knights dismantled to a large extent and ordered them to line up on foot with the archers and spearmen. This tactical measure ensured that the archers did not retreat as usual after the first hail of arrows. Through the participation of the knights on foot together with the archers, the English king achieved that the archers could be used in a completely different way. With the security of the knights and their moral support, an effective continuous fire could be maintained, which caused the French considerable losses.

The battle, which had only begun in the afternoon, developed early in favor of the English. In the first meeting, the French crossbowmen advanced against the English right flank. The French infantry consisted mainly of crossbowmen from Genoa. The crossbows were more powerful at short range, but they had a shorter range and a significantly lower rate of fire than the English longbows . On the day of that battle it had rained very heavily and the French soldiers had traveled almost 25 km. The paveses (protective walls) that were carried along remained in the train, so that the crossbowmen were without protection during loading. In addition, the bow of the crossbow was not made of iron at that time, but of wood, bone plates, tendons and was held together with hide or bone glue. Such a bow quickly lost its elasticity due to rainy weather. The crossbowmen were capable soldiers, but the wetness made their crossbows useless after just a few volleys. Unprotected they were exposed to constant fire from the English longbow archers, who had removed their bowstrings during the rain and kept them under their helmets to protect them from the wet. After this first encounter, the crossbowmen fled the battlefield and could not be stopped even by the use of armed force by their commanders.

Since the right English wing was in close proximity to the marching line of the French troops, the first attacks were made there. The Count of Alençon, Charles II Valois, a brother of the French king, first gathered his knights and advanced against the English right wing. Most of the French got caught in the devastating hail of arrows from the long archers and broke off the attack after a few attempts. Only a few knights (among them Alençon) had managed to penetrate as far as the English line. There they were killed or captured by the English knights in battle. There is no precise information about the circumstances of Alencon's death. All other riders were also repulsed by the dismounted knights and the incessantly shooting archers. With an estimated number of 2,000–4,000 English longbow archers, around 20,000–60,000 arrow projectiles fell on the French troops per minute. If they fell and were wounded, they were stabbed to death with long knives by Welsh foot soldiers. There were always new attacks. However, depending on when they arrived on the battlefield, only individual departments came, and they only rode up the embankment at a moderate pace. In total, the French knights made fifteen or sixteen uncoordinated attacks. The French losses were already enormous at this point. Whole departments, hastily set up, were incapable of fighting or destroyed within a short time as soon as they came under the attack of the English. Even the mounted and heavily armored members of the French high nobility fell victim to the barrage of the English.

In the second meeting, King John of Luxembourg (of Bohemia) and the knights under the leadership of the French king tried to smash the flanks of the English, while the remaining knights of the first meeting attacked the center.

King John of Luxembourg managed to penetrate and push back the right wing. The Duke of Lorraine , supported by the Count of Blois , attacked the banner of the Prince of Wales with his knights. The knights under Sir John Chandos , Sir Richard Fitz-Simon and Sir Thomas Daniel defended it with their followers. In this threatening phase, Edward of Woodstock (Prince of Wales) sent several messengers to his father to send reinforcements. The historical answer was briefly paraphrased: "If he should become king, he has to manage on his own." Nevertheless, he commanded a further 20 knights with entourage from the reserve to the right wing. This little help was enough to repel the attack. In this battle, John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, who was fighting on the French side, fell. Despite his blindness, he let his standard bearer Heinrich Münch von Basel lead him against the English ranks and was beaten from his horse in close combat.

In the third meeting, the French side tried again to turn the decision in their favor by deploying all reserves. But the knights lacked power. Weakened by the incessant shooting of the English longbow archers, many lacked the belief in victory. And soon this attack was also repulsed by a hail of arrows. King Philip himself got so far into this hail of arrows that his horse was shot under him. Then he left the battlefield in a small retinue.

Now Edward III. his own reserves. The English knights stormed the French center and drove away the remains of the third meeting. With that the battle was finally decided. The French troops fled the battlefield without being pursued by the English.

Losses and consequences

Edward III. counts the dead after the battle (illustration by Jean Froissart )

The enormous losses on the French side were decisive for the further French history. According to contemporary information, the following losses resulted:

plus (according to Sumption) 1,542 knights and countless common soldiers. French politics suffered from the loss of leading figures. The information on the English casualties varies in the sources and ranges from 40 to 300 men. Some researchers believe that the English losses were higher, but the English lost clearly fewer men than the French, for whom the battle was a disaster.

Edward of Woodstock , son of King Edward III of England . , since 1343 Prince of Wales , received the accolade after this dispute . After the Battle of Crécy was over, the young prince roamed the battlefield and found the body of the blind Bohemian King and Count of Luxembourg, John of Luxembourg , who, despite his handicap, had joined the French in the fray. Impressed by the bravery of his enemy, Eduard is said to have adopted his motto ("I serve") in his own coat of arms .

Consequences of the battle

The evaluation of a 'decisive Edward III victory' at Crécy, the American historian Barbara Tuchman did not share : “The persecution [.. of the] defeated enemy” did not take place. "Fascinated by the booty of their victory, the English spent the next day identifying and counting the dead." Then they marched "along the coast to attack Calais [...] and dug themselves in for a siege that overran should take a year. […] The battle for Calais , which lasted from August 1346 to August 1347 , had weakened the troops and consumed the reserves. Provisions, horses, and weapons had to be fetched from England, where the confiscation of grain and livestock created economic hardship and the takeover of merchant ships ruined wool exports and reduced tax revenues. […] The new bridgehead in France had no consequences except for an armistice that lasted until 1351. ”The English“ had gloriously won a naval battle ( Naval Battle of Sluis , 1340) and a field battle and were still far from France or its crown to conquer. […] Crécy and Calais guaranteed that the war would go on - but not immediately, because in 1347 Europe was on the verge of the deadliest catastrophe in recorded history. "What is meant is the plague , which later chroniclers called the" Black Death ".


The battle is described in the novels The Gates of the World by Ken Follett , The Archer by Bernard Cornwell, and Legends of War: The Bloody Sword by David Gilman . Some of the main characters take part in the battle, some actively, some passively. The battle of Crécy is also mentioned in the story The Last Adventure (published 1953) by Heimito von Doderer in a conversation between the protagonist , the Spanish knight Ruy de Fanez, and his squire Patrik over the English longbows. In the film Black Death , set in 1348 at the time of the plague epidemic , a mercenary also tells of his participation in the battle.

Furthermore, the comic book Crécy by Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres tells the story of the Battle of Crécy from the perspective of an English archer.


Web links

Commons : Battle of Crécy  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. See Jonathan Sumption: The Hundred Years War. Volume 1. London 1990, p. 526; W. Mark Ormrod agrees with this ( Edward III. New Haven 2011, p. 281).
  2. See Andrew Ayton: Introduction . In: Andrew Ayton, Philip Preston (eds.): The Battle of Crécy, 1346 . Woodbridge 2005, here p. 18.
  3. For details, Andrew Ayton: The English Army at Crécy . In: Andrew Ayton, Philip Preston (eds.): The Battle of Crécy, 1346 . Woodbridge 2005, p. 159ff.
  4. Jonathan Sumption: The Hundred Years War. Volume 1. London 1990, pp. 527f.
  5. See also Jonathan Sumption: The Hundred Years War. Volume 1. London 1990, p. 527.
  6. ^ Johann Leipoldt: Didymus the blind of Alexandria . Gorgias Press, Piscataway, NJ, USA 2010, ISBN 978-1-4632-2755-5 , doi : 10.31826 / 9781463227555 .
  7. Jonathan Sumption: The Hundred Years War. Volume 1. London 1990, pp. 530f.
  8. Jonathan Sumption: The Hundred Years War. Volume 1. London 1990, p. 530; W. Mark Ormrod: Edward III. New Haven 2011, p. 282.
  9. ^ Robin Neillands: The Hundred Years War. 2nd ed. London 2001, p. 104.
  10. Barbara Tuchman: The distant mirror. The dramatic 14th century , Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1986, pp. 93 to 96. ISBN 3-423-10060-5 .