105 Crecy

In 1346 Edward invaded finally launched the invasion he had hoped to lead in 1345. The target was Normandy a devastating raid through northern France, a glorious victory in battle followed by – well who knows. There followed a tense campaign that teetered on the edge of disaster until the two armies finally met outside the village of Crecy on 26th August 1346. 

105 Crecy

The Crecy Campaign  - an animated map

Below is an animated map of the Crecy campaign. You might wonder why it looks smarter that the other ones – and that's because Andy helped me out.  Thanks Andy.

After victory at Caen, in fact the Crecy campaign teetered constantly on the edge of disaster, as the problems of cross the Seine threatened a miserable end to the campaign, or a superior French army threatened to trap them. 


The Battle of Crecy, 26th August 1346

And here's also an animated map of the battle of Crecy in all it's glory!


Click on the image to start the animation

It is easy to over exaggerate the long term significance of Crecy – there are slightly potty claims made for the battle that it transformed society by making the peasant aware of their own power, that it caused the death of feudalism, transformed European relations…and really it didn’t. No one for a moment thought that now England should be thought of as the leading nation of Christendom. And militarily in some way’s it was also a bit irrelevant; Edward simply did not have the manpower to hold on to the areas he had supposedly conquered, and within 20 years most of what he’d gained was lost. 

But that’s not to say that Crecy was not remarkable, because it was. The news came to Christendom like a bombshell. It gave Edward the opportunity to attack Calais, a decision which would most certainly have an impact in prolonging war . The wave of support in England the victory generated allowed Edward to tax his country to support the continuation of the war. And we have to give Edward the credit. A superb strategy – a 3 pronged campaign which confused and diffused Philip’s response. The courage of the tactical decisions Edward made which could have led to disaster at any point, the leadership to maintain English confidence in the face of overwhelming numbers; tactical mastery of the battlefield, showing restraint and discipline and well as innovation and courage. 

17 thoughts on “105 Crecy

  1. Any chance of making the maps scroll more slowly? It’s annoying to have to watch the whole thing a dozen times through because you can only take in a fraction of each screen in the few seconds it’s visible. 🙂

  2. I always find it fascinating that modern English view battles like Crecy, Agincourt etc. as great victories of the English over the French. They were of course no such thing; the very concept is an anachronism.
    Crecy was a *French* victory, over other French. (The use of “French” here is a looser one than the modern.) These were French, or Frankish, nobles and Frankish families (Capetian and Plantagenet et. al.)fighting over Frankish lands and titles. And I don’t just (or even) mean that the fighting was in what is now France. I mean that England *was* France. It was, and remained for centuries, a fundamental part of
    the larger Frankish lands and culture.
    It wasn’t just the nobility, either. Yes, the English peasants spoke a Germanic language, but one that soon merged with French to become Middle English. Even before, it was simply a patois like the many different dialects spoken throughout the regions of what is now France. England was no more separate from “France” than, say, Guyenne or Anjou, or Aquitaine.
    It’s sad how how much of the Frankish heritage of England has been subsumed and (deliberatley, at least initially) forgottenin the past few centuries.

  3. Hi Joseph.. and yes, I can get the gifs it move more slowly. I’ll have to wait for a while until I can get to a proper computer, but fair dos.
    Interesting comment about Crecy. I know what you mean, though not sure I share your view. I agree that the ruling classes in England, and therefore inevitably the rest of the population after the Norman invaisions shared a lot with the French. and indeed, the concept of Christendom was still strong. And I have a feeling that we make make a lot less about this inheritance in our culture than we could do.
    But that is the way we like it I think! We have lived for centuries next to a kingdom much bigger, much richer much more powerful than our kingdom. Now for much of the middles ages, I accept these are dynastic squabbles for the large part, but actually in the chroniclers from a very early age (Orderic Vitalis) you can see a sense of patriotism – people felt the sense of belonging to their own king, people and region very strongly.
    And at this point, things are changing; English is now much more accepted and becomes the official language again; although Edward is claiming the French crown, the very process of doing so clarifies the differences. But even in william the Marshal’s time he felt the difference.
    I can’t really accept then that England was part of a larger ‘Frankia’. Yes, as now, it shared a lot of things with France and other European countries, but it had a different history, different institutions, and felt that to be so. And I’d argue that England was much more separated from France than were Guyenne, Anjou and Aquitaine separated from France. For the latter, the feudal relationship with the kings of France was clear; and England had a remarkably coherent shard set of institutions for the time, very different to France.
    Anywahere there you go – I suspect we’ll have to agree to differ! But I enjoy the comment and having to think about it!

  4. Thanks for the reply. As a Boston bred American, I’m coming from an external viewpoint, and am glad to get your perspective as an Englishman. I’m willing to agree to differ, though I always prefer a friendly debate. So, I’ll debate a bit more below, and you can feel free to amicably ignore it you so wish. (Or, amicably shoot down anything you find preposterous!)
    I still think nearly all claims of nationalism are anachronistic. ‘Patriotism’ existed (though I might not use that exact word), but the loyalty I see was dynastic, regional or local, with dynastic superseding the latter and subservient to what I’d call ‘Latin Christendom’.
    Imagine the Plantagenet claims had been pressed successfully, utterly, and the dynasty or its legitimate descendants had kept both groups of regions (modern England and France) for an extended period. The immediate changes would be small. The specific characters at the top would be different, but you’d still have nearly the same nobility running things. They’d still be speaking the same language and living the same culture, while ruling over disparate areas where the humbler people spoke several other, non-mutually intelligible languages (much as with France and the langue d’oc). Now let time pass.
    If one runs with that hypothetical, that the Plantagenets etc. won totally that version of the 100 Years War, would a modern Parisian say that France lost Agincourt? Would a man from London say England had won it? It seems to me, rather, they’d talk about how one family superseded another in their joint history of England/France, how a duke-king overthrew his liege, or something to that effect. It’s only our intervening history that retroactively makes Poitiers an English victory, or Joan a French heroine.

  5. Hi Joseph, and yes, always up for a friendly debate..!
    Well, I agree that claims of nationalism are anachronistic, but I don’t see that this affects the Statement ‘The English won at Crecy’. Hate it or loathe it, by this time (and actually well before – a few hundred years before) the word the English was in common use. While loyalties were very much local, regional, dynastic there was a clear understanding that they were part of a wider community, and the chroniclers drip with poison about external communities – the Scots for example!
    On the second point I’d say that if the Plantagenets had won, the world would be different!

  6. What a battle!!!!!! I was on the edge of my seat and burnt the rice! Wonderful description (not a minute too long) and I’m glad the prince survived. For the record. I think the evidence you’ve marshaled this far shows quite clearly that by this time there is a definite national/cultural split between France and England. It’s not what it becomes but it’s sure as heck there.

    1. Hurrah!! Ricardo, anyone who likes my animated maps is a friend for ever. Let me know where you live and I’ll come round and cook for more rice for you!

  7. I hate to intervene in the bromance, but I agree that the animation is an excellent idea. Pity it is twenty years too late for me as I retired from teaching six years ago and haven’t taught this subject for about 20 years. When I was at school in the 60s we had to draw our own maps of the battle and write up the account from the exposition given by the teacher, in fact that was usual. Great play was made of the victory and it was never really put into perspective, almost history as propaganda. Your maps and explanation are far more student friendly and provoke discussion, however, I agree that the map needs to be slowed down.

    1. Andy, if you say nice things you can intervene as much as you like!

      If you click on the map, it should open in a separate window, and give you a pause/go control so you can go at your own speed

  8. It is quite interesting how William the Conqueror, Edward, and Julius Caesar all have a similar story in the regard of dismounting boats on foreign lands. So much so that you have to wonder if it was more propaganda for the other side then reality. I mean really, it is quite the theme for invading rulers.

  9. Hello David, I’m late to the shed podcasts but enjoying them all the same. I wonder if you’ve listened to Michael Livingston and Kelly DeVries’s two podcasts on the battle of Crecy in which “they challenge the traditional accounts of the battle and where it took place.”
    First one of the two: https://www.medievalists.net/2021/12/battle-crecy-1346/

    Of course, these two podcasts were done long after you recorded this episode, but I’m wondering what your thoughts might be on their, to me, quite convincing argument.

    1. Hi Merri, and welcome! Do you know, one of the most frustrating things about doing my podcast, much as I love doing it, that once I have done a periods or event, there it is, in stone. I don’t really have time to go back. Which is very annoying when someone does something new – for example I did a shedcast on Thomas Cromwell, and just afterwards my favourite historian, Diarmuid MacCulloch, did a wonderful biography. Curses! So I haven’t heard…but I will give me a go, and if you hear a distant scream you’ll know I was convinced!

  10. Many thanks for the animated maps! I just listened to the latest episode of “In Our Time”, which was about the battle of Crécy – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001kx5s

    I found it very hard to follow all the geographical references, so I searched online for some maps… which is when I found your excellent site. And I will, of course, now listen to your podcast about Crécy.

    PS. shouldn’t the title a the top left of the maps be “The Crécy Campaign, 1346”, rather than “1246”?

    1. Gosh those were the days! I had so much energy Doing those maps took sooo much time, but it was fun! and yes…the typos…I don’t actually know how to repair it any more though…I’ve forgotten the ins and outs. So 1246 it will have to remain…

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