In the meanwhile the French army was approaching. By the time the king had brought his men within reach of the English lines, the bright morning had clouded over. The day had become dark and threatening, and soon the thunder began to growl, and the lightning to flash overhead. The frightened birds flew screaming for shelter, and the clouds broke and fell in a heavy shower upon the French king’s army.
One of his captains advised King Philip not to fight until the morrow. The king gave the order to halt; but the men in the rear, not understanding the message, pressed forward and forced the others to advance, thus throwing the army into confusion.
Finding that it was too late to put off the battle, King Philip ordered to the front a great body of Genoese cross-bowmen, whom he had hired to fight against the English.
By this time the rain was over and the sun had come out; but it shone full in the faces of the cross-bowmen, and prevented them from seeing the enemy. Their bows, too, had become wetted with the rain, and the strings were slackened.
When they heard the king’s order the Genoese moved forward; ‘then,’ says the historian, ‘they made a great cry to abash the English; but they stood still and stirred not for all that. A second and a third time the Genoese uttered a fell cry—very loud and clear, and a little stept forward; but the English removed not one foot.’
At last the Genoese sent a shower of arrows into the ranks of the calm, silent English.
The English received the shower quietly; then their reply was prompt. A quick movement went along the line of archers; the ten thousand men advanced one pace, and ‘their arrows flew so wholly together and so thick that it seemed as if it snowed.’
The Genoese required time to wind up their cross-bows before they could re-load; and in the meantime the English longbowmen shot so continuously that the ranks of the Genoese broke in terror and fled.
Still the archers sent their deadly hail upon the French army, while a number of Welsh and Cornish soldiers, armed with long knives, crept in under the horses and stabbed them, so that both horse and rider fell heavily to the ground. The confusion was rendered still more dreadful by means of a weapon which King Edward used for the first time in battle; small ‘bombards,’ or cannon, as they were afterwards called, ‘which with fire threw little iron balls to frighten the horses.’
While the battle raged with great fury on both sides, King Edward was sending out his orders from a windmill from which he could overlook the progress of the fight…
by: Hilda T. Skae
The following short story is reprinted from Stories from English History. Hilda T. Skae. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1907.