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Azincourt

Bernard Cornwell


Azincourt is a historical book written by Bernard Cornwell. The book connects to the events leading to the Battle of Agincourt, through its protagonist Nicholas Hook. In the United States, it was published under the title Agincourt.

 

Plot

Nicholas Hook, a forester and archer, fights with Tom and Robert Perrill and their father, the priest Father Martin.

He is forced to take part in the hanging and burning of a community of Lollard heretics. One of them, an archer himself, asks Hook to defend his granddaughter after he (the condemned man) is gone.

But Father Martin makes up his own mind to take the girl for himself, and in a failed effort to protect, Hook assaults the priest.

Hook is then held for trial and probable execution. Father Martin and Tom Perrill rape and kill the girl, and Hook's feelings of guilt at not saving her constantly pursues him throughout the novel.

Agincourt Book Trailer

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Hook escapes and joins an expedition to Soissons, in Burgundy, as a mercenary archer. Burgundy and France are in bitter conflict and the French attack, win easily, sack the town, and torture and kill the English archers. Hook manages to conceal himself in a house and save a girl, Melisande, from rape. Hook believes he is guided in their escape by the voices of Saints Crispin and Crispinian. Melisande becomes Hook's companion and lover. Later, he discovers she is the bastard child of the powerful French Lord Ghillebert, seigneur de Lanferelle (called the "Lord of Hell").

By returning alive from Soissons, and reporting the treachery of the English man-at-arms Sir Roger Pallaire, who conspired with the French and sacrificed his own archers, Hook earns good stead with King Henry V and his new lord, Sir John Cornewaille. Hook returns to France with the royal army to win Henry the crown of France. The campaign starts horrendously with the siege of Harfleur. Capturing Harfleur takes too many weeks, and disease decimates Henry's army. During a failed attack, Hook kills Robert Perrill by thrusting a crossbow bolt through the man's eye.

Henry, against the advice of his Lords, decides to march his ragged army along the coast of France to Calais as an insult. The Hook - Perrill feud reignites during the march as Tom Perrill frames Hook's brother Michael for stealing a religious pyx. Henry hangs Michael in public for the crime. To reach Calais, the English army must cross the River Somme. But the far larger French army blocks the fords and the two opposing armies meet at Agincourt. Torrential rain soaks the newly ploughed land, turning it into a treacherous morass, especially for the French knights in full plate armour. The French foolishly allow the English to advance within range of the English longbows. The archers launch volleys as the French begin a difficult advance toward the English.

The first attack is driven back by the English. During the mayhem, Father Martin attempts to rape Melisande. Melisande kills Martin using her crossbow. The English repel the second attack through a combination of the remaining arrows and the surprising skill of the archers in hand-to-hand combat. The French are unwilling to launch a third attack and they retire, leaving thousands of French dead, and many French lords in captivity. Hook takes Lanferelle prisoner, and Lanferelle kills Tom Perrill. The English claim a famous victory, and Hook returns to England with Melisande, a promotion, and the feud ended.

Have your say

Comments

I bought this book recently and couldn't put it down. It's a very good history in dramatised form of the battle of Agincourt, one of the most famous battles in English history. Bernard Cornwell takes you right into the battle of Agincourt and into the very minds of the people who did the fighting.

 


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