ICH DIEN
 


 
THE BANNERS OF CRECY  •  1346
 
Images Added August 2015

Sir William Montague, Earl of Salisbury  •  Sir John Howard le Fitz  •  Sir Gerald de Lisle
 

Notes
 

On 26 August 1346 an English army under the command of King Edward III and his son Edward, Prince of Wales, met a French Army commanded by King Philip VI of France on the field of Crécy. Edward's army is estimated to have numbered 15,000 men: some 3,000 mounted knights, 5,000 spearmen (light infantry), 5,000 archers armed with the deadly English longbow, and perhaps 2,000 light cavalry. Also present on the English side were a number of primitive cannon—the first appearance by gunpowder weapons in a major European battle.

At the time of Crécy the Hundred Years War had been raging for nearly ten years, having broken out in 1337 when Edward III advanced a claim to the throne of France upon the death of King Philip IV. (To symbolize his claim, in 1340 Edward quartered the royal arms of England with those of France as depicted below.) The 1346 campaign in northern France opened on 11 July when the English army landed at St. Vaast on the Contentin Peninsula. Edward's initial objective was the Duchy of Normandy, a former possession of the English Crown that had been ceded to France in 1259. The English Army traversed Normandy, captured the town of Caen, crossed the Seine, turned north and marched on Calais. Knowing that Philip's French army was in close pursuit, Edward halted early on 26 August and arrayed his forces in a strong defensive position on high ground near the town of Crécy. The French, perhaps 25,000 strong, arrived at midday and without pausing to rest advanced on the English army.

The French attack was spearheaded by a corps of crossbowmen who proved no match for Edward's English and Welsh archers. They suffered heavy casualties under a hail of arrows and retreated in disorder. Philip thereupon sent his mounted knights and men-at-arms forward. The French advanced in ordered lines but their attack was quickly disrupted, first by the retreating crossbowmen and then by relentless, well-directed volleys of arrows, supplemented by shots from the English artillery. After several charges at the cost of heavy casualties the French knights managed to close with their foes, but by then they were too weak and disorganized to break the English defenses. The struggle continued far into the night before Philip and the pitiful remains of his defeated army quit the field.

Superior tactics and the deadly longbow had given Edward and his army a decisive victory. Some 5,000 French troops, including more than 2,000 knights and men-at-arms, are estimated to have lost their lives on the field of Crécy. Among them was John, the blind King of Bohemia, who was struck down in front of Prince Edward's position. Tradition has it that the Black Prince, in admiration of the blind King's bravery, adopted his badge of three white feathers and his motto Ich Dien (I serve). These are still the badge and motto of the Prince of Wales. English casualties were much lower: perhaps 300 knights and men-at-arms and several hundred other troops.

The army of Edward III had no fixed organization. Soldiers mustered under the command of the great nobles, whose banners served in effect as company and regimental colors. The Banner of St. George, patron saint of England, and the royal banners of the King and Prince Edward, borne in battle by selected knights, were the closest equivalents to a modern national flag. Those knights not entitled to bear a banner (because they served in another noble's retinue) displayed their arms on lance pennons only. A knight who particularly distinguished himself in a battle where the King or his royal banner was present could be rewarded with the title of "knight banneret," symbolized by cutting the tails off his lance pennon to make a banner of arms, which thereafter entitled him to lead his own contingent of knights. A knight banneret often served for wages as a sub-commander in the retinue of a great noble.
 



 

King Edward III
 


 

 Edward, Prince of Wales
The Black Prince

 

The Banner of St. George

 

  Sir Richard FitzSimon

Sir Richard FitzSimon served in the retinue of the Black Prince and bore the Banner of St. George at Crécy.
 

Sir Richard de Beaumont

Sir Richard de Beaumont served in the retinue of the Black Prince and bore his banner. The Beaumont arms displayed the arms of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the first and fourth quarters—one of the very few medieval coats of arms to violate the heraldic rule that metal should not be charged on metal.

 

Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick

 

John, Lord Beauchamp of Warwick

 

Richard, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton

 

Henry, 1st Lord Le Scrope of Masham

 

Sir William Le Scrope of Masham

 

Sir William Le Scrope's Lance Pennon

 

Robert, Lord Coleville

 

 Sir John Neville of Raby

 

Ralph, Lord Stafford

 

  Sir Richard Stafford

 

Sir Richard Stafford's Lance Pennon

 

Thomas, Lord Berkeley

 

Sir Maurice Berkeley

 

Sir William Montague, Earl of Salisbury

 

Sir John Howard le Fitz
 

 

Sir Gerald de Lisle
 



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