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8-08-2015, 16:48

Knightly Conceit and Overconi dence

Even when a military general was able to amass many hundreds of knights for a battle, however, there was no guarantee that he and they would be successful. h e opposing army might be considerably bigger, for instance. Or the opposing commander might have a superior strategy. Another factor that sometimes worked against the ef ectiveness of large units of heavy cavalry on the battlei eld was excessive pride and arrogance. Many medieval European knights viewed themselves as superior to average folk and were notorious for their conceit and overconi dence. Members of Europe’s oldest and proudest cavalry establishment, French cavalrymen were particularly susceptible to this sort of thinking. As a result, late medieval France lost several battles because its commanders, often cavalrymen themselves, were guilty of poor judgment. An example is the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. h at year England’s king Henry V invaded France, and masses of French knights and other soldiers converged on the intruders, vowing to crush them. h e French were certain of victory partly because they outnumbered the English more than two to one. In addition, when the armies faced each other on the battleield, the French knights saw that a major portion of Henry’s forces consisted of infantry, including large numbers of longbowmen. Viewing those archers as socially and militarily inferior to themselves, the French horsemen were conident of success. here was no doubt in their minds that “the English must fall an easy prey to them,”19 writes Enguerrand de Monstrelet, a French noble of the period. he events of the subsequent epic military clash swiftly put this brash attitude to rest, however. When the French knights charged, they were devastated by one colossal English arrow storm after another. “heir horses were so severely [wounded] by the archers,” Monstrelet recalls, that they galloped wildly, causing great confusion in the French ranks. “Horses and riders were tumbling on the ground and the whole French army was thrown into disorder.” Terriied, other French soldiers “led and this caused so universal a panic in the army that a great part followed the example.”20