Or: Why Do You Think I Have This Outrageous Accent, For?
Harfleur was a city in France that figured very large in the resolution of the Hundred Years' War, which of course lasted 116 years, being from 1337-1453. So if you fell at the age of 25 in 1337, there's a solid chance your great-great-great-grandson would have had the chance to avenge your death, or die trying.
Located on the estuary of the Seine, a longbowman's arrow away from its twin city Honfleur in Normandy and well within striking distance of England, the city of Harfleur provided King Henry V with a staging point for his army's invasion of France in 1415.
Once More Unto the Beach, Dear Friends
The French were expecting an unwelcome visit, but they thought it would drop anchor near Boulogne, just south of Calais, and so concentrated their forces there. Silly old Hitler made the same mistake in World War II--proving that gooshtepping moronsh such as him should have tried reading booksh inshtead of burning them.
The city had the following defenses, for which it earned the reputation of being utterly impregnable:
- Nature provided the Southern face wih the protection of the River Lezarde.
- To the North, the valley of the Lezarde was dammed off by the city garrison, creating a virtual lake nearly a modern football field in length.
- The salt-marshes to the East were crossable only by a single road.
- The northwestern summit was guarded by vast fields and orchards.
Man's contribution to the defenses were also many:
- The French literally burned their bridges. All of them.
- A wall and wet moat with a two mile perimeter were built around the city.
- There were only three gates, at the north-east, south-east, and south-west, each further defended by barbicans of wood and earth, and surrounded with water.
- Entrenchments were dug along the moat for troops--though the garrison lacked the resources to man them--and stores of quicklime and oil were positioned along the ramparts, along with a limited number of cannon.
As It Turns Out, Nothing French is Impregnable
Henry V, who was himself present for the siege managed not only to escape the dysentery that did far more damage to his troops than the opposing army, but had what was left of his men surround the city on all sides. They bombarded it with cannonfire nonstop throughout the night for nearly two months, when the French, under Lord de Gaucourt, surrendered on Sunday, September 22nd.
In short order, Henry V sent word back to England that as many people as found it reasonable to do so should pack up and move over for the re-creation of Harfleur as an English town--just as his great grandfather, Edward III, had done to Calais years before.