By Kelly DeVries
Arms & Armour, Volume 4, Number 2 (2007)
Introduction: When the Genoese had all been brought together and put in order, and after they had begun to approach their enemy, they started to shout as loud as they could to frighten the English. But the English remained quiet and did not move. Thus the Genoese shouted again and moved a bit closer, but the English still remained silent and did not move. The Genoese again shouted, very loud and very clear, and shortly thereafter they raised their crossbows and began to shoot. The English archers, when they saw this formation, took one step forward and let their arrows fly in such large numbers that they fell on the Genoese so evenly that it seemed like snow. The Genoese, who had not earlier faced such archers as those of the English, when they saw that the arrows had pierced their arms, heads, and faces, became so confused that they cut their bowstrings and threw away their crossbows. Then they turned and fled.
This incident, here recalled by Jean Froissart, should be readily recognized by every medieval military historian as the defining moment of the intial phase of the battle of Crécy, fought on 26 August 1346. The French king, Philip VI, began the battle by sending his Genoese mercenary crossbowmen to face the English lines. It was hoped, especially as the battle was begun so late in the day, nearly dusk, that the shooting of their devastating weapons would drive the English army into rout, the only explanation also for the amount of shouting made by them. (It should be noted that medieval battles were more frequently won by causing an opponent’s flight rather than death.)