On this day in history : 26th August 1346 – King Edward III and his son, Edward the Black Prince, lead and win the Battle of Crécy – against Philip VI of France….

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The Battle of Crecy, from a 15th Century illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart’s Chronicles – Public domain

Crécy, which was then a village in northern France, was one of the most famous battles of the Hundred Years War…. King Edward’s army faced a much larger French force, who were renowned for their skills with the crossbow…. However, the crossbow was no match for the English longbow – and to add to French woes they had forgotten to bring their shields with them, leaving them extremely vulnerable! The crossbowmen retreated – but such was the fury of the French knights – seeing the retreat as cowardice – that they slaughtered their fleeing countrymen…. Only when the knights took up their own turn to attack did they realise the full might of the English longbow and they themselves were to face slaughter….

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Battle of Crecy (19th Century engraving) – Public domain

The battle was described as ‘a political catastrophe for the French Crown’ and ‘a total victory for the English’…. There is a legend – and it can only be described as such, as having no proven truth – that King Edward’s men did not kill the French crossbowmen that they captured…. Instead they cut off the two fingers needed to fire their bows…. It is said this is where the ‘V sign’ insult originates from – it became the two-fingered salute to the French before battle commenced….a gesture that has been used by the British – and later the Commonwealth countries ever since….

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Edward III counting the dead on the battlefield of Crecy – Virgil Master (illuminator) – Public domain

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