Blood of the Conqueror, Part 7: Agincourt

This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter



Artwork by Donato Giancola

In little room confining mighty men,

Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.

Small time, but in that small most greatly lived

This star of England: Fortune made his sword;

By which the world’s best garden be achieved,

And of it left his son imperial lord. (Henry V, Act V)

Much as the Battle of the Trident decided Robert’s Rebellion and the Battle of Redgrass Field decided the First Blackfyre Rebellion, so too will a titanic battle in the Stormlands determine the fate of the young dragon’s crusade for the Iron Throne. The original plan had been to gain a foothold along the coast of Westeros and await Daenerys Targaryen, her army and her dragons to arrive, but to the men of the Golden Company, this was no time for caution. They had won battle after battle and likely gained a powerful ally in Mathis Rowan. Momentum was on their side, and there existed the possibility of winning the Iron Throne outright without the help of the dragon queen. But the young dragon would need to prove his mettle against a real foe. Fortunately, he would have that opportunity.

The men of the Reach had finally awoken to the threat of Aegon. Mace Tyrell and the cream of Westerosi chivalry was marching on the young dragon at Storm’s End. They had numbers, advanced armament and training on their side. Even with the numbers that Mathis Rowan would likely add to the young dragon’s cause, Aegon and the Golden Company were outnumbered. However, they had a plan to confront the chivalry of the Reach. It wasn’t an honorable plan, but it was a plan that would assure the destruction of the Tyrell army and an open road to King’s Landing. In a similar way, this battle would resemble one of Europe’s most famous battles.

In 1415 CE, Western European chivalry died an ignoble death on a muddy field in Northern France. Heavy cavalry and its associated knightly virtue had long dominated Western European warfare, but they met a brutal end against the English Army at Agincourt. There, skilled English archers with their deadly longbows and bodkin arrows decimated the ranks of ineptly-led French heavy cavalry and changed the face of warfare forever.

The Battle of Agincourt has yet to see a parallel in A Song of Ice and Fire, but I believe that the Westerosi version of this battle is coming in The Winds of Winter. Jon Connington and Aegon had won early victories, but they would need to confront the flower of chivalry on the field, and they would have to fight dirty to win.

The Tyrells Regroup

File:Tomasz Jedruszek HouseTyrell Bannermen.jpg

Artwork by Tomasz Jedruszek

“There is an army descending on Storm’s End from King’s Landing. You’ll want to be safe inside the walls before the battle.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

Aegon’s landing in Westeros should have provoked a quick response from the Iron Throne. Unfortunately, the Iron Throne’s response to Aegon’s landing has been non-existent. Consumed by internal struggle between the Lannisters and the Tyrells, the Iron Throne’s political and military power was divided and unwilling to respond to “sellsword raids” along the coast of the Stormlands. All of this changed by the A Dance with Dragons Epilogue.

In that chapter, some members of Kevan Lannister’s small council began to recognize the threat that Aegon posed to them. Previously, Kevan Lannister had believed that the sellswords raiding the Stormlands had been in Stannis’ employ, but by the time of the Epilogue, the truth was more apparent. At their final council meeting, Aegon’s invasion weighed heavily on Kevan Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle:

“The longer we ignore these adventurers, the stronger they grow. We have had a map prepared, a map of the incursions. Grand Maester?”

The map was beautiful, painted by a master’s hand on a sheet of the finest vellum, so large it covered the table. “Here.” Pycelle pointed with a spotted hand. “Here and here. All along the coast, and on the islands. Tarth, the Stepstones, even Estermont. And now we have reports that Connington is moving on Storm’s End.” (ADWD, Epilogue)

The Golden Company’s victories in the Stormlands were bad enough, but to Kevan Lannister, the threat was even greater than was commonly-realized. Kevan feared that Daenerys Targaryen was coming behind Aegon, and she would bring her massive army and dragons to Westeros to join Aegon’s cause:

“If she should reach these shores and join her strength to Lord Connington and this princes of his, reigned or not … we must destroy Connington and his pretender now, before Daenerys Stormborn can come west.” (ADWD, Epilogue)

However sensible Kevan Lannister’s identification of the threat Aegon and Daenerys posed was, a significant roadblock stood in the way of the Iron Throne taking any action: Mace Tyrell. There were two Reach armies outside of King’s Landing that could confront the Golden Company and its dragon, but they would not march until there was a positive resolution to Margaery Tyrell’s trial by the Faith:

Mace Tyrell crossed his arms. “I mean to do just that [destroy Connington and his pretender], ser. After the trials.” (ADWD, Epilogue)

This inaction by Mace Tyrell left Kevan Lannister impotent to confront Aegon and Connington. As a result, despite knowing that Connington was marching against Storm’s End, no army was dispatched from King’s Landing.

However, something changed between the A Dance with Dragons Epilogue and Arianne’s second chapter from The Winds of Winter. At the end of Arianne’s second chapter, she discovered from Halfmaester Haldon that a Tyrell army was descending on Storm’s End. So, what changed that allowed the Tyrells to leave King’s Landing? In a word: Margaery Tyrell was almost certainly found innocent at her trial. Back in A Dance with Dragons, Mace vowed to “recapture” Storm’s End if it fell to Connington under one condition:

“Storm’s End.” Lord Mace Tyrell grunted the words. “He cannot take Storm’s End. Not if he were Aegon the Conqueror. And if he does, what of it? Stannis holds it now. Let the castle pass from one pretender to another, why should that trouble us? I shall recapture it after my daughter’s innocence is proved.” (ADWD, Epilogue)

Given that the trials were set to occur “five days hence” from the final small council meeting in A Dance with Dragons, and that the Tyrells were next reported to be marching on Storm’s End, the inference is that Margaery was found innocent.

But who would be leading this mighty host?

The “Mighty” Warrior

Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Mace Tyrell in HBO’s Game of Thrones

By the start of The Winds of Winter, there were few choices available to command the anti-Aegon mission.  Kevan Lannister was murdered by Varys and the end of A Dance with Dragons. Garlan Tyrell had marched “half” the Tyrell host back to the Reach to claim his seat of Brightwater Keep. Paxter Redwyne was sailing back to the Shield Islands to smash the Ironborn. Loras Tyrell had allegedly been badly wounded at the Siege of Dragonstone. This shortage of available candidates meant that there were really only two commanders available: Randyll Tarly and Mace Tyrell.

Of the two, Tarly would have been the better choice to lead the attack. However, Mace Tyrell’s declared intent to march on Aegon and Connington in the A Dance with Dragons Epilogue, and indications from Arianne’s second Winds of Winter chapter lead me to believe that Tarly won’t be marching for Aegon. Instead, it seems that Mace Tyrell will be in command of the army:

“If Connington challenges Mace Tyrell in open battle, he may soon be captive, or a corpse.”

“No, Tyrell is not a man to fear.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

Without preview chapters detailing the goings-on at King’s Landing, it’s not entirely certain why Mace Tyrell was marching against Aegon and Connington. Mace Tyrell had stated his intent to lead an army on Aegon, but why would Mace himself lead the attack instead of delegating command to Randyll? The answer might be found in Mace Tyrell’s self-perception as well as his history.

Throughout his career, Mace Tyrell has seen himself as one of the greatest warriors in all of Westeros. According to his own accounting, Mace Tyrell defeated Robert Baratheon at Ashford and “won” at the Blackwater. Given his background and self-perception, it’s possible Cersei Lannister reused Jaime Lannister’s advice from A Feast for Crows when he advised Cersei to send Mace Tyrell to Storm’s End:

“Ask him to capture Storm’s End for Tommen. Flatter him, and tell him you need him in the field, to replace Father. Mace fancies himself a mighty warrior. Either he will deliver Storm’s End to you, or he will muck it up and look a fool. Either way, you win.” (AFFC, Jaime I)

In this scenario, the Lord of Highgarden might have been challenged by Cersei to march against Connington. Lord Puff Fish agreed to “prove his battle mettle once again.”

The other possibility is that Randyll Tarly manipulated Mace Tyrell into marching against Connington. As we discussed in part 6, Randyll Tarly may have already turned against the Lannisters and Tyrells or was hedging his loyalty towards the victor. In this scenario, the Lord of Horn Hill, nursing grievances, may have “persuaded” his liege lord to march against Jon Connington in hopes that Mace Tyrell would lose the battle and perhaps his life. Or perhaps in parallel with his likely Agincourt counterpart (John the Fearless), Randyll promised that he would be coming to support Mace Tyrell, but … you see, my lord, I cannot leave King’s Landing just now. When? Oh, soon. Definitely soon. In this way, Randyll and his army would stay safely out of harm’s way until the battle was resolved one way or another, and his liege lord would be exposed as a military fraud to the whole of the realm.

Finally, while we can’t be certain, it would make sense that Mace Tyrell’s army was likely arrayed around the south of the city – perhaps with large contingents south of the Blackwater. The Lord of Highgarden had marched up from Storm’s End, and Blackwater Bay was still somewhat impassable by boat. So, it’s very likely that most of Mace Tyrell’s army was south of the Blackwater. If some or most of his army was south of the city, it would have made sense for Mace Tyrell to pick up his pre-emplaced army and march southeast for Storm’s End, leaving Randyll Tarly in charge of the capital’s defenses.

Any of these scenarios made thematic and logistical sense for Tarly to stay at King’s Landing while Mace marched, but Lord Puff Fish’s command had further thematic and narrative purposes as well.

Thematically, Mace Tyrell’s command of the army coming for Aegon is congruent with GRRM setting the Lannisters and Tyrells up for defeat in The Winds of Winter. GRRM’s consistent descriptions of Mace Tyrell as a poor commander across the narrative seem deliberate foreshadowing that the Lord of Highgarden has been set-up to suffer an ignominious defeat. Characters from Cersei to Tyrion to Stannis dismiss Mace Tyrell as an ineffective, glory-stealing fool of a soldier:

Lord Tyrell the warrior, the queen mused. His sigil ought to be a fat man sitting on his arse. (AFFC, Cersei V)

“Tyrell’s reputation rested on one indecisive victory over Robert Baratheon at Ashford, in a battle largely won by Lord Tarly’s van before the main host had even arrived.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)

“Your father is an able soldier,” King Stannis said. “He defeated my brother once, at Ashford. Mace Tyrell has been pleased to claim the honors for that victory, but Lord Randyll had decided matters before Tyrell ever found the battlefield. (ASOS, Samwell V)

Lord Puff Fish was a poor commander, and GRRM will likely need him to command the mission so as fail. Aegon’s narrative was arcing towards “temporary victory”, and Mace Tyrell was but one hurdle for the young dragon to overcome on his path to the Iron Throne.

Though Mace was a poor commander, the army he was leading to Storm’s End was anything but poor. Below the golden rose banners marched an army that represented the very best traditions of Westerosi chivalry.

The Army and the Code

Artwork by Michael Komarck

It is chivalry which makes a true knight, not a sword … without honor, a knight is no more than a common killer. It is better to die with honor than to live without it. (ADWD, The Kingbreaker)

On paper, the army that Mace Tyrell took to Storm’s End was the best army in Westeros. Numbering some twenty thousand, Mace Tyrell’s army was the largest army in eastern Westeros. Though archers, spearmen and axemen comprised a significant portion of the army, it was the heavy horse and knights who stood at the apex of the Reach’s military hierarchy and distinguished this army from its peers. Armed with lance, sword, morningstar or axe and mounted on massive destriers, knights were fearsome warriors on the battlefield.

Historically and in Westeros, knights favored shock tactics on the battlefield. Shock tactics can be defined as knights and heavy cavalry riding into enemy lines at full speed in loose or massed formation. The impact of this cavalry charge would often throw individual defenders into the air and buckle an enemy defensive line back. Though this had battlefield utility, the primary purpose of shock tactics was psychological as the tactics were designed to break enemy morale and force them to flee the battlefield. At the Battle of the Blackwater, Lannister and Tyrell knights used shock tactics to great effect against Stannis’ host:

“They came up through the ashes while the river was burning. The river, Stannis was neck deep in the river, and they took him from the rear. Oh, to be a knight again, to have been part of it! His own men hardly fought, they say. Some ran but more bent the knee and went over, shouting for Lord Renly!” (ACOK, Sansa VII)

The ability of the Reachmen to conduct their cavalry charge at the Blackwater demonstrated the skillsets they had been taught from youth. Boys who wished to become knights would enter into the military profession as pages. Pages would serve knights by running errands and observing the conduct of squires and knights. If a page demonstrated competency, he would be promoted to squirehood. A squire would have care of a knight’s armor and arms and would serve a knight more directly. Often-times, squires would take part in battles themselves. If the squire proved worthy of a knighthood, he would be elevated to knighthood as he entered early adulthood. Catelyn Stark gives us a snapshot of what life was like for knights, squires and pages when she arrived at Renly’s camp in A Clash of Kings:

The steel points of pikes flamed red with sunlight, as if already blooded, while the pavilions of the knights and high lords sprouted from the grass like silken mushrooms. She saw men with spears and men with swords, men in steel caps and mail shirts, camp followers strutting their charms, archers fletching arrows, teamsters driving wagons, swineherds driving pigs, pages running messages, squires honing swords, knights riding palfreys, grooms leading ill-tempered destriers. (ACOK, Catelyn II)

Further giving knights an edge, the armor knights wore into battle was an essential part of why they were so effective on the battlefield. Their ability to charge into enemy lines and through open terrain was only made possible by armor that protected them from enemy projectiles fired at them. Knights from the Reach held an additional advantage in armor, they had some of the best armor in Westeros:

You will also note that Westerosi armor tends to “later” styles as you go south. Plate is more common in the Reach – So Spake Martin, 7/22/2001

Plate armor covered the entire body from head to toe and could repel arrows and swords. Though there were weapons developed to defeat plate armor (poleax and eventually firearms), plate armor made knights on the battlefield practically invincible. However, it wasn’t arms, armament and training that made the Reach’s military unique.

The Reach Army’s code of chivalry distinguished Mace Tyrell’s army from any other in the field. Chivalry and the “True Knight” were hallmarks of the Reach’s military code; the very concept of chivalry itself had been born in the Reach:

It was in these green fields that chivalry was born, history tells us; the gallant knights and fair maids of the Reach are celebrated throughout the Seven Kingdoms by the singers, whose own traditions first took root here as well. (TWOIAF, The Reach)

Westeros’ code of chivalry resembled that of its historical medieval counterpart. In medieval chivalry, honorable conduct on the battlefield, courage, integrity and protecting the defenseless and innocent were seen as the highest goods in warfare. These values were upheld and promoted by the Catholic Church as a check against excessive and barbaric violence. In similar fashion, Westerosi knights had a code of chivalry, upheld by the Faith of the Seven best seen in The Hedge Knight as Dunk recounted the principles that Ser Arlan of Pennytree taught him as well as witnessing the knighting of Raymun Fossoway:  

“He charged me to be a good knight and true, to obey the seven gods, defend the weak and innocent, serve my lord faithfully and defend the realm with all my might, and I swore that I would.” (The Hedge Knight)

He slid his sword out of his sheath and shouldered Dunk aside. “Raymun of House Fossoway,” he began solemnly, touching the blade to the squire’s right shoulder, “in the name of the Warrior I charge you to be brave.” The sword moved from his right shoulder to his left. “In the name of the Father I charge you to be just.” Back to the right. “In the name of the Mother I charge you to defend the young and innocent.” The left. “In the name of the Maid I charge you to protect all women.” (The Hedge Knight)

In the Reach itself, the ethos of the chivalric code were embedded into more than just the army. Songs of gallant knights and artwork depicting chivalric virtue dominated the culture and imbued the highborn with this higher calling from an early age. We see this when Littlefinger manipulated Loras Tyrell to join the Kingsguard with tales of the horrors at King’s Landing and songs of historic chivalric heroes of the Reach:

“I also planted the notion of Ser Loras taking the white. Not that I suggested it, that would have been too crude. But men in my party supplied grisly tales about how the mob had killed Ser Preston Greenfield and raped the Lady Lollys, and slipped a few silvers to Lord Tyrell’s army of singers to sing of Ryam Redwyne, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. (ASOS, Sansa VI)

The Reach’s artwork served to further glorify chivalry. Ser Arys Oakheart recalled the tapestries that adorned his family’s castle of Old Oak:

He was a man of the Reach, and the Dornish were his ancient foes, as the tapestries at Old Oak bore witness. Arys only had to close his eyes to see them still. Lord Edgerran the Open-Handed, seated in splendor with the heads of a hundred Dornishmen piled round his feet. The Three Leaves in the Prince’s Pass, pierced by Dornish spears, Alester sounding his warhorn with his last breath. Ser Olyvar the Green Oak all in white, dying at the side of the Young Dragon. (AFFC, The Soiled Knight)

So, it was only natural that the flower of chivalry would eagerly answer when Mace Tyrell called his banners for a picture of chivalry: Renly Baratheon.

The Knights of Summer

In the middle of A Clash of Kings, Catelyn Stark reached Renly Baratheon and the massive army of Reachmen and Stormlanders that he had assembled. Renly had been crowned at Highgarden by Mace Tyrell and had brought upwards of one hundred thousand soldiers under the stag banner. Binding the army together was the sense of chivalry that defined the Reach’s military:

Near all the chivalry of the south had come to Renly’s call, it seemed. The golden rose of Highgarden was seen everywhere: sewn on the right breast of armsmen and servants, flapping and fluttering from the green silk banners that adorned lance and pike, painted upon the shields hung outside the pavilions of the sons and brothers and cousins and uncles of House Tyrell. (ACOK, Catelyn II)

However, where Renly and his lords bannermen saw strength in this host, Catelyn saw something else:

They had been babes during the Sack of King’s Landing, and no more than boys when Balon Greyjoy raised the Iron Islands in rebellion. They are still unblooded, Catelyn thought as she watched Lord Bryce goad Ser Robar into juggling a brace of daggers. It is all a game to them still, a tourney writ large, and all they see is the chance for glory and honor and spoils. They are boys drunk on song and story, and like all boys, they think themselves immortal. (ACOK, Catelyn II)

And in a conversation that likely served as foreshadowing, Catelyn spoke with Lord Mathis Rowan about the character of the army:

She had been a girl when Robert and Ned and Jon Arryn raised their banners against Aerys Targaryen, a woman by the time the fighting was done. “I pity them.”

“Why?” Lord Rowan asked her. “Look at them. They’re young and strong, full of life and laughter. And lust, aye, more lust than they know what to do with. There will be many a bastard bred this night, I promise you. Why pity?”

“Because it will not last,” Catelyn answered, sadly. “Because they are the knights of summer, and winter is coming.” (ACOK, Catelyn II)

Winter and death might not have come for the knights of summer during events from the first five books, but it’s coming in The Winds of Winter. The form it will take is in a sellsword company and an exiled lord that won’t adhere to the same standards of chivalry that they hold dear. In fact, they’ll deliberately subvert them.

Aegon and Connington March Against the Tyrells

Artwork by  Diego Gisbert Llorens

“Go to Westeros, though … ah, then you are a rebel, not a beggar. Bold, reckless, a true scion of House Targaryen, walking in the footsteps of Aegon the Conqueror. A dragon.” (ADWD, Tyrion VI)

Behind Storm’s End’s massive walls, Aegon and the Golden Company could have held out against the Tyrells marching for them. However, the young dragon was doing nothing of the sort. Likely emboldened by victory after victory, Aegon was embarking on a dangerous and bold course. When Arianne reached Griffin’s Roost, Haldon Halfmaester reported that Aegon was on the move:

“You’ll want to be safe inside the walls [of Storm’s End] before the battle.”

Will we, wondered Arianne. “The battle or the siege?” She did not intend to let herself be trapped inside Storm’s End.

“Oh, battles,” Haldon said firmly. “Prince Aegon means to smash his enemies in the field.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

In a vacuum, this action might have seem out of character for Aegon and Connington, but GRRM foreshadowed this early in A Dance with Dragons during the fateful cyvasse game between Aegon and Tyrion:

Young Griff arrayed his army for attack, with dragon, elephants, and heavy horse up front. A young man’s formation, as bold as it is foolish. He risks all for the quick kill. (ADWD, Tyrion VI)

In that cyvasse game, Aegon had placed his most mobile game pieces at the front his formation for the “quick kill.” The young dragon’s battle prowess was similar to that of his enemies approaching from King’s Landing. He was a boy, “drunk on thoughts of victory and glory.”  However, the “young man’s formation” that Aegon might have envisioned for the battle against the Tyrells would be tempered by Jon Connington’s seasoned command.

Though Jon Connington might have been disinclined to face the Tyrells in open combat, he himself knew that he had to move quickly to gain victory for Rhaegar’s “son.” Due to his infection with greyscale, Connington’s time was limited. Connington has also “realized” that established norms of war handicapped his ability to win. The Griffin Lord had lost at Stoney Sept when he tried to fight ethically. He would not make that “mistake” again. Years of experience and mentorship under Myles Toyne had showed Jon Connington a “better way” to fight. 

Jon Connington likely knew that a traditional battle would go poorly for the Golden Company against the knights of the Reach. They were outnumbered perhaps two to one, and the Golden Company’s contingent of knights was no match for the larger number of knights that Mace Tyrell would bring to the field. Instead, Connington would have to rely on battlefield tactics that many in Westeros would view as “dishonorable” to achieve victory against his numerically superior foe.

Victory on the field against the Tyrells would open the road to King’s Landing and more importantly turn more lords to their side. However, to defeat the Tyrells, they would need one of the best armies in the world on the field. Fortunately, Aegon and Jon Connington had arrived in Westeros with the toughest and best sellsword company in the world.

A Look at the Best Sellsword Company in the World

Artwork by Urukki Saki

Ghosts and liars, Griff thought, as he surveyed their faces. Revenants from forgotten wars, lost causes, failed rebellions, a brotherhood of the failed and the fallen, the disgraced and the disinherited. This is my army. This is our best hope. (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

While the Golden Company had been historically unsuccessful in taking Westeros by force of arms, its continuous operational tempo in Essos ensured that the Golden Company was one of the best fighting forces in the world. Where different Westerosi houses and regions could boast of individual military strengths – heavy horse for the Reach and Stormlands, infantry in the Riverlands and North – the Golden Company had the advantage of having one of the few combined arms forces in the world.

The Golden Company’s officers and general staff worked as an impressive command structure. At the top, the Captain-General commanded the Golden Company and supervised the work of his subordinate leaders. Previous Captain-Generals were martial men. Bittersteel, Maelys the Monstrous and Myles Toyne had been hardened commanders who commanded the company efficiently. Harry Strickland, the current Captain-General, did not fit the mold of his forebears. He was the former paymaster of the Golden Company and his reputation as a cautious commander did not sit well with the battle-hardened rank and file. However, our perspective is heavily colored by Jon Connington’s perspective of Harry Strickland. Seen somewhat more objectively, Strickland might not have been the Golden Company’s greatest commander, but he maintained the standard of discipline as evidenced by the camp that Connington saw outside of Volantis:

They found the Golden Company beside the river as the sun was lowering in the west. It was a camp that even Arthur Dayne might have approved of—compact, orderly, defensible. (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

Supporting the Captain-General was a battle staff of men with unique skillsets or long experience. A council of high officers provided advice, operational planning and training to the Captain-General in much the same way that a modern S3 Operations shop works in the United States Army and Marine Corps. Meanwhile, a paymaster and quartermaster provided the respective gold and supplies necessary for the sellswords to remain paid, armed and fed. However, it’s the spymaster position of the Golden Company that’s the most intriguing and unique role in the company.

The Golden Company’s military prowess and record was superb, and it was augmented by a rigorous intelligence outfit. Led by a Lyseni named Lysono Maar, the Lyseni served as “the eyes and ears of the Golden Company.” As spymaster, Lysono Maar used intelligence to gain insight into the political and military dealings of friend and foe alike. In Volantis, Lysono slipped into the city to determine the atmosphere in the city. His report detailing Volantis’ war-footing against Daenerys Targaryen served as partial reason for the Golden Company’s abandonment of Illyrio’s plan to march or sail for Meereen. Seemingly, no other sellsword company in Essos maintains an intelligence staff. Therefore, this spymaster role in the Golden Company serves as a unique institution among sellswords and a danger to any foes encountered on the political and military battlefields of Westeros.

On the maneuver side of the Golden Company, knights and squires played a key role:

“We have ten thousand men in the company, as I am sure Lord Connington remembers from his years of service with us. Five hundred knights, each with three horses. Five hundred squires, with one mount apiece.” (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

The knights of the Golden Company were a historical callback to the Golden Company’s formation as a sellsword company of Westerosi exiles. Many knights had sworn to Daemon Blackfyre during his rebellion, and many of them had fled Westeros with Bittersteel after the Battle of Redgrass Field. That five hundred knights and five hundred squires served under the golden banners meant that the knightly Westerosi tradition in the Golden Company lived on. However, this Westerosi component was augmented by a decidedly Essosi component.

Though knights were a powerful maneuver element within the Golden Company, there was another perhaps even more powerful maneuver element in the Golden Company: Elephants.

“And elephants, we must not forget the elephants.” (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

In Essos, the Golden Company’s elephants were likely modeled on their Volantene or Ghiscari peers, but in Westeros, they were unique. Standing between eight and fifteen feet tall, elephants were fearsome beasts who had a psychological effect on an enemy army. More importantly, horses have an innate olfactory fear of elephants; so, a cavalry force’s cohesion in battle had the potential to be broken up by the sight and smell of elephants. Jon Connington recognized the value of the Golden Company’s elephants against cavalry:

Griff glanced at the great grey beasts with approval. There is not a warhorse in all of Westeros that will stand against them. (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

In the short-term, the elephants did not matter to the early sieges that Connington planned for the stormlands. In the long-term, they would be useful in a pitched battle. On the battlefield itself, elephants could carve holes into an enemy line or bulge an enemy line back allowing for infantry to exploit an enemy’s uneven or broken line.

The great beasts would be useful in a pitched battle, no doubt, but it would be some time before they had the strength to face their foes in the field. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Unfortunately, the voyage across the Narrow Sea resulted in the short-term loss of Harry Strickland’s prized elephants:

“We still have too few horses.”

“And no elephants,” the Halfmaester reminded him. Not one of the great cogs carrying the elephants had turned up yet. They had last seen them at Lys, before the storm that had scattered half the fleet. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Fortunately for the Golden Company, when Aegon joined up with Jon Connington at Griffin’s Roost near the end of A Dance with Dragons, he brought three of the original two-dozen elephants in service to the Golden Company:

The prince arrived to join them four days later, riding at the head of a column of a hundred horse, with three elephants lumbering in his rear. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Additionally, there were likely more elephants who survived the voyage across the Narrow Sea that were in near-proximity to Griffin’s Roost:  

“We hear talk of elephants in the rainwood.”

“Elephants?” Arianne did not know what to think of that. “Are you certain? Not dragons?”

“Elephants,” Lady Nymella said firmly. (TWOW, Arianne I)

Rounding out the melee force structure of the Golden Company was the infantry. Likely bearing swords or more likely spears, the infantry of the Golden Company was the apex of phalanx warfare. Likely modeled on Ghiscari legionary warfare, the Golden Company’s phalanx infantry could attack or defend against infantry or cavalry attacks. Their long spears could brunt the force of a heavy cavalry charge or keep an advancing enemy infantry pinned to allow for the Golden Company’s cavalry to sweep the flanks of an opposing force.

However, it wasn’t the elephants, cavalry or infantry that truly distinguished the Golden Company’s already impressive force. The archers that served under Black Balaq were a particularly deadly contingent in the Golden Company that could radically impact the battlefield in Westeros. Ranged warfare was a type of warfare often neglected by glory-seeking Westerosi nobles. As a younger man, Jon Connington had dismissed archers, but after serving in the Golden Company and seeing their utility on the battlefield, he recognized their importance:

In his youth, Jon Connington had shared the disdain most knights had for bowmen, but he had grown wiser in exile. In its own way, the arrow was as deadly as the sword. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

The veteran archer corps that Golden Company could boast of had changed Connington’s mind:

A third of Balaq’s men used crossbows, another third the double-curved horn-and-sinew bows of the east. Better than these were the big yew longbows borne by the archers of Westerosi blood, and best of all were the great bows of goldenheart treasured by Black Balaq himself and his fifty Summer Islanders. Only a dragonbone bow could outrange one made of goldenheart. Whatever bow they carried, all of Balaq’s men were sharp-eyed, seasoned veterans who had proved their worth in a hundred battles, raids, and skirmishes. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Keep this unit in mind for the battle to come as they’ll have a massive impact.

The final aspect that distinguished the Golden Company from any of its sworn-sword of sellsword peers was an intangible: discipline. A well-trained swordsman, knight or archer was individually deadly, but discipline forced through hard training and a near continuous operational tempo in the Disputed Lands was what made the Golden Company especially dangerous. As Steven Attewell stated in his Blacks and the Reds essay on the Golden Company:

The key to understanding the Golden Company is the interrelation of these elements – in other words, the Golden Company works because of its mastery of combined arms. Whereas most armies in Essos are all-cavalry (the free companies, the Dothraki) or all-infantry (the Unsullied), and whereas the infantry and cavalry of Westeros aren’t particularly trained to work in concert (compare the hasty training of peasant levies with the years of preparation of the knights, or Robb Stark’s and Renly Baratheon’s separation of horse and foot), the Golden Company works as a united war machine.

In contrast to the Golden Company, Westeros did not have a standing army and even local lords with household knights had to levy ill-trained peasants into their armies during times of crisis. Jon Connington recognized this weakness among the Westerosi and the Golden Company’s discipline stood as a positive contrast:

The chaos that would inevitably have delayed such a march with a hastily assembled host of household knights and local levies had been nowhere in evidence. These were the heirs of Bittersteel, and discipline was mother’s milk to them. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Discipline, skill of arms and the use of combined arms warfare were the hallmarks of the Golden Company, but the company was still a sellsword company. As sellswords, they placed their greatest value on survival. Though they would have preferred victory against the Tyrells, they had no compunction against fleeing back to Essos in the event that Westeros did not rise with them:

“I have had enough of Illyrio’s plans. Robert Baratheon won the Iron Throne without the benefit of dragons. We can do the same. And if I am wrong and the realm does not rise for us, we can always retreat back across the narrow sea, as Bittersteel once did, and others after him.” (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

Survival also meant that the Golden Company cared less for accepted rules of warfare and a code of chivalry than their peers. They were an army of utility – that is that they would do anything to survive on the battlefield and gain victory – even if that victory was an ignoble one.

As the company began their disparate landings in the Stormlands, these skillsets and ethos would be tested in battle against the Tyrells.

Henry V’s Agincourt Campaign and Its Westerosi Parallels

When these battalions were all drawn up, it was a grand sight to view; and they were, on a hasty survey, estimated to be more than six times the number of the English. After they had been thus arranged, they seated themselves by companies as near to their own banners as they could, to wait the coming of the enemy. (Enguerrand de Monstrelet, Chronique de France, 1453)

Arianne’s second Winds of Winter chapter ends with Haldon Halfmaester reporting that Connington and Aegon were marching out to meet the Tyrell army descending on them. As of this writing, there have been no further Winds of Winter sample chapters that might shed light on the battle to come. That’s not to say that we can’t be reasonably sure what’s going to happen in the battle itself however. With history as our guide, we can start to see how George R.R. Martin put the pieces together to have his very own Battle of Agincourt set in Westeros.

First a little backstory on the Agincourt Campaign: In 1415, King Henry V of England invaded France in an attempt to gain the throne of France. The army that Henry brought with him to France represented the best of the English war machine. Since the Battle of Crecy in 1346, the longbow had come to dominate the English army. Where once mounted men-at-arms had been decisive in Norman and Crusader armies of old, archers trained from youth comprised the majority of men England sent into war in the 14th and 15th. Thus, when Henry V invaded France in summer 1415, his army was composed of three quarters archers and one quarter men-at-arms. Sources and modern estimates vary on the size of the English army, but Anne Curry puts the size of the English host at around twelve thousand in her Agincourt: A New History.

Henry’s army also distinguished itself on the battlefield by its relative cohesion under Henry and his experienced subordinate commanders. Though there had been an alleged abortive coup against Henry before the army set sail, Henry’s troops were by and large united under their liege.

Meanwhile, the French Army was radically different from the English Army. French Knights and their code of chivalry was widely valued among noblemen in France. The army that was assembled was largely the flip-side of the English army with ten thousand or so mounted and dismounted knights and unknown thousands more archers and infantry. The French army had been assembled from throughout France and didn’t have the same cohesion that Henry’s army did. France was in the middle of its own civil war (The Armagnac-Burgundian War) which pitched two rival claimants to the French throne against each other. The current king in Paris “Mad King” Charles VI of France and his heir Charles VII were weak and were not even present in the French army sent to confront Henry. Instead, the army was nominally led by Charles I of Albret and Jean II Le Maingre. However, their command of the army was mitigated by the assembly of French nobles who exercised command over their particular knights and levies. Thus, there was no unified command structure leading the army into battle.

After landing in France, Henry besieged the town of Harfleur. Though the siege took longer than he wanted, eventually Henry’s troops were able to get the town to surrender to him. Afterwards, Henry stayed in and around Harfleur in hopes that the French would attack him there. When they didn’t, Henry left a garrison of fifteen hundred men at Harfleur, sent some two thousand soldiers back to England. He then marched from Harfleur east to Calais in a likely attempt to provoke a French attack. The French army finally assembled at Rouen and began shadowed Henry’s army as they moved east. When the English army crossed the Seine River, the French army raced ahead of the English army and blocked their movement to Calais in between the woods of Azincourt and Tramecourt.

The night before the battle commenced, heavy rains fell across the soon-to-be battlefield.

George R.R. Martin is very aware of the history of Agincourt: referencing the battle in several interviews (Such as here, here and here). GRRM even collects miniature toy soldiers depicting English longbowmen from the battle:

Every schoolboy knows the story of the Battle of Agincourt, where a small, sick, starving English army under King Henry V won a stirring victory over a huge French host, all on St. Crispin’s Day. We few, we brave, we band of brothers, and all that. The English lords and knights performed nobly, no doubt, but the battle was won by the longbowmen, who stood behind their sharpened stakes and loosed hundreds of arrows at the flower of French chivalry as the knights advanced through the mud. – George RR Martin’s Official Website, “Odds and Ends and Mystery Men”

Moreover, GRRM is a fan of Bernard Cornwell, and specifically references Cornwell’s book Agincourt. In 2012, GRRM interviewed Cornwell, asking how Cornwell was able to pull off such realistic battles scenes:

The arrows at Agincourt, Uhtred grunting and shoving in a Saxon shield wall, Sharpe leading a forlorn hope… you give us all the sounds and smells and blood, and yet the battle tactics always remain comprehensible as well. How do you do it? – GRRM Interviews Bernard Cornwell, 1/17/2012

Given GRRM’s interest in Agincourt, it should come as no surprise that he will have a similar-but-not-exact replica of the battle in Westeros. Aegon, Jon Connington and the Golden Company will likely take on the Henry V and his army’s roles in the battle while Mace Tyrell and his Reachmen will resemble something like the French nobility at Agincourt. However, there’s some key differences as well.

One likely difference between the historical battle and its Westerosi parallel is that the Westerosi version will likely occur as a traditional battle. Mace Tyrell was marching down from King’s Landing while Aegon is marching out from Storm’s End to meet them. This puts them on a collision course instead of one where Mace’s army would shadow Aegon’s army on the march up to King’s Landing. Another key difference will likely be the composition of the armies involved. There are less archers in the Golden Company than were in Henry V’s army at Agincourt. Similarly, there are likely many more mounted knights in Mace Tyrell’s army than the French army.

However, the essential ingredients for the the battle itself were there. Mace’s “army of chivalry” confronting Aegon’s “army of utility” parallels Agincourt’s armies. The battle compositions of knights vs. archers also matches the traditional way the battle was viewed. Finally, we find out something intriguing at the end of Arianne’s second Winds of Winter chapter: heavy rains have fallen across the Stormlands:

The rains have turned the routes to mud.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

The rains and mud is a direct parallel from the Battle of Agincourt as heavy rains fell the night before the battle and turned the coming battlefield into mud. A muddy battlefield lying between the Reachmen and the Golden Company would have significant consequences for the battle.

The Westerosi Battle of Agincourt

“We speak of chivalry, Hook, and we are chivalrous. We fight so politely! Yet you know how to win a battle?”

“Fight dirty. Sir John.”

“Fight filthy, Hook. Fight like the devil and send chivalry to hell.” (Bernard Cornwell, Agincourt, Chapter 6)

With the character of the armies and commanders and the prelude to both the historical Battle of Agincourt as well as its Westerosi peer defined, we turn to the battles themselves. The Reachmen and the Golden Company were marching against each other, and the battle that would be struck somewhere in the Stormlands would be decisive. That said, we can’t fully know the outcome, but with the battle’s historical parallel at Agincourt as our guide, we can reasonably speculate what will occur in the battle. To better steer the analysis of the battle to come in The Winds of Winter, I’ll jump back and forth from the muddy fields of Agincourt and the Stormlands to paint a plausible scenario for how Aegon and Mace Tyrell’s battle will unfold.

As dawn broke over Northern France, the English army assembled on the field in a unique formation:

Map by the History of England Podcast

Henry placed his men-at-arms and himself in the middle of the formation with the Duke of York in the vanguard, but he placed his archers (the smaller red triangles on the map) into a U-formation into the treeline. Henry’s hope was that French infantry and cavalry would advance through the narrow open field between the treelines and engage his forces in the middle while his archers rained down arrows from the flanks. In addition to their task of loosing arrows into the French advance, the archers had another task: countermobility. The archers emplaced sharpened stakes in front of their positions to interdict the French from moving into the woods and flanking Henry’s men-at-arms at the center.

On the other side of the field, the French army deployment was a mess. The original plan had been that crossbowmen and archers would line up in a skirmish line in front of the main line of mounted and dismounted knights. In this formation, the French would be able to inflict arrow damage on advancing English soldiers or be able to screen their main line of advance if they chose to attack Henry’s army. Unfortunately, the French lined up opposite their original plan. Knights were placed in the front with their ranged units behind their main line. According to French chroniclers, this occurred because the French nobility demanded to be placed in the vanguard.

“All the lords wanted to be in the vanguard, against the opinion of the constable and the experienced knights.”  (“The Battle of Agincourt”, The Hundred Years War (Part II), Clifford Rodgers)

This deployment effectively neutralized any French archer support as they were all placed behind both the vanguard and the French main line.

When both the French and the English finally lined up, they stood across from each and waited for something to happen …

It’s easy to imagine a similar battlefield deployment by the Tyrells and the Golden Company in The Winds of Winter. Connington was an experienced commander, and he knew the army he was taking into battle:  

“Lord Connington knows his own strength, surely. If he means to risk battle he must believe he can win it.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

Thus, I think that Aegon, Connington and the Golden Company will arrange their formation in a similar way as Henry did at Agincourt. As previously noted, Jon Connington had gained a great deal of respect for Black Balaq and his archers in his time in Essos. They had proved their worth again to Connington at Griffin’s Roost. So, I expect that Connington and Aegon would line their archers in their flanks behind sharpened stakes with infantry/cavalry in the center. In this way, Black Balaq’s archers would have have the ability to provide enfilading arrow fire against any advance by Mace Tyrell during the entirety of their approach towards the center of the Golden Company’s army. Meanwhile at the center, massed spearmen would be positioned to repel any Tyrell assault. If the attack was repelled, Golden Company knights, squires and elephants could then counterattack fleeing Reachmen.

Meanwhile, Mace Tyrell’s poor command record and the eagerness of the Reach’s knights to win glory and honor on the battlefield would likely lead to the knights of the Reach lining up in front of their own archer/infantry support for a cavalry charge against the Golden Company. This cavalry charge against an enemy’s position was the same tactic that Renly and his Reach lords wanted to used against Stannis at Storm’s End in A Clash of Kings, and it ended up being the tactic that the Tyrell vanguard used when they took Stannis in the rear at the Battle of the Blackwater. The only problem with this tactic was that it was dangerous and ineffective if the enemy was facing them on the battlefield. With no element of surprise, a charge across open terrain with an enemy knowing they were coming exposed the knights to the projectiles from the defenders. However, the Reachmen might have thought that their plate armor would protect them as they made charge. Unfortunately for them, they probably did not realize the full danger that Black Balaq’s archers would pose to them.

The French found this out to their horror at Agincourt …

For three hours, the French and English lines remained static at Agincourt. Both sides expected the other to attack. Finally, Henry ordered his army forward in a possible feint towards the French lines. As Henry’s army lurched forward, the French vanguard panicked and charged the English line.

Map by

In the close terrain, the French vanguard was packed tightly together and charged over the muddy ground. English longbowmen loosed volley after volley against the French, targeting both the men on horseback in gaps in their armor (particularly their eye slits). More importantly, the English longbowmen targeted the horses of the French vanguard. The heavy plate armor worn by French knights was nearly impenetrable to even the bodkin arrows of the English longbowmen, but the horses were vulnerable to arrows. English longbowmen shot arrows at the horses, and as a result, French knights were thrown from their mounts and fell into the mud only to be trampled by their compatriots.

Suffering heavy casualties, the vanguard wheeled around before even reaching Henry’s men-at-arms at the center and retreated from the battlefield. In the process they turned the already muddy ground even muddier

Whether Jon Connington and Aegon opt for the feint forward to draw Mace Tyrell into a disorganized charge or the Tyrells charge the Golden Company’s lines on their own volition does not matter as long as the Tyrells charge, and charge they will (or so I predict). The Reach’s overuse of shock cavalry tactics has lulled them into a state where it’s likely that Mace Tyrell and the bannermen marching under him will think a heavy cavalry charge will decimate the sellsword facing them. So, the Tyrell vanguard comprised of the cream of Westerosi chivalry will charge across an open, muddy field in a brave yet foolish action as Black Balaq’s archers will rain down arrows on the knights and their horses. Some knights will be killed but more horses will die.

As a result, Reach Knights in the vanguard will fall into the mud and be trampled by their peers. In the chaos, it’s likely that the surviving knights in the vanguard will chaotically wheel their mounts around and gallop towards their own advancing main line …

Behind the French vanguard, dismounted knights and men-at-arms marched through several hundred yards of open ground and were bowled over by panicked horses and knights from the vanguard. Still, they advanced. Arrows flew in from two sides killing some, but the knights’ plate armor protected most of the main advance of the French host from arrow fire. However, the constant rain of arrows forced the French to lower their helmet visors, restricting their peripheral vision. Many fell and were trampled by the mass of the French army advancing.

Finally, the disorganized mass of dismounted French knights reached the English center where Henry and his men-at-arms waited. There, the French pushed the English vanguard, killing the Duke of York. However, the English longbowmen continued losing arrows into the mass of French soldiers pressing into the English center. When the archers ran out of arrows, contemporary historians report that the archers ran swarmed the French attack from all sides and hacked at the French with sword, ax and even stake. In a vivid retelling in his book Agincourt, Bernard Cornwell expertly relayed the horror of this sequence during the battle:

They went in a rush, and by now they knew how to take down men-at-arms who could not move in the thick mud, and so the archers crashed into the flank of the French and they hammered their enemy to make a new line of dead men, most stabbed through an eye by an archer’s knife after they had been felled by a hammer blow. (Bernard Cornwell, Agincourt, Chapter 13)

Most of the men had only been knocked down by English arrow and melee attacks, but as the bodies began to pile up, many French soldiers began to drown in the mud …

George R.R. Martin has repeatedly stated that he wants to depict both the glory and the horror of war in A Song of Ice and Fire:

War is so central to fantasy… and yet it’s these bloodless wars where the heroes are killing unending Orcs, and the heroes are not being killed… I think that if you’re going to write about war and violence then show the cost – show how ugly it is, show both sides of it. There’s also the other side (which sometimes gets me in trouble with the opposite side of the political spectrum): the glory of war. Those of us who are opposed to war tend to try to pretend it doesn’t exist, but if you read the ancient historical sources… people are always talking about the banners that ‘stirred the heart’… I think that if you’re going to write about that period then you should reflect honestly what it’s about and capture both sides of it. (GRRM Interview, 3/13/2012)

George RR Martin emphasized this point in the narrative itself during his famous broken man speech:

“They’ve heard the songs and stories, so they go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of the wealth and glory they will win. War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them will ever know.

Then they get a taste of battle.

“For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in, but even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his hundred-and-first. Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after they’ve been gutted by an axe.” (AFFC, Brienne VI)

Here at Westerosi Agincourt, GRRM will have that opportunity to show both sides of war. The likely tactical brilliance of the Golden Company and the valor of the Tyrell attack will be displayed alongside the horror of knights drowning in the mud. What I think is going to happen in this stage of the battle in Westeros will be similar in some ways to Agincourt as well as unique to Martin’s narrative. As the Tyrell main line will advance towards Aegon, archers and spearmen in the flanks will begin swarming around the knights, hacking and stabbing them with spears and poleaxes. However, a notable difference here might be the elephants.

The Golden Company’s elephants will likely play some sort of role in the battle to come, and here might be the opportunity for the elephants to come plowing through the disorganized ranks of Reach soldiers as they reached the Golden Company’s center. Put yourself in the shoes of a Tyrell soldier on that battlefield. You’ve survived the hell of advancing through open terrain as arrows rained down on you, trampling your own wounded comrades to death with the sounds and horror of battle around when right in front you, elephants charge towards you. And you’re so packed into the narrow terrain that you can’t move right or left or even flee the battle. Imagine the absolute terror as you witness your death approaching.

It’s a vivid scene, and it’s one that I think GRRM will likely implement in this battle …

The Battle of Agincourt concluded in a way that sent shocks through the system of chivalry throughout Europe. The French main force began fleeing the chaos of the battlefield – trampling more of their wounded and fallen comrades in the process. More surrendered to the English. Unbeknownst to Henry, the battle was over, but he didn’t know that at the time. It’s at this point in the battle that the English committed one of the worst battlefield atrocities ever recorded. Fearing that the French rearguard was preparing for a further attack and knowing that the number of French prisoners he had on hand outnumbered that of his entire force, Henry panicked and ordered all but the highest-born French prisoners to be massacred. Many of the English knights in Henry’s army refused the unethical order; so Henry ordered his archers to kill the French. According to John Keegan, the English murdered about two hundred French prisoners until Henry saw the remaining French army retreating from the field en-masse. At that point, he ordered a stop to the killings.

George R.R. Martin will likely conclude the Westerosi Battle of Agincourt in a thematically consonant manner. If the Golden Company holds thousands of prisoners at the end of the battle and believes that another attack (perhaps by the absent-Randyll Tarly) is imminent, I think it’s likely that they’ll be murdered on the orders of Jon Connington. Consciously modeling himself after Tywin Lannister, Jon Connington has embraced the role of butcher to seat Aegon onto the Iron Throne:

I wanted the glory of slaying Robert in single combat, and I did not want the name of butcher. So Robert escaped me and cut down Rhaegar on the Trident. “I failed the father,” he said, “but I will not fail the son.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

If Jon Connington survives the battle, I wonder if he’ll feel as though he has to kill the prisoners. Treating captured enemies chivalrously no longer factors into his consideration. He will become the monster and order the deaths of all but the highest-born prisoners. I expect one of the prisoners spared to be Mace Tyrell. Lord Puff Fish makes for a fantastic hostage for Aegon as it effectively neutralizes further opposition from the Tyrells. This would come in handy as Aegon, Jon Connington and the Golden Company turned their gaze north to the ultimate prize: King’s Landing and the Iron Throne.


They were the tournament champions of Christendom, one French, one English, and they were accustomed to the silken glories of the lists; the admiring women, the bright flags, the courtesy of chivalry, yet now they fought among corpses, amidst the moans and whimpers of the dying, on a field reeking of blood and shit. (Bernard Cornwell, Agincourt, Chapter 13)

By the end of the battle between Mace Tyrell and Aegon, thousands will be dead. Like the French from Agincourt, many of the dead will be Tyrell knights who died in a hail of arrows or were trampled by their compatriots. However, the greatest slaughter might arise from when Connington adapts Tywin Lannister’s brutal pragmatism and slaughter of all but the highest-born Tyrell prisoners after the battle is complete.

However subversive of chivalry the Golden Company’s tactics were on the battlefield and how horrific the murder of prisoners will be after the battle, the battle will resonate throughout Westeros. Between the Stormlands and the Blackwater, no army will stand in Aegon’s path. If Randyll Tarly hasn’t already turned cloak for Aegon, the results of Westerosi Agincourt will be the clarion call for him to jump to the winning side.

For the heirs of Bittersteel, Westerosi Agincourt may have a particular resonance. At the Battle of the Redgrass Field, Daemon Blackfyre nearly won the battle until chivalry compelled him to make a major “mistake”:

“Daemon dismounted to see that his fallen foe was not trampled, and commanded Redtusk to carry him back to the maesters in the rear. And there was his mortal error.” (Dunk and Egg, The Sworn Sword)

At that point in the battle, Bloodraven and his elite archer corps (The Raven’s Teeth) gained the upper ground and rained down arrows on Daemon killing the would-be king and two of his sons. This effectively ended the First Blackfyre Rebellion and forced Blackfyre supporters to flee across the Narrow Sea where later Bittersteel formed the Golden Company. Westerosi Agincourt will be a “glorious” bookend to the Blackfyres’ greatest defeat on the field.

Back in Westeros, the battle’s impact will be even greater than opening the road to King’s Landing. More allies and friends would flock to Aegon’s banners, and a powerful new ally would emerge. As the battle ended and Aegon turned his attention to King’s Landing, Arianne Martell will arrive, and with her arrival, Dorne would be faced with its greatest question: Dragon or War?

Thanks for reading. I invite you to follow me on twitter at @BryndenBFish. Additionally, I invite you to follow the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire twitter, facebook and tumblr to stay abreast of all that we’re doing!

Further Reading/Listening

Next Up: This series will go on hiatus until after Game of Thrones Season 6 is complete, but when it returns, the next part will be “Dragon or War?”


Filed under ASOIAF Military Analysis, ASOIAF Speculation

26 responses to “Blood of the Conqueror, Part 7: Agincourt

  1. Thanks for the enlightening essay. I was wondering if you could make an educated guess about the location of this battle ? Somewhere near Bronzegate or just at the end of the Kingswood which would suit the tactics you have laid down for the golden company

  2. Awesome essay. I love the parallels to medevial military history that martin alludes to in his stories. See this is why the books will always be better than the show. You can truly see the new tactical brilliance of commanders like stannis baratheon or jon connigton during the course of a battle. In addition, you see the true message behind Martin’s work without all the banal hollywood/ hbo nonsense. In any case. I personally cannot wait to see this unfold in the winds of winter. Lord Puff Fish is going to be slaughtered in the battle field and it will be brutal, horrific, and glorious to behold.

  3. Glen Wyrovsky

    Awesome work as always! Thanks BFish!

  4. This sounds likely. As someone who despises Mace Tyrell I’m looking forward to seeing the Fat Fish get gutted.

  5. John

    Great essay! Do you think that part of the results of this westeros agincourt will be to make Dany the Joan of arc of the defeated chivalry of westeros?

  6. Amazing analysis BlackFIsh as always! I am a big fan of Blood of the Conqueror series, so I waited a long time for this one, so kudos!

    The main question that always bugged me about this Tyrell-Golden Company battle was WHO will lead Tyrell soldiers into battle. You put the question to rest here my friend. It will be Mace, not Randyll Tarly as initially thought by me. And it makes sense that in order for Mace to leave King’s Landing would be if Margaery is free from High Sparrow and relatively safe.

    What I wonder is that suppose Mace and one of two Tyrell armies march to Stormlands to confront Golden Company. Do you think that while Margaery is at Randyll’s custody (thus “relatively” safe) Cersei will provide some evidence for High Sparrow that proves her guilt (even though it might be falsified)? And since Randyll swore a holy vow to bring Margaery for the trial, she will be brought before High Sparrow and found guilty and executed while her father believed her to be in safety of his trusted bannerman?

    And there is a foreshadowing in TWOIAF book where Highgarden gets sacked by Dornishmen. Do you think Arianne will travel with Dornish army in Prince’s Pass under a pre-text of aiding House Tyrell in their time of need to defeat this “pretender” Aegon who claims to be Elia’s son which is “disgrace” and “shame” to House Martell. However, in reality, they will treacherously attack and sack the seat of their mortal enemies? Willas and Oberyn maintained a good relationship even after Willas’ maiming, and Arianne even attempted to escape Dorne so she can wed him, so maybe there is a merit to this plan and Willas will not anticipate a betrayal of such proportions.

    Especially if Arianne allies herself with Jon Connington, who devises this plan in true Tywin-like fashion? Connington realizes that Willas is a capable future Lord of Highgarden, so he needs to be neutralized as soon as possible if they want to completely crush House Tyrell. I am sure he will make everything look real, like maybe sending false reports of Dornish army in Boneway’s Pass repelling and fighting Aegon’s host and blocking his way to Dorne or something along these lines.


    I’ve been pining for a new essay, and you fine folk certainly didn’t disappoint. Brilliant insight as always, and I really enjoyed the historical detail you put into this. Thanks again for a wonderful read!

  8. Sir Theodred of Pennytree

    Great essay, do you think mace tyrell will die in the battle or be captured ?

  9. Seems legit. 😀
    Thanks for warning me that a bunch of people are probably going to drown in mud…that is one of my “things” so once the Tyrell’s charge I may skip to the next chapter. 😛
    Fantastic essay…I tend to zone out during the battle portions of the book so it’s nice to have someone to spell out all the implications and foreshadowing for me. 🙂

  10. This was truly engaging, I really like your essays but this part is by far my favourite. Too bad my english is quite limited for there’s so much things that I would like to say about your work. But let me just say thanks!!

    P.D.: Deep inside I hope Martin finish the next book before you finish your essay XD

  11. I continue to love this series of essays and this edition adds a lot of insight into what we can expect in Winds. I find myself quite concerned by Connington’s mindset.

  12. ikoke

    Great essay! But I have to point out that in the annals of Westerosi history, there is a battle that is a kinda-sorta parallel to the Battle of Agincourt.

    The Battle of the Kingsroad (more commonly known as the Muddy Mess) was fought between the Riverlanders loyal to Rhaenyra & Aegon II’s Stormlanders. It’s similarities with the battle of Agincourt are as follows:-

    1) Stormlanders had a clear numerical edge over the Riverlanders(like the French over English)
    2) The Stormlander Knights were overconfident & largely untried just like the French, whereas the Riverlanders were seasoned veterans.
    3) The battle was fought at a site where rain had turned the battlefield into a “muddy mess” which made life difficult for the Stormlander knights
    4) Just like the English longbowmen at Agincourt, the Riverlander archers led by Black Ally Blackwood played a crucial role in the battlefield by bringing down the Stormlander knights.

  13. They will bend the knee

    How did you get an Ariane II extract ? Didn’t GRRM released it only yesterday (May 10th) ? What kind of sorcery is that ?

  14. monolith94

    I think it would be a grave mistake for the golden company to kill surrendering forces. It’s important to remember that they’re not just trying to conquer westeros, they’re trying to win the seven kingdoms over with the promise of a renewed Targaryen dynasty. Given that the Tyrell lands have traditionally been fairly pro-Targaryen, they must see the army that opposses them as a potential source of manpower and strength.

  15. gamel

    Timur’s sack of Delhi (1398) was several orders of magnitude higher than Agincourt :
    He had 100,000 prisoners killed before the battle. His strategy to counter elephants with flaming camels equipped with iron sticks is really fascinating.

  16. really good these golden company invasion of the stromlands is generally underrated and the clash between the tyrells and the golden company will be very intresting

  17. Drogo

    So grateful for your analyses. GRRM should be paying you guys. Kudos to you and your team.
    Regards from a fan in the Philippines.

  18. Martyna Świątczak-Borowy

    Excellent essay! I think some parts of this upcoming battle were incorporated into the “battle of bastards” from the show, which further confirms your analysis.

  19. Omair

    Any chance we’re getting the next entry soon?

  20. RustedRevolver

    Is there an audio version of this essay?

  21. Pingback: Blood of the Conqueror, Conclusion: A Last Mad Act | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

  22. Roger

    Well, personaly I think we, aficionados of military history and fantasy, had had enough Agincourt novels for seven lifetimes. Really! English speaking writers are so proud of the longbow feats they talk about it for hours and hours. Pages and pages. Ad nauseam. They should remember England lost the Hundred Years War. And lose it badly.

    One must remember that the Golden Company fields good archers, yes. But we have never seen them in an actual battle. We don’t know if the rely in cavalry charges, defensive schiltrons or Summer longbows. Really, we have no idea. So we can’t anticipate.

    One must remember that Crecy, Agincourt and Poiters were won after fierce hand-to-hand struggle. There were not “Maxim gun carnages” a la Omdurman. Also, in the ocasions were longbowmen were catched by cavalry in the open, without trenches, they were slaughtered. Never heard of Patay?

    Mace Tyrell can be a fool, but the Reach has abble comanders. And his sons are capable young men (I am especialy fond of Garlan). Also Westeros has longbow archers in the Marches, so the Company ones are no surprise.

    Let the dice roll!

  23. According to this, it is more likely for the battle to be a replay of Trebia, rather than Agincourt:

  24. Hergrim

    “In 1415 CE, Western European chivalry died an ignoble death on a muddy field in Northern France. Heavy cavalry and its associated knightly virtue had long dominated Western European warfare, but they met a brutal end against the English Army at Agincourt. There, skilled English archers with their deadly longbows and bodkin arrows decimated the ranks of ineptly-led French heavy cavalry and changed the face of warfare forever.”

    This is categorically incorrect. By 1415 the French had been dismounting to fight against the English as a matter of course since the 1350s, and this had been developed in Brittany prior even to Crecy (the use of Genoese heavy infantry at Morlaix and dismounted men-at-arms at St-Pol-de-Leon/Restellou). If chivalry died at any point during the HYW (and it didn’t), it would have been at Crecy, not Agincourt.

    More importantly, the English hardly “changed the face of warfare forever”. If anything can be said to have done that it would have to be the firearm, a weapon that the French enthusiastically adopted and which the English were reluctant to use (hamstringing them in the later 16th century). Though, even the firearm pales in comparison to the standing army that France was able to raise as a result of increased political control and financial stability.

    “Where once mounted men-at-arms had been decisive in Norman and Crusader armies of old, archers trained from youth comprised the majority of men England sent into war in the 14th and 15th.”

    Leaving aside the key roles archers played in warfare from Late Antiquity to the 12th century, you’re confusing “decisive” with “most common”. Even in English armies, archers very rarely won battles. Most of the French vanguard at Crecy were killed not by arrows, but by the French cavalry riding down the Geonese and the English men-at-arms and supporting Welsh spearmen advancing far out from the defensive wagenburg to slaughter the French as they were tangled up with the English. At Mauron, the French cavalry charge against the archers was successful and it was only the premature withdrawal of one French wing that allow an English victory. At Poitiers, the battle was i doubt after a hundred flights of arrows. At Nogent-sur-Seine, the archers did little more than prevent the third French battle from flanking the English men-at-arms, but the two battles already engaged with the English were enough to break them. At Cocherel, the archers were forced to fight as light infantry, seeing as their archery had no effect on the French, and the same situation happened at Auray and Nájera as well.

    I could go on all day, analyse every little battle or skirmish. In the end, though, archers very rarely played a decisive role in any battles between the English and French, and none as decisive as at Agincourt, which is exceptional for a number of reasons.

    “As Henry’s army lurched forward, the French vanguard panicked and charged the English line.”

    Actually part of the plan, and worked well elsewhere (Valmont, Verneuil). Far from panicking, the vanguard delayed far too long, quite probably because the majority of the cavalry had gone off to walk their horses or get food. In the end, less than half the number of men-at-arms from the original plan participated in the attack, unevenly spread between the two wings, and the mud prevented them from closing at a sufficient pace. Except for this one thing, the plan was a good one and in other contexts worked very well.

  25. Thomas dan Stark

    That was awesome essay I like the fact that they will use similar tactics as was use at Agincourt. I was wondering what tactics the golden company would use to suppress the overwhelming numbers of heavy horse and it seems very logical that GRRM would use such a historical battle as Agincourt to inspire him

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