By October Edward was camped outside St Quentin, yet another city which he was failing to capture. Suddenly news came that King Philip was approaching with the main French army to confront the invaders. A herald rode into the camp of the English and their allies with a message from Philip. It was couched in the hackneyed diplomatic phrases of the time. Philip condemned Edward for his actions, repeated the condemnation of him as a rebellious vassal and ended by challenging him to battle at a place and time of his choosing.
Ever wanting to be seen as the perfect knight of chivalry, Edward promptly accepted the challenge and sent scouts out to select a suitable battlefield. Philip was taken aback by the eagerness of the English king to face the French army, and at once began to prevaricate. Excuses were found why the battle had to be delayed, and then delayed again. Meanwhile, Edward’s allies were getting nervous. A border raid was one thing, but facing up to the royal army of France was something else entirely. Using the fact that supplies were running low, the rulers of Brabant and Brandenburg forced Edward to fall back out of France.
Philip watched the English retreat. As he had expected, the English king had backed down when faced by the prospect of a pitched battle against the full might of France. The event confirmed him and his subordinates in the belief that they had by far the best army in Christendom, and that this fact was recognised by the English. Philip must have believed that raids and pillaging of undefended country areas could be expected of the English, but successful attacks on major cities were beyond them. Still less would the English dare face up to the French king and the French army.
Content that the war would grind on in desultory fashion and end in a compromise peace, Philip went home.
from THE BATTLE OF CRECY by Rupert Matthews