Henry V began the Hundred Years war up again. His campaign to claim the throne of France was more successful than his great grandfather, Edward III. Henry married a French Princess, and his son, Henry VI, was crowned King of France (and England).
Henry V (1386/7–1422), king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine, eldest son of Henry IV (1366–1413) and his first wife, Mary, second daughter and coheir of Humphrey (IX) de Bohun, seventh earl of Hereford (d. 1373), was born in the chamber of the gatehouse tower of Monmouth Castle, an association which gave him the name Henry of Monmouth by which he was sometimes known.
Childhood to 1400
Two dates for Henry's birth, 9 August or 16 September, in either 1386 or 1387, can plausibly be put forward (Allmand, 1992, 7). The name of his nurse (nutrix), Joan Waryn, is recorded in the sum of 40s. a year paid for her services, and is confirmed by the grant of £20 for life paid to her after Henry had become king. Henry's early years were marked by two factors: the frequent absences abroad of his father (then known as Henry of Derby), and the death of his mother in June 1394 when he was but six or seven years old. Since he was not born to be king, little is known of his childhood: an illness in 1395 is recorded, as is talk, in the same year, of a possible espousal to Marie, daughter of Jean (IV), duke of Brittany. The name of his governess, Mary Hervy, is also recorded. With his brothers, Thomas of Lancaster, duke of Clarence, John of Lancaster, duke of Bedford, and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and possibly his two sisters, Blanche and Philippa, Henry spent time in the care of Joan, countess of Hereford, their maternal grandmother, and on their father's estates (part of the lands belonging to the duchy of Lancaster). A late fifteenth-century tradition that, in 1398, he resided at Queen's College, Oxford, in the care of his uncle Henry Beaufort (d. 1447), second of John of Gaunt's illegitimate sons by Katherine Swynford (and thereby a half-brother to his own father), at the time chancellor of the university, is unsupported. However, the year was important for the young man, for it marked the banishment of his father by Richard II, who nevertheless treated Henry well, granting him £500 a year for his maintenance. In February 1399 John of Gaunt died, his death soon being followed by the forfeiture to the king of the rich inheritance of the duchy of Lancaster. In May Richard went on a voyage of pacification to Ireland and took Henry with him, dubbing him knight soon afterwards. When Henry's own father landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire, around the beginning of July, with the avowed intention of reclaiming his inheritance, his son was placed in a difficult position, but he persuaded Richard that he had nothing to do with the course of events now rapidly developing. None the less, whether for his security or, perhaps more likely, as an honourable hostage, Henry was kept in the castle of Trim, north-west of Dublin. However, once his father had secured the throne, he returned to England, now heir to a new inheritance.
Events moved quickly. It was as a member of the newly created Order of the Bath that Henry carried the sheathed and blunted sword representing justice at his father's coronation in Westminster Abbey on 13 October 1399, a year to the day since the new king had gone into exile. Two days later parliament agreed that Henry should be created prince of Wales, duke of Cornwall, and earl of Chester; later in the month he was named duke of Aquitaine and, on 10 November, he was awarded the title of duke of Lancaster, along with its liberties and franchises, but not the duchy itself. Yet not all was as well as it may have seemed. At Epiphany 1400 a conspiracy against the king, hatched by certain high-ranking nobility, was uncovered. Both he and his eldest son survived, but it set the tone for some of the main problems which the coming years were to reveal.
Early service in Wales, 1400–1410
These years were to be dominated by events in Wales, where a major rebellion, led by Owain Glyn Dŵr, a landowner with estates in north Wales and more widely based political support, began in September 1400. As prince of Wales Henry was responsible for the suppression of the rebellion; much of the cost had to be borne from his (by now) considerably diminished Welsh revenues supplemented by contributions from Cornwall, Chester, and the central exchequer. Still a youth at the beginning of the troubles, Henry began to serve under Henry Percy, history's Hotspur, who had been named justiciar of Chester and north Wales in October 1399, and who took charge of carrying out policy. Considerable military activity, some undertaken by the prince himself, brought very mixed results in 1401 and 1402; the rebellion was spreading within Wales, since it was proving difficult, in mountainous terrain, to bring the enemy to battle, while raids into rebel-held territory were expensive and achieved little. In July 1403 Henry and his father faced a new and serious threat: rebellion by the now disaffected Percy family, whose force, coming from the north and advancing through Cheshire, was confronted by a royal army 2 miles north of Shrewsbury on 21 July. In the ensuing battle Henry was wounded in the face, but fought on; he was probably not personally responsible for Hotspur's death (as Shakespeare was to have it), but that event led quickly to the collapse of the rebel army.
English fortunes in Wales reached their low point in 1404–5. As was reported in parliament, Henry was active against rebel forces, but successes did not come easily, while the financing of the war was proving increasingly difficult. Then, early in 1406, full command was placed in Henry's hands. Matters now began to take a turn for the better; possibly because of better financial provision, most probably because the Welsh failed to maintain their military activity—in particular after the capture of Aberystwyth by the English under Henry late in 1408. The rebellion was dying out, and by 1410 was all but over. As a practical experience in early manhood, its effects upon Henry were considerable. It was at this time that he learned what a soldier's work was; that he formed friendships which were to last all his life; and that he came to appreciate how effective command and proper organization, together with the regular provision of money and equipment, could bring success in war.
Apprenticeship in government, 1407–1413
Henry was also learning about government. By the end of 1406 it was already clear that an improving situation in Wales meant that his presence in the principality was no longer so necessary, a fact which enabled him to become a much more regular member of his father's council. Very soon, along with Archbishop Thomas Arundel (d. 1414), appointed chancellor in January 1407, he became a leading member of the group which, with clear parliamentary approval, tackled problems of government, the chief of which was the reordering of his father's finances. Between October 1407 and January 1410 no parliament was called; increasingly the council ruled in the place of the king, whose difficulties were accentuated by serious ill health in 1408–9. A group of men, notably John (d. 1410), Henry, and Thomas Beaufort (d. 1427), who had been legitimized in February 1407, and Thomas Chaucer (d. 1434), son of the poet and their cousin, speaker of the Commons in 1407, 1410, and 1411, slowly gained the ascendancy over Arundel who resigned the chancellorship in December 1409. Henry now took over more than formal charge of the council. During the two-year period from December 1409 to November 1411 he and its members—men such as Henry and Thomas Beaufort, Thomas Langley (d. 1437), already bishop of Durham and to be Henry's chancellor in 1417, Henry Chichele (d. 1443), to be appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1414, and Richard Beauchamp (d. 1439), a former companion-in-arms—effectively ruled England. As a group they strove to follow a political programme (although it was not spoken of as such) best expressed by Henry Beaufort, whose aim was the achievement of order, justice, and efficiency in government, notably in the proper regulation of the king's finances.
However, on 30 November 1411, perhaps stung into action by Henry's open support for the Burgundians in their struggle for power against the Armagnac party in the civil troubles occupying France, perhaps roused by a call allegedly made by Henry Beaufort that he should abdicate in favour of his son, the king reasserted himself. Announcing that he wanted ‘nulle manere de novellerie’ (RotP, 3.648), he dismissed Henry and the council. In January 1412 Archbishop Arundel was recalled, and the king now turned to his second son, Thomas, who was made duke of Clarence, for help and advice. For the next fifteen months Henry was a political exile in his own country. The possibility of a marriage with Anne, daughter of John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, was discussed, but came to nothing. The period was characterized by considerable political and personal tensions. Henry may have been seriously at odds with his father and brother. There were attempts to undermine his position in England. Stories about him circulated at court and, perhaps, outside it. Henry was disillusioned by his very public exclusion from government, by the way the country was being governed, and by the pro-Armagnac policy being actively pursued in France, to the point that he felt obliged to defend his apparent isolation publicly. If true, Monstrelet's story, that Henry took his father's crown from his bedside to see how it fitted, applies to this time. For the prince, a young man of energy and ideas, the death of his father on 20 March 1413 can have come scarcely a moment too soon.
Beginnings of kingship and the Lollard revolt, 1413–1414
Henry was crowned at Westminster on Passion Sunday, 9 April 1413. The snow which fell that day was taken by some to mean that a period of austerity lay ahead, by others that the austerity was over, and that better days were to come. The many stories, not all contemporary, which underline the change which came over the king as he assumed his responsibilities had as their purpose to show how it was hoped that his rule would form a contrast to that of his father (what was already known of Henry gave rise to high hopes that this would, indeed, happen), and that whereas he had in the past sometimes mocked the law and its officers, he would now rule firmly and fairly according to that law. In 1412, when still prince of Wales, Henry had received from Thomas Hoccleve (d. 1426) the dedication of his Regement of Princes, with its emphasis on a king's obligation to see the rule of law obeyed. In the first parliament of the new reign Henry Beaufort, recently appointed chancellor, was to urge upon the king the need to seek advice before taking decisions; Henry had a duty, Beaufort argued, to provide good rule (‘bon governance’; RotP, 4.3) , something which, the speaker of the same parliament reminded Henry, had not been provided in his father's time. The reign was being launched with a sense of expectation in the air. The alleged change in the new king's lifestyle, along with his rejection of his past, suggested that the times marked a new beginning.
Attempts were soon made to reconcile differences between Henry and those who had been at odds with his father. At the end of 1413 the body of Richard II, exhumed from its burial-place at Kings Langley, was brought with appropriate ceremony for reburial next to his first wife, Anne of Bohemia (d. 1394), at Westminster Abbey. In the parliaments of 1414 the heirs to the titles of Huntingdon and Salisbury, involved in the conspiracy of 1400, and Henry Percy, who had rebelled in 1403, were encouraged to seek publicly their restoration to favour and estates. When, in September 1413, another companion-in-arms, the Herefordshire knight John Oldcastle, was condemned for his heterodox views by an ecclesiastical court presided over by Archbishop Arundel, Henry, who had already tried to get him to see the error of his ways, still seemed willing to give him an opportunity to reflect upon his position by granting him a respite of forty days which he would spend in the Tower of London. Perhaps because he felt that Henry would give no assistance towards furthering what he and his Lollard supporters regarded as necessary changes within the church (evidence for Henry's unsympathetic attitude had already been provided by the petition against Lollard-inspired practices and beliefs presented by the prince and others in parliament late in 1406, and again by his attendance at the execution of the heretic John Badby in March 1410), Oldcastle rebuffed the offer thus extended, by escaping from imprisonment late in October, and then by planning a conspiracy against the king and members of his family, who had been celebrating Christmas at the royal manor of Eltham, outside London. On the night of 9 January 1414 Lollard supporters from several parts of the country converged on St Giles's Fields, to the north outside the city's walls. Forewarned of the plot, Henry sent men to apprehend the rebels, and although many escaped in the confusion and darkness, a certain number were arrested, to be tried and executed on the ‘lollers galowes’. Oldcastle, however, was not among them, and he was to remain at large until finally captured in mid-Wales late in November 1417 when, condemned as a traitor before the parliament which met in December, he was executed soon afterwards. Although the events of early 1414 were regarded by largely hostile contemporaries as an attempt by rebels to upset both the spiritual and temporal orders, modern research has cast doubts on the actual danger they posed to law-abiding society. Neither the evidence of surviving legal records concerning the numbers alleged to have taken part nor, more difficult to evaluate, that concerning their motives fully sustains the picture of events found in some chronicles. Although it led to a number of executions, the rising was a less dramatic episode than many wished to make out.
Yet the rebellion led to the enactment of new legislation against Lollardy by the ‘law and order’ parliament which met at Leicester at the end of April. This was soon followed by further action against those responsible for the wider problem of local disorder when a superior eyre, undertaken by members of the court of king's bench exercising jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters, travelled from Leicester into Staffordshire and Shropshire, and then to Wolverhampton, hearing complaints and dealing with a large backlog of cases. The active application of justice was a social necessity, an aspect of a king's obligation to his subjects which Henry took very seriously.
Wales and Scotland
Henry's policies in regard to two other areas of trouble demonstrate his awareness of problems at home. The conflict in Wales over, Henry worked to deal with the effects of war in the former rebel territories in ways reflecting his determination to act firmly but in a spirit of reconciliation. Pardons were issued (they had to be paid for); inquiries into acts of oppression by royal officers were initiated; and attempts were also made to restore the social order and economic prosperity of Wales. These were the acts of a man who wanted the Welsh on his side. That many fought for him, and even more for his son, in the French wars was a mark of the success which his efforts brought him.
Henry aimed, too, at securing peace in another area which threatened the order of his kingdom—the Scottish border. Here, by pursuing a policy which could not be dissociated from the conflict in France, Henry played a pragmatic game of diplomacy and war whose aim was to secure the return of the young Henry Percy (d. 1455), Hotspur's son and the heir to the earldom of Northumberland, a prisoner–hostage in Scotland, to fulfil the traditional family role of keeping the border against the Scots; this was a move that made excellent sense in view of Henry's personal commitment to waging war against the French. In February 1416 Percy was finally exchanged for Murdoch Stewart, earl of Fife, a prisoner in England since 1402. In the person of James I, king of Scots, captured in 1406, Henry held another strong card, as the possible release of the king divided the Scottish aristocracy and forced its more bellicose members to control their military activities on the border for some while. In the late summer of 1417 a raid, termed the ‘foul raid’ by the Scots themselves, failed miserably, and the military advantage now turned to the English, in whose hands it was to remain. From 1419 onwards the main Scottish effort against the English would be expressed through assistance given directly to the ‘auld’ French ally on the soil of France itself. In the meanwhile, the castles of the border lands, garrisoned by local troops led by Henry Percy, kept the peace in the area, leaving the king to concentrate his attention on military activity elsewhere.
Increasingly involved in a continental war, Henry was to depend upon others to carry out the day-to-day government of England. In addition to his three brothers, and those already mentioned who had helped him during his father's reign, Henry came to rely upon a group whose membership was drawn from those serving in the royal household (Sir Thomas Erpingham and Sir Walter Hungerford, for example), former companions-in-arms in Wales (Hugh Mortimer), and employees of the duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster (such as John Waterton and John Leventhorpe). These were the men loyal both to the king and to the dynasty who helped to constitute the administrative groups upon whom Henry was to count. The resulting continuity among the personnel who served during the reign, itself a reflection of their devotion to their monarch, underpinned the stability of government upon which the good of the country, whose king was abroad for more than half his reign, depended. Yet, as his surviving correspondence indicates, Henry never lost touch with events and affairs in England, and his direct influence was often felt by those acting there on his behalf.
The start of the French war, 1414–1415
It was in France, however, that Henry was to earn his lasting reputation, and in the spring of 1414 that there appeared the first public references to the claims to France which were to constitute the driving theme of his reign. The French king, Charles VI (d. 1422), who had ruled since 1380, had long suffered from a mental disorder which frequently incapacitated him. His power, and that of the crown, was exercised by royal princes whose rivalries, as Henry well recognized, caused deep divisions within the country. While the court was at Leicester, ambassadors from Burgundy were received, and Henry accredited envoys to make their first visit to the French king to stake his claim, if not to the crown of France, at least to territories which were either regarded as historically English, or as more recently ceded to Edward III in 1360 by the terms of the treaty of Brétigny; they were also to demand the hand of Catherine of Valois (1401–1437), Charles VI's youngest daughter, in marriage, as well as a substantial dowry. These attempts to secure what he sought having failed, Henry was obliged to think of war, the likelihood of which was announced to parliament in November 1414, and preparations for which began not long afterwards. Neither last minute attempts to head off an invasion made by French ambassadors, who brought Henry and his nobility the dauphin's gift of a box of tennis balls ‘be-cause he schulde have sumwhat to play with-alle, for hym & for his lordes’ (Brut, 2.374), nor an alleged plot against his life (said to have been backed by French gold) by Richard, earl of Cambridge, Henry, Lord Scrope, and Sir Thomas Grey of Heaton, by which Edmund (V) Mortimer, earl of March (d. 1425), would be made king, prevented Henry from sailing for France, where he and his army came ashore on 14 August near the well-defended town of Harfleur, on the northern shore of the Seine estuary.
Henry's army, transported in a fleet of some 1500 vessels, probably consisted of about 10,500 fighting men, with a large attendant force. Within a few days Harfleur was surrounded by the army and blockaded from the sea. The use of artillery, prominent in the eyewitness account left by the anonymous author of the Gesta Henrici quinti, undoubtedly made its mark; the dauphin's tennis balls, metamorphosed into ‘harde & grete gune-stonys, for the Dolfyn to play with-alle’ (Brut, 2.375) were now being used against his own people, who were to regret deeply the insult thrown at the king of England. In spite of strong resistance, Harfleur finally agreed to surrender on 22 September. Faced with the problem of what to do next, Henry decided to leave a large garrison to defend his recent conquest, ship home the considerable numbers who had fallen sick, and march with the remainder to Calais. It is likely that the army which set out with him on 8 October numbered some 6000 or so fighting men.
The battle of Agincourt, 1415
The story of their ‘long march’ is one of an already weary force, courageously yet fearfully advancing in a generally north-easterly direction, harassed by the enemy and in constant need of having its morale raised, being urged to greater effort by the exhortation and example of Henry himself. After a little over two weeks it became apparent that an encounter with a French army, long threatened and feared, could not be avoided. On 25 October, the feast day of Sts Crispin and Crispinian, the battle took place close to the village of Agincourt, where the French army had grouped itself. On the basis of superior numbers alone the French should have been the easy victors; their confidence, according to English sources, contrasted with the want of it in the English army. The French, however, lacked cohesion, self-discipline, and a single command, while the English had the advantage of an inspired leader in the person of their king, and superiority in the weapon which was to count, the longbow. Furthermore, luck was with them. On the night before the battle rain fell, making the recently ploughed field that separated the two armies very soft. When, on the next day, Henry, having reminded his men that they fought for a just cause and that England was at that moment praying for them, enticed the enemy into an attack, the French were hindered by the softness of the ground underfoot. Their numbers, far from presenting them with an advantage, worked against them when they came under the heavy and disciplined fire of the English archers. Wounded or killed, certainly scared by the hail of arrows, the men in the French ranks tried to turn or break out, causing disorder among those who followed. Confidence soon turned to panic, and large numbers of French were killed by the English archers, who, having run out of arrows, joined in the hand-to-hand fighting against an enemy rapidly becoming demoralized by the turn of events. For only a brief while did it seem that a relieving force (if it was that) might deny the English their hard-earned victory. At that moment, Henry appears to have ordered that the French prisoners, who now constituted a threat, should be killed. Many undoubtedly suffered death; but whether the massacre was as complete as has been claimed is open to doubt.
Henry and his army continued the next day, and arrived in Calais on 29 October. On 16 November the king crossed to Dover and then proceeded to the city of London, which he entered on 23 November to much rejoicing and a formal reception which bore resemblance to contemporary French royal entrées, and which was clearly intended as a major publicity exercise. Entering into the spirit of the moment, parliament had recently awarded Henry a vote of tunnage and poundage for life, along with other taxes. Having ruled for little more than two and a half years, the king was already very much master of his kingdom.
Diplomatic activity, 1415–1417
Outwardly the next eighteen months, until the summer of 1417, appear to have constituted a period of relative calm. They none the less witnessed considerable activity. It was important that the military (and psychological) success achieved in 1415 be built upon, so that the initiative gained would not be lost. Three parliaments met between November 1415 and October 1416, to be confronted by increasingly heavy demands for financial support. In spite of this, the provision thus made appears to have been insufficient, as first the practice of bringing forward the date at which a tax was due was tried, and then, as this measure proved increasingly unpopular, the alternative one of seeking loans (thereby obtaining extra money quickly), guaranteed by a specific proportion of a future subsidy, was developed. At the start of April 1416, Sigismund, king of the Romans (d. 1437), began a visit to England, hoping both to enlist Henry's support for measures to end the schism then dividing the church, and to help achieve peace between England and France. In these months Harfleur lay at the centre of the dispute between the two countries. Militarily its position was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, due to a land and sea blockade imposed by the French and their allies, including the Genoese, whose ships were being made available to the French. Diplomatically, too, Harfleur was at the centre of negotiations which were taking place throughout the summer and early autumn. To help him, Henry needed the support of his ‘superillustrious’ guest whom, along with a sizeable retinue, he entertained for several months, and upon whom he conferred membership of the Order of the Garter at a ceremony held at Windsor towards the end of May. On 15 August, at Canterbury, Henry sealed a treaty of mutual assistance with Sigismund—in all appearance a success for English powers of persuasion; in reality the general nature of the treaty's terms would make it very difficult to enforce. On the same day Henry's brother, John, duke of Bedford, in charge of a fleet, successfully broke the enemy's stranglehold upon Harfleur by either destroying or capturing the Franco-Genoese ships blockading the port. Another major success against the French, this time a victory at sea, had been recorded.
Shortly afterwards, on 4 September, Henry sailed to Calais, where Sigismund had already gone, for a final attempt to reach a settlement with the French ambassadors who had come there. If little came out of these discussions, the occasion gave Henry the chance to meet John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, for a number of secret meetings. In the end, however, the talks only increased the sense of suspicion, among both French and English, that Burgundy, whatever he said or did, ‘would be found a double-dealer, one person in public and another in private’ (Gesta Henrici quinti, 175) and, therefore, not to be trusted. It is clear that, whether he had or had not made any secret plans with Burgundy for war against France, it was in the latter country that Henry was now determined to pursue England's destiny. In October 1416 he told parliament that, since negotiations had failed, he would resort to war, for which he was granted a double subsidy. Preparations now went ahead for another expedition which would be launched in the coming summer.
The conquest of Normandy, 1417–1419
On what came to be known in France as ‘la journée de Touques’, 1 August 1417, Henry landed on the southern shore of the Seine estuary, opposite Harfleur. He had with him an army of some 10,500 men, including rather more archers, in relation to the total size of the army, than had been the case two years earlier. In 1418 a further 2000 or so men were dispatched to supplement those already in France. Henry's new plan, while it could build upon earlier achievements, differed from them in a fundamental sense. The failure to secure his aims by means of diplomatic pressure had led inexorably to the decision to use the only available alternative, physical conquest, to win and secure the lands to which he laid claim. His methods had to live up his aims. Ever since the English had attacked France in the previous century, towns had built walls to defend themselves. Such a one was Caen, the second town of the duchy of Normandy, where William I was buried in the abbey he had founded there. It was no coincidence that Henry should have brought with him several cannon with which to beat down the walls and other defences of those places which, because they were fortified and might resist him, he would have to capture in order to make his conquest effective and permanent.
Upon landing Henry advanced directly to begin the siege of Caen which, heavily invested, fell on 4 September, although the castle defied him for about a fortnight longer. Then, striking south, he was soon on the frontier of Normandy, seeking to capture those places controlling the area through which help against him might come. During the winter and the spring which followed, the army, under either Henry's command or that of one of his most able lieutenants, Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, was at work capturing towns such as Alençon, Falaise, and Domfront, while the king's youngest brother, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, was left to starve Cherbourg into surrender, a task finally completed, after a five-month siege, at Michaelmas 1418. In the meantime, having spent much of the spring in Caen setting up the administration of his newly won territory, Henry once again took charge of the army, leading it in an easterly direction. On 20 July Pont-de-l'Arche, a few miles above Rouen on the River Seine, was taken; in this way the Norman capital was effectively cut off from any help coming downriver from the direction of Paris, a point emphasized when a great iron chain was drawn across the river to prevent boats from approaching Rouen. On 31 July the siege began.
It was to last five and a half months. By cutting off access by river to the beleaguered city Henry made the task of successful resistance virtually impossible. By Christmas 1418 conditions within Rouen were becoming desperate; the largely civilian population was suffering from every form of deprivation, and the ditch harboured many who, to save food, had been driven outside the city's walls. Such action was bound to cause divisions among the besieged. At the new year (1419) the majority called upon Henry to treat; after much difficulty his negotiators agreed terms. Rouen was to pay a huge fine of 300,000 crowns (the equivalent of £50,000, it was still being paid off a dozen years later), and a new, fortified, palace was to be built by the Seine. In return, those who recognized Henry as their liege lord were to have their property rights and commercial privileges restored. On 19 January the city formally surrendered, and on the next day Henry entered to give thanks in the cathedral. He also took possession of the castle, the holder of whose keep was traditionally regarded as duke of Normandy.
The alliance with Burgundy and the treaty of Troyes, 1419–1420
The end had finally occurred because no rescue came (taken as evidence of the divisions among the French), and because Henry had had the time, the determination, and the resources to bring about the city's fall. During the late autumn he had been in negotiation with both French parties—the Burgundians and their rivals, the dauphinists; if he had secured no immediate advantage, he had none the less maintained the divisions between them. Working from his new capital Henry now concentrated his attention on two matters: administration and the furthering of his political aims through diplomacy. It was in these months that he continued the process, already begun less than a year earlier in Caen, of rebuilding the structures of Norman government and of appointing new personnel who would be loyal to him. Later, as he had already done in Caen, he was to make many grants of estates both to his English followers and to Normans whom he wished to reward and encourage, a policy which stamped something of the character of a political settlement upon the lands which he had conquered. Looking ahead he also pursued his aim of dividing the opposition yet further by diplomatic means, attempting to negotiate first with one party, then with the other. Having failed to make contact with the dauphin at Évreux in late March 1419, two months later Henry and the leading members of his court came together with the duke of Burgundy, Isabella, queen of France, and her daughter, Catherine (King Charles being absent on account of his disorder) near Meulan, for a series of eight formal meetings which extended well into June. Henry restated his demand for Catherine's hand, along with his territorial claims to the lands ceded at Brétigny, the duchy of Normandy, and the lands so far conquered, all to be held in full sovereignty; his claim to the French crown could rest. The negotiations, however, were doomed to failure when the French had second thoughts about the concessions which Henry was demanding. Furthermore, a rapprochement between Burgundy and the dauphinists was in the making, an agreement to unite to expel the English invader (thereby, among other things, saving the capital, Paris, from the dangers of the enemy army now working its way up the Seine valley towards it) being made at Pouilly on 11 July. On 30 July Henry sent Gaston de Foix and the earl of Huntingdon to capture Pontoise, a strategic town on the road from Rouen to Paris close to where the River Oise converges with the Seine. The daring dawn raid was successful, and a few days later Henry's brother the duke of Clarence was on a reconnoitre at the gates of Paris itself. The French capital was now directly threatened.
From the French viewpoint, the future would clearly be difficult. One reason was the evident lack of trust existing among the French themselves. This was made plain when, on 10 September, John of Burgundy was murdered in the very presence, and possibly with the full connivance, of the dauphin, Charles, at Montereau. If John had played a double game with Henry, his heir, Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, drew the Burgundians towards the English side, a move of which Henry was to take full advantage. On 27 September his ambassadors informed the French royal council of his intention to seek the crown and kingdom of France, as well as the hand of Catherine in marriage. By 2 December, following negotiations, Duke Philip was ready to accept a peace to be made between England and France, a marriage between Henry and Catherine, and the eventual succession of their children to the French throne. On Christmas eve a general truce, excluding the dauphin, was sealed at Rouen. Over the coming months the text of a broad agreement was gradually put together, and on 5 May Henry pronounced himself satisfied. What would become the treaty of Troyes was ready to be ratified. By this time Henry was already on his way from Rouen to Troyes, travelling by way of Pontoise, St Denis, Charenton, and Provins. He reached Troyes on 20 May, and on the next day the treaty was formally sealed before a distinguished gathering. Henry was to marry Catherine and be recognized as heir to the French throne until the death of his father-in-law, Charles VI, when he would inherit the crown of France. In the meanwhile, he was to act as regent, helped by a council of Frenchmen and observing existing French laws and customs. A number of clauses dealt with problems arising from the recent years of conflict. Normandy, now separate, was to be united to form part of the French kingdom when Henry became king, while other problems arising out of disputed landholding were also to be resolved. Henry undertook to use every possible means to bring all parts of France to recognize the treaty which had thus been forged. It was hoped that his marriage to Catherine, solemnized at Troyes on 2 June, would help to further that process.
Renewed warfare in France, 1420–1422
Yet the fighting was still far from over. Many would not accept the treaty's basic clauses regarding the succession, a fact which increased the determination of the supporters of the dauphin, now disinherited in favour of his brother-in-law, the king of England, to fight on as the supporters of the ‘legitimate’ France. Henry saw the urgent need to move against them, in particular against the hold which they exercised over a number of well-fortified towns in the upper reaches of the Seine and its tributaries. Two days after his marriage, accompanied by Burgundy, Henry set out to besiege Sens, which fell by 10 June. Montereau opposed him rather longer, but it capitulated on 1 July. Next was Melun where the resistance, encouraged by some Scots, lasted for about four months, until mid-November. On 1 December Henry entered Paris to a show of public rejoicing. A week later, at a meeting of the estates of France (those parts outside Normandy which accepted the legality of English rule), the terms of the treaty of Troyes were ratified and urgent currency reforms were enacted. On 23 December, at a lit de justice, the dauphin, having failed to appear to answer the charges against him arising from the murder of John of Burgundy, was declared incapable of inheriting the throne. By due process of law, it could be argued, Henry's position as heir, gained by treaty, had been confirmed by legal decision. It was as heir, although with something of the look of a conqueror, that he spent Christmas in Paris. It was now he, not the king of France, who claimed public attention.
A few days later Henry and Catherine left Paris for Rouen, where they spent a short time before setting out for England, which Henry had last seen at the end of July 1417, some three and a half years earlier. He landed at Dover on 1 February 1421 and went ahead to London to supervise arrangements for the coming coronation of his queen. Catherine herself arrived on 21 February, to be greeted with a fine reception, and was formally crowned at Westminster, probably two days later. Soon afterwards the royal couple set out on separate tours of England: Henry visited Bristol, Hereford, and Shrewsbury, then Kenilworth (a favourite residence of his early years), Coventry and Leicester (where his mother was buried), at which point Catherine rejoined him. Together they visited Nottingham and York, after which Henry made pilgrimages to the shrines at Beverley and Bridlington. Shortly afterwards, news was brought to him that his brother Thomas, duke of Clarence, whom he had left in charge of affairs in France, had been killed on 22 March at Baugé, in Anjou, in an encounter with a Franco-Scottish force. Contemporaries recorded Henry's grief on hearing the news, which he was later said to have borne manfully. While the defeat can now be seen not to have been a serious military setback, it was none the less the first defeat suffered by the English since Henry had invaded France. It tends to show how much English successes depended upon the leadership of the king himself.
Henry met parliament (the last time, as it turned out, that he would do so) at the beginning of May, but was sensible enough, in the difficult economic conditions then prevailing, not to seek a subsidy, although the clergy of the southern province, meeting in convocation, voted him a tenth. In the meantime he had to make do with loans—two separate ones amounting to £17,666 from Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, and many very much smaller ones from both individuals and corporations. At the same time he met representatives of the Benedictine order to urge reform upon them. Then, returning to France, he landed at Calais on 10 June, with an army of some 4000–5000 men who had been recruited during the past weeks. Making his way southwards he visited Paris, which he had left in the charge of his uncle Thomas Beaufort, before leading much of his force towards Chartres (to whose cathedral he went on pilgrimage) and then on to the line of the Loire. From there he returned in a north-easterly direction, through the Gâtinais, towards the River Yonne, and thence back to Paris. He had made up his mind that the heavily fortified town of Meaux, some 30 miles due east of Paris, then held by the dauphinist enemy, should be made to submit; the well-being and security of Paris and its region demanded this. Henry took charge of the operation himself, assisted by some notable English commanders and an army of about 2500 men. Since the siege began about 6 October 1421, Henry must have been ready to experience the rigours of warfare in winter, as he had done before at Falaise and Rouen. Yet he may not have foreseen the degree of resistance which he would meet. It was not until seven months later, on 11 May 1422, that the garrison of the Marché at Meaux finally surrendered. This may have been a considerable success for Henry, but the appalling conditions which he endured made him and his army pay heavily for their success. In terms of manpower, declining morale, and money, it was proving increasingly costly to bring France to recognize the legitimacy of the treaty of Troyes.
Illness and death, 1421–1422
At the end of May Henry was joined by his queen who did not, however, bring with her the baby, also called Henry, to whom she had given birth at Windsor on 6 December 1421. Henry would never see his son and heir who, unlike his father, would one day bear the title ‘king of France’. Together with the French court, the royal couple went to rest at Senlis. It was while they were there that the first signs of illness came over Henry. Called upon by Philip of Burgundy to give him assistance before Cosne, on the upper Loire, Henry set out, but did not get far. It soon became evident that he could not ride, and he was taken in a litter to the royal castle of Vincennes, south-east of Paris. There his illness, perhaps dysentery, more likely one of fluid loss, began to overcome him. He had already made a will on 24 July 1415, and had added a codicil (sometimes called a will) on 21 July 1417, and perhaps a further one on 9 June 1421. On 10 June he had drawn up his second will in which he expressed his wishes regarding his burial and the monument he wanted erected, his funeral, and the masses to be said for his soul. Legacies were made to his monastic foundations, to his queen, his brothers, uncles, and to many others. His executors were also named. On 26 August 1422, realizing that he was now very near to death, he added a final codicil making further legacies to his queen and leaving the guardianship and protection (tutela et defensio) of his son to his brother Humphrey, while to Thomas Beaufort was given the personal care (regimen et gubernatio) of the boy and the choice of his servants. Arrangements were also made for the rule of France to be bequeathed to Philip of Burgundy, or, should he decline the responsibility, to John, duke of Bedford.
On 31 August 1422, in a room at the royal castle at Vincennes, near Paris, Henry died a pious and edifying death, a reflection of the deeply religious man that he was. After his death Henry's body, accompanied by his widow, was taken by river to Rouen, then overland to Calais, before being conveyed to Dover and, finally, to London. On 7 November he was buried at Westminster Abbey ‘with grete solempnite’ in a ceremony of rich symbolism. His tomb, made of Purbeck marble, was to be sited at the east end of the chapel of St Edward the Confessor, and it was here that a wooden figure, covered in silver gilt, with head and hands of solid silver, was placed, at the expense of his queen, by 1431. Later, probably about 1450, a large chantry chapel was erected and completed on the orders of his executors. The figure was robbed of its metal in 1545, and was not restored until 1971, and even then not fully. The remains of Queen Catherine, who married Owen Tudor and died in 1437, were placed in Henry's chantry chapel in 1878.
Military heroes no longer enjoy the popularity they once did; there exists a reluctance to acclaim what many see as an attempt to satisfy personal ambition vindicated under the guise of the ‘just war’ theory. Not unnaturally recent scholarship has tended to move the emphasis away from the war against France. Even among his contemporaries Henry's reputation rested on something else—the benefits of firm rule that his countrymen felt they had lacked for many years. So it has come about that, in the late twentieth century, it is the study of what Henry accomplished as king of England that has commanded increasing interest, thus making it possible to form a more widely based judgement of his achievement.
Henry impressed his contemporaries not only by his victory in 1415 and the consequent campaigns of conquest; the speed of his achievement was also regarded as out of the ordinary. Traditionally his success has been attributed in large measure to his skill as a strategist and to his undoubted qualities as a leader in facing both the immediate dangers of the battlefield and, more frequently, the difficulties of a commander besieging a town or castle. His gifts of decisiveness and firm action, his love of order, and his unwillingness to show favour to anyone, earned him the highest respect. Here was a man who knew what he was doing and could inspire others to follow him. So much can be gleaned from the chronicles; the study of administrative records often confirms what the chronicles only hint at. For example, both sources stress how Henry relied upon careful preparations for his campaigns, an enormous task without which he would probably not have achieved the successes which eventually came his way. Furthermore, like none before, he understood the role that the sea might play in his wars. The thirty-six or so ships which he came to own played no decisive part in the conflict; but his recognition of the importance of patrolling the channel, thus securing for himself almost unimpeded access, by sea and then by river, deep into Normandy for the siege of Rouen, was the result of his clear appreciation of the enabling and supportive role that ships could play, even when the action was taking place some distance from the sea itself.
In what constitutes something of a political manifesto, the author of the Gesta Henrici quinti set out Henry's aims as king thus: ‘to promote the honour of God, the extension of the Church, the deliverance of his country and the peace and tranquility of kingdoms’ (Gesta Henrici quinti, 3). In all these the personal role of Henry as king was to be of the greatest significance. God was to be honoured and his church extended through royal action. It was to God that victories in war, notably that at Agincourt, were attributed, and to him that thanks were given. It was for God's greater glory that Henry founded three monasteries, one each for the Carthusian, the Bridgettine, and the Celestine orders, on the Thames above London, of which only the first two, however, were to prove successful. It was to the same end that he met representatives of the Benedictine order in May 1421 to urge reform upon them. In all these the deeply religious nature of the king's character and his concern for current ecclesiastical issues become evident. The steps which Henry took against the Lollards showed him as the champion of God's church against heretics, the defender, too, of the established social order and the rule of law. At the international level Henry contributed towards freeing the church from the shackles of division and schism, through the role that the English delegation and Bishop Henry Beaufort played at the Council of Constance in bringing about the election of Pope Martin V in November 1417. But in his dealings with the new pope Henry was to be firm, resisting papal attempts to reassert its authority over the church in England. By the end of the reign, it may be argued, it was the crown which exercised the greatest single influence over the ecclesiastical affairs of England.
Peace and stability at home were a high priority, as the statements made to parliament by Henry's two chancellors, Henry Beaufort and Thomas Langley, make clear. Peace could mean a number of different things. It could include the settling of differences between the king's subjects. The tale is told of two north-country gentry, whose quarrels were causing breaches of the peace, who were summoned into the royal presence as the king was going to dinner, to be told that if they were not reconciled ‘be that tyme that he had etyn his owystrys, they shulde be hangyd bothe two [bef]or evyr he sopyt’. Faced with this ultimatum the two responded at once, ‘and so, aftyr that, ther durst no lorde make no party nor stryf; and thus he beganne to kepe his lawis and Iustise, & therfor he was belouyd & bedred’ (Brut, 2.595–6). In addition, new laws, such as the statute against Lollards (1414), were enacted to guard the country against the perceived dangers of that sect, while the Statute of Treasons (1414) was planned with a view to protecting commerce at sea and encouraging trade. This last measure, it must be admitted, was generally far from successful. Stability, too, might be achieved through the attempts made to restore a currency which, in spite of a revaluation carried out in 1411, was not maintained at a proper level. In England, and even more so in Normandy, Henry was successful in restoring a coinage which won confidence, even if the remedy was at times painful to bear.
Henry's intention of providing effective government depended, in no small measure, upon his ability to unite the country behind him. His success in achieving this derived from a number of factors. He knew how to appeal to popular opinion, and how to win it. A study of the addresses made to parliament by his chancellors, particularly the influential Henry Beaufort, indicates the skilful approach of the court to the matter of mixing information and exhortation when relations with the king's subjects required it. Henry's entry into London, after the success won at Agincourt (the occasion when those at home had prayed for England while the king and his soldiers had fought for her) was an attempt to involve the city, which had made generous financial provision, in the celebration of victory. In 1417, and again in 1421, Henry visited London and other parts of his kingdom to rally support for his plans. The need for harmony between those holding responsibilities in government is underlined by the fact that Henry kept on the best of terms with those who worked close to him, changes of personnel at court being relatively infrequent. Past differences between himself and his brother Thomas never seem to have overtly resurfaced after Henry's accession to the throne. His relations with his other brothers, John and Humphrey, both of whom enjoyed his trust to a high degree, were excellent. Henry Beaufort's one misjudgement, that of accepting a cardinal's hat in 1417, was dealt with so discreetly that the episode remained a secret until modern times, while Thomas Beaufort was among Henry's most constantly loyal supporters. The assistance he received from the nobility, especially those whose fathers had quarrelled with his father, is a notable mark of the spirit of reconciliation which Henry encouraged and inspired. The result was that, by contrast with France, England could face her enemy united behind her king.
Henry's invasions of France have been termed ‘unprovoked and unjustifiable’ (DNB, 9.505). If the first judgement may stand (although it should not be forgotten that the capture of Harfleur was planned to end its use as a base by those who attacked English commerce at sea), the second should not. Henry was not alone in his generation to use history to justify or encourage a particular policy, such as an attack upon a neighbour's territory. Moreover, since the French had not fulfilled the obligations which they had entered into at Brétigny in 1360, Henry had a claim which, it was argued, he should pursue. It was incumbent upon him to do what was necessary to fulfil it. Yet what his exact aim was is debatable. He certainly modified his claim as time went on, and in September 1419 he might have been satisfied with Normandy and the surrounding pays de conquête. However, the murder of John of Burgundy changed all that: the chance to win the crown of France was too good to miss. The result would be the treaty of Troyes and the political settlement which it incorporated. In spite of the difficulties that arose in the last two years of the reign and later, it should not be assumed that the treaty constituted a political arrangement which had little or no hope of lasting. Nor was it simply optimism or arrogance that made the English call it the ‘final’ peace. The settlement of Englishmen in France, a settlement based upon grants of lands and titles and, in some cases, corresponding military obligations, as well as the establishment of reasonably effective rule in Normandy (reflected, albeit grudgingly, by the anonymous author of the ‘Parisian journal’ and the so-called Religieux de St Denis) accorded a certain sense of stability to the English presence in France, in spite of Henry's difficulties in raising sufficient soldiers to fight for him. Neither in 1422 nor for some years to come would there be serious doubts whether the settlement sealed at Troyes would last. It needed the exploits of Jeanne d'Arc to begin the long process that would finally destroy it.
The image of the king who achieved this has survived in a portrait, attributed to about 1520, a copy of an earlier work showing a man in his middle to late twenties, with thick brown hair, a long, straight nose, his eyes oval-shaped, and with distinctive lips and ears. Two other small portraits give prominence to Henry's lean face and long nose. His physical characteristics are described in three Latin texts, one probably written by a member of his court, two some years later. Even while making allowance for the element of idealism inherent in such descriptions, the main elements complement what is found in the portraits: the thick hair, the smooth brow, the straight nose, the long face, the sparkling eyes which, when angry, could instil fear as might those of a lion, together with the well-proportioned body. The later descriptions, particularly that by Tito Livio dei Frulovisi, emphasized the king's above average height, his long neck, and graceful body, and his ability to outrun all others, a characteristic befitting one who loved hunting.
Although his career was dominated by action, Henry was driven by other factors, too. To a French observer in 1415 he resembled more a priest than a soldier, perhaps a reference to his well-known piety, perhaps to the sense of calm and order which he radiated. It is noticeable that, in times of crises, even when angry, he would not be panicked; confidence in God and in his own cause motivated him strongly. The chronicles convey his deep sense of justice, his insistence on the correctness of his course of action. As was appropriate for the elder brother of two notable collectors and patrons, John and Humphrey, Henry was also a person with a sympathetic understanding of artists and scholars, a well-read man of traditional literary tastes, who read, wrote, and spoke both French and Latin. He encouraged Thomas Hoccleve and John Lydgate (d. 1451) to make translations into English for him. Furthermore he himself wrote good English, which he used in his signet letters to convey his personal wishes, the language being that of a man of decisive character accustomed to having his instructions carried out. These letters have an added significance in the encouragement they gave to the development of the English language during Henry's reign. The acceptance of a ‘King's English’ must rank as a major cultural advance, in which the king himself played an important personal part.
Generally speaking, Henry's reputation has suffered very much less than that of many other kings, since it was deliberately created within his own lifetime and fostered by those who came soon after him. Contemporaries were presented with a figure who did great things because he acted as God's agent, refusing any personal credit for himself. The success won against the odds at Agincourt marked Henry out as an outstanding inspirer of men; it also reflected the fact that the king's cause was a good cause—that of justice. Thus launched, the tradition was to be developed, the emphasis being placed upon his military successes which, in 1437, were given full emphasis by Tito Livio dei Frulovisi whose Vita Henrici quinti regis Angliae, written at the request of Henry's youngest brother, Humphrey, was to be used to encourage the policy of continued military intervention in France that he then favoured. From then on Henry became the great soldier, ‘the myghty and puissaunt conquerour’ whose achievements against the French, transformed into the Catholic enemy, Shakespeare was to praise in 1599 in his Henry V.
Change came in the early eighteenth century when, in 1704, Thomas Goodwin published a long life that, while eschewing neither tradition nor a tendency to moralize, made good use of documents of which many have since disappeared. The history of Henry's modern historical reputation may be said to have originated in 1878 with William Stubbs, who praised him as ‘by far the greatest king in Christendom’, in whom ‘the dying energies of medieval life kindle[d] for a short moment into flame’ (Stubbs, 3.95–6), a view reflected in the subtitle, ‘the typical medieval hero’, given to the biography of him written by C. L. Kingsford, but borrowed directly from Stubbs (p. 77). Of the co-authors of the three-volume study of Henry's reign published between 1914 and 1929, the elder, J. H. Wylie, was less an interpretative historian than a gentleman–scholar, turned inspector of schools, who loved to collect historical material, it being left to the younger, W. T. Waugh, a representative of the new breed of academic historian whose judgements and opinions still merit very close consideration today, to complete the work on Wylie's death. After the Second World War, it was hardly surprising that the French historian Édouard Perroy, although a good friend of England, should have judged Henry's ‘achievement’ to be inimical to the interests of his country. In England historical judgements continued to differ or, at least, to reflect different nuances. K. B. McFarlane, in a lecture delivered in 1954, expressed the carefully worded opinion that Henry was ‘the greatest man that ever ruled England’ (McFarlane, 133), while in 1961 E. F. Jacob, who also admired much of Henry's personality and achievement, none the less wrote that ‘in the last analysis [he] was an adventurer, not a statesman’ (Jacob, Fifteenth Century, 202). Today the academic emphasis is more on the breadth and totality of Henry V's achievement, the record of which ‘is sufficient to establish him as a great king’ (Harriss, Henry V, 1985, 201). More generally, however, Henry remains best known through the two film versions of Shakespeare's play: the first, made by Laurence Olivier (1944), in which the king appears as a virile man of action; the second, that of Kenneth Branagh (1991), which places greater emphasis on the physical exertions of those who fought in the war that Henry had begun to further his cause.
The overriding impression left by Henry V is of a man of order, toughness, determination, and tireless energy, firm (sometimes even harsh) in his dealings with others, perhaps a man of relatively few words. Admired even by his enemies for his public virtues of honour and chivalry, and not least for the effectiveness of the discipline that he exercised over his soldiers, he was a man whom all could respect. Those who worked closely with him were inspired by something more—real devotion and loyalty, and a feeling that they were serving a remarkable man. Such was Henry's legacy, destined to become part of his legend which still has a powerful influence in our own day.
C. T. Allmand