25-31 May 1415: The Royal Household, Bamburgh Castle, the Defence of the Realm and Royal Jewellery

Bamburgh Castle

By Dan Spencer

This week saw further preparations for the forthcoming expedition and the defence of the realm.

The raising of a large army required substantial quantities of food and other supplies to feed the soldiers. This was anticipated by the king and his council, who therefore ordered the sheriffs of Kent, Oxford and Southampton, on 26 May, to gather oxen to be sent to the mustering places for the expedition, at Alresford, Beaulieu, Fareham, Lymington and Romsey in Hampshire.

On 28 May commissions were given out to yeomen ushers of the king’s hall to acquire victuals for the royal household. In the medieval period when a king went to war he was accompanied by a large number of men from his household. These included the knights and esquires of his chamber who waited on him, as well as officials and servants who fulfilled the different functions necessary for the running of the royal household. Large supplies of food and other goods were required to feed these men and to allow them to carry out their tasks. Alexander Smetheley was instructed to take wood, litter, carriage, horses, saddles, carpenters, labourers and other things required for the usher of the hall. Other ushers were involved in the procurement of sea fish, salt bacon and wood for the same purpose. A further six men were also tasked with acquiring coals, wood, bowls, pots, vessels and other things necessary for the office of the scullery of the household and carpenters, labourers, horses and carriage as needed.

The king was also concerned to ensure that the realm was adequately defended during his absence overseas. Commissions of array were appointed for twenty counties in England on 29 May, with important men from these areas, such as knights and esquires, tasked with arraying soldiers for local defence.

On the same day Alexander Lounde was appointed constable of Bamburgh Castle, a large royal castle in Northumberland (although his predecessor was not removed from office until over a month later!). Lounde later indented to serve on the Agincourt campaign with one man-at-arms and six archers, but unfortunately no information as to his service in France survives.

Also in this week, on 30 May, Henry instructed Richard Courtenay, bishop of Norwich, to dispense the royal jewels to each of the lords, knights, esquires and other men, who were retained by the king to provide retinues for the expedition to France, as security for the payment of wages. Courtenay was a trusted royal servant who played an important role in the preparations for the campaign, as Keeper of the King’s Jewels and Treasurer of the Chamber. Courtenay subsequently accompanied the king to France but contracted dysentery during the siege of Harfleur and died at some point between 14 and 16 September. He was buried in the chapel of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey and shared the tomb of Henry V, who was later himself buried there on 8 November 1422.

This information came from the Calendar of the Patent Rolls 1413-16, pp. 325, 328-30; Anne Curry, Agincourt: A New History (Stroud: Tempus, 2005), p. 67; R. G. Davies, ‘Courtenay, Richard (c.1381–1415)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6455, accessed 17 March 2015].