21-27 September 1415 – The Surrender of Harfleur


By Dan Spencer

The defenders of Harfleur surrendered the town to the victorious English army on 22 September. On the same day, Henry wrote a letter to the citizens of London in which he described the terms under which the inhabitants had surrendered the settlement. He explained that due to the efforts of ‘our faithful lieges’ and the ‘strength and position of our cannon’, the ‘people who were within the town made great urgency to have divers parleys with us’. Despite this, Henry wished to order an attack on 18 September, but the inhabitants terrified by this agreed to negotiate a surrender which was accepted so as to ‘avoid the effusion of human blood’ on 18 September. The leaders of the French garrison then entered the English camp to meet with Henry and undertook to yield the town within four days if not relieved by an army of relief, delivering hostages and oaths as surety for this. Twelve members of the garrison were given letters of safe conduct to deliver a challenge to Charles VI and the Dauphin. For a full transcript of this letter click here. This was certainly a face saving measure as there was no prospect of the French being able to assemble an army at such short notice to bring succour to Harfleur. Therefore on 22 September the Sire de Hankeville, ‘along with the others of his company’, returned to the English camp at 8oclock in the morning to deliver the keys of the town to the king and the inhabitants gave themselves up to his mercy.

On the following day, according to the chronicler Enguerrand de Monstrelet, Henry rode to the gates of the town, where he dismounted, and then walked barefoot to the parochial church of St. Martin where he made prayers to thank God for his victory. The garrison of the town were then permitted to leave on condition that they gave themselves up as prisoners at Calais on 11 November. The author of the Gesta Henrici Quinti also states that the inhabitants of Harfleur were expelled on 24 September. Therefore women, children, the elderly, sick and poor were gathered together and sent out of the town on 24 September. They were escorted to Lillebonne where they were met by Marshal Boucicaut who gave them food and drink, before taking them to Rouen by boat. This suggests that Henry was following the example of his great grandfather, Edward III, who after capturing the town of Calais in 1347, drove out the inhabitants and replaced them with settlers from England. Harfleur was to become a military establishment, with the king installing a substantial garrison of 300 men-at-arms and 900 archers under his uncle Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset.

The capture of Harfleur also appears to have yielded surprisingly little booty, judging from the information contained in the post-campaign accounts, but ten horses were captured and transferred to the custody of the Master of the King’s Horses, John Waterton. For more details on the horses used on the expedition click here.

This information came from The National Archives, E 364/52 Rot. A, available from AALT http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT7/H5/E364no52/aE364no52fronts/IMG_0149.htm; Anne Curry, Agincourt: A New History (Stroud: Tempus, 2005), pp. 95-9; ‘Memorials: 1415’, in Memorials of London and London Life in the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries, ed. H T Riley (London, 1868), pp. 601-624 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/memorials-london-life/pp601-624  [accessed 16 July 2015]; Thomas Johnes, ed., The Chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet;  Containing an Account of the Cruel Civil Wars Between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy; of the Possession of Paris and Normandy by the English; their Explusion Thence; and of Other Memorable Events that Happened in the Kingdom of France, as Well as in Other Countries, volume 1 (London:  Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden, 1853), p. 337.

Image is of the Burghers of Calais, sculpted by Auguste Rodin in 1889, taken from Wikipedia and is in the Public of Domain