5-11 October 1415 – The Departure of the Army from Harfleur


By Dan Spencer

According to the author of the Gesta Henrici Quinti, the army left Harfleur on 8 October on its march to Calais, which coincided with the second quarter of service for the army, which started on 6-7 October. Unlike the first part of the expedition, Henry had decided this was not to be a campaign of conquest. The English intended to reach the safety of Calais as soon as physically possible.  As a result, no assaults were launched on settlements during the march since this would have slowed down the progress towards Calais. Instead, the English negotiated the supply of victuals from the places they passed in return for not attacking them.

The risks of the overland route were brought home soon after the army left Calais, with the English suffering casualties in a skirmish as they passed the town of Montivilliers. By 11 October the main part of the army had reached Arques on the River Béthune, an unwalled settlement but which was overlooked by a castle to the south of the river. The author of the Gesta states that Henry drew up his forces in battle array before the castle, with the defenders firing their guns in response. There was to be no attack on the town, however, with the inhabitants striking an agreement whereby in return for victuals and free passage across the river, their town would be spared from being sacked. This agreement also had the great advantage the English could cross the River Béthune with ease without being delayed by a potentially costly siege. Part of the army had also travelled via Fecamp, on the coast, where there was a skirmish with the local garrison, with the English suffering losses, including the capture of a man-at-arms, William Bramshulf and two archers, Edward Legh and John de Rede.

For more details about Henry’s route and a map click here

An effort was also being made to encourage skilled workers and merchants to settle in Harfleur, many of whose French population had recently been expelled by Henry, with a proclamation made by the king’s representative in England, his brother, John, duke of Bedford to this effect on 5 October:

‘…for all merchants, victuallers, and artificers who were willing to reside in the town of Harfleur  to go there with all speed with their goods and harness, and the Captain (Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset) of the town would provide them with houses, and when settled there the King would grant them a charter of liberties’

This information came from Anne Curry, Agincourt: A New History (Stroud: Tempus, 2005), pp. 126-9, 156; ‘Folios clxxi – clxxxi: Aug 1416 – ‘, in Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London: I, 1400-1422, ed. Reginald R Sharpe (London, 1909), pp. 157-166 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-letter-books/voli/pp157-166 [accessed 11 July 2015].

Image of Arques Castle taken from Wikipedia and is in the Public Domain