9-15 November 1415 – Parliament Continues to Sit, Prisoners from the Surrender of Harfleur


By Dan Spencer

At the opening of parliament in the previous week, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, had recounted the progress of the army in France and the king’s need for further money to continue the enterprise. This was recognised by the members of parliament who agreed to speed up from 2 February 1416 to 13 December 1415 the collection of taxation granted in the previous year; they also consented to a further grant of a whole tenth and fifteenth which would be collected in November 1416. The inhabitants of the northern counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumberland were excused from this however due to the losses they suffered from Scottish raids. Parliament also gave Henry the right to collect various custom duties on the export of wool for life, which was an important source of income. Henry desperately needed this guarantee of future income in order to repay loans which had been made for the campaign, and to redeem the jewels and plate which he had used as security for eventual payment of the second quarter’s wages. It was obvious also that the ongoing of defence of Harfleur, into which Henry had installed after its capture a large garrison of 1,200 men under his uncle, Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset (brother of Henry Beaufort), was going to be expensive.

Parliament closed on 12 November, making this assembly the shortest of the whole medieval period.

On the previous day the leading French who had been taken prisoner at Harfleur arrived at Calais in accordance with the oath they had taken at the surrender of the town. They had expected Henry to allow their immediate release since they had fulfilled their oath by turning up at Harfleur on 11 November. But Henry announced that they should remain prisoners, and eighteen of them crossed to England between 17 November and 10 December. They were initially placed in the Tower where they remained for a year and a half. A further twelve of the Harfleur prisoners were kept in France at the castle of Hammes in the Pas de Calais.

This information came from Anne Curry, Agincourt: A New History (Stroud: Tempus, 2005); Rémy Ambühl, Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War. Ransom Culture in the Late Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2013); ‘Henry V: November 1415,’ in Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson, Paul Brand, Seymour Phillips, Mark Ormrod, Geoffrey Martin, Anne Curry and Rosemary Horrox (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2005), accessed September 27, 2015, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/parliament-rolls-medieval/november-1415;

Image of David watching his sheep from the Morgan Bible, taken from Wikipedia and is in the Public Domain