Tales from the Battlefield

On 19 November 1414 it was announced in parliament that Henry V intended to invade France as the rightful claimant to the French throne. On 23 November 1415 he returned to London in triumph. Come with us as we explore week-by-week during this exciting year the preparations, campaign and aftermath.




A few articles to whet your appetite:

4-10 May 1415: Piracy in south-east England

As preparations for the king’s expedition to France continued into the first week of May, routine matters of governance were still dealt with by Henry V. This included dealing with reported cases of piracy carried out by his subjects. On 8 May 1415 a commission was given to the constable of Dover Castle, Thomas FitzAlan, earl of Arundel, to arrange compensation for stolen goods which had been disembarked and sold in the town of Sandwich in Kent. This was in response to a suit brought by a Flemish widow, Katharine...
Read More

27 April-3 May 1415: Further Military Preparations and Indentures

By Dan Spencer This week was one of the most important in preparations for the campaign as it saw the majority of indentures for troops sealed on 29 April. The indenture system had become standard for foreign expeditions of the English crown from 1369 onwards. An indenture was a contract between two parties (in this case the king and the captain promising to bring troops) which was drawn up in duplicate on the same sheet of parchment which was then cut in a jagged line which resembled dentures. This was...
Read More

20-26 April 1415: Military Preparations for the Invasion of France and St. George’s Day

By Dan Spencer This week saw numerous payments relating to the military preparations for the invasion of France. On 20 April, a commission was given to Nicholas Frost, boywer, to take bowyers and other artificers to make bows for the stores of the king.  On the same date, the earl of Huntingdon indented to serve with twenty men-at-arms and forty archers for the expedition. He seems to have beenm the first to commit himself to the expedition. Three days later, William Caxton, Keeper of the King’s Ships, was also paid...
Read More

13-19 April 1415: A Great Council Meeting and French Preparations

By Dan Spencer This week saw the meeting of a great council and French preparations in anticipation of an English invasion. On 15 April, Henry wrote to the king of France, stating that they should put aside their differences in support of the Church. This was again diplomatic posturing. English preparations for the invasion of France continued, as can be seen by the payments recorded by the Exchequer the following day.  On 16 April Henry Bower, received £10 for making bows for the stores of the king and a further...
Read More

6-12 April 1415: A Letter to the King of France and Preparations for War

By Dan Spencer This week saw a letter sent to the king of France, the victualing of Calais and an assembly of the citizens in Salisbury. Negotiations with France were ongoing at this period, with Henry keen to receive envoys from France. Henry’s desire to be seen as waging a just war in defence of his rights meant that he could not launch an invasion whilst the French were still willing to negotiate. However any delay in receiving the embassy would have a negative impact on his preparations for the...
Read More

30 March-5 April 1415: Easter Sunday, the Priory at Syon and the London Guildhall

By Dan Spencer This week saw the end of Holy Week with the celebration of Easter Sunday, a payment for the new Priory at Sheen and a licence for the London Guildhall. 31 March 1415 was Easter Sunday, which began in the morning in churches with the opening of the sepulchre, a small tomb in which a figure of Christ was placed. The crucifix bearing the host would then be carried in procession to the high altar, with the anthem ‘Christ is Risen’ being sung. Easter Day also marked the...
Read More

23-29 March 1415: Holy Week

By Dan Spencer This week saw the celebration of Holy Week which preceded Easter. 24 March 1415 was Palm Sunday which was the start of Holy Week, which was the start of a long period of religious events. The previous week the clergy had exchanged their white robes for red ones on Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday was a day for the blessing of branches, to celebrate Christ’s journey into Jerusalem. In urban parishes and cathedrals it was also commonplace for choirs to sing the Passion. The following day was known...
Read More

16-22 March 1415: Ships from Holland and Zealand and a Court Case in London

By Dan Spencer This week saw a commission granted for the hire of ships from the Low Countries and a court case in London. On 18 March 1415, Richard Clitherowe and Simon Fleet were appointed to travel to Holland and Zealand to hire ships for the expedition. Clitherowe had been allocated £2,000 for this purpose earlier this year, with the hired ships instructed to assemble in London, Sandwich and Winchelsea. This was because the transportation of thousands of men and horses required many vessels to convey the army to France....
Read More

9-15 March 1415: London and Loans for the Expedition

By Dan Spencer On 10 March 1415, Henry summoned the mayor, aldermen and leading citizens of London to the Tower of London. There he announced his intention to invade France ‘with no small army… to reconquer the lands pertaining to the inheritance and the crown of his realm’. What he was after was money – a loan to be precise. The king sent two of his brothers, (the dukes of Bedford and Gloucester), the bishop of Winchester, the archbishop of Canterbury and Edward, duke of York to the city’s Guildhall...
Read More

2-8 March 1415: Gunners, Sailors and Soldiers in Wales

By Dan Spencer This week saw payments made to gunners, sailors and to soldiers stationed in Wales. All of these show how Henry and his council were thinking ahead to the proposed campaign to France. On 2 March 1415 a number of payments were made to gunners working on the king’s artillery. These were mostly men from the continent, such as Master William Gerardson , who had played an active role since the beginning of the year, when he had received payments for the forging of guns. This day he...
Read More