1415: Henry V's Year of Glory

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About the Book

About the Author

Also by Ian Mortimer

List of Illustrations

Map of Northern France


Title Page

Author’s Note



Christmas Day 1414















Picture Section




1 Edward, Duke of York

2 The Great Council, 15–18 April

3 Casualties at the Siege of Harfleur

4 Numbers at the Battle of Agincourt

Genealogical Tables

1 The English Royal Family before 1399

2 The French Royal Family

3 The English Royal Family after 1399

Select Bibliography and List of Abbreviations



About the Book

Henry V is regarded as the great English hero. Lionised in his own lifetime for his victory at Agincourt, his piety and his rigorous application of justice, he was elevated by Shakespeare into a champion of English nationalism. But does he really deserve to be thought of as ‘the greatest man who ever ruled England’?

In Ian Mortimer’s groundbreaking book, he portrays Henry in the pivotal year of his reign; recording the dramatic event of 1415, he offers the fullest, most precise and least romanticised view we have of Henry and of what he did. The result is not only a fascinating reappraisal of Henry; it brings to the fore many unpalatable truths which biographies and military historians have largely ignored. At the centre of the book is the campaign which culminated in the battle of Agincourt: a slaughter ground designed not to advance England’s interest directly but to demonstrate God’s approval of Henry’s royal authority on both sides of the channel.

About the Author

Ian Mortimer has BA and PhD degrees in history from Exeter University and an MA in archive studies from University College London. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998, and was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) by the Royal Historical Society for his work on the social history of medicine. He is the author of three other medieval biographies,
The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer
The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III
(2006) and
The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King
(2007) as well as the bestselling
The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
(2008). He lives with his wife and three children on the edge of Dartmoor.


The Greatest Traitor:

The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer

1st Earl of March

Ruler of England, 1327–1330

The Perfect King:

The Life of Edward III

Father of the English Nation

The Fears of Henry IV:

The Life of England’s Self-made King

The Time Traveller’s Guide to

Medieval England:

A Handbook for Visitors to the

Fourteenth Century

List of Illustrations

. Portrait of Henry V,
. 1523, probably copied from a lost original (
The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, RCIN 403443

. Effigy of Henry IV in Canterbury Cathedral (
author’s collection

. Effigy of Queen Joan in Canterbury Cathedral (
author’s collection

. Effigy of Thomas, duke of Clarence, in Canterbury Cathedral (
Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral

. Manuscript illumination of John, duke of Bedford, from the Bedford Hours (
British Library, Add MS 18850 fol. 256v

. Sixteenth-century crayon drawing by J. le Boucq of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, copied from a lost portrait (
Médiathèque d’Arras, bibliothèque municipale d’Arras, MS Arras 266

. Effigy of Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, in Winchester Cathedral (
author’s collection

. Effigy of Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury, in Canterbury Cathedral (
Ric Horner

. Effigy of Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, and his wives in Staindrop Church, County Durham (
Dr John Banham

. Effigy of Thomas Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, and his wife, Beatrice,
in Arundel Castle Chapel, English School, fourteenth century (
His Grace The Duke of Norfolk, Arundel Castle/Bridgeman Art Library

. Effigy of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, in St Mary’s Church, Warwick (
author’s collection

. Manuscript illumination of London, from ‘A volume of Poems of Charles d’Orléans and other works’ (
British Library, Royal MS 16 F ii fol. 73 r

. Westminster Hall (
Robert Harding Picture Library Ltd/Alamy

. Engraving of Westminster Palace, after a drawing by Wenceslas Hollar (
World History Archive/Alamy

. Portrait of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, attributed to Pisanello (
original in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

. The Cathedral of Constance from the northwest in 1819, by Nikolaus Hug (
original in the Rosgarten Museum, Constance, Germany

. The rue vielle du Temple, Paris (
author’s collection

. Tour Jean sans Peur, Paris (
author’s collection

. Portrait of John the Fearless, French School, fifteenth century (
The London Art Archive/Alamy; original in the Louvre, département des Peintures, MI 831

.Effigy of Charles VI of France in St Denis, Paris (
author’s collection

. The keep of the Château de Vincennes, near Paris (
author’s collection

. John, duke of Berry, from
Les très riches heures de duc de Berri
by the Limbourg Brothers (
original in the musée Condé, Chantilly, France, Ms 65/1284 f.1v

. Portchester Castle, Hampshire (
author’s collection

. St Martin’s Church, Harfleur (

. Château d’Arques, Arques-la-Bataille (

. Memorial brass of Lord and Lady Camoys, Trotton Church, Sussex (
courtesy of H. Martin Stuchfield

. Sculpture of Sir Thomas Erpingham, from the Erpingham Gate, Norwich (
Anglia Images/Alamy

. Effigy of Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, from Wingfield Church, Suffolk (
author’s collection

. The battlefield of Agincourt: looking southeast from the French position (
author’s collection; edited by Stephen Read

. The battlefield of Agincourt: looking northwest from the English position (
author’s collection; edited by Stephen Read

. Drawing of the town and harbour of Calais,
. 1535–40 (
British Library, Cotton Augustus I ii fol. 70

. Original letter said to have been written by Henry V in his own hand (
British Library, Cotton Vespasian F iii fol. 9

This book is dedicated to my brother
Robert Mortimer,
a fire-fighter, a saver of lives
– a real hero –
and the kindest of men.



Henry V’s Year of Glory

Author’s Note

Foreign names have been treated in two ways. Members of the French royal family, including royal cousins (e.g. John the Fearless; Philip, count of Vertus) have been given in English. French individuals who were not members of the royal family have been named in French (e.g. Jean Petit, Jehanne de Lesparre) with the exception of the one reference to Joan of Arc, whose name is well known in the English-speaking world. Other foreign names have normally been given in the usual spelling in the original language – e.g. Duarte of Portugal, João of Portugal, Juan of Castile, Pedro de Luna, Giovanni Dominici – where possible. However, some Eastern European names have been given in English, e.g. Lord John of Chlum, Wenceslas of Dubá and Peter of Mladoňovice.

With regard to currencies, readers might like to bear in mind that the pound sterling (£) was just one of two units of account in England. The other was the mark, which was the equivalent of two-thirds of a pound, or 13 shillings and 4 pence (13s 4d). Thus the gold coin called a noble – 6s 8d – was one third of £1 and one half of a mark,

French money has usually been quantified in terms of crowns (
écus à la couronne
). The usual conversion rate has been taken as 6 crowns to £1 (so one French gold crown = one English gold half-noble). The discussion concerning the dowry of the Princess Katherine in early June 1415 touched upon treating the matter in terms of francs; as explained in the text, the franc was worth very slightly less, there being about 10.5 francs to 10 crowns.

The term ‘Gascony’ in this book should be taken to mean all the territory under English rule in the southwest of France, as in my previous books.


This book is not about a battle. It is about a man and his time. I have tried to show what he was and what he achieved over the course of one year: what he believed in, what he destroyed and what he became.

The subject was not an ordinary man. Indeed, Henry V was not an ‘ordinary’ king. He was a hero in his own lifetime. Following his early death in France in 1422, he was given a semi-legendary status. In the 1590s he was already established as an English national icon; Shakespeare simply took that icon and gave it an enduring value, even to less warlike generations, by putting his most patriotic speeches into Henry’s mouth. Shakespeare also gave Henry a more rounded, likeable personality: he gave him a cheeriness that the real Henry never had. When presented with the good looks and dramatic flair of Lawrence Olivier, in his film of Shakespeare’s
Henry V
, delivered in an appropriately patriotic style for English and American audiences during the Second World War, Henry became the archetypal English champion. His negative traits were forgotten, all the failures of the age were blamed on other men, and all the successes attributed to him.

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