Post-classical history


Saturday 1st

EVER SINCE THE meeting of the lords during the great council of 15–18 April, Henry had known that royal jewels, treasures and precious artefacts would have to be pawned out. But for Richard Courtenay, the prospect of handing out the mass of precious items in the Jewel Tower of the Palace of Westminster must have been daunting. Here were golden collars, brooches, plain coronets, crowns dripping with rubies and diamonds, and swords with gilt handles. Here was the sword garnished with ostrich feathers, which Henry had used in Wales. Here too were helmets with golden circlets, jewel-encrusted belts, rings with precious stones, gold and silver spurs, gold and silver collars for hawks and hounds, gilt-silver candlesticks, golden dishes for spices and salt, gold plates, gold bowls for hawks, gold aquamaniles (water jugs), ewers and basins, and enamelled gilt-silver cups and goblets. Even if Courtenay was familiar with the sight of it all, never before could he have faced the prospect of giving it all away. It would be a difficult task to make sure everything was redeemed within two years.

Here and there among the chests of gold and silver were some real treasures – priceless items that would be a heavy responsibility to pass over to a creditor. The Iklington Collar was a heavy gold collar worn by Henry when he had been prince of Wales, ‘garnished with four rubies, four great sapphires, thirty-two great pearls and fifty-three lesser pearls’. Courtenay reckoned it was worth about £300. Even more valuable, at £458 13s 4d, was a pair of large gold basins, each weighing 14lbs 4oz, chased in a rose pattern and enamelled with the arms of St George in the centre, and around the rims with the arms of St Edward, St Edmund, the emperor, England and France, the principality of Wales and the duchy of Guienne. The Tigre was another great treasure: an alms dish of gold, shaped like a ship carried by a bear, garnished with nineteen balas rubies, twenty-six pearls, weighing more than 22lbs. Courtenay placed a value of £332 on that. There was another great ship: a warship made of gilt-silver, with castles at the prow and the stern and the figures of twelve men-at-arms fighting on the deck. Its value was £156 12s. And then there was the Pallet of Spain: a helmet with a crown attached, garnished with thirty-five balas rubies, four sapphires, fifteen large emeralds, three hundred small emeralds, and three hundred small pearls, the crown alone weighing 8lbs 60z.1

All these named and exquisite treasures paled into insignificance when compared with the Pusan d’Or. It lay in a leather case. Open that case and you would have seen, in the dimness of the Jewel Tower, a great gold collar worked with antelopes and set with dozens of precious stones. It was worth ten times as much as any of the above items. And Courtenay was going to give it away.

The bishop must have looked at the thousands of precious items and mentally allocated the most valuable and important ones. The Iklington Collar would be suitable security for a large loan expected from the prior of St Mary’s Coventry and the mayor and corporation of the town. The Pallet of Spain would be suitable return for a large loan from John Hende, one of the richest London merchants; or perhaps an earl.2 The basins similarly would be good collateral against a large loan. The Tigre would suffice as security for the wages due to be paid to his men by the duke of York. And the gilt-silver ship would suffice for the wages of the earl of Salisbury’s soldiers. As for the Pusan d’Or, it could really only go to the mayor and aldermen of London – in return for the loan of 10,000 marks that the royal embassy had requested at the Guildhall on 14 March.

Then there were the crowns, and most of all the great crown: the Crown Henry. This was the crown of the Lancastrian kings, worn by Henry IV and probably made for him. It was made predominantly of gold. Rising from its circlet it had a series of gold fleurs-de-lys interspersed with pinnacles of jewels. The fleurs-de-lys were each garnished with a ruby, a balas ruby, three great sapphires and ten great pearls. Each pinnacle was garnished with two sapphires, one square balas ruby, and six pearls. But whatever the intrinsic value of its gold and jewels, it was worth far more than the total of the gold and jewels. It was the great crown of England, and the Lancastrian crown at that; it had huge symbolic value. It could not be given to just anyone, however rich, not even for a loan of £10,000. When Edward III had first pawned the great crowns of England he had placed them with Italian bankers; but this was not something that Henry needed or wanted to do. It would have been politically unwise. There was only one person to whom it could realistically be entrusted: the man who was in line to inherit it – Thomas, duke of Clarence. Having contracted to serve Henry with 240 men-at-arms and 720 archers, thereby taking on the burden of a monthly wage bill of £1,000, it would be necessary to find something magnificent for such a lord. It would suffice to pay the wages of his troops.

The treasures mentioned above were all of a secular nature. What is most surprising about Henry’s allocation of treasure is that he ordered many religious artefacts – his reliquaries, crosses, tabernacles and altar tablets – also to be pawned. These too were given out as collateral for the payment of soldiers’ wages. The royal chapels at Windsor Castle were inventoried, and any valuables that could be spared were removed. Censers, chalices, coffers, lecterns, holy water stoups, ampulae, crucifixes and reliquaries – the whole range of chapel fittings and accoutrements was taken away, valued and allocated. Even the relics themselves were mortgaged: a piece of the Holy Tunic and a piece of the True Cross were marked down to be pawned. So were relics of St Christopher, St Chad and St Thomas Becket, and the head of one of the 11,000 Virgins (women supposedly martyred in Roman times). Painted icons of the Virgin, the Trinity, St Thomas, St Edward the Confessor, St Michael, St Catherine, St John and St George were similarly identified. Everything was listed by Edmund Lacy, dean of the royal chapel at Windsor and handed over today to Bishop Courtenay, to serve as a down payment for the soldiers sent to France.3

This mixing of secular and religious treasures, and the use of saints’ relics as military collateral, requires some explanation. If Henry was so fanatically religious, how did he justify the distribution of holy relics to pay for a war of aggression? On the face of it, Henry was employing religious artefacts for purely secular ends. But as we have seen, there is an explanation: he really did see the forthcoming expedition in religious terms. The letter he had sent to the king of France on 15 April made clear how he saw the unification of England and France as a religious duty. His quotation, ‘he will turn where He wills’, from the Codex Justinianus also points to his belief that his will was God’s will, so that it was his religious duty to invade France. Whether it was God’s will that he should be victorious remained to be seen; but because Henry believed his determination to fight was divinely inspired, this was a religious conflict. Henry was simply acting as God’s instrument, as if he had no free will of his own. Hence it was wholly justifiable for him to call for the clergy to be arrayed to defend the realm, regardless of whether they were regular or secular, or had been granted an exemption from military service. Similarly it was wholly justifiable for him to requisition the Church’s property and pawn it to pay his soldiers’ wages. In his eyes, he and they were simply doing God’s work.

Courtenay did not disperse everything straight away. The Crown Henry remained where it was for the time being. So did the Iklington Collar, the gold basins, the Pusan d’Or and everything else except the £800 tabernacle of the duke of Burgundy, which had already been sent to Devon. But on this day, the same day as he took possession of the relics and other valuable religious artefacts, Courtenay began to allocate everything, in line with his royal commission.4 No doubt some lords were very keen to know what exactly they were going to be given – whether a jewel-encrusted belt or the skull of one of the 11,000 Virgins.

Sunday 2nd

Henry commissioned one Hankyn Pytman to employ mariners and prepare his ship called the Rude Cog of the Tower ready for action.5 That the ‘red cog’ in question was normally harboured at the Tower suggests it was English – despite the German name of the captain. Few foreign merchants would have brought their ships to England at this stage for fear of them being requisitioned by the king. Considering that ships in English ports were unable to leave, in line with Henry’s instructions of 19 March and 11 April, international trade must have now gone into a serious decline.

Monday 3rd

When Henry V had become king, he had dismissed almost all of the senior officers in the royal household. On 21 March 1413, the first day of his reign, he had sacked the old chancellor and treasurer and appointed Henry Beaufort and the earl of Arundel in their places. Two days later he had replaced his father’s steward and keeper of the wardrobe with, respectively, Sir Thomas Erpingham and Sir Thomas More. Within two weeks he had removed the chamberlain and the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, appointing Lord Fitzhugh and John Woodhouse in their respective places. Only one senior officer had remained in post throughout: the keeper of the privy seal. This was John Prophet, who had been appointed by Henry IV in 1406. Now Prophet’s time was up. In his place Henry appointed John Wakeryng, a man who had a long track record in government administration, having been appointed chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster in 1402 and later keeper of the rolls in chancery. Apart from replacing Thomas More with Sir Roger Leche as treasurer of the royal household in late 1413, this was the first significant change to the senior ranks of the household since the start of the reign.

Other royal business today included Henry’s order for his secretary, John Stone, to be inducted as the dean of St Michael’s le Grand, and a royal pardon to the bishop of Hereford for all his crimes ‘except murders committed after 19 November, provided he be not a counterfeiter of money’.6Already twice this year Henry had ordered commissions into the counterfeiting of coin; clearly it was a major concern.7

Henry assigned three Dorset manors, Christchurch, Canford and Poole, as places where the earl of Salisbury’s men were to assemble and wait, ready for the expedition to set sail. This was not just for their convenience. A story appears in one of Thomas Walsingham’s chronicles about Sir John Arundel in 1379. He and his men were planning to sail from Southampton to Gascony, and took shelter in a nunnery because the wind and the tide were against them. In their boredom, the men became drunk and violent; they raped the nuns and stole from the nunnery and a local church.8Henry, by locating his troops in specific places, was not only providing for his soldiers but was also minimising the threat to communities of a large number of nervous, armed men being located on their doorstep.9


In Paris, the dauphin called a meeting of the royal council, to assemble in his father’s presence. The royal dukes were all away from the capital. Those who attended included Charles d’Albret; Louis, count of Vendôme; Jean de Werchin, seneschal of Hainault; Raoul de Gaucourt; and Nicholas d’Estouteville, seigneur de Torcy. The business to be discussed was the threat of invasion. A letter was drafted from the council to the constables of the cities and towns in Normandy, ordering them to instruct the nobility and gentry to make ready to resist the English and to ensure they had sufficient armour and equipment, and to keep watch day and night, and to ensure that the walls of towns were repaired.10

This was not the only council meeting that the dauphin had held. Monstrelet records that the dauphin

held many councils and recalled the duke of Berry and other lords to Paris, with whom he had several meetings to know how he should act in this matter, for the king was confined by his illness at this time. It was determined that men-at-arms and archers should be assembled in various parts of France ready to march against the English the moment it was known that they had landed; that garrisons should be placed in every town and castle on the coast; and that as much money as possible should be raised with all speed.11

As yet the duke of Berry had not yet returned. While the dauphin waited for him, he said goodbye to another of his councillors. The count of Vendôme was setting out immediately for England with the other ambassadors to whom Henry had granted safe conducts. Archbishop Boisratier and the others had gone on ahead.12 They were travelling slowly, via Amiens, Montreuil, Boulogne and Calais, taking a full two weeks on their journey to Dover.13 The longer they delayed, the more money and men the dauphin could raise – and the more King Henry’s time would be wasted.

Tuesday 4th

Henry commissioned Nicholas Mynot, fletcher, to find twelve more craftsmen to make arrows and bolts, taking whatever timber, feathers, silk and wax they needed for the work.14 Although we have come across many references in 1415 to Henry ordering and paying for bows to be made, this is the first explicit reference to him ordering arrows. This is somewhat surprising, given that modern commentators on longbows frequently talk about archers being able to shoot ten or more arrows per minute. Were all the arrows used by Henry on his expedition made by these twelve men?

The fletchers in question would have had to obtain the ash rods, make sure they were not rotten, then cut them, shape them, and smooth them, making sure the shafts were not bent. They would then have needed to trim each shaft to fit inside the socket of its arrowhead, and fix the arrowhead in place with bone glue. They would have needed to trim the shaft to length to suit a standard bow, and give it a nock, and strengthen this nock with a piece of bone. It would then have had to be flighted with goose feathers, and these had to be glued into place and bound tightly with silk. The finished arrow then needed to be laid aside long enough for the glue to set. Apart from this last element, the whole process cannot have taken less than half an hour for each arrow. If you consider that it would also take an experienced blacksmith twenty minutes to make each arrowhead, then every sheaf of twenty-four arrows represented twenty man-hours’ work (not including making the quiver). If Henry was intending to take seven or eight thousand archers with him on his expedition, he would have understood he needed in the region of 130,000 such sheaves – the equivalent of 2,600,000 man-hours’ work.15 Fletching this number of arrows would have taken Nicholas Mynot and his twelve companions more than forty years.16 Henry’s arrows were not all made by twelve men in the two months before the expedition set sail.

So where did they come from? Henry already had a large store. He kept thousands of bows at the Tower, and no doubt he kept thousands of arrows there too. And the Tower arsenal represented just a fraction of the number of arrows available in England. Edward III’s archery ordinances of 1363, which required men to practice archery every feast day, and to abstain from other sports and games, had two consequences – that archery skills were kept up, and that arrows and bows continued to be produced in large quantities in peacetime as well as war.17 Further legislation in the 1360s made it illegal to export these bows and arrows. On top of this, Glendower’s rebellion had required many more new arrows to be produced, and to a higher standard than before. An Act of 1406 stated that henceforth ‘all the heads for arrows and quarrels shall be well-boiled or brased, and hardened at the points with steel’.18

From this it can be seen that the majority of Henry’s arrows were not newly made. Old arrow-heads could be re-used many times over, the damaged shafts thrown away and new ones added when necessary. Hence this was probably the prime purpose of commissioning the fletchers mentioned above: the renovation of old arrows. The bulk of Henry’s arrows were made on a continuous basis throughout the realm; and probably most of them by 1415 were of the new steel-point type, capable of penetrating armour.

This was not the case in France, where archers were somewhat looked down upon. One of the most common questions asked about the English victories of the Hundred Years War is this: if the longbow was such a significant weapon, why did the French not develop it too? The answer is implicit in the entry above. No other country had such a strong archery tradition – and this applies to the making of bows, the making of arrows, the renewal of old arrows, the legal requirement to practice archery, and a pro-archery popular culture (as reflected in the earliest Robin Hood ballads). And since the real devastation was caused by the massed use of longbows, no other country quite managed to create the killing assemblies that Edward III pioneered. Even though most of the bows were made of Spanish yew, the Castillians never developed a great archery tradition. It was an English idiosyncrasy, arising from the breakdown of law and order in England in the last years of the reign of Edward I and the reign of Edward II. Charles V of France had tried in vain to build up the French longbow and crossbow forces in the 1360s and 1370s; French people saw no reason at that time why they should become archers, nor why they should make so many bows and arrows. And kings of France could not command the men of the autonomous duchies of Burgundy and Brittany to practise archery. The kings of England could command their subjects, and they did. And when they required three million arrows for a campaign, they did not have to wait for them to be made: they simply ordered them to be gathered.19

Wednesday 5th

The prelates of the council of Constance gathered in the refectory of the Franciscan friary, preparing for the trial of Jan Hus. Hus himself was not present, still locked in his cell. The prelates ordered the public reading in his absence of the articles of his work that had been found to be heretical. As the heresies were declaimed, the Bohemian and Polish lords in attendance realised that the prelates were still accusing Hus of statements that were not actually made by him, or, if they were, they were being quoted out of context to give them an inflammatory and heretical meaning. They hurriedly sent a message to the emperor to tell him that Hus was being condemned without a fair trial – even though the prelates of the council had promised to deal with him ‘favourably’ and ‘kindly’.20

As two of the lords ran to Sigismund, the condemnation was read out, quoting from Psalm 50.

To the sinner then God said: why do you expound my justice? Why do you take my covenant into your mouth? You indeed hate discipline and have cast my words behind you. If you saw a thief, you ran with him; and with adulterers you took your portion. Your mouth abounded in malice and your tongue concocted deceit …

The emperor listened to Hus’s supporters. He gave curt instructions to two important German lords to go directly to the Franciscan house and inform the prelates gathered there that they should not pass a verdict on Hus without hearing him in person. If Hus stood by his books, and if they were found to contain heretical articles, and if he refused to abjure them, then they could condemn him. But not before.

The two lords entered the refectory and passed on the emperor’s message. The prelates were not in a position to argue. Had Sigismund wished to enforce the safe conduct he had granted Hus, he could have removed the prisoner from their power. So, reluctantly, they complied. They directed Hus’s friends to choose the books on which Hus was to be judged. Lord John of Chlum and the others chose four to be submitted for inspection, including his principal work, About the Church. And Hus himself was sent for.

When Hus entered the refectory, his friends tried to follow him but they were barred. Hus stood alone before the prelates. He was asked whether the books they were examining were his. He looked at them, and held them up, and declared them loudly to be his works, and if anyone found error in them he was prepared to amend them accordingly.

This was his moment of truth, the hearing for which he had risked everything.

One of the prelates started reading the articles on which Hus had been condemned, concentrating on specific heresies such as whether transubstantiation actually took place or whether the bread of the Holy Sacrament remained mere bread. Hus tried to speak but he was told to remain silent. When he again tried to speak to clarify that a clause had been misquoted, a great many prelates told him to be quiet, and started denouncing him. Hus cannot have failed to realise that there was real anger in the refectory. These men were doing all they could to unite the Church after its disgraceful leadership failure under three failed popes. The Church needed a strong single authority, which would speak to all Christian men on behalf of God. They believed that God would direct them to find that single new unifying voice – and here was this lone Bohemian priest trying to preach a gospel of spiritual anarchy and chaos. Of course they were angry.

Hus did his best to defend himself, but his attackers were not looking to debate with him. Nor did they wish him to amend his ways. They wanted to condemn him, and force him to admit he was wrong. Enemies like Michael de Causis were calling with the rest of the prelates for Hus’s books to be burned. When Hus tried to explain some of the finer doctrinal points underpinning his books, he was shouted down. When he tried to respond to a difficult question with a difficult answer he was told, ‘Leave off your sophistry. Answer yes or no!’ He began to realise that no one was listening to his arguments. He had been a fool to believe that the council would. So he decided to be silent. Some of his more ardent opponents jeered at him further: ‘Look – he cannot answer! He admits these errors!’

The meeting came to an end. Clearly, given the sensitivity of his case with regard to his lords and the apparent support of the emperor, the prelates could not condemn him straight away. Instead they adjourned his case until the following Friday. The bishop of Riga was instructed to return Hus to his cell.

As Hus left the refectory, and passed the lords gathered outside the door, he reached out to them, saying, ‘Do not worry for me.’

‘We do not fear,’ they replied, grasping his hand as he was led away.

‘I know, I know well,’ he told them.

The bishop and his guards led him up some steps. At the top he turned and saluted his friends before being walked back to his cell.

That night he wrote to the lords who had helped him that day. In this respect he was better off than he had been in Gottlieben Castle, where he had been from 30 March to 2 June, and from which he had been unable to send any messages at all.21 He did his best to be optimistic:

Almighty God today gave me a courageous and stout heart. Two articles are already deleted. I hope however that by the grace of God more will be struck out. Almost all of them shouted at me like the Jews did to Jesus. So far they have not come to the principal point – namely that I should confess that all the articles are contained in my works … The presidents said that I should have another public hearing. They do not wish to hear arguments about the Church.22


Henry’s most important business today was issuing the warrant for Master Philip Morgan to go to Calais and liaise with Sir William Lisle, acting lieutenant of the town, to prorogue the truce with France.

Much to Henry’s annoyance, his attempt to hurry the French diplomats by extending the truce only to 8 June had failed. They had disobeyed him, taking their time when he had urged them to hurry. Henry did not like to be disobeyed in this manner, but he had no choice. He could not be seen to be refusing peace initiatives. Morgan and Lisle were thus empowered to extend the truce for as long as they deemed necessary. It took five days for the warrant to reach Calais – presumably carried by Philip Morgan – and they extended the peace to 15 July, probably as a result of verbal instructions given to Morgan today.23

All the time Henry was putting back the departure date for the expedition. First it had been 8 May, then 24 June, then 1 July, and now it was possibly as late as 15 July. Surely he could now expect the ambassadors to hurry up and arrive?

The rest of Henry’s business was a series of grants and petitions. The people of Winchelsea were given authority to reduce the size of their town. Edward I had refounded it on a new site in 1288 – just as the old site slipped beneath the waves of the Sussex coast – and had made sure it was laid out on a grid pattern. More recently the French and Castillians had attacked the town and damaged it; so in 1414 a programme of strengthening the defences had begun. Now, however, the area being enclosed within the defences seemed too large: could the townspeople please enclose a smaller area? Henry, ‘liking such places to be strengthened,’ and considering the important position this port occupied on the south coast, granted their request.24

Henry granted to Master Richard Dereham, archdeacon of Norfolk, the wardenship of King’s Hall, Cambridge, with his fees and gowns to be paid for by the sheriff of the county.25 Also today he ordered that the people of Northampton be granted a tally acknowledging that they had lent the king £66. He appointed John Hayne to be chief ranger in the forest of Wolmere and Aliceholt, Hants, and granted his servant John Green, keeper of the king’s beds, one third of the tolls for crossing the Tweed.26

Last but by no means least there was a grant of £20 to his old nurse, Joanna Waring or Waryn, the woman who had suckled him in infancy.27 Along with the gift to Blanche Chalons (on 28 May), it is one of the very few signs of intimacy in 1415 between Henry and female companions. It is interesting that both women’s relationship with Henry was that of looking after him in his youth.

Thursday 6th

Henry’s preparations for the forthcoming campaign had to meet a wide variety of challenges. For example, he was taking cannon to attack Harfleur, with the intention of effecting an entry by smashing the walls down. Although it was to be expected that the townsmen would quickly surrender when they realised they were facing large cannon, it was probable that there would be some damage. Therefore, presuming he was successful in taking the town, he would need to rebuild the walls again very quickly, to make them defensible and capable of withstanding a reprisal siege. Likewise he was bound to come across bridges that had been destroyed. He would need craftsmen by the dozen. For this reason he ordered Simon Lewis and John Benet to ‘arrest’ (the usual word for requisitioning workmen) one hundred masons for the forthcoming expedition. He also commissioned Thomas Mathews and William Gill, to ‘arrest’ 120 more carpenters; and William Marsh and Nicholas Shockington were commissioned to take on forty more blacksmiths. All these men were to come from the city of London and the home counties (Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Middlesex), and they were all to assemble in London on 17 June. There was not much time. John Southmead was ordered to find an extra sixty carts and bring them to the city by that date, to transport everything necessary down to Southampton.28

Friday 7th

This morning at 7.12 a.m. there was a near-total eclipse of the sun. The fact is known from contemporary chronicles as well as modern astronomical calculations. At Constance, Peter of Mladoňovice noted the second day of the trial of Hus as taking place ‘about an hour after the almost total eclipse of the sun’.29

The atmosphere was even graver than before. The Franciscan friary was surrounded by armed guards – men of the city armed with swords, crossbows, axes and spears. The emperor himself came, bringing with him Lord Wenceslas of Dubá and Lord John of Chlum. All the prelates were in attendance.

The prosecution took a new direction, concentrating on Hus’s affinity with Wycliffe. Many of Wycliffe’s teachings had clearly inspired Hus – such as there being a single universal Church whose head was Christ, the limited authority of the pope, and the necessity for the Church to return to its poor and humble roots. But these had all been declared heretical. It therefore followed that if Hus could be shown to have preached the same things, he too was guilty of heresy. Hus’s Bohemian enemies now swore that he had preached Wycliffe’s heresies openly in Prague in 1410, and they specifically accused him of teaching that the bread and the wine of the host remained bread and wine even after its consecration.

Hus denied the accusations vehemently, but first Cardinal d’Ailly interrogated him on the subject and then a whole succession of English theologians did so. The third of the Englishmen to rise and speak was Master William Corfe, who had been appointed by the English nation to deal with Hus’s case. ‘Look!’ declared Corfe, ‘He is speaking evasively, just as Wycliffe did, for he too conceded all the things that this man concedes and yet held that the material bread remains on the altar after consecration.’ Then one of Henry V’s own representatives at the council, John Stokes, took up the accusations. ‘I saw in Prague a certain treatise ascribed to this Hus in which it was expressly stated that the material bread remains in the sacrament after consecration.’ It was as if the English felt they had a monopoly on assigning Wycliffe’s guilt where they wanted, using their nationality as a qualification for the right to lay accusations of heresy.

Hus’s dilemma was that Wycliffe was the foundation of his questioning of the Church. He could not simply shift the blame onto his teacher’s shoulders; Wycliffe had not forced him to follow his teachings. Although he might answer the English theologians, and even prove them wrong, he had been condemned as soon as Wycliffe had been condemned. The argument grew more and more bitter. He was challenged as to why he had not condemned the heretical articles in Wycliffe’s writing himself – he answered that he had refused to do so on the grounds of conscience. The bishop of Salisbury attacked him over the question of whether the payment of tithes could be refused. Other Englishmen poured scorn on him for his claim that a miracle had prevented Wycliffe from being tried in St Paul’s Cathedral. The longer the inquisition went on, the more farcical the trial became. Eventually, under tremendous pressure, Hus declared, ‘I do not know where Wycliffe’s soul has gone; I hope that he is saved but fear lest he be damned. Nevertheless I desire and hope that my soul were where the soul of John Wycliffe is!’ At this apparent confession to suffer the same fate as a condemned heretic, there was general laughter.

Hus had no hope of escape. Eventually Sigismund intervened and gave a speech that went to the heart of the matter.

Listen, Jan Hus! Some have said that I gave you the safe conduct fifteen days after your arrest. I say, however, that that is not true … I gave you the safe conduct even before you had left Prague. I commanded Lords Wenceslas of Dubá and John of Chlum that they bring you and guard you in order that, having freely come to Constance, you would not be constrained but be given a public hearing so that you could answer, concerning your faith. The council has given you a public, peaceable and honest hearing here. And I thank them, although some may say that I could not grant a safe conduct to a heretic or one suspected of heresy … I counsel you to hold nothing obstinately but, in those things that were here proved against you and that you confessed, to offer yourself wholly to the mercy of the council; and they … will grant you some mercy, and you will do penance for your guilt. But if you wish to hold all that obstinately, then they know well what they must do with you. I told them that I am not willing to defend any heretic; indeed, if a man should remain obstinate in his heresy, I would kindle the fire and burn him myself. But I would advise you to throw yourself wholly on the mercy of the council, and the sooner the better, in case you involve yourself in greater errors.

The formal charges were then read out against Hus, and he was led away by the bishop of Riga, back to his cell.


At Westminster the king’s clerks began drawing up the rest of the warrants to pay the companies of men-at-arms and archers. It took them another nine days to complete the task. Henry commissioned two men to find appropriate manors near Plymouth for the safe harbourage of Sir John Tiptoft and his men making their way to Gascony.30 He also made a grant to the bailiffs of Sudbury who had lent 40 marks towards his voyage.31 It was a modest acknowledgement. A far greater one came from John Hende, the richest London merchant of the day, who handed to the treasurer 2,000 marks (£1,333 6s 8d).32

Saturday 8th

This morning, at about eight o’clock, the bishops of Carcassonne and Evreux were about to set out through the forest on the border between Lorraine and Bar in France. They were on their way from Constance to Paris, their mission being to arrange for the emperor to travel through France later in the summer. Sigismund hoped to meet with King Ferdinand of Aragon to arrange the deposition or resignation of Pope Benedict XIII. He also hoped to meet with the French and English kings to persuade them to come to terms peaceably.

Eighteen men of their company had already gone ahead, to arrange accommodation for the large households of the bishops for the next night. Among them was Master Benedict Gentien: a theologian from the University of Paris. Suddenly ‘ten men with drawn swords rushed out at us from the forest behind us, and beating and wounding us, forcibly dragged us to the castle of Souci, where they promptly stripped us of money, horses and clothing’. One of the priests in the company suffered a head wound but otherwise everyone was unharmed. That was not the end of the matter, however, for these were not merely thieving brigands. They wanted the bishops who were following. Later that day, about three o’clock in the afternoon, they found the main group and attacked them too, killing a priest. The two bishops were forced to ride to Souci, arriving there about three hours after midnight.

The culprit was one Henri de la Tour. When the bishops demanded to know why he had taken them prisoner, he told them who had ordered it: Charles de Deuil, lord of Removille. And why? As representatives of the king of France attending the council of Constance, they had often spoken against the honour of John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy. Now they were to pay the penalty.


Henry’s navy was beginning to take shape. Two dozen royal ships were on their way to Southampton. Most of the English merchant fleet was heading similarly to one of the three designated ports. Benedict Espina, an agent of the Jurade of Bordeaux, wrote from London to the mayor of Bordeaux today, stating that Henry was planning to write himself asking for two siege engines called brides to be sent to him (the letter in question was indeed sent a few days later). Espina added that in England cannon and brides were being loaded every day, and twenty-two thousand mariners had already been employed to assist with the crossing.33 Seven hundred ships were expected to arrive shortly from Holland. ‘It is also said that the son of the king of Portugal is coming with a large company of galleys and men.’ How many ships were really being prepared in Holland is open to question, for a report from Bruges stated that 125 cogs had been collected for Henry’s navy, plus 181 other vessels.34 But these three hundred may have been just the start of a larger flotilla. In addition, Henry could rely on the Cinque Ports to send out their core fleet of fifty-seven vessels; more ships would come from other ports.

From the point of view of the French, the situation looked even worse, for it was rumoured there too that Henry’s ally, King João of Portugal and his three sons (Henry’s first cousins) had gathered 225 ships in Lisbon and Oporto, and were intending to help the English. The Portuguese were as keen to conceal their intended destination as the English were to conceal theirs; it was to their advantage if the Moors believed that they were sailing to join the king of England. But the French could only have blanched at the thought.

Henry himself gave instructions to Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick and captain of Calais, to proclaim that all the hired soldiers then in the town of Calais should remain there for the time being at the king’s expense, not leaving except with special permission.35 Calais was to prove of critical importance to his plan – it was his one safe harbour in Northern France.

To help the royal finances, Henry’s uncle Henry Beaufort made the largest personal loan of the year, depositing 2,945 marks (£1,963 6s 8d) with the treasurer. It is not recorded what security he asked for in return, if any.36


Jan Hus was forced to stand before the prelates of Constance in the refectory of the Franciscan friary for the third and final time. Now there were no personal attacks on his views about transubstantiation. Nor was there discussion of whether he had said heretical things – a list of thirty-nine errors had been abstracted from his works. The only question now was whether he would repent and recant.

Of the thirty-nine articles read today, twenty-six were from his book About the Church. It is not difficult to see why members of the council were so perturbed. The first offending article echoed Wycliffe’s concept of one universal Church to which only those predestined for salvation had membership. This did not necessarily include the pope or the cardinals. The fifth read ‘no position of dignity, or human election, or any outward sign makes one a member of the Holy Catholic Church’. As all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and abbots there had all been in some way raised by ‘human election’ this was insulting. That Hus had said this in the context of Judas not being a member of the Church did not make any difference; he had dared to cast aspersions on their religious status. The ninth article insisted that St Peter was not and never had been the head of the Church – with the implication that the pope, as St Peter’s successor, was not head of the Church either. Hus, of course, insisted that Christ was always the head of the Church. The tenth article stated that if the pope followed the Devil, then he was not the vicar of Christ but the vicar of the Devil. The twelfth stated that the pope took his pre-eminence from the power of the Roman emperors, and the thirteenth and fourteenth questioned whether popes had any right to be called head of the Church. As appointing a new head of the Church was one of the council’s main tasks, Hus could expect no flexibility or tolerance on these issues. The seventeenth article extended these questions about the holiness of office holders to the cardinals themselves, stating they were not the successors of Christ’s disciples unless they lived after the manner of the apostles. The nineteenth article exhorted secular lords to compel priests to live saintly lives. The twentieth – arguably the most threatening – seemed to equate all ecclesiastical authority with the power of men, stripping it of spiritual justification altogether. The twenty-third stated that priests living in accordance with Christ’s laws, with a knowledge of scripture and a desire to edify the people, should continue to preach even if they be excommunicated. The twenty-sixth argued that no interdict could be brought upon a kingdom or nation by any authority, as Christ had never done such a thing.37

No one wanted to argue the merits of any of these statements; they were far more safely treated with contempt. So was their author. The prelates did not ask Hus any questions but took the opportunity to express their anger. The subject shifted rapidly from things he had written to the thing he was, a heretic, and whether he would change. Would he abjure the articles laid against him? How could he abjure them, he said, when many of them had been quoted out of context? To abjure was to renounce a formerly held error. But he did not acknowledge that any error had been proved against him.

Once again it was the emperor who brought the meeting to its decisive point.

Listen Jan Hus! As I told you yesterday, I still say to you and cannot keep repeating to you; you are old enough; you could well understand if you wished. You have now heard that the lords here have proposed two ways forward: either you surrender yourself in all things to the grace of the council, and the sooner the better, and revoke all the errors in your books … Or, if you wish to defend them stubbornly, the council will surely proceed against you according to its laws.

Once again Hus insisted he had come freely to the council to be instructed in any error. And once again he was accused of being stubborn, and speaking captiously, and refusing to accept the authority of the council. It could not go on. The shadow of heresy increasingly darkened the refectory; there was no more mocking, no more laughter. The prelates increasingly fell silent as they realised what the outcome of the trial would be.

Hus was once more led away by the bishop of Riga. As he walked past the armed guards, Lord John of Chlum stepped forward to grasp Hus’s hand, consoling him. As Peter of Mladoňovice noted, ‘Hus was very glad that Lord John was not ashamed and did not hesitate to greet him – already rejected, despised and regarded as a heretic by almost all’.38

The last word fell to the emperor. Sigismund delivered a devastating speech that, although it was spoken in Constance, would be heard across Christendom.

Most reverend fathers! You have heard that just one of the many things that are in Hus’s books, and which he has confessed to writing and which have been proved against him, would be sufficient to condemn him. Therefore if he will not recant his errors and abjure, and teach the contrary, let him be burned, or deal with him according to your laws … And send these articles here condemned to my brother in Bohemia and alas! to Poland and to other lands where he already has his secret disciples and his many supporters, and say that any people who hold these beliefs will be punished by the bishops and prelates in those lands, and so uproot the branches as well as the root. And let the council write to kings and princes that they show favour to their prelates who in this sacred council have diligently laboured to extirpate these heretics … Also make an end of others of his secret disciples and supporters … and especially with him, him – Jerome!39

Sunday 9th

In Souci castle, Henri de la Tour was confronted with the safe conducts his prisoners had been carrying. They had been granted by the king of France. De la Tour also heard today that the duke of Bar was furious at the treatment of the bishops, and was determined to hang the perpetrators and level the castle where they were being held. De la Tour accordingly separated out the wealthiest of his captives and took them with him, leaving the majority of poorer men there with his wife, who was ill with puerperal fever. Benedict Gentien and twenty of his companions were ‘thrust into a dungeon, horribly deep and small, with little light and bad air, filthy and foul’. As he commented, ‘Two men could scarcely stay alive there for two days – what then of twenty? I was lashed with a rope whip like a thief.’40


Another hostage situation was developing, in the north of England. For the last two weeks Mordach Stewart, earl of Fife, had been travelling in the company of his custodians, John Hull and William Chancellor. Their detailed instructions had been to deliver their prisoner to the sheriff of Newcastle, and then to ride on to Berwick to arrange the actual handover with Henry Percy. But today as they passed Kippax, near Leeds in West Yorkshire, they were set upon by Henry Talbot of Easington-in-Craven.41 Henry Talbot was a kinsman of Sir Thomas Talbot, an outlawed Lollard knight – and a determined opponent of Henry V.

What was the purpose of this? It is difficult to be absolutely certain because the only direct evidence we have is later and comes from men on trial for their lives. Certainly Mordach was not kidnapped at Kippax for his own benefit – this was not a Scottish rescue. Given Talbot’s connections, it is possible that disaffected supporters of Wycliffe were willing to play their part in disrupting Henry’s plans to invade France. But there were other disaffected men in England who wanted to see the king’s plans disrupted. They had been biding their time for such an opportunity as this. As events later in the month revealed, there is a good chance that the person who was behind Henry Talbot’s actions was actually a member of the royal family.

Tuesday 11th

The duke of Bar had been serious when he had declared that he wanted to hang the men who had seized the bishops of Carcassonne and Evreux. Yesterday his men had started to besiege Souci. By the evening the captain was so fearful he had fled. Today the remaining defenders surrendered the castle and submitted to the duke’s mercy. The duke himself liberated Master Gentien and all the other prisoners. Soldiers were sent out in all directions to scour the forest in search of the missing bishops and their captor.

As good as his word, he then stripped the castle of its valuables and gave orders for the whole place to be destroyed. One only hopes he spared a thought for the lady of the castle, suffering from her post-childbirth illness.


Loans were beginning to come in steadily. The bailiffs of Canterbury were given a letter allowing them 100 marks from the customs duties of the city in return for a loan; and the executors of Simon Tonge, having also lent the king 100 marks, were given assurances that they would be repaid after Midsummer’s Day (24 June).42 Note the very short repayment period – just two weeks. Sometimes the treasurer took money in and repaid it within a matter of days. Perhaps it was considered more efficient to consolidate sums owing. Whatever the explanation, the treasury was working hard to maintain the cash flow. As fast as money came in, it was going out again. Thomas Chaucer, the king’s butler, was assigned £310 today for wine and reimbursement of his trips abroad.43

The king had previously issued a proclamation pardoning all those who had long-standing debts to the crown at the start of his reign. He made a number of exceptions to this pardon: anyone still living was a key one; only debts inherited from dead forebears were to be pardoned. If the debtor had died since the coronation, then this too would be an exception, and other exceptions included those who had accounted for their debt at the exchequer or who had jointly entered into bonds with others … The whole system was so complicated that no one could easily tell if they had been pardoned or not. The intent of the pardon – to encourage a feeling of goodwill for the king – was totally lost in the ensuing confusion. So Henry sent a writ to all the sheriffs in England to proclaim that all royal debts owing as of 21 March 1413 (the first day of his reign) would be pardoned, and that people who wished to have charters to that effect should apply to the exchequer before Michaelmas (29 September).44

Wednesday 12th

For a certain sum of money paid in advance, men and sometimes women could obtain a corrody: a place within a monastic precinct where they would be fed and sheltered for the rest of their lives. In some cases the corrodian was given this position as a gift of the monastery and, in a few cases, the king might direct that a place be made available for one of his ageing servants. Today Henry sent a letter to the abbot of Selby ordering him to note that one of his corrodians, John Gregory, wished to sell his place to a Lancastrian supporter, John Totty, and the king was content that this should happen.45 No doubt the abbot of Selby was less happy; the place had been for John Gregory’s life; if it carried on going to new people, the monastery would be keeping a supposedly aged retainer not for one or two years but for decades.

Two other personal pieces of Henry’s business were dated today. He confirmed on his friend Sir John Phelip the manor of Grovebury, alias Leighton Buzzard.46 And he assigned the revenues of the towns of Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edgware and Kingsbury to pay the salary of his new keeper of the privy seal, John Wakeryng.47

Thursday 13th

Although Henry had lifted the monopoly on supplying food and ale to Calais, one Peter Pret, master of a ship with wine and victuals for the English castle of Merk in the Calais hinterland, had come to the attention of the mayor of Faversham. As Faversham had been one of the towns that Henry had expressly allowed on 21 April to supply Calais, the mayor decided he was within his rights to impound the ship, as its goods and wine had been purchased in London, which was to the detriment of his town’s trade. Henry must have been exasperated. Here he was, trying to arrange a war – and a provincial merchant was trying to hinder him, mistakenly believing that the monopoly had been extended to Faversham for the benefit of the town. Needless to say, Henry gave an order to de-arrest the ship immediately.48

Self-interested mayors were a relatively small problem; the finances of the kingdom were far more significant. Even if he pawned all his disposable relics, chalices and church plate, as well as his jewels and treasure, he would not have enough money to meet his liabilities over the next year. It was not just the costs of the expedition that were going to bankrupt him, it was the cost of paying for the defence of the realm in his absence. A projection of the income and expenditure for the year from 24 June was drawn up by the exchequer, and made for uncomfortable reading:




Although the planned assignments covered amounts owing from past years, they only covered ongoing defence expenditure up to 1 November 1415 (in France) and 31 December 1415 (in the British Isles). At these rates a whole year would see total expenditure on defence exceed £60,000. Clearly there was a deficit – and it was not just a few thousand pounds. In addition to defence expenditure, Henry needed to pay the running costs of the royal household, which in recent years had amounted to between £20,000 and £25,000.49 And then there were all those annuitants receiving sums at the exchequer and drawing cash directly from the receivers of the ports. There were also his four great building projects at Sheen to be paid for. Although the revenues cited above do not include the extra subsidies Henry had been granted by parliament and the convocations, his expedition was obviously going to leave the government owing tens of thousands of pounds. Even if he added the income from the duchy of Lancaster – which under his grandfather had sometimes reached £10,000 per annum – there was going to be a serious shortfall. The wages on his forthcoming expedition for all the archers, men-at-arms, grooms, masons, carpenters and other support staff could be expected to total about £500 every day. The three months in the field, which he was planning to pay in advance, was going to cost in the region of £45,000 – and the second quarter the same. Within a year his liabilities might exceed £200,000. But he had gone too far to stop now. He was prepared to throw everything he had at the forthcoming expedition. Hence today he issued the order for many of the daily utensils of the royal household to be pawned, namely all the non-essential ‘basins, cooking pots, ewers, cups, hanaps, goblets, jars, mazers (silver-rimmed drinking vessels), saucers, skillets, scummers, spoons, standing cups, bowls, plates, dishes, chargers, chafers, spiceplates, funnels, salt cellars, flasks, ladles, gridirons and candlesticks’.50

No doubt that is where his new set of ‘twelve dishes of pure gold’ went, never to grace the royal table again.


At about this time two envoys came to England from Count Louis of the palatine county of the Rhine. When Henry’s sister Blanche had married Louis in 1402 she had been promised a dowry of 20,000 marks, half of which was due immediately.51 Although Blanche had died in 1409, at the age of seventeen (probably in childbirth), the count still wanted the remainder: 4,000 marks. This was the wrong moment to ask for such a sum. Henry gave the envoys an audience, verbally acknowledged the debt, and then directed them to the duplicitous Bishop Courtenay.

Also around this time the two envoys from the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights managed to see the king for a third time. Peter Benefeld and Hans Covolt were still in search of the 10,000 marks promised by Henry’s father. After their first meeting with Henry in early May, they had had to wait three weeks to see him again, at about the start of June. Again they had been shrugged off with diplomatic politeness. But unlike the envoys from Count Louis of the Rhine, Benefeld and Covolt were insistent. They had come even further and were seeking an even larger amount of money. And their tenacity knew no bounds.

The Teutonic envoys noted that they met Henry after he had been on a pilgrimage. Where that might have been, or when, we do not know.52 But when they were admitted to his presence they found him with his brothers and a great assembly of knights. When they asked for the money he replied, ‘You see we are busy just now’.53 That was not good enough for the envoys who pressed for an answer on whether they would get their money or not. Henry could not simply refuse to pay what he owed; it would be to the detriment of his honour, just as being seen to refuse to negotiate with France would have damaged his honour. So he delegated the matter. ‘You will receive an answer from the council,’ he replied, and dismissed them.

Friday 14th

If Henry thought he could avoid the Teutonic envoys, or that the council could convince them to return to Prussia, he was much mistaken. Benefeld and Covolt went to the council the very next day, and addressed the chancellor. With him they could be more demanding – a mere chancellor did not require the same level of respect that a king did. Chancellor Beaufort expressed surprise that these men were so demanding when it was surely obvious that the king had much to do, organising his expedition to France. The envoys pointed out that when they had received their commissions, the Grand Master of the Order had not known that Henry was planning to start a war; but even so, this was not the first time the matter had been raised. The kings of England had been petitioned many times for this money over the years, so Henry had started his war knowing what his level of indebtedness was. They used their words well, suggesting that the king was trying to back out of the debt with dishonour. Beaufort insisted that that was not the case: the king honestly meant to pay; but now was not a good time to ask for money. The chancellor said that he would make sure that they received a letter promising payment at a future date that would surely satisfy the Grand Master. And with that he refused to take part in any further discussion of the matter, and left the council chamber.54

Henry acknowledged two further loans, including one of £1,000 from John Victore and 50 marks from the town of Bury St Edmunds. These sums went straight out in payment of £1,214 1s 5d for wine to Thomas Chaucer, the butler, and £250 on more wine to John Burgh, vintner of London. Wine remained a high priority in the royal household, even when the household goods were being pawned. Henry seems to have had no personal interest in ale. And kings did not drink milk or water.55


The condemnation and humiliation of Hus was a catalyst not just for the reformation and unification of the Church but for the elimination of heresy within its ranks. This necessitated action in a number of directions. First there were the Hussites themselves and similar sects of men, whose crimes amounted to following subversive religious practices. For example in some places laymen as well as clerics were accustomed to receive the wine as well as the bread when they took communion (the blood of Christ was normally reserved for the clergy). The extirpation of such errors and heresies was today delegated to a committee set up under four cardinals and fourteen prelates and theologians, headed by Dr Jean Gerson. At the same time a number of decrees were promulgated against the more obvious errors in Hus’s teaching.56

Despite their growing numbers, the private heretics were only part of the problem. More pressing was the fact that heresy was a political issue. All across Europe it was becoming fused with treason in one politico-religious crime. John the Fearless, as the most prominent and vocal ‘traitor’ of the day, was the spokesman for all those who believed that treason was a purely political crime and in no way heretical. There could be no putting off discussion of Jean Petit’s Justification of the duke of Burgundy. Dr Gerson himself had already proclaimed this work to be heretical as well as treasonable, and had overseen it being publicly burnt in Paris. A petition was now submitted to the council to confirm that verdict.

The emperor was personally in the firing line in this matter. Sigismund had heard from the duke of Bavaria-Ingolstadt, brother of the queen of France, that when the emperor went to Nice to meet Benedict XIII he was unlikely to arrive safely, for John the Fearless was plotting to kill him on the way. Did this amount to a heretical act? Was the suggestion more than propaganda? The very idea was alarming to John’s ambassadors at Constance, who reported the matter to their lord. John the Fearless wrote directly to the emperor claiming that this story was false and that he had never imagined or contemplated such a crime, but rather would pay the emperor the highest honour. The emperor read out John the Fearless’s letter, so that all might know of his self-professed innocence, and also that the accusation had been made.

The story was circulated by the duke of Bavaria-Ingolstadt on behalf of the French. The main issue was John’s supposed heresy in murdering the duke of Orléans. He was being tried by proxy, in the form of the Justification of the duke of Burgundy by the late Jean Petit. Those representatives of the French king who had spoken against Petit, and declared this work heretical, were implying that John himself was a heretic. Accusations that he was trying to kill Sigismund, if taken seriously, would undoubtedly weaken his case.

This was the context in which news of the capture of the bishops of Carcassonne and Evreux was about to reach Constance.57 John could see exactly what damage it would cause. They had spoken against him and Jean Petit. So if he were to be blamed for the kidnapping of these French bishops so soon after being accused of attempting to murder the emperor, he would be condemned out of hand. Hastily he dictated another letter to the emperor:

Most serene prince and invincible king, ever august, my dearest lord and kinsman. It has come to my knowledge that certain foreigners, far beyond the bounds of my domain, recently took captive some ambassadors of my lord the king of France, alleging (I am told) that they had learned these ambassadors had impugned my honour on many occasions at the council of Constance and elsewhere, and had expected by this act to gain or increase my favour. They have discovered their mistake. In truth I did endure my injuries patiently for a time, setting my hopes on the Most High who awards to each his deserts, rather than disturb by revenge the council of the universal Church, your majesty and my said lord [the king of France], whom I am bound to reverence in person and in his envoys, and to whom I would offer no offence. But as soon as I heard with indignation the aforesaid news, I sent messengers immediately to command the captors instantly to release their prisoners with all their possessions unharmed, adding threats of possible vengeance if they did not obey. Thus by great exertion and difficulty I have prevailed on them to release their captives with all their goods.

I make haste to report this to your serenity, whose grace can deliver men from prison, in the hope that your highness will grant amnesty to all who took part in this affair, confirmed by Imperial letters. Humbly I beseech your majesty not to trust malicious men who may attempt to distort or find sinister meaning in what I truthfully relate here, nor those who delight in telling sinister and disturbing stories to your highness. I pray you to accept without hesitation my own assurance that I am guiltless as regards the capture of these men, and have done all I can to set them free; and that in all ways I hope to please the sacred council, your majesty and my lord [the king of France]. May the Almighty preserve you and fulfil your desires. Written at Dijon, 14 June. Your majesty’s most humble kinsman, John, duke of Burgundy, count of Flanders, Artois and Burgundy.58

Whether the emperor believed this or not is not known. But he would have been wrong to take it at face value. According to Benedict Gentien, the bishops were not located until the duke of Lorraine discovered them in the forest on 16 June, and handed them over to the duke of Bar. Therefore John the Fearless was lying when he wrote in this letter that they had been freed on his orders. It is approximately 110 miles from St Michiel (where the duke of Bar took the bishops after rescuing them) to Dijon, where John was at the time59 The timing is more than just suspicious. The only way John could have heard of their capture on the 8th, then sent orders for them to be released and heard back by the 14th that they had indeed been freed, is if the news was sent to him as soon as the attack had happened and then he immediately sent orders to the perpetrators to release the bishops. That implies he knew who they were, and had power over them. Even more incriminating is the fact that the bishops were not found until two days after John’s letter stating they had been released on his orders; so his letter to the emperor was written in the sure knowledge that they would soon be located. As if these two points of information were not enough to incriminate John, at the end of July he openly forgave the duke of Bar for his part in rescuing the bishops. So this letter was an utter lie from start to finish. It is worth reading again in that light – if John could be this duplicitous, what was an agreement with him worth? Was the first letter he sent to the emperor also a lie – did he really plan to kill Sigismund? The line, ‘I did endure my injuries patiently for a time’ might well have been as threatening as it sounded.

Saturday 15th

Henry and his council dealt with two cases of wrongful dismissal this morning. The first was a petition from Robert Darcy. The previous keeper of the writs and rolls of the common bench had resigned in favour of Darcy, and Darcy had taken over the keepership; but he had been ousted by John Hotoft, who had then pocketed the revenue.60 Henry granted the petition, and gave Darcy an income of £60 per year by way of compensation. Then he and the council heard the case of John Wykes. Richard II had appointed Wykes to be marshal of the household, and he had been dismissed ‘without reasonable cause’. The council agreed he should be restored to the marshalcy, and Henry gave instructions accordingly.61

Henry’s officers had recently bought goods worth £667 11s from the famous ex-mayor of London, Richard Whittington. He directed his customs officers at Chichester to pay the sum. Whittington was a long-standing and substantial financial supporter of the Lancastrians, ever since the days of John of Gaunt. Nevertheless even his patience could grow thin. The Chichester customs officers were trying to levy tolls on some goods of Whittington’s that had already been taxed once but which had been recovered after the ship they were on sank. Whittington, having seen his goods sunk once, had no wish to pay a second round of tolls. Henry gave orders for his goods to be released without further payment. He also directed that customs officers in the port of London should undertake to repay 1,000 marks that Nicholas Molyn and some Venetian merchants had lent the king.62Perhaps the imprisonment of the Italian merchants on 24 May had convinced others that it was as well to loan the king the money he required.

After seeing to his business of the morning, Henry said a formal farewell to his stepmother, Queen Joan, and set out in a solemn procession to St Paul’s Cathedral with the duke of York and the earls of March, Dorset, Arundel, Oxford and Huntingdon, Lord Ros and Sir John Cornwaille. At the cathedral, he listened to a solemn Mass near the tomb of his grandparents, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and his duchess, Blanche. Afterwards they processed through the city with the same lords and the mayor of London, Thomas Falconer, and 340 of the leading citizens. The procession followed him across London Bridge to Southwark Abbey, where he attended another service, before setting out on the road towards Winchester. The Londoners followed him as far as Kingston upon Thames, where the earl of Arundel turned back. The king said farewell to him. Then, turning to the Londoners, he asked them to return to the city and look after it. ‘Christ save London!’ he exclaimed as he departed from them.63


Back at Westminster Bishop Beaufort was preparing for his journey down to Winchester. He must have groaned inwardly when he saw Peter Benefeld and Hans Covolt approaching. They noted he was preparing to leave; could they have their money now? If not, could they have the letter he had promised them? Beaufort told them to go and ask the king’s secretary, John Stone, to write it out for them. And without another word he mounted his horse and rode off.

Benefeld and Covolt went to see John Stone. He was too busy, he said. So they went away. And then they came back. Seeing that these envoys were so insistent, he directed them to go and see the keeper of the privy seal, who was responsible for issuing writs for official letters in the king’s absence.64

Sunday 16th

Before Henry had left London, he had given instructions for a number of appointments and grants to be drawn up.65 Four royal justices were appointed and a grant of 110 marks yearly made to each of them.66 More loans were acknowledged by the king – £400 from the old bishop of Lincoln, Philip Repingdon; £100 from the bishop of Hereford, and £20 from the royal esquire, Richard Woodville and his wife – and provision was made for their repayment.67 Henry confirmed that the temporalities of the see of St David’s that he had granted to Stephen Patrington on 6 April, were now his (Patrington’s) to keep. Lastly he appointed Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, Richard Beauchamp of Abergavenny, Lord Berkeley, Sir John Greyndour, Hugh Mortimer and Walter Lucy to govern the Welsh Marches and the counties of Hereford and Gloucestershire, guarding them against rebellion and invasion. In view of the events shortly to unfold, that last named man – Walter Lucy of Richard’s Castle, Herefordshire – is a very interesting addition. Clearly Henry trusted him. Whether he was wise to or not is another matter.68

Thomas Falconer, mayor of London, and Bishop Courtenay, keeper of the king’s jewels, met today for the formal handing over of the Pusan d’Or, the golden chain that would be the security for the loan of the Londoners. It was described in the agreement as

one great collar of gold, worked with crowns and beasts called antelopes, enamelled with white esses [the letters SS] and the beasts surcharged with green garnets, the charge being two pearls, and each beast having one pearl about the neck. And each of the crowns is set with one large balas ruby and nine large pearls; and in the principal crown that is in front there are set in addition to the balas ruby and the pearls, two large diamonds in the summit; and besides the crowns there are eight other balas rubies. The collar weighs in all 56 ounces. It is enclosed in a case of leather and sealed under the arms of the bishop [Courtenay].69

The agreement went on to state that it was put in pledge against the loan of 10,000 marks from the citizens of London, and the king was bound to redeem it before 1 January 1416. That was optimistic, in the extreme.


Benefeld and Covolt must have been becoming fairly familiar with the way the English court worked by now – and how men shifted their responsibility for difficult business. Beaufort had gone, and John Stone had sent them on to John Wakeryng, the newly appointed keeper of the privy seal. Could they now have their letter promising payment of the money? No, Wakeryng said; he could do nothing for them because he lacked any instructions from the king. As the king had gone to Winchester, they would have to see the clerk of the council. And where was he? Unavailable. He would see them in two days.70

It was not easy being a foreign envoy to Henry’s court.


This evening, Henry and his companions reached Winchester.71 There he gave permission for his youngest brother, Humphrey, to make a settlement of his estates. Humphrey’s trustees were his two uncles Henry and Thomas Beaufort, the bishop of Durham, Sir John Tiptoft, Sir William Beauchamp and three other men.72

Having left London, and set out on the first stage of the road to war, Henry’s companions had begun to ponder the possibility that they would not return.

Monday 17th

The loans that Henry had been offered for his expedition so far give the impression that people were giving readily in response to his request. Further evidence suggests the process was not that simple. At Salisbury, the mayor and burgesses had received a letter asking them for money; Bishop Beaufort and the duke of York had even visited in person to ask that they give £100. It was a small sum compared to the 10,000 marks requested from London. But although Salisbury was one of the ten largest towns in the country, the citizens were reluctant.73 They resented being asked for yet more money on top of their subsidies and customs. Eventually they agreed they would send the king 100 marks, and that eighty-five citizens would find the money between them. Even so, at least one man, Thomas Pistour, refused to pay on principle. The mayor was forced to board up Pistour’s house, and an almighty row broke out, in which Pistour roundly cursed the mayor and was almost sent to gaol. But the real blow fell today. Walter Shirley informed the mayor and burgesses that no security had yet been forthcoming for their loan. He had returned from Westminster with the citizen’s money still in his purse and the angry voice of Bishop Beaufort ringing in his ears.74


At Dover the French ambassadors disembarked, not knowing that Henry had left London. It is likely that they were following the dauphin’s orders in going as slowly as possible, for they did not leave Paris until four days before their safe conducts were due to expire. But in so doing they missed the king. Henry was not keen to conduct yet more negotiations. His departure from London may have been timed to avoid them. Given the delays he had experienced already, one can understand his reluctance to wait any longer.

From Archbishop Boisratier’s point of view, the prospect of negotiating must have been just as disagreeable. The king whom he had to persuade was clearly already preparing for war – Boisratier could see that from all the men on the move in Southern England. Henry would not have spent so much on men and equipment without expecting a substantial return. When Boisratier reached London and found the king had already set out, he must have been deeply concerned. The fact that Henry had deputed Sir John Wilcotes to lead them to Winchester was probably a very small reassurance.75

Not all the ambassadors named in the letters of 13 April had arrived. The count of Tancarville, the lord of Offemont, John de Roucy, Jean de Villebresme and Stephen de Malrespect had not come. The archbishop of Bourges, the count of Vendôme, and all the others attended, together with their households. The total of 360 was more manageable than the 554 originally envisaged.76 And with them was Jean Fusoris, who had insisted on attending the delegation. He was still after the money that Courtenay owed him from his visit to Paris the previous year.77 Given the number of foreigners already in England seeking money from the king, his chances of success were slim indeed.


Sir Thomas Gray was riding back from London to his estates in Northumberland. As he was in the vicinity of Conisborough Castle in Yorkshire, the seat of his kinsman Richard of Conisborough, earl of Cambridge, he turned that way. The earl of Cambridge was at home – and had something important to say.

Sir Thomas was solid northern gentry: thirty years old and very well connected. His wife was Alice Neville, the daughter of the earl of Westmorland, one of the staunchest of all Lancastrians. But on his mother’s side he was related to a large number of rebels and potential rebels. She was Joan Mowbray, daughter of John, Lord Mowbray, and sister of Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk – the man whose argument with Henry’s father had caused the Lancastrians to be banished and disinherited, prompting the Lancastrian revolution of 1399. That made Sir Thomas Gray first cousin to the duke’s son and heir, Thomas Mowbray, who had been summarily executed by Henry IV for joining Archbishop Scrope’s rebellion in 1405. Another of his first cousins was Walter Lucy of Richard’s Castle, a retainer of the earl of March, the Mortimer claimant to the throne; and the earl of March himself was his third cousin once-removed. The countess of Oxford, who had rebelled against Henry IV in 1404, was his mother’s first cousin once-removed, and the late earl of Northumberland and his son, Hotspur, who had both died fighting Henry IV, were his second cousins, once-removed.

For years Gray had been a loyal man. Like so many of Henry V’s friends, he had fought in Wales, and had been rewarded with an annuity of £40 by Henry’s father. But Henry himself had not greatly liked Sir Thomas – he preferred his brother, Sir John Gray – and Thomas’s annuity had been stopped. Sir Thomas had fallen into debt and consequently had been outlawed twice. Over the years he had found common cause with that other man whom Henry had little or no time for, the equally impecunious earl of Cambridge. So close had the two men become that they had sealed their connection with a marriage: Sir Thomas’s eldest son had married Isabella, Cambridge’s daughter by his first wife, the late Anne Mortimer, sister of the earl of March.

This alliance was a potent one. Although the children were still young, they were related to almost everyone of high rank who had lifted a finger against the Lancastrians. Moreover, the earl of Cambridge was resentful at having seen his prospects collapse – from being third in line to the throne in April 1399 to being the lowest and most impoverished member of the royal family. He understood that the forthcoming campaign was principally a trial of Henry’s dynastic right in the eyes of God; but why should he fight to prove the king had a greater right to the throne than the earl of March, his kinsman? Given the way he had been treated, it was hardly surprising that he wished to stop the war, and prevent Henry putting his dynastic right to the test. He stood to lose too much if Henry won.

When they were alone, Cambridge let Sir Thomas into a secret: Henry Talbot had kidnapped Mordach, earl of Fife, on his way back to Scotland. Cambridge may have ordered the kidnapping, for he told Gray he planned to exchange Mordach for two prisoners in Scotland. One of these was Henry Percy, which was straightforward enough, as Henry himself had already agreed this transfer. The other was Thomas Warde of Trumpington – the impostor who claimed to be Richard II. If the duke of Albany had to admit that the pseudo-Richard was now dead (as in fact he was, as Cambridge probably knew), then those who supported Warde as a living symbol of the injustice of the Lancastrian dynasty would naturally switch their allegiance to Edmund Mortimer, earl of March. Henry Percy would raise the men of Northumberland on behalf of March (his cousin), and Cambridge himself would take March into Wales, and rouse the Marcher lords, the Welsh partisans and the Lollards. There they would make a stand against Henry V and the Lancastrians.

Over the years many people have regarded the earl of Cambridge as hare-brained for hatching this plot. And with good reason – he vastly overestimated the revolutionary spirit of those whom he tried to enlist. He simply presumed that anyone with a grudge against the Lancastrians would risk their necks and join him. He also seems to have given very little thought to the fact that he would have to kill all three of Henry’s brothers (as well as Henry himself) before he could have eliminated their claim to the throne, which had been ratified by parliament. A quadruple royal murder was never going to be easy. However, given Cambridge’s many anti-Lancastrian connections, he might not have been a complete fool. A Percy–Mortimer alliance, supported by Welsh partisans, was not a new idea.78 A similar plan had originally been hatched by Henry Percy, Owen Glendower and Sir Edmund Mortimer (uncle of the earl of March) in 1405. Together they had decided to divide all of England and Wales between their respective families. They had been inspired by an ancient prophecy that a dragon out of the north (Percy), a wolf out of the west (Glendower) and a lion out of Ireland (the earl of March, who was also the earl of Ulster and Connaught) would drive Henry IV from his kingdom and divide the kingdom between them.79 So what the earl of Cambridge envisaged was not simply his own hare-brained scheme; it had deep roots, going back to the betrothal of Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy and Elizabeth Mortimer way back in 1379.

The framework of prophecy and past rebellion had become a little rickety with the passing of the years. Glendower was a dying man, and although he still commanded considerable support in North Wales – so much so that no attempt was made to recruit any archers there – the willingness of the Welsh to venture into England for the benefit of the earl of March was unknown. Henry Percy still needed to be recovered from the Scots, and his loyalty was also untested. But against these weaknesses and doubts, Cambridge could set some new strengths. In Wales a royal esquire called David Howel had promised that if there was a stirring in the north, he would put Llanstephan Castle at Cambridge’s disposal. The Lollards were another factor: Sir John Oldcastle would rise, along with Sir Thomas Talbot and other heretic knights in various parts of England. Cambridge would secure Henry Percy and invite him to avenge his father’s and grandfather’s deaths by joining them and becoming the prophesied ‘dragon out of the north’. Perhaps the relations of other men who had been killed by the Lancastrians would join them – those of Archbishop Scrope and the Despensers, for example, or the Holland family, Richard II’s half-brothers. And then there were Cambridge’s and March’s own kinship networks. The eldest son of the old earl of Devon was a brother-in-law to the earl of March. Lord Clifford was brother-in-law to both Cambridge and Henry Percy, and a first cousin of the earl of March. According to Cambridge, Clifford had already sworn to join them. In fact he was expected to come to Conisborough in another three days. If Sir Thomas Gray would wait, they could discuss the plans together.

Sir Thomas decided not to wait, but agreed to come and meet both Cambridge and Lord Clifford on a future occasion. Cambridge asked him to speak to Sir Robert Umphraville and Sir John Widdrington – the men who had been deputed to remove Henry Percy from Berwick. They had both sworn to take the side of Henry Percy in a war against Henry V. This was probably a lie; and Sir Thomas was sceptical, for he never spoke to either man. But the whole scheme appealed to him. It promised not just revenge on the Lancastrians who had killed his uncle and cousin but wealth and power in a closer association with a new king and a new dynasty.

This is perhaps the most important aspect about the earl of Cambridge’s plot. It was more to do with getting rid of the Lancastrians than making the earl of March king, or championing the cause of Richard II, or helping the Lollards, or dividing up the realm three ways. Sir Thomas did not even like the earl of March – he called him a hog.80 It was not realistic to hark back to the three-way division of England envisaged in 1405. But all these things were options, they all had their precursors, and they were all more attractive than the status quo. Cambridge was right in this respect: many people preferred the idea of Henry V dead rather than leading an army through France – including a number of provincial merchants as well as the Lollards, Welsh partisans and English political players. They may have had their different reasons but they were mutually sympathetic with regard to their distrust of the Lancastrians.

As a result of the chief character of the plot being one of opposition, it is hard to describe exactly how the protagonists intended to meet their objectives. In this sense it may be compared with some of the attempts on Henry IV’s life, such as the Epiphany Rising or the Percy Rebellion and (most of all) the Northern Rebellion in 1405. Thus it has confused many historians, who prefer to see neat plans and processes laid out in evidence of a coherent and achievable strategy. Opposition plots like Cambridge’s tend to be vague because their ambitions are destructive, not creative, and they have to appeal to a wide range of disillusioned parties. They also have to be adaptable as the circumstances of their intended target or victim change. In this regard the earl of Cambridge’s plot was typical. If it turned out that Thomas Warde was dead, then they would publicise the fact. If he was alive, they would expose him. If Henry Percy was not keen to rise with the rebels, or if they could not exchange Mordach for Thomas Warde or Percy, then they would abandon both Percy and Warde and concentrate on proclaiming the earl of March king of England.

On that last issue it was especially important to be adaptable. While Gray and Cambridge were chatting about their rebellion at Conisburgh, an esquire called Ralph Pudsay found where Mordach was being held, and took him back into the king’s custody.81

Tuesday 18th

Normally the signet – the king’s personal seal – travelled with the king wherever he went. It was kept by his secretary, and it was used to send letters conveying the king’s personal instructions. For this reason it is normally the best guide to where the king was. However, as we have seen, Henry left his secretary in London when he departed for Winchester – and it would appear that John Stone still had the king’s signet with him. He used it today to authenticate a letter from Henry, dated at Westminster, to the Jurade of Bordeaux, asking them to assist Sir John Tiptoft, the new seneschal. Probably at the same time he wrote a second signet letter to the same recipients, asking them to send the king ‘two of the best siege engines called “brides” and a master and carpenter to look after them’. Henry, having promised in 1414 to send siege equipment to Gascony, was now asking them to send some to him.82

At Westminster the Teutonic envoys finally managed to see the clerk to the council. Did he provide them with the promissory letter they required? Not at all. He said he could find no record of any decision in this matter and they would have to return the following day to see the council.83

Wednesday 19th

Predictably enough, Benefeld and Covolt returned to see the privy council as directed. There were only four councillors present: the archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Langley of Durham, the earl of Arundel (treasurer of England), and John Wakeryng (keeper of the privy seal). And they met purely to record their decision that they agreed that the treasurer should have power to make assignments of the royal customs and subsidies on wool, leather and hides.84 They did not grant a hearing to the Teutonic envoys. As soon as their morning’s business was dealt with, the archbishop of Canterbury departed for Maidstone, to join Bishop Courtenay of Norwich and the bishop of London in consecrating Stephen Patrington as the new bishop of St David’s.85

Benefeld and Covolt accosted Bishop Langley. Langley told them he could do nothing in this matter without the approval of Henry Beaufort, the chancellor. He advised them to go to Winchester and take the matter up with him again. Benefeld prepared to ride to Winchester in person. What else could he do?

Thursday 20th

Men up and down the country were busy enlisting archers. This was especially the case in the north of England and in Wales, where the archery tradition was strongest. In Cheshire, 247 archers were recruited for the campaign. In Lancashire, five hundred archers had been assembled by the local gentry. North Wales was still a sensitive area, but recruitment in the south, in the lordship of Brecon and the counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan, had yielded five hundred archers, including twenty-six mounted men. All of them were packed off to Southampton to join the general muster there.86


Probably in London, and probably about this time, Lord Scrope had a conversation with Sir Walter Lucy, lord of Richard’s Castle and a close friend and retainer of the earl of March. Lucy was also a first cousin of Sir Thomas Gray, and although he probably did not know yet of the meeting between Gray and Cambridge on the 17th, he knew the two men very well, and understood their antipathy towards Henry V. His purpose in meeting Lord Scrope was to tell him, in the strictest secrecy, that he was worried lest the earl of Cambridge and Sir Thomas Gray would incite the earl of March to claim the throne.87

The evidence for this conversation comes from Scrope’s own testimony. The original document is badly damaged but these two men seem to have met and discussed the earl of Cambridge and Sir Thomas Gray between the council’s instructions to release Mordach and hearing the news of his recapture.88 It may be that Lucy already knew that Cambridge was planning to ask Sir Thomas Gray to join him. The key three facts that seem incontrovertible are that (1) Lucy raised the matter with Scrope; (2) that he did so in the wake of another Lollard mass gathering; and (3) that Scrope asked for more information about the plot.89 At this point Lucy, who realised he had already spoken too freely, said nothing more and was ‘hard’ with Scrope.

Why did Lucy tell a close friend of the king about the plot, endangering himself and the earls of March and Cambridge and Sir Thomas Gray? The explanation lies in the fact that the king had discovered that the earl of March had not only obtained the appropriate papal dispensation to marry Anne Stafford but had already completed the act. Henry was furious when he found out – so much so that he told the earl of March that he was going to fine him 10,000 marks for his effrontery. This is the same sum for which March had bound himself to the king in his indenture, sealed at the beginning of the reign lest he rebel against the king; it was utterly shocking that the full sum should be laid upon him just for marrying without permission, at the age of twenty-four. Normally fines for this were between £100 and £1,000. But Henry was merciless: he insisted that the earl pay the full amount – and if he did not have the money, then he was to borrow it. Walter Lucy himself had lent the earl 500 marks, and the earl of Arundel and Lord Scrope had provided the rest. This is why Lucy and Scrope had fallen into conversation: they were both creditors to a man who was on the verge of rebellion. Lucy warned his fellow creditor that the earl might easily fall prey to the conniving of his rebellious kinsman, the earl of Cambridge and Sir Thomas Gray. Then they would not only lose their money; the kingdom might slip into a civil war.

Scrope was profoundly shocked. All he knew at this stage – as far as we can tell – was that March was on the edge of rebellion, and that Lucy knew something was afoot between Cambridge, Gray and March. But Lucy would not tell him more.

Scrope was determined to find out. He was aware of how Edward, duke of York, had foiled the Epiphany Rising in 1400 – by joining the plotters and then revealing all to the king – and had saved the entire royal family.90 Scrope decided to do likewise, to ingratiate himself with the plotters to determine what they were planning.

Friday 21st

By today news had reached Winchester that the bishop of Chichester had died. Henry instructed that a letter be sent to the dean and chapter giving them permission to elect another bishop. It seemed as if he was going to allow the canons to elect one of their own number. But Henry nominated his own preferred candidate – his confessor, Stephen Patrington – almost immediately. This was in spite of the fact that Patrington had only recently been consecrated as bishop of St Davids. It seems a little high-handed, and it seems almost certain there was a financial motive. Patrington – an aged Carmelite friar – had little need for a large personal income; he was probably more than satisfied with the temporalities of the bishopric of St David’s, which Henry had granted him in April and delivered just two weeks ago. Henry may have nominated Patrington on the understanding that the new bishop would not demand the Chichester income straightaway. In the end Henry took the temporal income from the bishopric of Chichester for well over a year.91

Henry’s cash flow was helped today by the largest single loan he received. The treasurer of Calais, Roger Salvayn, deposited £10,936 3s 8d with the treasurer in London.92

The long-suffering envoy from the Teutonic Knights, Peter Benefeld, arrived in Winchester today. Beaufort greeted him with the words, ‘Aren’t you settled yet? I’m exceedingly sorry but I’ll see about your letter tomorrow’.93 And Benefeld had to make do with that.

Saturday 22nd

At Westminster a second recognition of a debt to an Italian merchant was made – this one for a loan of 200 marks and a debt of £478 18s 8d to a merchant of Lucca, Paolo de Melan.94 Clearly the council’s bullying tactics were working, in the short term at least.

From Westminster more letters went out under the authentication, ‘by the king’. These were addressed to the bishops of Lincoln and Ely, ordering them to muster the clergy of the dioceses to defend the realm and the Catholic Church. The instructions were as those of 1 June but they carried the added proviso that they were not to meddle with the students and clerks of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.95 Students obviously could not be expected to defend the realm.

Two other royal letters are extant, both dated at Winchester, and so closer to where Henry himself was at this time. One gave orders that a joiner called John Widmore should be paid £25 for delivering a thousand lances to the king.96 The other directed the sheriff of Oxfordshire to send a further two hundred oxen, bullocks and cows to Fareham as speedily as possible, for the troops to eat.97 That was the equivalent of twenty-five plough teams. The folk of Oxfordshire and Berkshire were going to have a harder task ploughing their fields next year.


Peter Benefeld was still not having any luck with Chancellor Beaufort. He went to see him, as instructed, but was told that Beaufort was busy on account of the impending arrival of the French envoys. He would be unable to see him for at least eight days.

Sunday 23rd

It was the eve of the feast of St John the Baptist. People up and down the country lit ceremonial bonfires this evening to mark the night before Midsummer’s Day. In some towns, people rolled burning hoops through the streets. In other places they built wakefires around which they drank and danced, or ‘St John’s fires’, piled with wood and bones. The inclusion of bones in these St John’s fires was to ward off evil spirits – the only problem was having to dance through clouds of smoke that smelled truly revolting.98

From Winchester Henry sent out another letter concerning the University of Cambridge. This was to the sheriff to keep the peace in the town ‘as the king is informed that certain scholars of the university have made riots and unlawful assemblies there, and are striving day and night to continue to make them, to the disturbance of the people and in breach of the peace’.99 In contrast to his letter of the previous day, ordering the bishop of Lincoln not to force the Cambridge students to array for the defence of the realm, it sounds as though these scholars would have been ideal conscripts.


Henry, Lord Scrope of Masham, dictated his will to his clerk, John Bliton, and set his seal to it.100 Given his closeness to Henry, and given his political associations, it is not a document that can be passed over lightly.

The first thing one notices about the document is its size. The printed version extends to 8½ folio pages – more than 5,000 words of Latin. The most important lords mentioned were the king, Henry Beaufort, Thomas Beaufort, Bishop Langley of Durham, and Lord Fitzhugh. Although there are references to Masses to be sung for the souls of Richard II, Henry IV and Thomas, duke of Gloucester (the murdered uncle of Richard II and Henry IV), the rest of the royal family does not appear. In other words, there is no evidence here of strong political connections outside the king’s immediate circle. Scrope made bequests to more than a dozen of his own family members and more than fifty other men of his household – everybody who served him was given a considerable sum, even the boys and the pages who served in his household were to be given a noble (6s 8d) – but the earls of March and Cambridge, Lord Clifford, Sir Thomas Gray and Sir Walter Lucy do not appear at all.

Normally we would be surprised to find pages and boys given significant bequests in a lordly will. But Lord Scrope was one of the most generous men of his time – loaning money to lords during life as well as giving it away in death. However, money was not half the story, for he was among the most religious men of the age too. We have already come across his ownership of a copy of The Revelations of St Bridget, and his will amplifies this religiosity to a quite remarkable extent. Most of his bequests were of religious things, not money. For example to the king he gave a gold figure of the Virgin Mary garnished with balas rubies and pearls. To Henry Beaufort he gave a small breviary covered in blue velvet. To Thomas Beaufort he gave a book of meditations; to Bishop Langley, an illuminated Apocalypse in Latin and French, a book of Mattins; and to Lord Fitzhugh he gave two books containing the Incendium Amoris and Judice me Deus, both by Richard Rolle, a Yorkshire hermit and mystic. These set the pattern for all his other personal bequests too – almost everyone of high rank received a valuable book of spiritual devotion. He had dozens in his possession.

Reading Scrope’s will, the overwhelming surprise is the sheer number of religious bequests. He left sums of money, holy books and costly vestments to about forty named churches and monasteries. Some of these were substantial: to the shrine of St John of Bridlington he bequeathed his ‘gold collar with white swans and small flowers’, to the prior of Bridlington he gave a religious book and a gilt-silver crucifix; to the king’s new priory at Sheen he gave £10; and he gave 5 marks to every other Charterhouse in the kingdom. But then one sees that he made a bequest of at least a noble (6s 8d) to every single recluse or anchorite in the whole country. Having given 1 mark, £1, £2, or a book, to specific anchorites and recluses at Westminster, Beverley, Pontefract, Stafford, Newcastle, Peasholme, York, Wigton, Chester, Gainsborough, Leake, Stamford, Dartford, and seven other places, he stipulated that 6s 8d should be given to every anchorite and recluse in London and its suburbs, and in York and its suburbs, and to every other anchorite or recluse who could be found within three months of his death.

Given all the above, it is no surprise to find that Scrope made extremely detailed arrangements for his burial. He spoke of his lowly state in terms reminiscent of self-abasing Lollard wills. He left his soul ‘to Almighty God, the Virgin Mary, St John the Baptist, St Katherine and all the saints’ and expressed a wish to be buried in the north side of the chancel of York Minster, between two columns. If that was not possible he wanted to lie near his father in the chapel of St Stephen in the same minster. He hoped his wife would choose to be buried beside him, when her time came, and bequeathed her goods to the value of £2,000. He asked to be buried in a table tomb of marble, with an effigy of alabaster representing him in armour, with St John at his head and St Katherine at his foot. He made many gifts of gilt-silver figures to the minster, and gave specific instructions about the size of the candles he wanted to be used at his funeral – two, each of 24lbs – and how many Masses were to be sung for his soul, and for how many years after his death.

All in all, the impression we have of Lord Scrope is that he was the most deeply religious temporal lord at Henry’s court – with the exceptions of the king himself and possibly Lord Fitzhugh, a cofounder of Syon Abbey. He was in every way an asset to the king: as a diplomat, a religious man, and as a trusted confidant. His recently acquired knowledge of the wavering of the earl of March was worrying not because he was inclined to support him or the earl of Cambridge but rather because of the danger they spelled to the royal family, with whom he was intimately connected. The only thing possibly dividing him from the king was his outlook on war. He had not attended the great council in April and was late turning up to the council meeting at the end of May to discuss Henry’ssecret diplomacy with Burgundy. As a deeply religious man, who had visited the shrine of the peace-loving St Bridget in person, it is possible that he did not approve of unnecessary military aggression.101 But even so, his will shows that the king and the king’s most trusted confidants remained the men closest to his heart. The earls of March and Cambridge did not even merit a mention.

Monday 24th: the Feast of St John the Baptist

Midsummer’s Day itself saw the Midsummer Eve celebrations continued, with more bonfires, dancing and drinking. In some towns pageants were held. In others Midsummer marches or processions were arranged, with the men of the town parading with weapons, torches and music. Mummers might join in these marches, dressed as giants or dragons. Sometimes naked boys took part, painted black to represent Moors. Houses were decorated with greenery brought in from the country, and shop fronts and streets were festooned with leafy boughs, garlands and birch branches.102

At Winchester, Henry issued another order for meat for the army, in addition to that of the 22nd. This one went out to the sheriffs of Wiltshire and Hampshire; Henry wanted them each to find a hundred cattle and take them to Lymington, Romsey, Alderford, Fareham and Titchfield, paying whatever price may be agreed.103 Such orders as these allow us to imagine the sheriffs’ officers attending every market in the vicinity, buying cattle, and the roads filled with animals as well as men on the move, the cows being herded together for their march towards the towns around Southampton.

Tuesday 25th

Letters were being issued from three places in the king’s name. Yesterday’s two orders had been issued from Winchester and Southampton. Today another patent letter went out as ‘by the king’ from Westminster. This confirmed the settlement of some confiscated alien priories’ property on a royal esquire, John Woodhouse, whom Henry had recently appointed chamberlain of the exchequer. The recipient was to acknowledge his service by ‘rendering to the king a red rose at Midsummer’ every year thereafter.104

The king was actually based at Wolvesey Castle, the bishop’s palace near Winchester Cathedral. A letter was sent out from there in his name to Richard Courtenay, bishop of Norwich, licensing him to grant a portion of a manor to the collegiate church of Ottery St Mary, Devon, in aid of the maintenance of the Courtenay family altar, dedicated to St Catherine.105 Another letter was sent out from Winchester awarding an annuity of £20 to Ralph Pudsay esquire, who had recaptured Mordach, earl of Fife.106


In York, about this time, Gray would also have heard the news about Mordach’s recapture. A man called Skranby brought him a letter at his lodgings, written by the earl of Cambridge in person. It explained that Lord Clifford had not come on the 20th, as he had promised, and so Cambridge had not sent for Gray to join them. Whatever else it said we have no way of knowing, for Gray tore it up and threw it into a cesspit.107


In his cell in the Franciscan friary in Constance, Jan Hus wrote to his friends.

Our Saviour restored Lazarus to life four days after his decomposition. He preserved Jonah for three days in the whale and then sent him to preach. He drew up Daniel from the lions’ den to write prophecies … Why could He not now liberate me, a miserable wretch, from prison and death, in the same manner …?

A certain doctor told me that whatever I did in submitting to the council would be good and lawful for me; and he added that ‘if the council said that you only had one eye, even if you had two, you should confess to the council that it was so’.108

And that last passage just about summed up his position. He would not recant because, for him, matters of faith were matters of truth. For the council, his refusal to recant was a refusal to accept their authority. The failure in this lay not with Hus but with the Church. The onus was on the council to show Hus and the rest of Christendom that he was wrong to deny that he had only one eye when he believed he had two. Hus was about to demonstrate that the truth was more important than mere authority. It was more important, even, than his life.

Wednesday 26th

Although Peter Benefeld had been told a few days earlier that Chancellor Beaufort could not possibly see him for another eight days, he was surprised one morning to see him out walking. They greeted one another and Beaufort walked with him for about a mile, talking about Poland and events in Prussia. At the end of this diversion, Beaufort asked for three days’ more grace, so he could talk things over with the king’s secretary and the keeper of the privy seal. By this stage, Benefeld knew better than to take any leading member of Henry’s court at his word, and decided personally to go and see the king’s secretary, John Stone, at Westminster.

Henry himself was concerned with St Werbergh’s church in Chester. This had been founded by King Athelstan, and so Henry regarded it as having been founded by one of his ancestors. Maintaining it was something that touched upon the royal dignity and, as it was ‘in a dilapidated and impoverished state’, the king declared he would take it into his own hands. Accordingly, he appointed his uncle, Henry Beaufort, to remedy the condition of the abbey.

Today Henry also issued an order to the constable of the Tower of London to deliver Brother John Matthew, a canon of Carmarthen, to the abbot of Waltham Holy Cross. The abbot was to keep this renegade Welsh canon a prisoner until further notice.109

Thursday 27th

Peter Benefeld probably arrived back at Westminster this evening, having ridden the 63 miles from Winchester in a day and a half. He met with John Stone and asked him when he was expecting to go to Winchester. Tomorrow, Stone replied, explaining that he planned to be in Southampton on the 30th. He added that the best person to see in this matter would be the archbishop of Canterbury. So Benefeld went to see the archbishop. But Chichele declared that, although the king had acknowledged the debt, he had not given any instructions for anything to be done about it, just as the keeper of the privy seal had said. Given this impasse in London, Benefeld reckoned his best option was to take Chancellor Beaufort at his word and see him when he and John Stone met. Therefore he prepared to ride back to Winchester the following day with the king’s secretary.

Friday 28th

Henry and his circle had already proved their fondness for the strict order of Carthusian canons. Henry’s priory at Sheen was a Charterhouse, and Henry Scrope made provision for all the Charterhouses in England in his will. A week ago, on the 21st, Henry had made a grant of the manor of Hinckley to Mount Grace priory in Yorkshire, at the request of Thomas Beaufort, on condition the monks pray for the king and his uncle in life and for their souls after death. Now he followed that up with a confirmation of several manors granted by the Mowbray family to the Carthusian house of Eppeworth, in Lincolnshire. Henry also added a gift of his own, granting the Carthusians two pipes of wine yearly from the royal wines landed in Kingston upon Hull. These of course were not for the monks’ general enjoyment; they were, as Henry stipulated, ‘for the celebration of Masses in the said house’.110

Saturday 29th

The French ambassadors were nearing Winchester, so they sent ahead for safe conducts so that they might come to the king’s presence. Henry dictated these today, naming the archbishop of Bourges and his companions. Hearing that he could expect them tomorrow, Henry sent out a welcoming party. The bishop of Durham had now joined Henry at Winchester, so he and Bishop Courtenay rode with Thomas Beaufort and the earl of Salisbury to greet their diplomatic opposite numbers. They met them on the road, about a mile from the city, and escorted them in honour to their lodgings at the Franciscan Friary.111

Sunday 30th

Henry’s relationship with his stepmother, Queen Joan, had never been a close one. In later years he banished her Breton companions, accused her of witchcraft, and confiscated her income. But in 1415 they were probably as close as they were ever likely to get. Queen Joan had shared her husband’s ardent faith in the Trinity, and this gave her something in common with her stepson. Henry had shown respect to her when he bade her a formal farewell at Westminster on the 15th. Today he specified which royal estates she might stay at during his absence. While he was abroad she might live at Windsor Castle, Wallingford Castle, Berkhamsted or Hertford Castle.112 In addition, he gave her the royal manor of Langley outright. This latter gift was not a mark of affection or generosity, however; it was compensation for Hertford Castle, which her late husband had granted her but which Henry now wanted for himself.113


The ambassadors from France finally arrived at Winchester. They found the king in the great chamber of Wolvesey Castle, seated at a table, with his head uncovered – without a crown. He was wearing a long robe of cloth of gold. Near his bed was a magnificent chair adorned with golden tapestries. To his right sat his three brothers and the duke of York, the earl of Huntingdon, and several other lords. To his left sat Chancellor Beaufort and the bishops of Durham and Norwich.

The French humbly genuflected before the king on entering, in the correct manner. Archbishop Boisratier passed the formal sealed letters he carried from the king of France to another man to pass to Henry, together with similar letters from the duke of Berry. As these were opened for the king, Archbishop Boisratier said:

Most excellent and most powerful prince, our sovereign lord the king of France greets you affectionately, and the duke of Berry humbly recommends himself to your serenity. The king’s letter you have there, dated 1 May, begins as follows: Our very dear cousin, we send you our special ambassadors, praying that you receive them on our recommendation, and wishing that you hear them favourably. For we are hoping that by their mediation, you will have satisfaction on the subject of the agreement that you wish to conclude between us.

Henry kissed the letter and handed it to his chancellor and asked after the king of France’s health.114 When told all the details he spoke to the ambassadors. ‘You are welcome’, he said, inviting them to take spiced wine with him and his lords. As the drinks were being served he invited the ambassadors to return and dine with him on the following day. Then they would have a public audience in the hearing of all the bishops and lords then present.115


While all this formal posturing was taking place, Peter Benefeld and the king’s secretary arrived from Westminster. Benefeld immediately went to the bishop’s palace and asked to see the king. He was told that a royal audience was quite out of the question. The French envoys had arrived; it would be at least nine days before the king or the chancellor could attend to his letter.

By this stage Benefeld must have been wishing he had never left Prussia.

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