Sunday 1st: Advent Sunday
THE PERIOD OF fasting and prayer in anticipation of Christmas had come. From now until Christmas the diet would be entirely meatless – consisting of fish, spices, vegetables, bread and fruit – until the great feast on Christmas Day. Henry usually heard a Mass every day but, in this particularly holy period of the religious calendar, and in the solemn context of being the recipient of a religious victory, he would probably have attended more religious services. The afternoons grew dark early; the candles were carried in procession around the chapel royal, accompanied by the singing of the chaplains.
At St Paul’s today, in line with Henry’s orders, a funeral Mass was sung in memory of the duke of York, the earl of Suffolk, and all those who had died at Agincourt – Frenchmen as well as English. Henry and his brothers attended the vigil in the cathedral the previous night along with other members of the royal family. According to Thomas Walsingham, Thomas Beaufort returned from Harfleur at this time and was present at this service. The bones of the two magnates were then taken off for burial at their desired resting places – the duke of York at Fotheringay, in Northamptonshire, and the earl of Suffolk at Wingfield, in Suffolk.1
In contrast to the dearth of bureaucratic activity since Henry’s return, the early days of December saw him undertake a number of items of business. He personally pardoned Sir John Arundel for failing to deliver £60 to the exchequer, on account of the great losses and expenses he had sustained in serving as the sheriff of Devon. He granted his brother, John, duke of Bedford, that he would never again have to pay any fines or fees to the crown for the rest of his life. He gave to his esquire Lewis Robesart custody of the lands, rents and services owing to the under-age brother and heir of the late Richard Tyndale – a means of rewarding him for his loyal service. He granted a renewal of their charter to the Dominican friars of Hereford, without charge, stating that it was ‘for God, because they are poor’; and he officially handed over to Robert Clitherowe and David Cawardyn, yeomen of the king’s chamber, a number of furred robes and coats, used linen sheets and linen napery in return for going from Southampton to London in August, when he had ordered them to seize the goods of Lord Scrope.2
In France, John the Fearless and his troops came to the fortified town of Provins, less than fifty miles from Paris.
Every day the tension in the capital was growing. People were wary of carrying knives now, afraid they would be accused of treason if found to have a weapon in the street, and thrown into one of the city’s prisons.3
The dauphin entered the city. Yesterday he had passed the church of St Denis but had failed to pay his respects at the tombs of his ancestors or to pray at the shrine of the saint. He took up his lodging in the hôtel de Bourbon, near the Louvre. He had brought with him a large force of men-at-arms – six thousand, according to Monstrelet. Billeting them in and around Paris did nothing to calm matters. Whether they were in the suburbs of the city or at Corbeil, St Denis or Melun, they caused all sorts of damage to their hosts and neighbours. They forced their way into people’s houses, stealing what they deemed most valuable, thereby increasing the frustration and anger within and around the capital. No one could control them. Nor was the disquiet confined to Paris. At Laon, in Picardy, the people rioted while the bishop pleaded for a garrison to be sent.4
France had experienced enough disasters. But soon after returning to Paris the dauphin fell seriously ill, and took to his bed. According to the official French chronicler, he had contracted dysentery.
Henry dictated a letter to an official at Newcastle upon Tyne concerning two Flemish ships that had been captured by Robert Hornsee and John del Strotherland. These two men had fitted out two balingers to defend the shores of England against the Scots, in line with Henry’s orders, and had captured the two Flemish vessels laden with merchandise. They had taken them to Shields – but there the ships had been impounded and removed to Newcastle. Feeling aggrieved, Hornsee and del Strotherland had appealed to the king.
Henry’s letter is peculiar. It shows great concern for the costs that Hornsee and del Strotherland had incurred, and the likely damage to their estates, but pays no regard at all to the fact that their action was against the law. It was an incursion of the Statute of Truces, for there was an agreement in force between Flanders and England. Henry commanded the official to restore the ships to Hornsee and del Strotherland, if it had not already been done, or to appear before the council to explain himself.
Clearly Henry was in the wrong. He might have originally drawn up the Statute of Truces simply to guarantee the security of his alliances against France, but his victory at Agincourt did not mean he could now turn a blind eye to those who broke the law. One can only suppose that the duplicity of the duke of Burgundy, whose brothers had both fought at Agincourt, now caused Henry to lay aside that agreement with Flanders. Such a course of action would have set an extremely dangerous precedent. The council understood this, and corrected the mistake: by the end of January 1416, the vessels had been restored to their Flemish owners, specifically in accordance with the terms of the truce.5
In Paris the council were facing a whole host of grave problems. John the Fearless was still at Provins but he was about to advance further towards Paris with his army. The collapse of law and order in the city was a further issue. It was decided that Robert Mauger, president of the council, should speak to the dauphin, and present him with the series of ordonnances for the better government of the realm, in line with the decision of 15 November.
About this time the council sent for help from Clignet de Brabant and the lords of Barbazan and Bocquiaux. They also sent a message to Bernard, count of Armagnac, who had recently been appointed constable of France (following the death of Charles d’Albret at Agincourt), urging him to hurry to Paris with as many men as he could muster. Until his appointment, the count had been at Perpignan, following the fortunes of Benedict XIII and the emperor’s attempts to bring about Benedict’s resignation. On being appointed constable he had left Perpignan and hurried towards Paris. Thus he was already on the way, but such was the vastness of France that it would be the end of the month before he arrived.6
At the port of Lynn, in Norfolk, the disputes that had divided the town between the mayoral party (who had sought the removal of the influence of the bishop of Norwich) and the rest of the gild merchant continued unabated. On the death of the mayor, John Lakynghith, the alderman of the gild, Robert Brunham, had taken up the reins as acting mayor. In August 1415 a new man, John Bilney, had been elected mayor by the gild merchant. Extraordinarily, the duke of Bedford wrote to the gild to insist that the election results should be ignored, and that Robert Brunham should continue to act as mayor. Any failure in this respect would result in Bilney paying a fine of £1,000.
The men of Lynn saw this as an outrageous and unjustifiable attack on their privileges, and they resented Bedford’s intervention bitterly. A riot ensued, and Bilney declared that he never wanted to be mayor of Lynn in the first place. Bedford replied on 18 October that Thomas Hunt should now be mayor, attempting to mollify the townsmen with the assurance that this imposition of an official by the government would not be a precedent, or lessen their traditional rights and liberties in future. Of course, that was simply a red rag to a herd of bulls. Bedford’s attempt at mediation resulted in another riot.7
Into this fray stepped the king. In support of his brother, he upheld all of Bedford’s actions. Today he commissioned the sheriff of Norfolk and seven other local knights and esquires to enquire as to all the ‘evildoers’ who had supported thirty-eight named objectors in hindering Thomas Hunt from exercising office. At the same time he repeated the threat of a £1,000 fine on those who stopped Bedford’s appointee from being mayor.
So much for the king observing the liberties of the people. This might have been an attempt at arbitration but it amounted to the imposition of local officers by the crown.8
Henry confirmed the provision made on 12 November by his brother the duke of Bedford concerning Welsh lands with respect to the county of Cardigan. He specified that the sum of £1,000 was to be paid in four instalments: on the next two feasts of St Philip and St James (1 May), and on the next two feasts of All Saints (1 November). He also pardoned the sheriff of Kent the sum of £60 owed at the exchequer, due to the dilapidations in old farms in the county, and arranged for one of his aged servants, Stephen French, to be sent to Beaulieu Abbey for his maintenance.9
This evening, the fear in Paris reached its height. It was tonight that the Burgundian supporters expected to be slaughtered. The monks of St Martin des Champs and other places of refuge kept fires burning all night in their houses, and Burgundians gathered together for security, watching and waiting for the attack.10
In the summer Henry had deputed John Waterton and John Kempe to accompany the envoys of King Ferdinand of Aragon back to Spain. Waterton and Kempe had taken the Aragonese diplomats to London, and had returned with them to Southampton by way of Winchester, sailing on 8 September with twenty horses in the ship John the Baptist of Bayonne. They spent fifteen days at sea. Finding that Ferdinand was at Perpignan, seeing to the business with Pope Benedict XIII, they set off across land with their Aragonese counterparts, finally gaining admittance to the king today.
Henry had been circumspect in his instructions regarding his own marriage to Maria, the king’s eldest daughter. Although he had not ruled it out completely, he preferred the idea of one of his brothers marrying her. However, when the ambassadors arrived in Perpignan, it transpired that Ferdinand had betrothed Maria to Henry’s young cousin, King Juan of Castile, who was in his guardianship. Ferdinand tried to persuade the envoys that Henry should marry his second daughter, Leonora, who was then thirteen; but the envoys knew that Henry would not even consider marriage with the second daughter of the king of Aragon. The possibility that she might marry one of Henry’s siblings remained open for discussion – for the time being, at least.11
It was going to be a long period of negotiation for Waterton and Kempe. They did not return to England until June 1416 – and with nothing to show for their efforts. Leonora was eventually betrothed to Henry’s cousin, Duarte, the future king of Portugal.
At Westminster, Henry’s focus remained on his bureaucratic duties. He instructed the constable of the Tower of London to accept custody of two men from Lynn, John Wyrom and John Sherman, who had been arrested for resisting the duke of Bedford’s mayor, and to keep them in prison until further notice. The receivers of the town of Boston were directed to pay the yeoman of the robes, Henry Somercotes, £10 yearly. Henry granted leave for the abbot of Canterbury not to have to attend court sessions on account of his ill health, and to appoint attorneys in his stead. He also agreed that the prior and monks of the London Charterhouse could alienate the advowson of a church in London, as part of an exchange of property with the bishop of London. Finally, three men from Newcastle upon Tyne were commissioned to requisition coal – or ‘sea coal’ as it was then known – for the king’s use in London. Henry would not have used coal to heat his palaces but it was employed in such industries as smithying, making steel (including armour, swords and arrowheads) and casting bronze (including cannon).12
In Paris an emergency meeting took place, to discuss the widespread fear of the preceding night and the threat of the approach of the duke of Burgundy. Four hours after dinner, in line with the advice of the great council and the leading men of the University of Paris, Robert Mauger prepared to read out the series of ordonnances to the dauphin and the dukes of Anjou and Berry. Unfortunately, the dauphin was indisposed. It was said that he had spent too long eating and drinking, and was not fit to hear anyone speak. Such was his reputation; but it is more likely that the dysentery – which could not be publicly admitted, for fear it would be seen as a sign of weakness, or worse, God’s judgment – was keeping him in his bed. The meeting was put off until the following day.13
Although John the Fearless had had no success with his first diplomatic contacts with the dauphin, at Troyes, he was not inclined to leave it at that. From Provins he renewed his diplomatic offensive, sending ambassadors to the king and dauphin, namely Jean de Luxembourg and the seigneur de St Georges. Through them he begged to be allowed to come to Paris, to explain the reasons for his approach. It was not a ploy likely to succeed. With such a large army behind him, the reasons seemed obvious.14
Various French prisoners sought permission to come to Henry, presumably to ask to return to France to seek their ransoms. Among them were Charles Savoisy, who today received a safe conduct for himself, two esquires and four servants to enter Henry’s presence. Among the other French prisoners we read the name of Ghillebert de Lannoy, the man who had escaped from the massacre during the battle of Agincourt by fleeing from a burning house, only to be recaptured. In contrast to his luck that day, he did manage to persuade Henry to grant him a safe conduct to return to France – although he did not actually receive it until the following February.15
Henry granted permission for Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, to make a settlement of his estates up to the value of £400. Westmorland was fifty-one, so his precaution might have been due to either a feeling of old age or a life-threatening sickness. Had he actually died at this time, it would have been a blow for Henry, as Westmorland was a solid defender of the north of England and utterly loyal to the Lancastrian cause, being the husband of Henry’s aunt, Joan Beaufort. But he lived another ten years; in fact, he outlived Henry.16
Several of the men who had died on the recent campaign left underage heirs. Some of the wardships that fell to the crown in this way were sold to pay the expenses of members of the household, in line with Henry’s order of 28 November; others were handed out to other men as rewards for loyal service. The lands of Sir John Mortimer, who had been killed in the battle of Agincourt, were handed to Sir Roland Leinthal ‘in consideration of his great expenses on the king’s last voyage’, and so was the right to arrange the marriage of the dead man’s son and heir. Sir Roland seems to have been knighted on the campaign, as he was not described as a knight in Henry’s will in July; no doubt he deserved his reward. Nevertheless, it seems a poor return for the family of a man who had given his life fighting for the king: to see all but a third of his estate (which was reserved to the widow) handed to someone else. Doubly so, in fact, for Sir John’s widow had to acknowledge that Sir Roland now had the right to arrange her young son’s marriage, and make that all-important family alliance, not her.17
Henry handed over Lord Scrope’s goods ‘to the value of £25’ to his servants John Turgess and Richard Hunt in consideration of their service on the recent campaign. This was just the latest in the string of grants he had made at the expense of the late disgraced lord. Within twenty-four hours of Scrope’s death two grants of his estates had been parcelled out to William Porter and Sir John Phelip. By 9 October a number of his silver and gold vessels, which had been placed in the hands of the mayor of London, had been sold for £458 on the king’s behalf. Another £100 was found in the possession of a London fishmonger; this too was confiscated.18 Later Henry gave some of Scrope’s estates to his grandmother, the dowager countess of Hereford.19 And many of the late lord’s mazers, cups and silverware were retained by the king. Some were still in the king’s possession in 1422. Other items were handed out as presents to visiting diplomats and dignitaries. The Danish messengers who had come to ask Henry to stop English fishermen taking cod from Icelandic waters had been given cups that had belonged to Lord Scrope.20
At the hôtel de Bourbon, the dauphin was fit enough to hear Robert Mauger speak. With the dauphin was his brother Charles, count of Ponthieu; his great-uncle, the duke of Berry; and the duke of Anjou, as well as many other members of the great council.
Mauger took as his theme the line ‘Lord, save us, for we may perish’ and expounded on the dangers to the realm. The cause, he said, was the bitter blood feud that existed between the princes of the blood, which had torn France apart ever since the murder of the duke of Orléans ‘to the great destruction of the realm and her poor people’. Evil men were causing disorder and crime everywhere. The problem lay with the enmity between the king and three men in particular: the duke of Burgundy, the duke of Brittany, and the king’s own son, John, the seventeen-year-old duke of Touraine. John lived away from the French court, at le Quesnoy, under the influence of the duke of Holland, and so was thought to be under the influence of the duke of Burgundy.21 Having made this view clear, Mauger read out the ordonnances concerning finance, law and order that theparlement had decided were necessary to restore the kingdom.
The dauphin heard the sermon and responded with a promise – as the son of the king – that he would do all he could to bring the evildoers to justice, whatever their rank. He swore to restore the peace of the realm to the people and to the clergy, and to administer justice impartially, wherever necessary.
The representatives of the parlement and the university were pleased with the dauphin’s response. But saying these things was one thing; doing them was quite another – especially when the principal ‘evil-doer’ had an army in the field, and was at that very moment marching towards Paris with the duke of Lorraine and an army said to number ten thousand men. Their next destination was Colomiers, thirty-five miles from the capital.22
John Calverton of Northumberland had suffered heavily due to the attacks of the Scots in the first year of Henry’s reign. Because of this, and also because he had served both Henry IV and the present king well, Henry granted him the office of porter in the castle of Newcastle upon Tyne, receiving 2s daily from the sheriff, his duty being to feed the prisoners in the castle ‘who suffer great hunger for the lack of victuals’.23
The English ambassadors to the duke of Brittany – one of the French king’s ‘three enemies’ – returned home today. John Hovingham and Simon Flete had been given their instructions on 28 July; they had left London on 23 August and had sailed from the port of Topsham, near Exeter, with eight men and twelve horses. They had remained in Brittany throughout the period of the English march – and were still in Brittany in October when the duke had been with the king of France at Rouen. Given that the duke was still negotiating with Henry, and already had a treaty with him, it is hardly surprising that he failed to proceed with his army to Agincourt, even if he did send his brother Arthur, count of Richemont, to represent him.24 He was indeed no friend of the king of France.
William Porter had had a successful year. At the start of January he had been a mere esquire in the royal household. Then at the end of the month he had been deputed to go to Harfleur and spy out the place with Sir John Phelip. Returning in March, he had obviously found royal favour as he was named in the king’s will in July. On the fall of Lord Scrope he was given some of Scrope’s Leicestershire lands. He took part in the advance party that undertook the reconnaissance of the shore prior to the disembarkation of the army in August, and was knighted the next day. He also took part in the attack on the Porte Leure on 16 September, and then fought at Agincourt. Now the king wanted to reward him further. Henry granted him the reversion of lands that had previously been granted to Sir John Phelip and his wife Maud, both of whom had died without an heir.25
In contrast to William Porter, the de la Pole family, earls of Suffolk, had suffered a double catastrophe on the campaign. First the earl himself had died at Harfleur, then his heir had died at Agincourt. Granting out the estates would not endear Henry to this potentially important family. Furthermore, it might impoverish the family, alienating the younger son of the late earl. Thus Henry granted the keeping of all the castles, manors and other income to the dowager countess and four other trustees, including Sir Thomas Erpingham and Sir William Phelips. The whole estate was valued at £232 yearly – not a large sum for an earldom, even though that sum did not include the dowers of the countess and the late heir’s widow. A further portion of the estate worth £40 was set aside for the late earl’s three daughters; this too was granted by the king to the trustees.26
The late duke of York left no children. His estate thus fell to the crown, and Henry handed out the manors to various recipients, including the countess of Hereford, Henry’s grandmother. She was then aged about seventy and busy rebuilding Walden Abbey in Essex, where she intended to be buried. The dowager duchess of York, Philippa, thus lost not only her husband but was left with only a third of her husband’s income. She also lost her estate in the New Forest, which Henry IV had given to her. By way of compensation, Henry granted her the Isle of Wight and Carisbrooke Castle for life.27
When in June Ralph Pudsay esquire had discovered Mordach Stewart, the kidnapped son of the duke of Albany, he had only stabilised the situation. Mordach had been returned to prison in England where he had spent the intervening months. No change-over of prisoners had taken place before the king had gone to France, and so Henry Percy too had languished in his Scottish prison all this time. Now Henry decided the time had come to rescue his young third cousin, and to restore Mordach while his aged father the duke of Albany was still alive and still regent.
The men he appointed to ride north to arrange the transfer were Sir Ralph Eure, Sir William Claxton, Dr John Huntman and Richard Holme. He directed them to arrange a day before 15 March 1416 when the duke of Albany was to send Henry Percy to Carlisle. They were also to arrange for Mordach Stewart to be brought to Carlisle from his current prison; there they would be exchanged under the command of John Neville, son of the earl of Westmorland and guardian of the West March. In case the Scottish ambassadors did not agree on the transfer taking place without some further security, then the commissioners were to say that the king would authorise the Scottish earl of March to co-supervise the exchange. And if the Scottish ambassadors found fault with this, then the commissioners were to arrange for the earl of Westmorland to send Mordach to Newcastle upon Tyne, and there deliver him to Lord Grey, guardian of the East March, who would then take him to Berwick on Tweed for the hand-over. Official letters for Lord Grey and John Neville empowering them to carry out the transfer would be drawn up the following day.28
At Colomiers, John the Fearless considered the dauphin’s reply to his diplomatic entreaties of 5 December. The dauphin would not tolerate his presence near the capital unless he first disbanded his army. If he wished to come with a few household officers to Meaux to negotiate with the dauphin’s representatives, then that would be fine; otherwise that city, like Paris, would be barred against him.
After his late-morning dinner, John set out for Paris. By the end of the day he had come to Lagny-sur-Marne, sixteen miles from the capital. Here he planned to wait and gather more men. Considerable reinforcements were expected to arrive over the next few days from Picardy.29
This evening, at his house near one of the gates of Paris, a pâtissier called Robert Copil was arrested as a supporter of John the Fearless. He was accused of having agreed to open one of the gates of the city when the Burgundian army was within four miles. This would either be the Porte Montmartre or the Porte St Honoré. He had sent letters to the duke by a lad of ten or twelve years of age, promising to do this, but the boy had been caught and searched.30
In the chamber of the chancellor of France, the dauphin, the queen, and the provost and captain of Paris, together with many members of the great council and representatives of the parlement, met to discuss the crisis. The duke of Burgundy was approaching Paris, they acknowledged, with a great company of men-at-arms drawn from Savoy, Lorraine and Germany, as well as other places. Already his men had collectively done a great deal of damage in France in the regions of the Seine and the Marne. He claimed he wanted to see the dauphin – but he had refused to go to Meaux to negotiate with the king’s ambassadors. Now he had arrived at Lagny-sur-Marne, just one day’s march from the capital.
Those assembled were told about Robert Copil. It was decided to take precautions to secure the gates and to prevent sedition causing a commotion within the walls. At Les Halles, Robert Copil was beheaded. His corpse was placed in a gibbet this evening, for all to see. Many other Burgundian sympathisers were arrested and locked up.31
Henry would have had little knowledge of the crisis in Paris; it is unlikely that he knew that John the Fearless had left Troyes. His concern was rather that of rewarding his brother Humphrey for his service on the Agincourt campaign. He granted him and his male heirs the manor and barton of Bristol, which had previously been a possession of the duke of York.32
From Lagny-sur-Marne, John the Fearless sent another embassy to the dauphin, this one led by his secretary Master Eustache de Laître (who had been chancellor of France in 1413). De Laître begged the dauphin humbly to allow John to enter his presence. The dauphin consulted the council and decided to send a high-powered embassy, consisting of Bishop Boisgilon of Chartres, Jean de Vailly, president of the parlement, and Simon de Nanterre. They were to explain once again that it was not possible for John to come to Paris while he had so many men-at-arms with him. If he were to disband his army and come with just the officers of his household, then he would be welcome in the capital; otherwise he was not to come any closer.33
Icelandic fishing was not the only issue that divided Henry and his brother-in-law, Eric, king of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. An argument had broken out between the men of Lynn and the merchants of the Hanse. Henry IV had issued orders preventing the Hanseatic merchants from trading in the Norfolk town. The Hanseatic merchants now complained that this was a monopoly unfairly obtained by the petition of three Lynn merchants, namely John Copenot, Nicholas Alderman and Thomas Grym.
The clerks of the keeper of the privy seal, having consulted a number of documents from the previous reign, drew up a letter refuting this. In it they stated that the prohibition had been for violent disturbances – including the accusation of murder – which had developed between the men of Lynn and the Hanseatic merchants. This was in fact the case: the original prohibition of 9 September 1411 referred to injuries done to English merchants, so Henry IV had had good reason to impose the ban. The final letter was drawn up yesterday, addressed to King Eric’s officials at North Berne in Norway, and sealed today, after the king had inspected it.34
Henry’s other item of business concerned the estates of the late Lord Zouche, who had died on 3 November. These were due to be inherited by a young heir, who was just thirteen years old. Thus they formed another potentially lucrative wardship – eight years of lordly income. Henry decided to give this income to his uncle Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, in recognition of his faithful service guarding the northern border.35
The most important event took place in Narbonne. This was the agreement of the framework for the deposition of Benedict XIII. After months of persuasion, negotiation, travel and argument, the last recourse of diplomacy had proved fruitless. Now all the secular lords and almost all the prelates had agreed to repudiate him as a spiritual leader. The Holy Roman Emperor and the ambassadors from the council were described by Cardinal Fillastre as being ‘joyful and exultant’.
The agreement took the form of twelve articles. The first outlined the basis for the deposition; the second the right of the council of Constance to summon all the members of the Catholic Church; the third the unity of the members of Benedict’s supporters with the rest of the convocation; the fourth the right of the council to quash any and all the papal acts of the three ex-popes; and so on. Most of the actual clauses were technicalities, and in fact another twenty months of wrangling would pass before the final deposition of Benedict XIII. But the text was agreed today and finally ratified by all parties on the following day, at noon.36 The kings of Aragon, Castile and Navarre, the count of Foix, and representatives of the count of Armagnac – all of them agreed that they would no longer support Benedict. The only kingdom in Benedict’s obedience that did not have a delegate at Narbonne was Scotland; but as Benedict was Aragonese and preferred the Mediterranean warmth of southern Spain, it was unlikely that he would seek a final refuge among the Scots.37
The end of the schism, which had divided the Church since 1378, could now be foreseen. When the news reached the city of Constance, on 29 December, there was rejoicing in the streets, and lauds were rung five times on all the bells. The emperor’s representative, the duke of Bavaria-Heidelberg, ordered everyone to celebrate the next morning as if it were a holy festival.38
King James of Scotland was the one monarch who did not join in the repudiation of Benedict XIII. He was still languishing in gaol in Pevensey Castle under the guardianship of Sir John Pelham, where he had been since 22 February. Henry had allocated £700 annually for the king’s upkeep and safe custody – £421 2s 11½d was paid today.39
When the dauphin’s ambassadors met John the Fearless, they explained the position of the council. John was furious to be told he was not welcome in the capital. He protested that he did not intend to sit back and watch any further downturn in the finances of the realm. Moreover he was a prince of the blood royal, and the dauphin’s father-in-law; they had no right to refuse him. But there was no getting around the situation: the dauphin had declared his intention of marching against John at the head of an army, if he approached.40
It looked as though a battle was going to take place outside the walls of the capital. That would have pleased Henry V: to see his Burgundian and Breton allies fighting against the French royal family and the Armagnacs. But that was not how things turned out – not in the short term at least.
At Westminster Henry ordered John Colchester, mason, to ‘arrest’ men to repair the walls of Harfleur. In particular he was to find stone-cutters, tile-makers and tilers and other labourers for the repair of the town.41 The recent tension in and around Paris had saved Harfleur from a major direct onslaught, even though some of the French king’s counsellors had advised that they should seize the opportunity to take the town and throw the English out before the walls were rebuilt. According to the official French chronicler at St Denis, the troops now billeted around Paris had been raised for precisely this purpose; it was only the danger of John the Fearless’s march on the capital that had led to the change of strategy.42
For the English at Harfleur, the best form of defence was to attack. Three days later the garrison made an assault on the neighbouring countryside. They rounded up eight hundred peasants, and herded them into the town. Presumably they were ransomed for whatever they could provide. No one in the vicinity of Harfleur can have had much of a Christmas, whether they were within the walls or outside.43
The dauphin died today.
His death was an almighty blow for France. Chroniclers knew the man was not faultless: he was fat, self-indulgent, thieving, lazy and immoral, and he had nothing about him of grace. The official royal chronicler at St Denis was just one of several writers who took this opportunity to list his personal failings in great detail. But he had at least shown some aptitude for leadership. Just as importantly, he was loyal to his father. His death left the kingdom of France in the throes of a civil war, led by a king who was mentally unstable and who was estranged from his eldest surviving son, the duke of Touraine. The other leading members of the royal family could hardly step into the gap – the duke of Berry was too old, and the duke of Anjou was also not long for this world. The duke of Bar had been killed at Agincourt, the dukes of Bourbon and Orléans and the count of Eu were prisoners in England, and the duke of Lorraine had taken arms with John the Fearless. With the death of the dauphin, the French royal family had been stripped of a potential leader. The count of Armagnac might be the obvious person to lead the French government in its new crisis, but he was a provincial of insufficiently high birth to restore the dignity of the French monarchy.
As for John the Fearless, he was left in a quandary. He risked a hostile reception if he decided to advance on the city during this period of mourning; yet if ever there was a time to move into Paris, it was now. Not only was the city disorganised and panic-stricken, he could present the death of the dauphin as a sign from God that the government did not have divine approval. But he did not advance. Perhaps he realised his support in the capital was not as strong as it had been. He was still at Lagny-sur-Marne at the end of the month, when the count of Armagnac arrived to take up his role as constable of France. In all he stayed at Lagny-sur-Marne for six weeks, until 28 January, and Parisians began to mock him as ‘Jean de Lagny’. Then he marched away.
One would have expected greater resolution from a man known to history as ‘the Fearless’. But John was nothing if not suprising.
Philip Morgan, to whom Henry had entrusted his ‘secret business’ with John the Fearless, arrived back in England today. He had left London with eleven men and eleven horses on 19 August and, as far as we know, had been at John the Fearless’s court for the entireintervening period. It seems that whatever negotiations he had been deputed to conduct, they did not come to an end with the sealing of the agreement between Henry and the duke, which had been received at Westminster on 10 October. His protracted stay at the court of Henry’s Burgundian ally closely parallels that of Henry’s envoys to the duke of Brittany. One can only conclude that it was policy, not accident, that kept these diplomatic negotiators in France until Henry himself had returned to England.44
Henry had decided to lodge his most important French prisoners – the dukes and counts – at Windsor Castle for the time being. A royal esquire, the old William Loveney, was appointed to arrange for their upkeep; today he received £26 13s 4d towards their expenses.45
The lesser lords, those who were not members of the French royal family, were lodged at the Tower of London. Sir William Bourchier, constable of the Tower, was in charge of seventeen of them. In return for keeping George de Clere, his three companions and thirteen other knights ‘lately taken at Harfleur’ he received £1 6s 8d per day. Given the expenditure of keeping these men – £40 per month – their ransoms were only going to increase with time.46
In Paris, the day had come for the funeral of the dauphin. His body had been embalmed and laid in a lead coffin at the hôtel de Bourbon. Many prelates and lords had come to pay their last respects. This morning the hearse arrived to transport the body to the cathedral of Notre Dame.
The service, which began about 10 a.m., was attended by the aged duke of Berry and the dauphin’s younger brother, Charles, count of Ponthieu, and many hundreds of dignitaries and representatives. The king did not attend his son’s funeral, being too ill. Afterwards the body was interred in the same church, as a temporary measure, to be transferred to the abbey of St Denis, the traditional burial place of the French royal family for the previous eight centuries, when a suitable tomb had been constructed.47
With the dauphin was buried France’s hope for the immediate future. Not until the new dauphin, the duke of Touraine, had been poisoned, and Charles VI had died would there emerge a king around whom France could unite to throw out the English. And that would not happen in Henry V’s lifetime.
Wednesday 25th: Christmas Day
A year had passed since Henry had held his Christmas feast in the hall at Westminster with his brothers, uncles, friends and the rest of the court. Now the holly and ivy had been cut to decorate the hall once more, and the fasting of Advent had culminated in the roasting of beef, pork and goose. The hall at Lambeth Palace where Henry ate his Christmas feast this year, seated beside Archbishop Chichele, would have been similarly filled with the light of many candles lifted on great chandeliers into the beams. As Henry saw the various dishes offered to him by the archbishop’s servants, he had good reason to reflect on the events of the last twelve months.48
A year ago there had been men who said that he was not the rightful king of England. There had been doubts about the legitimacy of his entire dynasty. He had silenced them – first by taking direct action against the plotters at Southampton in early August, and secondly by proving himself at Agincourt. In so doing he had provided England with that one thing that writers on kingship for the last hundred years had said should be the king’s highest priority: to establish peace between the great lords of the kingdom. As recent events in France had shown, rifts between magnates and their factions threatened the kingdom’s stability and prosperity far more than any external threat; and this was especially so for England, which had only one international border (with Scotland). Significantly there had been no backlash against his actions against Cambridge, Scrope and Gray during his absence in France. The earl of March was a chastened individual, unlikely ever to risk incurring Henry’s wrath again. As things appeared to the king this Christmas Day, he had succeeded in doing what only Edward III had achieved in the last hundred years: unifying the English nobility under his kingship. In that respect, everything about his role had changed: the legacy of his father’s dubious accession no longer cast a shadow over the kingdom.
There were other things to celebrate too. A year ago Glendower had still been at large, and the Welsh rebellion, although it had lost strength, still prevented the king exercising control over parts of North Wales. The parliament of May 1414 had described Wales as ‘a country at war’. That was no longer true. When Glendower was laid to rest, so too was his cause, and even the most ardent Welsh patriots realised the Welsh rebellion was over. Henry could take some of the credit for this, for, although the political will to maintain an English force in Wales had been his father’s, and the determination to mount an annual expedition into Wales had also been down to his father, Henry had played his part on the ground, eventually taking command of the campaign against Glendower. As it would have appeared to Henry, he had defeated Glendower himself. Now, with the man dead and no obvious candidate to take his place, he had proved victorious in Wales as well as France.
As Henry talked with Chichele, both men might have considered that Henry’s policies in Ireland and Scotland had been equally effective. As it appeared to them, Sir John Talbot had proved a good choice as King’s Lieutenant of Ireland. Talbot was a consummate soldier, and had rapidly overwhelmed the Irish rebels and the English lords who had tried to find their own path between the English government and the native Irishmen. Like Henry himself, Talbot had seen outright war as the way to take control, and by the end of 1415 there were few men left who dared to stand against him. In Scotland, the duke of Albany was still negotiating for the return of his son, Mordach; and this policy had clearly succeeded in breaking the ‘Auld Alliance’ with France, for the time being at least. The only concerted attack by the Scots on the northern border counties during the year had been the simultaneous double raid into Westmorland and Northumberland in July. The latter had been soundly defeated by Sir Robert Umphraville; and although the earl of Douglas had succeeded in burning Penrith, there had been no significant follow-up attacks while the king was in France. Henry’s appointment of two reliable commanders to take charge of the East and West Marches had proved sound, and his policy of giving a free rein to the earl of Westmorland to act as an unofficial supervisor of the north was both subtle and successful.
Henry and Chichele might have been more concerned about the situation in Gascony. It was on Henry’s mind that he had done so little for his southernmost domain. And over the year the duchy had come under pressure both from external assailants, such as the attacks led by the duke of Bourbon, and from internal disloyalty, such as that of the lady of Lesparre. But in truth Henry did not care very much. For him, Gascony was a low priority. He did not understand the politics of the region, and he knew that it was of little direct use to him in building his war machine. Its prime function, in his eyes, was to supply his household with wine. And there was little danger the merchants of Bordeaux would stop selling wine to England. Until such time as there was a disaster of some sort, affairs in Gascony could be left to manage themselves – which is exactly the policy that many Gascon lords wanted Henry to adopt.
Henry and Chichele would have been far more positive about the implementation of religious policies, especially with regard to the Church. Over the year they had heard about the Holy Roman Emperor forcing the council of Constance to take a strong line against the three popes, so that, one by one, they had all lost authority. Henry may have failed to gain a diplomatic alliance with Sigismund but in religious affairs the two men shared a vision of the reunited, reformed Church. If the news from Narbonne had now reached England, it would have seemed that the third and last pope had now been deposed in all but name. Soon there would be a new pope, and a reform of the whole Church, taking into consideration the programme of forty-six points that Henry himself had commissioned from the University of Oxford. On top of this, the English delegates had succeeded in maintaining the independence of England as a nation, so Henry was now the king of the only state to be represented as a nation in its own right. He had a voice at Constance like no other monarch – even the Holy Roman Emperor had to face opposition within the German nation from other German princes and dukes.
The domestic religious policy was less of a cause for celebration. Sir John Oldcastle was still on the run. He had failed to comply with Henry’s threat to revoke the pardon for all the Lollards if he had not submitted before the council in April. As a result there had been more heretics burnt. Nevertheless, as far as Henry could see, his domestic religious policy was by no means unsuccessful. It had received further backing from the council of Constance in the declaration that to celebrate the memory of John Wycliffe was itself a heretical act, and in the decision that burning Wycliffe’s followers was justifiable, as demonstrated by the sentence against Jan Hus. Hence the trial and burning of John Claydon (which Chichele had personally supervised) was justifiable, as were similar trials and sentences against other Lollards – even those who never lifted a finger against the king. Such extreme judgments had no doubt helped to suppress any Lollard rising during his absence in France; and Sir Richard Beauchamp, lord of Abergavenny, had been able to defeat Oldcastle very quickly. On a personal level, Henry had further established his credentials in constructing two religious houses at Sheen – the only disappointment was the failure of the Celestine house. Apart from this minor setback, Henry was not only a spiritual king, he was seen to be a pious man and the protector of the Church. The only worrying aspect was that Lollardy was not going away, despite the dire punishment. As it must have seemed to Henry, the war of the orthodox faith against Wycliffe and his followers would be a long one, like that against Glendower, and he would need to be prepared to face the threat for many years to come.
Apart from Lollardy, Henry probably felt he had only one significant problem at the end of 1415. Money. His war effort had plunged the kingdom into debt. Parliament and both convocations had been generous, and yet the royal treasury was denuded of valuables. Henry had had to authorise the pawning of many items. The crown of England was in pawn. Huge amounts of royal treasure were in the hands of abbots, bishops and town authorities as security for the repayment of considerable loans. A second year had passed in which he had failed to settle his father’s debts. Customs from ports and other sources of royal revenue were increasingly having to be assigned at source, in order to ensure the creditor could be paid. Scrope’s manors and possessions had been distributed, even though this was unlawful; and still Henry had massive ongoing debts. On top of all those commitments identified in the budget of June 1415, it would in future be necessary to find several thousand pounds more every year to pay for the defence of Harfleur, including the wages of the captain and soldiers and provisions. How frank the acting treasurer was with the king is not known; it is perhaps worth noting that Rothenhale was removed from the post and Henry’s erstwhile chamberlain, Hugh Mortimer, appointed in his stead on 10 January 1416. But if either Rothenhale or Mortimer had told Henry the real state of his finances, it would have been obvious that Henry was in serious financial difficulties. Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and the earl of Salisbury were still pressing for the payment of wages to those who had fought at Agincourt in the parliament of 1418, three years later. Most of the artefacts that Bishop Courtenay had handed over as security were not redeemed at the time of Henry’s death in 1422; and many were never returned.
All the above – successes as well as a failures – would have been overshadowed by his victories in France. He had planned the French campaign meticulously and carried it off to his enormous advantage. He had succeeded in keeping the French divided among themselves: even after Agincourt, the factions were bitterly opposed to one another. He had demonstrated in the siege of Harfleur that he could seize a fortified town at will, just as Edward III had done at Calais. And he had shown he was right to lead the army to Calais and risk battle, for he had won a great victory. Indeed, that victory justified everything: every controversial decision, every doubt about the legitimacy of his claim to be king of France, and thereby every doubt about his right to the throne of England. It justified his decision to arrest and try Scrope for treason and his very policy of waging war in the first place.
That victory had left him a changed man.
As Henry partook of the Christmas feast, he could reflect that he had proved himself. He had demonstrated he had the vision to confront a major problem and could deal with it successfully. He could plan, he could persuade and he could win. Moreover, he had proved himself not only as an earthly commander but as one who was favoured by God. After this there could be no more championing the ‘hog’ Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, as the rightful king of England or of France – whatever the legalities of his claim to the throne. All such thinking was expunged at Agincourt: from now on there could only be one king of England – Henry – because that was patently God’s will.
Henry had also proved himself in the eyes of all the other leaders across Europe. He was no longer the son of chivalric-but-sick Henry IV; he was a triumphant king in his own right. They had to take notice of him. If God was on his side, then Henry’s authority carried that much greater weight with regard to international politics as well as religious affairs. In due course the French complained about the significance given to the English nation at Constance, but the reason for their outbursts was that Henry’s prestige had disproportionately increased the authority of the small kingdom of England. In 1416, when the Holy Roman Emperor came to England, Henry did not ride out to Blackheath to welcome him (as his father had done to welcome the emperor of Byzantium). He sent men ahead to greet Sigismund at every stage, and sent the citizens of London ahead to meet the emperor on Blackheath; he himself only rode out a mile from London, proudly forcing the emperor to come to him rather than vice versa.
That was how Henry had changed in other people’s eyes. What had changed within him was an awareness of all this. He now had confirmation of what he had long believed: the rightness of his spiritual authoritarianism. Loyalty was still important to him; he was still as vulnerable as he ever was; and describing him, one would still use the words ‘circumspect’, ‘solemn’, ‘conscientious’, ‘firm’, ‘proud’, ‘virtuous’ and ‘intense’ but now one would add ‘divinely favoured’. He had not only proved to everyone else that he had God’s blessing, he had proved it to himself too. Henry was conscious he had been handed something exceedingly precious, and, being aware that precious things are fragile, he did not treat it lightly but carefully treasured it. Like a glass vessel of great value, his divinely favoured status had to be looked after with scrupulous care, lest it slip and shatter. There was nothing back-slappingly good-humoured about his victory; there was nothing self-congratulatory. The victory was not his or even that of the English archers. As he himself said, Agincourt was God’s victory. Whatever his fellow Englishmen might have thought, he did not do it for them or for England. He did it for God.
This explains his solemnity after Agincourt, why he showed no humour or joy in his triumph, leading his prisoners through London with a fixed expression. It was not just that he had lost several of his closest friends. His sobriety in the post-accession phase of his life, when he had worked so wholeheartedly towards the war, had now given way to religious solemnity – he really did believe himself to be a warrior of God. Fusoris had not been imperceptive in remarking that the duke of Clarence was more warrior-like and that Henry V was more like a priest. Henry had that sanctity, and believed he had a sacred role, and his victory had confirmed it. What Fusoris had not understood – what he could not have foreseen – was that Henry’s priestliness would drive him to eclipse even his brother’s martial reputation.
Now, and perhaps only now in the wake of Agincourt, Henry began to realise that the task he had been given did not stop at proving his claim to England by proving he was divinely favoured. He had set himself on a path that required him to carry out God’s work – through war, and the subjugation of the evils which had beset France. There could be no turning his back on the fact that divine approval carried responsibilities as well as privileges: it had been granted for a reason, and might be withdrawn at any minute. He had to continue to demonstrate his pursuit of God’s favour through the pursuit of God’s work, and that meant the rest of his life would be devoted to God’s justice, war and prayer. There would be no rejoicing, no self-indulgence, no flirtation with women, no complacency, no great building projects, no toleration of Lollardy or any other heresy. Any sign of weakness might incur God’s displeasure and the reversal of his fortunes.
On Christmas day 1415, as Henry lifted the wassail cup, and turned to the archbishop of Canterbury, he had become what today we call a religious fundamentalist – or, to be precise, a militant Catholic fundamentalist. As he later described himself, he was ‘the scourge of God sent to punish the people of God for their sins’.49 Everything on Earth was subject to God’s will, and he himself, as God’s willing instrument, was prepared to wield all the destructive power he could to exercise that will. Of course, he was liable to be accused of tyranny by those who did not believe in his right to interpret God’s intentions; but they were among the minority. For most people in England and, indeed, across Europe, Henry was doing God’s work, and doing it well.
Some people, it is said, make a pact with the devil in order to achieve their desires. Henry had made a pact with God.