Post-classical history


Wednesday 1st1

MAYDAY SAW THE beginning of summer. Across the country, men and women rose early and went out looking for wild flowers and greenery to deck their houses and streets. In the city of London and the surrounding parishes dancing took place around maypoles; a particularly large one was set up in Cornhill. In some places the people staged Robin Hood plays and held feasts called May ales, with tables laden with mutton, chicken, bread and pastries – and of course lots of ale. May queens and May kings were chosen and given garlands; they were crowned and paraded in procession, with May officers supervising the celebrations, and everyone settling at the end of the evening around a great bonfire.2

In the Palace of Westminster, the exchequer clerks were busy enrolling notes of payments. Nicholas Merbury was reimbursed for obtaining a thousand lances for the Harfleur expedition, and for more saltpetre and sulphur for making gunpowder. The clerk recorded a payment of 40 marks to Robert Rodyngton for guarding the ships laden with wine that he had arrested and escorted safely to Southampton for the king. Payments were also made showing that Henry had recently taken steps to mobilise the clergy for war. Sums were paid to various messengers to deliver letters issued under the great seal, commissioning the archbishops and bishops to hold a view of the clergy within their dioceses, ‘counting the multitude and members of the clergy and notifying them to the chancellor by certificate on the 8th day of July next coming’. And in the wake of the great council, at which Henry had asked for the bishops and archbishops to consider what loans they might make to assist his expedition, Richard Norton and John Sewale, messengers, were paid ‘for taking eight letters under the king’s signet to various bishops and abbots for money lent by them to the king as well as certain letters sent under the privy seal to Hankyn de Mitton for money lent by him to the king for his voyage across the sea’.3

Under today’s date we also find evidence that Henry had made a personal visit to Southampton (his intended port of embarkation) within the last few weeks. John Drax, sergeant-at-arms, was paid for arresting Christopher Rys by the king’s order, whom he ‘brought to the presence of the said king at Southampton’. How recent this visit was, it is not possible to say; the longest prolonged gap in Henry’s itinerary is early March; but it is possible that he had inspected the town more recently, perhaps in Holy Week.

Under this day’s date we find other references to Southampton. William Soper was paid £280 ‘for making the new ship named Holyghost’ as well as a further £20 ‘for paintings on the king’s new ship the Holy Ghost at Southampton’. The exchequer clerks also paid messengers for carrying letters to various sheriffs for them to assemble cattle and lead them to Southampton to feed the army about to muster there. This is the first sign of the great drive of men and provisions towards Southampton that would take place over the subsequent months, and which everyone in Southern England would have seen taking place along the highways and byways around their parishes.

Thursday 2nd

The previous day, at 4 p.m., the messengers carrying the signed notice of the pope’s decision to abdicate had arrived in Constance. They were told that the twelve days the pope had been allowed for his decision had expired the previous night. Today a general session would be held at which the pope would be formally accused by public edict for his crimes, damages, and other offences.4

The citation against the pope had already been drafted, and the cardinal of Ostia received a copy at about 7 a.m. this morning. Few other cardinals had time to read it as they were being summoned into the cathedral. When all were assembled in the emperor’s presence, the deputation from John XXIII was read aloud. Sigismund responded that it was too late: he refused to accept it. The representatives of the four nations were similarly scornful of the pope’s advances. Nothing more was said on the matter. The opening Mass began, and the other prelates who were late arriving took their seats. After the Mass, the citation was read out. John was accused of heresy, promoting the schism, simony, maladministration, wasting the property of the Church, and sinful acts in his personal life. At the end of each charge, the representatives of each nation responded, ‘placet’ – it is pleasing.

The cardinals present heard the accusations, and were not pleased. The text had been received by the cardinal of Ostia only just before the session. The bishops from the nations were lesser men than the cardinals; yet the bishops had been privy to proceedings. The college of cardinals had been deliberately overlooked, as if superfluous to the discussions. It amounted to contempt – and now they rose and gave vent to their feelings. How was it that the English nation, with fewer than twenty churchmen and only three bishops, could cast a vote on this matter, and yet they, the cardinals, could not? There were sixteen cardinals present, and they all took precedence over all the English churchmen. They had a good point.

Eventually, after much wrangling, the cardinals were refused permission to form a nation of their own. Instead they were fobbed off with the right to appoint six deputies who could sit with the representatives of the nations. The determination of the emperor to end the schism, supported by the prelates of the German, French and English nations, was greater than the traditional authority of the papal curia. The latter had lost much of their respect, and with it they had lost power.

Friday 3rd

Henry gave orders today for William Kingston, master of the Katherine of the Tower, to equip his ship and be ready to enter the king’s service. Similar orders were delivered to John Piers, master of the Little Trinity of the Tower, and to William Robinson, master of the Nicholas of the Tower, and to Stephen Thomas, master of the king’s great flagship, the Trinity Royal.5

In the great tapestry of the whole fifteenth century, the most important thing that happened today was a birth, and its significance was a complete unknown to all those present. It had nothing to do with Henry himself, nor his ships, nor the council of Constance, nor France. A baby girl was born, and the mother was Joan Beaufort, Henry’s aunt. The father was the stalwart Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, on whom Henry relied for the defence of the north. Henry’s newborn cousin was called Cecily, and she would grow up to marry Richard, son of Richard of Conisborough, earl of Cambridge. Her husband would begin the dynastic struggle that we know today as the Wars of the Roses; and she would give birth to twelve children. Two would become kings of England: Edward IV and Richard III.

History, through its linear stories, encourages us not to think in such terms. But just as Henry was giving his orders for his flagship, the Trinity Royal, to be made ready for his forthcoming invasion of France, a group of women in a chamber at Raby Castle were wiping his aunt’s brow, washing her body, and changing the sheets on her bed – and bathing the crying infant whose sons would one day kill Henry’s son and grandson, obliterating the Lancastrian dynasty.

Saturday 4th

Henry’s business today was principally taken up with German shipping. He ordered officials at Kingston upon Hull to de-arrest the ship called Holy Ghost of Lubeck, which was then in the port, and to allow the master Herman Sasse to return to his homeland.6 A licence was drawn up at his instigation for two German merchants to ship wheat and malt to Norway.7 And a commission was issued to two men to take the sail, anchors, cables and armaments of a German ship lately wrecked in the port of Kingston upon Hull, and to deliver them to one of his mariners.8 It was perhaps no coincidence that three items of German business should be dealt with by him on the same day. One might speculate that he had received a German delegation of sorts, or that he had appointed a specific clerk to deal with German affairs.


MAT At Constance, the day of reckoning had come for the soul of the late John Wycliffe – at least in terms of its earthly fate. Forty-five articles against him – forty-five possible instances of heresy in his writings – were re-examined and condemned anew. To these were added a further 266 examples of his heretical teaching. Regardless of any good he had done in his lifetime, a sentence was drawn up condemning not only his books but also his memory.

For Henry, this was justification of his condemnation of the Lollards. For Jan Hus, Jerome, and their supporters, it was a declaration of ominous intent.

Monday 6th

Rogationtide – the days between Rogation Sunday and Ascension Day – saw more religious processions. Most communities carried crosses around their parishes, asking for God’s blessing upon the fertility of the soil. Church bells were rung and banners carried, but there was no feasting. Instead, men and women were expected to fast again, eschewing meat for three days as in Lent, until Ascension Day itself.9

Henry granted £10 to his servants Thomas Green and John Mede, this sum having been confiscated from the constable of Berkhamsted Castle as a fine for allowing the escape of two felons from the castle.10 He issued a commission of inquiry into the circulation of false coin in Cambridgeshire – his second inquiry of this year into the treasonable practice of counterfeiting money.11 And he commissioned Sir James Harrington, the duke of York’s lieutenant of the East March, and eight other men to arrest a total of thirty-one named men who had breached the truce agreed between Henry and the Scottish regent, the duke of Albany. They were to be imprisoned in Berwick Castle ‘until they have made due reformation of their incursions’.12


At Constance, at the time of vespers (early evening), the emperor publicly took back the duke of Austria into his favour. In the Franciscan monastery, the duke went down on his knees three times before the emperor and submitted himself, his castles, cities, towns, vassals and subjects unreservedly to Sigismund. He begged to be forgiven for his crimes against the emperor and against the Church, and everyone present. He submitted himself absolutely to the authority of the council and begged only that the pope’s life be spared, and promised that, if this was granted, he would bring him back to Constance.

Sigismund was satisfied. He took the town of Freiburg, where John XXIII was staying, into his own hands, and ordered that the pope be guarded day and night, with twelve guards during the day and twenty-four at night. Cardinal Fillastre noted in his record of events that things had turned out as he had foretold: the pope had exchanged one threat for a far worse one. Now he stood to lose everything.13

Wednesday 8th

Henry granted two lords, his brother Thomas and his cousin the duke of York, letters of protection for his forthcoming voyage.14 He ordered that the royal revenues from Carmarthen should be handed over to the mayor and burgesses of the town ‘as the Welsh rebels razed the walls and the citizens are robbed nightly as a result’.15 And Sir John Tiptoft – the long-standing Lancastrian supporter who had risen to prominence as Speaker of the Commons during his father’s reign – was formally appointed seneschal of Aquitaine.16This seems to have been the first positive move Henry made with regard to Gascony since his uncle’s return in the summer of 1414.

The same day the constable of Dover was commissioned to levy £80 from the people of Sandwich in the case of Katherine Kaylewates of Flanders. The patent letter explained how she had been robbed of goods to that value, contrary to the truce between England and Flanders, and how the king wished to provide remedy for her.17 Henry was allowing nothing to threaten the fragile series of alliances and non-aggression pacts that he had carefully built up since his accession.

Thursday 9th: Ascension Day

The sixth Thursday after Easter was Ascension Day, the commemoration of Christ’s ascent into Heaven. The church bells were rung once more, and processions were held in which the clergy of the great churches carried their valuable relics through the streets of their towns. Those who had been fasting for the last three days found relief in the form of the great feast.18 And, in Henry’s case, special oblations were made. In 1413 he had marked Ascension Day with a gift of £2 to a Franciscan friar, on top of his usual gifts.19

At about this time, Henry left Westminster and headed west, to Reading. Before he did so, he granted authority to Sir Robert Umphraville and Sir James Harrington to prorogue the truce with Scotland, or to negotiate a new one. This was merely a precautionary measure, pending more specific arrangements that would follow in a week’s time.20

Friday 10th

At Reading Henry dictated a letter addressed to an unnamed group of men – possibly the mayor and aldermen of London.21 ‘In the name of the Holy Trinity we have taken our road along our next voyage, to be made personally by us … and have promised to pay our lords and others of our retinue for a quarter of a year, and have promised each of them to pay another quarter, the one following, at the time we embark, which is not far off,’ he declared. He went on to explain what had been explained at the first day of the great council in April: that the grants and subsidies would not be sufficient to cover the second payment in advance. However, he did not mention that various lords had agreed to accept payment for this second quarter in arrears; instead he asked that the recipients of the letter loan him as much money as they could, sending it to Sir John Pelham and William Esturmy, who would deliver such security for the loan as necessary.

Henry’s presence at Reading at this time has convinced some writers that he was on a pilgrimage. This might have been the case; the Brut also refers to Henry riding about the land on pilgrimages before his voyage to France. But if that was the purpose of his journey he did not go much further than Reading, and certainly did not visit St Winifrid’s well, or Holywell, in North Wales, as some writers have supposed.22 Holywell was about eight days’ journey from Westminster, each way; and Henry, having left Westminster on the 9th, was soon back there.23 Most probably he had set out for Winchester or Southampton and today received news that sent him hurrying back to London.

While Henry was dictating his begging letter at Reading, Bishop Courtenay was compiling a dossier of the promises made by the Armagnac lords in the time of the late king, Henry IV. When John the Fearless had been in power, the Armagnacs had taken it upon themselves to promise Henry IV that they would help him recover his inheritance of Gascony, and recognise his sovereignty over the duchy of Aquitaine. The Treaty of Bourges had been proof of their acknowledgement of Henry’s right to the whole of the region. It had not escaped Courtenay’s notice – nor Henry’s – that the Armagnac lords had reneged on their earlier promises. For the purposes of demonstrating the justice of Henry’s cause, the Treaty of Bourges was now dug out from its coffer in the Tower of London and sent to Lambeth, where Courtenay started reading it. It would have no bearing on the negotiations with France but it would have great importance in persuading those at the council of Constance of Henry’s right to feel aggrieved – among them the Holy Roman Emperor.24

Also today, four men were commissioned to enquire into a long-running dispute at Lynn (now King’s Lynn) in Norfolk. Lynn was at this time a large and very prosperous town with a population in the region of five thousand, with valuable trading connections with the Baltic. However, it was within the lordship of the bishop of Norwich. Prior to 1406, the bishop of Norwich had been Henry Despenser, ‘the fighting bishop’. At the time of Henry IV’s return to England in 1399, the men of Lynn had sought to overthrow Despenser by attempting to place themselves directly under the patronage of the new king. Costly legal battles had followed, in which the mayor and burgesses and the rest of the community had become heavily indebted to the gild merchant of the town, owing more than £450. After Despenser’s death, the gild merchant sought to recover this money from the mayors who had led the legal battle to oust Bishop Despenser. The result had been a bitter row that no man seemed able to sort out. Henry’s instructions, enrolled today, mark yet another royal attempt to solve the dispute, which would carry on for another couple of years.25


In France, in the seneschalcy of Nîmes, the arrière-ban was proclaimed.26 This type of call-out was the most severe: any man who did not obey it was to forfeit all his lands. The reason for this proclamation was that Henry’s subjects in Gascony ‘had taken many towns in France’. The truce had run out, the duke of Bourbon had recommenced hostilities at the head of 6,000 men and the English were responding. Whether they had really taken many towns is open to question, but the fact that the war was opening up not just in the Saintonge – where the duke of Bourbon was now threatening Blaye, on the north side of the Gironde – but also near Nîmes in the south of France reminds us that Henry’s Gascon policy was proving dangerous. He might have been preparing to go to war with France in order to secure the sovereignty of the region, but he showed little concern for his lands there, or for his Gascon subjects.

Saturday 11th

One possible explanation for the shortness of Henry’s visit to Reading is that he had – as he claimed in his letter – set out on the road to war, going to Southampton via Reading, but that some news brought him back the following day to the capital. If this is the correct explanation, then the most likely reason is that he had heard that his ambassadors to Constance had now returned. The earl of Warwick, Sir Ralph Rochford and Lord Fitzhugh entered London today; Sir Walter Hungerford had arrived back yesterday.27 So there was a very good reason why Henry turned back to the capital straightaway. No doubt he wanted to hear all the news of proceedings against the pope, and how things stood at the time they departed.


At around this time two envoys from Prussia were admitted to the king’s presence. They were Peter Benefeld and Hans Covolt of Danzig. The Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, a military order based in Prussia that continued to fight crusades every year in the north of Lithuania, had commissioned them in January to come to England to seek payment of sums totalling over 10,000 marks that Henry IV had promised to pay the Order. They had set out from Marienburg on 27 March, and probably arrived in London about a month later. They had then spent ten days seeking an audience with Henry, and they may have seen him just before he set out for Reading.

Their first audience amounted to very little. They received no promises – only the news that the king was very busy. He was also not inclined to smile on knights from distant lands asking for large amounts of money, even if he did owe them. They were told it would be three weeks before he could see them again.28

Sunday 12th

Of all the families that had rebelled against Henry IV, none had done so with greater force and greater losses than the Percy family. The three principal members of the family – Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, his brother Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester, and Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, son and heir to the earl of Northumberland – had originally sided with Henry IV, and supported him, becoming his most trusted advisers. But they had sought to control him, and Henry IV was not the sort of man who looked kindly on attempts to influence his royal prerogative. Nor had the Percy family realised that, in becoming responsible for the safeguarding of the north, they would end up more indebted than they had been under Richard II. So they had rebelled. At the battle of Shrewsbury Hotspur and the earl of Worcester had paid with their lives. At the battle of Bramham Moor in 1408, the old earl of Northumberland followed them into the grave.

Although this was in many respects a victory for the Lancastrians, it was not a satisfactory permanent state of affairs. The heir to the earldom of Northumberland was the young Henry Percy, Hotspur’s son, who had been abandoned in Scotland by the old earl and imprisoned by the Scots. Thus there was no hereditary lord locally to guard the East March. That responsibility had been given officially to the duke of York who performed it through a deputy, Sir James Harrington. This was not the same as having an earl on hand to raise his feudal tenants and wider retinue to resist the Scots. As Henry Percy was now of age, his release, restoration and return to Northumberland would be strategically useful to Henry.29

Henry’s plan was to exchange Mordach, earl of Fife, for Henry Percy. He had already set a provisional date of 27 May for taking Mordach from the Tower and sending him back to his father, the duke of Albany. Today at Westminster he gave instructions for drawing up the safe conducts for the Scottish magnates who had been designated to negotiate and agree the transfer of the two men. These included Mordach’s own son and heir (Robert Stewart), George Dunbar (son and heir of the Scottish earl of March), three other lords, the duke of Albany’s secretary, and twenty servants.30

Monday 13th

The emperor, the cardinals and the prelates gathered this morning in the cathedral at Constance. The bishop of Salisbury said Mass, and afterwards it was declared that the citation against the pope had been promulgated throughout the city, being posted on doors as well as read aloud. At this point Cardinal Zabarella rose and declared that the cardinal of Cambrai, Pierre d’Ailly, had received a papal bull from John XXIII yesterday evening in which he had declared that his proctors would be cardinals d’Ailly, Zabarella and Fillastre. Cardinal Zabarella added that he had only just seen this instruction, and was unsure what to do. Cardinal Fillastre stood and declared that he had only heard of his appointment that morning at 7 o’clock, and he did not intend to accept it.

All this sounds remarkably petty, but proceedings were about to take a turn for the ridiculous. The bishop of Posen went into the pulpit and declared that three cardinals should accompany the representatives of the nations and go to the door of the cathedral and formally summon the pope (who was still at Freiburg, as everyone there knew). Only the nations’ representatives went; not a cardinal stirred. The cardinals started arguing about which ones should go to the door. The cardinal of Pisa declared that it should be two junior cardinal deacons who should perform the duty. The cardinal of Bari replied that in his thirty years of being a cardinal, it had always been the representatives of the three ranks of cardinal who performed such functions. This led to an argument about whether there had been a similar case in the past. The reason why the nations and the emperor had so strongly resisted the cardinals becoming a nation in their own right is very vividly revealed by this event. They were like a bunch of old hens clucking away about whose role it was to summon a nonexistent cockerel into the hen house. In the meantime, the prelates representing the four nations had gone to the door, summoned the pope, come back and announced he was not there, as everyone knew.

Cardinal Fillastre and Cardinal Orsini and eight bishops, two from each nation, were then deputed to hear witnesses give evidence against the pope in the Franciscan friary. This took place in the afternoon. Ten witnesses came forward, including several bishops – enough ‘to prove the pope’s waste and maladministration … through simony and corruption, etc, especially his reckless alienation of church property for his own profit … all leading to the conclusion that he should be suspended’.31

The proceedings against the pope clearly fascinated all those who took part in them. Cardinal Fillastre described them in detail, and they were also mentioned by the papal notary, Jacob Cerretano, and Ulrich Richental. None of them even mention that a petition on behalf of Jan Hus was presented today, in the same Franciscan friary, or that a number of important lords came in person to see it presented to the cardinals and bishops. Among them were Lord Henry Lacembok, Lord John of Chlum, Lord Wenceslas of Dubá, nine other named lords, and several others unnamed. It was an impressive delegation on behalf of a man whom many already regarded as a condemned heretic.

The petition was read out by Hus’s friend, Peter of Mladoňovice. He told the cardinals how Lord John of Chlum and Lord Wenceslas of Dubá had been requested by Sigismund to induce Jan Hus to attend the council under an Imperial safe conduct. He explained that Hus had agreed, in order to remove the stain of ill-repute from Bohemia, and had come of his own free will to Constance. But although he had been neither tried nor convicted, he had been imprisoned, even though everyone else was allowed to come and go freely, including representatives of the popes Gregory XII and Benedict XIII. Hus was now ‘so cruelly chained and reduced to so slender a diet that it is to be feared that, his strength being exhausted, he might be in danger of losing his reason’. Peter insisted that the reverend fathers observe the emperor’s safe conduct and bring the case of Jan Hus to a speedy end, stating that ‘the lords put particular confidence in the eminent rectitude of your paternities’.32

Wednesday 15th

Henry met his council in the Star Chamber at Westminster. One might have thought that the matters to be discussed would have touched on the affairs at Constance. Somewhat surprisingly, the only subject mentioned for which we have any evidence was wine. Or more particularly, what to do with wine-laden vessels captured at sea. Henry decided that warrants should be drawn up under the privy seal and directed to the mayor and bailiffs of Winchelsea, to value the wines that had been taken there, and to deliver them to Thomas Chaucer, the king’s butler. It was also decreed that letters should be sent to William Soper and John Eastgarston, customs officials at Southampton, declaring what should be done with Scottish, French and Breton wine-laden ships taken at sea, and what was to be done with wine in Flemish ships. Along these lines, another warrant was sent to Sir Thomas Carew, John Clifford and Robert Rodyngton, who were instructed to deliver their captured ships to the customs officials of Southampton, unless they were Flemish.33

Following the return of the ambassadors from Constance, including Sir Ralph Rochford, Henry formally handed over the castle of Somerton to his brother Thomas, duke of Clarence.34 The temporalities of the see of Coventry and Lichfield, which should have been handed over to the new bishop, John Catterick, soon after his appointment on 1 February, were now finally made over to him in his absence – just ten weeks late.35 One cannot help thinking that the government had taken advantage of Catterick’s absence at Constance to keep as much of the episcopal revenue as they could. Also today, letters of protection were drawn up for Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, who was going to France on Henry’s expedition.36 Mortimer might have been a weak soldier but it was vital that he should be with the army. Left in England, with such a strong claim to the throne, who knows what treason might have been effected in his name? His presence on the expedition was an example of Henry keeping his friends close and his enemies closer.

Llywelyn ap Madoc Ddu, one of the last followers of Owen Glendower, had finally given up his adherence to the Welsh cause. Today Henry pardoned him ‘for all treasons, rapes, murders, rebellions, insurrections, felonies, conspiracies, trespasses, offences, negligences, extortions, misprisions, ignorances, contempts, concealments and deceptions committed by him’, and returned to him all his lands within the lordship of Builth, which Henry IV had confiscated on account of his rebellion.37 Glendower was still in hiding but he had been deserted by almost every lord who had served him. Gradually, one by one, Henry was accepting them back into the English fold. He might not necessarily trust them, but at least he could give them an opportunity to give up fighting.

Thursday 16th

Although Henry had already delegated authority to Sir Robert Umphraville and Sir James Harrington to negotiate a new truce with Scotland, he now decided to appoint new negotiators: Lord Grey of Codnor, Robert Ogle and Master Richard Holme. They were to meet with the duke of Albany’s commissioners on 6 August.38 In so doing he replaced the duke of York as warden of the East March with Lord Grey of Codnor, who was not going on the campaign but remaining behind as one of the council. Both the duke of York and Sir James Harrington would now be following Henry to France.

Further arrangements were made for the shipping of the king’s household. The king had a writ drawn up for Robert Hunt, sergeant for the carriage of the royal household, to find sufficient carts and four-wheeled wagons to transport the royal household abroad. Also he was to find ‘timber, iron, carpenters and smiths for the same carts and wagons, newly constructing them where necessary, and sufficient horses for the same, and all manner of other necessities wherever they may be found, both within liberties and without (excepting the estates of the Church), paying a reasonable sum for the same; and arresting, paying and providing sufficient men to govern the said carts.39 At the same time, he gave orders for ships and harbourage for his newly appointed seneschal of Aquitaine, Sir John Tiptoft.40

Henry was mindful of the fact that the first men for the expedition would have started gathering in London, in line with his orders for them to assemble there on 24 April, ready to march to Southampton by 8 May. Ships were already gathering at Southampton, Winchelsea, London and Sandwich, in line with his orders of the previous month to assemble by 8 May. These deadlines had already passed – and it was still another six weeks before his planned sailing date. Today he ordered Richard Woodville, castellan of Dover Castle, to look over the men mustering at Dover. He expected five knights and eight esquires with retinues totalling 203 men-at-arms and 621 archers to be there.41 One of these knights, Sir John Grey, was supposed to be gathering forty men-at-arms and 120 archers to serve on the campaign.42 None of the other knights and esquires is recorded as serving on the expedition, so presumably they and their retinues were intended for the defence of Calais (as men sailed there from Dover) or for the defence of the seas.

Friday 17th

A large number of letters of protection and safe conduct was issued today to those going abroad in the king’s service. The recipients included Sir John Tiptoft, going to Gascony, and many lesser knights and esquires heading to France: men such as William Shore from Hertfordshire, William Wingate from Bedfordshire, James Grigg from London, John Baskerville from Herefordshire, and James Ethevenes, gentleman of Cornwall. It is a reminder of how the preparation for war was fast becoming a countrywide movement, drawing in men from all across the kingdom, and that men were travelling long distances, staying in inns, buying food and drink, armour and horses, arranging safe conducts and responding to writs. The whole country must have been buzzing with expectation.

Saturday 18th

Five days had passed since the Bohemian and Polish lords had delivered their petition on behalf of Jan Hus to the council of Constance. Two days ago they had received a formal reply from Géraud du Puy, bishop of Carcassonne. The lords had been astonished to hear a number of reasons given justifying the imprisonment of Hus. Although the basic demand of the petition had been agreed – that Hus be given a fair trial – it seemed from the council’s responses that he had already been judged. Now the lords returned, fired up, and Peter of Mladoňovice responded in a powerful and uncompromising manner, in defence of his friend and teacher:

First, whereas to the lords’ statement that Master Jan Hus came here to Constance of his own will and freely under the safe conduct and protection of the emperor and the empire, you responded that the lords had been ill informed concerning the safe conduct … for you said that Master Jan Hus had procured the safe conduct only fifteen days after his arrest … On the very day of the arrest of Master Jan Hus, Lord John of Chlum, when he was asked by the pope in the presence of amost all the cardinals as to whether he [Hus] had the emperor’s safe conduct, replied ‘Most holy father, be assured that he has’. None of them requested at the time that the safe conduct be shown. Immediately on the next and the third day and thereafter Lord John loudly complained in respect of the pope that Master Hus, under the safe conduct of the emperor, was detained as a prisoner, and showed the safe conduct to many. Moreover to verify what he is saying, he calls on the counts, bishops, knights, esquires, and the notable citizens of this city of Constance for their confirmation and testimony, for they all saw the safe conduct at the time and heard it read aloud.43

This set the tenor for the rest of the speech: sheer anger that the council could dare to fob these lords off with such blatant untruths.

The second response the prelates had given to the lords was treated with similar anger. The lords claimed that Hus had been condemned as a heretic and a heresiarch – an inventor and preacher of new heresies – and excommunicated for failing to appear at the papal curia five years earlier. However, they pointed out that the excommunication had been issued by one of Hus’s enemies, Archbishop Zajic of Prague, who had been acting in a personal capacity. When Hus had been summoned to appear before the papal curia, he had sent proctors, as was proper; but they had been refused an audience and had been imprisoned for several months and cruelly treated, and Hus himself had been condemned in his absence. Cardinal Zabarella had reviewed the case, and had declared the actions against Hus invalid on account of his proctors not being heard; but Michael de Causis, one of Hus’s enemies, persuaded the pope to take the case away from Cardinal Zabarella and give it to another who was certain to uphold the sentence of excommunication. As for the council’s third response – that Hus had preached heresy since coming to Constance – the lords objected that this was impossible. He had been arrested soon after his arrival, and in the intervening period he had been in the company of Lord John of Chlum who was prepared to swear that Hus had not preached at all.

Such was the strength of Peter of Mladoňovice’s case that he chose to prefix it by saying that the lords ‘do not hereby accuse your paternities of dissimulation in this matter but wish that … you may discern and judge it more clearly and effectively’. It was a polite sop to the cardinals and prelates. One can understand why: Hus stood to suffer if the lords should be dismissed. But the implication that the prelates of the council were lying is equally understandable. It was true.


Huge amounts of money were now being laid out for the forthcoming expedition. Sir Roger Leche, treasurer of the royal household, and his assistant, John Spenser, received a large number of payments for the costs of ‘the king’s voyage to Harfleur’, totalling more than £3,000. John Rothenhale, controller of the king’s household, had received £400 for the expenses of ‘boys and other persons of the king’s household to attend the voyage to France’. Stephen Flexmer and Henry Bower and others had been paid £6 and 100 marks for making more bows, But these amounted to just a fraction of the total handed out by the exchequer clerks today. Among the many other payments we find:44

·                  Richard Clitherowe and Reginald Curteis, for the provision of ships from Holland and Zeeland for the king’s voyage abroad £449 6s 9d

·                  Richard Woodville esquire, castellan of the king’s castle of Dover, for the wages of ships’ masters and mariners to guard various ships sent from Zeeland and Holland by Richard Clitherowe and Reginald Curteis £140

·                  William Catton, clerk of the king’s ships, for repairing and mending ships £100

·                  For the earl of Dorset, admiral of England, and other officers attending to the preparation of ships within the waters of the Thames 60s 6d

·                  Roger Hunt, going to the port of Plymouth with £1,883 6s 8d to pay the wages of Sir John Tiptoft, seneschal of Aquitaine, and his retinue in Aquitaine £10

·                  Sir John Neville, custodian of the town of Carlisle and the West March, for the wages of his men-at-arms and archers: two payments, of £148 and £312 10s

·                  Various messengers sent to all the ports of England with letters under the great seal to prohibit the passage of anyone foreign going abroad 63s 4d

·                  Sir Richard Arundel for his expenses in keeping the castle of Bamburgh £120

·                  The earl of Arundel, treasurer of England, for his expenses in going to parts of Wales for certain difficult matters moving the king £18 12s

·                  John Wele and Thomas Strange, for the wages of men-at-arms and archers remaining with them for the safe custody of North Wales £263 5s 6d

·                  John Everdon, clerk of the king’s wars, for conducting certain sums of money for various men-at-arms and archers in South Wales to join the king’s voyage to foreign parts 66s 8d

On top of all these payments there were a large number of annual pensions to be paid – £20 to a confectionary cook in the royal spicery, £10 to a royal attorney, £100 to Sir John Robesart, £40 to Nicholas Merbury, £40 to Gerard Sprong … Among them we find a payment to Richard of Conisborough, earl of Cambridge, ‘to whom Richard king of England granted a 100 marks twice yearly for life’. However, today Richard received only £40 of the 100 marks owing to him. If he was feeling aggrieved that Henry was not making sufficient provision for him, this partial payment is hardly likely to have helped. He was an earl – yet the king expected him to get by on an income of £80 per year.

No doubt the reason why Henry did not pay Richard in full was his pressing need to send his money elsewhere. No money was sent to Sir John Talbot in Ireland, even though he had an army in the field. Even the treasurer, the earl of Arundel, had to accept that he could not take the full sum he was due in respect of his wages. Henry realised he would have to rely on loans from now on. As the lords and prelates at the great council had demonstrated, they were prepared to accept deferred payments on the basis of the king handing over the crown jewels as security. There was a precedent for this in Edward III putting his treasure up as security – even pawning the great crown – in order to pay for his campaigns in 1338–40. Today we find the first evidence that Henry had given instructions to do likewise. John Coppleston junior was paid for coming up from Devon with £573 6s 8d in loans from the dean and chapter of Exeter Cathedral, the mayors and corporations of Exeter and Plymouth, the abbots of Tavistock and Buckfast, the priors of Plympton and Launceston and four gentlemen: Robert Cary, Alexander Champernowne, John Beville and John Copleston. In return he took back jewels worth £800, namely ‘a large tabernacle of gilt silver, garnished with gold, which had belonged to the duke of Burgundy, having twenty balas rubies, twenty-two sapphires and 137 pearls’.45

Today we also find evidence that Henry expected the French ambassadors to come sooner rather than later, for he laid aside £200 ‘for the expenses of the French ambassadors coming from Dover to the presence of the king at Winchester’. Already he was anticipating where he would be when they arrived.46 Like so many other things, he had a tendency to stick to his plans once he had made up his mind. In this case it was not to be to his advantage.

Sunday 19th: Whitsunday

Whitsunday – or Pentecost – commemorated the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and so was of particular significance to a man like Henry who believed so zealously in the Holy Trinity. Two years earlier he had spent £151 16s on the feast held this day, and gave alms of a noble (6s 8d) in the abbey of Westminster.47 No doubt he did something similar in this year – and the religious character of the day is probably the reason why we find no royal business conducted.

Monday 20th

Whit Monday saw processions of all sorts in parish churches, towns and cities. In some places images of the Virgin were carried in procession. At Exeter a huge May garland was carried through the streets along with the colossal figure of an elephant.48 Quite what the relevance of the elephant was is unclear; few Exonians had ever seen one; even the thirteenth-century carving of an elephant on a misericord in the cathedral would have been known only to a very few people. But the sense of celebration was in the air – and, in some places, for good reason. For example, today, at Vadstena in Sweden, there was a great procession overseen by Henry’s sister, Philippa, as the first nuns stepped out from the monastery for the boats that would take them to their new Bridgettine monastery at Syon.49

A payment of 6s 8d is noted today to John Brown, who was sent ‘with all speed’ to Sir John Wilcotes, whom the king had assigned ‘to provide for the ambassadors of France until they come to the king’s presence’.50 Henry had perhaps had this duty in mind when he had made the grant to Wilcotes in April. Coupled with the £200 he had provided for the ambassadors’ expenses, it reveals that Henry genuinely expected the French to send their representatives to him quickly. As they well knew, they had nothing to gain from sending their men on a futile mission – but they had everything to gain by delaying tactics, forcing Henry to put off his embarkation, and causing him thereby to waste money and resources.

Tuesday 21st

Henry met with his council today at Westminster to discuss the instructions to be issued to John Hull and William Chancellor: two esquires whom Henry had chosen to conduct Mordach, earl of Fife, back to Scotland. It was agreed that Mordach should be taken to Newcastle upon Tyne and handed over to the mayor and sheriff of the town with letters from the king instructing them to convey him safely to Warkworth Castle. The two esquires were also to carry similar letters to the sheriff of Northumberland and the constable of Warkworth Castle, letting them know of the arrangements. At Warkworth, Mordach was to be safely guarded until it was clear that Henry Percy was out of Scotland and in Berwick Castle. The esquires were ordered to take royal letters to the constable of Berwick Castle instructing him to receive Mordach and keep him safely. When the hand-over had been effected, the esquires were to inform Sir Robert Umphraville or Sir John Widdrington or ‘other notable persons who know Henry Percy well’ and once these men were sure that it was indeed Henry Percy who had been delivered, they were to release Mordach to the Scots and to bring Henry Percy swiftly to the king. The hand-over was to take place by 1 July at the latest, and Mordach was not to be permitted to speak to anyone prior to his release.51

A commission was issued to John Hawley, John Clifford and Robert Rodyngton to find out who now had in their possession ‘certain vessels of the king’s enemies laden with wine lately captured by Thomas Carew and other subjects of the king at sea [who] took them to other ports in Devon and Cornwall without Thomas’s permission’. These ships were not those that Robert Rodyngton had taken to Southampton by 26 April but others that Carew had captured. This is made clear by a second commission issued to the same men: to find out who owned the vessels and to conduct them safely ‘to the king’s presence at Southampton’.52 It might have been the wine the king was after – he had recently paid the victualler of Calais £128 for Gascon wine for the royal household – but, given the destination to which these ships were to be taken, it was more probably the vessels themselves.53

Friday 24th

A council minute dated ‘Friday 25 May’ [sic] notes that four members of the privy council – Henry Beaufort, Thomas Beaufort, the earl of Arundel and the keeper of the privy seal – met at Blackfriars to discuss extorting money from the Italians. Henry’s need for money for his invasion was about to take an ugly turn.

Merchants from Italy might have thought they had nothing to do with the war between Henry and the king of France. It did not concern them. But they had been increasingly drawn into it. Henry’s recent prohibition on foreigners leaving the country was a significant threat to their international trade; so was his requisition of all ships with a carrying capacity of over twenty tuns. A number of Venetian galleys in English ports were commandeered for the purposes of his invasion. But far more threatening was Henry’s demand for cash.

The four privy councillors interviewed six Florentine merchants, four Venetians and two merchants from Lucca. Bishop Beaufort addressed them, and informed them that it was customary for men trading in foreign countries to make grants to the kings so that they could undertake expeditions. He hoped that they would loan the king what they could. If they did not, they would be imprisoned.

This was nothing short of tyranny. But that did not help the Italian merchants whom Beaufort had seized in Henry’s name. When told that they profited greatly from their trade in England, and that they should give up their gold and silver and other jewels to the tune of £1,200 in the case of the Florentine merchants, £1,000 in the case of the Venetians, and £200 in respect of the men of Lucca, they refused. ‘And because they refused to lend such sums to our lord the king, they were committed to the custody of the Fleet Prison’.54

Was there any justification for their seizure and arrest? Taking a view sympathetic to Henry, we may speculate that his thinking was as follows. Since the leading English merchants in London were being leaned on very heavily to loan money for the expedition, for the safeguarding of England’s trading links among other things, there was no reason why other merchants profiting from trade in England should not equally be required to do so. Indeed, the Italians may have been considered to have had an unfair competitive advantage in retaining their capital while the English merchants had to pledge theirs. In addition, we may remark that there was a precedent: Edward III had given orders for all the Italian merchants in England to be arrested in 1337, saving only those of the Bardi and Peruzzi companies, on whom the king was reliant for future borrowing. As Henry V regarded so many aspects of his great-grandfather’s reign as instructive for his own expedition, he may have known about this from the same chronicles that he was using for his military preparations. Although in 1337 the Genoese had been supporting the French in their antagonism of England – providing them with ships and mercenaries – Henry seems not to have been bothered by such details. Thus the king may have wholly believed that what his council was doing in his name was justifiable. But from a more objective standpoint it smacks of the sort of tyranny that Richard II perpetrated in the late 1390s, which Henry’s father had returned to England to stamp out in 1399.

The above business concerning the merchants – like all direct requests for money – was not conducted by the king in person but on his behalf by powerful men. Henry himself was concerned with the building of a bridge. He appointed Robert Welton, one of the clerks of the exchequer, to be the surveyor for ‘the construction of a bridge to be made by the king’s advice, to take carpenters, smiths and other workmen, artificers and labourers, and timber, iron, hides and other necessaries’.55 Where his new bridge was to be is not clear, but presumably it was a replacement of a dilapidated structure on the king’s highway.

The formal order for the delivery of Mordach, earl of Fife, to John Hull and William Chancellor was drawn up today at the king’s personal command.56

Saturday 25th

Robert Thresk – one of the clerks of the exchequer whom Henry had rewarded in February – had recently submitted a petition to the chamberlain. He wished to have permission to found a chantry of three chaplains to celebrate divine service daily at the altar of St Anne in his church at Thresk in Yorkshire (Thirsk, as it is called now).57 The beneficiaries of these prayers would be Robert Thresk himself and the king – for their good estate in their lifetimes and for their souls and the souls of Robert’s friends and relatives after death. Henry granted the petition.

One other order is extant for today. Stephen Ferrour, the royal farrier, was ordered to take iron and ‘horsenails’, and to enlist blacksmiths for shoeing the king’s horses on his expedition to France.58

Sunday 26th: Trinity Sunday59

Trinity Sunday was, for Henry, one of the most important religious feasts of the year. His devotion to the cult of the Holy Trinity featured in almost every aspect of his life, and the lives of those around him. From the character of his prayers to the decoration in the stained glass windows of royal palaces and chapels, and the salutations in his letters, he was a sincere follower of the three-in-one: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. Of the twenty or so ships in the royal fleet, three were called Trinity and one was the Holy Ghost. In 1413, he had travelled to Canterbury Cathedral to see his father entombed in the Trinity Chapel on Trinity Sunday. He may have had a difficult relationship with his father but, in their complete devotion to the Trinity, they were as close as father and son could be.60

For this reason it is all the more surprising to find Henry conducting business as normal on this day. Other important religious feasts noted above saw little or no recorded royal business. In contrast, several matters were attended to today. Only one of them was of a religious character. Henry ordered a charter to be sent to the House of Jesus of Bethlehem at Sheen showing that the priory had been granted the possessions of Ware and other alien priories.61

A letter was sent to the sheriff of Chester on the king’s command, stating that, on the advice of the chancellor, Henry had decided that no general or special assizes were to be held during his absence abroad.62 This was not out of any clemency for those accused of heinous crimes; they were left to languish in their gaols until their moment of justice should come after the campaign was over. Henry’s motive was to free up his men preparing to travel with him by releasing them from any obligation to serve on juries or to have to worry about turning up in court to give evidence.

Henry made preparations for feeding his army. The sheriffs of Kent, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire were ordered each to send two hundred oxen to Southwick, Tichfield, Beaulieu and Southampton respectively by 25 June.63 All four of these writs were authorised by Henry in person – as indeed were the great majority of preparatory writs. Also he heard his chamberlain recite a petition from the royal surgeon, Thomas Morstede, asking for a sum of money sufficient to obtain all the surgical consumables he had been ordered to provide for the duration of the voyage, and for the king to arrange carriage for everything to France. In addition, Morstede asked the king to appoint men to serve at the given wages: one suspects that he anticipated some difficulty persuading surgeons to give up their lucrative, safe London practices in return for 6d per day in a war zone. As one would expect, Henry granted Morstede’s petition in all respects.64

It is worth pausing at this point, on Trinity Sunday, to reflect on how much business was falling personally to the king. When books about Henry’s reign state that Henry spent most of the first half of 1415 preparing for the forthcoming campaign, they fail to draw attention to the extraordinary level of work that this entailed, and how much of it was dealt with by the king. As we have seen, Henry even involved himself in such matters as the provision of meat for the army when it assembled – even though this was a religious feast day when he might have chosen not to work. We have seen him over and over again personally attending to such matters as the provision of horseshoes and horsenails, or the manufacture of bowstaves. One would have thought that much of this would be delegated. But in 1415 there was no War Office. Matters such as carriage could be delegated, but otherwise each individual aspect of the forthcoming campaign had to be attended to by the king and council. And, with the council largely composed of clergymen or earls absent on royal business, for the most part that meant by Henry himself.

Monday 27th

This morning at the Tower the earl of Fife was released into the custody of John Hull and William Chancellor, in accordance with Henry’s directions of the 21st.65 His long journey back to Scotland had begun.

Elsewhere in the Tower, Henry was presiding over the council meeting held today to delegate various duties. First on the agenda was the duke of Burgundy. Instructions needed to be drawn up for men going to see John the Fearless. What the exact nature of their business was we cannot tell; the instructions themselves are no longer extant. But we know that Henry himself chose the archbishop of Canterbury, Hugh Mortimer, Master Philip Morgan and Master John Hovingham to deal with the matter, adding Lord Scrope ‘when he will arrive’.66 Apart from the archbishop, all of these men had been on the embassy to John the Fearless in June 1414, and Lord Scrope had secretly been back since. The wording of the note referring to Scrope suggests that the men were to sit down to draw up the instructions straightaway. Clearly the secret negotiations with John the Fearless were ongoing.

The next items on the agenda were the crown jewels and the treaty that Sir John Tiptoft was required to negotiate in Gascony. With regard to the crown jewels, the lords had decided at the April great council that, in return for accepting late payment of wages, they would take jewels as security. Some had already been dispersed, such as the ‘large tabernacle of gilt silver’ recently sent back to Henry’s creditors in Devon. To control the dispersal of such treasures, Henry appointed a committee consisting of his brother John, Henry Beaufort and Richard Courtenay, bishop of Norwich. Another committee – namely his brother Humphrey, Thomas Beaufort, and the keeper of the privy seal – was appointed to draw up precise instructions for Sir John Tiptoft with regard to Gascony.

The various committees indicate that Henry was beginning to delegate more tasks. The chancellor, Henry Beaufort, was given the duty of arraying men for the defence of the realm in each county. Beaufort was also instructed to inform all the archbishops and bishops to enter into their registers ‘the malice of the Lollards’. He was to organise the building of beacons – warning fires, in case of invasion – in each part of the country. To the treasurer of England (Thomas, earl of Arundel) and the controller of the royal household (John Rothenhale) fell the responsibility for obtaining and transporting victuals to Southampton. The treasurer (Arundel) and the admiral of England (Thomas Beaufort) were given the task of paying all the mariners. And these two men were also entrusted with sorting out the terms of an agreement for provisioning Calais and its English-held hinterland.67

Despite this increased level of delegation, Henry did not lessen the burden on himself. He commissioned several men to enquire into those rights in his manor of Sheen formerly enjoyed by his tenants there, which they had lost as a result of his new initiatives.68And he personally dictated a letter to the sheriff of Hampshire firmly ordering him to proclaim throughout the county that people should bake bread and brew ale to provide for the king’s army due to assemble at Southampton.69 Although this was the same day as he appointed a committee to oversee provisions for the army, it still fell to the king to issue this letter. And one small detail it contains explains just why it had become so important for the king to start delegating to the newly constituted committees. The people of Hampshire were ordered to bake and brew until the feast of St Peter ad Vincula (1 August). That was a full month after Henry hoped to sail. Clearly he anticipated yet further delays.

Tuesday 28th

Chancellor Beaufort was quick to act on his commission to array the clergy. The king dictated – or Beaufort drafted in the king’s name – a letter to be sent to all the archbishops and bishops. By the end of the day, the chancery clerks had written out the necessary copies to be sent to the twenty-one prelates of England and Wales, requiring them

to assemble with all speed the able and fencible clergy of the diocese … compelling them to be arrayed and equipped according to their estate and means, sparing none, and keeping them in array so as to be ready to resist the malice of the enemies of the realm and Church of England and of the Catholic faith when need be … and to certify in chancery under his seal by 16 July their array and equipment and the number arrayed.70

Nor were they to restrict their array to the parish clergy. The order expressly stated that the regular clergy were to be included, thereby requiring even those canons and friars who lived in near-monastic institutions to be arrayed. Even those who had exemptions from serving were required to be arrayed. During the king’s forthcoming expedition the clergy were to assist in ‘the defence of the realm and the church and of the faith, for which all Christians are bound to fight if need be to the death’. Quite what the motley crew of canons, precentors, rectors, vicars, priests, friars and hermits looked like when they were arrayed, together with their households, is anybody’s guess, but they assembled in large numbers. And between them they provided a large number of archers. A total of 6,759 eventually gathered in just six dioceses, so probably twice as many archers were arrayed by the clergy as sailed to France with Henry. Those Sunday archery training sessions, compulsory since the reign of Edward III, were now paying off.

The stream of orders preparing for the campaign continued. John Rothenhale, controller of the household, who had been delegated to find provisions for the expedition, issued a bill straightaway for Sir John Phelip and six other men ‘to take coals, wood, bowls, pots, vessels, and all other things necessary for the scullery of the royal household, as well as carpenters, labourers, carts and horses as needed’.71 He issued a similar order to Alexander Smetheley, yeoman usher of the king’s hall, to procure sufficient ‘timber, carts, horses, litters, saddles, carpenters and labourers’ for his office on the expedition.72 Other orders of Rothenhale included a commission to David Andever to take sea fish in the south and west of England for the royal household, and a commission to Richard Scalle to gather enough bacon for the king’s voyage.73

Amidst all this organisation and determination, one small, rare chink of personal affection is visible. Today Henry gave an order for Blanche Chalons to receive £20 yearly from the duties levelled on cloth in East Anglia.74 Blanche was the daughter of Hugh Waterton, one of the most trusted of all Lancastrian retainers. Hugh had first served John of Gaunt and then had become treasurer to Henry’s father in 1377. He had remained in the future king’s service for the rest of his life, becoming his chamberlain in 1396 and travelling with him on his crusade to Prussia and his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1393 his daughter Blanche had married Robert Chalons esquire, who had also travelled on the crusade to Prussia. Thus she was by inheritance and by marriage intimately connected with Henry’s family. But most of all, she had looked after Henry and his brothers and sisters in the 1390s, when they had been in Hugh Waterton’s guardianship.75

As Henry is increasingly revealed as a man who desired spiritual blessings and military victory above all else – to reassure him of the justice of his kingship – it is something of a reassurance to find that he had not forgotten those who had looked after him in his youth.

Wednesday 29th

Many of those observing the proceedings of the council of Constance must have wavered in their confidence that the prelates would be able to depose the three popes. Things had changed a lot since the last time three popes had been removed (at the council of Sutri, in 1046). There was a more formal election process, so to set aside the pope necessitated the setting aside of the opinions of a majority of the cardinals. Whole kingdoms and ‘national’ interests were now represented by each pope, and so each man had his secular following as well as his cardinals and prelates. And yet the council had done enough to continue to inspire confidence. It had shown enough conviction in its dealings with John XXIII; and Gregory XII had maintained his willingness to resign his title, despite John XXIII’s machinations and subversions. So the council had managed to weather its difficulties – largely due to the leadership of the emperor, the courage of the radical intellectuals who were prepared to elevate the council above the power of any pope, and the compliance of Gregory XII.

Today was the day that all those who had kept their faith in the council were rewarded. Today was set for the deposition of Pope John XXIII. The sentence had been written, the agreement had been achieved. Now all it required was the performance of the act.

The man selected to read the sentence was the deep-voiced Martin Porée, bishop of Arras, the chief spokesman of John the Fearless. The pope himself was not present, being in custody at Radolfzell.76 When the emperor was seated, following Mass, the bishop of Ostia signalled for Porée to begin. First he declared that, in the case of a vacancy, the council prohibited anyone taking any steps to fill that vacancy without the assent of the council – a wise precaution. The second decree stipulated that none of the three current popes should ever be re-elected to the papacy. And then came the words of the deposition itself:

In the name of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen. The sacrosanct general synod of Constance, lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit, invoking the name of Christ and keeping God only before its eyes, has noted the articles formulated and presented in the case against the lord pope, John XXIII … The clandestine departure of the said pope from this city of Constance and the sacred general council at a suspicious hour of the night, in an unsuitable disguise, was and is unwarrantable – a notorious scandal to the church of God and the council, a disturbing obstacle to the peace and union of the Church, an act to prolong the schism and a violation of the vow sworn by the same pope John to God and the Church and this sacred council. Pope John was and is a notorious simoniac, a notorious waster of the property and rights of the Roman and other churches, and of other pious institutions, and an evil administrator … By his detestable and dishonourable life and character he has notoriously scandalised the church of God and Christian people … Therefore, for these and other crimes … he deserves to be unseated, removed and deposed from the papacy and all administration, spiritual and temporal, as unworthy, unprofitable and dangerous. And the said holy synod hereby unseats, removes and deposes him, declaring all and every Christian of whatever rank, dignity or condition released from obedience, fealty and obligation to him …77

That was emphatic. It could have been more so – earlier drafts of the sentence had included charges of adultery, incest, and murdering his predecessor.78 But in the formulation of the final decree it had been decided that the more scandalous charges would bring shame upon the whole Church, and so only those above were read out. They were enough. John XXIII was no longer pope, and no one would ever again address him as one.

About the time of the pope’s deposition, John Catterick packed his bags and began the journey back to England. Ostensibly he carried a commission from the council to collect papal revenues, but in reality his main purpose was to relay all that had happened back to the king. He may have carried a copy of the deposition with him; the chronicler Thomas Walsingham included an amended version of it in his Chronica Maiora. Walsingham also mentioned that when the news was proclaimed in London, the chest containing the papal revenues in St Paul’s Cathedral was unlocked and emptied.79 The English were only too keen to be rid of John XXIII. Another chronicler, Adam Usk, found out that the pope had originally been charged with crimes far worse than simony and wasting church property. ‘Extraordinary to relate,’ he began, ‘because he [Pope John] was recalcitrant, and because of his former perjuries, homicides, adultery, simony, heresy and other crimes, and because he had twice ignominiously fled in secret in disguise, he was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment’.80

Pope John XXIII, the man who had summoned the council, was destined to be locked up in Gottlieben, the castle of the bishop of Constance, where Hus and Jerome were lying in chains.81


Henry Fitzhugh, acting in his capacity as chamberlain of England, drew up a list of the king’s minstrels whose wages were due to be paid on the forthcoming expedition. There were fifteen in total, which sounds like a large number until one remembers that music in the royal household at this time was not simply a matter of sweet harmonies while relaxing with a goblet of wine. Medieval secular music was either ‘high music’ or ‘low music’. ‘Low music’ was indeed tuneful and created in order to delight the listener. ‘High music’ on the other hand was loud – horns, sackbuts, clarions and trumpets – not intended to delight so much as to warn, impress or command. With this in mind, it is worth noting that two of the names of these minstrels were ‘Tromper’ and a third man was Thomas Norreys, tromper. Three other men were surnamed Pyper, relating to their profession of playing the English bagpipes.82 Six of the fifteen at least were retained for making ‘high music’. These were the men who were to serve under John Greyndour in France – not to sweeten the sounds of the camp or soothe the king’s furrowed brow but to impress ambassadors and organise and inspire the troops in the face of the enemy.

Having already ordered the clergy to be arrayed in the various dioceses, it was now the turn of the county gentry to array the common men. As yet there was no formal militia in England – that would not develop until the sixteenth century. Nevertheless there was a long tradition of ordering the knights and esquires in each county to array men for the defence of the realm. Commissions were sent out today to the gentry in twenty counties.83 Henry, having experienced the turbulent years of his father’s reign, knew that he was opening himself up hugely to attack by taking an army abroad. Whether the threat was the Scots, the Lollards, pro-Richard II supporters, Glendower, or just French or Scottish piracy, he could not afford to leave the safety of the realm to chance. He needed the gentry to have men at their disposal.

The above commissions of array hint at the vulnerability of the kingdom while the king was away. But uppermost in the minds of many men who were planning to travel to France was their own vulnerability. In the medieval period, when fortunes were liable to alter greatly over the course of a year, men generally left the making of wills until they were seriously ill or otherwise anticipated their demise. War overseas forced them to contemplate their own destruction and the fate of their immortal souls, and to make a will and arrangements for their estate before setting out.

The first such arrangements were those of Thomas, earl of Arundel, the treasurer. With estates spreading from Sussex to the Welsh border, it was necessary for him to grant his estates to trustees, with power for them to grant them back to him in the case of his survival, or, in the case of his death, to his wife, Beatrice, and their children. As a tenant in chief of the king, he needed Henry’s permission to be able to grant the estates in this way. But as one of the king’s closest friends there was no problem gaining such permission; the necessary letters were drawn up today.84

Thursday 30th: Corpus Christi

The feast of Corpus Christi, or the Body and Blood of Christ, was an unusual religious celebration in that it did not relate to a saint or an event in Christ’s life. In fact it was not even of ancient origin. A thirteenth-century nun, Juliana, had petitioned several bishops for the celebration of the Eucharist; after her death, one of the bishops became pope. When he heard a story of the Eucharist being seen to bleed, he sanctioned her proposal, and issued a papal bull in 1264 proclaiming that the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ should be celebrated throughout Christendom.

In England the most noticeable ceremonies connected with this feast were the plays and processions performed around the country. For the last forty years an increasing number of the principal towns and cities had seen religious plays performed on this date. In some places (York and Coventry, for instance) a whole series of religious plays was staged – ranging from enactments of the building of the Ark to the flight into the Holy Land. Juliana’s vision of a holy celebration was sufficiently abstract to allow medieval people to celebrate their faith in whatever way they wanted. In other places (Lynn and Exeter), the Holy Eucharist was paraded around the town in a tabernacle, followed by all the townsfolk.85

These celebrations were modestly observed in the royal household. No great feast was held to mark the day; household expenses were only a little more than usual.86 The main event of the day was rather Henry’s formal instruction to Richard Courtenay, keeper of the king’s jewels, to deliver valuables to each of the lords, knights and esquires serving on the forthcoming expedition. The process was for the treasurer to supply a personally signed (not sealed) bill authorising the amount due for the second quarter’s service, and for Bishop Courtenay to assign gold and jewels to that value.87 Those receiving items of treasure had to seal an indenture acknowledging receipt – this somewhat recklessly promised they could keep the gold and jewels if they had not been redeemed by a certain time.

Friday 31st

Henry had as yet experienced no signal failure in his reign – but that did not mean that all was well throughout his realm. Gascony in particular had seen him exercise almost no authority since the truce of February 1414 and the end of Thomas Beaufort’s campaign. For many Gascons this was exactly as they wanted things; the less interference from the king of England the better. But for others, especially those who were directly threatened by the advancing French, it was quite the opposite. If they sided with the French, they were prey to attack from the English lords in Gascony. If they stood loyally by Henry, they were liable to be attacked by the French. Each attack cost them dearly in destroyed lives, ruined fabric, robbed churches, violated women, burnt buildings and heavy financial penalties. A light-touch approach was all very well for Henry but it was calamitous for many of his Gascon subjects.

As a result of this situation, some Gascon lords and even some ladies had decided to take matters into their own hands. One such was Jehanne d’Armagnac, the widow of Guillaume Amanieu de Madaillan, lord of Lesparre and Rauzan. Hitherto her husband’s family had been loyal to the king of England, being relatively safely situated on the west coast, south of the Gironde; but now Jehanne decided to shift her allegiance. She decided to marry the count of Foix, who had already deserted the English cause, and to arrange the marriage of her daughter with his son. Such an alliance threatened to open up the way for the French to exercise influence in Médoc, close to Bordeaux, the seat of the English administration in Gascony. With French forces pushing in from the north towards the Gironde, and Lesparre to the south threatening to turn French, Henry stood to lose control of the river – and with it access to the region. Seated in his chamber at Westminster, Henry must have felt frustrated. Sir John Tiptoft had been appointed seneschal of Aquitaine, and he had received his instructions for negotiating a new treaty; but he had yet to set sail – and it was a three-week voyage to Gascony. All Henry could do was to order that the lordship of Lesparre be confiscated (which he did today) and hope that no more lords – or indomitable widows – chose to swear loyalty to the French king.88


Jan Hus’s friends, including all the lords who had presented their petition on 13 May, reassembled. There had been a second meeting in the interim, on the 18th, when certain implications of the lies being spread about the state of the Church in Bohemia had been discussed. Now Bohemian and Polish lords replied to accusations made at that hearing and protested against the continued detention of their preacher.

Once more Peter of Mladoňovice spoke up for Hus. In the first of two documents that he read aloud, he argued against certain heretical acts that Hus’s enemies had dreamed up to attack him. Again he argued that Hus should not be tarred with the same brush as Wycliffe himself, for, although Hus was a follower of Wycliffe, he himself was not responsible for anything that Wycliffe had written. Peter asserted that Hus had never promoted errors or erroneous beliefs, and he stressed that Hus had worked hard to eradicate errors and misunderstandings. In the second document he referred to the recent hardships of Hus, and the support he enjoyed in Bohemia. As to Hus’s own writings, Peter argued that it was obvious that Hus sought only the truth, and never to preach anything heretical or erroneous. Many of the heretical quotations supposedly found in his books were not written by him at all. Peter stressed how much of the ill-fame Hus had suffered was due to personal enemies spreading lies about him and declaring he had uttered heresies that had nothing to do with him. But the situation could yet be redeemed. All that was necessary now was for Hus to ‘be fairly heard by learned men and masters of sacred scripture … in regard to each and every article laid to his charge, in order that he may explain his intention and meaning’.89

May it therefore please your most reverend paternities to free the said Master Jan Hus, neither convicted nor condemned, from the chains and shackles in which he is now cruelly detained, and to place him in the hands of some reverend lord bishops … in order that he, Master Jan Hus, may regain his strength and thus may be more carefully and readily examined … The lords and nobles of Bohemia offer to give a guarantee … until his process and trial has been settled.90

It was a powerful, passionate performance. Both documents were carefully copied and submitted to the deputies of the nations and also sent to Sigismund. Two other documents were submitted at the same time. The first was a record of the public testimony of the bishop of Nezero, the head of the inquisition into heresy in the city of Prague, stating that, after many conversations with Hus, he had discerned no heresy in him. The second was a letter of support from the lords of Moravia.

The patriarch of Antioch, a French theologian called Dr Jean Maroux, replied: ‘Whether his [Hus’s] protest proves to be valid will become evident in the course of the trial’. As for the false abstractions from Hus’s works and accusations made by his enemies, Dr Maroux declared that their veracity would be reflected in the final sentence on Hus. Concerning the main tenor of the petition, Dr Maroux said that the deputies of the nations ‘were willing to grant him a favourable public hearing’ and that ‘they were willing to deal kindly with him’. The trial would take place on 5 June.

There was just one fly in the ointment. Dr Maroux stated that Hus could not possibly be released from prison, regardless of the number of lords standing guarantee for him, ‘for under no circumstances is he to be trusted’. However ‘kindly’ and ‘favourably’ the deputies might treat him at his forthcoming trial, there was no avoiding the fact that, in their minds, he was guilty.

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