Henry V

Henry V was the warrior king whose reputation his unfortunate son never could live up to, and against whom Henry VIII would allegedly measure himself, but he wasn´t born an heir to the throne.

Instead his cousin once removed, Richard II, was on the throne, and Henry himself was quite far from succession. Due to his “insignificance” in the succession line, the date of his birth was never officially recorded, but set as August 9, 1386. He was born in the gatehouse of Monmouth Castle in Wales – a fact that has led to him sometimes being referred to as Henry of Monmouth – the first child of a 20-year-old Henry of Bolingbrook and 16-year-old Mary de Bohun.

When Henry was 12 years old, in 1498, his father who had a tumultuous relationship to Richard II was banished from the country by the king, but the younger Henry himself was taken under the wings of the king, but only a year later the Lancastrian usurpation brought his own father to the throne, and suddenly Henry of Monmouth was the heir to the throne.

Henry has, with the aid of Shakespeare, received a rumour of having been a carefree and irresponsible youth, more interested in drinking and cavorting with a merry band of similar minded men, but nothing in actual history suggest this to be true.

His father soon put him to what would have been considered good use as commander of part of the English forces, and as such he led his army against Owain Glyndwr in Wales as well as joined his father in the battle of Shrewsbury against Henry Percy, also known as Harry Hotspur, in 1403 when the future Henry V was only 16 years old.

This battle could have been the end of the future king as he is said to have been shot in the face by an arrow which got lodged and had to be removed surgically.

The removal of the arrowhead is considered to be a remarkable piece of battlefield surgery, an art that didn´t have much in common with any kind of modern day surgery. The man who probably saved the life of the young prince was a John Bradmore who had been in royal service since 1399, and his own description of how he went about removing the arrowhead has survived;

“…..was struck by an arrow next to his nose on the left side during the battle of Shrewsbury. The which arrow entered at an angle (ex traverso), and after the arrow shaft was extracted, the head of the aforesaid arrow remained in the furthermost part of the bone of the skull for the depth of six inches.”

Bystanders had been yanking at the arrow before Bradmore arrived, but instead of just pulling, he enlarged the wound to remove the arrowhead easier;

First, I made small probes from the pith of an elder, well dried and well stitched in purified linen [made to] the length of the wound. These probes were infused with rose honey. And after that, I made larger and longer probes, and so I continued to always enlarge these probes until I had the width and depth of the wound as I wished it. And after the wound was as enlarged and deep enough so that, by my reckoning, the probes reached the bottom of the wound, I prepared anew some little tongs, small and hollow, and with the width of an arrow. A screw ran through the middle of the tongs, whose ends were well rounded both on the inside and outside, and even the end of the screw, which was entered into the middle, was well rounded overall in the way of a screw, so that it should grip better and more strongly.”

The wound was treated with honey for its antiseptic qualities and flushed out with alcohol, healing but leaving a scar that no doubt would have kept this day in the memory of Henry for the remainder of his life.

Henry IV started suffering from poor health at the beginning of the 15th century, resulting in the prince in practical control over the government from 1410, something that changed in 1411, due to disagreement between father and son on both domestic and foreign policies. This was only a political disagreement, but may very well be on what Shakespeare built the conflict in his play.

Henry IV died on March 20, 1413 and prince Hal was crowned Henry V just over two weeks later, on April 9, at Westminster Abbey.

Henry´s reign at home was relatively free from trouble, but he had a couple of occasions to demonstrate that he was not to be crossed, such as the execution of his old friend, the Lollard sympathizer John Oldcastle (believed to be one of at least two people merged into Shakespeare´s Falstaff, originally called Oldcastle) as well as the handling of the men behind the alleged Southampton Plot.

What Henry primarily have come to be remembered for are his campaigns in France, starting in 1415, when he sailed from England on August 12 after which his forces besieged the fortress at Harfleur, finally taking it on September 22. Henry then decided to lead his men to Calais, and it was on the way there they were intercepted by a French army on October 25, not far from the village of Agincourt.

Henry´s men were exhausted, but even so he led them into battle, thoroughly defeating the French and gaining a victory which would be seen as Henry´s greatest, bringing the English closer to recovering lost French territory as well as Henry himself closer to the French throne. The battle however left the king with a dark shadow as he ordered all prisoners, even those of noble birth who normally would have been released for ransom, to be killed.

This shadow became even stronger during his second campaign between 1417 and 1520 when he during the siege of Rouen let women and children starve to death. Arriving at the gates of Paris in August 1419 he eventually secured the Treaty of Troyes which recognized him as the heir to the French throne and not even a year after arriving in France, he married Catherine of Valois, daughter of the French king.

During a third campaign to France, starting in March 1421 with the king sailing over in August that same year, his forces besieged and captured both Dreux and Meaux. This would however be the last campaign for the warrior king who died from presumed dysentery on August 31, 1422, leaving behind an only 8 months old heir to the throne, Henry VI.

 Sources;

John Bradmore´s account of the removal of the arrowhead is “borrowed” from the Medievalist.net website, and originally taken from a paper by Michael Livingstone, associate professor at The Citadel.

Henry V (1386–1422) – Christopher Allmand, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The Life and times of Henry V – P. Earle

Henry V. The Practice of Kingship – Leslie Gerald Harris

Half-penny image – Rasiel

Henry II

I will elaborate more on Henry II at a later time, here just a sketchy portrait on the jindra_eleonora862nd anniversary of his coronation, and a way to get back to blogging again. It´s been a long time off now!

Today it´s 862 years since Henry Plantagnet – the first king to use that name which had been adopted by his father Geoffrey of Anjou – in 1154 was crowned at Westminster Abbey alongside his wife, the quite feisty Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Henry was the son om Empress Matilda – or Lady of the English as she was also known during her own struggle for the English crown which unleashed the civil war known as The Anarchy on the English people, with her cousin Stephen of Blois on the opposite side of the battlefield – and Geoffrey ”the Fair”, count of Anjou.

Just as his mother, daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conqueror, had a strong sense of birth right, and had a vast kingdom at the end of his reign, all of which he is said to have kept under control by constantly being in the saddle, riding back and forward through his domains.

He would come to have eight children with Eleanor, and it is somewhat of an understatement to say that the harmony was sometimes lacking in the family.

His son´s Henry, the heir to the throne and referred to as Henry the Young King, and his brothers Richard (known to history as Richard the Lionhearted) and Geoffrey would eventually rebel – with the backing of their mother – against their father.

Henry was of course also the king who appointed his friend Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, and caused his death through the allegedly misinterpreted words “Will someone rid me of this turbulent priest” once the friendship had turned sour.

The conflicts with his son´s continued, and after having been defeated in a final rebellion in 1189, he shortly after died from what is believed to have been a bleeding ulcer.

Sources:

Henry II – New Interpretations: Nicholas Vincent, Christopher Harper- Bill.

Henry II – W. L. Warren.

The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England – Dan Jones

The White Ship

When the White Ship – la Blanch-Nef – sank on November 25th 1120, it was not only a220px-WhiteShipSinking tragedy in lives lost at sea, it was the spark that would linger long enough to be behind the civil war that would start in 1135 and rage for almost 20 years.

The passengers aboard the long ship – which was owned by Thomas FitzStephen, son of Stephen FitzAirard who had been the captain of Mora, the ship which brought William the Conqueror over the channel to England for the first time – was not only the cream of the young Norman nobility, it also carried William the Aetheling, only legitimate son if Henry I and therefore the heir to the crown and after his mother´s death sometimes referred to as rex designatus, king designate, as he had taken over her role as regent when Henry was in Normandy. On the ship was also Henry´s two illegitimate children Richard of Lincoln and Matilda FitzRoy, Countess of Perche.

There was cause for celebration because not only was young William relatively newly-wed, in 1119 he had married Matilda whose father was Faulk V, Count of Anjou and the future king of Jerusalem, he had also only weeks before been made the new Duke of Normandy.

The Dukedom had been handed over to him by his father Henry I, and was a step towards becoming the next king, and also a sign that William was one of the important political powers in Europe of the time.

BL_Royal_20_A._ii_f._6v._Henry_I__White_Ship1-e1369118927870So celebrated they did. Not only the young heir to the throne and his nobles, but also the crew of the ship, which at least with modern eyes seems insane. But the fact remains, that while the ship still was lying at the harbor of Barfleur, everyone aboard got heavily intoxicated. Some of the passengers on board clearly got worried and left the ship, not even in those days everyone thought it a wise idea to travel over open water with heavily drunk people. One of those who was better safe than sorry was Stephen of Blois, cousin of William and the one who would turn out to be the actual king once Henry I passed.

As the party went on, a group of clerics who arrived to bless the ship before it went on its journey was sent away, something which to some became the explanation to what later happened.

But the disaster was the result of alcohol in combination with youthful stupidity. King Henry had left ahead in another ship, and all of a sudden someone, some say prince William himself, others say someone in the entourage, dared the skipper that even though hours had passed, the White Ship was fast enough to not only catch up with the king´s great warship, but also outrun it and arrive first in England.  Most likely it was the alcohol which made this pass as a good idea. It wasn´t. But the skipper accepted.

The chronicler William of Malmesbury claimed that once the ship had weighed anchor,

she “flew swifter than the winged arrow”, but speed didn´t do much in bringing the large party closer to England, in fact they barely got out of the harbor. Just at the mouth of it, there was, and still is, a sharp rock – still visible just under the surface still today – which the ship crashed into. One of all the things we will never know is if this was a result of the oars men´s intoxication or something else, but it left a huge hole in the ship´s side, and water started pouring in.

As they were expected to, the main concern of everyone was to get the heir to the throne to safety, and William the Aetheling did get into a small dinghy.

For anyone who has read the novel Pillars of the Earth where the White Ship disaster sets the scene for the story, or seen the mini-series based on the book, it may be considered a fact that William the Aetheling was murdered during his attempt to get away from the ship. The actual fact is in a way even more tragic.

Among his following was his half-sister Matilda – obviously not the Matilda who would fight Stephen of Blois in the Anarchy for decades later – and as William was being rowed away from the scene of the disaster, he supposedly heard his drowning sister cry for help and ordered the boat to turn around to save her.

But Matilda was not alone in the cold November water, and as the boat reached the spot where she was, panic erupted among the other people desperate to save their lives. The small boat turned over, and instead of being brought to land and safety, William the Aetheling drowned not far from the harbor.

William´s wife had been rescued in another boat and made it safely to shore. She went on to become a nun and eventually the Abbess at the monastery of Fontevrault.

Henry_II_of_England_wlWhen the news reached England a day or so later, no one dared to tell the king, knowing full well the force of his rage. Eventually a servant boy couldn´t keep the dreadful secret anymore, but fell to his knees at the king´s feet and told him of the tragedy. Allegedly the king fainted and had to be carried to bed. It is said that Henry I didn´t smile again after having received the news of the death of his son.

Apart from the grief of his father, the death of William the Aetheling also threw England into a crisis of succession which would at the time of Henry´s death in 1135 lead to the civil war known as The Anarchy.  As the contemporary historian William of Malmesbury wrote; “….No ship ever brought so much misery to England”

 

Sources:

The Plantagenets – The Warrior Kings and Queens that made England – Dan Jones

Thomas Becket, Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim  – John Guy

History of England – Simon Schama

William (1103–1120)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography/J. F. A. Mason

Henry I: King of England and Duke of Normandy – Judith A. Green

William of Malmesbury’s Chronicle of the Kings of England – J.A. Guiles

 

Edward the Black Prince

 

There are certain names that can intrigue you, people, present or historic, it can be places, sometimes even things, or Edward the Black Princefor me, in this case; The Black Prince.

The truth is that the name the Black Prince did not come into use until about 200 years – during the Tudor Era – after the death of Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault.

But this is the day on which he was born in 1330, during a calamitous time of his father´s reign. For the past three years, England had been de facto ruled by the lover of Edward III´s mother, Roger Mortimer who – supported by Isabella (the queen of Edward II and mother of Edward III – after a lengthy war had imprisoned Edward II and allegedly had him murdered at Berkley Castle in 1327, only months after Edward III had been crowned king.

This year, after the birth of Edward of Woodstock, the actual name of the Black Prince, things started to turn around. Accused of a number of crimes, one of which was assuming the Royal power, Roger Mortimer was hanged at Tyburn on November 29th 1330.

But this post isn´t about Roger Mortimer, Edward II or Edward III, who undoubtedly DO deserve a line or two on the blog. But this one is about, as earlier mentioned, another Edward; Edward the Black Prince.

King_Edward_III_from_NPGEdward III and Philippa of Hainult would have several children – without being able to really verify this straight up, it is said that the majority of the English people are actually decedents of this fertile royal couple – but Edward was the one meant to carry the dreams of a continued dynasty, the heir to the crown, and at the age of sis he was made Duke of Cornwall. This was actually the first time that the English word “Duke” was used, as up until now the French wording of “Duc” had been used.

Another one of Edward´s titles was of course the Prince of Wales.

During his entire life, the Hundred Years War would be raging, and he turned out to be a highly talented soldier who took part in the invasion of Normandy already at the age of 16, on which occasion he was knighted as he got off the ship in France, maybe slightly ironical it took place side by side of another Roger Mortimer, the grandson of the man Edward III had seen executed 16 years before. Only days after, the English army engaged in the Battle of Crecy of August 26th 1346, in which Edward of Woodstock led the vanguard, but considering his – at the time – limited military experiences, it is likely he was advised by more experienced military commanders such as the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Northampton.

The Battle of Crecy, which the English won not least through the force of the English longbows, came to be a definingBattle_of_crecy_froissart point of the young Prince, and came not only to determine how the English would execute the war in France, would influence his household, most likely his view of himself, and not least his reputation which would live on through the centuries.

From Crecy the army marched on towards Calais to embark on an almost year-long siege after which the French surrendered due to the French king Philip VI failing to deliver aid. This was part of a recapture of France after king John had lost most of the vast territory held by his father, and England would hold Calais until 1558 when it was finally lost by Mary I.

The battle of the Hundred Years War in which Edward of Woodstock played a prominent role did not, however, only take part on dry land.

In 1350, he and his father Edward III engaged the kingdom of Castile in the Battle of Winchelsea, a bloody confrontation at sea in which the English captured somewhere between 14 and 26 Castilian ships while they themselves lost two during the battle.

The mentioned battles and siege would only be the beginning of a long line of battles, negotiations, victories and losses during the Black Prince short life, and I will not list them all here, after all, the blog is not intended to be a dictionary, but aim to inspire those of you who hopefully read the posts to find out more about what may interest you.

But I´m not quite done with Edward yet. Amidst all the fighting, he built up a reputation which almost can be seen as dual, and of course, which version would be told depended on one which side the one telling the story would find themselves.

His troops where noted for an extreme brutality in the sacking of Limoges in September 1370, when men, women and children were said to have been killed indiscriminately.

After a period of siege, the town was stormed on September 19th, when the commander in charge of the town, the Duke of Berry, had left it with only 140 men to defend it left in the town.

Siege_of_LimogesThe English forces was led not only by Edward the Black Prince, but also by his brothers John of Gaunt – through whom Margaret Beaufort would have her claim to the throne – and Edmund of Langley.

At this point the illness which would later claim his life already struck Edward, and he was carried on a litter.

The account of how over 3 000 people died in a massacre after the town of Limoges had fallen comes from the French author and court historian Jean Froissart, and has been claimed to be French bias, but the fact is that at the time of the massacre of Limoges, Froissart was at the service of Philippa of Hainault, mother of Edward, Edmund of Langley and John of Gaunt. The recent discovery of a letter in Edward´s own hand in a Spanish archive by the French historian Dr Guilhem Pepin sheds a different light on the story. Combined with other evidence, it seems that 100 soldiers and 200 civilians died.

Regardless, the sack of Limoges has been seen as the absolute opposite of chivalry, something for which Edward the Black Prince had otherwise been noted. He is however said to let expediency override the chivalry on a number of occasions.

Edward married Joan, countess of Kent and baroness Wake of Liddell, a widow two years older than Edward and Joan_of_Kentknown for her beauty; so much so that she was called by already mentioned Froissart “the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving”. She had five children from a previous marriage, and also already at the age of 12 had married without the Royal consent needed for a woman of her station.

Needless to say, Edward III and Philippa of Hainault was less than thrilled by their oldest son´s choice of consort. Two sons were born, one of whom – Edward of Angouleme –  only lived until the age of six and Richard, who after the death of his grandfather, only a year after the Black Prince, would be crowned Richard II.

After having been invested Prince of Aquitaine the royal couple lived there, to return to England only when Edward´s ill health prevented him from performing his duties in the territory.

The Black PrinceEdward the Black Prince died in his bed at Westminster Palace on June 8th 1376, only a week before his 46th birthday.

By request he was buried at the cathedral of Canterbury, and his tomb can be seen on the south side of where the shrine of Thomas Becket used to be. Above the tomb, replicas of his heraldic achievements can be seen, and not far from the tomb, one can still see the actual originals behind a glass pane

The poem below can be seen on his tomb;

Such as thou art, sometime was I

Such as I am, such shalt thou be

I thought little on th´our of Death

So long as I enjoyed breath

But now a wretched captive I am,

Deep in the ground, lo here I lie.

My beauty great, is all quite gone,

My flesh is wasted to the bone

One last word, well, quite a few, about the name the Black Prince; as said before, it didn´t appear until 150-200 yearsComplete_Guide_to_Heraldry_Fig478 after his death, and of course there has been speculations as to where and why it originated. One suggestion has been made that it was due to his brutality in the field, other  suggestions has been that it is related to his black shield (posted above), and maybe also that his armour could be perceived as black, as it has been described  as being of dark brown metal.

 

Sources;

Edward the Black Prince, power in Medieval Europe – David Green

The Plantagenets; the warrior kings and queens that made England – Dan Jones

Article: Was Edward the Black Prince really a nasty piece of work – BBC Magazine 2014-07-07