Henry V - 1413-1422
The Battle of Agincourt, dramatised by Shakespeare in his play Henry V, has made Henry into a heroic figure. However, his reign was too short for him to contribute meaningfully to the development of England.
Even his success at Agincourt was to be short-lived for he died soon after, and his territorial gains were lost to the French army led by a girl, Joan of Arc.
As a military exploit Agincourt remains a glorious success and heartens English people even today.
Henry had landed in France in August 1415 with the intention of laying siege to Harfleur, which would ensure his entry and exit from France. He had some 2,500 foot soldiers and 7,000 archers. As he marched towards his objective his men began to fall ill with dysentery. This meant that his army was considerably reduced in strength, which was desperately needed to face 20,000 Frenchmen, many heavily armed mounted knights.
Returning to Calais seemed a hazardous prospect so Henry decided to face the French at Agincourt. Here he drew up ranks of his well trained and disciplined bowmen and waited for the charge of the French knights.
Fortunately for him the ground was wet, which slowed the galloping horses, and as the volleys of arrows struck them they slowed even further causing a jam of horses and knights. They consequently became victims of the English men at arms who advanced among them. The victory was complete and led Henry to believe that France was his.
Further victories convinced the French King to sign the Treaty of Troyes by which Henry became the heir to the French throne. To seal the treaty Henry married the King's daughter Catherine. Before he could enjoy the fruits of his victory, however, Henry had died, in 1422, and all dreams of recouping the French kingdom died with him.
Henry exhibited military genius, characterized by brilliant daring, patient strategy and diplomacy, and attentiveness to detail. His strong personality, his military successes, and his care for his less fortunate subjects made him a great popular hero.
The historian Rafael Holinshed, in the Chronicles of England, summed up Henry's reign as such:
'This Henry was a king, of life without spot, a prince whom all men loved, and of none disdained, a captain against whom fortune never frowned, nor mischance once spurned, whose people him so severe a justicer both loved and obeyed (and so humane withal) that he left no offence unpunished, nor friendship unrewarded; a terror to rebels, and suppressor of sedition, his virtues notable, his qualities most praiseworthy'
Key Events during the Reign of Henry V
1413 - Henry accedes to the throne upon the death of his father, Henry IV.
1415 - Henry thwarts the plot to replace him on the throne with his cousin. Henry renews the war against France, captures Harfleur and wins the Battle of Agincourt (25 October).
1416 - Death of Owain Glyndwr. Henry makes a pilgrimage to St Winifrede's Well in Somerset.
1417 - Henry V is victorious at the Battle of Caen. He takes Pontoise.
1418 - The English army takes Louviers and Compiegne. The Siege of Rouen begins.
1419 - The long siege of Rouen ends. Henry starves the inhabitants into submission. Henry meets Duke John of Burgundy at Meulan and falls in love with the Princess Catherine.
1420 - Henry becomes Regent of France and heir to the French King Charles VI, under the Treaty of Troyes. Henry marries Catherine.
1421 - Birth of Prince Henry, later Henry VI.
1422 - Henry V dies at Vincennes in France of dysentery, before he can succeed to the French throne.