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Henry V: Final Warrior King of England

Owain Glyndwr was a Welsh national hero. His life story is fascinating.

The Battle of Agincourt, 25th October 1415.

The Battle of Agincourt, 25th October 1415.

Henry of Monmouth and Richard II

Henry was born on or around the 16th September 1386 at Monmouth Castle in Monmouthshire, Wales and into the House of Lancaster. He was the eldest son of Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby, later King Henry IV, and his first wife Mary de Bohun. Mary passed away during the birth of daughter Philippa in June 1394. By this time, her mid-twenties, she had borne six children.

The Earl of Derby was the Duke of Hereford by 1398. He received the challenge of a duel with the 1st Duke of Norfolk over potentially treasonous comments Norfolk had made about the king, Richard II. The duel was ordered and then cancelled by Richard. Both men were exiled and in 1399 Henry was prevented from inheriting his father John of Gaunt's lands by the king.

The young Henry of Monmouth was not sent into exile. Richard II commandeered him for a life at court and reports showed that he treated Henry well, making a wary friend and ally instead of an enemy of him. Henry was intelligent, well educated and coped with the rigmarole of court life well, vital for survival. In 1399 Henry was knighted.

King Henry IV's coronation on 13th October 1399 led to his son Henry becoming the Prince of Wales.

King Henry IV's coronation on 13th October 1399 led to his son Henry becoming the Prince of Wales.

Henry, Prince of Wales

In 1399 when Henry’s father returned to England, deposed Richard II and claimed the throne as Henry IV, his eldest son and heir was created the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Lancaster, Duke of Aquitaine and Earl of Chester.

In 1400 Henry, Prince of Wales was awarded management of Wales and in 1403 he and the Welsh rebels led by Owain Glyndwr commenced a five-year-long fight for supremacy. Henry was left with a facial scar after an arrow careered into him during one of the battles.

Contrary to Shakespeare’s depiction of him as a drunken hedonist at this stage in his life he was an enthusiastic soldier, given to occasional recklessness, prone to cruelty. He was not a man who compromised but he was keen to secure his authority over the people in his father’s realms.

Henry IV/Henry V

As the first decade of the 1400s drew to a close Henry sought greater powers in the ruling council, an elevation in status that was opposed by an ailing Henry IV. When he felt strong enough Henry senior had his son removed from the council because his policies were at odds with his own.

A primary source of disagreement was Henry junior's keenness to claim the throne of France as he believed this was the right of all English kings. Henry IV was not interested in causing an inevitable war.

Henry V acceded to the throne on the 21st March 1413. His coronation on the 9th April 1413 was a cold event, there was a snowstorm going on outside.

His reign was not without domestic discontentment. In early 1414 the Lollards, looking for reforms to Christianity, rose up and the following year brought a conspiracy led by the Duke of York, Earl of Cambridge and Lord Scrope of Masham who had their own candidate for ruler. Both rebellions were suppressed. Henry was alerted to the danger and dispensed with his foe brutally.

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King Henry V of the House of Lancaster.

King Henry V of the House of Lancaster.

War in France

What made Henry V such a remarkable figure in English history was his determination to seize and rule large areas of France that were either once in English hands or in new territories that he found attractive. Remembered as a warrior king with an astute mind that strategised magnificently, his campaign began when he secured the compliance of John, Duke of Burgundy against the mentally vulnerable Charles VI of France.

Henry entered into half-hearted diplomacy that swiftly descended into bloodshed on French soil, most famously at the 25th October 1415 Battle of Agincourt where the outnumbered English triumphed.

He cut the French naval capabilities, rallied the English to champion the war and as Henry and his soldiers enjoyed victories that delivered new lands and powers, the soldiers made way for administrators who effectively helped the war to pay for itself. John, Duke of Burgundy was murdered in 1419 but this brought Henry good fortune. Burgundy became his territory.

A depiction of Henry V and Catherine de Valois marriage.

A depiction of Henry V and Catherine de Valois marriage.

Heir to the Throne of France Dead

Henry did not have the desired hasty victory over France. It was seven long years into his reign when he secured the amount of land, power and wealth that he needed and countless men died fulfilling his vision. Only with the Treaty of Troyes in May 1520 was Henry V recognised as the heir to the French throne.

Less than two weeks after this treaty was signed Catherine de Valois, daughter of Charles VI was married to Henry. After taking Catherine to England and at some point impregnating her he returned to France and war.

Their son Henry was born on the 6th December 1421; Henry V never met him because he died of dysentery or camp fever in Vincennes on the 31st August 1422. His body was dismembered and boiled before it travelled to England for burial at Westminster Abbey.

The ratified 1520 Treaty of Troyes.

The ratified 1520 Treaty of Troyes.

Henry VI Loses Henry V's Acquisitions

Nine-month-old Henry VI and his council presented a far weaker proposition for England’s enemies and during his fifty-year reign over England (with Wars of the Roses interruptions) and from 1429 in France, Henry lost his father’s acquisitions with alarming rapidity.

As the Lancastrian element of the Wars of the Roses, he alternated with Edward, Duke of York as Edward IV as monarch in the 1460s into 1470-1. Henry VI met with a convenient death when incarcerated on Edward’s orders. It was not what warrior king Henry V would have envisaged for his dynasty. His moment of glory for the House of Lancaster and England at the Battle of Agincourt took on a mythical status.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Joanne Hayle

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