1066 and Warfare

Today, 14 October, marks 950 years since the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest. 1066 saw a pivotal change for England and Western Europe, changing the course of our history forever. To celebrate the 950th anniversary, the Royal Armouries is hosting a special out-of-hours lecture and two day conference at the Tower of London – 1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016.

The conference aims to present the huge changes that have taken place in the interpretation of the Norman Conquest, over the last fifty years in particular, bringing together distinguished scholars who are specialists in many fields. The conference will focus on both the history of the year 1066 itself and on the general significance of the Conquest for English, British, and French history.

In this special guest blog, Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham, London School of Economics and Political Science, who will be speaking on day one of the conference, discusses the Battle of Hastings itself and warfare in 1066 and the questions we still have to answer…

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1066 is a year like no other in English history. During its course, both York and London surrendered to an invader and two kings were killed in battle. War is at the heart of the story, and the historian of warfare is extraordinarily fortunate for the amazing survival of the Bayeux Tapestry, which offers a uniquely wide range of vivid scenes.

We see castle warfare in France.

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We see – in some ways, most extraordinary of all – the routine of gathering supplies for a great army; logistical business too mundane to be described in written sources.

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We see the landing at Pevensey; men and horses disembarking.

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We see the invaders foraging and ravaging.

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We see, of course, the Battle of Hastings itself: Norman cavalry against English shield wall.

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We also catch glimpses of the horror of battle, for men and horses alike.

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And, perhaps most signifcant of all, we see the battle’s climax: the death of King Harold. But how exactly was he killed?

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And finally, as the tapestry breaks off, no longer complete, we see the English break in flight.

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But what happened afterwards? Were prisoners taken or not? And if not, why not?

For all the Tapestry’s extraordinary vividness, these and many other questions remain. Even, most simply but still controversial, where exactly did the battle take place? And plenty more important questions too. How unusual was the scale of the slaughter that day? Was Hastings a typical ‘medieval’ battle? If, as is widely believed today, commanders usually tried to avoid battle – why were there three major engagements (Fulford Gate, Stamford Bridge and Hastings) within a few weeks in the autumn of 1066? If William, as the invader, wanted to bring a reluctant King Harold to battle, how did he manage it? Or did Harold also want a decisive battle? How important was the Norman cavalry? Did the Normans win because they were better trained and better equipped? Or was it just that on the day luck was in Duke William’s favour?

Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham.

Biography

Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Specialisms

Medieval history: narrative sources, primarily in north-western Europe in the 11th to 13th centuries, as evidence for the perceptions and values that shaped war and politics.

Principal publications

From ‘Civilitas’ to Civility: Codes of Manners in Medieval and early Modern England, 2002
The English in the Twelfth Century. Imperialism, National Identity and Political Values (Woodbridge), 2000
Richard I, 1999
William II. The Red King, 2015
Christian Warriors and the Enslavement of Fellow Christians, 2011
Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery. Britain and Ireland 1066-1485, 2014

1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016

1066 and landscape change post-Conquest

This October, to mark 950 years since the Norman Conquest, the Royal Armouries is hosting a public lecture and a two day conference at the Tower of London to celebrate the anniversary – 1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016 (14-16 October)   

The conference aims to present the huge changes that have taken place in the interpretation of the Norman Conquest, bringing together distinguished scholars; experts in many fields. The conference will explore the history of the year 1066 itself and the general significance of the Conquest for English, British and French history. 

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On Day 2 of the conference, the Royal Armouries will be welcoming speaker Professor Robert Liddiard of the University of East Anglia, for 1066 and landscape change post-Conquest.

This special blog post, written by Professor Robert Liddiard, discusses his recent visit to Castle Hedingham in Essex, which got him thinking about the impact of the Norman Conquest on the landscape, and his upcoming paper at the conference…

It is a pleasure to be invited to speak at the Norman Conquest at the White Tower, but such invitations always draw my attention to the inadequacies of my image bank. As a late convert to digital technology most of the images I use comprise scanned old-fashioned slides, which increasingly show their age when used with modern projection equipment.

As a consequence I need no excuse to go to pleasant places on the pretext of getting superior pictures and as fieldwork took me to south Suffolk last week, I took the opportunity to nip over the border into Essex and visit Castle Hedingham. Not only was I able to replace the old slides with digital images, but the experience inevitably got me thinking about the impact of the Norman Conquest on the landscape and my paper at the conference.

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Castle Hedingham, Essex © Robert Liddiard

Castle Hedingham is best known for its well-preserved keep, probably raised by Aubrey De Vere III, 1st Earl of Oxford about 1141, and possibly the building in which his investiture as Earl took place. Much has been written about it as a keep, but my interest lies more in the castle’s landscape context: by the thirteenth century, and probably much earlier, two deer parks (the great and little park) were attached to the castle and the adjacent village was originally connected to the castle by enclosing banks and ditches; the precise date of which are frustratingly unknown.

When put into its contemporary setting, the whole site was truly vast. In recent years landscape historians have been able to show that, as settlements, castles tend to reflect the characteristics of their wider regional landscapes, and in this respect the configuration of the various elements that made up medieval Hedingham is typically ‘Essex’ – the ‘nucleated’ settlement of the village lying in the river valley, with the castle parks situated between the more dispersed hamlets and farmsteads on the valley sides and tops.

But Hedingham is also important because, while it is a remarkable survival of a ‘Norman’ building, it has little to do with the events of 1066 per se; rather, it belongs to a different generation – one that did not experience the Conquest at first hand. At the time of the keep’s construction, England was sliding into civil war and its ruling French-speaking aristocrats were thinking of using their castles to fight each other; rather than for keeping down a hostile English population opposed to Norman rule.

Thinking about monuments in terms of generational change is a reminder that historians of landscape tend to emphasise longer term trends in their analyses and so often play down the significance of short-term events, especially political ones. Of course, it would be immensely foolish to do so when it comes to 1066, especially at a conference taking place within the walls of the Conqueror’s own trophy monument to conquest, but places like Hedingham draw attention to the fact that not all of what we call ‘Norman’ in the countryside was an immediate consequence of the battle of Hastings.

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Castle Hedingham, Essex  ©  Robert Liddiard

The period 1000-1200 was one of enormous changes to the landscape, not all of which were related to the activities of the Normans. The castles, churches, parks and warrens of eleventh- and twelfth-century England frequently owed their existence to more subtle and drawn out trends in the development of the English countryside. How we tease out what was genuinely new in the landscape after 1066 and how they related to ongoing processes is the subject of my paper at the conference.

After all, how, if at all, would we recognise the ‘Norman’ in a place like Hedingham if it didn’t have a castle…?

Professor Robert Liddiard

Biography

Robert Liddiard lectures in landscape history at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. His chief research interest is the landscape context of castles, but also in the wider impact of the Norman Conquest on the countryside. His publications include Anglo-Norman Castles (2003) Castles in Context (2005) and The Medieval Park (2007).

“Sent under plain wrapper – Killer Chrysanthemum included”

Behind the scenes as the Royal Armouries at the Tower prepare for Christmas, by keeper of Tower Armouries Bridget Clifford.

‘Tis the season when Santa’s little elves are packing as if their lives depended on it – and museum curators are not immune from the bug.  In the Royal Armouries case, the jewel that is the ‘Battle of Agincourt‘ exhibition will close on 31st January 2016 and the unique assemblage of objects, archive material and books will depart back to their parent organisations never to meet again. In October a new interactive gallery will re -occupy the vacated space, but in the interim the Tower Armouries has a chance to display some of its more quirky pieces which usually lurk in the furthermost corners of its reserve collections and rarely see the light of day.

As the oldest visitor attraction in the world and heir to the Office of Ordnance stores and traditions, the Royal Armouries has collected a wealth of curious objects through the centuries. Unfortunately rather than telling a joined up story, more often than not they present a patchwork quilt of Ordnance history and interests. One gets the distinct impression that some objects found a home in these stores because no one else knew quite what to do with them.

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A relic of an 18th century naval disaster

The sinking of the Royal George in 1782 while undergoing routine maintenance cost over 800 lives.

Exhibitions do not display themselves – a lot of behind the scenes work has to go on before the public are invited to view. Currently we are unable to make mounts on site at the Tower, so the objects have got to go to the museum in Leeds to be fitted up for their mounts with both then returning to the Tower. This has posed quite a prickly problem for the curators on site, as everything has to be packed securely – both for their own  and everyone else’s safety.  Despite our best hopes, the blue fairy failed to materialise and magic it all done, so we found ourselves cast in the role of Santa’s helpers.

I must say, the wrapping paper left something to be desired – very plain and a bit bobbly –and much ingenuity was required to render some of the pieces travelling North less lethal.  My favourite was the Killer Chrysanthemum – a vaguely floral number constructed from the tips of old socket-bayonet blades.  No matter how much packing we arranged around this deadly bloom, we still managed to find a spike.

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Cactus – nothing compared to the killer chrysanthemum!

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…and under wraps

Meanwhile, Tower curator Malcolm Mercer turned out to be a dab hand with masking tape, securing errant tissue snakes before they uncoiled and slid off the objects they were supposed to be protecting.  His dexterity with the gibbet – a two- parter with decided wriggle – will be the talk of the Tower for some time to come.

The gibbet before – with supporting elf lurking…

…and after – tamed and now with over excited elf to one side.

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We are also very proud of the swine’s feathers also known as brandistocks – transformed from a mid-17th  Century spikey number into  a workmanlike (and blunt) paddle through the magic of bubble wrap and tissue, with a stiffener of plastazote.  What the colonists of Virginia made of these strange 3-pronged staff weapons when 1,500 of “the best swynnes ffeathers” were produced by the Board of Ordnance from stores in October 1676 to equip the military expedition sent there is not recorded, but this is probably their the last military issue.  They remained among the stores in America “left att Virginia as a standing Trayn & Magazine and nott to be returned againe for England” and one wonders if they were put to a more domestic use and helped foster local enthusiasm for spit-roast barbeques? (For more information on this episode of American history, see Geoffrey Parnell’s article “The Artillery Train Sent to Virginia in 1676” in Man at Arms  (vol 17, no 2)March/ April 1995 pp 10-17).

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Suprise! A cages and unleashed swim’es feather. (You’ll just have to imagine the paddle transformation – no photographs available)

Finally everything was packed, and the majority of items cocooned in a flight case for their trip.  Certainly a Christmas delivery with a difference, and Malcolm and I will find present wrapping 2015  a doddle in comparison.

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A Christmas hamper with attitude!

 

The Curator @ War: 19 October 1915 “Bananas & Battleships”

Entry for the execution of Fernando Buschmann in the Tower of London Prison Log.

Entry for the execution of Fernando Buschmann in the Tower of London Prison Log. It reads “19: Brazilian spy shot”.

Fernando Buschmann was the seventh of 11 spies shot at the Tower between November 1914 and April 1916, and at 25 years old the second youngest. A Brazilian, with German father and Danish mother, he was educated in Europe.  The failure of his French aviation enterprise saw him back in Brazil. From 1912 he returned to Europe working in partnership with Marcelino Bello in a business importing food from Germany and England and exporting Brazilian bananas and potatoes. He met a Dresden girl, married her in London and all looked set for a rosy future.

Photograph of Fernando Buschmann

Photograph of Fernando Buschmann

In 1913 the Hamburg office of Buschmann and Bello opened, and Fernando travelled between Brazil and Europe. Success was short-lived – by September 1914 the German office had closed and Buschmann’s name was removed from the firm’s title as it was perceived to be bad for business. Leaving his family in Dresden, he travelled throughout Europe and arrived in London in April 1915. With spy fear and anti-German sentiment at their height, this was to prove fatal.

Buschmann’s commercial interests had widened to include boots, mules, and guns for the French government. Despite this, he was perennially short of money, and it was his begging telegrams to a Dutch contact Flores that alerted British Counter-Intelligence. Buschmann claimed that he had no idea that Flores was in fact a German spymaster, but having attracted the attention of the authorities his business activities were closely monitored. In June 1915 he was arrested. During questioning he claimed his business in England was to sell picric acid (an explosive), rifles and cloth. He admitted to formerly selling flour and potatoes “but not cigars” – a number of the other spies captured at the time had been involved with the latter, and the use of tobacco products as code words was suspected. In Buschmann’s case, fruit fell under suspicion as Major Drake commented in his review of the evidence:

“…should we be far out in suggesting that bananas and battle-ships are interchangeable terms?”

Buschmann was cautioned in both French and English and faced 4 charges under Section 48 of the Defence of the Realm (Consolidation) Regulations 1914 – in other words he was accused of espionage: a capital crime.

 

The first page of Buschmann’s censored charge sheet – sensitive information has been cut out.

The first page of Buschmann’s censored charge sheet – sensitive information has been cut out.

Court martialled in September and unable to satisfactorily explain his dealings with known German agents, as well as his woeful business record, his trips to Southampton and Portsmouth and the presence of invisible ink in his record books, he was found guilty. In his defence, he argued:

“I was never a soldier or a sailor, and I am absolutely ignorant of all military matters.  I am not a good businessman as I am more wrapped up in my music than business.”

Buschmann was sentenced to death by firing squad and transferred to the Tower on 18th October. He was permitted the solace of his violin which he played throughout the night.

Sentence was carried out at 7:00am on the 19th October at the Tower Rifle Range.

Fernando Buschmann's death certificate

Fernando Buschmann’s death certificate

The medical officer officiating at Buschmann’s execution was Francis Woodcock Goodbody (1870- 1938). In civilian life he was a researcher in chemistry and medicine at University College, London. During the 1914-18 war, he was commissioned Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

To learn more, have a listen to Daniel Hope’s radio documentary “A fiddler in the tower” about Fernando Buschman.

 

Agincourt 600: The ‘Livre des fais du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut’

The ‘Livre des fais du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut’ is one of the beautiful manuscripts included in the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London, commemorating the battle’s 600th anniversary this year.To accompany the exhibition, the Royal Armouries has produced a catalogue with Yale University Press, edited by our Curator of Tower History and Tower Special Collections Malcolm Mercer and trustee Professor Anne Curry. Here, contributor to that publication Dr Craig Taylor of the University of York, introduces you to the man and this remarkable object.

Jean le Meingre, Marshal Boucicaut, was a seasoned military commander with experience in the Northern Cusades and against the Turks. He was born August 28, 1366 and died June 21. In his early years he became a page at the court of Charles VI of France, and at the age of 12 he accompanied Louis II, Duke of Bourbon, in a campaign against Normandy. At age 16 he was knighted by Louis on the eve of the Battle of Roosebeke (November 27, 1382).

Jean le Maingre miniature from the Agincourt Model

Jean le Meingre, Marshal Boucicaut, miniature from the Agincourt Model

Boucicaut was taken to England as a prisoner after the battle of Agincourt in November (1415) with other leading commanders. Boucicaut remained in custody, his ransom unpaid, probably dying at Metheley in Yorkshire on 25 June 1421 at the age of fifty-six. His body was returned to France and buried at Tours, alongside that of his father.

The Livre des fais du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut 

The Livre des fais du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut. BnF, Département des Manuscrits, Français 11432

The Livre des fais du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut. BnF, Département des Manuscrits, Français 11432

The Livre des fais du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut presented Jean Le Meingre, as a flower of chivalry and the embodiment of the highest qualities expected of a knight. The text is one of the finest medieval chivalric biographies, written at the high point of this genre, as seen in parallel examples such as Guillaume de Machaut’s life of King Peter I of Cyprus, Cuvelier’s biography of Bertrand Du Guesclin and the Chandos Herald’s life of the Black Prince.

Yet where all other medieval chivalric biographies were written posthumously, the Livre des fais du bon messier Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut is unusual because it was written while its subject was still alive. The text was completed by 9 April 1409 and must have been written during Boucicaut’s governorship of Genoa (1401–9). The anonymous author was a close supporter of Le Meingre and almost certainly a cleric from Paris. He claimed that he was encouraged to write the book by Boucicaut’s comrades, who were keen to create a permanent record of the great deeds that they had witnessed. The author denied that Boucicaut himself had played any direct role in the composition of the work, but it does seem highly likely that Boucicaut did know that the biography was being written, and he could conceivably have commissioned it. Either way, there is no doubt that the text served as a defence of the tarnished reputation of Boucicaut following his controversial involvement in the murky politics of Genoa, Venice, Florence and Pisa.

The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

Following the conventions of chivalric biographies, the Livre des fais recounted the great deeds of arms of its hero, from the battlefields of France and Flanders to the great wars against the enemies of Christendom in Prussia, Hungary and the eastern Mediterranean. The work celebrated the knighthood of Boucicaut, presented as a perfect knight who demonstrated unmatched prowess, courage and leadership, but also courtesy and other courtly virtues.

The biographer recounted not only Boucicaut’s martial adventures, but also his defence of women through the creation of a chivalric order of the Emprise de L’Escu vert à la Dame Blanche (Enterprise of the Green Shield of the White Lady). In the prologue, the author emphasised the important role played by writers and the written word alongside knights and knighthood. He described Knighthood (‘Chevalerie’) and Wisdom (‘Science’) as twin pillars that upheld the laws of God and man, and argued that any kingdom lacking wisdom would subside into anarchy, just as any realm without knighthood would be conquered by its enemies. It was fitting, therefore, argued the author, that the deeds of the finest knights should be celebrated just as much as the writings of great sages.

In the fourth and final part of the Livre des fais du bon messire Jehan le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut, the anonymous author drew together the themes of the book by comparing the virtues and qualities of Boucicaut with those of the great heroes of antiquity, effectively underlining the lessons presented by his life and constructing a manual of chivalry and knighthood.

To discover more from our ‘Agincourt’ publication, please see further posts via this link, or pick up a copy for yourself via the Yale University Press website. The Royal Armouries Agincourt exhibition is open at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For more details please visit our website.

Agincourt 600: The Prisoners of Agincourt

As part of our 600th commemoration of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique temporary collection of arms, armour, art, music and manuscripts at the Tower of London. To accompany the exhibition, the Royal Armouries has produced a catalogue with Yale University Press, edited by our Curator of Tower History and Tower Special Collections Malcolm Mercer and trustee Professor Anne Curry. Here, one of the contributors of the publication, Rémy Ambuhl of the University of Southampton, writes on the contentious element of the prisoners of the battle.

A French noble man encourages his men toward the English lines.

Pictured Jean le Meingre, Marshal Boucicaut, who is taken prisoner at the battle.

The significance of ransoming has long been recognised by students of medieval chivalry and diplomacy. The system led to a pan-European conception of a chivalric brotherhood, as ransoming a defeated member of the military elite became seen as indicative of much that was civilised about Western European aristocratic culture. By contrast, those who slaughtered, mutilated, or enslaved members of the aristocratic elite were considered inherently ‘barbarous’.

The increasing professionalisation of military activity had a considerable impact on the process of ransoming during this period. Changes in recruitment, strategy, tactics, payment, equipment, and other facets of military activity brought new pressures and possibilities. As ransoming had developed primarily as a practice between members of the aristocracy, the increasing importance of the ‘common soldier’ – of longbowmen, infantrymen, and gunners – had major implications on this elitist system.

Because of this change of nature of the battlefield, the Plantagenets established clear rules by which they could acquire prisoners of note or public standing. In despite of this, at Agincourt 25 October 1415, Henry V famously ordered the slaughter of the French prisoners towards the end of the battle, when fears arose that the French may begin a fresh wave of attack. Although this was understood strategically by his contemporaries, many captors or ‘masters’ were displeased that they had lost the opportunity for significant income raised by these prisoner’s capture.

Despite the estimations of contemporary chronicles, which vary from 700 to 2,200 prisoners, records indicate a possible total of 300 French were captured – 50 of which were very high ranking nobles.

The fate of these survivors is unusually well documented, but who were these ‘lucky ones’ and what happened to them? While French literature sheds light on the distress of prisoner’s families, narrative and administrative records give an unusual insight into their fates at the hands of the enemy.

For instance, the capture and long captivity of Charles duke of Orléans, ‘the poet prisoner’, who had become second in line of succession to the French throne at the death of the Dauphin John de Touraine in 1417, was made famous by a miniature picturing him imprisoned at the Tower of London (see below).

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A manuscript (British Library, MS Royal, 16 folio 73) of poems by Charles, Duke of Orléans (1391–1465) [1]. The original manuscript is held by the British Library. A copy of the image is available on plate 1 of Parnell, Geoffrey (1993), The Tower of London, Batsford, ISBN 978-0713468649.

The miniature depiction of the imprisonment of Charles, Duke of Orléans, in the Tower of London from a 15th-century manuscript. The White Tower is visible, St Thomas’ Tower (also known as Traitor’s Gate) is in front of it, and in the foreground is the River Thames.

Many other French aristocrats fell into the hands of the king in the aftermath of the battle: the duke of Bourbon, the count of Richemont, and the French marshal called ‘Boucicaut’ among them (see their miniatures below).

Charles, Duke of Orleans miniature from the Agincourt Model

Charles, Duke of Orleans miniature from the Agincourt Model, currently featured in our exhibition at the Tower of London.

Louis De Bourbon, Count of Vendome miniature from the Agincourt Model

Louis De Bourbon, Count of Vendome miniature from the Agincourt Model

Arthur of Brittany, count of Richemont miniature from the Agincourt Model

Arthur of Brittany, count of Richemont miniature from the Agincourt Model

Jean le Maingre miniature from the Agincourt Model

Jean le Meingre, Marshal Boucicaut, miniature from the Agincourt Model

These men were the cream of the cream, those important and wealthy prisoners from whom the king of England could possibly secure a political advantage. Their higher public and social standing secured them the attention of the chroniclers of the time. But these greater men only represented a very small fraction of the number of prisoners from whom the English Chancery and Exchequer have kept a record. The surviving contracts detailing captors’ payments to the crown on the ransom of their prisoners is simply unique, and gives an exclusive insight into the extent of the ransoming practice in the late Middle Ages – challenging widespread views on the killing of lower-ranking prisoners.

Late Medieval English armies were contractual. The opportunity to make profit out of the ransoms of prisoners must have been a powerful driver for many a man to go to war. Documents on the survival and fate of lower-ranking French prisoners at Agincourt show how deeply rooted this mercantile mentality was in late medieval warfare. Whether, from a broader perspective, combatants were right to believe that war would make them rich is another question. The wheel of fortune turned fast.

To discover more from our ‘Agincourt’ catalogue publication, please see further posts, or pick up a copy for yourself at the Royal Armouries shopThe Royal Armouries Agincourt exhibition is open at the Tower of London now until 31 January. For more details please visit our website.

Agincourt 600: Meet the men of the battlefield

Agincourt exhibitionTomorrow marks 600 years since the battle of Agincourt, on the 25 October 1415. (For an introduction on the battle and it’s context, click here please see this link.) In this post, you can get to know the key figures that fought on both sides on that day, and find out more about their experience of the historic battle.

Each of these individuals is represented on the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt diorama, a key component of our commemorative exhibition now showing at the Tower of London. The images used below feature these stunning figures, made by Perry Miniatures. To find out more about how the model was made, please see this link.

 

King Henry V of England

King Henry V miniature from the Agincourt Model

King Henry V miniature from the Agincourt Model

Henry V, the great-grandson of Edward III, became king of England in 1413. On his succession he made his plans to recover English rights under the 1360 Treaty of Brétigny. The victory at Agincourt was followed by further campaigns in France culminating in the Treaty of Troyes in May 1420 whereby Henry was recognised as Regent of France and heir to Charles VI. Henry V died suddenly aged 35 on 31 August 1422 at Vincennes apparently from dysentery. To find out more about the Hundred Years context of Agincourt and Henry’s claim to the French throne please click this link.

 

Edward, duke of York

Edward, Duke of York miniature from the Agincourt Model

Edward, Duke of York miniature from the Agincourt Model

Grandson of Edward III and cousin of Henry IV, Edward, duke of York had fought with Prince Henry in Wales. For the Agincourt campaign he undertook to provide 400 troops. He died at the battle of Agincourt. His body was boiled and the bones brought back to England for interment at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire.

 

Humphrey, duke of Gloucester

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester miniature from the Agincourt Model

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester miniature from the Agincourt Model

Humphrey, duke of Gloucester – the youngest brother of Henry V – was twenty-five at the time of the 1415 expedition. He agreed to provide 200 men-at-arms and 600 archers for the campaign, the second largest retinue after that of his elder brother, Clarence. Wounded in the battle he was reputedly protected by the King. Upon the death of his brother, King Henry V of England in 1422, Humphrey became Lord Protector to his young nephew King Henry VI. He died suddenly on 23 February 1447 and is buried at the abbey of St Albans.

 

Thomas, Lord Camoys

Thomas, Lord Camoys miniature from the Agincourt Model

Thomas, Lord Camoys miniature from the Agincourt Model

Thomas, Lord Camoys was one of the oldest men at Agincourt having been born in c. 1350 (making him 65 years old). A warrior of considerable experience his age gave him natural authority over other captains and soldiers. He commanded the rearguard which was intended to enter the battle slightly later. He died in March 1421.

 

Sir Thomas Erpingham

Sir Thomas Erpingham miniature from the Agincourt Model

Sir Thomas Erpingham miniature from the Agincourt Model

Sir Thomas Erpingham contracted to provide 20 men-at-arms, including himself, two knights bachelor and 60 archers. The Burgundian chroniclers Monstrelet, Le Fèvre and Waurin describe him drawing up Henry’s archers ready for battle as well as exhorting everyone to fight well. Riding with an escort in front of the archers, he supposedly threw a baton into the air, which was the signal to attack. These chroniclers then say that he joined the battle of the king. He died in 1428.

 

Sir John Cornewall (Cornwall)

Sir John Cornwall miniature from the Agincourt Model

Sir John Cornwall miniature from the Agincourt Model

Married to Henry IV’s sister, Elizabeth, and therefore Henry V’s uncle by marriage, Sir John Cornewall was closely involved in the events of 1415. For the campaign he contracted to provide 30 men-at-arms, including himself as knight banneret, and 90 archers. The battle was very profitable for Cornewall. One of his principal captives was Louis de Bourbon, count of Vendôme (see below).

Louis De Bourbon, Count of Vendome miniature from the Agincourt Model

Louis De Bourbon, Count of Vendome miniature from the Agincourt Model, who was captured by John Cornewall during the battle.

For a brief period between 1429 and 1432 the duke of Orléans was imprisoned at his castle at Ampthill in Bedfordshire.

 

Charles, d’Albret

Charles I Lord of Albret miniature from the Agincourt Model

Charles I Lord of Albret miniature from the Agincourt Model

Charles, d’Albret had been Constable of France and therefore commander-in-chief of the French royal armies since 1402. He and Marshal Boucicaut (below) advised caution at Agincourt, but their advice was ignored by the young French princes. D’Albret died during the battle while leading the vanguard and was buried in the Franciscan convent of Vieil-Hesdin in Artois.

 

Jean le Meingre, Marshal Boucicaut

Jean le Maingre miniature from the Agincourt Model

Jean le Maingre, Marshall Boucicaut miniature from the Agincourt Model

Jean le Meingre, Marshal Boucicaut was a seasoned military commander with experience in the Northern Cusades and against the Turks. In the week before the battle of Agincourt, Boucicaut, Alençon and Richemont apparently drew up a plan for how to tackle the English army in the field. Events of course took a very different course. Boucicaut was taken to England as a prisoner in November 1415 with other leading commanders. Boucicaut remained in custody, his ransom unpaid, probably dying at Metheley in Yorkshire on 25 June 1421 at the age of fifty-six. His body was returned to France and buried at Tours, alongside that of his father. More information on this gentlemen to follow soon…

 

Jean, duke of Alençon

Jean I, Duke of Alençon miniature from the Agincourt Model

Jean I, Duke of Alençon miniature from the Agincourt Model

Jean, duke of Alençon led the central body of the French army and was among the ‘young princes’ who advocated fighting the king of England in a pitched battle. According to the chronicler Monstrelet, Jean attacked the main body of the English army, killing the duke of York and cutting a fleuron (a flower-shaped decoration) from Henry’s crown with his axe, but was then killed by the English king’s bodyguards. The duke’s body was taken for burial in the abbey of Saint-Martin de Sées within his duchy.

 

Charles, duke of Orléans

Charles, Duke of Orléans miniature from the Agincourt Model

Charles, Duke of Orléans miniature from the Agincourt Model

Charles, duke of Orléans fought in the vanguard and was found at the end of the battle lying on the battlefield under a heap of dead. He was taken to England where he remained until 1440. During his captivity, Orléans kept himself occupied by writing poetry in French and in English. He is in fact remembered more as a poet than a warrior.

 

Clignet de Brébant

Clignet de Brébant miniature from the Agincourt Model

Clignet de Brébant miniature from the Agincourt Model

Clignet de Brébant, Admiral of France was connected to the Duke of Orléans, and as a young man was part of his household. He  led the cavalry charge at Agincourt against the English archers on the Tramecourt side of the battlefield. He was not taken prisoner at the battle and remained active in the Orléanist party for some years until his death around 1428.

 

Arthur, count of Richemont

Arthur of Brittany, count of Richemont miniature from the Agincourt Model

Arthur of Brittany, count of Richemont miniature from the Agincourt Model

From 1413 Arthur, count of Richemont, lived in the entourage of the Dauphin Louis, Duke of Guyenne and became one of his favourites. Richemont was in the vanguard at the battle. He was found lying wounded on the battlefield and was taken prisoner by the English. He remained in England until his provisional release in 1419 to collect money for his ransom. He accepted the treaty of Troyes and in 1421 paid homage to Henry V.Exhibition-39_smaller

To hear about how our Agincourt diorama was created directly from the model-makers David Marshall and the Perry Brothers, please click here. The model forms part of the Royal Armouries Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London, open from 23 October until the 31 January. During the October half term there will be a lively programme of family events and activities to accompany the exhibition. For all the details please visit our website. To find out more about Agincourt, take a look at our other exhibition blog posts here.

Agincourt 600: Shakespeare’s Henry V

As part of our 600th commemoration of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique temporary collection of arms, armour, art, music and manuscripts at the Tower of London. To accompany the exhibition, the Royal Armouries has produced a catalogue with Yale University Press, edited by our Curator of Tower History and Tower Special Collections Malcolm Mercer and trustee Professor Anne Curry. Here, one of the contributors of the publication, Ros King, University of Southampton, writes on Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Shakespeare’s play of Henry V covers the whole of Henry’s 1415 campaign in France from initial discussions as to the validity of going to war to his eventual conquest of the French Princess Catherine in marriage. En route it presents the uncovering of the plot against him by the Earl of Cambridge and others, the death of Falstaff, Henry’s former friend and drinking companion; the embarkation of the army on an enormous flotilla of ships, the siege of Harfleur, and his notable victory at Agincourt—all, as the play’s Chorus famously remarks, by exploiting the imagination of its audience. But it is also one of Shakespeare’s most contentious works, dividing readers between those that think the play glorifies Henry’s role as one of England’s most successful military leaders, and those who think it condones war-mongering brutality. Ever since it was written, it has been cut and rearranged in attempts to iron out its contradictions and make it more simply heroic, more ‘band of brothers’. Meanwhile its most famous phrase ‘Once more into the breach’ has taken on a life of its own, being pressed into myriad uses great and small by those seeking to persuade others to do something they would probably rather not do.

A print of Act III, Scene i: "Once more unto the breach, dear friends!". Thomas Robinson (printmaker) - Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/v91611

A print of Act III, Scene i: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends!”. Thomas Robinson (printmaker) – Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/v91611

My chapter in the Royal Armouries ‘Agincourt’ exhibition catalogue argues that the evident contradictions in the play are a deliberate part of its design and the reason why it is still so compelling 400 years on. The play presents a variety of crunch points on the road to war: Henry seeking the church’s support so that he does not have to bear the moral responsibility for war; church leaders persuading him to make war in order to distract him from the bill before parliament that would confiscate church lands; French ambassadors delivering a load of tennis balls, thus goading him into waging a war they believe he will lose. Most tellingly we see a poor ordinary soldier, Michael Williams, one of the very few commoners in the history plays to whom Shakespeare ever gives a name, as he struggles to make sense of what has brought him, cold and hungry, to a field in France. How does he know that this war is just? What will happen to the many wives and children who will be left destitute back home? And how is it that an unknown stranger (Henry in disguise) somehow manages to deflect his anxieties with platitudes about an individual’s responsibility for his own soul? He knows that the stranger has not answered his question about whether the war is just, but cannot put his finger on quite how he has sidestepped the issue. His frustration breaks out into violence.

Title page of Q1 The Chronicle History of Henry Fift (1600)

Title page of Q1 The Chronicle History of Henry Fift (1600)

In fact the play is as full of instances of treachery, deceit, exploitation and violence between the multinational, English, Scots, Welsh and Irish troops in Henry’s so-called ‘English’ army as it is of battle between English and French. Its contradictions ask us to consider both the idea of ‘right’ on the road to war, and the nature of justice in the conduct of that war: these are the same questions that currently fill the news channels with regard to the conduct of wars in Iraq and Syria.

Henry horrifies us with his attempt to force the surrender of Harfleur by threatening to rape and murder its women, children, and old people. In Shakespeare’s day this speech might have recalled the behaviour of (Catholic) Spanish troops sacking (Protestant) towns in the Netherlands. Today it evokes the actions of so-called Islamic State. But the licence to sack a town that has held out under siege, and to kill or enslave its inhabitants is justified in the bible (Deuteronomy 20.10-20). Objecting to that behaviour means being able to reject part of a revered religious text. In the end, the play’s Henry orders that the inhabitants be well treated; the historical Henry expelled them so that the town could be settled by poor Englishmen.

Shakespeare’s play also presents, one after the other, two different historical versions of Henry’s other potential violation of the law of war: his order to kill the French prisoners. In one version, this act is pragmatic, although still brutal: the French are regrouping and the English cannot afford to keep prisoners alive. In the other, it is retribution for a French war-crime—the massacre of unarmed boys. The Welsh and English captains, Fluellen and Gower, are completely satisfied by this second explanation. Audiences, though, have just been made to witness the so-called ‘fog of war’ in operation.

Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt : The King wears on this surcoat the Royal Arms of England, quartered with the Fleur de Lys of France as a symbol of his claim to the throne of France. Harry Payne - http://www.britishbattles.com/100-years-war/agincourt.htm

Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt : The King wears on this surcoat the Royal Arms of England, quartered with the Fleur de Lys of France as a symbol of his claim to the throne of France. Harry Payne – http://www.britishbattles.com/100-years-war/agincourt.htm

It is well known that Shakespeare borrowed extensively from other writers—for this play, his main source was Holinshed’s Chronicle history of England. But he was not someone who would make do with the obvious sources if something else could be brought in to complicate the plot.  My colleague Craig Lambert has recently demonstrated that the fleet that transported Henry’s army to France was only half the size previously thought: a mere 700 ships rather than the 1500 claimed in the St Albans Chronicle or even the 1000 in Holinshed. In reality, he says, rather than the ‘city on th’inconstant billows dancing’ that Shakespeare describes, it was more of a ‘town’.

But truth in plays, even history plays, is sometimes wider than a single set of historical facts. I demonstrate that Shakespeare was exploiting a very different maritime event in order to make his dramatic point: Cleopatra in her barge on the River Cydnus when she first beguiled Mark Antony. Shakespeare knew of this extravaganza from the description by the Romano-Greek historian Plutarch in a recently published English translation by Sir Thomas North. He would later incorporate it word for word in the play Antony and Cleopatra. As used in Henry V, a few strangely antique words betray their origin, and give the description of Henry’s fleet an exotic, mythical character. If it seems odd to liken Henry’s military expedition to the most famous seduction event in history, the idea finds ironic culmination at the end of the play when he presses his suit to Catherine: ‘in loving me you should love the friend of France; for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it; I will have it all mine’; all his, even though it now lies in ruins from the effects of his war.

The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1884, Sotheby's New York.

The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1884, Sotheby’s New York.

Thus, although the confident assertions of the play’s Chorus have contributed to the lasting myth that is Agincourt, the play’s structure, taken in its entirety, with its wide-ranging comparisons, contradictions, ironies, and black humour raises questions to which we still seek answers: about appropriate punishment; the nature of loyalty, and of treachery; the responsibility of friendship; and the right to make war. If we really were to engage our imaginations, this structure might help us expand our ethical understanding of these topics. Rather than asking us to make an either/or interpretation, the play invites us to respond with ‘yes, and . . .’.

To discover more from our ‘Agincourt’ publication, please see further posts via this link, or pick up a copy for yourself via the Yale University Press website. The Royal Armouries Agincourt exhibition is open at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For more details please visit our website.

Agincourt 600: Coinage in Henry V’s England

As part of our 600th commemoration of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique temporary collection of arms, armour, art, music and manuscripts at the White Tower at the Tower of London.To accompany the exhibition, the Royal Armouries has produced a catalogue with Yale University Press, edited by our Curator of Tower History and Tower Special Collections Malcolm Mercer and trustee Professor Anne Curry. Here, one of the contributors of the publication, Martin Allen of the Fitzwilliam Museum, writes on the coinage of Henry V.

In the reign of Henry V England had a gold coinage of the noble (worth one third of a pound), with the half and quarter noble, and silver coins from the groat (four pence) to the farthing (a quarter of a penny). A loaf could be bought for a farthing, and a skilled craftsman would earn only a few pence a day. The gold coins were mostly used by merchants, gentry and aristocracy.

Coin. Gold Noble. Henry V. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Coin. Gold Noble. Henry V. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Coin. Gold Noble reverse. Henry V. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Coin. Gold Noble reverse. Henry V. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Henry V was very concerned about the widespread ‘clipping’ of the gold coinage, which involved the removal of gold from the edges of the coins, to be melted down and sold or converted into counterfeit coins. This became treason in a statute of 1416, and by the end of Henry V’s reign in 1422 at least thirty people had been executed for this offence. In 1421, when a tax was voted by parliament to support Henry V’s French war, the government had to allow Henry’s subjects to pay in clipped gold coins, because so many coins had been clipped. After this, clipped gold coins were recalled to the mints and replaced by new unclipped coins.

Henry V clipped quarter noble obverse. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Henry V clipped quarter noble obverse. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Henry-V-clipped-quarter-noble-rev

Henry V clipped quarter noble reverse. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Henry V’s government also had to deal with the use of foreign coins in England, which was made illegal in 1415. Venetian silver coins known as ‘galley halfpence’ (because they were brought to England by the fleet of Venetian galleys that visited England once a year to trade) were seen as a particular problem. In 1416 the Venetian Senate bowed to English diplomatic pressure by officially banning this activity. Henry V’s campaigns in France soon brought a fresh challenge from imports of debased blancs issued by the English authorities in Normandy and the French and Burgundian governments. These were made illegal in 1424, after Henry’s death.

Galley-halfpenny-obverse

Galley halfpenny obverse. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Galley-halfpenny-reverse

Galley halfpenny reverse. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

To discover more from our ‘Agincourt’ publication, please see further posts via this link, or pick up a copy for yourself via the Yale University Press website.

The Royal Armouries Agincourt exhibition is open at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For more details please visit our website.

Coin. Ecu à la couronne. Charles VI (1380-1422). Medieval series. French royal coinages. France, place of issue. First-second issues. Gold, weight, 4.03 g, image (width) 29 mm, die axis 210 degrees, 1385-1417. French.

Coin. Ecu à la couronne. Charles VI (1380-1422). Medieval series. French royal coinages. France, place of issue. First-second issues. Gold, weight, 4.03 g, image (width) 29 mm, die axis 210 degrees, 1385-1417. French.

Coin. Ecu à la couronne. Charles VI (1380-1422). Medieval series. French royal coinages. France, place of issue. First-second issues. Gold, weight, 4.03 g, image (width) 29 mm, die axis 210 degrees, 1385-1417. French.

Coin. Ecu à la couronne. Charles VI (1380-1422). Medieval series. French royal coinages. France, place of issue. First-second issues. Gold, weight, 4.03 g, image (width) 29 mm, die axis 210 degrees, 1385-1417. French.

Agincourt 600: Triumph of the longbow?

As part of our 600th commemoration of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique temporary collection of arms, armour, art, music and manuscripts at the Tower of London.To accompany the exhibition, the Royal Armouries has produced a catalogue with Yale University Press, edited by our Curator of Tower History and Tower Special Collections Malcolm Mercer and trustee Professor Anne Curry. Here, one of the contributors of the publication, Thom Richardson of the Royal Armouries, writes about the iconic longbows of the battle.

© His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library

The battle of Agincourt from the Brut Chronicle (Chronicle of St Albans), English, late 15th century. © His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library

The accounts of the privy wardrobe, the fourteenth century organisation which ran the armoury at the Tower of London and the earliest ancestor of the present-day Royal Armouries, give incredible detail about the manufacture, storage and issue of armour and weapons, especially longbows and arrows, throughout the first half of the Hundred Years War. Unfortunately the records run out after 1410, so the details about what went over to Harfleur with Henry V for the Agincourt campaign don’t survive. But we have a pretty good idea of all the processes from what went on before.

On the whole, each archer in an English army was issued for each campaign with a bow, between two and five bowstrings and two ‘sheaves’ of arrows (each of twenty-four arrows tied up with hemp cord, which they reused to tie the arrows round their waists for battle, no quivers).

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An example of an ‘arrow bag’ as used at the battle in 1415.

Ordinary arrows were of poplar, fletched with goose feathers and fitted with a single type of low-barbed head. The best bows were painted, and supplied with ash arrows with steel heads, fletched with peacock feathers.

Though hardly any medieval longbows survive either, we now have an amazing group of them from the Mary Rose, which have revolutionised our understanding of the weapon in the last twenty years. We now think they ranged in draw weight between 65–160 lb, with an average about 110 lb, double what we thought a generation ago.

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Bow, from the wreck of the Mary Rose sunk in 1545, English, mid-16th century.

Odd that this change in understanding should have taken so long, as we have had two of the Mary Rose bows, excavated from the bottom of the Solent by John Deane and William Edwards using their newly invented diving apparatus in 1840, on display at the Tower ever since.

Anyway, the ‘new’ high-powered bows have been reconstructed, experimented with, and enabled the rediscovery of a medieval style of shooting ‘in the bow’ which had been lost through centuries of target archery with much lighter longbows. One of these experimental archaeologists, Mark Stretton, who is one of the best exponents of this rediscovered style of shooting, undertook a fascinating experiment with a bow, some arrows and a radio-controlled lawnmower, which showed that a skilled medieval archer could shoot just three aimed arrows into a charging French knight (or lawnmower). See below a clip of Mark shooting a 140lb self yew bow made by Pip Bickerstaffe.

Filmed at the shooting at Malestroit Medieval Festival 2011, by bowyer (longbow-maker) Ian Cootes (40bowyr).

While the bows have ‘become’ more powerful than we used to think, the ‘arrowstorm’ beloved of English archery enthusiasts has diminished. We used to talk about resupply of arrows as if it was a natural and simple process, but the privy wardrobe accounts show otherwise. Each archer had two sheaves of arrows to last a campaign, and would probably go into battle with just one of them. So all the statistics of how many arrows an archer can shoot in a minute are very much put into perspective by realising that such an arrowstorm could last just three minutes, then the arrows were gone. Once we are aware of that, we can see it happening in the sources: at Poitiers in 1356 the English archers ran out, and tried to recover spent arrows. At Towton in 1461 the Lancastrian archers ran out of arrows, and suffered the indignity of having the Yorkists shoot their own arrows back at them. So the vision moves away from darkening the sky with arrows like the Persians’ at Thermopylae towards a smaller number of accurately aimed arrows shot from very powerful bows by highly skilled and practised professional archers.

The Battle of Agincourt catalogue and exhibition present a whole new way of looking at English medieval archery, derived from the study of actual objects, experimental archaeology and medieval documents, all working together to provide a new understanding of the past. And we have acquired a large group of English arrowheads of the period, mostly from the River Thames, to go in the exhibition. Sadly Westminster Abbey, who own the only fifteenth century arrow in England, couldn’t lend it to us, but our bows and arrowheads will join forces with the Mary Rose bows and arrows (no heads, iron hardly survives at all on the Mary Rose) to present in the catalogue and exhibition the most comprehensive display about English medieval archery ever staged.

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Broadhead (arrowhead) European, 15th c. Royal Armouries collection.

To discover more from our ‘Agincourt’ publication, please see further posts via this link, or pick up a copy for yourself via the Yale University Press website. The Royal Armouries Agincourt exhibition is open at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For more details please visit our website.