Agincourt600: A Legitimate Language of Leadership – Henry V’s Use of English

As part of our 600th commemoration of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is currently 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, James Freeman, British Library, writes on a particularly fascinating letter from King Henry V.

Written around 1418, this letter exemplifies Henry V’s firm grasp of royal government: his ability to delegate, to issue clear instructions, and his command of administrative details, even in the midst of the second campaign in France.  The letter addresses the most important nobles who were ruling in the king’s absence: Henry’s brother, John, duke of Bedford; his cousins Ralph Neville, 1st earl of Westmorland and Henry Percy, 2nd earl of Northumberland; and Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham.  It encompasses matters of national security – the strength of the northern border against possible Scottish incursions – as well as how a single, admittedly very important, prisoner of war should be held in custody.   It makes clear to its recipients and to us how these two issues were interconnected.  Most remarkably, it is written in English, quite possibly by Henry’s own hand.

Letter of Henry V, probably autograph; paper; written c. 1418; British Library, Cotton MS Vespasian F III, f. 8.

Letter of Henry V, probably autograph; paper; written c. 1418; British Library, Cotton MS Vespasian F III, f. 8.

Why is the language of this letter so significant?  In the fifteenth-century, unlike the twenty-first, linguistic boundaries did not neatly coincide with those of nation-states.  Three main languages had co-existed in England since the Norman Conquest: Latin, French and English.  Such trilingualism persisted because each language fulfilled distinct purposes that one or both of the others could not.  This was not a static situation, however; over the centuries following 1066, the role of each language evolved, one sometimes overlapping with another or taking on new roles.

Add. 25588

A page from a missal (use of Sarum), containing notation for the sung liturgy and a half-page miniature of the Crucifixion; parchment; eastern England (?Norwich), 1st quarter of the 15th century; British Library, Add MS 25588, f. 109v

Latin was the trans-national language of religion and learning.  It remained in England (despite the efforts of John Wycliffe in the fourteenth century), as elsewhere, the language of the Bible and of church liturgy.  It was written and spoken by scholars in the universities, the religious orders in monasteries, and by bishops and priests in cathedrals and churches.  The authority and antiquity of Latin helped it to become the common language of administration and the law: of charters, grants, writs, orders, wills, indentures, of the panoply of medieval documentary culture.

Royal 20 D.iv

Detail of a page from a copy of the ‘Lancelot du Lac’, with a half-page miniature showing Arthur engaged in conversation with his barons, while Lancelot and Guinevere are whispering together – and on the right, the king and queen presiding over a banquet; parchment; north-eastern France (?Arras), c. 1300-1380; British Library, Royal MS 20 D IV, f. 1r

Following the Norman Conquest, French became the language of the ruling elite.  Old English – the tongue of the Anglo-Saxon kings and of epic poetry such as Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon – was side-lined.  Long after kings of England ceased to be French-born men, French remained entrenched as the aristocratic language of courtly culture and chivalry, and of the Arthurian prose and verse romances that these classes consumed.  In the thirteenth century, it too was adopted as a legitimate legal language.

The opening page of a copy of the prose ‘Brut’ chronicle of England, with illuminated initials and border decoration; parchment; England; 2nd quarter of the 15th century; British Library, Harley MS 4827, f. 1r

The opening page of a copy of the prose ‘Brut’ chronicle of England, with illuminated initials and border decoration; parchment; England; 2nd quarter of the 15th century; British Library, Harley MS 4827, f. 1r

English played a subordinate role.  It persisted as the spoken language of common people after 1066, but diversified into regional dialects while adopting words of French origin.  These colloquialisms seeped into written English, making it harder for readers to understand and limiting its potential as a literary language.  From the thirteenth century onwards, some scholars and clerics composed in Middle English new works of literature (The Owl and the Nightingale, Layamon’s Brut) and devotional texts (the Ancrene Riwle, Richard Rolle’s Form of Living), or produced translations from works originally written in Latin (Ranulph Higden’s Polychronicon, translated by John Trevisa) or French (Handlyng Synne and the Chronicle of Robert Mannyng of Brunne).

The opening page of a copy of John Lydgate’s ‘Troy Book’, with illuminated initials and full border decoration; parchment; England; 2nd quarter of the 15th century; British Library, Arundel MS 99, f. 1r

The opening page of a copy of John Lydgate’s ‘Troy Book’, with illuminated initials and full border decoration; parchment; England; 2nd quarter of the 15th century; British Library, Arundel MS 99, f. 1r

Prior even to his accession, Henry was involved in the rehabilitation of English as a literary language.  In 1412, he commissioned John Lydgate to write the Troy Book.  The work took eight years to complete.  Translated mainly from the thirteenth-century Historia destructionis Troiae of Guido delle Colonne, it provided a heady mix of history, romance, battles and eloquent speeches, drawing lessons for the present-day ruler from the events it described.

Miniature from a copy of Thomas Hoccleve’s ‘Regiment of Princes’, showing Thomas Hoccleve presenting his work to Prince Henry; parchment; England; second quarter of the 15th century, Royal MS 17 D VI, f. 40r

Miniature from a copy of Thomas Hoccleve’s ‘Regiment of Princes’, showing Thomas Hoccleve presenting his work to Prince Henry; parchment; England; second quarter of the 15th century, Royal MS 17 D VI, f. 40r

As Prince of Wales, Henry was the dedicatee of Thomas Hoccleve’s The Regiment of Princes, a Middle English poem that drew on Giles of Rome’s De regimine principum and the Secreta secretorum to describe the virtues necessary in a good ruler.  A relationship was thus established between patron and author, with Henry encouraging Hoccleve to translate further works for him.  Hoccleve’s ‘Series’ – a sequence of linked poems in English – included tales from the Gesta Romanorum and the Horologium sapientiae, and he wrote celebratory verse in praise of Henry for important public occasions, such as the king’s victorious return from France in 1421.

Yet Henry’s ambitions for the English language were not confined to fine works of writing.  English had ceased to be the language of government with the Norman Conquest.  Henry changed that: he was the first king for nearly four centuries, the first since Edward the Confessor, to issue orders routinely in English.  The Signet Office – a private team of scribes and administrators that accompanied the king on his travels – wrote all of his letters in this way.

Detail of the opening lines of Henry’s letter.

Detail of the opening lines of Henry’s letter.

This letter indicates that the choice of language was a decision Henry took into his own hands.  The use of formal but familial modes of address – ‘I wole that ye comend my brothre with the chanceller with my cosin of northumberland and my cosin of westmerland’ – suggests that it is Henry holding the pen, not one of his secretaries.

Detail of the middle lines of Henry’s letter.

Detail of the middle lines of Henry’s letter.

Note the title used for the anonymous informant – ‘a man of ryght notable estate’ – who has ‘secretly enfourmed’ the king of French and Scottish plans to rescue the duke of Orléans from his imprisonment.  The register is formal, direct.  ‘I wole’, Henry wrote twice in this letter; it is a clear expression of his personal will.

The adoption (or rather re-adoption) of English as a language of record by central government in the fifteenth century exerted considerable influence upon the development of English.  Orders were circulated by the Chancery, the Exchequer and other offices of royal government across the country.  Such documents may have been the first contact many people had with written English that was not obscured by regional idioms and idiosyncrasies.  Its use by central government, the ultimate legal authority, legitimised English in other lesser legal contexts: in the wills, inventories, charters and business contracts of ordinary people.  The creation of a standard form – that could be imitated, used and above all understood – facilitated that process.  English became an authoritative but also a practical language, capable of use at all levels of society and across the country.  Nation and language were once more in alignment.

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

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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: Tudor Portraits of Henry V

As part of our 600th commemoration of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is currently 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, Catherine Daunt, British Museum, writes on the portraits of Henry V.

“He was of stature higher than the common sort, of body leane, well membred & strongly made, of face beautiful, somwhat long necked, blacke heared stoute of stomacke, eloquent of tong, in martiall affaires a perfect maister, & of chivalry the very paragone.”

Raphael Holinshed, The first volume of the chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande (London: John Hunne, 1577), vol. 4, p.1218

NPG 545. King Henry V by Unknown artist oil on panel, late 16th or early 17th century. Credit line: © National Portrait Gallery, London.

NPG 545. King Henry V by Unknown artist oil on panel, late 16th or early 17th century. Credit line: © National Portrait Gallery, London. Currently in the Royal Armouries temporary Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London.

In sixteenth-century England Henry V was viewed as a model of good kingship and was celebrated for his astonishing military achievements. Historians including Polydore Vergil, Edward Hall and the contributors to Holinshed’s Chronicles (a collaborative project) presented Henry as a courageous, pious and diplomatic ruler and the Battle of Agincourt as a divinely sanctioned moment of success and optimism.  Around 1599 Shakespeare famously drew on these sources in crafting his own portrayal of Henry V. The resulting play no doubt both fed an existing appetite for stories about the king and generated new interest in his life.

During the reign of Elizabeth I widespread interest in English history and the lives of its key protagonists was reflected in a growing demand for portraits of historical figures. By the time Shakespeare wrote Henry V a standard portrait type of the king had been well established. The image, a bust portrait in which Henry is shown in full profile with a distinctive cropped hairstyle, had become recognisable through the multiple painted and printed versions (of varying quality) that had been produced. The precise origins of this design are unknown but it was probably developed in the first or second decade of the sixteenth century for either Henry VII or Henry VIII. The earliest known example of the image is a panel painting that survives in the Royal Collection and which has recently been dated by dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) to the years 1504-20 (see image below). It is part of a small group of posthumous royal portraits that also includes paintings of Henry VI and Richard III. Each portrait is set against a red brocade-style background and is painted on an oak panel (all three of which contain wood from the same tree) measuring around 22 x 14 inches (56.5 x 35.5 cm). It is therefore highly likely that these paintings were made as a small set.

Henry V by an unknown artist, oil on panel, 1504-20. The Royal Collection. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Henry V by an unknown artist, oil on panel, 1504-20. The Royal Collection. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Although visual sources dating from the sitters’ lifetimes were probably used in the making of the Royal Collection group, sketchy drawing beneath the paint and small changes to the designs indicate that these paintings may have been the original prototypes for the standard portraits of Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III. Panel paintings of this type are not known to have been produced in England during the reign of Henry V so it is likely that the visual sources used in the making of his portrait took another form. It has been noted, for example, that the distinctive hairstyle with which Henry V is depicted in the Royal Collection picture resembles images of the king in illuminated manuscripts including Thomas Hoccleve’s The Regiment of Princes, 1411-32 (see below).

Detail of a miniature of Henry V from Thomas Hoccleve’s The Regiment of Princes, 1411-32 (British Library Arundel MS 38, fol. 37r).

Detail of a miniature of Henry V from Thomas Hoccleve’s The Regiment of Princes, 1411-32 (British Library Arundel MS 38, fol. 37r).

The use of earlier sources may also explain why Henry V is shown in profile unlike Henry VI and Richard III who are depicted in a more conventional three-quarter-profile position. It has been suggested that a small devotional image may have been used in which the king was shown at prayer, which could also explain why his left hand is raised in the Royal Collection picture. Alternatively, the source may have been a medal or perhaps a contemporary likeness in another medium in which the king was shown in profile to hide the facial scar that he had sustained at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.

Whatever its origins, by the end of the sixteenth century the image was accepted as an authentic likeness. Although numerous copies and versions of the Royal Collection painting survive from the 1580s onward, there is little evidence to suggest that the portrait was widely copied before this time. Copies may have been made for a small number of elite courtiers at an earlier date but it was not until the last quarter of the century that the image was reproduced for a larger audience. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, panel portraiture in general became more accessible to a wider audience in the second half of the century as paintings could be acquired more easily and had become more affordable. Secondly, the architectural fashion for long galleries, built in emulation of those added to the royal palaces during the reign of Henry VIII, generated a demand for paintings to decorate these newly created spaces.

This in turn led to a fashion for portrait sets of historical figures, primarily sets of English kings and queens, which would hang alongside or perhaps above, family portraits and images of contemporary sitters. It was common practice for painters to copy pre-existing paintings or to trace designs and as more and more copies of particular portrait types were produced, it became easier for other painters to obtain the patterns. As a result, ‘authentic’ images of famous figures became standardised and recognisable. The development of the print trade in England and especially the availability of single-sheet portrait engravings from the end of the sixteenth century also helped spread the designs and in some cases provided the immediate prototype for painters.

© Trustees of the British Museum

© Trustees of the British Museum

Above: Henry V by Renold Elstrack, engraving, published as part of a bound set of engravings of English royal figures by Henry Holland titled the Baziliologia, or Booke of Kings in 1618. A painted set of kings and queens in the collection of Dulwich Picture Gallery are based on the engravings in this set.

By the end of the sixteenth century an image of Henry V is likely to have been among the paintings in most substantial portrait collections. Those known to have owned one include William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (at Theobalds, Hertfordshire); Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, better known as Bess of Hardwick (at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire) and John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley (probably at Lumley Castle, County Durham). In domestic long galleries portraits of Henry V were usually part of a set but in some cases they may have been acquired as a single portrait especially, perhaps, if the family could claim a specific historical connection to the king. Some institutions such as schools or civic buildings are also known to have owned portraits of Henry V, also usually as part of a set. Among the numerous versions that survive from the period are examples now at Ripon Deanery, North Yorkshire; Longleat, Wiltshire; Hatfield House, Hertfordshire; The Queen’s College, Oxford; Eton College, Berkshire and the Society of Antiquaries, London.

The painting of Henry V in the current exhibition at the Tower of London is the only painted portrait of the king in the collection at the National Portrait Gallery. Although it is known to have been produced in the late sixteenth century, it is not known where it first hung or whether or not it was made as part of a set. By the mid eighteenth century it was owned by the antiquary Dr. Andrew Gifford (1700-1784) who presented it to the British Museum where it was displayed for a number of years. In 1879 it was transferred to the NPG along with a number of other portraits. The painting is clearly derived from the Royal Collection picture and is probably a relatively typical example of a late-sixteenth-century version. To the Tudors the image was a symbol of national pride, heroism and exemplary kingship. Displayed alongside images of other English monarchs it was part of a display of royal genealogy that would have reminded viewers of the illustrious bloodline from which the reigning monarch was descended. In addition, with the words of Holinshed, Shakespeare and others in their minds, the picture no doubt reminded Tudor and Jacobean viewers of the great stories of Henry V’s reign.

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

SPECTRE: The weapons of secret agents

Secret Agent Weapons, Evening Talk on 4 November 2015

Secret Agent Weapons, Evening Talk on 4 November 2015


Like many of you, we at the Royal Armouries are eagerly awaiting the latest Bond movie, SPECTRE. On November the 4th in our talk ‘Secret Agent Weapons’, we’ll be telling some of the real stories behind the weapons used in the Bond movies over the years, as well as those designed for real life secret agents (see this link for details).

The most important Bond gun, of course, is that carried by 007 himself. Here are a selection of those he’s carried over the years…

The traditional Walther PPK.

PPK – ‘The’ Bond Gun

Although we don't know what weapons the real Secret Intelligence Service might have used, we do know that during the Second World War, German spies did use the PPK. This example was intended for a Nazi party official.

Although we don’t know what weapons the real Secret Intelligence Service might have used, we do know that during the Second World War, German spies did use the PPK. This example was intended for a Nazi party official.

An iconic weapon, Bond’s PPK has been with him since the very first movie, though not the first Ian Fleming novel. In his first Bond book (Casino Royale, 1953), Fleming drew from his own wartime experiences in Naval Intelligence, and equipped 007 with the small Beretta 418 in the small .25 ACP cartridge. It was a sensible enough choice for a secret agent. After all, if a real spy has to draw his or her weapon, something has gone wrong! Fleming even had Bond remove the grips to make the pistol as slim and concealable as possible; important to prevent unwanted bulges when wearing a tailored suit or tuxedo!

As the novels progressed however, and Bond began to develop into the action hero we know today, Fleming received a letter from a fan that would forever change the Bond universe. In 1956, firearms expert and Bond fan Major Geoffrey Boothroyd wrote to Fleming to suggest that the Beretta that he had carried for Fleming’s first five stories was ‘a lady’s gun’. He also criticised his choice of holster as not quick enough to use, and his reliance upon silencers, which he thought weren’t quiet enough relative to the loss of power they caused. Boothroyd’s suggestion was a revolver, the Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight, which Fleming incorporated as a sort of ‘guest star’. However, for Bond’s main sidearm he stuck with a compact self-loading pistol, the Polizei Pistole Kriminalmodelle (short police pistol). The legendary Bond PPK was born.

Again drawing from wartime experience, Fleming created the fictional ‘Q’ Branch, based upon the real-life wartime SOE Station IX and named after the military term ‘Quartermaster’. This team would from now on furnish Bond with not only his PPK, but a range of other weapons and gadgets. In honour of Boothroyd’s good-natured nitpicking, he named the his new head of ‘Q’ Branch ‘Major Boothroyd’, dubbed him ‘the greatest small-arms expert in the world’, and wrote a scene in which Bond’s pistol was replaced by the PPK. This was later recreated in the first Bond movie, 1962’s ‘Dr. No’. In reality, the pistol used in this movie was the larger Walther PP, perhaps because the diminutive PPK would have appeared too small in Sean Connery’s hands.

LINKS- You can read more about the Boothroyd story here:

The PPK’s original calibre was 7.65x17mm (.32 ACP), but was later produced for the larger 9×17mm (.380 ACP) cartridge. Bond has carried both, sacrificing one extra shot (7 vs 6 rounds in the PPK) in exchange for more potent ammunition. Today, .380 is regarded as the minimum for practical self-defence purposes, so Bond’s recent use of the .380 variant makes sense. Due to American import restrictions on foreign firearms (and possibly the larger hands of some Bond actors), the PPK is sometimes replaced in the movies by the PPK/S, which is the short slide and barrel of the PPK fitted to the larger PP frame.

The larger Walther PP, as the L47A1, was issued to RAF aircrew for escape and evasion purposes.

The larger Walther PP, shown here in British service L47A1 form. These pistols were issued to RAF aircrew for escape and evasion purposes.

The outdated PPK, first produced in 1931, remains in production today. This is due in large part due to its iconic status as the ‘Bond gun’. Yet it was replaced for a time in the movie series from ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ until Daniel Craig’s first outing in ‘Casino Royale’, by the much larger and more modern-looking polymer-framed Walther P99. Though harder to conceal, the P99 has much better sights, a longer barrel, and 15 round capacity as standard. Given the number of gunfights Bond finds himself in, this move made a lot of sense. But the PPK would not be kept down. In keeping with Skyfall’s ‘back to Bond’s roots’ approach in 2012, the PPK (in PPK/S form) reappeared, this time with a set of high-tech biometric palm-print reading grips that of course featured in a key action scene.

In the new movie SPECTRE, Bond again ignores a range of more useful modern ‘concealed carry’ pistols (including the modern Walthers), in favour of his old PPK. As in other areas of Bond’s character, nostalgia has overcome ‘realism’.

Beyond the PPK

Interestingly, in the continuation novels written after Fleming’s death in 1964, the PPK is abandoned far sooner. The PPK is actually withdrawn from MI6 service by the time of ‘Licence Renewed’ (1981), based upon a real-life incident where the pistol used by royal bodyguard DI James Beaton jammed as he tried to protect Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips from a would-be kidnapper. In reality, the PPK is no more prone to stoppages than any other pistol, and there would have been no need to withdraw it from SIS service as it had never entered it!

In any case, Bond for some reason opts instead for the even older FN M1903. This is followed by the space-age but wholly spy-inappropriate Heckler & Koch VP70 (seen in the movie ‘Aliens’), and then the H&K P7, Hans Gruber’s pistol of choice in ‘Die Hard’ (1988). The remainder of the John Gardner novels settle on an excellent period choice; the Smith & Wesson ASP. The ASP, based upon the S&W Model 39 self-loading pistol, was created specifically for the type of covert work we read about in the Bond books. It’s small, slim, and has an unusual channel cut in the slide instead of conventional sights. The idea was to allow the shooter to quickly align his sights in the sort of close-range gunfight that a spy might actually partake in. It also featured transparent grips to show how many rounds were in the magazine.

From the Internet Movie Firearms Database.

From the Internet Movie Firearms Database. The ASP pistol, originally designed by American gunsmith Paris Theodore. This pistol was also featured in the Cold War special operations-themed game ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ (2010)

From 1997, the novels (now written by Raymond Benson) mirrored the guns seen on screen, with the PPK giving way in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ to the P99. However, they part company later in the 1990s, with Bond switching between the two pistols. This of course prefigures Bond’s much more recent return to the PPK in the movies.

Opening Shots

As memorable as Bond’s PPK is the classic opening ‘shot’ of the movies, with its bullet’s-eye-view of Bond in the sights of a bad guy’s gun. You might be surprised to learn that a real gun barrel was originally used to film this scene. A revolver (supposedly a Smith & Wesson .38) was purchased from a shop in Piccadilly, and a pinhole camera aimed down the bore at stuntman Bob Simmons (presumably the barrel was removed to achieve this). This amazing but simple practical effect was replaced with CGI from ‘Goldeneye’ (1995) onwards.

From the Internet Movie Firearms Database

From the Internet Movie Firearms Database. Maurice Binder, creator of the famous opening titles.

The shooting stance used in these scenes looks strange, even silly to those of us today used to ‘tactical’ two-handed shooting techniques seen in modern films and TV series. However, it was actually based on real Second World War combat shooting techniques that emphasised speed over accuracy. Recognising that most pistols were used at very close range, military instructors William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes taught Commandos and Special Operations Executive agents to rely upon instinct. The shooter would adopt a half-crouch for stability and to make themselves a smaller target for return fire. The non-firing hand would be held out to one side for balance. A variation on this, known as ‘hip-shooting’, had the firer simply point the pistol without actually aiming with the eye. The use of these techniques in the movies reflects Fleming’s real-life military experience and the era in which the classic novels and films were produced. Another Fleming nod to realism also appears in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ novel (1962), where he explains that firing a sub-machine gun from the hip is the ‘correct way’ to fire an automatic weapon. This is still basically true today, because most firearms will climb and pull to the right on a long burst (although it is possible with some weapons to fire quite accurate bursts from the shoulder).

From ‘Kill or Get Killed’ by U.S. Army Colonel Rex Applegate (1943). This expanded upon skills outlined in ‘Shooting to Live’ by Fairbairn and Sykes (1942).

Combat shooting as illustrated in ‘Kill or Get Killed’ by U.S. Army Colonel Rex Applegate (1943). This expanded upon skills outlined in ‘Shooting to Live’ by Fairbairn and Sykes (1942).

We’ve already seen a range of weapons in the SPECTRE trailers, from the old favourite PPK to the latest from German makers Heckler & Koch and Arsenal firearms of Bulgaria. Watch out for the first big screen appearance of the bizarre Arsenal AF2011 Dueller Prismatic; essentially two Colt 1911 type pistols melded into one, firing two shots for every pull of the trigger! A future classic ‘bad guy’ gun if ever there was one.

To find out more about the weapons of Bond and their real origins in WW2 secret agent activities, visit our talk with curator (and author of the above) Jonathan Ferguson Wednesday 4 November – see this link for more details.

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: The Battle of Agincourt

General view of the Agincourt diorama on display in the Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London.

General view of the Agincourt diorama on display in the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London.

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 (pictured above).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, Matthew Bennett, writes on the battle itself and what happened on that fateful day.

The Battle of Agincourt, Edited by Anne Curry and Malcolm Mercer. (Yale University Press, 2015)

The Battle of Agincourt, Edited by Anne Curry and Malcolm Mercer. (Yale University Press, 2015)

The English march from Harfleur to Calais was a piece of bravado by Henry which his senior commanders advised against. It should have taken one week, but the French had blocked all the crossing of the River Somme, forcing the English to make a long detour which trebled the length of their intended journey. The French commanders’ policy was to avoid combat until the English forces were depleted, in part owing to the state of civil war in France which made coordination difficult. Certainly the English believed themselves outnumbered, and when, after crossing the Somme, they saw the churned-up tracks of what appeared to be huge army, they were highly alarmed and feared imminent attack. However, the French marched parallel on the route north for the next few days and only turned across the English advance where the road went between the villages of Azincourt and Tramecourt, in a narrow gap between two woods.

General view of the Agincourt diorama on display in the Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London.

Even then battle was not inevitable. The official French commanders, Marshal Boucicault and Charles I Lord of d’Albret (pictured below), feared the English archers and had devised a plan to neutralise them, by charging them with cavalry on armoured horses. Since the archers were normally deployed as ‘wings’ on either side of the dismounted men-at-arms, these took the form of flank attacks.

Jean le Maingre miniature from the Agincourt Model

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

Charles I Lord of Albret miniature from the Agincourt Model

Charles I Lord of d’Albret miniature from the Agincourt Model

Meanwhile, in imitation of the English the French nobles and knights also dismounted in an attempt to overwhelm them by numbers. Professor Anne Curry, trustee of the Royal Armouries, has pointed out that despite all the stories of being hugely outnumbered it is likely that the English had a superiority on the day, with perhaps 8,000 archers and 1,800 men-at-arms (although not all authorities agree on this) against a French force with a core of 6,000 men-at-arms and other supporting troops. The French sources talk of an equal number of arches and crossbowmen; but even if present, they were brushed aside by the nobles, confident in their 3:1 advantage in the men who mattered – the nobility. They were so enthusiastic that they crowded into the front rank keen to have the honour of capturing Henry.

Credit. Daniel Faulconbridge, Wargames Illustrated.

Credit. Daniel Faulconbridge, Wargames Illustrated.

Agincourt exhibition

As a result, no-one followed the plan: the cavalry wings were undermanned and shot down by the archers, protected by their stakes. The horsemen then bolted back into the mass of dismounted men slowly ploughing their way through the mud towards the English line. Chaos ensued, made worse by the rain of arrows which the archers delivered. It used to be thought that these killed many of the knights, but since they were well-protected this is unlikely; however, they certainly caused more disruption. By the time the French reached the English line their superiority in numbers had become a disadvantage, as the men in front were attempting to retreat and those at the back pressed them forwards.

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The fighting was tough, if brief, with Henry himself threatened. So desperate was the situation that the lightly-equipped archers joined in the fray, mobbing the enemy knights who were well-armoured but bogged down. Soon the French began to surrender, expecting under the laws of ransom to be protected. Initially, they were, but two events sealed their fate. One was an attack on the English baggage camp and the other a renewed assault (or the expectation of one) by those French arriving late at the battle. Fearing that he would be overwhelmed by these new threats, Henry ordered the killing of the prisoners. Initially, the English captors refused, the knights by reason of honour the archers for fear of losing their windfall; but the king formed an execution squad, which went around stabbing the prisoners in the face, (they having removed their helmets), armpits and groin, the only vulnerable places for a fully-armoured knight at the time. This may seem like a war crime today, but at the time it was the French who were held culpable for challenging a victory already ordained by God, and Henry was not blamed for this brutal necessity.

King Henry V encourages his English army to victory

King Henry V (centre) encourages his English army to victory

Casualties on the French side were high: claimed as 1,500 knights and nobles and another 5-6,000 of the lesser sort (it was a very class divided society), the English just a few hundred, mostly from the Duke York’s division (who was himself killed). Henry left for Calais the next morning, which suggest that he still feared attack, even though the main French force had been so stunningly defeated.

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.

Agincourt600: The Installation of the model

As part of the museum’s commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique collection at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For this special exhibition, the museum commissioned a bespoke diorama of the battle with David Marshall, model maker of MMDioramas, along with the Perry brothers of Perry Miniatures.

So far in our blog series on making the model…

  • David Marshall has given an overview of how the project took place – see this link
  • The Perry brothers have detailed how they produced the bespoke figures for the battlefield – see this link
  • David has detailed how he shaped the terrain of the battlefield – see this link. 
  • Rob Henson (Painted Wargames) and Aly Morrison have taken us through how they painted the armies of Agincourt – see this link.
  • How the figures were placed into battle formation, with the help of Professor Anne Curry – see this link.
  • and how the model was prepared for the Tower – see this link

Here David Marshall concludes with (for now) the final chapter of the Agincourt model project – it’s installation into the White Tower at the Tower of London… (Until its move to Leeds later next year!)

The big day was finally here. The diorama had to be at the base of the Tower of London at 7.30am on the 22nd of September ready to be winched up into the top floor.

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I picked up the van on Monday 21st morning, the Perrys arrived at my house about midday, and off we went to the Hub in Redditch to pick up the diorama. They had been storing it since making the table and frame for it, and could make sure everything fitted and worked at their factory – ensuring a problem free fitting into the Tower.

The diorama was loaded into the van and so started the most nervous part of the whole two year project – driving the model to London. Throughout the whole build I had been in control, however, in the two hours it took to drive to the hotel anyone could have thumped into me and devastated the whole thing. The model was all insured, but still it would have been a catastrophe.

Thankfully everything went smoothly, the hotel was located and the van parked in a secure car park for the night. Massive sign of relief and we all deserved a beer or two! We soon found ourselves in the local bar for a meal and a drink. Amazingly, while we were there, Michael Perry was recognised by a couple of Italian figure manufacturers so handshakes and photos were swapped before they left.

Tuesday morning came. It was early and the rain was bouncing off the road – not really the best weather to winch an exhibition into the top of the White Tower. The last nervous moment was getting to the van and checking the model hadn’t been nicked overnight. On discovering all was well we found ourselves at the Tower at 7.30am as arranged. It was still raining…

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There was a lot to get into the Tower so we waited until it was out turn. I expected to be worried about the diorama being winched up, but after watching the various other precious items being lifted up by the skilled crane operator my nerves were eased.

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The diorama pieces were 1 metre wide but the crates were 1.30 metres wide. The window which was our entry point into the tower was over 1.4 metres wide, but there was another arch on the inside of the Tower that was 1.1 metre wide, so if we kept the diorama in its travelling crates then we would have to turn it on its side. I wasn’t 100% confident that the diorama would stay secure if that happened, so the Perrys and I decided to take the four sections out of their crates before we winched them up. It was a good idea and worked well – and thankfully it had stopped raining!FullSizeRender

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I stayed on the ground and Alan and Michael went upstairs to check it all went well up there. There were no problems so I worked my way up to the top floor and found the 4 pieces arranged on the floor. We were in – so it was coffee and cake time.FullSizeRender[2]FullSizeRender[1]

There was a lot of other activity going on in the exhibition, so we had to wait until a space was cleared for us to work. We had allowed two days to install the diorama. We didn’t have two days of work to do on it but we needed to allow for fillers and glues to dry overnight so we could paint it the next day. It meant we could be quite relaxed about it all as long as we could get what we needed done by the end of that first day.

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A strange moment – lying on the floor of the Tower by myself admiring the wooden ceiling – all for research of course!

There was another event at the Tower in the evening so we had to be finished about 5.30. It meant we had not quite done what we had planned, but we had done enough to make the next day a success. We left the Tower, walked back to the hotel and then off to the pub again for more food and beer.

The next day was not such an early start. We got there about 9am and started filling the gaps between each section of diorama. During the morning the Royal Armouries team arrived and we arranged a final sign off meeting for 2pm that afternoon. IMG_0748

The rest of the day was taken up with the gap filling, painting and generally tidying it all up and making sure nothing had been missed. We were finished by 1.45pm. Plenty of time to spare!

At 2pm on the dot – Emma Carver (Director of Public Engagement at the Royal Armouries) and Edward Impey (Executive Director and Master of the Royal Armouries) arrived and by 2.15pm we had final approval. We were finished.

The two days at the Tower were a wonderful experience. We knew exactly what we needed to do and knew we had quite a lot of time watching paint dry so it was pretty relaxed. It meant we could enjoy and appreciate the surroundings and I let it finally sink in that we really were in the Tower and the diorama was going to be seen by everyone who visits for the next 3 months. Mind blowing really.

I was home in Loughborough in time to have a bite to eat and sit and watch the Great British Bake Off! I know how to celebrate a job well done.

The project that had taken over two years to complete was pretty much over. The only things left were the official opening on the 22nd October, the day before it is open to the public and then finally installing it in its long term home at the Royal Armouries in Leeds next year.

Below are a few shots of the David Marshall and the Perry’s stunning diorama happily sitting in pride of place in our new Agincourt exhibition – open as of today until the 31 January! For more details please visit this link. To find out more about how the model was made, including how the terrain was composed, and how the figures were made and painted, please visit this link.

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The stunning diorama in situ in our Agincourt exhibition - open TODAY!

The stunning diorama in situ in our Agincourt exhibition – open TODAY!

A dying French knight reaches out for his horse as The French cavalry charge the English lines.

A dying French knight reaches out for his horse as The French cavalry charge the English lines.

English archers behind their defensive stakes

English archers behind their defensive stakes

General view of the Agincourt diorama on display in the Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London.

General view of the Agincourt diorama on display in the Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London.

King Henry V encourages his English army to victory

King Henry V encourages his army to victory

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

Marshal Boucicaut encourages his men toward the English lines.

The French cavalry charge the English lines

The French cavalry charge the English lines

Agincourt 600: Transporting the battle

English archers behind their defensive stakes

English archers behind their defensive stakes

As part of the museum’s commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique collection at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For this special exhibition, the museum commissioned a bespoke diorama of the battle with David Marshall, model maker of MMDioramas, along with the Perry brothers of Perry Miniatures.

So far in our blog series on making the model…

  • David Marshall has given an overview of how the project took place – see this link
  • The Perry brothers have detailed how they produced the bespoke figures for the battlefield – see this link
  • David has detailed how he shaped the terrain of the battlefield – see this link. 
  • Rob Henson (Painted Wargames) and Aly Morrison have taken us through how they painted the armies of Agincourt – see this link.
  • and how the figures were placed into battle formation, with the help of Professor Anne Curry – see this link.

Possibly the trickiest element of this project was going to be it’s transportation to the Tower of London. Here, model maker and project manager David Marshall writes on the highs – and challenges – of the model’s journey.

3A1DD2E4-2A74-41AB-A260-222B128FF721Right at the beginning I quickly identified that the packing and delivery of a 4m x 2m diorama would be the most challenging and unpredictable part of the whole project. The model had resided in my workshop for the last two years in a controlled safe environment, but as soon as the model left the building into the big wide world anything could happen!

I contacted a supplier of purpose built crates as early as the tender-stage of the project, to price up and advise on the best way of packing the finished diorama to deliver it safely to the Tower of London, and later to the museum in Leeds. I also checked at this point that I could hire a van big enough to contain the model – as I was determined I would drive it down myself rather than hand it over to a courier company! Call me paranoid but I wanted to make sure I had done everything in my power to get the model safely to the Tower after two years intense work.

When it was time to order the crates for the model, the Perrys and I discussed how they should be designed, how we would get the boards out of the boxes and other practical things like that. We decided we would go with an ‘upside down box’ approach, as recommended by the company. The ‘lid’ was the base of the model and once the diorama piece was sitting on this lid we would then slide the sides and top over it – which avoided lifting the pieces in.

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In the process of ordering the boxes I double checked on the size of the van. The original design of the crates made them 2.25 metres long each. It was a good job I checked as the longest van I could get was 4.25 metres long. I had intended to lay two crates end to end, which meant the van was by 25cm short!  Fortunately, we were able to amend the crate size to 4.15metres long. Crisis averted!

When the crates were delivered, I hired an extra-long transit van for an hour just as a final belt and braces test to make sure everything fitted… and it did.The diorama was due to be delivered and installed into the White Tower on the 22nd September, but before this could happen the model needed to be framed in a special case ready for the general public. This meant the model had to be close to complete sign off well before that date.

The final meeting at Loughborough with me and the team from the Royal Armouries came in early August, and I expected it to be one of the most nervous days of my life – two years work came down to this meeting and their final approval. The Perrys and I had worked very closely with the Royal Armouries throughout the model’s development, but even so when it came down to D-Day I was expecting some serious nerves.

I decided to do a big reveal, so as everyone arrived I ushered them into a meeting room until the whole party was present so I could show everyone at once for a (hopefully positive) big reaction. Whilst we waited for the whole party, we chatted with cups of coffee and enjoyed a batch of my wife’s home-made cookies (Frances had baked regularly for the team over the last two years and had deservedly gained legendary status amongst them for her delicious treats).

It was at that moment I realised I was completely confident that the Perrys and I had done a great job on the diorama, so I wasn’t nervous at all! I was confident it was going to be well received which was a fantastic feeling. My instinct was thankfully rewarded as the model was met with an abundance of ‘wows’ and ‘greats’ which was such a thrill, with only a few final amends to organize before the big move. I arranged the final additions to take place whilst I was away, so I could go off on holiday a happy man.

When it came to moving the model for its journey to Redditch, to be encased ready for the exhibition, I arranged for a friend to help with the loading.

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We learnt a lot very quickly! It turned out that two people really wasn’t enough to move the crates safely – the diorama and crates weren’t very individually heavy but together suddenly they were hard to lift. Also, and this was a big one, not all extra-long transits are the same length! We got one crate into the van and it became obvious there wasn’t enough depth to get another crate in. Disaster was looming but a quick call to the van hire company and we were able to swap it over for the van I did the dry run with. After collecting the new van we headed back to the studio, picking up my friend’s son Ben on the way – who at 23 was the perfect addition to the loading/unloading team.

Now we had the right sized van and enough people for the job – so after a false start we got the other 3 crates in the van quite smoothly. That morning was tricky but I’m glad we could work those issues out before shipping the model to the Tower, when timings were very tight indeed. The lessons learnt that morning made the move to the Tower go without a hitch.

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The Hub in Redditch, where the model would be fitted with its case, was about an hour away from me in Loughborough so a nervy drive later we arrived and the van was empty in no time as there were 4 or 5 people to help.

Soon after that, the full team met at the Hub with the Royal Armouries for the last project meeting I would attend. I was there really to answer any questions about the diorama and be ready to sort out any unforeseen problems. As it turned out everything was fine so I could just enjoy finding out how everything else was going. Before I left I arranged with The Hub when the model would be packed away ready for its journey to the Tower, as I would collect it on route down to London.

As I drove home to Loughborough that day I realised that my model-making role was complete (until installation on the 22nd September). It meant that for the first time in two years I didn’t have to think about Agincourt…. for just over a week anyway!

Coming up – the final ‘making the model post’ on installing the model in the White Tower.

To see the model visit the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt exhibition at the White Tower of the Tower of London from Friday 23 October until the 31 January. For more details please see this link.

Agincourt 600: Getting into battle formation

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As part of the museum’s commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique collection at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For this special exhibition, the museum commissioned a bespoke diorama of the battle with David Marshall, model maker of MMDioramas, along with the Perry brothers of Perry Miniatures.

So far in our blog series on making the model…

  • David Marshall has given an overview of how the project took place – see this link
  • The Perry brothers have detailed how they produced the bespoke figures for the battlefield – see this link
  • David has detailed how he shaped the terrain of the battlefield – see this link. 
  • and Rob Henson (Painted Wargames) and Aly Morrison have taken us through how they painted the armies of Agincourt – see this link.

Here Alan Perry (one half of Perry Miniatures) details how the miniatures were placed ready for battle.

King Henry V encourages his English army to victory

King Henry V (centre with sword raised) encourages his army to victory

As the painted figures were finished in batches of 500 we started to work out the formations and dispositions on the terrain. The first thing to nail down was the positions of the main French ‘battles’. Their cores were made up from the resin ‘bricks’ mentioned before (see this link). These had to be glued down before David Marshall could finish the terrain around them.

However before anything was secured David placed all the figures in polystyrene blocks so we could arrange them in various ways to get the correct positions. We had quite a few meetings at this point with the Royal Armouries’ committee to pin down what they wanted to show i.e. how close the French vanguard were to the archers, how far round the archers were on the flanks, where the nobles should be with their banners etc. The meetings were all carried out in Loughborough where David had his studio.  It was great to watch Anne Curry (Royal Armouries trustee and ‘Queen of Agincourt’) moving the blocks of figures around the terrain like a seasoned wargamer – it looked like she was enjoying it!

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Professor Anne Curry, Royal Armouries trustee, commentating on figure placements with Alan Perry and Curator at the Royal Armouries Thom Richardson.

After the positions were agreed we could start gluing them onto the terrain. Surprisingly the placing of the figures didn’t take that long, less than a week in total. A couple of friends Aly Morrison and Dave Andrews came along to help the three of us (myself, David and Michael) on one of the days. We drilled holes into the groundwork and simply glued the pegged figures in. The horses needed a bit more attention as they were on bases so needed to be blended into the terrain.

The French cavalry charge the English lines

The front two French formations are shown packed in close together (something that was commented on at the time) as they surge forward whilst being hit in the front and in the flanks by the arrow storm. The archers on the other hand are in a loose formation, so they can use their longbows, which created a comparatively wider frontage – suddenly the French started to look like they’re up against it!

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

Arrows needed to be shown in the ground so Dave Andrews came up with a brilliant idea of using bristles from a broom. Before cutting them down to size, the ends were dipped in light paint to simulate the goose feather fights. Once cut off, 1000 of these were placed by five of us, a painstaking task and one which will hopefully be noticed (if you look closely)!

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The last bits to add were the banners. We asked Graham Black of GMB Designs if he would be interested in the creating the banners for the diorama. He’s known for the high quality of his flags so it was a no-brainer! The RA wanted to show the main leaders with their banners and heraldry, this in the end worked out to be around 40 in all. As you can see the banners are all shown stiff, not fluttering. During this period banners (as opposed to standards) were silk stiffened with buckram (a treated linen/canvas) in the middle, like a sandwich, or had a wooden baton along the top edge so they didn’t ‘fly’.

AgincourtWI6To see the model visit the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt exhibition at the White Tower of the Tower of London from Friday 23 October until the 31 January. For more details please see this link.