Henry V and the crossing to France: reconstructing naval operations for the Agincourt campaign, 1415
By Craig Lambert
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 43:1 (2017)
Abstract: The Battle of Agincourt, 1415, has attracted much attention from scholars. Yet much of the academic focus in this phase of the Hundred Years War centres on the English king, the army, the battle and its aftermath. Much less research has been carried out on the maritime logistics that underpinned Henry V’s invasion of France. This article seeks to address this lacuna by focusing on three key areas of the naval operations in 1415. Firstly, it will assess the numbers of foreign ships that participated in the crossing. Secondly, it will reconstruct the process of gathering English ships. Finally, it will analyse the naval patrols put to sea over 1414 and 1415 which were designed to protect the gathering transport armada.
Introduction: On 11 August 1415 a large fleet slipped out of the Solent and headed to the Chef de Caux. The fleet was transporting an army of at least 11,248 fighting men, including Henry V of England aboard his ship the Trinite Roiale. In his play Henry V Shakespeare immortalised the men who fought and won at Agincourt as ‘the few’.
Here Shakespeare alludes to the state of Henry’s army, diminished by siege sickness and exhausted by a long march. It was a remarkable victory and one that had an important effect on Henry’s kingship. The Lancastrians were a new dynasty, one that had usurped the throne. Agincourt showed God favoured that usurpation. Success on the battlefield also generated political and financial support for Henry to undertake his subsequent conquest of Normandy.