Ancient history

Henry V (King of England)

Henry V of England, born August 9, 1387 or September 16, 1387 at Monmouth in Wales and died August 31, 1422 at the Château de Vincennes, France; Duke of Cornwall and Lancaster, was King of England from 1413 to 1422. He was the second monarch from the House of Lancaster who succeeded the Plantagenets in power.

He distinguished himself during several military campaigns, against the Welsh during the revolt of Owain Glyndwr, then against the Percy family during the battle of Shrewsbury. Henri quickly came into conflict with his father, whose health deteriorated sharply from 1405. Following the death of his father in 1413, Henri took the reins of the country, and relaunched the fighting against the French during the war. of Hundred Years which opposes the two countries between 1337 and 1453. Its military successes, which culminate during the battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415 allow it to approach a conquest of France. After several months of negotiations with Charles VI, who was psychologically very fragile and regularly stricken with madness, the Treaty of Troyes, signed in 1420, recognized Henry as regent, and heir to the throne of France. Her marriage to Charles's daughter, Catherine de Valois took place shortly afterwards, and was followed by the birth of the future King Henry VI. Following the unexpected and sudden death of Henry V two years later, his son, then nine months old, became heir to the throne of France


When Henry IV was exiled in 1398, Richard II took him in and treated him kindly. The following year, the Lancastrian Revolution prematurely forced Henry to take on responsibilities as heir to the throne.

From October 1400, the administration of Wales was conducted in his name; less than three years later, Henri was in fact in command of the English forces and fought against Harry Hotspur at Shrewsbury. It was there, in 1403, that the 16-year-old prince was almost killed by an arrow hit in the face. An ordinary soldier would have been left for dead with such a wound, but Henry was able to receive the best care possible, and during the days following the accident, the royal physician devised a special tool to extract the arrowhead without causing damage. additional. The operation is successful, probably leaving the prince with a permanent scar reminiscent of his battle experience.

Role in government and its conflict with Henri IV

The Welsh revolt led by Owain Glyndwr occupied Henry until 1408. Subsequently, due to the king's ill health, Henry began to play a more important political role. From January 1410, helped by his uncles Henri and Thomas Beaufort - legitimized sons of Jean de Gand - he effectively ruled the country.

His views on foreign and local policy differed from those of the king, who dismissed him from the council in November 1411. The feud between father and son is purely political, although it is likely that the Beauforts argued for the abdication of Henry IV, while their adversaries certainly tried to defame the prince. It may be to this political enmity that the tradition of restless youth is due, and subsequently immortalized by Shakespeare; but accounts of Henry's military and political actions, even in his youth, refute this tradition. The best known incident, his argument with the chief justice, is not reported by his contemporaries, and only told by Sir Thomas Eliot, in 1531.

The story of Falstaff has its origins partly in Henry's friendship with Sir John Oldcastle. This friendship, and the prince's political opposition to Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, may have encouraged the hopes of the Lollards. If so, their disappointment may have caused the statements of ecclesiastical writers like Thomas Walsingham that, on becoming king, Henry suddenly became another man.

King of England

Accession to the throne

Henri succeeds his father on March 20, 1413. Without an embarrassing past or dangerous rivals, he can implement his experience. It has to take care of three problems:

the restoration of peace in the kingdom;
the appeasement of the schism in the Church;
the restoration of England's prestige in Europe.

Henri tackles three fronts simultaneously, and gradually constructs a more general policy based on these three objectives. He immediately makes it clear that he will rule England as a united nation, and that the differences of the past must be forgotten. King Richard II of England is buried with the honors due to his rank; the young Mortimer becomes a favourite; the heirs of the nobles who suffered from the previous reign gradually recover their titles and properties. Henry uses his personal influence in vain against John Oldcastle, but the greatest domestic danger remains the discontent of the Lollards. The firmness of the king crushes the movement in the bud (January 1414) and consolidates his place on the throne. The rest of his reign was free of serious domestic trouble, except in June 1415, when a plot for Mortimer failed, involving Henry Scrope and Richard de Conisburgh, Earl of Cambridge (grandfather of King Edward IV of England).

Foreign policy

Henri can then take an interest in foreign affairs. A writer of the next generation is the first to claim that Henri was encouraged by clerics to go to war against France, in order to divert attention from internal conflicts. But this theory seems unfounded. The restoration of internal peace is the king's main concern, and until it is assured he cannot undertake large-scale operations abroad. Moreover, this war is not just about conquering new territories. Old trade disputes and French support for Owen Glendower are being used as pretexts for this war, and the disorderly state of France offers no prospect of peace. Henry may consider claiming his rights to the French throne as part of his royal duty, but in any case, a permanent settlement of national disputes is essential to the success of his foreign policy. The campaign of 1415, with its brilliant conclusion at the battle of Agincourt (October 25, 1415), is a first step. Two years of patient preparation follow.

The maritime domination is ensured by chasing the Genoese, allies of the French, from the Channel. Diplomatic success drives Emperor Sigismund away from France, and the Treaty of Canterbury paves the way for the end of the Church Schism. Thus in 1417 the war was relaunched on a larger scale. Basse-Normandie was quickly conquered and Rouen, cut off from Paris, was besieged. The French are paralyzed by conflicts between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs. Henri skilfully plays on these dissensions to pit them against each other, without relaxing his war effort. In January 1419, Rouen fell and Henry installed his government in the castle of Rouen4. In August, the English are at the gates of Paris. The intrigues within the court of France culminate with the assassination of Jean de Bourgogne by the partisans of the Dauphin in Montereau-Fault-Yonne (September 10, 1419). Philippe, the new duke, and the French court themselves throw them into the hands of Henry. Also in 1419, in Hardricourt, an interview took place between the French emissaries and King Henry V of England who asked for the hand of Catherine, daughter of King Charles VI of France, with Aquitaine and Normandy as a dowry, old heritage ancestral (by Eleanor of Aquitaine and William the Conqueror), gradually confiscated by the Capetian monarchy. After six months of negotiations, Henri was recognized by the Treaty of Troyes as heir and regent of France, and, on June 2, 1420, married Catherine de Valois, daughter of Charles VI le Fou, king of France, and Isabelle of Bavaria. (After her death, Catherine of Valois would secretly marry a Welsh courtier, Owen Tudor (?-1461) grandfather of King Henry VII of England.)

End of reign

Henry V was then at the height of his power. Its success in France seems certain. He shares with Sigismund the responsibility of ending the Great Schism by obtaining the election of Pope Martin V. All the states of Western Europe are under his diplomatic influence.

The place of leader of Christendom is now within his reach, and the plan for a new crusade is taking shape. He does send an emissary to collect information in the east; but his plans are shattered by his death. A visit to England in 1421 was interrupted by the defeat and death of his brother, the Duke of Clarence at Baugé le Viel against a Franco-Scottish army under the Dauphin Charles. The siege of Dreux in July and then the rigors of the winter siege of Meaux deteriorated his health, and he died of dysentery at Vincennes on August 31, 1422, two months before his father-in-law Charles VI, thus missing the possibility of being crowned king of France.

Henry's last words perhaps express regret at not having lived long enough to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This ideal is inspired by that of King Arthur, a model of chivalry then in its decline. However, Henri's political mind is rather ahead of his time:

a powerful central government supported by parliament,
conservative church reform,
commercial development,
maintaining national prestige.

His aims in some respects anticipate those of his Tudor successor, but he would have accomplished them in a medieval fashion, as a sovereign subject to the constitution. His success is due to the power of his personality. He can train the lieutenants behind him, but when he dies, no one is available to take his place as leader. Warfare, diplomacy and civil administration all depend on his guidance.

Assessment of the reign

“His dazzling success as a general diverted attention from his more serious qualities as a ruler, and even from his solid strategies with which he aimed for the position of lord of the narrow seas. If he was not the founder of the English navy, he was one of the first to understand its true importance. Henry had such a strong sense of his own rights that he was merciless in the face of disloyalty. But he was keenly attentive to the rights of others, and it was his eager desire to uphold justice that impressed his French contemporaries. He had the reputation of a religious persecutor; but in fact, as a prince, he opposed the harsh policies of Archbishop Thomas Arundel, and, as a king, he allowed a more moderate view. The execution of the Lollards during his reign was more likely a political act than a religious one. To be firm was for him a duty. So in times of war, although he kept strict discipline and did not allow gratuitous violence, he dealt harshly with all who he thought had sinned. In his personal conduct he was chaste, moderate, and sincerely pious. He relaxed by doing sports or manly exercises. At the same time he was cultivated, with a taste for literature, art and music. »

This assessment is now considered a rather archaic and biased view of Henry's reign.


Henry is buried in Westminster Abbey. His tomb is covered with pretty ornaments during the Reformation. The shield, helmet and saddle, which formed part of the initial funerary equipment, still hang above his grave.

His young son Henri VI succeeded him.

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