Henry V: 10 Notable Achievements of England’s Warrior King
Arguably the greatest warrior king in the history of England, Henry V reigned from 1413 to 1422. His crowning achievement and highlight as king came when he invaded France, winning the famous Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Prior to that, he and his father (Henry IV) effectively quashed the Glyndŵr Rising (i.e. the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr).
Upon becoming King of England, Henry V spent majority of his nine-year reign waging war against France, eventually becoming heir and regent of France. Apart from being popularized by William Shakespeare plays, Henry V of England is renowned for the following 10 achievements. But first, here is a quick fact about him:
Fast Facts about Henry V
Born: Henry of Monmouth
Date and Place of Birth: September 16, 1386/1387; Monmouth Castle, Wales.
Date and Place of Death: August 31, 1422; Château de Vincennes, France
Burial Place: Westminster Abbey, London on November, 7, 1422
Reign: 1413 – 1422
Title: King of England and Lord of Ireland
Father: Henry IV of England
Mother: Mary de Bohun
Spouse: Catherine of Valois
Issue and Successor: Henry VI of England
Education: The Queen’s College, Oxford – under the tutelage of his uncle, Henry Beaufort.
Most Known For: Battle of Agincourt 1415 in the Hundred Years’ War; Quelling the Glyndŵr Uprising; and the Battle of Shrewsbury
Major Accomplishments of Henry V
Brought to an end the Glyndŵr Rising
The Glyndŵr Rising, commonly called the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr or the Last War of Independence, saw Henry (Prince of Wales at the time) march his army into Wales. The uprising spanned between 1400 and 1415. It was Wales’s last attempt to gain independence from England.
The Glyndŵr Uprising was fueled by the overthrow of Richard II of England who was seen in a very good light by the Welsh. Also, Richard’s removal riled up a number of influential people in Wales including, Owain Glyndŵr. Many of those Welsh lords resorted to taking up arms against England. The uprising would sporadically continue for about 15 years before it was finally nipped in the bud by Henry V.
Fought against Henry “Hotspur” Percy
At the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, Henry and his father, Henry IV, fought against Henry “Hotspur” Percy. Hotspur was a rebel leader from Northumberland. Along with his father, Henry marched 14,000 men to face Hotspur Percy’s men.
The Percys were aggrieved by Henry IV’s inability to keep his end of an arrangement that saw the Percys support Henry IV in exchange for lands and titles. The Percys were Led by Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland and Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Worcester.
After a lengthy exchange of arrows between Henry IV’s forces and Henry Percy’s, Henry was struck in his face with an arrow. But for the quick intervention and thinking of the royal physicians, Henry would probably have died. The injury did however leave him with a permanent scar.
In the end, the future king of England’s army proved too difficult to handle. Henry Hotspur Percy was killed in battle. He was buried at Whitchurch, Shropshire. As for the remaining Percys, King Henry IV had them publicly hanged, drawn and quartered.
Did you know that the Battlefield Church sits over the site where the soldiers died at the Battle of Shrewsburry?
Pursued a path to unite England
After his father Henry IV died on March 20, 1413, Henry ascended the throne at the age of 26. Crowned Henry V, the young king set out to unite England by bringing warring sides together.
He forgave some of his enemies, including Mortimer. He also restored the titles and lands of lords and barons that suffered under his father’s reign. Finally, he allowed Richard II’s remain to be re-interred. Richard II was deposed by Henry’s father, Henry IV.
Decisively dealt with the John Oldcastle Rebellion
Regardless of his admirable attempts to unite England, Henry still had the ability to be ruthless and decisive. He executed a number of high ranking men in England during the Lollard Discontent in January 1414. He even burnt his old friend Sir John Oldcastle in 1417. Those executions were meant to stamp his authority as king of England.
As a result of those somewhat draconian measures, England did not experience many internal rife, thus aside from the Southampton Plot. The plot saw some very influential lords and conspirators favor Edmund Mortimer, Richard II’s heir, as rightful king of England. Henry responded to those plotters by sentencing them to death. For example, Lord Scrope and Richard, Earl of Cambridge (grandfather of King Edward IV) were executed.
Encouraged the use of English Language in the kingdom
Henry V holds the record of being the first English monarch since the Norman invasion (about 350 years prior) to promote the use of the English language.
During his time on the throne, the Chancery Standard English got introduced. In many government institutions, English became the official language. Henry was also the first English monarch to use English when writing private letters. Prior to that, English kings typically used French or Latin. This and many more other feats of Henry V helped unite England and create a strong national identity.
Did you know that Henry V’s place of birth, Monmouth Castle, is close to the Welsh border?
Successes during the Hundred Years’ War
Beginning around 1337, the Hundred Years’ War plunged large parts of Europe into decades upon decades of fighting. it evolved around England and France’s claims to Normandy. In order to stamp his reputation as a warrior king, Henry reasserted England’s claim to the French throne, successfully invading the country in 1415.
Henry V’s victorious wars against France
Henry made several demands of France. The first demand was the return of Aquitaine to England. Henry claimed that this would be in fulfillment of a 1360 treaty between the two countries. He also demanded the French pay 2 million crowns. The third demand of Henry was for Charles VI’s daughter’s hand in marriage. Based on those three major demands, Henry sailed his army to invade France in August 1415.
Some medieval writers stated that Henry embarked on his war campaigns against France because he sought to take the public’s attention away from the problems brewing at home. Also, the French at some point in time supported Owain Glyndŵr’s rebellion against the English Crown. This was another reason for the invasion.
At the time that Henry sailed into France, France was in a bit of political turmoil. The French king, Charles VI, was not always in his right senses. The French lords and nobles did not have much faith in Charles’s eldest son either.
Seized a Fortress at Harfleur
In September 1415, Henry captured the fortress at Harfleur in France. The Siege of Harfleur began in August and lasted until September. During this military campaign, his army incurred immense losses. It has been estimated that about 30 percent of his soldiers died of dysentery alone. It was truly one of Henry’s costliest wins in France. From Harfleur, Henry pondered the idea of marching into Paris and attacking the city; however, he later decided not to proceed. Quite a steep price to pay for Harfleur.
Henry V’s most crowning achievement – the Battle of Agincourt
With an army of about six to seven thousand men, Henry marched onward to Calais. Bear in mind, his private council vehemently raised opposition to this. Well, history proves that they were wrong. That decisive and bold move by Henry V went down as one of the greatest battle wins in England’s history.
Disregarding the advice of his councilmen, King Henry V marshaled his army against about 30,000 French soldiers. The Battle of Agincourt, as it came to be famously called, took place on October 25, 1415 near the village of Agincourt.
Henry used the environment to his advantage. The French men-at-arms could not move efficiently due to the muddy nature of the ground. The night before the battle had seen a heavy downpour. There were also scores of dead body that impeded the movement of the French army. Taking cognizance of his environment, Henry and his men intentionally wore light armor, which enabled them to move better than the French army that was in a relatively heavier armor.
He secured victory despite his army being extremely tired and outnumbered. France lost about 7,000 soldiers while Henry’s army only lost a few hundreds. His victory at Agincourt was sung all across Europe. Henry would go on to receive a hero’s welcome in England.
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Secured the Treaty of Troyes
After waging several successful wars in France, Henry V was able to secure the Treaty of Troyes from France. The treaty forced Charles VI to make peace with England. Also in the treaty, Henry was made heir and regent of France.
He was also given Catherine Valois’s (Charles VI’s daughter) hand in marriage. The two married on June 2, 1420 at Troyes Cathedral. From the marriage, their only son, Henry (later Henry VI), was born on December 1421 at Windsor Castle.
Other Worth-mentioning Facts about Henry
- Henry V was the second English monarch to hail from the House of Lancaster.
- His wife, Catherine of Valois, was the younger sister of the widow of Richard II, Isabella of Valois.
- Henry V’s great-grandfather was Edward III of England, the first English king to lay claim to the throne in France.
- His paternal grandfather was John of Gaunt.
- His first cousin once removed was Richard II of England. Richard was king at the time of Henry’s birth.
- The exact date of Henry V’s birth remains unknown. It was not recorded because no one expected him to one day inherit the English throne. He was quite far in the line of succession. To this day, the years 1837 and 1836 are generally accepted as one of the likely year of Henry’s birth.
- Henry’s father and the House of Lancaster were the ones behind the overthrow of Richard II in 1399. His father, Henry of Bolingbroke, was subsequently crowned Henry IV. Henry was then given the title Prince of Wales and heir apparent to the English throne. As at the time that the palace coup took place, Henry and Richard II were in Ireland. They visited several places, including Trim Castle in County Meath – a place that housed the Irish Parliament.
- Although it was spring at the time of his coronation (i.e. April 9, 1413), there was an awful lot of snowstorm on that day. Some people interpreted it as a good omen.
- Henry was described as a tall man (height of around 6 ft 3 inches) with a dark hair and a pointed nose. His lean face was usually clean-shaven.
- His brother, Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence was killed at the Battle of Baugé in France. After Thomas’s death, Henry sailed his army to France and captured Dreux in the summer of 1421.
- He wore with pride the scar that he got at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, after he was hit in the face by an arrow. The scar reinforced his reputation as a brave and determined warrior king.
- The victory at the Battle of Agincourt went down as Henry’s greatest victory. It is also considered one England’s greatest battle wins in the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453). Other renowned battle wins include the Battle of Crécy (1346) and the Battle of Poitiers (1356).
- He killed all the French prisoners of war at the Battle of Agincourt. He failed to realize that some of those prisoners could have been ransomed.
- Another terrible atrocity committed by Henry came at Rouen. He purposely starved the women and children in Rouen while he laid siege to city. The city reasoned that Henry would be so kind or merciful to let the women and children leave the city. However, Henry did the exact opposite. He watched as innocent and defenseless women and children died of starvation. It has been estimated that number of deaths from starvation was around 12,000.
- His last victory came after he laid siege to Meaux in October 1421. In May 11, 1422, he successfully captured the city.
- Many historians state that Henry V’s death, on August 31, 1422, was caused by a heatstroke. It was believed that he rode in full armor on a hot August afternoon in 1422. There have also been suggestions that Henry died of dysentery.
- Henry’s body was brought back to France by Lord Steward, John Sutton, 1st Baron Dudley. Subsequently, the king was buried at Westminster Abbey on November 7 1422.
- At the time of Henry V’s death, his son (future King Henry VI) was a minor. Therefore, John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford became regent.
- France’s Charles VI died two months after Henry V’s death. This meant that Henry V (i.e. regent of France) did not live long enough to be crowned King of France.