Thought of the Day 9.16.12 Henry V


“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall with our English dead.”
― William ShakespeareHenry V

Henry the Fifth of England was born in the tower above Monmouth Castle in Wales on this day in 1386. Today is the 626th anniversary of his birth.

Illustration of Henry V from Cassell’s History of England [Image Courtesy: Wiki Commons]

Henry’s birthday was not officially recorded but it is believed to be either September 16 or August 9, and in either 1386 or 1387. He was born into one of the most important families in England. As such, he had the best education and upbringing available at the time. He learned to ride, fight and hunt. In the class room he learned history, literature, and music (he could play the harp) and he could speak English, French and Latin fluently. Because he was born in Monmouth Castle he was referred to as Henry Monmouth during his early life.

His grandfather, John of Gaunt was the son of Edward III, his parents were Henry Bolingbroke, the Earl of Derby and Mary Bonhun. At the time of Monmouth’s birth Richard II sat on the English throne. John of Gaunt, the King’s uncle, was an ardent support, Bolingbroke had a less steadfast relationship with the King. Although the two had been childhood friends Bolingbroke took part in the Lords Appellant’s rebellion against Richard in 1387. Richard forgave him and even promoted him to Duke of Hereford. But in 1397…

“Henry Bolingbroke reported treasonous comments made by the Duke of Norfolk; a court was convened but, as it was one Duke’s word against another, trial by battle was arranged. It never took place. Instead, Richard II intervened in 1398 by exiling Bolingbroke for ten years…
[Henry V, of England by Robert Wilde, About.com Guide]

At that time Richard “invited” 12-year-old Henry Monmouth to be his “guest” at court. Essentially Monmouth was a hostage. If  the father returned to England to cause any trouble, the son would be forfeit. Things were not so grim in the Royal castle, however, Richard treated Monmouth kindly. The two became friends. The King even knighted Monmouth.

But in 1399 Monmouth’s grandfather, John of Gaunt died. Instead of Bolingbroke automatically inheriting his father’s lands Richard II “kept them for himself and extended Bolingbroke’s exile to life. ”

In 1399, whilst Richard was in Ireland, Henry of Bolingbroke returned to claim his father’s inheritance. … Henry captured and deposed Richard. Bolingbroke was crowned King as Henry IV. [The Official website of The British Monarchy]

Richard was thrown in jail, and, on October 13th 1399 Henry Bolingbroke became Henry the Fourth of England, his son, was named

“heir to the throne, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester. Two months later he was given the further titles Duke of Lancaster and Duke of Aquitaine.” [Henry V, of England by Robert Wilde, About.com Guide]

Detail of miniature of Henry, Prince of Wales, receiving a book from Thomas Hoccleve. [Image Courtesy: Wiki Commons]

So… Henry  Monmouth becomes Prince Hal. He was at his father’s side in battle at the Battle of Shrewsbury. He also fought bravely (and effectively) in Wales, Scotland and France. As his father’s health began to fail the Prince took on more and more responsiblity at court. He became a  major political player. Shakespeare’s portrayal of him laughing it up with Falstaff was more dramatic fiction than historic truth.

Henry as King. [Image Courtesy: Wiki Commons]

He ascended to the throne upon his father’s death on March 21st, 1413 and was crowned Henry V on April 9th. He transferred the remains of Richard II — who died of starvation in Pontefract Castle tower  to Winchester Cathedral and gave him an honorable burial. He prepared the nation for a war with France. He straighten out the royal finances by editing royal budgets. He decreed that all government documents be written in English. He  tackled the lawless no-man’s-lands and reduced the number of roving bandits (mostly by funneling them into the army.) He crushed the religiously “deviant” Lollards. And he united the people — noble and common alike — behind him.

Kenneth Branagh as Henry V [Image Courtesy: Renaissance Films PLC 1989]

“And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother”
― William ShakespeareHenry V

“In August 1415, after dealing with a conspiracy to remove him from the throne, he led an army of 20,000 foot soldiers and 9,000 horsemen to attack Harfleur and, after sending a large part of his army home due to illness, marched to Calais to secure a base for further operations. On the way, unable to avoid a vastly superior French army, he gave battle at Agincourt on Oct. 25, 1415, gaining a great victory and capturing the constable of France and the Duke of Orléans.” [Henry V Biography, Your Dictionary.com]

In May 1420 the Treaty of Troyes was signed. Under the treaty  Charles VI remained King of France, Henry married his daughter Katherine, was named heir, and ruled the country in all but name.
Alas, Henry took ill in 1422 while laying siege to one of the last French hold outs.  He lingered for three weeks before dying at Vincennes on August 31st.  He was 35 years old.
“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!”
― William ShakespeareHenry V
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About ritalovestowrite

Freelance writer, graphic designer, musician, foodie and Jane Austen enthusiast in Northern Baltimore County, Maryland. As a writer I enjoy both fiction and non fiction (food, travel and local interest stories.) As an advocate for the ARTS, one of my biggest passions is helping young people find a voice in all the performing arts. To that end it has been my honor to give one-on-one lessons to elementary, middle and high school students in graphic design and music. And as JANE-O I currently serve as the regional coordinator for JASNA Maryland and am working on a Regency/Federal cooking project. View all posts by ritalovestowrite

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