Saturday, April 05, 2014

After Agincourt

The king of England lodged in the castle of Guînes and his battalion in the town, but the great multitude of his men at arms and archers moved on towards Calais, extremely tired and exhausted, encumbered by booty and prisoners, save for the French dukes, counts and barons of high rank whom the king of England kept with him. But when those men at arms men arrived outside Calais tired and weary, and where they hoped to gain refreshment, they were refused entry, which was very hard on them. Many had spent eight days with hardly any bread, and they had been able to find scarcely any other victuals. You may imagine that the prisoners, most of whom were wounded, were suffering greatly. All wanted to find comfort in Calais, but they failed in that.
They refused to let them enter, save for some of the great lords. The governors of the town, which lay on the frontier, did this so that the victuals would not fail come what may.  So all of the men at arms and archers, starving and heavily burdened and troubled with baggage and prisoners, remained outside, very discontented, so that many sold some of their gear and prisoners to those of the town so that they could get money immediately to cross the sea, and they did not care so long as they could go to England. There were many who put their prisoners to a courteous ransom and who received them on their faith and on that day agreed to four nobles for one who was worth ten, and they did not count the cost of bread as long as they could have it to eat. The king of England who was at Guînes heard what privation and suffering his men were experiencing and he made provision as soon as he could.

Wavrin, Jehan de, William Hardy, and Edward L. C. P. Hardy. 1864. Recueil des croniques et anchiennes istories de la Grant Bretaigne, a present nomme Engleterre. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green; [etc.]. Voll. 2, pp 20-221 Translation copyright Will McLean: 2014.

The army reached Guines the evening of October 28, and pressed on to Calais while the king remained at Guines overnight, entering Calais October 29 to great rejoicing. By November 2, the village of Falkenham in Suffolk had been sent orders to immediately send victuals to Calais "as it is well known that (the king) is now at Calais in person with his army." There are many points closer to Calais on the Channel coast of England than Falkenham, but this order has survived.

Henry was committed to remain at Calais until November 11 to receive his prisoners from Harfleur,  and left for England on November 16. The individual retinues would have returned as soon as they could arranged for shipping, but it would have taken some time for all of them to do so.

Henry later ruled that the expedition lasted until eight days after he landed at Dover on November 16 and all returning men would be paid for service until then, suggesting that that some of the surviving retinues took that long to return to England.

It must have been a nice economic problem for the captains trying to return home from Calais. The shipowners would charge dearly for the scarce space on the earliest ships, but the captains would pay dearly for food for each additional day in Calais. And if they had insufficient cash on hand, how much of a discount should they accept for their ransoms and plunder for early passage?

Barker, Juliet R. V. 2006. Agincourt Henry V and the battle that made England. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Co. pp 323-328 and notes.

Curry, Anne. 2000. The battle of Agincourt: sources and interpretations. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press. p. 429

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