There is discontent among the gathered French knights and gentlemen. They claim that they have all come to Calais, as was agreed, and that since there was the great battle at Agincourt, they are only required to pay their ransoms and sould be free to return to their homes. Had there been no battle, they say, the agreement of their paroles was that they would again be subject to imprisonment. King Henry has declared that if they had previously heard that they would be able to leave freely, they were misinformed. He holds that they are once more his prisoners.
The king has been particularly harsh with Raoul de Gaucourt, who held the town of Harfleur in defiance of him. Sir Raoul, as one would expect from a man with his reputation, has done the honorable thing, even rising from his sickbed to fulfill his vow to submit to his captor, Sir John Cornewaille. King Henry has told him that if he wishes to be free again, he must set about ransoming all of the some seven or eight score Englishmen captured during this adventure in France. He must also see to the return of all of those precious items looted from the king’s baggage during the battle at Agincourt. Further, Sir Raoul must provide two hundred casks of Beaune wine, to be shipped to the king in London.
Sir Raoul, following the advice of other French noblemen already imprisoned in Calais, has agreed to King Henry’s demands rather than risk languishing many years in English captivity. The king has granted his request to leave Calais and arrange for all that was demanded.
[Raoul de Gaucourt paid the ransoms of all the English prisoners he could find, redeemed all the jewels he could tracer, and sent them as well as the Beaune wine to Henry V in London. The cost to de Gaucourt was in excess of 13, 000 crowns (about £2,167). Even then, Henry did not remit de Gaucourt’s ransom, finding him still to be Cornewaille’s prisoner and thus subject to a ransom of 10,000 crowns and to remain a prisoner until it was paid. -Ed.]
A great storm with heavy rain set upon Harfleur today. Although most of our ships had since departed, many remained in the waters at the mouth of the Seine River. Some were there to receive cannon to be carried back to England rather than stay in Harfleur. Some were to take the last of the sick home. Some were new arrivals and had carried grain and other supplies as well as fresh men for the army. Some were fishing boats belonging to the men of Dover and the Cinque Ports who have been helping feed our people. There were too many to take shelter in the harbor and those that could could were lost before the end of the day. I know not how many souls thus perished but I pray the God receives them into His mercy and grace.
The eight days during which King Henry said he would wait at Harfleur ended today.
The king has named the captains to hold Harfleur under the lord Thomas Beaufort. They shall be Lord Botreaux, Lord Clinton, Sir John Fastolf, and Sir Edward Hastings. He has set the garrison for Harfleur at 300 men-at-arms, of whom one in thirty is a knight, and 900 archers. Most of the carpenters and masons shall remain in the town to work upon its repair.
This leaves some fifteen hundreds of men-at-arms and nearly seven thousands of archers to march for Calais. Sir Geoffrey’s company is among them. It is said we will set out three or four days.
Today Sir John Phelip went to God after thirty one years upon this earth. Sir John was one of the king’s household knights and a trusted advisor to the king, even unto being a witness to the will King Henry executed before this adventure. He is now known to have served our king in scouting Harfleur before we sailed from England. What must he have thought of the state of this town now, having seen it at the height of its strength and power?
The king has ordered that Sir John’s body be boiled that his bones may be sent back to England so that his widow Alice, daughter of the late King Richard’s court poet Geoffrey Chaucer, may see to his proper Christian burial.
Sir John’s thirty men-at-arms and ninety archers will remain with the army though who shall take their command is not yet decided.
Yesterday was Michaelmas. Were we back at Dunbury, Sir Geoffrey would be busy with manor court and reviewing the accounts. Here at Harfleur he spent the day taking counsel with various lords and sitting at times with them as they counseled the king. It seems that a large majority of the lords on the king’s council are advising him against this plan to march the army to Calais, as it would be highly dangerous for him to go with such a small force as the army has become, one which grows smaller each day with the bloody flux that still plagues our people, and to go against the great multitude of the French, whose host is constantly growing larger. The French will surely enclose us on every side like sheep in folds. King Henry speaks of the justice of his cause and says we can rely on divine grace. He dismisses the size of the enemy host and says that the victory comes not from a multitude but from Him who bestows victory upon whom He wills, whether they be few or many. In this he is correct, of course, but many of the lords are of a more worldly turn of mind than our pious king.
Sir Geoffrey has spoken to his own advisers of his concerns. Thus far, this adventure has not been as successful as the king had hoped. Harfleur is an important port but it is only one town, and it is all that our king has reclaimed of his rightful lands here in France. In doing so we have lost a goodly number of our people and the rest lie perilously placed in this hostile land and we face a growing threat of the French army that is gathering at Rouen. Sir Geoffrey fears that the king may be doubting God’s favor not just because he has done so little but also because he has lost so many of those close in his counsels. The king’s great councilor, the bishop Courtenay, is dead, and sickness bids to take away the king’s brother and heir, Thomas, and his great and good friend, the earl of Arundel. Thus far in this expedition King Henry has yet to acquire the clear approbation of God and the praise of the world, as he has said his intent is. There is still discontent over the king’s rule at home among the Lollards and others, and this too must weigh on his mind. Our king is a proud man and Sir Geoffrey fears that it may be that the king’s pride that is spurring him to ignore the advice of his council and seek God’s judgment by putting himself, and perforce his people, in such a place that God’s will may be made clear and his judgment seen, even of that means a battle.
When William [an esquire retained by Sir Geoffrey. – Ed.] suggested that we stay in Harfleur and defy the French through the winter and renew the campaign next spring, old Sir Robert [A veteran knight retained by Sir Geoffrey. – Ed.] said that the French can retake this nearly ruined town whenever they wish, and that staying in Harfleur will surely be a poor choice. He also said that the king has done too little as a captain of men to simply go home. Though some say that King Henry thinks the French will remain too shy of battle to meet him, Sir Robert insists that a march to Calais will tempt them too sorely and they will surely come after the king and all those with him, for our king is a greater prize to them than Harfleur. In saying this, he likened the king’s intent to march to Calais to a fox who wishes to lead the hunters from its defenseless young and added that such a strategy often does not go well for the fox.
I pray that our Lord will guide the king and keep him and all of us in His grace.
Another great lord has gone to God. Sir William Butler, God have mercy on him, who was made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation the late king, God have mercy on him as well, along with the present king and his three brothers, has died. King Henry has ordered that the good knight’s body be boiled and his bones sent back to England in the same ship that will carry those of earl of Suffolk, God have mercy on him.
Sir William had led fifty Lancashire archers to Harfleur in addition to his own retinue of four men-at-arms and a further twelve archers. The survivors among these men are to remain with the army, but who it shall be that takes them under command is not yet decided.
[Many retinues lost their leaders in the fighting or to disease. Henry could ill afford to have all of their forces return to England. Most were either put under the command of other nobles or broken into smaller contingents and dispersed among other commands – Ed.]
This day King Henry sends a challenge to the person of the Dauphin who, because of the French king’s infirmity, is in command of the royal army. It is to be carried by his herald William Bruges and the noble Raoul de Gaucourt, who have been told that King Henry will wait for a reply at Harfleur for eight days.
Our king puts forth reverence for God and his desire to avoid the effects of war that are the deaths of men, the destruction of countries, the lamentations of women and children, and the other general evils that every good Christian must lament, as well as his concern tho seek diligently all possible means to avoid the above mentioned evils, and to acquire the approbation of God and the praise of the world. Thus he proposes that the remedy lies in the said Dauphin and himself, and offers to place the quarrel at the will of God and says that it should be better for them to do so than to leave the people and the countries to suffer the unbelievers to destroy Christianity, our mother the Holy Church to remain in division, and the people of God to destroy one another.
Sir Geoffrey says that this is done much as King Edward, the third of that name, God have mercy on him, did some seventy years and more ago when he offered to settle his quarrel and the fate of the French crown personally with King Philip of France. In that time, King Philip did not accept our king’s challenge and Sir Geoffrey says he does not think King Henry expects that the Dauphin will accept this challenge either. Rather it is more to make a show of King Henry’s rectitude and of his courage and of his most Christian sensibilities in that he is willing to shed his own blood that a greater shedding of Christian blood might be avoided with such a chivalric act.
Old Sir Robert agreed with Sir Geoffrey but also made the remark that all the riding back and forth will take time that the king can use to settle his plans while Harfleur’s defenses are repaired and our people recover from their illness.
Our losses do not end with the siege, for we are still haunted by the disease that wastes our good men. Today Sir John Chidiock, Lord Fitzpayn, goes before God’s judgement as do many others, both prominent lords and obscure common soldiers. May God have mercy upon them, both great and small.
Before dawn, as the assault began on the Leure gate, a group of fourteen burgesses from the town left the Rouen gate on the other side of the town with a message to the duke of Clarence. They offered to give the town into his hands if the king of France did not come to their aid by Sunday. [September 22 -ed.] It is said that they hoped the duke will be more sympathetic to their plight than our righteous king, but it is also said that they used the distraction of the English assault to take advantage of de Gaucourt’s distraction. As always, it took some time for a message to get from the duke to the king across the water that separated their camps. Three hours after it had begun, the assault halted.
No matter how valiant and determined the great de Gaucourt was, he could never hold the town without the support of those within its walls. And thus it came to pass that out of the said town of Harfleur there came the sieurs de Gaucourt, d’Estoutville, Hankeville, and other lords and knights and they were all sworn upon the body of Our Saviour that they would make unto King Henry full deliverance of said town, as the burgesses wished, on Sunday next unless the French king sends to army to relive the town.
A knight of most excellent and kindly disposition has gone to God. Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, has succumbed to the bloody flux. Sir Michael had accompanied the king’s father on crusade to Prussia and, once the late Henry, God have mercy on him, became king, served him in all his expeditions by sea and by land.
Peel Agincourt Diary: 17 September
This morning the king sent a herald into Harfleur with a safe conduct for the captain, de Gaucourt, and also for representatives of the town council so that they could come to the king;’s camp and discuss terms for the town’s surrender. When they had come, the king was most charming and advised them to surrender the town. He reminded them of the fate would befall them should they continue to resist. De Gaucourt, though obviously sick with the flux, was defiant, saying that he had not received his office as captain of the town from Henry and did not recognize the king’s authority. He said the king of France would not suffer the siege to continue any longer and would arrive at the head of an army soon to drive the English away.
When the delegation had gone back into the town, King Henry decided to proceed to sterner measures against those he called a stiff necked people whom neither persuasive kindliness nor destructive harshness could make more amenable. He sent his trumpeters through the camp, proclaiming that the final assault will take place tomorrow morning and that every soldier in the army, and every sailor in the fleet as well, make their preparations. He also ordered the gunners to increase their bombardment that the French might not sleep and make them easier to defeat.
Guns care not what ears hear them. May God grant that what makes the French less warlike does not do the same to we English. Tonight I will hear the confessions of Sir Geoffrey and all who care to come to me.