The Agincourt Campaign of 1415: The men who fought in Clarence and Gloucester’s Retinues

Michael Warner, PhD candidate at the University of Southampton, has recently been awarded the inaugural ‘Agincourt Scholarship’ by the Military Order of Agincourt in recognition for his contribution to the history of the Battle of Agincourt. He gives us an insight into his research and findings.

The men who served on the 1415 campaign and fought at the Battle of Agincourt have indeed been remembered.[1] Shakespeare guessed it right. The creation and publication of the Medieval Soldier Database by the Soldier Team, headed by Professor Anne Curry and Professor Adrian Bell, has made the wealth of surviving nominal data associated with the men of the campaign accessible. In my Ph.D. research, I have built on the essential foundations laid by the Team and undertaken retinue-specific investigations into the two largest retinues of Henry’s huge 1415 army: those commanded by his brothers, Thomas, duke of Clarence and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, the personnel of which had never before been the subject of in-depth study. At its heart, my project has focused on the men who made up these retinues. I have gone beyond the list of names presented by the muster rolls and sought to understand where the men came from, what motivated them to fight under one of the dukes and whether there were social or professional ties which connected them to each other before the 1415 campaign.

Adopting this prosopographical approach has enabled me to increase our understanding of how the dukes recruited their men in 1415 and the extent to which pre-exiting networks of acquaintances, for instance based on military service or ties to the Lancastrian family, were called upon. Furthermore, it has shed new light on the military community in England in 1415, for instance in relation to its size and the martial experience of its members. It is for this contribution to our understanding of the men who served on the campaign that  I was awarded the ‘Agincourt Scholarship’ by The Military Order of Agincourt in June 2018. The scholarship was granted to me by the current Captain General of the Order, Captain J. James Lawrence Rojek of the 3d US Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard”, a collateral descendant of the Earl of Suffolk, who died on the field at Agincourt, Captain Rojek founded the Order, along with two other descendants of Agincourt combatants, on 25 October 2015, six centuries after the battle. Today the society elects into membership gentlemen who are direct descendants of those who served at Agincourt. As Captain Rojek has explained, ‘The society’s aims include perpetuating the memory of Henry V and his forces at Agincourt; supporting the collection of the rolls, records, books, and other documents relating to that period; encouraging the research and publication of historical data’.

Overall, the research I have conducted for this project further substantiates, illustrates and provides additional necessary evidence to the observations and conclusions made so far. Yet, in relation to certain aspects, this project has gone further than existing literature, for instance in relation to the mustering of the 1415 army. In order to understand the muster rolls more fully (Clarence and Gloucester both have complete rolls), as well as cast new light on the process of the muster, a comparative analysis of all eleven surviving muster rolls was undertaken. This close study of the rolls, which included investigations of the physical layout of the rolls (for instance the placement, spelling and order of names), number of hands present and the variety in terminology used confirmed that there was no set form of muster roll. Furthermore, it became evident that in cases of large retinues it was likely that sub-companies were often mustered individually and that Anglo-Norman was the predominant language employed. In addition, from the large number of hands identifiable on the rolls it can be inferred that many clerks were responsible for their creation.

In regards to the case studies at the heart of this project, it has become clear that in Clarence’s retinue there existed a stable core of veteran knights and esquires bound to each other and to him through previous military service, particularly from the 1412 campaign, and other ties. These ties, which would have engendered stability to his force, would have been important in allowing it to function optimally. For Gloucester, on the other hand, who had no military service history and thus no military network of acquaintances to draw on, fewer pre-existing relationships have emerged. This suggests that less stability existed in his force. By utilising the various documents created throughout the duration of the campaign it has also been possible to compare the fates of each retinue at certain stages during the campaign, for example in relation to attrition rates. Looking beyond 1415 it has become clear that both dukes succeeded in obtaining the repeat service of some sub-captains, and in the case of Gloucester also of some rank-and-file soldiers, after 1415. This suggests that the 1415 campaign and the Battle of Agincourt itself were important for the establishment, expansion and solidification of their affinities.

Mike Warner

[1] A. Curry, The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations (Woodbridge, 2000, repr. 2009), p.385-435; A. Curry, 1415 Agincourt: A New History, 2 edn (Stroud, 2015); A. Curry, ‘Personal Links and the Nature of the English War Retinue: A Case Study of John Mowbray, Earl Marshal, and the Campaign of 1415’, Liens, Reseaux et Solidarités, ed. D. Bates and V. Gazeau (Paris, 2006), pp.153-167; G. Baker, ‘To Agincourt and Beyond! The Martial Affinity of Edward of Langley, second Duke of York (c.1373-1415)’, JMH, 43 (2016), 40-58.

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