Research from Southampton suggests that the fleet of ships that transported Henry V’s army to the decisive Battle of Agincourt was less than half the size of previous estimates. The findings were presented at the conference War on Land and Sea, held in July at Southampton to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. World renowned historians gathered to debate topics as diverse as: why Agincourt took place, the treatment of the defeated, armour in the early 15th century, weapons used in battle and the social consequences for those wounded.
Amongst research being presented at the conference is a study by Southampton’s Dr Craig Lambert examining the naval preparations that allowed Henry V’s army to travel from England to France. Using English exchequer rolls in the National Archives at Kew, along with other sources, Dr Lambert has concluded Henry had a fleet of ships less than half the size of that which accepted history suggests.
Previous estimates put the fleet at 1500 ships, but Dr Lambert’s study shows the figure was much less, at around 650 – which fell short of Henry’s expectations. However, it does seem English ships formed the bulk of this fleet – contrary to previous theories that it was mainly formed of foreign vessels. Findings also show there was a sophisticated and well-planned series of naval operations designed to guard the English coast and protect the gathering fleet.
Dr Lambert says: “Historians have largely ignored the maritime operations for the transfer of Henry’s army, with the story of Agincourt dominated by analyses of the campaign and the battle. With my paper, I wanted to give a clearer picture of the process of transporting the troops and the scale of the operation involved.”
Henry V’s fleet slipped out of the Solent on 11 August 1415 and headed to the Chef de Caux (near modern day Le Havre) – carrying 12,000 men, including the King himself onboard his ship the Trinite Roiale. This vital journey took place around two months before Agincourt – a crucial battle in the Hundred Years War, which saw outnumbered English troops achieve a major victory against the French.
The conference was organised by historian and Dean of Humanities, Professor Anne Curry, a world expert on Agincourt.