Tag: History

Battle of Agincourt – Friday 25th October 1415 – The End of Chivalry


On Friday 25th October 1415 Henry V and the English defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt against all odds. They were outnumbered and with the French sensing victory they celebrated the predicted slaughter of the English the night before.


Two months both prior to that date the English had set sail from Southampton to France with 11,000 men including 8,000 archers in a fleet of 1,500 ships. They arrived in Chef-de-Caux near Harfleur where they battled to take the town. The French resistance was greater than expected and the English lost a great number of men. Eventually the English gained victory, and from there, made their way northwards 100 miles to Calais. By now, the English were short of food and, the conditions led to dysentery and illness that took more lives depleting the English army to half its size.

The French blocked Henry’s route at Agincourt and waited to bring the English to battle. The battlefield was narrow and heavy rain made the terrain thick with mud. The two armies stood off and waited for the other to attack. The English mocked the French, and before the order to attack was given, the French broke ranks and charged forward. This worked perfectly in favour of the English, with the mud and longbows they were able to kill thousands of the French before they made it to the English lines. The professionally trained archers could shoot six arrows a minute and injure the enemy at 600 yards and kill at 300 yards. With the hail of arrows coming down on the French, panic set in and in the narrow area of the battlefield, they ended up crushing and disabling themselves from the number of advancing French from the rear, leaving them stuck in the mud.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The English seemingly had victory in their sights when news arrived of a French attack coming from the rear. Henry, now had a problem, due to the French outnumbering the English they had taken more prisoners than they could control. The fear the prisoners may fight back, Henry gave the order to have them killed in cold blood, perhaps bringing an end to chivalric ideology

The victory at the Battle of Agincourt goes down as one of the greatest English victories with loss of only 600 men compared to the French that was in the region of 6,000.

In 1420 Henry was accepted as heir to the throne of France; however he died two years later from dysentery during the siege of Meaux.

Z the end of the Alphabet and the end of my story on The Plantagenet’s

I have made it through to Z and I really couldn’t think of anything with a ’Z’ Plantagenet related so would just like to thank everybody who has followed my series this month on one of the most amazing families that has ever ruled England.

I hope I have been able to provide you with a little insight to how this family worked and sparked an interest for you to further investigate. There are many interesting facts that surround the Plantagenet’s unfortunately too many to cover in this month.

If you have enjoyed my blogs it would be great to keep in touch so be sure to subscribe to my site. I have planned some really interesting and gruesome topics in the next few months so don’t miss out.

Thanks again,



Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was born circa 1119 the son of a middle ranking London citizen. He was educated in London and Paris. He joined young Henry II in 1154 as his chancellor after serving ten years in the household of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald Bec. He became close friends with Henry and supported him on taxing the church to raise funds for campaigns in Toulouse in 1159.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 1162 Henry secured Becket in the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. This he thought would be advantageous having such a close ally heading up the church of England. Henry expected Becket to continue his support for the King however Becket resigned his position as chancellor and took on the church’s values and defended its position vigorously.

Becket denied demands from the king that convicted felons in the ecclesiastical courts be handed over for punishments by the lay authorities. Thomas also prohibited the marriage of Henry’s brother William to the countess of Warenne on ground of consanguinity.

The relationship between Thomas and Henry broke down with Becket forced into exile after a trial for misappropriation of funds whilst he was chancellor.

Henry confiscated Becket’s property and exiled his supporters. Thomas returned after six years abroad. He threatened England with interdict following the archbishop of York crowning Henry’s son, Henry the Young , as king of England in 1170. Becket excommunicated the bishops who had carried out the coronation.

Henry was furious when he heard the news and uttered the infamous words:

‘Will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ Four knights overheard and took it upon themselves to assassinate Becket.

On 29th December 1170 at Canterbury cathedral Becket was murdered by the four knights. An account of the attack by Edward Grim a monk who was visiting Canterbury at the time is as follows:

The murderers followed him; ‘Absolve’, they cried, ‘and restore to communion those whom you have excommunicated, and restore their powers to those whom you have suspended.’

He answered, ‘There has been no satisfaction, and I will not absolve them.’

‘Then you shall die,’ they cried, ‘and receive what you deserve.’

‘I am ready,’ he replied, ‘to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace. But in the name of Almighty God, I forbid you to hurt my people whether clerk or lay.’

Then they lay sacrilegious hands on him, pulling and dragging him that they may kill him outside the church, or carry him away a prisoner, as they afterwards confessed. But when he could not be forced away from the pillar, one of them pressed on him and clung to him more closely. Him he pushed off calling him ‘pander’, and saying, ‘Touch me not, Reginald; you owe me fealty and subjection; you and your accomplices act like madmen.’

The knight, fired with a terrible rage at this severe repulse, waved his sword over the sacred head. ‘No faith’, he cried, ‘nor subjection do I owe you against my fealty to my lord the King.’

Then the unconquered martyr seeing the hour at hand which should put an end to this miserable life and give him straightway the crown of immortality promised by the Lord, inclined his neck as one who prays and joining his hands he lifted them up, and commended his cause and that of the Church to God, to St. Mary, and to the blessed martry Denys. Scarce had he said the words than the wicked knight, fearing lest he should be rescued by the people and escape alive, leapt upon him suddenly and wounded this lamb who was sacrificed to God on the head, cutting off the top of the crown which the sacred unction of the chrism had dedicated to God; and by the same blow he wounded the arm of him who tells this. For he, when the others, both monks and clerks, fled, stuck close to the sainted Archbishop and held him in his arms till the one he interposed was almost severed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then he received a second blow on the head but still stood firm. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living victim, and saying in a low voice, ‘For the Name of Jesus and the protection of the Church I am ready to embrace death.’

Then the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay, by which the sword was broken against the pavement, and the crown which was large was separated from the head. The fourth knight prevented any from interfering so that the others might freely perpetrate the murder.

As to the fifth, no knight but that clerk who had entered with the knights, that a fifth blow might not be wanting to the martyr who was in other things like to Christ, he put his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to say, scattered his brain and blood over the pavement, calling out to the others, ‘Let us away, knights; he will rise no more.’

Nuns and Infamous Military Campaign of 1379

There were in the region of 3,300 nuns and 256 convents during the years between 1216 and 1350. Remember the population between 1300 to 1400 was at the beginning of the century circa of 4 million falling to 2 million by the end due to the plague. Women in medieval times were categorised as: maidens, wives, nuns and widows.The status of a maiden or wife will depend on the man who supports her. A young girl will be supported by her father a wife by her husband and nuns, who is considered to be the brides of Christ, supported by the nunnery she belongs to.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A girl would become a nun in medieval England generally for the reasons it was the family’s wishes and way of gaining an education or she had a true belief and wanted to serve God.

A nun normally took her vows at the age of 16 although those of more noble birth may be younger.Wealthy women often retired to convents and paid nuns for their hospitality. They were however consider a bad influence but the cash struck nunneries were poorly funded and were unable to refuse.

Women were not considered important and nuns were to a man considered no more higher in standing. The story of Sir John Arundel emulates this vividly. Planning to sail to Brittany in the autumn of 1379, Arundel and his men took refuge in the convent when the seas were too rough to set sail . The winds changed and Arundel and his soldiers are relayed for a greater amount of time. This leads to boredom among the young men who then start drinking and teasing the nuns. The nuns as things get worse lock themselves in their rooms where the men then break in and rape the nuns several times. This then leads to looting the nunnery. The soldiers then move on to a church where a wedding is taking place and they then take the bride and each of the soldiers takes it in turns to rape her.

The winds change and they are able to sail they take the newly wed bride and a large number of  nuns on board the ship with them for their continued pleasures. Shortly after they set sail they hit bad seas again and water starts to leak into the ship and is slowly going down due to the excess cargo (the nuns and newly wed bride). The solution was to throw the no longer needed cargo overboard. Around 60 women were thrown over left to drown or eaten by the fish and sea monsters as they would have it in those days.

Nuns Arundel

These events were recorded by the chronicler Thomas Walsingham and although not an everyday occurrence provides evidential support to the value that was put on a woman or a nun’s life.

Further recommended reading if you would like to learn more:

The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham (1376-1422)

The Marshal – William Marshal

William was one of the most influential men throughout the Plantagenet dynasty. He served under four Plantagenet kings and was born in 1146 circa during in the anarchy years of King Stephen’s reign. William was the son of John Marshal who supported King Stephen but later changed sides to back Empress Matilda in her claim for her son Henry as successor to the throne.

Jousting the perfect training for a knight
Jousting the perfect training for a knight

William was made guardian of Henry the Young King by Eleanor of Aquitaine after she had watched and been impressed with his skills in jousting. He rebelled with Eleanor and Henry the Young King in 1173 against Henry II.

In 1183 following Henry the Young Kings death William went on crusade and on his return in 1185 he served the court of Henry II and the Plantagenet dynasty loyally for many years. He was at Richard I coronation and got his earldom in 1189 through his marriage to Isabella the 17 year old daughter of Richard de Clare. This was arranged by the old king shortly before he died but confirmed by Richard to retain William’s loyalty.

He helped deny John when he revolted whilst Richard was away on crusade but later backed John’s claim in 1199 to the throne over his cousin Arthur. On John’s death in 1216 William became regent to Henry III who was 9 years old when he became King. William took a lot of important decisions during this time and calmed the baron’s unrest and led the English into battle against the French in Lincoln.

Marshal coat of arms
Marshal coat of arms

He died in May 1219 and was buried in Temple church, London. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Temple church the other day and William Marshal Effigy as shown below.

Me with William Marshal effigy at Temple Church, London.
Me with William Marshal effigy at Temple Church, London.

Temple church is well worth a visit. And if you enjoy historical fiction I would recommend books by Elizabeth Chadwick, my favourite historical fiction writer. I have added some links below.

The Scarlet Lion (William Marshal)

The Greatest Knight: The Story of William Marshal

Knights Templar

Knights Templar also known as the Poor Knights of Christ was a military monastic order dedicated to the crusades. Formed by nine knights in 1118 to protect pilgrims in the holy land. The order was named after its headquarters known as Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The headquarters was moved to Acre after Jerusalem fell to Saladin in 1187.

Kinghts 1

The Templars began to amass riches in the crusader states in East and West Europe. Although the Knights Templar were involved in many disputes primarily with their rivals the Hospitallers that lead to endangering the defences of the Holy Land their bravery was unquestioned.  The siege of Damietta part of the fifth crusade in 1219 won them much admiration where they were heavily outnumbered yet the crusaders managed to take control of the city.

Knights-Templars 2

In 1307 the Templars were tortured by Philip IV of France for heresy and five years later the order was dissolved and the Templars wealth split amongst the Hospitallers. The last grand master, Jaque de Molay was burned to death in 1314.

Recommended reading if you would like to know more about the Knights Templar.

Secrets of the Knights Templar: The Hidden History of the World’s Most Powerful Order

John Lackland – King John of England

John was the youngest son of Henry II was born 1167. Although John gained the nickname Lackland because he received no major fiefs from his father he remained his father’s favourite son. He joined his brother Richard I to conspire against his father. Following his father’s death in 1189 Richard became King. Richard duly bestowed upon John a number of Lordships.

john 1

He married Isabella of Gloucester, who was sixteen years old, in 1189 and divorced her as she failed to produce any children and an heir to throne.

John fell out with Richard following him appointing Arthur the duke of Brittany as the successor to the throne. John whilst Richard was away on the third crusade plotted against him with the assistance of Philip II of France. When Richard was taken prison and held in Germany John tried to prolong his imprisonment and take the throne for himself but was denied by Eleanor and others loyal to Richard. Richard after his release eventually pardoned John and named him as his successor.

John became King in 1189 following Richard’s death and following the divorce remarried Isabella of Angouleme.

Arthur, duke of Brittany and John’s nephew, made claim to the throne and proved a danger and John won a considerable victory at Mirebeau gaining him great respect. Arthur was held prisoner and was treated cruelly and was murdered whilst imprisoned rumoured to be upon John’s orders. This created tensions with his subjects in France and he lost possession of Normandy, Maine, Anjou and others. The overall losses damaged his reputation immensely a trait of John’s.

John had further complication when the archbishop of Canterbury died and the monks elected successor was rejected by John that created great anger with the pope that placed England in interdict in 1208.

Problems arose in Ireland with the Anglo-Norman lords which John managed to temporarily overthrow. However on his return to England there was hostility from the English barons over costly expeditions to France to recovers lands that John had previously lost. John continued to try to raise revenue from the barons who refused and rose up against John eventually getting John to agree to the terms of the Magna Carta in 1215 at Runnymede. This was the  first of a series of concessions by which English monarchs lost powers in raising taxes without the agreement of the barons.

John 2

The Magna Carta however failed to stop John behaviour as he chose simply to ignore it and waged war against the barons. This could have been the end of the Plantagenet reign if it was not for John’s death in 1216. This allowed peace and a quick agreement to install John’s son Henry III under the regent of William Marshal to continue the Plantagenet dynasty.

John 3

If you wold like to know more about King John I would recommend the following book:

King John (The Yale English Monarchs Series)

Henry II

Henry II was the first king of the Plantagenet dynasty that ruled England from 1154. He was born 5 March 1133 to the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and the Empress Matilda. In 1153 Stephen who was king of England acknowledge Henry as his successor to the throne following years of war known as The Anarchy by Matilda. Matilda was the daughter of Henry I and this was her claim to throne. The following year Stephen died and Henry became King of England.

Henry_II coronation

Henry’s empire was expanding that now included Aquitaine following his marriage to Eleanor in 1152. Eleanor bore Henry five sons, two of which would go on to become Kings, Richard and John.

Henry gained great respect for his military knowledge and his advanced government administration along with his close friend and Chancellor Thomas Becket at the time of his early reign. Thomas became Archbishop of Canterbury with Henry’s blessing initially. However after a falling out with the church, Becket excommunicated Henry’s loyal supporters. Henry in Normandy at the time enraged by Becket’s action and four knights took it upon themselves, believing this to be Henry’s wishes, to go to Canterbury and kill Becket.

Henry did penance for his old friends death he wore a sack cloth and walked bare foot through Canterbury to the cathedral where he was flogged by monks.

Henry II penance

In 1173 Henry’s three eldest sons, Henry the Young King, Richard and Geoffrey and his wife Eleanor rebelled. The main reason for the rebellion was due to Henry’s will and the divisions of land. Henry saw off the rebellion that led to Eleanor being put under house arrest for the rest of Henry’s life.

The son continued the disputes until, Henry the Young King died of a fever in 1183, Geoffrey died in 1186 whilst conspiring against Henry with Phillip II of France.

Richard and Phillip attacked Henry in 1189 imposing humiliation after seizing the city of Tours. The final blow was that John had now sided with Richard.

Henry retired to Chinon where he died on 6 June 1189, he was buried in the Plantagenet mausoleum at the abbey of Fontevrault.

Tombs of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Fontevraud Abbey
Tombs of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Fontevraud Abbey

Gory Medieval Tortures

Now in the good old days my parents would tell me discipline was not a bad thing. It kept a civilised structure to society. So I am for that, but let’s take it back a few years and really get some discipline and a deterrent for any would be criminals in society with easy to implement cost effective gory medieval tortures. Warning you may want to look away at this point:

Here are my top five:

No: 5

The Pear of Anquish

A clever contraption that consisted of four metal leaves that would expand outwards as the key was turned.  It would be inserted into a different orifice of the body to suit the crime. If you were a witch it would be inserted into the vagina, a homosexual into the anus or blasphemous or liar into the mouth. My guess is they did not wash the implement between uses so if you were in for lying let’s hope you don’t follow a homosexual. This was a torture that rarely killed so was general used as a little warm up for the main event.

Torture -The Pear of Anguish

No: 4

The Judas Cradle:

The victims feet were tied to together and hoisted up on ropes would then be lowered on to the top of a pyramid like seat. The tip of the seat was inserted into the person’s anus or vagina. Weights were at times attached to the person to increase the pull downwards and of course the pain.  The victim was usually naked just to add a little more humiliation.

Torture - Judas Cradle


No: 3

The Rack

No top five would be complete without the good old Rack. Hand and legs strapped in and as the torturer turn the handle the limbs would be stretched until a loud crunch and cracking noise was heard indicating the legs or arms had been dislocated. If continued limbs, normally the arm could be torn from the body. Not happy with this the creative engineers of the time added spikes that would puncture into your back as your arms and legs were stretched. (be wary of tall people in those days!)

Torture - Rack

No 2

Rat Torture

This is one of my favourites, and correct me if I am wrong but I believe this image is from the York Dungeons that I remember from a visit there about fifteen years ago and the image remains with me. Here the victim is tied down a then a cage is strapped to the chest, stomach or genitals and rats placed inside. It was then heated up and rats have a natural instinct to get away from the heat and the only way out was through the victim’s body. And rats can chew through anything I have been told.

Torture - Rat


Finally, drum roll please for the No 1 torture.

Saw Torture

I have gone for this as it in ingenious and cost effective. All you need is the ole common garden saw and a length of rope to string your victim up. The victim was hung upside down so blood would rush to the head. This would reduce the bleeding and kept the victim alive and conscious longer to witness themselves being sawn in half.

Torture - Saw


If you haven’t had enough by now

you can always read more here:

Battle of Evesham

The battle of Evesham, Worcestershire took place on 4th August 1265 and was between the rebels led by Simon de Montfort and those troops loyal to the King.

Henry III and his son the then Prince Edward were held prisoner by rebels. Prince Edward managed to escape after tricking his guards, he rallied troops to attack the rebels. De Montfords support was starting to diminish following failed attempts at parliament to reach a long term solution.

Death_of_de_Montfort Evesham

The terrain favoured Edwards men on the high ground and they far outnumbered De Montforts by at least two to one. De Montfort, having been in battle with the odds against before and winning decided to attacked immediately leading his men into what would be a slaughtered. Edward had selected men to make sure they found and killed the rebel leader. Finally tracked down where he was surrounded and slain by the group with the final death blow coming from Roger de Mortimer. Simon de Montforts body was mutilated with his testicles cut off and hung over his nose. His body then dismembered with his head and arms sent to lords throughout the country as a warning never to cross the king and his hand sent to his wife Eleanor the King’s sister.

The king Henry was wounded but escaped any serious injury.

To find out more about The Second Barons’ War: Simon De Montfort and the Battles of Lewes and Evesham click here