Henry V (England)

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Henry V of England. Anonymous portrait, late 16th or early 17th century. National Portrait Gallery (London)

Henry V ( English Henry V , also Harry of Lancaster ; born September 16, 1387 in Monmouth Castle , Wales , † August 31, 1422 in Vincennes Castle ) was the eldest surviving son of Henry IV and Mary de Bohun . From 1413 to 1422 he was King of England , the second of the House of Lancaster .


As the grandson of the mighty John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster , Heinrich enjoyed an excellent education. During his father's exile in 1398, Richard II took him on as his protégé. In the following year, when his father seized power, Henry V became heir to the English throne. William Shakespeare's portrayals of Henry's dissolute youth cannot be clearly proven. Heinrich's own records of his youth speak against this tradition. The most famous incident, his dispute with the President of the Supreme Court, has no contemporary evidence and was first mentioned in 1531 by Sir Thomas Elyot .

Seizure of power

Royal coat of arms of Henry V, like that of Henry IV, his father

Henry was appointed fourth Prince of Wales and third Duke of Cornwall on October 15, 1399 after his father's coronation , and was entrusted with rule over Wales from October 1400 . Less than three years later he was in command of the English army and fought in 1403 at Shrewsbury against the rebellious Lord Henry Percy . Back then, the sixteen-year-old prince was almost killed by an archer who hit him in the face with an arrow. A normal soldier would likely have died with such a serious injury, but Heinrich was saved thanks to the best possible medical treatment available to him as the king's son. After a few days, the royal doctor made a special tool to remove the tip of the arrow from Heinrich's head without further damage. The operation was successful, but left scars that were a lasting testimony to his combat experience.

The rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in Wales occupied Henry until it was defeated in 1410. The young prince's military successes were received with admiration by his contemporaries. As chairman of the Privy Council and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports , he had a strong influence on the politics of his father, who had been seriously ill since 1405. Around 1410 he seems to have urged his father to withdraw from active politics in view of his poor health. Heinrich IV reacted violently and removed his son from his offices, but shortly before his death in 1413 he accepted him again into his grace.

On March 20, 1413, Henry V succeeded his father on the throne. In the first few years of his reign he benefited from the extraordinarily favorable framework conditions that his father had created. For the first time in a long time, the royal treasury took in more money than it spent. The long-standing opponent of the war, France, was ravaged by the civil war, so that it was temporarily hardly a threat. Immediately after taking office, Henry V began a policy of reconciliation that was primarily intended to remove the rifts in English society and among the nobility that his father's seizure of power had raised. Richard II was rehabilitated as a former king in his memory and buried in Westminster Abbey. The aristocratic families York , Mortimer, Percy and Holland , who had repeatedly revolted against the rule of the Lancasters and had therefore been expropriated, Henry V reinstated their rights.

Lollard pursuit and first court intrigues

The Lollards, persecuted under Henry IV, became the first serious threat to Henry's rule . During his time as Prince of Wales , Henry tried in 1410 to prevent the first executions of Lollards as heretics. In order to defend themselves against the persecution, which has become increasingly violent since then, the Lollards began to stage a conspiracy against the king. John Oldcastle , an old ally of Henry from the time of the Welsh Wars and probably a model for Shakespeare's Falstaff , was the central figure of this intrigue. He had been convicted of heresy as a Lollarde, but was able to escape and tried to get the king and his brothers under his control. This was to be the beginning of a large-scale revolt whose aim was the rehabilitation of the lollards. The plan was betrayed and thwarted, however, Oldcastle was initially able to flee, but was executed a few years later. Heinrich V continued to pursue the lollards vigorously, so that this movement was not erased after 1415, but was insignificant in the future.

The next conspiracy came from a group from the ranks of the nobility who wanted to depose Heinrich in 1415 and make Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March , king in his place . However, this betrayed the conspirators to the king. Those primarily responsible, including Mortimer's brother-in-law Richard of Conisburgh, 1st Earl of Cambridge and grandfather of the later Kings Edward IV and Richard III. , were then executed.

The war against France

After his domination was stabilized domestically, Heinrich could devote himself to foreign affairs. The main theme of his policy was to be the resumption of the war against France, which had fallen asleep under his predecessors. Formally, the English claim to the French throne still existed. Heinrich's predecessors had already negotiated with the respective French regents about the conditions for the resignation of this claim. Henry V apparently resumed diplomatic talks, but raised the demands to unacceptable levels for France. In principle, he demanded the complete restoration of the Angevin Empire , including Normandy. At the same time, Heinrich began to prepare his army for the coming campaign. Henry may have wanted war for several reasons: First, France was in the face of the deranged King Charles VI. and the clashes between the Houses of Burgundy and Orleans weakened. Second, as the long-standing French ally, Scotland was largely neutralized as the Scottish King James I had been in English captivity since 1406. In addition, Henry V may have tried to bridge the still existing aristocratic disputes in England by war against an external enemy.

In the summer of 1415, the negotiations with France finally failed due to Heinrich's demands. In August of the same year an invading army consisting of around 12,000 soldiers landed on the Norman coast. The campaign began, however, extremely unfavorably. Illnesses, minor skirmishes and long marches in rainy weather weakened the English army. Nevertheless, with the help of largely defensive tactics and the use of English longbows in the Battle of Azincourt on October 25, a decisive victory over a numerically superior opponent was achieved.

Last but not least, the military success meant a domestic political breakthrough for Henry V. He returned to England in triumph with Duke Charles of Orléans as the most important prisoner. News of Azincourt's success spread quickly. In the spring of 1416, the German King Sigismund went on a mediation trip to end the war between England and France. Heinrich succeeded in largely convincing Sigismund of his position, who thereupon pursued a policy that was friendly to England. France, for its part, rejected Sigismund's efforts, whereupon the future German emperor finally gave up his neutral role and even concluded an arms alliance with Henry V against France in the Treaty of Canterbury in August 1416 .

In the summer of 1417 Heinrich landed back in France. The lower Normandy was captured quickly by the English, Rouen from Paris cut off and besieged. Heinrich played the warring French aristocratic parties against each other without reducing the fighting strength of his army. In January 1419 Rouen fell, and in August 1419 the English were at the gates of Paris. The intrigues of the French nobility led to the murder of John of Burgundy on behalf of the French crown prince near Montereau on September 10, 1419. Philip, the new Duke of Burgundy, and the French royal court helped Henry. After six months of negotiations, Heinrich was recognized as heir and king of France in the Treaty of Troyes, and on June 2, 1420 he married Katharina von Valois , the daughter of the previous French king.

Henry V was now at the height of his power: the prospect of uniting France with the English kingdom seemed certain. Together with the German king Sigismund he could claim to be the great schism by the election of Pope Martin V. to have ended. All the states of Western Europe were diplomatically obliged to him in some way.

The French Crown Prince Charles did not recognize the Treaty of Troyes and continued the resistance from the French province of Poitou (central France). After a stay in England in 1421, Henry V had to return because of the defeat of his brother Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence at the Battle of Baugé . The bitter hardship of the English after the long siege of the city of Meaux finally affected Heinrich's health so severely that he died on August 31, 1422 in Vincennes Castle near Paris on the Ruhr . His successor was his only son, Henry VI. who was only eight months old at the time.

Henry V is buried next to many English kings in Westminster Abbey . Its tomb was stripped of its ornamentation during the Reformation . His shield, helmet and saddle, which were part of the original grave goods, still hang over the grave. However, his bust has been replaced.

The drama Henry V is William Shakespeare's version of the life of this king with the central dramatic theme of the events of the Battle of Azincourt.


  • William Marx (Ed.): An English Chronicle, 1377-1461. Woodbridge 2003.
  • Benjamin Williams (Ed.): Henrici Quinti Regis Angliae Gesta. London 1850.


  • Christopher T. Allmand: Henry V. London 1992, ISBN 0-413-53280-1 . (Standard work)
  • Anne Curry : Henry V. From Playboy Prince to Warrior King (Penguin Monarchs). Allen Lane, London 2015. (current introduction)
  • Gerald Harriss: Shaping the Nation. England 1360-1461. Oxford 2005, ISBN 978-0199211197 .
  • Malcolm Mercer: Henry V: The Rebirth of Chivalry (English Monarchs. Treasures from the National Archives). Kew 2004, ISBN 1-903365-71-6 .
  • Ian Mortimer: 1415. Henry V's Year of Glory. London 2009. (Mortimer tends to give Heinrich a more negative assessment.)

Web links

Commons : Henry V (England)  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. ^ A supposed cradle of Henry V is in the London Museum .
predecessor Office successor
Henry IV. King of England
Lord of Ireland
Henry VI.
Henry IV. Duke of Guyenne
Henry VI.
Henry IV. Duke of Lancaster
united with the English crown domain
Richard II Duke of Cornwall
Henry VI.