French correction: Henry V's Agincourt fleet was half as big, historian claims

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tags: France, Henry V, Agincourt Battle



The fleet in which Henry V transported 12,000 soldiers and up to 20,000 horses across the Channel to a famous victory at Agincourt 600 years ago was considerably less spectacular than early historians claimed: not a stunning assembly of 1,500 ships, but less than half that, a fleet of mainly English ships with foreign vessels hired or commandeered to join the expedition.

Craig Lambert, a historian at the University of Southampton, has gone back to original sources, including English exchequer rolls in the National Archives at Kew, to work out how the king got his army across to France. The fleet sailed from Southampton on 11 August 1415, more than two months before the victory over a larger French army on 25 October – St Crispin’s Day – immortalised by Shakespeare.

He concluded that the proud boast by the anonymous St Albans chronicler of the “Deeds of Henry the Fifth”, who claimed the king sailed with 1,500 ships, was wildly incorrect. The chronicle was written by a witness, possibly a chaplain who sailed with the fleet and saw the battle.




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