Revered as one of the greatest medieval kings and known by many through Shakespear's play, ‘Henry V', King Henry V had a short but mighty reign. He was born to King Henry IV and Mary de Bohun in 1387 and became king in 1413 at the age of 26.
Henry V's Life Before the Crown
Despite his iconic legacy as a remarkable king, Henry was quite wild as a youth before he took to the throne. He drank and ran around with his companion, John Oldcastle, and other rogues.
He was a great aid to his father though, often fighting on his behalf. On the day his father was crowned King Henry IV, the younger Henry was named the Prince of Wales and later, in 1399, was also given his grandfather's title, Duke of Lancaster.
The final years of Henry IV's life and rule, however, were marked by tension between father and son. The king rightly felt Henry far too eager to take his place on the throne.
When the elder Henry died in 1413 and Henry V became king, this eagerness to rule saw him shake off his former wild way of life and become a great leader.
The Start of One of the Greatest Reigns
One of the new 26-year-old king's first challenges was to put down men who had once been his friends and now planned to replace him with Richard II's heir, Edmund Mortimer. Just a few years after he became king, Henry executed the leaders of the plot, Lord Scrope and the Earl of Cambridge, and defeated John Oldcastle, his old friend.
Whilst his seat was being challenged, Henry was also negotiating with the King of France, bringing up his great-grandfather, King Edward III's, claim to the French throne once again. When the negotiations proved fruitless, Henry and his army sailed over and invaded France in 1415.
The Battle of Agincourt
When they reached France, they took the town of Harfleur. The siege was a successful move for the English but also a rather costly one, as Henry's small army was made even smaller by the plight of dysentery.
Henry offered the French king's son and heir to the throne a chance to settle their feud for the French throne one on one, but the offer was rejected. Henry and his army carried on to Agincourt, where the French chivalry awaited. Henry's 6,000 men fought, far outnumbered, against the 30,000 French. With such disparately sized armies, the outlook wasn't good. But, incredibly, it was an English victory. The terrain at Agincourt forced the French to fight in a narrow formation, making it easy for the English to aim their arrows at them. In the end, there were up to 7,000 French lives lost compared to only a few hundred English.
The victory won Henry some important allies and the admiration and adoration of his country.
The welcome that awaited Henry and his army back home in England was incredible. As they landed on home ground, crowds cheered and waded out to see to carry the king from his ship to the shore. En route to London, countless people turned out to the streets too, cheering and celebrating the victory.
King Henry V's Second French Campaign
Henry made the journey to France once again in 1417. He and his army took Normandy and made their way to Paris. Henry was determined to win the French crown and, this time, he got it. In 1420, the mentally ill King Charles VI of France disinherited his own son when he signed the Treaty of Troyes, recognising Henry V as the next French heir.
In what turned out to be a romantic as much as a political move, King Henry V married Charles VI's daughter, Catherine of Valois in June of 1420. The newly married couple made their way to England the following year, not long before their only son, the future Henry VI, was born.
The Death of the Great King Henry V
Henry's war with France didn't end. He constantly pushed, wanting more and more French territory, and he had to put down the rebellion of the disinherited son of Charles VI. It was after his last French victory at the Siege of Meaux that King Henry V died of dysentery at the age of 35.
Both the English and French throne then went to his son, Heny VI, who wasn't yet one.