The Soldier in Later Medieval England

The English army in 1415

Anne Curry, Dan Spencer and Adam Chapman

Thanks to the work of Dr Dan Spencer at the University of Southampton, funded by Agincourt 600, it has been possible to expand on the list of those who contracted with Henry V to provide troops; this list was originally published by Professor Anne Curry in Agincourt. A New History (2005). Thanks also to Dr Adam Chapman who was involved in earlier preparations of this list funded by the University of Southampton.

In creating this dataset we have trawled through all of the relevant documents in The National Archives. More detail is given below. We have tried to establish the size and composition of each retinue and what happened to its members during the campaign. This has not always been possible because not all of the documents survive. We have also tried to provide a short biography of each retinue leader. For peers and knights this is relatively straightforward (although not always!) but for esquires and others, such as the carpenters, pavilioners, smiths etc, it is much more difficult to be sure about identification. Many of these men, and others linked to the royal household, indented as groups rather than as individuals. We will be continuing to work on this and updating the site at least once a year, so please keep looking.

The dataset (‘English army’) can be accessed here.

Please remember that this list only concerns the captains who provided troops. For the soldiers who served on the campaign please use the main soldier database. All names in the musters, sick lists and retinue lists have been entered there. To limit your search results to a single year of 1415, put 1415 in both Year From and Year To filters. For more information on the sources used by the main database see ‘Was your ancestor on the Agincourt campaign with Henry V’ guide.

And please don’t forget to acknowledge this site if you use any information from it in publications or on other websites.

Essential information on how the army was raised

The 1415 army was raised through what historians call the indenture system, which had become the main way of raising armies from the late 1360s onwards. Men (who for ease of discussion we shall call captains) entered into a contract with the king to provide a certain number and composition of troops for the campaign (which was intended to last up to 12 months). The contracts were written out twice and cut through the middle in a way which produced a tooth-like edge (the latin word for teeth was dentes, hence the word indenture). The crown kept one copy and the captain the other. After the campaign, both parts would be brought together in the accounting processes. Fraud was avoided since if the captain made a new copy with new terms, the tooth-like edge would not fit with the crown’s copy.

Most indentures for the campaign were sealed by the captain at Westminster on 29 April 1415. A good number of the original indentures survive and have been catalogued by The National Archives in E101 file 69. Where no indenture survives we can none the less know the terms of the contract thanks to the orders to make payment to the captain – the Warrant for Issue, preserved in The National Archives E404 file 31. Following standard practice all moneys paid out by the crown were recorded on the Issue Rolls of the Exchequer. Unusually, there was a dedicated Issue Roll produced for the campaign which is now The National Archives E101/45/5. That is a valuable source of information where there is no indenture or warrant. However, the roll may not be complete or there may have been a second and now lost Issue roll since not all captains appear on E101/45/5. Some captains were given jewels as security for future payment of wages for the second quarter of the campaign. These are documented in The National Archives E101/45/20-22 (our thanks to Dr Jenny Stratford for information here).

Some captains (indeed also some of their soldiers) took out letters of protection to prevent legal cases against them in their absence, or else appointed attorneys who had power to deal with business whilst away. These are to be found in the French Rolls for the third year of Henry V (March 1415 to March 1416): The National Archives C76/98.

For some captains we have musters taken of their retinues as they prepared for embarkation in Southampton and the surrounding area. These are in E101/44-51. We also have two main sick lists noting men who were ill at the end of the siege of Harfleur and had been detailed for return home (TNA E101/45/1, E101/44/30 no. 1) although some of the post-campaign materials suggest some may have recovered enough to stay on the campaign and be present at the battle.

The indenture system required captains to account with the Exchequer after the campaign. In some cases this never happened, in others it happened many years after 1415. But several particulars of account survive in E101/44-51, sometimes accompanied by a retinue list. Such documents are immensely useful as they record against each soldier’s name what had happened to them on the campaign. (They also show that there was a considerable degree of reorganisation of retinues during the campaign.) For 74 captains we also have a special enrolled account in E358/6 (the expedition was clearly of such a scale that it was deemed necessary not only to have a dedicated issue roll but also a dedicated enrolled account). The Agincourt roll is a late sixteenth-century copy of a list of names associated with the accounting process and with the eventual creation of the special enrolled account.

In the References section of the lists the surviving documents found for each captain have been listed in the following order:

Letters of protection and letters of attorney (C76/98)

Indenture (E101/69)

Warrant for issue (E404/31)

Special issue roll for the campaign (E101/45/5)

Jewels given as security (E101/45/20, 21 and 22)

Musters at embarkation E101/44-51

Sick lists (E101/45/1, E101/44/30 no. 1)

Post campaign accounts and retinue lists E101/44-51

Post campaign enrolled account E358/6

Agincourt Roll (from British Library Harley 782, printed in Nicolas, History of the Battle of Agincourt)

In the biographies CPR = Calendar of the Patent Rolls (on-line at catalog.hathitrust.org).