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1415: Henry V's Year Of Glory
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- Henry V's Year of Glory by Ian Mortimer | Book review | Books | The Guardian!
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Follow Us. The Works. Search Search Search Search. My Account Store Locator Join. This book records in magnificent detail the dramatic events of , which saw Henry lay claim to the French throne and win a decisive victory at the battle of Agincourt, on a day-to-day basis, yet he emphasizes in his prologue that this book is not about the battle, so much as about the man and his age.
Henry may have been a war hero and a brilliant commander, but at the same time he was incredibly ruthless, a man with what he saw as a divine mission to purge the people of France of their sins by total subjugation. If the lives of large numbers had to be sacrificed, so be it. Of course, the same can be said of almost any military leader of his time. The conflict now known as the Hundred Years' War, which had lain dormant for some years, was reopened as part of his role in ensuring that God favoured the house of Lancaster and would reward it with victory on the battlefield.
He was also extremely lucky in that victory at Agincourt was to an extent handed to him by default through various tactical errors or misfortunes on the part of the French army, and also in that heavy rain on the eve of the battle worked to the detriment of the French and to English advantage. His campaign which culminated in the battle was a huge risk, and could easily have ended in ignominious English defeat as did the protracted war against France, thirty years after his death.
1415: Henry V's Year of Glory
The English army was heavily outnumbered, yet given that the numbers of casualties in medieval battles could only be very rough estimates probably lost only about 1, men, as compared to French losses of anything between 4, and 10, Yet was not only the year of a celebrated battle, but also a year of religious persecution throughout much of Europe, a time of struggle for power within the Catholic church, when most rulers and churches were equally ruthless in their efforts to destroy those whom they saw as heretics. Henry was not the only overlord in Europe who was prepared to send men to the stake, as the appalling fate of Czech priest and theologian Jan Hus shows.
The description of his conviction and death in Germany is one which sensitive readers might wish to skim. Dr Mortimer's descriptions of medieval life are as rich and colourful as his telling of the story.
We learn how Christmas was celebrated at Henry's court, and there is a particularly picturesque portrait in words of London at the start of the new year, with muddy and rutted roads leading to Westminster, frozen or flooded fields, and logs outside the houses covered in snow. All in all this is a very full, compelling account of the year and the main issues of the time.