Henry V and the Siege of Rouen

The siege of Rouen in 1418 was a brutal episode of medieval warfare, made worse by the fact that the city’s elderly and infirm were abandoned to a no man’s land. Daniel E. Thiery explains how the medieval mind justified such actions.

Massacre of the Armagnacs by the Bourguignons, Paris 1418, contemporary illustration from the 'Vigils of Charles VII' by Martial of Paris

Shakespeare’s Henry V disguises himself on the eve of Agincourt and engages in a heated debate with a few of his men about his responsibility for their eternal salvation or damnation and that of their comrades. This memorable scene from a play that significantly hastened the lionisation of the second Lancastrian monarch is not substantiated by contemporary chroniclers. According to these writers, it was not at Agincourt, but rather almost three years later, that the cause, the culpability and even the Christian character of the monarch were most seriously called into question.   

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