Essex at Agincourt

Following Essex at Agincourt on Saturday 31 October 2015, archivist Katharine Schofield has written a summary of the involvement of Essex noblemen in this famous battle.

The Battle of Agincourt was fought on St. Crispin’s Day, 25 October 1415.  It was perhaps the most famous battle of the Hundred Years’ War, when the outnumbered English forces defeated the French, with the English longbow archers making a decisive contribution defeating the French cavalry.  The battle was immortalised in the 16th century by William Shakespeare in the play Henry V (written c.1599) and by Michael Drayton in his poem Fair stood the wind for France (c.1605).

As Prince of Wales Henry V had fought the Welsh and it was not long after he succeeded his father Henry IV I in 1413 that he sought to raise an army against the French and renew the claims of his great-grandfather Edward III to the French crown.  In December 1414 Parliament granted him a tax for war against the French.  Henry V and his army landed in northern France on 13 August 1415.

The campaign started with the siege of Harfleur.  The town did not surrender until 22 September, by which time the summer, and the best conditions for military campaigns, was nearly over.  The English had also suffered casualties during the siege, notably to dysentery and other diseases.

The siege of Harfleur

The siege of Harfleur (BritishBattles.com)

Among those who died at Harfleur was Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk and lord of the manors of Langham and Nether Hall in Gestingthorpe.  His son Michael, 3rd earl, was to die a month later at Agincourt.

Another man with Essex connections, Lewis John, was among those invalided home from Harfleur; he went on to serve as sheriff of Essex, 1416-1417 and 1420-1422.  He originated from Wales and had come to London, presumably to make his fortune.  By the time he died in 1442 Sir Lewis John owned land in a number of counties, including West Thurrock and East and West Horndon in Essex.

Having gained only one town for all the money spent raising an army, Henry V was reluctant to return to England and so set off to march to the English garrison at Calais, reasserting his hereditary claim to lands in northern France.  The French army that had been unable to save Harfleur was now ready to face the English.  Henry’s forces had been weakened by illness, had inadequate supplies of food and had marched 260 miles in two and a half weeks, but did not want to delay battle in case the French were able to bring up more reinforcements.

The two sides faced each other; as the French cavalry advanced they were trapped in muddy ground and caught in the deadly fire of the English archers and were unable to advance on the English forces.  Among the French casualties were the constable and admiral of France, the master of the royal household, and the Dukes of Brabant, Alençon and Bar.  Around 1500 noblemen were taken to England as prisoners, including Charles, Duke of Orleans, the Duke of Bourbon, Jean Le Maingre, Marshal of France and the Count of Eu.

The battle itself achieved very little immediately.  Henry continued his march on Calais and then returned in triumph to England.  However, the defeat and death or capture of so many of the French nobility meant that when Henry returned in 1417 he was able to capture towns and castles across northern France.

Catherine of Valois

Catherine of Valois

In 1420 the Treaty of Troyes was signed.  Henry married Katherine, daughter of Charles VI of France and was declared the regent and heir of the king.  Henry’s triumph was short-lived.  He died in 1422 leaving his nine month old son Henry VI as king.  He was crowned king of England in 1429 and king of France at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1431.  However, Charles VI’s son Charles VII was able to regain French territory, and by 1453 English possessions in France were reduced to Calais.  Henry VI was ultimately to lose his throne to Edward IV in the Wars of the Roses.

A number of Essex lords had raised men from their lands to form part of the king’s army.  It is likely that not only the lords, but some of the men in their retinues would have come from the county.  One of the great lords present was Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick depicted in the battle by Drayton as ‘Warwick in blood did wade’.  Although his lands were mostly elsewhere, he was lord of the manor of Walthamstow. 

Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford was almost the same age as the king, and they had both served Richard II as pages.  His grandfather John, the 7th earl, had fought at Crécy and Poitiers in the reign of Edward III.  He supplied 39 men-at-arms and 60 archers to the campaign.  He commanded the rear of the army as it marched from Harfleur, and took a prominent role in the battle, capturing Jean, Sire de Ligne.  Drayton wrote that ‘Oxford … cruel slaughter made’.  He was rewarded for his role in the battle by becoming a knight of the Garter in May 1416, in place of Edward, Duke of York, one of the notable English casualties of the day.  Oxford died in 1417 and was buried at Earls Colne.

Richard de Vere effigy

Effigy of Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford, 1385-1417, at Earls Colne

The Bourchier family originated from Halstead and Sible Hedingham and served against the French at various times during the Hundred Years’ War.  Sir William Bourchier, a justice of the peace in Essex, fought at Agincourt and also on the 1417 expedition.  He had inherited lands at Little Easton, Broxted and Aythorpe Roding from his mother Eleanor de Lovayne and was also lord of the manor of Wix.  In 1419 Henry V rewarded him with the title Count of Eu for his service in France.

Humphrey, 6th Lord FitzWalter died aged only 16 while on campaign.  His younger brother and successor William, baptised at Woodham Walter, also served on the campaign and was present at Agincourt.  He went on to campaign in France in later years and drowned returning to England in 1431.  He was buried in Little Dunmow.

As well as the great lords present at Agincourt, a number of Essex gentry also fought in the battle.  Sir Thomas Erpingham was in charge of the archers who had such a devastating effect on the course of the battle.  He is said to have launched the archers’ attack by throwing his baton into the air as a signal to fire and shouted ‘Now Strike’.  His lands were in Norfolk, although he did hold four Essex manors through his wife, including Little Oakley.  His retinue of 20 men at arms and 60 mounted archers included Sir Walter Goldyngham who was present at the battle.  The Goldynghams had first been granted a manor in Bulmer by Robert Malet, one of the tenants-in-chief listed in Domesday Book.  This manor came to be known as Goldingham Hall.

Sir Nicholas Thorley, lord of the manor of Bobbingworth fought in the retinue of Henry’s brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.  He survived the battle and went on to serve as sheriff of Essex 1431-1432 and later married the earl of Oxford’s widow Alice without royal permission.  For this omission Thorley was imprisoned in the Tower for three years and his wife had to pay a fine of one year’s value of all her lands.

Other Essex gentry present at the battle were Sir John Tyrell of Heron Hall in East Horndon who was also part of the Duke of Gloucester’s retinue.  Having survived the battle he went on to serve as sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1423, speaker of the House of Commons and was treasurer to Henry VI’s household.  He married Alice de Coggeshall, daughter and co-heiress of Sir William de Coggeshall of Little Coggeshall. 

The Waldegrave family acquired the manor of Navestock in the 16th century.  Sir Richard Waldegrave, present at Agincourt, held the manor of Wormingford by service of 10d. ward penny (a sum paid for watching a castle) per annum. Others who served included Robert Helyon of Helions Bumpstead with six esquires and three mounted archers and Sir William Mountneney of Mountnessing. Sir John Hevenyngham, lord of the manors of Little Totham, Eastwood, Fleet Hall in Sutton and Goldhanger fought in the retinue of the Earl of Norfolk. 

Seals of Richard de Waldegrave

Seals attached to D/DAy T1/13, from left to right: monogram, RW; an ermin’s tail in a crescent moon: legend, Solu[m] deo honor [et] gloria; arms and crest of Waldegrave: legend, S’ Ricardi de Waldegrave

We hope you have enjoyed our mini series on the connections between Essex and the Hundred Years’ War and the Battle of Agincourt – a small display of documents dating from 1415 will remain in the Searchroom until Christmas.

Document of the Month, June 2015: Settlement examination of James Sutton, 1821

Our document of the month for June is a record of a man named James Sutton being questioned by Justices of the Peace trying to establish where he was entitled to claim poor relief (D/P 332/13/4).

James Sutton was attempting to claim poor relief in Rayleigh, but had not been born there. Under the laws of settlement, if it could be proved that a person claiming relief was legally the responsibility of another parish then they could be removed to that place. Settlement examinations often contain a great deal of biographical information about the poor, and there are thousands of them in our collections.

What is notable about this particular examination is that James Sutton gave no information about his place of settlement but stated that he had served for seven years and six months in the 54th Foot and had been wounded in the left arm at the Battle of Waterloo. He continued to serve until 1820 when he was discharged.

IMG_6528 watermarked

He stated that had been awarded a medal for his service but not a pension as he had volunteered from the East Middlesex Militia and had served less than 14 years with the 54th Regiment, and that this meant that he was not entitled to a pension. The Waterloo Medal was the first time a medal was awarded to all ranks (although we cannot find a James Sutton of the 54th Foot on the Waterloo Medal Roll).

IMG_6532

2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, which saw the decisive defeat of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the French. Within a few days Napoleon had abdicated and by the end of the year was in exile on St. Helena.

Waterloo brought to an end wars which had raged across Europe from the 1790s.  Approximately 15,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle, with another 7,000 Prussian and between 20 and 24,000 French casualties. Nearly 50 years of peace followed in Europe, which was brought to an end by the Crimean War in 1853 when Britain and France fought as allies.

This document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout June 2015.

Robert the Bruce – Essex man

As the people of Scotland prepare to vote in the independence referendum, Archivist Katharine Schofield examines how Essex is able to claim a connection with Robert the Bruce, who from 1306 became King Robert I of Scotland. 

D/DP T1/1770 - names Robertus de Brus

D/DP T1/1770 – names Rob’tus de Brus

The Bruce or Brus family held lands in Writtle, Hatfield Broad Oak, Terling, Hatfield Peverel, Lamarsh and Southchurch from a grant made by Henry III in c.1237/8 to Isabel de Brus.  She was the daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon (brother of Malcolm IV and William I of Scotland) and Matilda, the daughter of the Earl of Chester.  Isabel’s brother John inherited the title of Earl of Chester from his uncle.  When John died in 1237 the earldom reverted to the Crown, and today is one of the titles of the Prince of Wales.  In compensation Henry III granted lands to his sisters and heiresses, one of whom was Isabel, wife of Robert de Brus, 4th Lord of Annandale (the great-grandparents of Robert the Bruce), who received various lands in Essex (if you get as confused with the genealogy in this post as we did, here’s a handy family tree).

Among the earliest records in the ERO are records of the Brus family in Hatfield Broad Oak and Writtle.  The deeds, although undated, almost certainly relate to Sir Robert de Brus, father of the future king of Scotland.  Deeds of grants of meadow land in Hatfield Broad Oak of c.1280 and c.1300 (D/DBa T1/44, 50-51126, 157, 159) refer to part of the demesne meadow land of Sir Robert de Brus which adjoined the land being granted.

D-DP T1-1770 Whole

D/DP T1/1770 – A much later copy of a quitclaim made bu Sir Robert de Brus

A release and quitclaim (renunciation of all future claims) which survives as a later copy was made on 22 May 1298 by Robert de Brus senior, Earl of Carrick, of half a virgate (approximately 30 acres) of land in Writtle to John Herolff (D/DP T1/1770).  Robert de Brus inherited the earldom from his wife, and today this is another one of the Prince of Wales’ titles, which he uses in Scotland.  Another quitclaim was made at Writtle on 4 August 1299 by Robert de Brus, described as lord of Annandale (dominus vallis Anandie) and lord of Writtle and Hatfield Broad Oak to Sir Nicholas de Barenton [Barrington] of 21 shillings annual rent for lands in Hatfield Broad Oak (D/DBa T2/9).

D-DBa T1-4 Seal

D/DBa T1/4 – This seal which belongs Sir Robert de Brus and shows the saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross, now an integral part of the Scottish flag.

In about 1295 Sir Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick, exchanged 5½ acres of land in Hatfield Broad Oak for 5¾ acres held by Hatfield Priory (D/DBa T1/4).  Brus’s seal survives on this deed and shows the saltire, still used today on Scotland’s flag, with a lion above.  The seals of Scottish nobility began to include the saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross from the late 13th century.

D-DBa T1-4

D/DBa T1/4 – in its entirity.

When Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286, his four year old granddaughter, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was the closest heir to the Scottish crown.  She died in 1290 in the Orkney Isles en route to Scotland, leaving no obvious successor and Edward I King of England was asked by the Guardians of Scotland, who had been appointed to govern during the minority of the queen, to arbitrate between the many different claimants to the throne in what became known as the Great Cause.  There were 15 claimants, including Edward himself, but the two main claimants were two great-grandsons of David, Earl of Huntingdon (a grandson of David I, r.1124-1153): John Balliol, grandson of David’s daughter Margaret, and Robert de Brus, grandson of Isabel, Margaret’s younger sister (again, this family tree helps!).

In 1292 Edward I selected John Balliol, who had the best claim.  However, Balliol proved an ineffectual king and in 1296 Edward I took the opportunity to invade Scotland.  Having defeated the Scots at Dunbar, he deposed Balliol, took over the throne of Scotland and removed the Stone of Scone, which was used for the coronations of the Scottish kings, to Westminster.  The Scots fought back and the following year William Wallace defeated the English at Stirling Bridge.  Battles and guerrilla warfare followed.

In 1304 the Sir Robert de Brus, mentioned in the Essex documents, died and his son more commonly known as Robert the Bruce inherited his father’s claim to the throne.  At Brus’s death he held the manor of Writtle from the king for half a knight’s fee and the manor in Hatfield Broad Oak for another half.  Feudalism meant that all land was held from the Crown in return for military service, the provision of a knight.  Land that was held for one knight’s fee meant that Brus had to supply a knight (or sometimes the monetary equivalent) to the King for military service.

File:Robertthebruce.jpg

Robert the Bruce in a much later depiction

On 25 March 1306 Robert the Bruce was crowned king of Scotland at Scone.  As a result all his English lands were attainted or forfeited to the Crown.  The majority of the lands were later granted by Edward II to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex.

There is one final reference to the Brus family in an extent (description of landholding) of the manor of Writtle dating from c.1315, possibly relating to the grant to de Bohun.  This describes free tenants of the manor who held land from deeds of the lord Robert de Brus [per cartam domini Robert de Brus], who is further described as father of the present lord King [pater domini Regis nunc est].