chapter
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Introduction

In the early dawn of Friday 25 October 1415, a member of Henry V’s royal chapel was nearby as the French army, ‘with its forest of spears’ and ‘great number of helmets gleaming in between them’, deployed for battle. The priest concerned had been present throughout the campaign of recent months, witnessing the gruelling siege of Harfl eur and enduring all the hardship of the nerve-wracking march to Calais that followed. As tension, disease and exhaustion took their toll along the way, he had ‘looked up in bitterness to heaven’, praying to St George and the Virgin Mary that the English king and his men might be ‘delivered from the swords of the French’. And once the long-anticipated battle was fi nally underway, he would watch from the rear ‘in fear and trembling’ as the ‘perilous events’ unfolded, praying all the while that ‘God would have compassion upon us and upon the crown of England’. When the fi ghting was done, moreover, he walked among ‘the masses, the mounds, and the heaps of the slain’, refl ecting ruefully upon the carnage. ‘And as I truly believe’, he later wrote, ‘there is not a man with heart of fl esh or even of stone who, had he seen and pondered on the horrible deaths and bitter wounds of so many Christian men, would not have dissolved into tears, time and again, for grief.’1