Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Agincourt - July 1415: Henry V survives the Southampton Plot by W.B Bartlett

Henry V was now ready for war as July 1415 began. The last ditch attempts of the French to stall through more peace negotiations having failed, he moved off to Portchester on the shores of Portsmouth Harbour where his great armada was assembled. En route he spent some time at the monastic house at Titchfield where he fortified himself spiritually for the great invasion of France that was at long last imminent. Everything was ready and time was of the essence. The campaign season was already quite advanced and any more delay could create problems.

Unfortunately for Henry his plans were to suffer a spectacular setback. He was far from a universally popular king yet and one man in particular had an axe to grind. This was Richard, Duke of Cambridge, himself a member of the royal bloodline and a man who felt that he had not been well treated by the king. Even as the time for departure drew near, he was at the heart of a plot which had as its aim no less than the removal of Henry from the throne of England.

Who was to replace Henry? The man identified to do so was Edmund Mortimer, the Fourth Earl of March. He was also in the royal bloodline and in the time of the late king Richard II had indeed been the heir to the throne. But although he was also probably ambitious enough, he was not well-equipped for the part of a plotter. He lacked much military or political experience and he does not seem to have had a lot of personal attributes to compensate for these shortcomings. However he had recently had a bad falling-out with the king who had issued him with a heavy fine for marrying a prominent heiress (also part of the royal bloodline) without getting permission to do so.

So March allowed himself to be convinced. He went along with the plan which basically foresaw the Earl and his supporters escaping to Wales with their men just as the fleet was about to sail for Wales. As the month of July went on, Henry remained blissfully unaware of the plot. But as the decisive moment approached, March got cold feet. He reasoned that the plot would be a terrible failure and that the personal consequences for him would be fatal.

Things were so far gone it was difficult for March to stop the momentum of the plot. The only way out that he could see was to throw himself on the far from certain mercy of the king. This is what he did, making his way to the great castle at Portchester. Breaking the news to Henry in an interview which must have been a terrible ordeal, Henry was both shocked and angry. Shocked because of the betrayal and angry because the date of the invasion would have to be delayed.

March survived the fallout though he was a marked man. His co-conspirators were not so lucky. The Duke of Cambridge was executed in Southampton for his part in the plot, along with several other prominent plotters. The invasion was further delayed and Henry V was faced with the far from welcome prospect of leaving the country when the after-effects of the plot were still playing themselves out.

Agincourt - 9781445639499

W.B. Bartlett's book Agincourt: Henry V, The Man at Arms & The Archer coming September 2015 pre-order your copy today.