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1415: Henry V's Year Of Glory

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The battle of Agincourt was a slaughter ground designed not to advance England's interests directly but to demonstrate God's approval of Henry's royal authority on both sides of the Channel. 1415 was a year of religious persecution, personal suffering and one horrendous battle. This book presents the story of that year.

640 pages, Hardcover

First published September 24, 2009

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About the author

Ian Mortimer

28 books1,147 followers
AKA James Forrester.

Dr Ian Mortimer is a historian and novelist, best known for his Time Traveller's Guides series. He has BA, MA, PhD and DLitt degrees from the University of Exeter and UCL. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and was awarded the Alexander Prize by the Royal Historical Society in 2004. Home for him and his family is the small Dartmoor town of Moretonhampstead, which he occasioanlly introduces in his books. He also writes in other genres: his last novel The Outcasts of Time won the 2018 Winston Graham Prize for historical fiction. His trilogy of novels set in the 1560s were published under his middle names, James Forrester. His most recent book is 'Why Running Matters' - a memoir of running in the year he turned fifty. He also writes songs: a CD entitled 'Dr Ian Mortimer's Comedies, Histories & Tragedies' is available and a second CD, Autumn Songs, is in preparation.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 73 reviews
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,691 reviews629 followers
November 12, 2018
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect. "

Once more into the breach I go with tickets to see a new production of Shakespeare's Henry V. But before that event, I have started to wonder how much of the real Henry is the character that the Bard of Avon portrays.

“At his court, there was a sense that everything good, noble, virtuous, and worth loving hung by a slender thread, and might vanish in an instant.”

For those who have come to know me through my reviews on Goodreads, you may have detected an interest in historical biography and/or a tendency to drill down on the tumultuous period of English history from about 1300 to 1600. Ian Mortimer, that illustrious historian whose many works I have already sampled, tackles the King and event that Shakespeare found so worthy.

This is real history with the historian acting as detective. There are few contemporary diaries or memoires. English historians of that period and later may have “cherry-picked” the facts to suit their themes of nobility and heroism. Mortimer, like a forensic accountant, burrows into the ledgers and other records to develop a quite different and more robust portrait of this man who burst on the European scene when his father, Henry IV, died.

This is history, not a novel like Wolf Hall or a miniseries like The Tudors. Yet, we are treated to all the elements that a good historical novel usually mixes: secret pacts; plots to overthrow the king(s); religious battles; propaganda (spinning the truth); sieges; battles; unpredictable twists of fate. All the elements are present except love/romance. Henry didn’t have much interest in women; he seemed to substitute for them with religious fervor.

There is a lot going on in the year 1415 in Western Civilization. With respect to events leading up to the Battle of Agincourt in late October: Most relevant was the gathering in Constance for several months of prelates and temporal rulers that was held to reform the Roman Catholic Church and to reconcile the fact that three separate popes existed at this time; also relevant, because Henry V was a very orthodox Christian, were the various reformers such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus that were viewed as serious threats by many; and, Henry V’s claims (some from the broken lineage of royalty in France and England) of dominion over substantial portions of France ranging from Normandy and Flanders in the north through Burgundy and to Gascony and Aquitaine in South. Mortimer’s work is replete with secret missions, covert treaties and showcase negotiations as Henry moves to contest with the French the claims that he has made. Mortimer spends time setting the stage with the brutal acts of John the Fearless, a duke who wanted to be King of France and would do or say anything to achieve that goal.

We follow all the threads as the year unfolds through Mortimer’s skillful examination of original source material. For instance, as he examines one of the most complete sources, the Issue Rolls, he comes across a cornucopia of payments. He is able to divide them into categories: administration; reimbursement of messengers’ (not just your FedEx type) and ambassadors’ expenses; rewards for good service; measures for the defense of the Welsh and Scottish borders and Calais; money handed over to the king’s chamber, and, to some extent, gathering supplies for his coming venture in France. This is merely a jumping off for Mortimer. He tracks down who was with whom, and when. He fits it into the larger context of what was happening in parts of Britain and in Europe. Then he speculates as to the purpose of a particular line item. Very entertaining … and enlightening.

One of the nice touches that Mortimer brings to this day by day narrative is the saga of a debt that Henry's father never repaid. Two guys arrive from Poland and are passed from one bureaucrat to another. Weeks then months roll by and they journey to London, Westminster, Winchester, etc. with dwindling hope of any success.

Henry wanted to invade France in May to give his troops time to conquer and live off the land. Negotiations (pro forma) with the French King just kept on pushing the date back (The French knew what could occur.) Now it is almost August of 1415 and the English ships are still in port! And, Henry finds that there may be a treasonous plot at home. All his plans are up for grabs.

He presses on. (No spoiler alert because you know your history, or at least your Shakespeare.) He picks Harfleur as his landing point. He will bring the city to its knees; they will recognize him as the rightful King of France; he will use Harfleur as his new port (The river, Seine, leads right to Paris!); he will march against the French at Rouen; and, after victory, get the Kingdom, get the Princess, and return home by Christmas!

What could go wrong? Tick tock; tick tock. Henry departs months after he had planned. Harfleur isn’t an easy victory. His supplies have dwindled. He is bogged down in a siege in September and his troops are so closely packed that dysentery runs through them like “sh*t through a goose.” He loses about 20% of his force to disease before leaving Harfleur. It is getting colder, rainier, and the crops that he hoped his troops could live off of are long harvested. This campaign was to demonstrate that God supported the English cause. Has God forsaken Henry? Should he pack up, with his small victory and go home until spring? Can he defend the broken town of Harfleur? If he does, can he survive an encounter with the French with his remaining troops?
His advisors say (almost to a man): “Go home and call it off until next Spring.” Rejecting that advice, Henry seemingly has to prove that God has not forsaken him. He will challenge the Dauphin to a hand-to-hand combat to settle the crown of France. And, he will march his remaining troops through Normandy to Calais to prove his faith and purpose. You probably know how that turned out, but Mortimer’s account is riveting.

Mortimer’s methodology of viewing activities day-by-day is a wonderful tool for providing, not only new information, but a different way to evaluate existing information. He also does a creditable job of wading through the dross of many centuries full of praise to give us as good a picture of what actually took place at Agincourt. There is a lot to sift through, and he makes use of both English and French sources. He praises Henry for his courage and determination. He notes Henry’s flaws and his willingness (against chivalric codes, and due process) to cut corners when he deems it expedient. Thus, we have his rush to judgment on Lord Scrope, whom he hangs when Scrope was only doing his best to discover the extent of a plot to depose Henry. And, we have Henry’s decision to kill all his prisoners after the first battle at Agincourt because he fears that the French will re-engage. There is no shortage of subterfuge and underhanded dealing among the great lords and prelates of Europe. Henry may have not been the most ruthless or the most adept.
I lingered over the details in this book, because Mortimer is very open to considering these facets from more than one perspective. There seems to be no hidden agenda or preconception on his part, only a desire to examine what is now available.

Conclusion:
Henry’s luck and organizational skills were sufficient to bring him the thing he desired most: A sign of God’s favor for him and his goals both spiritual and temporal. He got his victory and almost changed the direction of French history by establishing his line for the French throne. Yet, we see a man who is prideful and enamored with his own power. This shaped how he dealt brutally with the Lollards, and how he handled the plot against him (including giving Lord Scope the ultimate punishment of death and destruction of his estate though he was likely innocent) and his decision to put to death the Agincourt prisoners, and his revision of the terms of surrender he gave to the French at Harfleur. England lost what Henry conquered during the next several decades. And, the country was again plunged into disorder, both by Henry’s inability to assure his line of succession and by the immense debt that he ran up while adventuring…mistakes that neither his father, nor Edward III can be faulted for. Thus, it is difficult to side with historians such as Curry and McFarlane that Henry V was England’s greatest ruler, even if he provided, arguably, England’s greatest victory.
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,765 reviews352 followers
September 14, 2022
I'm totally letting Mortimer's make believe go for a moment. I have a fascination with well written battle/war scenes. I think I get it from my dad. But that is a story that can be told at another time. Mortimer is doing a fairly good job re: Agincourt. The only word I can think of to explain how I feel about these types of narration is romantic. And I know how most people use that word and will think I'm crazy so I hope there are readers out there who will understand what I'm trying to say. These archers just amazing and I would pay to see them in their element. I'm glued to this chapter well actually the book is sorta like a journal format. I have to had it to Mortimer on this one.

AND FINALLY! That one fact that has escaped EVERY OTHER HISTORIAN but lucky Ian found it. What kills me is that he gives that caveat and then practically goes back in time to prove his conspiracy. I’ve never had this conspiracy theorist approach in any of my royalty nonfiction books EVER. he makes himself questionable. I’m about 65 % in and I had high hopes. The book was really well written. THEN BAM ! Good ole Ian.


OMG! Y’all im getting the vapors. Is war that important to do what he’s doing right now? I can’t this part of the book is just one ginormous CANT TAKE IT yes he’s organized, yes he’s attempting to leave nothing to chance, yes he has (dare I say it) no I can’t say it because it’s one BIG CANT! It’s triggering a panic attack. I’m hyperventilating. This is in the past way past so past but cheesus men of means just must not have had anything else to do find a chess set or something

Well, hello Mr Kingy, what brings you into my humble shop this beautiful morning?
Uh yeah I need to order 3 million arrows please. And make that a rush order.
Okay…and when would you like them?
Next week would be fine.
So England actually had an amazing bow and arrow reputation through a few generations. But 3 MILLION damn

How wars started in the 1400s

The French are on one side of the river
Have a few ambassadors hanging out
French king: hey y'all over there you're not doing anything right now right?
Ambassadors: nah why?
French king: imma gonna send you over there down ways with a petition to Henry see if he wants to play War. You ready to go? Ok here see ya
Scene two
English king: what's up you're supposed to be with the French right now
Ambassadors: yeah but we have this challenge from French king. He wants to know if y'all are doing anything Thursday next?
English king: yeah alright I think we can make that. Let me just put it on my calendar. Ok tell French king we will see y'all then!
Profile Image for Elia Princess of Starfall.
124 reviews14 followers
November 6, 2015
description

No I am not sorry for using Tom Hiddleston.

Henry V, King of England, was a legend in his own lifetime. One of England's great warrior kings, a brilliant and shrewd military leader who won victory at Agincourt in 1415, reclaimed huge swathes of former Plantagenet land in France, had himself declared Heir to French throne and almost succeeded in being crowned King of France. He was the monarch whom many held to be the greatest King of England to have ever lived.

But was he really?

Does the man who ordered the ruthless butchering of all the male inhabitants of Caen in 1417 deserve such praise?

Or how about the man who declared that any prostitute found in his camps, on being warned the first time, was to have her left arm broken as punishment?

What about the king who, upon conquering the French naval port of Harfleur in 1415, cast out all the women and children out of Harfleur and into the wilderness that was France during the bleak wintertime?

Were these the actions of the man immortalised by the bard William Shakespeare as "Good Prince Hal"? The king who later became a national icon fro England and her people, whose achievements were feted and admired decades after his untimely death?

Can we truly know who Henry V was behind the legend, behind the mask?

Ian Mortimer asks this question repeatedly throughout his detailed and thoughtful analysis of Henry V and "his year of glory 1415". Taking a chronological look at the pivotal year 1415 within the social, political, religious and military context of the era, Ian Mortimer unveils a more nuanced and pragmatic perspective on Henry V and his many triumphs. The author takes each day of each month and carefully peels back the layers of propaganda and myth to fully examine and analyse the character of Henry V and how the choices he made, no matter how terrible and heartless, all served his main purpose; to show that he was the undoubted and divinely approved king of England.

In 1415 Henry V is revealed to be a proud, determined, tenacious, intelligent, pious and utterly ruthless king. His piety and religiosity were fanatical, his reign witnessing the suppressing of the Lollard heresy and the systematic burning of heretics. An able and courageous soldier, Henry, as Prince of an unruly and rebellious Wales, fought from the age of sixteen to protect his inheritance and that of his father's Henry IV. He was a single-minded and brutal warlord, intent on reclaiming the ancestral Plantagenet lands in France despite of the lives lost on both sides of the channel in war, betrayal and famine. He had a fraught and uneasy relationship with his father Henry IV, who despite the many achievements of his eldest son, preferred his other son Thomas duke of Clarence. This blatant favouritism of younger more rash and impetuous brother caused Henry to feel resentment and jealously in equal measure. Not even his father's slow, painful death saw any healing in their father-son bond.

He was also a man who had a difficult relationship with the female sex. Henry married only once, to Catherine of Valois, Princess of France in 1420 and remained married to her until his very untimely death in 1422. Besides from his wife, there seems to have been no other women in Henry's life as either romantic or sexual partners. Certainly he was admired for being celibate in an age where all noblemen were supposed to have mistresses. Mortimer states that Henry was chivalrous towards women but not close to them. Indeed Henry seems to have had few if any female friends or companions. The only two women mentioned in his will of fifty people were his beloved grandmother, Joan Bohun and his stepmother Joan of Navarre for whom he had little affection. Did some past experiences frighten Henry in regards to women? Its said that Henry was celibate from the time of his coronation so the implication is that he had mistresses previously. But why not as King? Did the death of his mother Mary Bohun at age 7 have a shattering impact upon him? What made him so fearful of becoming close to women? Was it his piety? Past experiences? A general mistrust? I think that Henry's feelings towards women are fascinating and somewhat disturbing facet of his character that have been unduly ignored by previous historians.

Ian Mortimer allows the facts to speak for themselves; of course there is analysis and erudite criticism of Henry V and his various actions. This is a history on Henry V and the year 1415 what else did you expect? This is an insightful, engaging and well-researched book, deserving of all praise heaped upon it. It never becomes boring or sluggish and this is due not just to exciting nature of the events that the book is describing but also to Mortimer's writing style. Witty, jaunty and thoroughly enjoyable, the writing style never let up for a moment. Mortimer writes the history the way it should be written; with interest, excitement and in detail.

Totally recommended!
Profile Image for happy.
302 reviews89 followers
February 3, 2013
This is an interesting take on Henry V. Dr. Mortimer‘s Henry is definitely not Shakespeare’s. The Henry that Dr. Mortimer presents in an extremely pious, religious person, a son who did not get along with his father, a king who does not sit easy on his throne and is merciless in his dealing with those who threaten his crown or go against his wishes. He is very determined to prove that he really is God’s anointed King of England by emulating his Great Grandfather, Edward III, in pressing his claim to the French throne.
This book has three major story lines. Obviously the first being the preparations for and actual campaign that leads to Agincourt. The second and third story lines take place at the Council of Constance. The second follow the efforts of Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, to unify the Papacy. There were three popes at the time. The third is the trial of Jan Hus for heresy.
Dr. Mortimer tells the tale in a day by day, journal format. Some days having a couple of paragraphs and others 4 or 5 pages. While I like Dr. Mortimer’s writing style, I found the journal format a touch distracting.
In addition to the main story lines, Dr. Mortimer provides interesting factoids and anecdotes about life in 15th century, both on campaign and at home.
All in all a good read. I would recommend it.
Profile Image for Jerome Otte.
1,730 reviews
January 28, 2021
A very detailed look at 1415, written in an almost day-by-day format.

Mortimer asks if Henry deserves his heroic status and concludes that he doesn’t. He admits that he finds Henry’s character traits unappealing. “But, nevertheless, Henry’s legend lives on, and he is still considered a great king, even though we live in a world that normally condemns nationalist leaders for starting wars in order to strengthen their domestic political position.” The book deals with Agincourt, of course, and his account of the campaign and battle is well-written and dramatic.

Perhaps inevitably, given the format, the book sometimes gets bogged down in boring minutiae (meals, for example) Sometimes, Mortimer reflects on how he wrote the book, or includes speculation. Unfortunately for the reader, these comments are interspersed randomly throughout the narrative, instead of being included in an appendix. He also touches on the historiography of Henry’s reign, usually in a condescending fashion.

Some of Mortimer’s arguments are also unconvincing. Mortimer argues that Henry’s execution of Lord Scrope was an act of petty vengeance, but his argument is based on what Scrope himself said while trying to save his own life. He also portrays Henry as a religious nut, but doesn’t really look at what religion was like in medieval times (such as the intolerance of heresy and the ideas behind scholasticism, which had been around for centuries before Henry), and much of his supporting evidence sounds speculative. Mortimer also writes that Richard, Earl of Cambridge, was opposed to the war, even though he raised troops for it.

A thorough but somewhat tedious work.
Profile Image for Lindz.
387 reviews30 followers
November 29, 2015
When I studied history at university many, many moons ago, history and narrative were two completely separate entities. In fact history and narrative were not allowed in the same room together, not even a little bit of small talk. Us faux academics used to scorn those who pushed the dignified objective history with the exaggerated and flowery narrative, how very dare they. Pop history, we called it.

Since then I have toned down the snob a little, and come to see that yes history does have a natural narrative arch, and reading a history with a prominent narrative not only high lights the drama, intrigue and suspense but also highlight historical argument.

And after this long winded introduction I get to 'Henry V's Year of Glory'. Mortimer uses a specific narrative format, chronicling almost day by day of the year 1415, the year of Agincourt. This is a year of religious reform, political strife, and the usual royal murder and intrigue. By scaling back the time line, Mortimer is able to create one 551 page case study of the main issues in the early 15th century. '1415' is also a brilliant study of character, Henry V's character. How Henry reacted to his situation, both political and spiritual of the time is a reflection of religious zealousness and political ambition, with a dash of Daddy issues thrown in for good measure.

I was not overly familiar with Henry V when I picked up this biography. In fact all I knew was that Kenneth Branagh had played Henry in a Shakespeare adaption. Mortimer has a gift for historical narrative, taking you into candle lit halls, blood coated mud on the field of Agincourt, his writing is vivid and too the point. Mortimer's argument is also strong and well executed. This is a book many might not agree with, but it will be a interesting and absorbing debate.
Profile Image for Lisa.
889 reviews81 followers
December 23, 2019
In 1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory, historian Ian Mortimer aims to dismantle the view of Henry V as a “Great Man of History” and experiment in the historical form. This is not a simple biography of Henry V or reference book about the Battle of Agincourt, but a day-by-day chronicle from Christmas in 1414 to Christmas in 1415, focusing on the Council of Constance overseen by the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, and Henry V’s preparations for a campaign in France and the campaign itself, cumulating in the Battle of Agincourt, and then the return to England.

Even if I have strong reservations about Ian Mortimer’s conclusions and even the ways he gets there, 1415 is a book worth reading. This is the only book that sets out the Agincourt campaign and its preparation on a day-by-day level. There is information that Mortimer teases out and presents that I haven’t come across before and I enjoyed that he discussed some of the significant but less well-known figures around Henry V.

Additionally, this book is very readable. It is dense and slow to get to the ‘meat’ of the story but Mortimer writes evocatively and engagingly enough that I’d end up blowing through a chapter each time I picked the book up.

But I wouldn’t recommend 1415 without a large caveat. I’ve personally found that while Mortimer’s research is sound and he has made notable contributions to the study of history, his biases show too clearly in his work and muddy the conclusions and interpretations he makes. In fact, if you want to read 1415, I would recommend following it up with Malcolm Vale’s Henry V: The Conscience of a King which does point out some of the limitedness and errors in Mortimer’s view of Henry V. In fact, I reread Vale’s book (which is excellent in its own right) shortly after 1415 as an antidote to my frustrations with Mortimer’s conclusions.

Mortimer does not like Henry V and the way he writes makes it impossible for a reader, especially an uninformed reader, to arrive at any other conclusion other than the one Mortimer comes to. To fair, this isn’t an open slather. Mortimer draws attention to some of Henry V’s strengths and his evaluation of the killing of the prisoners at Agincourt is fair. Still, this isn’t what I’d call a fair, reasoned assessment of Henry V.

Mortimer’s characterisation of Henry V tends to reduce him down to his military ambition and piety. He develops Henry’s character further by talking about his excessive, overmastering pride and “issues” with women. This is, by and large, an exercise by Mortimer in pure speculation. There is not remotely enough evidence to claim these were vital facets of Henry V’s character, let alone as confidently and definitively as Mortimer does.

He asserts that Henry was very proud early on and then just assumes that Henry’s actions were motivated by his excessive pride – but rarely, if ever, does he actually argue his reasoning for this characterisation choice or why it was pride that motivated Henry for this particular action. For instance, Mortimer suspects that Henry’s pride was deeply wounded at hearing a French jibe about his characters which is why he ordered the circulation of the story that the French sent him tennis balls as a joke about his kingship. Why would a man entirely motivated by his pride circulate a story that showed him to be so badly thought of? Any logic in this argument is so convoluted it doesn’t really make sense – Mortimer, at times, seems to barely understand how humans function. I also found myself confused when Mortimer stated that “perhaps Henry V saw his father’s discussions with his enemies as a sign of weakness”, when, not far away. there was a reference to Henry working to reconcile with his father’s enemies. If he saw speaking to “enemies” as a sign of weakness, how did he manage to reconcile so successfully with his father’s enemies?

Henry V’s piety is well-known but Mortimer makes much more of it, calling him a “zealot” and “militant Catholic fundamentalist” but fails to put it into context beyond a few general comments about Henry being more religious than his father who was more serious about religion than his predecessors. There’s no discussion about what, exactly, was the normal amount of piety a medieval king would display and how Henry V exceeded it. There’s no indication, either, that Henry was thought of by his own contemporaries as being overly religious beyond references to his piety being celebrated. I’m not sure there’s anything beyond Mortimer’s speculation to suggest that he was a bigot.

Mortimer also talks about how the use of divine will to justify Henry’s invasion of France makes him a “zealot and a hypocrite” but what then do we make of Joan of Arc? Or those who fought in a Crusade? Are they all “zealots and hypocrites”? My gut instinct would also say that it would be fairly typical and normal for war in the medieval world to be framed as God’s will.

Mortimer, in discussing Henry’s character, notes that he was “humourless” and that “one never reads of him enjoying himself”, largely because Henry wasn’t interested in jousting. It’s not known why Henry was disinterested – though it has been posited that he was busy actually fighting battles and wars to play at them. Other historians, such as Malcolm Vale and Michael Livingston, have suggested that his almost-fatal injury at the Battle of Shrewsbury may have left him with trauma and if so, it seems possible that this trauma might have impacted on his desire to joust or at play at war games. So Mortimer’s judgement seems somewhat blinkered and even verging on unsympathetic.

Nor, in Mortimer’s opinion, was Henry V “cultured”. It is noted that Henry played cards, chess and tables, but Mortimer fails to mention Henry’s interest in books or music. It is quite possible that Henry composed music, notably two songs assigned to a “Roy Henry” who was either Henry IV or Henry V. Mortimer discusses these songs in The Fears of Henry IV and argues it was Henry IV who composed these songs. I don’t expect him to change his mind – there have been strong arguments made for both kings as composers. But I do expect him to mention the songs, especially while claiming Henry is “uncultured” and only interested in “war drums”. The fact that he doesn’t severely weakens his conclusions.

The other evidence that Mortimer uses in his argument that Henry V was “humourless” is his apparent disinterest in sex with women to the point of celibacy. Firstly, evaluating someone’s character on whether or not they want to have sex tells us very little about the person’s character. What does it matter if Henry didn’t (want to) have sex? Secondly, we know very little about Henry’s sexuality or sex life beyond the claim of celibacy and Henry VI’s unquestioned paternity. Henry V abstaining from sex with women, as he was said to have done, might indicate a disinterest in sex or that he wasn’t sexually attracted to women. This could mean he would be considered asexual or homosexual by modern understandings of sexuality. If so, it does not necessarily follow that he was “not fun” or hated women. It is impossible to prove anything about Henry V’s sex life and I would certainly never argue he was definitely queer. But if we’re going to read so much into the statement that he abstained from sex with women from his coronation to his marriage, a reading that suggests it was because he was asexual or homosexual is just at least as valid as Mortimer’s “he wasn’t a fun person, he hated and feared women” conclusions.

Thirdly, I am a little confused as to why Mortimer gives the report of Henry’s celibacy so much currency. He sources it from a reported conversation between Richard Courtenay (Bishop of Norwich and one of Henry’s closest friends) and a French informant, Jean Fusoris – elsewhere, these conversations as described as Courtenay feeding Fusoris “disinformation”. So why is Courtenay’s statement about Henry’s celibacy singled out as true and accurate, the rest classed as disinformation? To be fair, Mortimer states the Earl of Ormonde also commented about Henry’s celibacy but I haven’t come across the reference before – Mortimer cites Wylie but searching for the reference on online editions of the book haven’t given me any joy yet.

Finally, Mortimer’s arguments around Henry’s lack of sexual activity seem to suggest that the quality of someone’s character is at least partly determined by whether or not they have sex. That people, potentially like Henry, who choose not to have sex or experience very little desire for sex, are inherently “humourless” people with problems with the opposite sex. Frankly, I find this bizarre and offensive without going into the issue of the lack of evidence for such a conclusion.

This celibacy reference also forms part of Mortimer’s belief that Henry V might be classed as having a “difficult relationship” with women, “perhaps even a fear of them”. The other thing that makes up this argument is Henry’s lack of relationships with women. And it’s true – there are very few notable women in Henry V’s reign. This was not necessarily by his choice or by design, saving perhaps his late marriage which was clearly tied to his ambitions in France. We know that he was fairly close to his maternal grandmother, Joan Fitzalan, a fascinating woman in her own right but she’s barely mentioned by Mortimer and, when mentioned in regards to her relationship with Henry, is dismissed as an “older, pious” woman. John Holland – who was executed without a trial on her orders – would probably disagree.

While Mortimer cites a “bad” relationship with Henry’s stepmother as further evidence of his unease with women, we simply don’t know enough to judge Henry’s relationship with any of the women he would have been in contact with without turning to guesswork and supposition. Just because he treated Joanne of Navarre appallingly at the end of his life doesn’t mean he always hated her, as Mortimer presupposes. Relationships break down over time. People change over time. Additionally, I was confused as to why Mortimer mentioned Joanne not residing in Henry’s household as further evidence he hated her? She was a fabulously rich dowager queen, who had her own household from her arrival in England. Why should she reside in her stepson’s household?

The other arguments Mortimer puts forward as evidence of Henry’s “issues” with women are small events – the dismissal of two women petitioning him (details are not given; Vale’s book cites several other cases where Henry granted other women’s petitions) and an edict forbidding women from remaining in his army’s camps. While I very much believe the latter was more about preventing his troops from becoming distracted or undisciplined, it probably had the side effect of preventing or at least limiting the English army from pressing vulnerable women into sexual slavery or prostitution.

I also question whether an author can gain an accurate or worthwhile understanding of an individual by focusing on one (1) year in their life. Mortimer himself acknowledges this in the text and does draw on Henry V’s past and future to make his interpretations more grounded in their context but oddly seems to only focus on Henry’s poorly evidenced childhood in explaining Henry’s character. He claims that Henry’s ambition and sense of vulnerability is drawn from his childhood and the instability caused by Richard II’s refusal to abide by Edward III’s edict that the crown was to go first to Richard and then to John of Gaunt (Henry’s grandfather), and Richard’s seizure of the Lancastrian estates.

I don’t find this remotely plausible. At the time of Henry’s birth in 1386, it must have seemed unlikely that Henry would ever come to the throne and Richard seems to have avoided ever settling the question of who was to be his heir. I doubt that Henry V was brought up believing he was going to be king and if he was, this is not the fault of Richard II but the blind arrogance of his father and/or grandfather.

While the banishment of Henry’s father was no doubt disruptive and frightening for Henry, the deposition of Richard II and the usurpation of Henry IV was probably more damaging in the long run. After all, Henry IV’s return from banishment put Henry V at risk at violent retribution or death before he even turned 13. Not to mention all the rebellions, assassination plots and conflict that followed. If Henry V was overly serious, perhaps we should also look to his teenage years instead of playing guesswork with his childhood years? Yet Mortimer ignores Henry’s formative teenage years by and large in favour of spending so much time on his speculated, unevidenced version of Henry’s childhood. I appreciate Mortimer may not wish to repeat the information he already covered in The Fears of Henry IV too much but it is a serious weakness in his summation of Henry’s character.

This is just a sampling of my issues with Mortimer’s characterisation of Henry V. We know remarkably little about the “real” Henry V and Mortimer’s attempts to define him seem like he’s reading too hard into the evidence to find conclusions that aren’t necessarily there. It is an exercise in speculation that’s often not very logical.

There are also some issues with the history Mortimer presents. He makes much of Richard Courtenay’s burial, stating he was interred in the same coffin as Henry V and this was unusual. Courtenay was, in all likelihood, interred in a separate vault to Henry – accounts of his tomb’s rediscovery and Westminster Abbey’s listing of his tomb locates it as separate from Henry’s. I’m not entirely sure where the claim they shared a tomb comes from though it’s found the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s entry for Courtenay and the current Earl of Devon claims Jonathan Sumption told him this, but it doesn’t seem to be true.

Occasionally, too, Mortimer’s writing verges into narrative history. As noted above, Mortimer has decided on aspects of Henry’s characters and treats them as “factual”. Furthermore, the discussion of Henry Scrope, Baron Scrope of Masham’s role in the Southampton Plot is similarly marred by this – Mortimer has decided that Scrope was innocent but neglects to explain why beyond a vague, short reference to historians being “confused” by his role in the plot.

So, in short, I would say that 1415 is worth reading with several large caveats. I would suggest the reader be aware of the way in which Mortimer writes – it’s emotive and manipulative – and pick up other books about Henry V and Agincourt to gain a more faceted understanding of the king and the battle.
Profile Image for Michael Jecks.
Author 74 books543 followers
February 16, 2012
Ian Mortimer is a one-off. His books of history read like thrillers, and it's impossible to put them down once you've started reading. This is just fabulous - highly recommended!
Profile Image for Betsy.
955 reviews145 followers
March 15, 2022
This book book is about Henry V and the momentous year of 1415. The author doesn't just concentrate on the battle itself, but also on the months leading up to the crossing over to France, the siege of Harfleur, the battle and then the aftermath. England's fight with France was long and hard, but Henry V definitely believed that it was God's will that he prevail. The author finds much to admire about the king, but he was also a remorseless fighter without sense of humor. He had little interest in women, and was not the charming leader of Shakespeare's play.

The first half of the book goes day by day, talking about the great effort to raise money for Henry's campaign. Truthfully, it moves rather slowly as the two countries try to negotiate a peace although the author believes that Henry did not truly want peace. He felt that he should be King of England and France.

In addition, it was a time of religious strife. There were three popes, and the worrisome propblem of heresy. Several religious leaders such as Jan Hus were burnt at the stake. All in all, 1415 proved to be a year of calamity as well as military triumph.

I learned a great deal about this time period. All was not black and white about this Warrior King. He had his glory, but it was short-lived as he died in 1422, leaving a young son to face the tragedy to come.
Profile Image for Carolina Casas.
Author 1 book21 followers
November 3, 2015
This books focuses solely on the year 1415 and gives extensive background on the events that led to the battle of Agincourt. 600 years after the battle, he continues to be revered and hailed as one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived, but behind the legend is a darker person that Mortimer exposes in this book. I would have given it four stars where it not because of the great details and everything that I learned about this book. It is a day by day account that illustrates not just the events in England and France, but in the rest of Europe as well and how these related to Henry's actions. Henry could be your best friend, but he could also be your worst enemy. On the one hand he was very pious and used the bible to condone his actions against the Lollards, and in France, but on the other hand, he was not above violating his holy laws to achieve his means. In an era where kings believed they were semi-divine, Henry V would have used any means at his disposal, if he believed he enjoyed divine favor. However the author spends too much time giving examples of how different (and more terrible) he was from other monarch who, ironically, did the same thing but for some reason he believes they can be excused because they weren't as determined to conquer the kingdom of France as Henry V was.
The battles are explained in great detail, as well as the reasons why Henry V scored a big battle against the French that day, and what propelled him to order the killing of many of his French captives afterwards.
Unlike most books which have a short epilogue of five pages of most, and an Appendix, Mortimer includes very long notes where he explains how he came about in his conclusions. Although he says he doesn't write this book with the intention to convince anyone, he spends a great amount of time stressing how he is right and Henry V is the complete opposite of what Shakespeare portrayed him as in his plays. And I partly agree. He wasn't the great hero of Shakespeare, but going to the other extreme does no one any favors either. He was a monarch of his times, who could be capable of great things, but also of great cruelty and indeed, some of his acts with the Lollards, the French captive demonstrate that and these actions were criticized by some of his contemporaries.
49 reviews2 followers
May 18, 2018
I have read several Ian Mortimer books in the past and have enjoyed his writing. This book was my least favorite. Not because he did not idolize Henry V, I am aware Henry had flaws. I agree that there was no reason to restart the 100 year war. Only led to many years of problems for both England and France.

My biggest problem with this book was the continual comparison and criticism of Henry based on modern moral values. Henry the V lived in the 15th century. He must be just by the values of rulers in the 15th century.

I did enjoy much of the history and details in the book. I have read quite a few books on this period of English history. I was able to learn additional details. Although if you read this book, I recommend reading a few others on Henry V to get a balanced view. To the author's great credit he mentions several additional great books to read.
Profile Image for Gary.
327 reviews5 followers
August 29, 2011
This is a book for dipping into every now and again. I can't read it for long periods as it is actually an almost day by day recounting of what happened in the year 1415, surrounding Henry V. It's very interesting and is written well but it's not a novel and therefore I've got it in the car for reading when I'm waiting to pick my daughter up etc.
Profile Image for Christopher Riley.
24 reviews1 follower
June 1, 2020
A wonderful new way of describing history.

Using the ‘day by day’ calendar model, Mortimer tells a complete story of the most important year in Henry V’s life. Fantastically detailed to point where it can get a little dry but, a thoroughly enjoyable book.

I’m glad that this book doesn’t paint Henry as the near perfect ruler that some historians would have you believe, staying away from the Shakespearean image of the Lancastrian king and focusing purely on what happened not why Henry was so great.

Overall, worth readying if you can get through the slightly boring months of March to July. The Agincourt campaign is brought to live brilliantly and that alone makes this book worth it
Profile Image for Annie.
1,356 reviews4 followers
January 23, 2018
I've been struggling with this book, so I'm giving it up. I'm not sure what the problem is - maybe that he's going day-by-day or maybe there's just too much focus on the church/heretics. I picked up this book to learn about Henry V, not the problem with the popes. Maybe it'll end up being relevant, but I don't really care to find out.
Profile Image for Shanna.
347 reviews9 followers
September 16, 2019
This was my first Ian Mortimer book, and I AM IN LOVE. Ian Mortimer tells Henry V’e story in such an amazing, interesting way. I do recommend this as a read.
Profile Image for Caroline.
717 reviews117 followers
March 23, 2011
Shakespeare has a lot to answer for when it comes to the perception of certain English kings. Shakespeare wrote Richard III as a villain and a villain is how people remember him. He wrote Henry V as the perfect warrior king and again, that's how we remember him. The fact that neither king bore any real relation to Shakespeare's potrayals are almost irrelevant.

Mortimer sets out to portray the real Henry in this book, and by a large he succeeds admirably. He takes a rather unusual form (for history, at least) by following Henry through every single day of this year, and as a result this book draws in far more than just Agincourt and the military prepreations. You see the context Henry was operating in, the way wider events influenced his decisions - most especially you see Henry was preparing for war even whilst he claimed to be negotiating for peace.

The Henry in this book is not Shakespeare's. He is not charming, he is not chivalrous, he is not a marvellous patriot, he is not kind and funny and charitable. The real Henry was ruthless, exceptionally pious, ambitious, determined, and above all, utterly convinced of the rightness of his cause. He was testing himself and his dynasty's legitimacy against God, and that he came through the other side of Agincourt alive and victorious is more down to luck (or as Henry would have claimed, God) than it was to Henry himself.

Mortimer's Henry is, as he himself puts it, less 'England's Golden Boy' than 'Cold Steel'. No worse a king for that, but far from Shakespeare's legend.
Profile Image for Pete daPixie.
1,505 reviews3 followers
October 10, 2011
Another gem from Ian Mortimer. Anyone who holds an interest in medieval historical non-fiction writing cannot find better reading material than this superb quartet, namely; 'The Greatest Traitor:The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer', 'The Perfect King:The Life of Edward III', 'The Fears of Henry IV:The Life of England's Self Made King' and finally this publication of 2009 '1415:Henry V's Year of Glory'.
I just cannot think of another modern historian covering any period of English history that has written with such authority and erudition as Mr Mortimer. Although Henry V's Year of Glory is a day by day study of 1415, it's depth and breadth is quite awesome. The book not only reveals Henry's reign and his character, correcting the romantic imagery of Shakespeare's man and his happy band of brothers, but the author also brings together this momentous years events with the many turbulent socio-political and religious occurrences taking place throughout western Europe.
Here is a world of the Great Religious Scism, with three popes! A civil war in France. A Lollard threat to the church, a century before Luther. A Welsh rebellion led by Glendower. A traitors plot for the English throne. Even a cod war in Iceland.
I can only hope Ian Mortimer continues his series of works onto Henry VI and into the 'Roses', he could replace the Oxford series on his own.
Profile Image for Hyarrowen.
65 reviews2 followers
November 11, 2011
The author of this book, Ian Mortimer, is a once-in-a-generation historian. His approach to history is to see it almost as current events, rather than through the lens of later interpretation. The people he writes about are struggling with their problems in the same way that we, in our present, are struggling with ours; but they're set firmly in the context and attitudes of their own times.

This book is a new departure in historical scholarship - a day-by-day account of the events of that year. Properly it should be devoured in a few sittings, in order to catch the sense of immediacy and of surging events (I didn't manage this!) Here it all is; pretty much everything you need to know about the year in question, nothing added and nothing taken away, as they say. There are entries for almost every day, visits by ambassadors, negotiations, preparations for war, the 'tremendous shock' of the Southampton conspiracy and its aftermath, and of course the Battle of Agincourt itself.

By our standards, historical Henry does not come across as an attractive or admirable character. But by the standards of his time..? To read this book is to live 1415 almost as if in the present; it's mind-stretching stuff.

In short, '1415' is highly recommended!
Profile Image for Brian.
Author 11 books51 followers
March 23, 2014
I found this an interesting read for all sorts of reasons, some of which are irrelevant to the prospective reader. What it is, is a day by day account of the year 1415, detailing what Henry V and the other major players were doing. This is a most unusual approach, and it throws up all sorts of interesting details and snippets which would be excluded from a conventional account. It also gives a flavour of what a king's life was like, and what work landed on his desk each day - albeit this was not a normal year, with Henry preparing for war and them indulging in it.

What did surprise me was Ian Mortimer's verdict on Henry. It was scorching, a list of his tyrannies and unlawful acts, and indeed his hypocrisies. This was a refreshing change from the usual hero-worship accounts of this king, of which I have read so many in the past.

Whatever your opinion of Henry V, I highly recommend this book, as it clarifies what was going on in 1415 far better than any work I have read. Mortimer even manages to make some sense of the Southampton Plot - and I know from experience that that is no mean achievement in itself.
15 reviews
January 19, 2019
Perhaps out of all of Ian Mortimer's works, his analysis of the crucial year of Henry V's reign is likely to be the most divisive among those who like his work. Partly, this might be because of his comparatively harsh criticism of Henry as an individual and as a character, but more likely because of his approach to the narrative, foregoing traditional biography for a more risky play-by-play account of the year and the preparations for Agincourt, as well as goings on in the French Court and the Council of Constance. To Mortimer's credit, he pulls this off with aplomb, but it still raises interesting questions about how we view history and how best to present it (as Mortimer acknowledges himself).

As always, Mortimer's books dazzle due to their combination of narrative, analysis, explanation and research, and this is no exception. For all that a book which focuses as much on preparations for a campaign as it does on the actual fighting, he manages to inject enough analysis and interest into passages to keep interest, and his work on linking the three threads of the narrative together (especially the significance of the council of Constance, which was a surprising and interesting inclusion) is equally insightful. His accounts of events and ability to pick out the small details to back up his analysis is excellent and the mark of an insightful historian, and it certainly brings forward his view of Henry as a very different character than the hero of Shakespeare's play.

The format of the work will, of course, lead to some division as to whether it works or not, something with the author picks apart with admirable self-awareness in his conclusion (something well worth reading). It's fair to say that, at times, the focus on the minutiae can become a little too focused on some of the dryer facts with obscure names dipping in and out, but when viewed as a larger whole, it gives a fascinating account into how 15th Century England was run, and how different such an organisation and government was from our country today. Especially when taking into account quite how short Henry V's reign actually was, and how long he spent on campaigns in France, the format is probably just as apt as the traditional narrative format for looking at Henry as an individual and as a king, and it's also worth reading his notes to get a wider idea of the value of being experimental when writing and studying history.

All in all, Mortimer's work is another excellent addition to his collection, and an interesting subversion both of our usual take on Henry V as an idea king and leader, and of how history and biography can and should be read. While it does occasionally suffer from some dry parts or a desire to get to the good bits, with a bit of patience and the right mindset this can be a very rewarding read.
21 reviews
February 4, 2022
Tedious.

I'm starting with tedious, but let me explain. After reading Ian Mortimer's takes on Edward III and Henry IV I was excited to continue on with his look at Henry V and more specifically the year leading up to and including the battle of Agincourt. Mortimer's approach is very literal - he provides a virtual day-by-day account starting on Christmas of 2014 and finishing in December of the following year, after the Battle was complete.

Though Henry V is seen as one of the greatest kings of England, like the rest of us plebians it would seem that from day to day his life is rather ordinary and though the author makes a valiant attempt to recount the daily events of the year, the fact is most daily events in Henry's world were pretty darn boring. Between recounting the minutiae of daily life and some entire parallel storylines like the Council of Constance, a lot of times it wasn't evident what point the author was trying to make by recounting some of these events and it wasn't (and still isn't) clear how some events materially connected to the larger arc.

This said, with chapters laid out according to the months of the year, it wasn't until August that things started to pick up and coalesce and then finally September and October, when the battle itself took place were finally engrossing in true Mortimer style.

However, the most revelatory part of the entire book was the conclusion, where Mortimer explained both his approach and his conclusions about Henry himself. To paraphrase, it would seem that Mortimer wanted to present the events of the year nakedly to avoid bias and to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions about Henry. The problem in my view, as a layperson, is that it was very difficult on my own to stitch together the string of infinitesimal details into a coherent thesis - it just isn't apparent while reading what many of these things 'meant'. By way of example, the council of Constance is discussed in detail throughout the year, and while the trial(s) and ultimate execution of Jan Hus are interesting in their own right, it was difficult to understand how this arc served the larger narrative about Henry. Candidly, even with the author's explanation at the end it still seems tangentially related to Mortimer's ultimate conclusions about Henry.

This was a frustrating read that I often thought about just setting aside, unfinished. But in the end, I would say it was a worthwhile read. It definitely became more engaging in the final third, but the conclusion is what redeemed the book for me. Mortimer really has something to say and while I think the concept of a day-by-day account of 1415 didn't really work here, you can't fault Mortimer's logic for trying and I can certainly appreciate how he came to his conclusions about Henry.
Profile Image for Henry Davis IV.
192 reviews3 followers
February 17, 2021
This superbly written yet very different addition to Ian Mortimer's excellent library of works is definitely for the dedicated history fan. In this book, Mortimer performs a bit of a literary experiment. Although he is a professional historian, Mortimer's appreciation of various literary forms has led him to look beyond dry, sterile academic writing and use his superior research and analytical skills to bring not only interesting narratives, but also good, well studied history to new, wider audiences. Unfortunately, this particular book tries out a very challenging style that literally looks at each day of the year 1415. While not every day can be examined due to a lack of sources, this methodical approach sheds new light on well accepted timelines as well as highlighting gaps which, using any other literary or research style, would not be apparent to even seasoned historians. If one wants to truly understand Henry V as a person, this book is an absolutely necessary addition to their list. If one wants to understand Henry V's over-all accomplishments, this book will deliver in the conclusion's exceptional analysis. Unfortunately, this great conclusion can only mention many of the famous and infamous actions of Henry's reign. To get details, one must find other sources. One enduring strength of this and other works by Mortimer, though, continues to be his ability to present his thesis and then turn around and present a very effective counter thesis to let readers weigh the issues at hand and make their own decision. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well written and researched history, anyone interested in the House of Lancaster or its times, and anyone who considers themselves a historian by either training or interest. Ian Mortimer is one of the best historians of our time and, regardless of your period of interest, subtly brings you into his wonderous classroom for a lesson or two with every book.
Profile Image for Aidan.
55 reviews
August 31, 2021
Different look and take on Henry V and his Agincourt campaign.

Although there are chapters in the beginning and end that talk more broadly about events before and after 1415, the majority of the book centres on Henry V in that year and his preparations for invading France. Each chapter is one month of the year, with the chapters themselves made up of dates which chronicle important matters that happened on that specific day. This could be something as short as payments made to individuals which could be a short paragraph, to the actual Battle of Agincourt itself, on 25th October, which takes up about 30 pages.

Anyone who has read another non-fiction history book will likely need some time to adjust to Mortimer’s way of retelling Henry’s 1415 year, due to the narrative calendar form. However, if you can get used to it soon enough then it does become an easier read. Although this allows him to include details that a normal narrative book on Henry V and Agincourt would likely leave out, or not be able to mention, Mortimer has more time to develop the preparations for the campaign, which were considerable. While the details can sometimes be great, other times they can seem a hinderance in the overall narrative of Henry and his campaign.

While it offers a detailed read and analysis of what life would have been like at the time, both in England and France, which any Medieval enthusiast would appreciate, sometimes you find yourself reading about events of days you simply don’t really care for as much as Henry’s political and military dealings, the Council of Constance or the rift developing in within the French nobility. Overall, though, this was an informative read that reiterates why Henry V is greatly remembered and provides a different way at viewing the man, as well as the year, even if some parts were stronger than others.
Profile Image for Mercedes Rochelle.
Author 13 books135 followers
February 21, 2022
Let me start by saying I usually enjoy Ian Mortimer’s books and read them two or three times. Not this one! He tried a new format which he told us in his Conclusion was designed to give us a better picture of Henry’s intentions. This was done by following his actions day-to-day rather than giving us a broad view like most histories. Unfortunately, I found this approach disastrous. Because he could only cover each particular day’s events at a time, the story lines were disjointed, interrupting each other and picking up the thread at a later date. Many of the days were concerned with raising money, much attention was given to the council of Constance and the papal schism, and we also have the trial and execution of Jan Hus for heresy. Since the siege of Harfleur didn’t take place until August, that’s a lot of “filler” for the reader chomping at the bit to get to the good stuff. I found myself skimming whole days, which certainly defeats the purpose of this book’s structure. Once I got to the battle of Agincourt, I enjoyed Mortimer’s usual style and interpretation, but this is naturally only a small portion of the book. It’s obvious that the author did a tremendous amount of research, but much of it had less bearing on the man and more bearing on the overall events of the year. I find it ironic that the sub-title of this book is “Henry V’s Year of Glory” when the conclusion drawn by the author is of a deeply flawed man who “mortgaged his future and that of his descendants” in order to “prove the right of the Lancastrians to occupy the throne of England”. It was all done to prove to himself and world that God was with him. I actually agree with Mortimer’s assessments and wish he had written this book in a more traditional manner.
Profile Image for Desirae.
1,898 reviews139 followers
December 13, 2022
et me start by saying that the format of this book about the golden boy of fourteenth century Europe did not work. Mortimer tried a new format which he told us in his Conclusion was designed to give us a better picture of Henry’s intentions. This was done by following his actions day-to-day rather than giving us a broad view like most histories. Unfortunately, I found this approach disastrous. Because he could only cover each particular day’s events at a time, the story lines were disjointed, interrupting each other and picking up the thread at a later date. Many of the days were concerned with raising money, much attention was given to the council of Constance and the papal schism, and we also have the trial and execution of Jan Hus for heresy. Since the siege of Harfleur didn’t take place until August, that’s a lot of “filler” for the reader chomping at the bit to get to the good stuff. I found myself skimming whole days, which certainly defeats the purpose of this book’s structure. Once I got to the battle of Agincourt, I enjoyed Mortimer’s usual style and interpretation, but this is naturally only a small portion of the book. It’s obvious that the author did a tremendous amount of research, but much of it had less bearing on the man and more bearing on the overall events of the year. I find it ironic that the sub-title of this book is “Henry V’s Year of Glory” when the conclusion drawn by the author is of a deeply flawed man who “mortgaged his future and that of his descendants” in order to “prove the right of the Lancastrians to occupy the throne of England”. It was all done to prove to himself and world that God was with him. I actually agree with Mortimer’s assessments and wish he had written this book in a more traditional manner.
January 30, 2023
Fascinating read, I love all things Henry V. Mortimer is as ever intensely diligent with loads of useful facts and fun details. Detracting a star because as usual he tends to come to false conclusions or unlikely ones. A couple major points:
1) he states Henry had two star charts and therefore had an interest in astrology. However there’s no evidence of Henry ever consulting an astrologer. There is evidence of Henry’s close friend, Courtenay, buying him star charts as a part of a spying mission. Which would mean Henry had the things because his friend gave them to him.
2) Mortimer states Henry was enthusiastic about hunting because he ordered crossbows. We don’t have any evidence Henry took the time to hunt. Not a well drawn conclusion.
3) Mortimer gets points for being one of the only historian to mention that Henry had Courtenay buried with him, but he chalks it up to ‘grief and shock’ that it’s not suitable. Well Henry left it that way for the rest (7yrs) of his life so I’d say he was quite definite on the decision.
67 reviews1 follower
April 9, 2022
Remarkable study of the year that led to Agincourt

lan Mortimer offers a refreshing new take on the events and personalities behind the war launched by Henry V in 1415. He provides a meticulous day-by-day reconstruction of Henry's activities, the internal struggles of the French court, and the Catholic conclave at Constance that attempted to address the rift within the Church and fend off the heresies of Wycliffe and Hus. Mortimer is able to provide many insights into Henry's character, his mode of rule, and his preparations for war, many derived from careful scrutiny of the surviving account books, which, he archly observes, unlike the tales of bards and chroniclers, do not lie. Informative and educational as well as entertaining, while meticulous in its methods and respect for and careful treatment of evidence.

Profile Image for Kylie Shannon.
12 reviews2 followers
January 5, 2020
I picked up this book because I have always been intrigued by Henry V and his infamous battle at Agincourt. This book was not what I expected but was still quite enjoyable. Mortimer goes day by day through Henry's life, showing each detail that led up to the famous battle and the aftermath thereof. This at times can seem a little tedious and sometimes heavy, but it shows overall just how much truth is behind the myth of Henry V being one of the best English kings. Mortimer does a great job at describing what is happening during the novel. At times, it's almost like you are there with Henry. It is very well researched as well. Would recommend to anyone who is looking to delve a little more into Henry V's history.
Profile Image for E Stanton.
252 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2022
This was an excellent and unique work of history. Starting at the Christmas day feast in 1414, the book went through all available records on a day by day basis for the year 1415. Of course the high point of the year is the Battle of Agincourt. A battle with little meaning strategically, but outsized meaning in establishing certain facts of English History and culture. The daily account gives us a real inside look at the character of the King, from his religiosity to his obvious desire for war. The Book also gives us a daily account of the Council of Constance and the acceptance of by the powers of Europe of England as its own nation state, especially after Agincourt. Recommend to all my history nerd friends
28 reviews
November 19, 2019
There are admittedly moments when you have to slog through lists, and the presentation of prices down to the shilling and pence seem needlessly precise, but...
Mortimer's choice to present an almost day-by-day history of Henry V's most famous year puts a whole new framework around the victories at Harfleur and Agincourt. Seeing the amount of planning and financing that were put in motion, and which still weren't enough to cover all the delays, was a lesson not so much learned as experienced as daily maneuvers were mapped out. I also very much liked how Mortimer linked Henry's French policy with the events at the church council in Constance. That opened new doors of understanding for me.
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