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Siege of Harfleur

Siege of Harfleur
Part of the Hundred Years' War
Date18 August–22 September 1415
Location
Coordinates: 49°29′39″N 0°08′20″E / 49.49417°N 0.13889°E / 49.49417; 0.13889
Result English victory
Territorial
changes
Harfleur annexed by England
Belligerents
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg Kingdom of England France moderne.svg Kingdom of France
Commanders and leaders
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg Henry V
Arms of Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence.svg Thomas, Duke of Clarence
Blason Famille Estouteville.svg Jean d'Estouteville
Blason de Gaucourt.png Raoul de Gaucourt
Strength
2,000 men-at-arms
6,000 archers
100 initially
300 reinforcements
Casualties and losses
More than 1,000[1] Unknown

The siege of Harfleur (18 August 1415 – 22 September 1415) was successfully undertaken by the English in Normandy, France, during the Hundred Years' War. It was the first major military action in the Lancastrian War, the third and last phase of the century-long conflict. The siege ended when the French port of Harfleur surrendered to the English.

Background

Henry V of England invaded France following the failure of negotiations with the French. He claimed the title of King of France through his great-grandfather Edward III, although in practice the English kings were generally prepared to renounce this claim if the French would acknowledge the English claim on Aquitaine and other French lands (the terms of the Treaty of Bretigny).[2] He initially called a great council in the spring of 1414 to discuss going to war with France, but the lords insisted that he should negotiate further and moderate his claims. In the following negotiations Henry said that he would give up his claim to the French throne if the French would pay the 1.6 million crowns outstanding from the ransom of John II (who had been captured at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356), and concede English ownership of the lands of Normandy, Touraine, Anjou, Brittany and Flanders, as well as Aquitaine. Henry would marry Princess Catherine, the young daughter of Charles VI, and receive a dowry of 2 million crowns. The French responded with what they considered the generous terms of marriage with Princess Catherine, a dowry of 600,000 crowns, and an enlarged Aquitaine. By 1415 negotiations had ground to a halt, with the English claiming that the French had mocked their claims and ridiculed Henry himself.[3] In December 1414, the English Parliament was persuaded to grant Henry a "double subsidy", a tax at twice the traditional rate, to recover his inheritance from the French. On 19 April 1415, Henry again asked the great council to sanction war with France, and this time they agreed.[4]

Invasion and preparations

On Tuesday 13 August 1415 Henry V of England landed at Chef-en-Caux in the Seine estuary. Then he attacked Harfleur with 2000 men-at-arms and 6,000 bowmen. The French garrison of 100 men was reinforced by two experienced knights, the Sieur d'Estouteville and the Sieur de Gaucourt, who arrived with a further 300 men-at-arms and took command.[citation needed]

Investment and siege

On the 18 August, Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence, led part of the army to set up camp on the far east side of the town. This meant that the town was invested and a French relief convoy, bearing supplies of guns, powder, arrows and crossbows was captured.[citation needed]

Details of the siege are not well known but seem to have followed the standard pattern of siege warfare in the Late Middle Ages. After the walls had been seriously damaged by the twelve great guns and other traditional artillery of the English siege train, Henry planned a general assault one month to the day that the town had been enveloped. But the town's commanders asked for a parley and terms were agreed that if the French army did not arrive before 23 September, the town would surrender to the English.[citation needed]

Harfleur yielded to the invaders on 22 September. The knights were released on parole to gather ransom, and those townspeople who were prepared to swear allegiance to Henry were allowed to remain, while the rest were ordered to depart.[citation needed]

Aftermath

During the siege, the English army had been hard hit by dysentery (then known as the "bloody flux") which continued to affect them after the siege ended. It is possible that Henry lost between a quarter and a third of his men to dysentery as a result of the siege.[5] Henry left a small garrison in the town and on Monday 8 October set out with the rest of his army to go to Calais. He searched for an undefended or weakly defended bridge or ford on the Somme river, hoping to slip past the French army unnoticed, but although he crossed the Somme he failed to evade the French army and was forced to fight the battle of Agincourt.[citation needed]

In popular culture

As it forms a crucial episode in William Shakespeare's play, Henry V, the siege is portrayed in all cinematic adaptations, including the 1944 film by Laurence Olivier, the 1989 film by Kenneth Branagh, the 2012 television film, as well as the 2019 film by David Michôd. It is also fictionally portrayed in the historical novel Azincourt (2008) as well as the children's novel My Story: A Hail of Arrows: Jenkin Lloyd, Agincourt, France 1415, and the Danish novel The Highest Honour (2009) by Susanne Clod Pedersen.

Notes

References

  • Barker, Juliet (2005). Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle [US title: Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England]. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-72648-1.

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