Arms and the Man, part 3.”Well mounted, armed and arrayed…”

“Thomas shall be obliged to be ready at the sea coast with his men well mounted, armed and arrayed as appropriate to their rank…” Henry V, in his letter of indenture to Thomas Chaucer, April 29, 1415. 

Due to the stipulations of the indenture contract, all retinue captains were in charge of arming and suppling their promised troops. This meant supplying armor, armaments, horses, and other supplies so that the army would be well equipped and ready to fight once they had made landing in France.

Previously we discussed the arms and armor possibly used by Chaucer, this would be relatively the same for the 12 Men-at-Arms in his retinue, his archers however, would be relegated to different types of armor and weapons.

The Arms and Armor used by the “lower ranks” of the Archers varied, and would have been highly dependent on a number of factors. Financial means of the archer themselves, but also the financial means of those they contracted to serve under. An archer for a wealthy noble may have been afforded use of arms and armor that one of a lesser gentry would not have had access to.

For the purpose of this article, we shall look at it through the lens of a Living History interpreter, and offer up what would have been the most commonly used equipment across the economic spectrum.

We will also weigh expectations of what an archer would have been equipped with per mandates from earlier eras of the Hundred Years War, as well as what other European military entities required of their soldiers.



A History of Mandates

While no standing mandate exists on how England equipped their archer’s in 1415 there are previous mandates from earlier in the Hundred Years War, and mandates from other close countries such as Scotland. Most of these mandates are income based, requiring men with possessions equalling a specific amount to be equipped in a certain way.
Others detail only the clothing to be worn, but not the armor or weapons to be used.


The Armor of an Archer

While it is believed the majority of the archers  would have had very little in means of armor, we know that those under the employ of specifically wealthy captains may have had access to better equipment. Henry V wanted a mobile, and well equipped army that would be able to withstand an assault by the French.  Archers in England were an investment, though it was most possible that retinue captains would have only supplied the bare minimum in way of gear as to maximize their own profit.

It’s generally thought that an archer would have had a at least a thick padded jack or aketon, or gambeson, and some form of helmet. We will break down some of the most common helmets shown later.

Throughout the history of the Hundred Years War there had been mandates written, one of the Earliest being the Statute of Winchester, devised by Edward I  and Robert Burnell the Lord Chancellor of England in 1285.  This is itself was an updating of the 1181 THE Assize of Arms mandated by Henry II. While these are much earlier than the Agincourt campaign, a whole 130 years prior to be exact, and not specifically for military muster, it gives us a great baseline as to what would have been required at certain income levels.


  1. Whoever possesses one knight’s fee shall have a shirt of mail, a helmet, a shield, and a lance; and every knight shall have as many shirts of mail, helmets, shields, and lances as he possesses knight’s fees in demesne.
  2. Moreover, every free layman who possesses chattels or rents to the value of 16m. shall have a shirt of mail, a helmet, a shield, and a lance; and every free layman possessing chattels or rents to the value of 10m. shall have a hauberk, an iron cap, and a lance.
  3. Item, all burgesses and the whole community of freemen shall have [each] a gambeson, an iron cap, and a lance.
  4. Besides, each of them shall swear to have these arms before the feast of St. Hilary, to be faithful to the lord king Henry — namely, the son of the Empress Matilda — and to bear these arms in his service according to his command and in fealty to the lord king and his kingdom. And henceforth no one having these arms shall sell them or pledge them or lend them or alienate them in any other way; nor shall a lord in any way alienate them from his men, either through forfeiture or through gift or through pledge or in any other way.
  5. If any one having these arms dies, his arms shall remain to his heir. If, however, the heir is not of age to use arms in time of need, that person who has wardship over him shall also have custody of the arms and shall find a man who can use the arms in the service of the lord king until the heir is of age to bear arms, and then he shall have them.
  6. Any burgess who has more arms than he ought to have by this assize shall sell them, or give them away, or in some way alienate them to such a man as will keep them for the service of the lord king of England. And none of them shall keep more arms than he ought to have by this assize.
  7. Item, no Jew shall keep in his possession a shirt of mail or a hauberk, but he shall sell it or give it away or alienate it in some other way, so that it shall remain in the king’s service.
  8. Item, no one shall carry arms out of England except by the command of the lord king: no one is to sell arms to another to carry out of England; nor shall a merchant or any other man carry them out of England.
  9. Item, the justices shall have [a report] sworn by lawful knights, or by other free and lawful men of the hundreds and neighbourhoods and boroughs — as many as they see fit to employ — as to what persons possess chattels to the amount that they should have a shirt of mail, a helmet, a lance, and a shield according to what has been provided; so that they shall separately name for those [justices] all men of their hundreds and neighbourhoods and boroughs who are worth 16m. in either chattels or rents, and likewise those who are worth 10m. And then the justices shall have written down [the names of] all those jurors and other men, [recording] how much in chattels or rents they [each] have and what arms, according to the value of the chattels or rents, they should [each] have. Then, in their presence and in a common assembly of those men, they shall have read this assize regarding the possession of arms, and they shall have those men swear to have arms according to the value of the aforesaid chattels or rents, and to keep them for the service of the lord king according to this aforesaid assize, under the command of and in fealty to the lord king Henry and his kingdom. If, moreover, it should happen that any one of them, who ought to have these arms, is not in the county during the period when the justices are in that county, the justices shall set a time for him [to appear] before them in another county. And if he does not come to them in any county through which they are to go, and is not in that land [at all], they shall set him a time at Westminster toward the octave of St. Michael; so that, as he loves his life and all that he has, he shall be there for swearing his oath. And they shall command him, before the aforesaid feast of St. Hilary, to have arms according to the obligation resting on him.
  10. Item, the justices shall have proclamation made in the counties through which they are to go that, with respect to those who do not have such arms as have been specified above, the lord king will take vengeance, not merely on their lands or chattels, but on their limbs.
  11. Item, no one who does not possess 16m. [as specified above] or 10m. in chattels is to swear concerning free and lawful men.
  12. Item, the justices shall command through all the counties that no one, as he loves his life and all that he has, shall buy or sell any ship to be taken away from England, and that no one shall carry any timber or cause it to be carried out of England. And the lord king commands that no one shall be received for the oath concerning arms unless he is a freeman.



“It is likewise commanded that every man have in his house arms for keeping the peace in accordance with the ancient assize; namely that every man between fifteen years and sixty be assessed and sworn to arms according to the amount of his lands and, of his chattels; that is to say,

  • for fifteen pounds of land, and, forty marks worth of chattels, a hauberk, a helmet of iron, a sword, a knife and a horse;
  • for ten pounds worth of land and, twenty marks worth of chattels, a haubergeon, a helmet, a sword and a knife; for a hundred shillings worth of land, a doublet,4 a helmet of iron, a sword and a knife;
  • for forty shillings worth of land and over, up to a hundred shillings worth, a sword, a bow, arrows and a knife;
  • and he who has less than forty shillings worth of land shall be sworn to have scythes. gisarrnes, knives and other small weapons;
  • he who has less than twenty marks in chattels, swords, knives and other small weapons.
  • And all others who can do so shall have bows and arrows outside the forests and within them bows and bolts.”

It was around this same time that Edward I also banned all sports on Sunday except the practice or Archery (c. 1314). This mandate would be renewed by Edward II, III, Richard II, Henry IV and V.  Though the extent to which this order was followed is murky at best.

Yet again, this is not dissimilar to an Array Order at Cornwall, dated 1322, from Edward II. The array ordered all Cornish militia to be “armati” meaning to possess protective armour: the instructions to the Cornish arrayers specified a “padded tunic, light helmet, iron glove and a suit of clothing. ”  (BL Stowe Ms. 553, ff. 82v, 81r ) This can be interpreted as a gambeson, “iron hat”, and gauntlets.

Specifically, beginning in the reign of Edward II, as noted in Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II: vol. 3 & 4 and Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London 1314-1337,  Edward III piked up his fathers want of a “well armed” array, we see that gambesons/aketons  and “iron hats” (again specifically bascinets) have become the standard minimum armor to be suppled to troops.  And as we go deeper into Edward III reign, these start to be replaced by the mandate of iron gloves (gauntlets), and mail hauberk or pair of plates.

This is not all together terribly different than what James I of Scotland mandated his troops be equipped with sometime between 1406 and 1420, pictured below, though toward the end reign of Edward III into Richard II and Henry IV we tend to see specifics on armor reduced to terms such as “appropriately,” or “sufficiently” armed. Because of the standards set in place by Edward II and III. 

Screen Shot 2019-01-30 at 3.26.49 PM

Heron, Robert. A New General History of Scotland from the Earliest Times. Vol 5 Part 1, p.86

And all of this stays inline with accounts of the English from after Agincourt:

“There is hardly any without a helmet, and none without bows and arrows: their bows and arrows are thicker and longer than those used by other nations, just as their bodies are thicker and stronger than other people’s, for they seem to have hands and arms of iron. The range of their bows is no less than that of our crossbows; there hangs by the side of each a sword no less long than ours, but heavy and thick as well. The sword is always accompanied by an iron buckler…

…They do not wear any metal armour on their breasts or any other part of the body, except for the nobles who have cuirasses and complete armour…”

Italian writer Dominic Mancini, describing the troop-movements of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, into London in 1483)


**Many believe that this description of “do not wear any metal armour on their breasts,” to mean lack of any form of defense. I do not believe this to be the case as I will expand on below.


As I’ve discussed before in an earlier post, England by the time of Henry V, had moved away from the Array method of troop conscription, and onto the Contract of Indenture.  Where troops enlisted with a retinue for an agreed upon payment amount. Retinue heads contracted with the crown, but like the array system were in charge of making sure their promised troops were equipped appropriately for their rank. To the extent this was followed, is open to interpretation, but its fairly safe to say that some were better equipped than others.

Following this thread of mandated gear, to be supplied to the soldier by the arrayer, or even by the Contractee of Indenture in later times, the accounts of Burgundian chronicler Jean Le Fèvre de Saint-Remy and French chronicler Enguerrand de Monstrelet seem rather disingenuous in stating the English archers wore “no armor.” The theory has been posited, especially by some attitudes in the chronicles of  Froissart, that becuase the archers were seen as an inferior class, and not as-well-armored as the heavily armored Men-at-Arms, that they were simply regarded as “unarmored.”

We will continue on this thread of thought, using the information above to piece together “probable” armor for the archer/infantry, with understanding that the more armor afforded means a portrayal of a higher economic class.


Arms of the Man, part 2: Armaments

**Special Thanks to Albion Swords for the use of their Oakeshott Typology Illustrations. A breakdown of the complete typology with illustrations can be found at**


Now that we have a baseline of possible armor worn by Chaucer, we can continue along with possible weapons.

Due to the statutes of the contract, each man in a company was required to supply their own arms, or be supplied by their captain. This opens up a range of weaponry. Swords, Axes, Polearms and Lances being the most commonly used in this era.

With to the advancement of armor technology by this time in the Hundred Years War the use of shields on foot had declined exponentially, thus giving rise to the use of two handed weaponry such as the long sword, and pole-axe/hammer.

The Longsword:
Swords of the medieval era, have always been associated with war.  They were instruments of battle, and a status symbol of the military class.  While the primary weapons used were most likely poll arms and lances, the sword was still a necessary tool to have on the battlefield.

While the term “longsword” is a fairly ambiguous descriptor, for this time period  it is generally used to describe five styles of swords from the Oakeshott Typology. The XVa, the XVIa, the XVII, the XVIIIa, and the XVIIIc.
These four styles are the most commonly depicted in Art and Effigy, and were in use through the 14th century leading up to, and the 15th century after Agincourt. There are certainly other depictions of what we call a Longsword, but for our purposes we will only be focusing on these 4.

Each of these swords have similarities in their construction that make them suited for use against heavily armored targets.

They are all:

  • between 28 inches and 36 inches in length. (With the XVIIa reaching as long as 42 inches in some cases)
  • have a grip length suitable to hand and a half to two handed use. (+5 to 9 inches in length. 10 inches in some few cases)
  • stout, sharply tapering points (sometimes reenforced)  used for trhusting and prying.


From shortest to longest average length, they look like this:

Average length 32 inches.
Slowly tapered, with stout point.
Grip 6 to 9 inches
Primary purpose: thrusting while retaining good cutting edge.
These were seen more commonly in the early 14th century, but some cases were seen up to the mid 15th.


Average length 33 inches.
Strongly tapered, with sharp point.
Grip 7 to 10 inches.
Primary purpose: thrusting.
Seen from the end of the 13th century to the beginning of 16th century with different hilt configurations following style.

Average 34inches
Slow taper to sharp point.
Grip 6 to 8 inches.
Primary purpose: cutting and thrusting
Seen “Early” Mid 15th to Mid 16th centuries.
*Caveat- This illustration is shown with a curved “S” type guard. This guard wasn’t in fashion at the time of the Agincourt campaign, becoming more in style in the 1430+ period. The XVIIIc of the early 15th century is seen with a more standard cruciform hilt with slight downturns at the ends of the quillions.  As seen in the Albion “Alexandira.”

Average length 35 inches.
Slender blade with sharp taper.
Grip 7 to 9 inches.
Primary purpose: thrusting.
Seen from the Mid 14th to Mid 15th centuries.

Average 36  inches. Up to 42 inches.
Slow taper to sharp point.
Grip 6 to 9 inches.
Primary purpose: cutting and thrusting.
Seen from the Mid 14th to Early 15th Centuries.
It may have also been seen closer to the configuration of its cousin the XVIIIb. Which is similar in the build. With a more acute point, and longer on average grip. These are generally dated fro the Mid 15th to Early 16th.



The most widely depicted foot combat weapon of the Hundred Years War is the pole-axe or pole-hammer, sometimes referred to as the “War Hammer.”

Pole-axes were designed specifically to be used against heavily armored combatants, with hafts long enough to reach them if they be on horse, yet not so cumbersome to affect their use on foot.

Again, designed for function, they had some common traits:

  • Haft lengths between 5 and 7 feet.
  • Axe heads of this era were generally more crescent in shape, than the later straight cleaver axe head of later poleaxes.
  • Axe or Hammer head on one side, Spike or Axe head on reverse side.
  • May have top spike.
  • May have “butt” spike or iron cap on end of haft.

While the axe of hammer head was used to deliver crushing blows to their opponents, the spike ends were designed to take advantage of the weak spots of the armor. The Armpit, Buttocks or any gaps. Such as the oculars of the visor. While the haft could be used for tripping, striking, pinning or fouling ones opponent.


Poleaxe. Circa 1400-1430 The Wallace Collection. London. 

1 of 2. A poleax at the Art Institute Chicago

Bec de Corbin (Raven’s Beak) Art Institute of Chicago


The Lance:

While the lance is primarily associated with being used while on horseback, and I have already stated that by this time the English were a foot-combat orientated force, we have record of Henry ordering his army NOT to shorten their lances, which gave the English an advantage over the French who had cut theirs down to a more manageable length.  This is notable, because it had been an English trait to cut their lances down for foot combat throughout the 14th century.

Froissart, in his work Les Chroniques de Froissart, gives detail on how the French cut their lances to a length of 5 feet. ”

"All who had 
lances were to cut them down to a length of five feet, in order 
to make handier weapons of them" 
- Froissart's Chronicles Book, 1 pg 129. 

This would have given the English a considerable reach advantage of at least 5 to 9 feet.

**In full disclosure, there are some issues with this measurement, though it is the best lead we have to go on.

  • We do not know if 5 feet was the common practice.
  • Froissart has a tendency to be wrong with numbers, though this one is not outside the realm of possibility.
  • He was referring to the Battle of Poitiers, not Agincourt, 59 years prior.

However, this does give use an assumed baseline. **

War lances were different from their sport counterpart.

In jousting competitions, lances usually had a blunted Coronel, or tip, while War lances had sharpened tips.  The jousting lance could be equipped with a vamplate, a cone shaped plate designed to protect the hand and help maximize force for unseating an opponent. A War lance was usually just a long straight haft, resembling a spear or pike in its construction.

Modern tournament lance with blunted Coronel and Vamplate.

While there were other forms of weaponry in use, the above list gives us a rundown on the most commonly used by Men-at-Arms an the Knightly Class during this period.

Arms of the Man, part 1

Before delving into this matter, I would like to thank amateur historian Ian Laspina of Knyght Errant ( for his assistance as a sounding board.

While it is impossible to know exactly what equipment Chaucer would have armed and armored himself with, (barring the discovery of a detailed manifest for his expedition)  we can extrapolate a plausible idea based on his social status, rank, and income level.

Chaucer was an Esquire. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition defines “esquire” as such:


(ĕs′kwīr′, ĭ-skwīr′)

n. 1. man or boy who is a member of the gentry in England ranking directly below a knight.

Esquires were frequently of families of knightly rank, of a wealth capable of affording the arms of a knight but who had thus far not been advanced to knightly status. Seeing Chaucer’s decades long service, and familial connection, to the Crown it is interesting to note that he was never knighted by Henry IV or Henry V. In fact he chose to pay a £5 fee annually to be exempt from knighthood.
Chaucer could most definitely have afforded the rank, and would have been able to outfit himself as an Esquire quite well. History of Parliament Online shows that by the Agincourt campaign Chaucer had an annual income of at least £200. This is only from listed incomes. This does not include his stipend for being Chief Butler, salaries for being a soldier, nor chief forester of two districts, rents on a few properties such as the income of his estate Ewelme, nor inheritance from his father. It most certainly does not include the inheritance from his wife Matilda (Maude) Burghersh second daughter and coheiress of Sir John Burghersh, or other investments that could very well have put him at at least £400 annually.  I am being conservative on this amount. It very well may have been more in the £700 per year ballpark, but that would be due mostly to familial connections to the Plantagenets and inheritances but I cannot corroborate this assumption.
There is one account that shows Chaucer was owed approximately £2,800 from the crown for wine purchased for troops. And an additional £535 for a loan to the crown.
It is safe to say that for his time Chaucer had a considerable income.
This income level would have allowed Chaucer to outfit himself fitting his station, and rivaling his contemporaries. We see this in his funeral effigy.

Thomas Chaucer, d. 1434

This effigy of Chaucer is dated from 1433, a year before his death in 1434. It shows him equipped in the style of the time, and it does not differ much from what would have been considered a nouveau style in 1415. The main differences being the slightly extended fauld and the oblong besagews (armpit protection) However, since we do not have record of his actual armor or gear we will assemble a gamut of styles Chaucer could have worn on campaign.


From the skin out.

Underneath the arming garments, there would have been the base layer, or “underwear” of a linen shirt, linen braes (like boxer shorts) with points for the chuasses (think footed leggings that some to the hip,) these were usually wool or silk, with some scant evidence for them being linen as well.
There is some evidence that joined hosen may have started to be worn around the 1390/1400 mark.


A good foundation.


Plate armour functions best when it is worn over a foundation of solid arming garments. These garments were designed to hold the armour close to the body, distributing the 50 to 70 pound  load over the entire frame of the wearer, and letting it move in sync like a second skin.
Gone were the bulky gambesons of the 14th century, being replaced with tighter, thinner arming jackets/doublets. These jackets often had laces or “points” attached at the shoulder, upper arm, and at the waist for tying or “pointing” armour pieces to.
Note: At this point in time is it generally believed that the arming doublet had NOT yet been adapted to suspend the leg harness.  See Lendenier information below.Often they had lacing holes to tie segments of mail directly to the jacket. This practice became more popular in the second half of the 15th century, as full shirts became to bulky to wear under the plate.


Section of a 1403 Manuscript painting showing the thinner arming jacket after removing the maille shirt.


A 1435 illustration showing the points at the upper arm and and hips.

For suspending the leg harness, they may have worn a separate garment known as a Lendenier, or “Arming Girdle”
The arming girdle is a wide quilted fabric belt, which helps distribute the weight of the leg harness over the hips and lower torso.
First mention of the Lendenier is from Heinrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Crône, dated 1220-1230. Where it states “he girded his lendenier…


Ian Laspina’s recreation of the Lendenier or “Arming Girdle.”


For more information about the Lendeniere, I suggest checking out Ian Laspina’s  blog entry on the subject at

A second skin of steel.

During the first quarter of the 15th century armor was shifting away from the style made popular in the last decade of the 14th century, and at least two distinctive styles (and a mix) would have been seen on the field among the English men-at-arms.
There were of course holdovers from the older style, weather because of income level or personal preference. This style was most popular in the last 25 years of the 14th century, consisted of the bascinet with mail aventail, a globose breastplate over a mail shirt or with an attached fauld of some form, steel cuisses with thigh wrap plates, articulated knees and cased greaves and sabatons. The arms are immediately identifiable as the English style, having the characteristically short spaulder and long and enclosed rerebraces.
The two images below are a side by side comparison on the “old” style.
The image on the left being John Cray Esquire, dating 1392. The image on the right being Lord Thomas Berkeley, dating 1417.

The second distinct style on the field would have been the “New Style” armor. This new style called “White Armor” (also known as Alwyte Armour,) got it’s name from the lack of jupon being worn over. One could see the bare steel of the armor.

It’s unlikely that Chaucer would have been armored in the old style due to his status and finances. Unless of course he preferred that style. It is a fair assumption that he would have been up to the latest armor fashion, due to his effigy (if we assume that he actually wore what i being depicted). The fashion of the armor on Chaucer’s effigy (shown above) is contemporary with most other armors shown in English effigies dating between 1420 and 1440, where there is the beginning of another shift in armor style. This makes it fairly safe to assume that if he had been one to follow fashion in the 1430’s he would have followed fashion earlier in the century as well. He most certainly could have afforded it.

This new style was characterized by the breastplate with attached fauld that reached just below the hips, usually worn over either a mail shirt, or mail voiders (mail cut to cover specific areas, to reduce weight.) With round or oval besagews to cover the gap in the armpit. It also saw the introduction of one of the most iconic helmets of the 15th century, the Great Bascinet. A bascinet with extended neck and throat coverage, removing the need for the  aventail.  This of course reduced the mobility of the wearers neck, but offered superior protection again sword, pole weapon, and lance.  Below are two effigies dated 1410 and 1411 illustrating this “new” style of armor.

In these two depictions one can notice the similarities with the older style, the spaulders and arms, the leg harness etc. One can also see the differences, helmet/curiass etc.

The most notable difference is of course the absence of the jupon. defines a Jupon as: “n. a close-fitting tunic, usually padded and bearing heraldic arms, worn over armor.” These can be seen in the effigies above dating 1392 and 1417.  More often then not these were heraldic in nature. A way to signify and identify the wearer in case of a capture.


Depiction of a Heraldic Jupon          Sir John Wingfield, c.1400

While the “alwhyte” armor was quickly becoming en vogue, it is important to note the importance of heraldry at this battle. In “The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations,” the author, Anne Curry, notes of the case of Anthony, Duke of Brabant. The Duke had arrived late with none of his gear, the battle already in full pitch, he being the kind to not back down from a fight,  borrowed the armor of his chamberlain Gobolet Vosken, and:

“…for his coat of arms he took the blazon (signup dictum blasoen) of one of his trumpeters. With a hole cut in it he wore it as a tunic, and for a flag he took a blazon from another trumpeters and attached it to his lance.” (p174)

The duke being someone of worth, knew that he needed to be seen and known on the field. Unfortunately it was not enough of a display, and the was killed.  If Chaucer did bear arms it is generally thought that he wore those of his mother, Philippa Roet.
The  Oxford Historical Society Publication #24, page 355 from 1893 examines and lays out the arms depicted on Thomas and Maudes funeral effigy:


Having the connection through her to theGaunt household, it would be more readily recognizable on the field than the arms of Geoffrey Chaucer, his father. It is the  Roet arms that are displayed on Chaucer’s tomb.


Roet Arms                                                                             Most notably born by Katherine Swynford (Roet) Third wife of John of Gaunt, Chaucer’s Aunt.

Which leads us to the third style seen on the field, and the style that is most likely to have been worn, a mix of the old and the new.

This style combined aspects of the old style, such as the bascinet with chain avenatil, with the new long faulted curiass. Or perhaps the new Great Bascinet coupled with the jupon and chain. They still had the distinctive English components sen in the arm harness.  Below are a two effigies showing this mix of styles.

Looking at his income, his station, and his family connections we cost conclude that Chaucer would have outfitted himself in either the “New” style of White Armor, or the “Mix” style which most likely was the predominant style on the field.

Politician or Soldier?

Before we look deeper at the men and type of soldiers Chaucer pledged to Henry’s campaign, we must first briefly look into the type of man Thomas Chaucer was himself. We are forced to ask the question, “Why would an obvious politician chose to lead men to battle?”

While Chaucer was most certainly a career politician (remember, 15 times in service to Parliament) and a skilled ambassador, he was also an experienced soldier.  The database on shows a service date of 03/29/1402 assigned as a Captain, holding the rank of Man at Arms under the command of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset (Chaucer’s second cousin).

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-3-18-10-pm shows in May of  1402 he was assigned the title of Commander to combat the spread of sedition. Both of these are in reference to the Glyndŵr Rising,  or Welsh Revolt, that took place between 1400 and 1415.

As Sheriff of Oxfordshire  Chaucer was not unfamiliar with confrontation with Welshmen.  “Kirk’s Life Records of Thomas Chaucer” (Bough, Albert C. 466) cites the K.B. Controlment Roll  46, m. 20 where in 1403,  Chaucer (along with his deputies) was charged to investigate seditious language spoken by David Brounfeld, a Welshman. This was not the first time Brounfeld had been investigated, he is mentioned on m5 and m16 of this same roll. Once arrested for theft.


From A.C. Bough’s Kirk’s Life Records of Thomas Chaucer states that Beaufort and his men were present at the Battle of Shrewsbury*, 21st of July 1403. I have not been able to confirm through a secondary source, but if this is correct we could assume that Chaucer was present. Shrewsbury is the battle where Henry, as Prince of Wales, was injured when an arrow struck him in the face. This is also the battle that saw the demise of Henry “Hotspur” Percy.


Map of the Battle of Shrewsbury From

It is safe to say that Chaucer saw plenty of military service prior to signing up for the Agincourt campaign.




*Interesting note, I have actually been to Shrewsbury, spending 2 nights there in 1997.

Roll & Ranks of the Retinue

As I have stated earlier, for this project we are going to assume (until proven otherwise by new evidence) that Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas’s number of 12 Men-at-Arms an 30 Archers, taken from the muster roll in his 1833 works, is the correct number of the retinue. This puts the total at 42.

At this time in his career Chaucer would have already have served as Chief Butler for two kings, and have obtained the title of “Chief Butler* for Life,” 12 years previous in 1402. He had served as High Sheriff of Berkshire (1400-1403) and of Hampshire (1413), and had already served in  10 Parliments. He was the current Speaker of the House of Lords when he signed the contract of indenture. At this time he was also under commission, wherein he is known as domicellus, to broker the marriage of Henry V and to take the homage of the Duke of Burgundy, John of Valois known as “The Fearless.”
He had also already served as constable of Wallingford Castle, and steward of the honours of Wallingford and St. Valery and of the Chiltern Hundreds all under Henry IV.

To cap that in 1402 he had taken over for his father, Geoffrey Chaucer,  as forester of North Petherton Park, Somerset.

Despite all of this, Thomas Chaucer held only the societal rank of Esquire, most of his fortunes coming through marriage to Matilda Burghersh, second daughter and co-hieress of Sir John Burghersh. This is how he was able to come by his estates of Ewelme in Oxfordshire.

This background is very important, because while Chaucer was very successful, he only need field a certain number of men. According to Nicolas, 42 men was an average sized retinue for a person of his stature.


We know how many men were in his retinue, but we do not know all of who these men were.

Here is a list of 17 known names, taken from the Agincourt Rolls. These names were compiled in a research project run by the University of Reading and the University of Southhampton. This database can be searched at
Simon Haule, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f84v
Robert Haule, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f84v
Thomas Bulthorp, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f84v
William Hervy, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f84v
Thomas Hardy, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f84v
John Byngley, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f85
[no first name given] Greneville Esquire Man-at-arms, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France TNA E101/45/1 m4
[no first name given] Covele [?] Esquire Man-at-arms, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France TNA E101/45/1 m4
William Broun Yeoman / Valettus Archer, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France TNA E101/45/1 m4
Roger Carpenter Yeoman / Valettus Archer, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France TNA E101/45/1 m4
Walter Kalfherd Yeoman / Valettus Archer, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France TNA E101/45/1 m4
William Grenefeld Yeoman / Valettus Archer, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France TNA E101/45/1 m4
Piers Cowper Yeoman / Valettus Archer, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France TNA E101/45/1 m4
Thomas Gamage Yeoman / Valettus Archer, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France TNA E101/45/1 m4

John Dirikson, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f85
Thomas Cowle ,ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f85
John Gronevyle, ChaucerThomas Henry V 1415 Exped France BL_Harley_782 f85


I plan to try and delve deeper into these names, and try to figure out the ranks of those who are not listed. If I can find information I will post it in separate updates. Maybe I will even be able to find effigies for some of these men.

One of these men very well may have taken over the captaincy of the retinue after Chaucer’s departure. If this can be discerned I will endeavor to do so.


*The Chief Butler of England is an office of Grand Sergeanty associated with the feudal Manor of Kenninghall in Norfolk. The office requires service to be provided to the Monarch at the Coronation, in this case the service of Pincera Regis, or Chief Butler at the Coronation banquet.

The Contract

On April 29th, 1415 Chaucer entered into a contract of indenture with the King, (Henry V) promising to field no less than 12 Men-at-Arms and 30 Archers. These contracts were housed by the kings steward and kept in white leather pouches.


Sir Thomas Erpingham’s Contract and white pouch.

The number of archers is disputed, accounts differ on how many were promised but numbers range from at least 30, up to 37. released a document on the 600th remembrance of Agincourt which put the retinue at a total of 47 men, Juliet Barker follows suit breaking it down to 11 Men-At-Arms and 36 Archers. Hunt states 37 Archers. Nicolas’s own table from 1833 shows two entries for Chaucer, one at 12 and 30 a second at 2 and 36. For this project we will assume Nicolas’s lesser number, pulled from the Agincourt Rolls, is the total number of Archers fielded.

Barker recognized the discrepancy in the reporting, and states on page 112 of “Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England,”- “In either case, the archers almost invariably outnumbered the men-at-arms by three to one, a proportion that was unusually high and unique to England.” Her footnotes note that this ratio increased to nearly five to one at the actual battle due to all the deaths of men-at-arms at Harfluer and on the march.

Wages for the campaign were set by Henry at a meeting of the great council. Wages normally were dictated for a specific campaign, location of the campaign, and time to be served taken into account.  Henry did not want to nail down a specific target or date, for to keep his enemies guessing where and when he would start his invasion, and where he would attack. According to the contract of Sir Thomas Erpingham, steward of the Kings House and commander of the archers at Agincourt, the destination of the contract was left open ended saying service would be required “in our duchy of Guyenne, or in our realm of France.” The contract was to commence on the day of the muster.

Wages were stipulated as such, to be paid on a daily rate:
13s 4d for a duke, 6s 8d for an earl, 4s for a baron, 2s for a knight, 12d for an esquire and 6d for an archer, mounted or unmounted.

Every group of 30 men at arms would receive a “regard” or bonus of 100 marks. If the army moved into Aquitaine there was no bonus to be given, but wages for esquires and archers would be raised to an annual rate of 26 pound 13s 4d (esquires) and 13 pound 6s 8d (archers).

Wages were paid in advance on a quarterly basis. This first quarter payment to Chaucer and his men amounted to 156 pound 7s 10.5d. A modern equivalent of nearly $104,650 U.S.

Having not enough cash on hand to use as a security deposit for Chaucer’s company, Henry resulted to making payment in assorted jewels and plate.

The Speaker’s Men, pt 2. Was Chaucer even there?

“The History of the Battle of Agincourt,” by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas had been the definitive source of who was there and what happened at the battle. Compiled in 1833, Nicolas drew from such contemporary sources as pre-departure muster rolls, and after battle accounts to conclude that Chaucer had traveled to France with Henry’s army, and had been present at both Harfluer and Agincourt. Of the primary sources cited, Nicolas relied heavily on a document known as “The Agincourt Roll.” This document, created by Sir Robert Babthorp, purports to list all of the names that took part of the battle. While it does list Chaucer as being present, it’s validity is suspect as it was written nearly a year after the battle took place.


Image of muster roll from Nicolas’ “History of the Battle of Agincourt” 1833

Another document called “The Fenwick Rolls,” lists arms of nobles contemporary to the era, and most likely does include those of men who fought in the battle, it is impossible to confirm if it is a list of those who fought, or just a list of well known arms of the time.


The Fenwick Roll  1413-1422


Agincourt Roll

In “Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England,” author  Juliet Barker posits that Chaucer had made it as far as Harfluer, but was sent home to England ill, most likely with Dysentery. She cites J. Hamilton Wylie’s “Notes on the Agincourt Roll” (p 131-12 & 39) to support this, Though I have not personally looked into it.**  This information aligns with William Hunt’s  1887 work Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900Volume 10, who states it is unknown if he was really ill or if he just used the excuse to return to England. 

Still other accounts state that Chaucer took ill before the army departed, and sent his men onto France while he stayed at home.  Though no primary source is given to support that claim.

Barker also states that Wylies’ “Notes on the Agincourt Roll” shows two of his Men-at-Arms perished from dysentery at Harfluer, while all of his archers were spared to march on to Agincourt. The “Agincourt Roll” may be mistaking  a recollection of seeing Chaucer’s arms on the field as proof of attendance, when it may have just been his men.

Unfortunately there is no record of who assumed command of the company in Chaucer’s absence, if indeed he was. For the duration of this project we will operate under the assumption that Chaucer returned to England in poor health after the siege of Harfluer.

** I was able to spend part of the day reading “Notes on the Agincourt Roll,” through Wylie does state in a footnote that Chaucer was “invalided home.” but does not provide sources to back up that claim. It seems that he is positing that because Chaucer shows on the muster roll, but only 9 named lances appear on Ralph Brook’s list of Agincourt soldiers (a segment of a common place book dated 1604, thought by scholars to be an accurate list of those who fought), that Chuacer was sent home.  Wylie states that Brook was “quite obviously translating from French of one of other of his two predecessors.” (Wylie, Notes on the Agincourt Roll, pg 121) Brook had been the Herald of York from 1593 until his death in 1625. Unknown-4 copy.gifInterestingly, there is no record of the commission to oversee the 1415 muster. A.C.Bough’s “Kirks Life Records of Thomas Chaucer” however, does have record of the oversight of the 1417 French Campaign muster, that we also know Chaucer took part in. (p475-476)

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This may simply be the fact that the entire army mustered at Southhampton before departing for France, while the 1417 campaign departed from different locations.

The Speaker’s Men, pt. 1

Thomas Chaucer, son of the famous poet Geoffrey Chaucer, served as a member of Parliament 15 times between 1400 and 1431. 5 of those times he was elected Speaker of the House, a record not broken until the 1800’s.

Nephew, by marriage, to the Lancastrian patriarch John of Gaunt, Chaucer used his familial connections to rise through the ranks of English society, obtaining numerous royal appointments over the span of 3 different reigns. Including a lifetime appointment as Chief Butler of England in 1402, he served in this role for nearly 30 years.

In the summer of 1414 Chaucer signed a one year contract to provide 12 Men at Arms and 30 Archers for Henry V’s campaign in France. This campaign would begin with the month long siege of Harfluer and culminate with the Battle of Agincourt on October 25th, 1415.

While there is debate to weather or not Chaucer was at Agincourt, or even set foot on French soil during this campaign, we do know that his retinue was there.

This blog is going to be dedicated to researching and recreating the life and trials of those men from the surrender of Harfluer through the Battle of Agincourt.