The Duke of Gloucester’s Agincourt Retinue: The Regional Heritage of Select Sub-Captains from East Anglia and Kent

Background

Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, raised the second largest retinue for Henry V’s great 1415 army, which famously captured the town of Harfleur, before fighting at Agincourt on 25 October 1415. Before embarking for Normandy, Gloucester’s retinue mustered near Southampton on 16 July. We know the names of all those present at the muster because the muster roll survives in its entirety.[1] It records the names of 751 men: 1 duke, 6 knights, 180 esquires and 564 archers. These men were not all recruited by the duke directly but, as was the custom for the time, by a multiplicity of sub-retinue captains.[2] Gloucester’s retinue was originally intended to comprise 56 sub-retinues, plus the duke’s personal company. However, five sub-captains, according to the muster roll, failed to recruit men, so were probably absorbed into the duke’s personal company. That Gloucester succeeded in raising a retinue of this size was a notable achievement because, unlike his very militarily experienced elder brother, Thomas, duke of Clarence, this was the first time Gloucester had ever led men to war.

The Sub-Captains from East Anglia and Kent

The aim of this short essay then, is to detail the regional heritage of some of these sub-captains, specifically those from East Anglia and Kent, in order to provide a brief glimpse into the mechanics behind Gloucester’s recruitment process and show the workings of the ‘Dynamics of Recruitment’ in the early fifteenth-century.[3] Andrew Ayton has written that, when raising retinues in this period captains would have looked ‘first to the manpower of their estates’, before drawing on other avenues of recruitment.[4] Gloucester possessed estates and properties in numerous counties throughout England and southern Wales, including Essex, Suffolk, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Kent and Pembrokeshire.[5] In Essex, for example, he held Hadleigh Castle and the nearby manors of Thundersley and Eastwood, while in Kent he held the manor of Milton, near Gravesend, and Marden in the Kentish heartland. It is unsurprising to see that the majority of his sub-captains, for whom we have geographic data, hailed from these regions.

Fig. 1: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Les Vigiles de Charles VII, Manuscrit Français 5054, fol. 24v.

One of the duke’s Suffolk manors was Great Wratting. Roughly 25 miles east of Great Wratting lived his sub-captain Thomas Deschalers.[6] An individual who dwelled even closer was William Creessoner. He was a young man at only 23 when he mustered under Gloucester in 1415. As a child, he resided at a manor in Hawkedon, less than 10 miles from Great Wratting.[7]  Having proved his age in 1414, Cressoner inherited his father’s other properties in Suffolk, Huntingdonshire and Essex. One of the Essex manors which he inherited was Ferrers, today known as South Woodham Ferrers. This property was only 12 miles from Gloucester’s castle at Hadleigh, and 10 miles from his estates in Thundersly. One of Cressoner’s immediate neighbours was John Tyrell, who held the close-by manor of Rawreth.[8] Tyrell, in fact, possessed a number of estates throughout Essex, for example at Ramsden Crays, Hockley and Heron. In 1412 he was residing at Heron, near Brentwood.

A neighbour to both Cressoner and Tyrell was Thomas Berwick. He lived at Stanford Rivers and had been a retainer of Gaunt’s from 1388 until the duke’s death in 1399.[9] This evident ‘regional comradeship group’ also included Sir Thomas Morley (grandson of Thomas, fourth Lord Morley, d.1416), whose family possessed estates in Great Hallingbury, less than 15 miles from Stanford Rivers. Returning to John Tyrell, he was also closely bound to the Kentish sub-captain Sir Nicholas Haute.[10] Following the death of his first wife, Alice, in March 1400, Sir Nicholas married Eleanor, who was the widow of William Tyrell and mother of John.[11] By this marriage, Sir Nicholas Haute became John Tyrell’s step-father. Haute was a military veteran, having served Gaunt on a number of occasions. Sir Nicholas was also associated with Sir Thomas Clinton. In addition to having served alongside one another during the 1386 campaign, they were also neighbours. Haute’s estates at Waltham were near to Clinton’s at Bensted.[12] The two had also served together on a Commission of Array in Kent in January 1400 and both acted as witnesses to a Charter of Warranty in November 1408.[13] The 1415 campaign was the final time the two friends served together, as they both died either during the campaign, or shortly afterwards.

Summary

That regional comradeship groups evidently existed among the sub-captains from Suffolk, Essex and Kent demonstrates that these, villages, towns and cities were good places for a captain to recruit. Indeed, as the work of Craig Lambert and Ayton has revealed, the estuarine communities of East Anglia, and of Essex in particular, had been ‘making a disproportionately heavy contribution to the war effort’, for both naval and land-based campaigns, during the late fourteenth century. [14] This high level of militarisation from the late fourteenth century was evidently still present in the early fifteenth. The urban centres of East Anglia were fertile lands for captains to recruit soldiers from. These bonds of shared regional heritage would have given the retinue a degree of stability and cohesion. This would have negated, to some extent, the almost complete lack of shared military service ties between members of Gloucester’s retinue. Moreover, that similar regional groups have been identified in the fourteenth-century indicates that, at least in this respect, a degree of continuity within the mechanics of the recruitment process existed in the early fifteenth-century. If there was space to open the lens of this investigation wider, many more such cases as provided here could be given.[15] So, while previous military service ties in Gloucester’s retinue were generally absent, other ties existed which gave it a degree of stability and cohesion, and assisted it to function effectively, endure the hardships of the siege of Harfleur, and stand stalwart at the Battle of Agincourt.

Cite this article as: Michael Warner, "The Duke of Gloucester’s Agincourt Retinue: The Regional Heritage of Select Sub-Captains from East Anglia and Kent," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 16/12/2021, https://martcult.hypotheses.org/1428.

[1] E 101/45/13 (Gloucester).

[2] On sub-retinues, sub-contracts and the English military community, A. Ayton, ‘Military Service and the Dynamics of Recruitment in Fourteenth Century England’, The Soldier Experience in the Fourteenth Century, ed. A. R. Bell and A. Curry (Woodbridge, 2011).  

[3] On the ‘Dynamics of Recruitment’., ibid.

[4] Ibid, p. 12.

[5] CIPM, 20, p. 7; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 143; CPR, 1401-1405, pp. 121, 160, 256, 468; CPR, 1405-1408, p. 191; CPR, 1408-1413, p. 303; CPR, 1413-1416, pp. 170, 387, 397.

[6] L. S. Woodger, ‘Deschalers, Thomas’, History of Parliament (online).

[7] CIPM, 19, pp. 300-301; CCR, 1413-1419, p. 137; CPR, 1408-1413, p. 278; C 138/10/49.

[8] J. S. Roskell and L. S. Woodger, ‘Tyrell, John’, History of Parliament (online); R. Horrox, ‘Tyrell family (per. c.1304–c.1510)’, ODNB; J. S. Roskell, Parliament and Politics in Late Medieval England, 3 vols (London, 1983), 3, pp. 277-315.

[9] C 76/56, m.31; S. Walker, The Lancastrian Affinity (Oxford, 1990), p. 264.

[10] L. S. Woodger, ‘Haute, Sir Nicholas’, History of Parliament (online); P. Fleming, ‘Haute family (per. c. 1350–1530)’, ODNB.

[11] CIPM, 18, p. 5.

[12] Ibid; L. S. Woodger, ‘Clinton, Sir Thomas’, History of Parliament (online).

[13] CPR, 1399-1401, p. 211; CCR, 1405-1409, p. 468.

[14] A. Ayton and C. L. Lambert, ‘Shipping Troops and Fighting at Sea: Essex Ports and Mariners in England’s Wars, 1337-1389’, The Fighting Essex Soldier, ed. C. Thornton, J. Ward and N. Wiffen (Essex, 2017), pp. 98-143 (p. 132). See also, S. Gibbs, ‘The Fighting Men of Essex: Service Relationship and the Poll Tax’, Ibid, pp. 78-98.

[15] These will be presented in my forthcoming monograph, to be published by Boydell.


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