Prologue: Ascent of the Invasion
Palace of Westminster, London
June 5, 1414
Usually London was bustling with commoners, soldiers, and nobles alike, but in the dead of night only those with urgent business walked about. The Palace of Westminster was a place where one of those urgent meetings was going on. A small room in an unimportant section of the Palace was being occupied, where six men were sitting around a small table. At the head was a tall fellow, some 28 years of age, with a short cut of dark-brown hair and a gold crown. He wore sable-furred robes over a red tunic, vest, and breeches, but he leaned heavily on the steel gilded sword that signified, along with his crown, as King of England.
The second man, sitting on the right-hand side of the King, was some 27 years of age, wearing a leather vest over a red shirt and breeches, and a sword of lesser lineage than the King's at his side. His hair was of the same dark-brown shade as the King's, but he wore it slightly longer, and the gilded chain of the Lord High Steward lay around his neck.
The third man a little shorter than the two brothers, but his air and posture signified his responsibilities. His gilded chain was that of the Lord High Treasurer, and a ring of the Cinque Ports lay on the middle left finger. The Treasurer wore a green tunic and blue breeches, and a brown cloak covered his shoulders and back. A dagger hung from the plain belt on his side.
The fourth and fifth men were sitting next to each other, one a coal-black-haired person with a thin mustache and a blue garb similar to those sitting near him. His chain signified the position of Earl Marshal. The fifth man had a vague similarity to the king and the steward, and wore the chain of the Lord High Admiral. A simple vest and tunic were worn, along with a shortsword and dagger.
The sixth man wore the red cloak that signified that he was a cardinal of the Catholic Church, but his chain showed the emblem of the Lord Chancellor. He had the Lancastrian look of the King, the Steward, and the Admiral, and looked like a slightly older version of the latter.
The King raised his hand and stood up from his gilded chair, "Our good uncle Henry Beaufort, would it be to your kind pleasure to announce our goals for this meeting."
The cardinal stood up and pulled a long scroll from his sleeve, unrolling it and clearing his throat. "Ahem, Henry, by the Grace of God King of England and France, Lord of Ireland, wishes for all those present to look over these goals: Our good king's hopeful expedition to the wrongfully-taken land-"
"Oh, please, uncle, spare us the courtesy. We speak to one another as comrades rather than nobles during this council!" interrupted King Henry.
"Yes, very well, Your Grace," replied Cardinal Beaufort, "So where was I? Oh yes, expeditions. Ahem, as you all know, the King hopes to raise an army suitable for an expedition to France. The movements of the French army have been reported. A spy is riding to London as we speak."
"Well said," spake the Lord High Steward, "But brother, our army is miniscule. We need more forces. The levies must be raised and knights called to the throne. The French king is mad and his son is barely a man. The French look up to a leader to protect them, and all those in mind will have to be overthrown in order for you to conquer France. The King's nephew, the Duke of Orleans, is only twenty and has never fought in a battle, but he wishes to lead a force against us. The Regent of France sits in Paris and talks nothing of battle, but our primary enemy is the Constable of the Kingdom."
"Charles d'Albret hates the Burgundians and has recently been restored to the post of Constable," said the King, "And he is the true commander of the French army. He is experienced and not one to underestimate, so we must be cautious if he is at the head of whatever force comes against us. But then again, we must make sure our army is strong. John de Mowbray, how many yeomen are in London?"
The Earl Marshal stood up and cleared his throat. "Your Majesty, we have nary two hundred yeomen in London and the towns outside it. But I would advise to only take half of them to France. Leave the other half to protect this city while you are away."
"That will do." said King Henry. "But what about our knights? How many knights are in London now?"
Lord de Mowbray consulted a scroll. "In this large city, it is hard to be certain, but I would say a hundred."
"Only a hundred knights? And the barons have hardly ten each! Our army will have to be centered on our levies. Uncle, dispatch messengers to state to all barons they come across that I have called the levies for an invasion. As many lords as possible must lead their forces to London before we sail for Harfleur."
Now Henry Beaufort looked up. "Your Majesty, you are going to land on Harfleur? It is a strong fortress guarded by the French, and they could destroy your ships before soldiers could even land! Why not land at a city where the people do consider you their king, like Bourdeaux or Calais?"
The King laughed, a dark, low-pitched bark. "I come as a conqueror, so why not start by conquering rather than hiding behind the skirts of my own people?"
The Chancellor walked towards the King, his own nephew, and frowned. "Your father would have wanted his son protected. I will not allow you to go off into French lands only to have an arrow in your chest two years on the throne! The Lord Chancellor remains in London, and I wish to keep you there too. You can attack France when your army is larger than two hundred Londoners and a few hundred peasants."
The King stared at his uncle, furious. "You dare question your King? I shall go to Harfleur by August, with an army or without! Now return to your seat or the Lord Chancellor shall have his title removed for the fourth time!"
The High Admiral, who was a younger brother to the Chancellor, stood up. "Ships will not come for you if you do not act more responsibly to England!"
"Do as I say, Beauforts!" yelled the King, "Or your heads shall rot at the Tower of London!"
Just then, two yeomen with long spears entered the room, dragging a ragged man man in. One of the guards walked forward. "Your honors'n'Majesty, this 'ere man came wishin' to speak with the King 'mediately. 'E says 'e got important news 'bout the French."
The King walked towards the man, staring him down. He was wearing a ripped and worn blue surcoat, and his yellow beard was untrimmed. A short sword hung from a waist belt and a bow was slung on his back. He wheezed and lowered his head. "Yer Majesty. I have some good news for ye!" he said in French.
"And what," asked the King in the same language, "Would that be? Speak!"
The man laughed. "Well, m'name's Jean. I was a levy in the French army when the Burgundians attacked, but then I heard that I would gain much pleasure from servin' Yer Majesty. 'E told me to keep an eye out on what's bin goin' on fer the French. So I did so, an' now I 'ere that ole Marshal Boucicaut is bein' recalled to court. That ole knight's gonna lead the army, wid the Constable too!"
Whispers went through the small council. Jean le Maingre, better known as Boucicaut, was a famed warrior who had fought in many battles over nearly 36 years. He was an equal if not greater than Charles d'Albret, and notorious. He was an enemy not to be made a weakling of, even at the age of 48.
"If Le Maingre has taken command once more, then our situation is graver than I thought." said the King.
"See?" yelled Henry Beaufort, "You will not stand a chance against Boucicaut if you attack now! Give yourself one year to prepare. One year. You will need it. Please, Your Majesty."
King Henry V pondered this. He had wanted to take the French by surprise and retake most of Normandy, and then pool more soldiers into France over time. He now realized that in order to take France, he had to be wise and carefully plan his attack. He knew what to do now.
"Uncles, I am sorry. My pride blinded my foresight. I now see what must be done: We will spend a year planning for the invasion, but not much longer. Then, we make for Harfleur."
As the words ended, Thomas Beaufort, Lord High Admiral, nodded. "So be it."