The Soldier in later Medieval England

Was your ancestor on the Agincourt campaign with Henry V?


Agincourt is one of the most famous battles of all time. There is a large amount of material available on the English army which accompanied Henry V to France in 1415, including many lists of soldiers’ names.

We have put all these names into the Muster database. The material is complex so we thought that you might find it helpful if we explained the sources we had used. The sources are indicated in the ‘Reference’ column of the on-line database.

There are three main kinds. Each is discussed in more detail below.

a. muster rolls made at the point the army departed for France in the summer of 1415, and other lists made during the campaign itself. These are all to be found in The National Archives (TNA), in the series E 101 (Exchequer Accounts Various). In the Reference column you will find TNA/E101/followed by the document reference. These link to the TNA web catalogue.

b. lists presented by captains after the campaign was over, as part of the accounting process at the English Exchequer. These are all to be found in The National Archives (TNA), in the series E 101 (ExchequerAccounts Various). In the reference column you will find TNA/E101/ followed by the document reference. These link to the TNA web catalogue.

c. a list printed by Harris Nicolas in his History of the Battle of Agincourt (1827) which he found in an early seventeenth-century manuscript, British Library Harleian 782. This has been popularly known as ‘The Agincourt Roll’. In the Reference column you will find BL Harley 782.

a. Muster rolls of the army as it prepared to depart for France

The army assembled in early July in several locations along the south coast. It was essential for the government to check that the captains had brought the troops they had promised. To do this, their men were mustered. This involved the checking of their names against written lists. Several of these lists survive.

The soldiers are listed under the captain who had brought them and under whom they were serving. To use the description commonly applied by historians, the soldiers were his retinue. Most retinues contained both men-at-arms and archers. In each company, the men-at-arms are listed first, and then the archers.

For instance, TNA E 101/45/18 is the muster of the company under the earl of Huntingdon. This was taken at Swanwick Heath on 14 July by Hugh Mortimer and Robert Castel esquire. The earl’s name is given first, and then the names of 21 men-at-arms (in the document they are called ‘escuiers’) and 72 archers (called ‘valettys’).

Some of the larger retinues were in fact made up of many sub-retinues. We can see this clearly in the case of the king’s two brothers, Thomas, duke of Clarence (TNA E/101/45/4) and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (TNA E 101/45/13), and his cousin Edward, duke of York. Their muster rolls contain several lists of men-at-arms and archers, reflecting the various sub-retinues which made up the contingents of these dukes as a whole. We have put the name of the captain of each sub-retinue in the Captain column.

The muster of the duke of York’s retinue is at TNA E101/45/2. We also have a second muster of his company, probably taken at the point that the army left Harfleur to set out on the march towards Calais (E 101/45/19). His first muster has 1415 1st quarter in the Year column, the second has 2nd quarter.

For the archers raised in Wales see TNA E 101/46/20.

As is well known, some men were invalided home to England after Harfleur surrendered. They had no doubt contracted dysentery and Henry decided that they were not fit to serve with him on his march nor to join the newly-established garrison of Harfleur. Henry was keen to record carefully those who had been given permission to return home, and to avoid any danger of desertion by the able-bodied. Therefore the sick were mustered, perhaps on board the ships taking them back to England. Three sick lists survive: TNA E 101/45/14; E 101/44/30; E101/45/1. The searchable database includes E 101/44/30 and E 101/45/1. You can find them by putting 1415* in the year search. Our examination of the other roll suggests it is a copy of the others but we will be putting it on to the site in due course.

We do not have a muster roll for the 300 men-at-arms and the 900 archers put into the garrison of Harfleur at its surrender (we know these numbers from other payment records). However, we do have a muster roll for the garrison in the early months of 1416 (TNA E 101/47/39). This is to be found in the Normandy garrison database on our site. It is likely that many named in that roll had been detailed to the garrison at the surrender. There are other muster rolls for the garrison of Harfleur in the reigns of Henry V and VI. The town was lost to the French at the end of 1435 but recaptured in 1440 and held until 1 January 1450. You can find the names in these rolls in the Normandy garrison database.

b. lists presented by captains after the campaign was over

There was a great deal of financial sorting out to do after the campaign was over. Captains had received some pay in advance for themselves and their troops, but for the second quarter (i.e. three-month period) Henry had given the captains jewels which he promised to redeem for cash by 1 January 1417. He was not in a position to honour this, but in early March 1417 there was discussion on how the campaign accounts should be dealt with. Henry and his council decided that the start date of the campaign should be taken to be 1 July 1415, and the end date 23 November 1415. In accordance with standard practice captains had to present their accounts at the Exchequer. They often also presented a list of their men, sometimes with details of what had happened to each of them (for instance, whether they had been invalided home, put into garrison, present at Agincourt). These processes continued over many years to come, and some accounts appear never to have been presented at all.

Where we have the lists we have entered them into the database. Where we have no muster surviving from the point of embarkation, these provide useful substitute information, although there is evidence of some reorganisation of retinues. In some cases (for instance, for Sir Thomas Erpingham) we have both a muster (TNA E 101/44/30, no. 3, m.) and a list presented with his account (TNA E 101/47/20), but again there is evidence of reorganisation following the siege of Harfleur.

IMPORTANT: You may find some names come up more than once. This is because a soldier will appear on a muster at the point of embarkation but may feature on a sick list and/or a list presented with a captain’s account.

c. ‘The Agincourt Roll’

In 1827 Harris Nicolas published a book called History of the Battle of Agincourt. This went to a second edition in 1832. The third edition of 1833 is essentially a reprint of the second edition. The third edition was republished in 1971 by H. Pordes.

Nicolas included in his book a list of names from a manuscript in the British Library (BL Harley 782). This is often referred to as the ‘Agincourt roll’. It is not a medieval text, but dates to 1604. It was produced by Ralph Broke who was York Herald from 1593 to 1625. In fact there are two further copies of the same list of names. One is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University (Ashmolean MS 825 folios 15-35). This was probably the earliest copy, compiled by Robert Glover who was Somerset herald from 1571 to 1588. The third copy is to be found in the College of Arms in London, MS 1 folios 17 to 34, in a volume which was compiled by Robert Cooke, Clarenceux herald (d. 1593) although it is not certain who penned the actual list. Although Nicolas printed his list from British Library Harleian 782 he checked it against the College of Arms list in the second edition of his History of the Battle of Agincourt.

The three lists are very similar to each other. The name of each retinue leader is followed by the names of the ‘lances’ (that is to say, the men-at-arms) serving in his company. The number of lances is then totalled, and the number of archers is also given. But no names are given for the archers. In the list in the Bodleian manuscript, Glover tells us that the names of the archers have been omitted. This is probably because the heralds who copied the lists in the late sixteenth century were only interested in men they considered to be of higher status, and who might therefore be the ancestors of the gentlemen of their own period.

We cannot be certain that the lists are accurate or complete, but there is no doubt that they do derive, either directly or indirectly, from a now lost document of the reign of Henry V. We know this because of the passage in French which is given at the end of all three copies. I provide here a translation into English (which is more accurate than that given in Nicolas’s book).

Be it remembered that Robert Babthorp knight, controller of the king’s household, did deliver to the barons of the king’s exchequer, by the command of the king, on 19 November in the fourth year of our sovereign lord the king [1416], this roll containing 18 prests, the last prest indented with this bill, the which roll contains part of the names of the men who were with the king at the battle of Agincourt, that is to say, in the second quarter of the third year of his reign, for execution to be done to the profit of the lord King, and the which bill, thus taken from the said roll, was delivered by the said barons to the aforesaid Sir Robert.

The list printed by Nicolas is therefore part of a roll which was drawn up in connection with the post-campaign accounting process. It is interesting but should be used with caution as it is definitely incomplete. It gives 770 names and mentions 2,496 archers grouped into 68 companies.

More valuable are the sources of 1415 itself which we have put on the database. But obviously some men will appear in Nicolas’s list as well as in these contemporary sources.

Further reading

A. Curry, The Battle of Agincourt. Sources and Interpretations (The Boydell Press, 2000; paperback edition 2009)
A. Curry, Agincourt. A New History (Tempus Publishing, 2005; paperback edition, 2006)




PDF Downloads