The military ordinances of Henry V: texts and contexts

The military ordinances of Henry V: texts and contexts

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The military ordinances of Henry V: texts and contexts

By Anne Curry

War, Government and Aristocracy in the British Isles, c.1150-1500: Essays in Honour of Michael Prestwich, eds. Given-Wilson, Chris, Kettle, Ann and Scales, Len (Boydell, 2008)

Introduction: As Michael Prestwich observed, ‘it might be expected that Edward I, in whose reign so much was done to reorganise the workings of law in a great series of statutes, would have produced military regulations, but none survive’. For Henry V the situation is otherwise. even though the king was certainly a great upholder of law and order there are no great statutes, but there are military ordinances. These were first published by Francis Grose in 1773 in the preface to his Antiquities of England and Wales. The text in English, headed ‘ordinances for Warr etc. at the treate and council of manuce’, was taken from a seventeenth-century manuscript in the inner temple library, where it was followed by ordinances of the Earl of Salisbury (d. 1428) which Grose also printed. Since the ordinances issued by Richard II in 1385 were not known at this point, Grose felt justified in his claim that ‘the most ancient code of military laws for the government of the English army, which has been handed down to us, is that of King Henry V, enacted at mance’.

He added a further observation that Nicholas Upton,

first a soldier in France under the earl of salisbury, and afterwards about the year 1452, a canon of salisbury, has in his book, entitled ‘De Studio Militari’, printed a latin copy of this code, which though in substance the same as the english, contains some articles not there mentioned and slightly differing in others.

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