Henry V is one of very few genuine cult figures among the English monarchs. Aided by Shakespeare’s magnificent play, the tale that has come down to us is one of a dissolute youth suddenly turned into a devout and noble warrior-king, a man who united the restless classes and led a magnificent victorious campaign against the French, before dying at a tragically young age to leave his kingdom to sink into decay and civil war.
As many historians have noted, this was a king who underwent an astonishing personality change part-way through his life. We are asked to believe that as a young prince, “Passing the bounds of modesty he was the fervent soldier of venus as well as mars; youthlike he was fired by her torches, in the midst of his brave deeds as a soldier, he also found leisure for the excesses of untamed youth” (Dockray 2007:21), but on becoming king, he “suddenly changed into a new man and henceforth devoted himself single-mindedly to live as virtuously as maintaining Holy Church, destroying heretics, keeping justice and defending his realm and subjects” (Anonymous English Chronicler quoted in Dockray 2007:96)
As the scion of a French-speaking dynasty, it is unthinkable that Henry would not have spoken French and picked up the code of chivalry almost with his mother’s milk. Yet on ascending the throne the new king appears to have issued decrees only in English (Steinsaltz), and started behaving with extremely unchivalrous brutality towards his conquered foes including the famous slaughter of the prisoners at Agincourt (1415) and the savage reprisals against the inhabitants and defenders of Caen (1417), Rouen, (1418), Pontoise (1419), Rougement (1421) and Meaux (1422) (Taylor and Roskell 1975).
What caused this dramatic and indeed unparalleled personality change? The key moment appears to be the battle of Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403. The chroniclers are in agreement that, while fighting for his father Henry IV against the rebels led by Henry “Hostpur” Percy, Prince Henry was struck in the face by an arrow. What damage would this have caused, and was survival possible?
“Henry IV’s surgeon” John Bradmore as described the wound thus: “…smetyn in the face be syd the nose on the lefte syd with an arrow the wyche sayd arrow entryd overwharte and after the schafte was takyn owt and the hede ther of a bod styll in the hyndyr parte of a bone of the hede after the mesur of vj ynche” (Lang 2003:129) In other words, the arrow entered the left side of his face and went six inches deep into his brain, lodging in the bone at the back of the skull. Even today, this wound would unquestionably be fatal. There is no case in twenty-first century medicine of someone being shot through the head with a bodkin-pointed arrow while leading a charge of horseback and surviving. When you consider the poor state of medicine at the time, survival is clearly impossible. Are we supposed to imagine that Prince Henry was incredibly lucky, Bradmore very skilful or his account exaggerated to advertise his ability? Or is something more sinister being concealed?
Medical practitioners in the Middle Ages were routinely put to death for failure – Bradmore would hardly have been able to go to the king and say “Sorry sire, but your son and heir died on the operating table!” Bradmore had to produce a surviving patient. Could he have substituted another man, who went on to be the “Henry V” of Agincourt? Could he have left subtle clues scattered in the historical record from then on? Did the king know, and was he in fact complicit?
Once we allow ourselves to think the unthinkable and track down the true identity of “Henry V”, clues start to turn up all over the place. To consider the mysteries raised above, his inability to speak French and lack of chivalrous behaviour become obvious clues as to the man’s non-royal birth. Bradmore must have been in the pay of someone else and performed a ‘switch’. Why would the royal family not recognise the interloper? Because noble and royal families did not spend time together; boys were sent away to other households as pages at an early age. Once it was known that ‘Prince Henry’ had been severely wounded in the face and entrusted to Bradmore’s care, any young man with a badly scarred face presented by Bradmore would be accepted unquestioningly as the prince, especially if his changed character was a marked improvement.
More oddities turn up the longer you examine the evidence for “Henry V”. There is the famous portrait in profile:
But Bradmore wrote that Henry was wounded on the left side of the face. Where is the scar? Something does not fit here. The background of the painting in particular contains a number of oddities in the pattern of the hanging. After putting the image through digital enhancement, the series of anomalies emerge as a hidden message, outlined below to make them clearer:
The portrait contains a stunning admission – ‘mort d’une fleche 1403, ne 1403’ (died from an arrow, 1403, born 1403)! The painter knew, and was trying to convey to a posterity capable of digital image enhancement, the shocking truth about the switch. The sleeve contains one final devastating revelation – on the red cloth is the word ‘éperon’ – French for ‘spur. Assuming ‘red’ indicated heat, the portrait is telling us that “Hotspur” assumed the public persona of Prince Henry in 1403, far from being killed in the Battle of Shrewsbury as all the history books would have you believe.
In itself, this information also confirms where Bradmore’s true loyalties must have lain. This is difficult to prove, since medieval surgeons were mostly illiterate and left no written record, but seems clear from the other supporting evidence.
Once I started to look for confirmation of this explosive theory, I found is everywhere. The mysterious composer ‘Roy Henry’ left a number of musical works; these are assumed to be by Henry IV himself. Note how in the manuscript of the Gloria, there are two strange red shapes, clearly nothing to do with the music itself (ringed in white for clarity):
These can only represent red spurs – again, ‘Hotspur’ is clearly hidden in plain sight! One final, explosive piece of evidence is to be found in the funeral accomplishment of Henry V left in Westminster Abbey. The “King’s” saddle, helmet, shield and sword were placed on the tomb. Where are the spurs? As any child knows, spurs were the ultimate symbol of knighthood. Were they in fact originally painted red, and then hidden away to avoid anyone finding out?
About the author: Jeff de Cuisine is the pseudonym of an independent researcher who is prepared to go boldly and fearlessly where most historians fear to tread, and stand up for the truth wherever he finds it.
Dockray, K. (2007) Warrior King: The life of Henry V. Gloucestershire: Tempus
Lang, S.J. (1992) John Bradmore and His book Philomena, Social History of Medicine, 5(1), 121-30.
Steinsaltz, D (undated interweb article) The Politics of French Language in Shakespeare’s History Plays – available at steinsaltz.me.uk
Taylor, F. and Roskell, J.S. (eds) (1975) Gesta Henrici Quinti : the deeds of Henry the Fifth Oxford : Clarendon Press