Henry V The Conscience of a King Malcolm Vale

Publication date:
23 Aug 2016
Yale University Press
328 pages: 235 x 156mm
16 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


More than just a single-minded warrior-king, Henry V comes to life in this fresh account as a gifted ruler acutely conscious of spiritual matters and his subjects’ welfare

Shakespeare’s centuries-old portrayal of Henry V established the king’s reputation as a warmongering monarch, a perception that has persisted ever since. But in this exciting, thoroughly researched volume a different view of Henry emerges: a multidimensional ruler of great piety, a hands-on governor who introduced a radically new conception of England’s European role in secular and ecclesiastical affairs, a composer of music, an art patron, and a dutiful king who fully appreciated his obligations toward those he ruled.
Historian Malcolm Vale draws on extensive primary archival evidence that includes many documents annotated or endorsed in Henry’s own hand. Focusing on a series of themes—the interaction between king and church, the rise of the English language as a medium of government and politics, the role of ceremony in Henry’s kingship, and more—Vale revises understandings of Henry V and his conduct of the everyday affairs of England, Normandy, and the kingdom of France.

Malcolm Vale is emeritus research fellow in history, St. John’s College, Oxford. He has written extensively on Anglo-French history and the cultural history of northern Europe during the Later Middle Ages. He lives in Oxford, UK.

“Here is a book that pushes out the boundaries. We will never know what went on in Henry’s mind. But as a study of how he worked and what one can infer about his thoughts, Malcolm Vale’s book is unlikely to be surpassed."—Jonathan Sumption, Literary Review

“The Henry who emerges from this study is not the stereotypical warrior-king feted (or vilified) for his military prowess. He is an altogether more complex figure: decisive in his leadership but collegiate in his approach to government; exceptional in his mastery of administrative detail and his determination to do right by all his subjects… It is a fascinating and persuasive portrait of a controversial monarch and a major contribution to studies of his reign.”—Juliet Barker, TLS

“A superb example of scholarship . . . unsurpassable for what it reveals of what scholars can bring to light . . . erudite . . . you’ll go more deeply than was previously possible into this phase of the history of England, this particular reign, and a king even greater than the one given voice by William Shakespeare.”—James M. Banner, Jr., Weekly Standard

“Vale gives us a portrait of Henry V’s kingship and, not surprisingly, it is a good one.”—John Watts, London Review of Books