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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: February 2013

The King's Welshmen: Welsh Involvement in the Expeditionary Army of 1415


The “myth”

The victory of the English at Agincourt is still frequently attributed in the popular consciousness to Welsh bowmen in their knitted Monmouth caps. The battle is undoubtedly part of a wider patriotic narrative in both England and Wales. The belief in the English victory being a result of Welsh efforts, though ubiquitous, is almost impossible to reference in a way that might satisfy the editor of an academic journal. A possible origin may lie in Shakespeare's Henry V (1599). The garrulous captain Fluellen reminds the king not of the number or importance of Welshmen in his army, however, but in that of his great-uncle, Edward the Black Prince, at Crécy. Contemporary accounts of Agincourt make very little mention of Welsh involvement. The Welsh chronicler Adam Usk notes the death of two men, one of them in error, as the first, Sir John Scudamore of Kentchurch, Herefordshire, in fact survived until 1435. The second, Dafydd ap Llywelyn ap Hywel of Brecon, better known as Dafydd or Davy Gam, Usk describes as “David Gam of Brecon.” The chronicle of Peter Basset and Christopher Hanson also notes the death of “Davy Gam esquire, Welshman.” Although Thomas Walsingham and the Great Chronicle of London also list Gam among the dead, they do not mention his origins or nationality. No chronicle or early history mentions the presence of Welsh archers at Agincourt, and nowhere in the extant corpus of fifteenth-century Welsh verse is the battle mentioned.