Henry VIII,the Reign
The Royal Progress 1535
30 Sep 1535
Originally known as Hampton, the port served the ancient capital of England, Winchester. Southampton Castle was built soon after the Norman Conquest and became one of the kingdom’s most important fortifications. During the Anarchy, it was held by William le Gros, the Bishop of Winchester for Stephen. The ruins of King John’s Palace stand in the city centre but for the Henry–Johnites the significance of the visit was the memory of the so-called Southampton Plot.
Lollard leader Sir John Oldcastle (originally the name of Shakespeare’s Falstaff) had been friendly with young Prince Henry, Prince Hal as Shakespeare dubbed him (the future Henry V), and they had fought against the Welsh together. Henry was born in the bosom of Henry–Johnite country in the Welsh Marches at Monmouth, and Oldcastle was from nearby Almeley. Henry V is reputed to have been the first non-French-speaking English king since the Conquest and was engaged with Oldcastle’s Lollard politics. When his father Henry IV died and he acceded to the throne, however, in the face of the Lollard ascendency, the ecclesiastical lords appealed to the young king’s military passions and persuaded him to divert the kingdom’s energies from these domestic tribulations, to invade France, and so to unite his subjects.
Thus, Hal turned his back on the Lollards, his fellow Henry–Johnites, and in so doing infuriated his old friend, Oldcastle.
Henry V had not been born to be king and the proposition probably did not even occur to him until his father usurped (some may say) the crown from Richard II. Some argued that Edmund Mortimer had a superior claim to the kingdom of England.
It was to Mortimer that Oldcastle and his adherents intended to turn; they planned to oust Henry as he was about to leave Southampton for France and replace him with Mortimer. The plot, however, was discovered – Mortimer himself reported it to the king at Portchester Castle and most of the ringleaders were rounded up and executed. Oldcastle escaped back to Herefordshire but was finally captured and executed in 1417.
Henry V of course did cross the Channel to fight in France and so ensued a series of hostilities – which, as intended, suppressed religious politics – that only ended with the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.