'TW', the St John’s College magazine, featured an article by Dr Malcolm Vale on ‘Henry V, the reluctant soldier’ in 2015 and Dr Vale’s new book on Henry V has recently been published by Yale University Press.

Shakespeare's centuries-old portrayal of Henry V established the king's reputation as a warmongering monarch, the victor of Agincourt, a perception that has persisted ever since. But in Dr Vale's new study, Henry V: The Conscience of a King, 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.

'Literate, well-educated, musical and learned, especially in theology and liturgy, this was an unusually talented and extraordinarily versatile individual. As a ruler, his application to the everyday business of kingship, and his grasp of detail, were second to none, and we can sometimes hear his speaking voice behind the letters, instructions and draft memoranda which he himself clearly composed. These were sometimes, unlike those of his predecessors, annotated and endorsed in his own handwriting. Eulogy, like denigration, is out of place in any balanced assessment of a medieval king – yet in Henry V’s case it is difficult not to be rather impressed.'

Commenting on the publication, Professor Hannah Skoda, Fellow and Tutor in History at St John's, said:

'Malcolm Vale's book sheds new light on one of England’s great heroes, Henry V.  So often invoked as the greatest warrior king (particularly in 2015, the anniversary year of Agincourt), Dr Vale paints a far more nuanced picture of a monarch who was both an exceptionally gifted ruler, and a man acutely aware of the dictates of his own conscience and spirituality.  The book is based on meticulous archival research.  The historian Nigel Saul has commented that it is difficult these days to say anything new about the king. Malcolm Vale has clearly managed it:  this is a major contribution which nuances and revises a key moment in English history.’

Dr Malcolm Vale is Emeritus Research Fellow in Modern History at St John's. He has written extensively on Anglo-French history, and the cultural history of northern Europe during the Later Middle Ages.