Henry V is the best-known military hero in English history: better known than Marlborough or Wellington, or his grandfather, Edward III. He enjoyed more success against the French than any of them, coming tantalisingly close to conquering that vast country and imposing an English dynasty; this in a reign of just nine years, in only seven of which he was at war. Even before he died the heroic myth, later enshrined by Shakespeare, was being created. His victories have become the touchstone of English nationalism, English militarism and English imperialism. For good or ill, Henry V now signifies the one-time `Greatness of England'. He was a military genius, yet his megalomania was not always in the best interests of his own kingdom, let alone the people of France who suffered at his hands. Behind the carefully constructed nationalist myth was a cold, calculating, ruthless ruler who, before his early death, revealed ominous tyrannical tendencies.
A.J. POLLARD is Emeritus Professor of history at Teesside University. He has a PhD in history from Bristol University, was a councillor of the Royal Historical Society and on two occasions a member of the history panel of the Research Assessment Exercise.
He has published widely on the history of fifteenth-century England, his most recent books being Imagining Robin Hood: the early stories in historical context (2004) and Warwick the Kingmaker: Politics, Power and Fame (2007). A third edition of his Wars of the Roses, first published in 1988, is appearing in 2013. He has participated in television documentaries on Henry V and Richard III as well as contributed to History Today and BBC History Magazine.