‘Visit Samuel Harman at the Dolphin further along the quay and give him this warrant and you’ll find there are virtually limitless funds waiting for us!’
William de Montacute – 15th March 1355
‘Tell me everything that happened.’ Henry de Vere, Earl of Oxford, had lost a throw of the dice determining who should attend the tournament at Woodstock. ‘I am jealous and starved of news. Take a seat.’
William de Montacute, the Earl of Salisbury, looked around Henry’s tent in wonderment.
‘Well, I would if there was somewhere to sit. What is going on here?’
‘An unmitigated disaster.’
‘I was sent here to mobilise an army large enough to allow for an invasion of Armagnac. However, I have received not a sou from the King. What you see now has come from my own pocket and my pocket is now depressingly shallow!’
‘Is that why your tent looks like the kitchen storeroom? Where do you sleep? And more to the point, where will I sleep?’
‘We can squeeze another bed over there.’
William studied Henry in momentary thought. ‘Come on, the Prince has an account at The Cherry Tree. We will stay there until we get funds.’
Later, after a bath and a mug of ale, it was as if Henry had become a different person. As they descended the withered and twisted set of stairs to The Cherry Tree’s justly famous dining room, he was full of good cheer.
The Cherry Tree, on the quay overlooking Sutton Harbour, was where seafarers and ship-owners rubbed shoulders with royalty and the aristocracy. That they were able to conduct their business so far from London was a sound measure of the importance of shipping to a nation that had two territories separated by three hundred leagues of usually hostile Frankish territory. Often, the only way of travelling between the two territories was by sea.
William struggled to understand the situation. ‘Have you sent a message to the King letting him know how short of funds you are?’
‘Three, all with no reply,’ Henry scowled.
‘Have you sent a message to the Prince?’
‘I have no idea where the Prince is.’
‘Then you will be happy to know that he is due here any time now.’
It was the most incredible of coincidences. The door to the dining room burst open and through the door walked the Prince. ‘William, Henry, I thought I might find you here.’
The Prince put his arms around the shoulders of his two comrades and the three of them were soon immersed in copious greetings, congratulations and condolences, the latter directed mainly at Henry de Vere, as he had missed the tourney.
A tall, gangly but handsome young man hovered near the door. The Prince waved a hand in the young man’s direction. ‘Oh, yes, you, of course, know the Earl of Richmond, my younger brother?
Both William and Henry de Vere nodded.
‘He has been living with me for over six months, but the time has come for him to do something useful.’
A gaggle of servants could be heard carrying luggage down the hallway outside the dining room. There was much banging and bustling and the voice of the landlord asking them to be careful. William nodded towards the hall.
‘How did you manage to bring the entire palace on horseback?’
‘I didn’t, I sent it on ahead in a wagon. There is more outside that should be stored in the mobilisation camp as it is intended for Bordeaux.’
After a meal which consisted mainly of roast meat and vegetables washed down with many mugs of beer, the Prince eventually got down to business. ‘So, how is mobilisation going?’
Henry groaned again. ‘Not well. I have my own men and some of Lord James’ Welshmen, and there are confirmed promises of men from virtually every lord we have contacted. It is the supplies; cooking utensils, tents, bows, arrows, swords, pikes, grappling irons, tunics, and a thousand other things, which are causing my biggest headache. I fear that without proper funding I cannot continue.’
The Prince face split into a cheery grin. He pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his inside pocket and handed it to Henry. ‘I enjoy being the bearer of good news. You will be happy to know that your problems are now over. All you have to do is visit Samuel Harman at the Dolphin further along the quay and give him this warrant and you’ll find there are virtually limitless funds waiting for us!’ Samuel is De la Pole’s agent and he is making an advance to fund our war against the Armagnacs. He urges us to spend carefully but to make sure the army is short of nothing it needs to be successful. Prince John’s role will be to do all the clerical work to make the mobilisation happen, but of course, his presence will give you just that extra edge of authority.
The Prince’s voice acquired a conspiratorial tone. ‘If we can deal with the Armagnacs expeditiously, I am in fact planning to do slightly more than originally intended.’ He rubbed his hand across his forehead. ‘Now, if you will excuse me, Henry, I need to talk to William about a private matter.’