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Sir Thomas Erpingham

  • Birth 1357
  • Death 1428
  • Burial Norwich, City of Norwich, Norfolk, England
  • Plot North side of the Presbytery
  • Memorial ID 37605539

Medieval Military Figure. A noted English warrior, he is remembered today for leading Henry V's archers at the Battle of Agincourt (October 25, 1415). Shakespeare characterized him as a "good old commander and most kind gentleman" in his play "Henry V". He was born in his ancestral village of Erpingham, near Norfolk, into a gentry family whose estates dated back to the Norman Conquest. His father, Sir John de Erpingham, was a career soldier. At age 13 he participated in the campaign of Edward "The Black Prince" to put down a revolt in the Aquitaine, and in 1380 he entered the service of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, who had him awarded a knighthood and later a baronetcy. The rest of his life was largely spent defending the interests of the Lancastrian Dynasty. He fought for John, and later John's son Henry Bolingbroke, in the Peasant's Revolt (1381), Spain (1386, 1399), Scotland (1385, 1400), on a crusade in Prussia with the Teutonic Knights (1391), and France (1401). He was also with the latter during his 1392 pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When Richard II banished Bolingbroke in 1398, Erpingham loyally followed him into exile and had his lands seized by the crown in retaliation. They returned to England in July 1399 with an army, ostensibly to reclaim their inheritances, though Erpingham must have known of Bolingbroke's designs on the throne. He commanded the ambush party that captured Richard in Wales, oversaw the arrest of key royalists (including Sir Henry Despenser, the "Fighting Bishop" of Norwich), and was a member of the commission who accepted Richard's resignation. Bolingbroke was then crowned Henry IV. For his services Erpingham was named Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (1399 to 1409), Knight of the Garter (1401), and a member of the Privy Council (c. 1405). The fall of Bishop Despenser also made him the most powerful man in his native East Anglia and he busied himself in its civic affairs until the succession of Henry V in 1413, when his military experience was again needed for a planned invasion of France. During the Siege of Harfleur (August to September 1415) he helped negotiate the surrender of the port town, saving many lives. The following month saw his greatest moment at Agincourt. As commander of the archers, Erpingham was directly responsible for 5/6 of Henry's estimated 6000-man army. He did not fight but observed and directed from the sidelines. He signalled the opening barrage of arrows, which goaded the French knights into charging, and maintained constant demoralizing flank attacks against the enemy. Once the knights of both armies were thoroughly engaged, he ordered the archers to drop their longbows and they went after the French with daggers, mallets, and other small arms. They were common professional soldiers, without armor and unaffected by the code of chivalry, and were able to fight with a mobility and ruthlessness the heavily-armored French could not match. The muddy terrain at Agincourt and the impulsiveness of the French were key factors in the outcome, but Erpingham's strategic timing was vital to the decisive English victory. After Henry's death in 1422 he more or less settled in Norfolk. He funded the construction of the Erpingham Gate (c. 1420) at Norwich Cathedral. A kneeling statue of the knight, in a niche above the archway, greets those who pass through it.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 28 May 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 37605539
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sir Thomas Erpingham (1357–1428), Find A Grave Memorial no. 37605539, citing Norwich Cathedral, Norwich, City of Norwich, Norfolk, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .