Before he was Henry V, the King who led England to historic victory at the Battle of Agincourt, Henry of Monmouth was already a skilled warrior. Educated in the art of warfare, his first command was at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, aged just 16. His father, Henry IV, was fighting against the forces of the rebel Sir Henry ‘Harry Hotspur’ Percy.
During the ferocious battle, Henry (known as Prince Hal), lifted his visor and was hit by an arrow just below his eye. It lodged six inches deep into his face, going behind his nose. But despite the seriousness of the injury, Henry broke off the shaft of the arrow and stayed on the field until the battle was won.
The reason for Henry’s extraordinary survival is down to James Bradmore, a surgeon way ahead of his time, who treated him. Bradmore used honey as an antiseptic and removed the arrowhead with a specially crafted tool, which resembled a corkscrew.
In order to get a grip, he had to enlarge the wound – without Henry having any anesthetic – and twist the arrow until it came out.
Bradmore’s skill meant that Henry recovered fully and, unusually for the time, avoided any infection or illness. Henry rewarded the surgeon for saving his life but was left with scars across one side of his face. This may be why his portraits were profile, rather than head-on.