‘Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day’ – Shakespeare, Henry V
Sir John Trebell – The Story of an Agincourt Veteran at St George’s
This year celebrates the 600 year anniversary of a particular English triumph: Henry V’s great victory over the French at Agincourt. While the efforts of a small handful of English lords, knights and archers captivate the public’s attentions, it is perhaps fitting to celebrate the life of one such individual with a strong connection to St George’s and Windsor: Sir John Trebell. Trebell receives little attention in the historical record – few accounts of his military activities come to light in the documentation – but he is particularly interesting as a former military knight of St George’s (then known as poor knights), and a veteran of Agincourt. Sir John served at Agincourt in the retinue of Sir Thomas West, 2nd Baron West. He later took out letters of protection to return to the French wars in 1417, this time serving under the admiral of the fleet, Sir Walter Hungerford. His previous master had died in unfortunate circumstances in 1416. Before West had even had a chance to don his armour for battle, a large stone fell on him from a nearby catapult in the process of being loaded. The resulting injury left him mortally wounded and he died shortly after in England.
In appreciation of his past services, Trebell was appointed a poor knight of St George’s, Windsor on 23rd May 1430. In his appointment he was described as a ‘King’s Knight’, and he had thus probably at some point entered the monarch’s service. It is possible that Sir Walter Hungerford may have had an influence in the appointment of a fellow Agincourt veteran. As Treasurer of England in 1430, and a Knight of the Garter from as early as 1421, Hungerford was in the perfect position to support his former retainer in his old age. As one of only two poor knights at the time of his appointment, Trebell received a house and garden within Windsor Castle, an annual salary of 40 shillings, and further payments for attendance in chapel three times a day. At the time of his appointment, there were significant tensions between the knights and the dean and canons who controlled the college’s finances. It is a sign of Trebell’s status and good behaviour that he was paid regularly throughout his time at Windsor. This was in comparison to his fellow poor knight, Sir John Kiderow, who was barred from payment at the same time on account of his outlawry, and in 1431 was forced to consider a return to active service.
Trebell died at some point between September 1437 and 11th June 1438, when his garden was appropriated by one of the college’s canons, John Deepdene, for the notional annual rent of one rose on Midsummer’s Day. His final years appear to have been peaceful. In the aftermath of the bloodshed of Agincourt, Sir John Trebell settled down to quiet retirement at St George’s, where he was rewarded and respected as befitted a veteran of the king’s wars. It is unlikely that he ever forgot the brave feats he was part of in 1415, but instead, remembered them with advantages!
Euan C. Roger, Royal Holloway, University of London