The man that once did sell the lion’s skin. While the beast lived, was killed hunting him is a famous line from Life of King Henry V acts 4 scene 3, written by William Shakespeare 1564-1616. What does this quote mean to you? The following paragraph will solve the mystery of a famous quote outlining the feudalism, class system and war in the middle ages.
Feudalism was the political, social and economic system of Europe beginning in the 9th century and ending about the beginning of the 16th century. Feudalism played out in the Monarchs, lords, church, knights and serfdom. For example, a lordship such as a Duke, Baron, or Count owed fealty or sworn loyalty to a King to come to his aid. However, the knights under the colours of that lord owe his allegiance first to his lord over the Monarch.
The class system entwined in feudalism in that a lowly knight could not have permission to marry a Lords daughter or peasants may need the authorization to leave his county since he and forefather before would have been contracted to the land of his lordships. Everyone is wondering where my final point of warfare ties into Henry V and Shakespeare. It is essential because Henry V broke all the rules of feudalism, what is to be a noble knight and warfare.
The battle most remembered from Henry V life is the Battle of Agincourt 1415. Henry V (1387-1422) invaded France and with an outnumbered army mainly of foot soldiers, archers, few mounted horses men and peasants, he outnumbered troops to victory at the Battle of Agincourt and eventually securing full control of the French throne. Henry portrayed as a heroic and chivalrous King. However, Shakespeare line about the man that once did sell the lion’s skin. While the beast lived, reveals a ruthless sinister character who played by his owns rules as opposed to chivalry and feudalism.
For example, feudal laws state that a noble can only be killed by another noble or knight in combat. Henry V had 1000 knights and 5000 archers. The French easily outnumbered the British 5 to 1. history will tell you that the British and Welsh longbowmen won the day shooting down thousands of knights and capturing many alive sold for gold and silver coins. Thus the term while the beast still lives. King Henry V made a mockery of feudalism because he never marched his knights out to the battleground to have a head-on charge with the French knights. Henry V is the first Monarch to introduce guerilla-style warfare. Ultimately, infuriating the medieval cultured war of feudalism.
So you ask about the term lions and lionskin. If you go back in history, lions once roamed Europe in the south and east in abundance. Its is noted in the historical text that the Asiatic lion lived in Europe right into the 10th century. The widespread hunting of lions by the Greeks and Romans is the main factor to this animal becoming extinct in Europe. However, the symbol of the lion is famous on the crest of many a noble monarchy in Europe.
In conclusion, we will bond all this knowledge together to solve the riddle. Many scholars recognize that Henry V is a man lacking in wealth upon his ascension to the English throne. The 100-year war 1337-1453 at the time of Henry V is a plot to gain back all lands lost in France but more so, plunder and loot a foreign power for its wealth. Henry V had a decent claim to the French throne. He merely wanted the lands and would have sold back the French crown for gold. Henry used his foot soldiers, archers, to hunt down and capture the wealthiest nobles and killing the poorest. Once caught the feudal law stated a nobleman should sign contractual agreement to pay his ransom the following season. Many paid sooner, and the sum of a lordship could be as high as one million dollars in today’s wealth. Noblemen did not mind paying, however, captured by someone no higher than a peasant or a peasant proved too insulting. Therefore, a wealthy nobleman alive is much more profitable to Henry V. Thinking back does anyone remember the movie a Knight’s Tale starring Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger risked life impersonating a knight. It would be breaking sacrilege for a commoner to attack, fight much less captured noblemen. Henry V key to victory and survival is breaking the scared feudal oath. Alas Oh, King Henry, the lion who hunted his brother’s other lions to sell the skin whilst the beast still lives his now dead from dysentery.