Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Battle of Agincourt

Today is the six hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, and to mark the occasion I am quoting the King's speech from HENRY V, Act 4, Scene 3:
What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say "These wounds I had on Crispian's day."
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Saints Crispin and Crispinian are the patron saints of cobblers, curriers, tanners, and leather workers. It is believed that they were beheaded on 25th October, 285 or 286, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian.

Their origins are obscure, but they may have been the sons of a noble Romano-Briton family that lived at Canterbury, Kent. It is thought that their father was killed for displeasing the Roman Emperor and that their mother sent them to London – and safe obscurity – to become apprentices. Whilst on the way to London they stopped in Faversham where they became apprenticed to a shoemaker. There is a plaque in the town centre that commemorates their association with Faversham, and they are also commemorated in Strood, Kent, by the name of a very old public house, the CRISPIN AND CRISPIANUS.

This version of the story of the twin saints does not explain how they came to be martyred.


  1. Six hundred years now... and still the words of the Bard, inspire, even if the actual words spoken that day were likely far less eloquent!

  2. Gonsalvo,

    Stirring words indeed, even if - as you point out - they are probably not quite what Henry V said before the battle.

    All the best,


  3. The pub in Strood now looks to have been restored after the serious fire there a few years ago. Dickens used to drink there.

  4. Nigel Drury,

    It's good to hear that the pub has not just been demolished and replaced by a block of flats as seems to be the norm these days.

    All the best,