October 25, St Crispins day and Azincourt

When I was in the Marine Staff Academy so many years ago a portion of the class was dedicated to the following soliloquy:

...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 accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks, That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day... (4.3.43)

I was reminded that today is St Crispins Day which of course reminded me of one of my all time favorite films being the 1944 version of William Shakespeare's "Henry V" played by Sir Laurence Olivier. A consummate actor, he is to me the Henry. A portion of the soliloquy from the play is quoted above.

It was on this day in 1415 that the English lead by King Henry V defeated the flower of he French Nobility at Agincourt or Azincourt in what is northern France. (Pas de Calais). In the period that followed, the daughter of King Charles VI of France Catherine of Valois, was married to Henry V, as a move to bring peace to the two nations that had been at war for more than 80 years; the couple's firstborn son was named as heir to the throne of France, in contradiction to Salic law which states that the Heir to France my only pass through male linage.

In France, Charles VII (Valois) became Dauphin upon the death of his father, Charles VI, but his legitimacy was placed in question by his mothers repudiation of him, being made feasible by her numerous and notorious affairs.

Henry V died while his son, Henry VI, was merely an infant, and the power struggle over control of the French throne led to renewed hostilities in the Hundred Years' War for a further 30+ years, highlighted by the capture of Orleans by Joan of Arc in 1429 and culminating in the final victory over the English at the Battle OF Castillon on 17 July 1453.


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