While browsing on youtube this weekend (I love that sentence because it implies long childfree days spent clicking from one interesting program to the next) I found this 2013 BBC documentary from David Starkey, the most fabulous British historian (and who puts on a fabulous show in the 1980’s Channel 4 Trial of Richard III where he puts everyone who disagrees with him firmly in their respective places). The first episode starts with Henry V, who not only beat the crap out of the French in the battle of Agincourt, but was also a composer himself. One of the most famous carols celebrating the defeat of the French, which Henry did not write, is the Agincourt Carol, which has such poetic lyrics as:
He set sail forsothe to say,
To Harfleur towne with royal array;
That town he won and made afraid
That France shall rue till domesday
As Starkey says, in the 15th century, carols were written not just for Christmas, but for any important event, such as this military victory. It’s one of thirteen carols in the Trinity Carol Roll that have been held in the Wren Library of Trinity College Cambridge since the 19th century. Laurence Olivier also used an arrangement by William Walton in his 1944 movie Henry V, which has an amazing battle scene (I’m not embarrassed to admit that it kinda gives me goosebumps – I don’t care if it is ridiculously cheesy – Laurence Olivier is amazing no matter what decade you watch him in).
There are a number of more modern arrangements of the Agincourt Carol, but the one that I like the best is from the Silly Sisters.
The first episode of the Starkey documentary is below, and if you’re so inclined, there’s also a book.