Yesterday, October 25, was a Pretty Big Day.
- it’s the day after my dad turned 74
- it’s my former college boyfriend’s birthday (which I’ll never forget because it’s the day after my dad’s)
- it was the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt
- it is St. Crispin’s Day!
Wow! That’s a lot for one day!
We’ll ignore my dad’s and ex-boyfriend’s birthdays, and move right to the Big Stuff.
If you somehow missed the festivities yesterday, don’t worry about getting the day exactly right. When England switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, 9 days went missing, so I’m not really sure exactly when October 25th was in 1415 – could have been November 4. Anyway, Agincourt was one of the most famous battles of the Hundred Years’ War, when Henry V’s famous english longbowmen, who were outnumbered 5 to 1 by the French, managed to wallop the French so much so that Henry V became the heir-apparent in France. The longbowmen were the super-weapon of the early 15th century. Every English man was required to learn archery, have the strength to handle a 6 foot tall bow, and no army could withstand their fierce rain of arrows – they would shoot an arrow every 10 seconds. Thousands and thousands of archers letting 6 arrows loose every minute. How could you move a shield wall against that?
Henry V died suddenly and his own son, Henry VI, wound up losing all the land his father had won and effectively lost the Hundred Years’ War – his ineffectiveness started the Wars of the Roses in England.
There are some great Agincourt resources online including:
And a free online course from the University of Southampton that you can still join:
But that brings us to St. Crispin’s Day.
Here are 5 Interesting Facts about St. Crispin’s Day that you probably didn’t know:
- St. Crispin’s Day is the feast that celebrates two saints, not just St. Crispin. He had a twin: Crispinian. If I were Crispinian, I’d be really ticked off that I was left out of the name of the holiday.
- St. Crispin’s Day has become most famous because of Shakespeare. In his play, Henry V, the king uses the holiday as a call to arms in the famous Band of Brothers speech:
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.
- St. Crispin is the patron saint of shoemakers, cobblers and leather workers. In some stories, they became apprenticed to a shoemaker in Faversham in England. A plaque at Faversham commemorates their association with the town. They are also commemorated in the name of the old pub “Crispin and Crispianus” at Strood.
- For the Midsummer’s Day Festival in the third act of Die Meistersinger, Wagner has the shoemakers’ guild enter singing a song about St. Crispin.
- Other battles have been fought on this day including the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean war in 1854, and contemporaries used Shakespeare’s words when commenting on the battle. However, as much as Agincourt was a total victory, Balaclava was indecisive. In 1942 the Second Battle of El Alamein and in 1944 the Battle of Leyte Gulf were fought during WW!!. In the second battle, the Japanese fleet was pretty much destroyed. I’m fairly certain that none of their commanders could conjure up a speech like this one, though: