Sunday, 25 October 2009

The 594th Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt

As dawn rose on the morning of Friday October 25th 1415, some 594 years ago to this very day, a small number of tired, bedraggled, rain-sodden and dysentery ravaged English soldiers made their way to a clearing at the bottom of a slope in northern France, near the River Somme. They had spent the past weeks attempting to flee from the pursuing French cavalry, only to have been trapped near to the tiny village of Agincourt. There above them stood an insurmountable host, led by princes and dukes and numbering them in their tens of thousands. Most were upon horseback, their lavish armour glinting as they surveyed the rabble gathered before them. The result, it seemed, was inevitable; however, if they had known that by the end of the day their side would be decimated; captured or killed by the English army, they would have probably fled there and then.

The English victory at Agincourt (of which you can read an account in The Silver Knight) has gone down in folklore and rightly so. Of all the battles of the Hundred Years War, it is the one that really captures the imagination and was probably solely responsible for our perpetual love of an underdog. How is it, then, that we so frequently fail to acknowledge and celebrate it as part of our culture? With our scant supply of public holidays in England (are there to be no benefits from our inane membership of the EU?), I would have thought Agincourt to be a perfect opportunity to add another bank holiday to our lives. It was an English and Welsh fuelled victory, against the odds, against the French and in the midst of the Middle Ages – all the right ingredients. Furthermore, it lies almost equidistant between the August Bank Holiday and Christmas, which would break up the often grey and miserable stretch of autumn with a cause of patriotic celebration...


Of course, these thoughts are rhetorical, for I am fully aware of the reason Agincourt is never considered worthy of the purpose of celebration. Four years ago, we enjoyed a variety of entertainment as we celebrated the bi-centennial anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. One particular event comprised of a re-enactment of the naval battle at sea (I believe it took place on the Channel but I may be mistaken). However, at the last moment, our beloved leaders decided that it would be problematic if the staged event took place under the guise of “Britain verses France” as it would offend France if they lost. Never mind the fact that they lost the original battle and had actually started the conflict under the direction of Napoleon, it simply wouldn’t do. So, we were subjected to Blue verses Red...


Hotdog, as the American in Fawlty Towers would say, but never mind, I shall not grow bitter. Let me simply suggest that we lose our retrospective guilt (there is nothing to feel guilty about – it took place over half a millennia ago, we were out numbered and we won handsomely), celebrate the fact that today is Sunday, for most a day of rest, so eat, drink and be merry. Your ancestors earned it.




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