Agincourt the Battle

Tuesday, October 25, AD 2016

 

October 25, 1415 was an amazing day for the English.  The English longbow had long proved during the Hundred Years War to be a devastating weapon in the hands of skilled archers, but rarely had the English faced such long odds as they did at Agincourt.  Approximately 6,000 English, exhausted and worn from their march, faced approximately 30,000 French.  About five out of six of the English were archers with the remainder men-at-arms, knights and nobility.  The French had about 10,000 men-at-arms, knights and nobility, and 20,000 archers, crossbowmen and miscellaneous infantry.

 

The English established their battle line between the woods of Agincourt and Tramecourt, which offered excellent protection to both of their flanks.  The English archers made up the front line with stakes set in the ground before them to impale charging horses.  Archers were also placed in the woods to provide flanking fire against advancing French.  The men at arms and knights and nobility, were divided into three forces behind the archers.  They fought on foot.

The terrain between the woods that the French would have to cross in their attack of the English consisted of newly ploughed, and very muddy, fields.  Having walked through muddy fields on several occasions in rural Illinois, I can attest that simply getting from point A to point B in such terrain can be exhausting, let alone fighting at the end of the tramp through the morass.

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Death of Henry V

Sunday, October 25, AD 2015

Henry-V-effigy-head-72-Westminster-Abbey-copyright

Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!
Comets, importing change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,
And with them scourge the bad revolting stars
That have consented unto Henry’s death!
King Henry the Fifth, too famous to live long!
England ne’er lost a king of so much worth.

John Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, Henry VI, Act 1, Scene 1

 

Henry was too famous to live long?  In any event, he did not.  At the age of 35, during his siege of Meaux, he contracted dysentery, always the greatest killer of soldiers before the last century.  He lingered for three weeks before dying in the small hours before dawn of September 1, 1422.  By the standards of his devout age he was judged quite pious in his observation of the Faith.  He was liberal in his alms to the poor and ever gave an attentive ear to the cries for justice of the weak.

He had suppressed Lollardy, his age doubtless viewing the concept of freedom of religion as strange as we would someone asserting a freedom to sell tainted milk or moldy bread.  The overwhelming majority of people in Western Europe were Catholic, which they were certain was the True Faith.  Anyone trying to promulgate another version of Christianity was regarded by those same people as a dangerous purveyor of false and dangerous beliefs that would lead people to Hell.

On his deathbed he expressed only one regret, that he had not achieved his life’s goal of leading a Crusade to redeem Jerusalem.

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3 Responses to Death of Henry V

  • To whom was Henry V speaking, “Thou liest…” as he lay dying on his death bed?

  • Probably Satan who was attempting to lure him to the sin of despair. As a King he had a lot on his conscience.

  • Satan does always lurk and attacks us at our vulnerable moments.
    King Henry V on his deathbed was strong in his rebuke of the devil just a Jesus was when He was tempted.
    Jesus directly answered the person Satan and the devil left him. I hope
    I have the presence of mind to speak Scripture back at that evil one in my own time.
    .
    Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
    8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour;
    9and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’
    10Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
    “Worship the Lord your God,and serve only him.” ’

God for Harry, England and Saint George

Sunday, October 25, AD 2015

 

The Saint Crispin’s speech gets most of the attention in Henry V, but I also always admired the “unto the breach” speech.  The performance of it by Jamie Parker, love his interaction with the audience, is the way the speech should be delivered:  a full throated rallying cry:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, conjure up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage:
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head,
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide;
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English,
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought,
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument.
Dishonour not your mothers: now attest,
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture: let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and upon this charge,
Cry ‘God for Harry! England! and Saint George!’

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2 Responses to God for Harry, England and Saint George

Jane Austen on Henry V

Sunday, October 25, AD 2015

One Response to Jane Austen on Henry V

  • The Archbishop’s guess as to the meaning of the “terra vero salica” (in the MS published by Herold) or the “terra autem salica” (in the MS published by the Abbé Piuthou) is as good as any.

    No one really knows what it meant and “if it is to be guesswork, let us all guess for ourselves. To be guided by second-hand conjecture is pitiful,” as Henry Tilney observess in Northanger Abbey; a caution that deserves to be heeded by the whole tribe of textual critics, historians – and jurists.

Holigost

Sunday, October 25, AD 2015

 

After six centuries one would think that nothing about the Agincourt campaign could still be “news”, but a discovery just this month demonstrates that this assumption would be erroneous:

 

The wreck of Henry V’s warship the Holigost has been found buried deep in the mud of a Hampshire river after being lost for hundreds of years.

The flagship of the Duke of Bedford was the second of four ‘great ships’ built for Henry’s campaign against the French in the Hundred Years War, and joined the fleet just a month after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

It was spotted by historian Dr Ian Friel while studying aerial pictures of a medieval breaker’s yard at Burseldon on the River Hamble where Henry’s own flagship The Grace Dieu had been found in the 1930s. A subsequent search through records from the time revealed that the Holigost had indeed been laid up at the site.

Now Historic England is to launch a large scale archaeological investigation into the warship which played a crucial role in two battles which broke French naval power and enabled Henry to conquer France in the early 15th century.

 

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Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

Sunday, October 25, AD 2015

Five hundred years ago Henry V and his army won an amazing victory over a French army that heavily outnumbered his.  Shakespeare in deathless language has ensured that this victory will be indeed remembered until the ending of the world.  It was a brilliant victory, but was it won in a just cause?

 

In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time.

Over the centuries the precise content of the just war doctrine has varied.  The classic definition of it by Saint Thomas Aquinas is set forth in Part II, Question 40 of his Summa Theologica:

“I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”

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5 Responses to Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

  • I’ve also wondered how dynastic wars measured up under the just war theory, especially given the tangled skeins of royal family trees.

    I suspect that simple power politics often entered in. If Henry (or any king) had a possible claim that he failed to pursue he might be seen as weak and perhaps subject to future aggression. Whether that possible future evil makes a present was just — ???

  • Excellent series of posts. Thank you.

  • Donald,

    Since you don’t have a general comments section, I thought I would bring this newish blog to your attention. Seems good so far – http://reformclub.blogspot.com/2015/10/st-thomas-more-as-conservative-reformer.html

    –Jonathan

  • An interesting blog Jonathan. I will keep an eye on it!

    “He was no radical; rather he sought to retain essential truths of the faith while working to correct abuses in the Church’s way of life. Unlike his opponents, he was not a doctrinal innovator; he sought reform for the Church instead of its replacement. Once this is understood, More’s actions during the early Reformation can be understood to be a continuation of his efforts to improve the Church prior to the Reformation. As such, More’s basic approach to the question of reform stands well within the conservative approach to societal change set out by later authors such as Edmund Burke (himself a practicing Anglican who was married to a Catholic & sympathetic to Catholic freedom in England & Ireland). Far from being a reactionary, a fundamentalist or any kind of religious fanatic (as he has been portrayed recently by the historical fiction Wolf Hall), More stands as a conservative voice for both reform of and fidelity to the Catholic Church, of necessary change within the constraints of substantive continuity.”

    I have often noted similarities between the thought of More and Burke.

  • Very good article, but I disagree on some points: I would point out that on the “serious prospects of success” issue the English themselves have doubts and are faced with troops outnumbering them. Hard for me to make this argument when history shows the English won — but that was not known in advance! Many reasons to think they would NOT be successful — how sure do you have to be? Miracle upsets can always occur — is that a basis to go to war?

    Also when discussing the summary execution of prisoners by the English, mention is made of behavior by the French — this is a non-sequitor, as moral behavior in war is a duty to humanity at large, and is in no way contingent upon behavior by the other side — in fact it is presumed that the cause of going to war in the first place is to address evil behavior by the other side and to restore a peaceful and moral climate.

600 Years Since Agincourt

Monday, October 19, AD 2015

Riding a small, grey pony – a page leading a great war-horse behind him – he rode up and down the line in front of his troops. His eve-of-battle speech struck a familiar note – he “was come into France to recover his lawful inheritance and that he had good and just cause to claim it”. He warned the archers that the French had sworn to cut three fingers off the right hand of every English bowman captured. “Sirs and fellows,” he promised his army, “as I am true king and knight, for me this day shall never England ransom pay.” When he had finished they shouted back, “Sir, we pray God give you a good life and the victory over your enemies!”

Contemporary account by an anonymous chaplain of Henry V at the battle of Agincourt.

 

 

 

 

 

This Sunday, October 25, 2015, will be the six hundredth anniversary of Agincourt and we will give it a fitting remembrance here at The American Catholic.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. 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 Crispin’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.

 

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2 Responses to 600 Years Since Agincourt

  • A timely reminder of oppression, inheritance threatened by foreigners and courageous men of faith willing to fight for their birthright!

    Hummm. Sounds familiar?

    History is a teacher.

    Thank you TAC. You’ve opened a pathway that distraction temporarily blocked.
    Standing firm in the Faith and with Cardinal Burke, Fr. Libby and TLM, we are prepared for the confrontation. In the end, the Queen to conquer all heresies, Immaculata, will Triumph.
    Pray those rosaries every day. Wear your Scapula’s. The Victory is Christ’s.

  • Money quote:
    .
    “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.” Amen.

    .
    Patton reputedly said, “You men will not have to say,’Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.'”.
    .

598 Years Since Agincourt

Friday, October 25, AD 2013

We are in God’s hand, brother, not in theirs.

King Henry V

The anniversary of the long ago battle of Saint Crispin’s Day gives us yet another opportunity to recall the immortal “Band of Borthers Speech” that Shakespeare put into the mouth of Henry V, a speech that could put fight into a dog dead three days, or, mirabile dictu, even a live Congress Critter:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here

    But one ten thousand of those men in England      

That do no work to-day!

  KING. 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.

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8 Responses to 598 Years Since Agincourt

  • Shows you can win most of the battles and still lose the war.

  • If Henry V John had not had such an untimely death, I wonder if he could have held everything together. Probably just as well for England that he did not have the opportunity. I can’t help but think that an Anglo-French kingdom would have ended up with England getting the short end of such a dual monarchy.

  • Could the English have ultimately won the Hundred Years War?

    France is a very large country to occupy and hold and it would have meant maintaining both the intrinsically unstable Burgundian alliance and the treaty made with James I of Scotland. Neither, I believe was very likely.

    The ultimate loss of the Hundred Years War ended in catastrophe for the English – and an English defeat was morally certain after the raising of the siege of Orléans on 8 May 1429, the Loire Campaign, the victory of Patay and the anointing of the Dauphin at Rheims with the oil of Clovis as Charles VII, roi très-chrétien in the summer of that year.

    Andrew Lang, Scottish and thus impartial, has described the aftermath: “They were all lost. The curse of their cruelty did not depart from them. Driven by the French and Scots from province to province, and from town to town, the English returned home, tore and rent each other; murdering their princes and nobles on the scaffold, and slaying them as prisoners of war on the field; and stabbing and smothering them in chambers of the Tower; York and Lancaster devouring each other; the mad Henry VI was driven from home to wander by the waves at St. Andrews, before he wandered back to England and the dagger stroke—these things were the reward the English won, after they had burned a Saint. They ate the bread and drank the cup of their own greed and cruelty all through the Wars of the Roses. They brought shame upon their name which Time can never wash away; they did the Devil’s work, and took the Devil’s wages. Soon Henry VIII was butchering his wives and burning Catholics and Protestants, now one, now the other, as the humour seized him.”

  • “Scottish and thus impartial”

    Considering the Olde Alliance between France and Scotland MPS, I assume that was typed with tongue planted very much in cheek.

  • Auld Alliance or no, after the Scots’ defeat at the Battle of the Herrings, Beaufort had secured a non-aggression pact with James I, with the help of some well-paid lobbyists among the nobles and, I am sorry to say, churchmen, at the Scottish court.

    The Scottish free companies fought on, of course. When the Dauphin refused to give the Maid money to pay them, after the raising of the siege of Orléans, it was one of their leaders, Sir Anthony Kennedy, who told her, with a guffaw, that they did no need paying to fight the English. I am sure Lang would have approved.

    Kennedy’s descendants are neighbours of mine in Ayrshire and still use the arms granted them by Charles VII.

    http://tinyurl.com/on6zqpa

    To persuade an old freebooter like Kennedy to do anything for nothing really was one of the Maid’s miracles.

  • King Henry’s speech is fit to commemorate for another October 25th military anniversary, namely that of the 1944 naval action off Samar (in the Phillipines), in which a small force of destroyers and destroyer escorts fended off an attack by Japanese battleships and heavy cruisers with such ferocity that the attacking force — believing they were being opposed by heavy units — withdrew without proceeding to their final objective, which was the invasion beachhead at Leyte. American losses were destroyers Johnston and Hoel, destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts, and escort carrier Gambier Bay.

    (The entire incident is chronicled in Hornfischer’s _Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors_. A recent addition to the literature on this action is _For Crew and Country_, which focuses on the role of USS Samuel B. Roberts.)

  • The Hundred Years War established two things.

    1. It was against God’s will that the same man be both King of England and King of France.

    2. England had a right to occupy large parts of France – during World War II, not five hundred years before.

Agincourt

Saturday, April 2, AD 2011

 

Something for the weekend.  Agincourt by the ever talented folks at History for Music Lovers, to the tune of As Tears Go By, by Marianne Faithful.

October 25, 1415 was an amazing day for the English.  The English longbow had long proved in the Hundred Years War to be a devastating weapon in the hands of skilled archers, but rarely had the English faced such long odds as they did at Agincourt.  Approximately 6,000 English, exhausted and worn from their march, faced approximately 30,000 French.  About five out of six of the English were archers with the remainder men-at-arms, knights and nobility.  The French had about 10,000 men-at-arms, knights and nobility, and 20,000 archers, crossbowmen and miscellaneous infantry.

The English established their battle line between the woods of Agincourt and Tramecourt, which offered excellent protection to both of their flanks.  The English archers made up the front line with stakes set in the ground before them to impale charging horses.  Archers were also placed in the woods to provide flanking fire against advancing French.  The men at arms and knights and nobility, were divided into three forces behind the archers.  They fought on foot.

The terrain between the woods that the French would have to cross in their attack of the English consisted of newly ploughed, and very muddy, fields.  Having walked through muddy fields on several occasions in rural Illinois, I can attest that simply getting from point A to point B in such terrain can be exhausting, let alone fighting at the end of the tramp through the morass.

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4 Responses to Agincourt

  • John Keegan’s book, The Face of Battle, has a fair (I assume it’s factual) depiction of the battle and the men.

    Another famous battle and example of Catholic courage is depicted in Ernle Bradford’s, The Knights of the Order, chapters 19 through 23. It tells the story of the famous siege of Malta. The siege was endured about 70 years after Comumbus’ discoveries and 23 years before the tragedy of the Invincible Armada in 1588.

  • Excellent post.

    I love the way the History teachers get the essence of major event in 3 minutes.

    Henry V was in a bind. He was being chased by a larger French army that move dfaster than his army and could defeat hin in open country. Almost by luck he stopped at Agincourt where the woods protected his flanks. He did not have food more than two days and would have to move into open ground in a losing race to Calias if the French did not attack him. All the French had to do was sit and wait. The reason Henry V moved forward was to provoke the French. Luckily patience is not a French virtue.

    Keegan’s face of Battle is an accurate and excellent description of the battle. This is a ground breaking book that looked at the ‘face of Battle” in a very clinical manner. Do not read on a full stomach.

    Bernards Cornwell’s novel <a href=http://www.amazon.com/Agincourt-Novel-Bernard-Cornwell/dp/0061578908/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1301777975&sr=1-1-spell in additon to placing one in his view of the cultural milieu sets of the context of the campaign and battle in an entertaining style

  • Thank you Hank for first making me aware of History for Music Lovers. If the French had simply raided Henry’s army with small parties, and cut his force off from villages and towns where they could get resupplied, they would probably have bagged the entire English army with minimal French casualties. King Henry’s gambit at Agincourt to advance was a daring one, but it played upon the French dilemma of a large hit to the morale of their army if they seemed to be backing down from a much smaller English army. Morale in medieval battles was all important, as the troops were usually ill-trained except for the knights and men-at-arms, and once a force panicked, it was almost impossible for it to be reassembled before a battle was completely lost.

Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

Friday, March 18, AD 2011

In the comments to  my post last week, Henry V Times Four, which may be viewed here, and which had four versions of the immortal “band of brothers” speech, commenter Centinel posed a very interesting question to me:

Mr. McClarey,

I’ve come to respect your knowledge of history and your insights. I just wanted to get your honest opinion on oneissue. As I understand it, Catholic doctrine would say that wars of aggression are not justified (most of the time). Though I enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, it bothers me that Henry V was fighting a war of aggression – hence, an unjust war.

From Henry V’s point of view, the war was about his (legitimate?) claim to the French throne. But from the point of view of the French peasantry, whichever dynasty sat on the French thronedid not really make any difference in their lives. They were merely caught in the middle; the longer the war lasted, the greater the collateral damage to French civilians. Besides, Henry V already had the Kingdom of England. Hence, it was just pure greed driving Henry V to claim the French throne.

I would appreciate your opinion on this.

My response:

Centinel thank you for very kind words and for inspiring a forthcoming post! The more I thought about your question the more complicated my answer became and only a post length reply, which I will attempt to do in the next week, will do it justice. The short answer is that Henry V, by the just war analysis of his day, had a defensible claim to be fighting a just war, while under the just war analysis of our day his war would be unjust. However, there is much more to say than that, and I will attempt to do this intriguing question justice in my forthcoming post.

In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time.

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10 Responses to Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

  • Very convincing. I have no doubt that Henry V sincerely believed in the justness of his cause. But I cannot help feel that God was on the French side all along. It was never God’s will that the English conquer the French. St. Joan of Arc received visions from St. Michael and other saints commanding her to raise an army, lift the seige of Orleans and see the Dauphin crowned at Reims.

    That God would use a lowly maiden to defeat the English, shows which side He favored.

  • Interesting, although I don’t think Shakespeare was a Just War philosopher, and as a historical source you must take him with a grain of salt!

    But I think you should also discuss the conditions of war at the time. European wars (as opposed to wars in Europe against barbarian invaders, who in some cases slaughtered and enslaved everyone they encountered) were fought be very few people, relatively speaking, all of whom had some kind of societally recognized obligation to fight when their lords told them to. Some were professional soldiers, others were men who had an obligation to military service a certain number of weeks or months every year. They did not have large paid armies, and they did not have army bases. They brought their food with them and/or lived off the land. As a consequence, they could be quite brutal to the people whose land they were on, but didn’t have much of an impact on other people unless they were besieging a town or city. The large number of civilian casualties and destruction of civilian property we expect in a modern war were unknown. Deaths in war were brutal, but then so were many deaths outside of war, and more soldiers died of disease than died of wounds.

    My point is that not just philosophical considerations for a just war are different now than they were then — but that war itself was also different in many crucial respects than it is now.

  • “That God would use a lowly maiden to defeat the English, shows which side He favored.”

    I agree Centinel. It also shows the inscrutability of God. Why He decided that Charles the Well Served, not a very inspiring monarch, should have received divine aid in driving the English from France, while many ultimately defeated worthy causes have not, is a mystery to me, but that is why He is God and I am not! 🙂

  • “but that war itself was also different in many crucial respects than it is now.”

    True Gail, although as wars of the Middle Ages went, the Hundred Years War, albeit an inaccurate title, got pretty bad. A good history of the wars is in the process of being written by a British barrister\historian Jonathan Sumption. In three first rate volumes he has gotten up to 1393. I hope he lives long enough to complete the series.

    http://www.amazon.com/Hundred-Years-War-Divided-Houses/dp/0812242238/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_c

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  • Writing from England and as an English Literature graduate, I must congratulate this website on the very thorough and fair analysis of HENRY V. American readers might not quite grasp that when William the Conqueror ( of Normandy) defeated the Saxons in 1066 and became King of England, he had many French claims. For about three hundred years, the official language of England was French. The French in 1944 were very glad to see the English ( and Scots and other British, and Americans, and Canadians, and Poles and the others).

    As for Joan of Arc, well, she was not canonised until 1920 – no “Santo subito” there. A good English joke is: “When and where did the English Catholic bishops last help someone to become a saint?” Answer, “1431 in Rouen.”

    Keep up your good work. God bless.

  • Thank you Eric. Yep, after the Conqueror, with the approval of the Pope I would note, took over England, England and France were intertwined for centuries. The Hundred Years War can be looked at as the ending of a very long process begun at Hastings.

    As for Saint Joan, many English in France, and those French who supported the English, at the time viewed her as a Saint, and thought her execution was an incredible sin. The words of Jean Tressard, secretary of King Henry VI reflected this sentiment: “We are all lost for it is a good and holy woman that has been burned. I believe her soul is in the hands of God, and I believe damned all who joined in her condemnation.”

  • The Church recognizes Joan as a saint, so her visions about St. Michael and others pushing her to battle must be considered as true. She was handpicked by God for a mission – like David confronting Goliath.

    As a tangent, the Pope also authorized Henry II of England to conquer Ireland. Of course, the Pope did not foresee the long history of English oppression in Ireland, but that’s another story.

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6 Responses to Henry V Times Four

  • “Once more into the breach, dear friends! Once more! Or, we’ll fill the hole with our English blood.”

    These are examples of the “classic” pre-battle pep talk. The lethal “Win one for the Gipper” speech.

    The English word “hub-bub” comes out of unjust confiscations, invasions and massacres the saxon committed in Ireland, especially in the reign of Elizabeth I.

    The foul villains and their mercenaries observed the Irish chieftains, minstrels and pipers harangue the clansmen. The Erse word for victory is “abou.” Often “abou”, or some other clan motto/slogan, would be chanted to arouse the blood lust necessary for (most) men to hack each other to pieces. Also see Wallace’s speech at the first big battle scene in “Braveheart.”

    O’Donnell abou!

  • Mr. McClarey,

    I’ve come to respect your knowledge of history and your insights. I just wanted to get your honest opinion on one issue. As I understand it, Catholic doctrine would say that wars of aggression are not justified (most of the time). Though I enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, it bothers me that Henry V was fighting a war of aggression – hence, an unjust war.

    From Henry V’s point of view, the war was about his (legitimate?) claim to the French throne. But from the point of view of the French peasantry, whichever dynasty sat on the French throne did not really make any difference in their lives. They were merely caught in the middle; the longer the war lasted, the greater the collateral damage to French civilians. Besides, Henry V already had the Kingdom of England. Hence, it was just pure greed driving Henry V to claim the French throne.

    I would appreciate your opinion on this.

  • Centinel thank you for very kind words and for inspiring a forthcoming post! The more I thought about your question the more complicated my answer became and only a post length reply, which I will attempt to do in the next week, will do it justice. The short answer is that Henry V, by the just war analysis of his day, had a defensible claim to be fighting a just war, while under the just war analysis of our day his war would be unjust. However, there is much more to say than that, and I will attempt to do this intriguing question justice in my forthcoming post.

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October 25, 1415

Monday, October 25, AD 2010

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
    But one ten thousand of those men in England
    That do no work to-day!
 
KING. 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.

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3 Responses to October 25, 1415