On Sunday October 25th 1415 – St Crispin’s Day an English army led by the their king Henry V, fought a French army that included pretty much the entire of the French military establishment and a goodly portion of the political establishment, during the battle which is one of the most famous English victories ever, the English who were considerably outnumber inflicted a defeat upon the French that was so severe, so heavy, that it would be somewhat more accurate to describe the "Battle of Agincourt" as the "Massacre of Agincourt". There are all sorts of myths and misconceptions about the battle and if you’re interested in learning more I can thoroughly recommend this superb article by Bernard Cornwell here The Battle of Agincourt: why should we remember it? in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Cornwell cuts through all myths and triumphalism to tell us how the battle really progressed and what it was about the English army that helped ensure their victory.
The battle immediately seized hold of the English imagination it entered into the canon of English history and helped cement the feeling of Englishness throughout the length and breadth of the land. When Shakespeare wrote that famous speech he was pushing at an open door. His audience already new the story of Agincourt – they wanted to hear the story again. There are plays, poems, songs, and carols, celebrating the English victory over the French. The author of The Agincourt Carol: Deo gracias, Anglia, redde pro victoria! is unknown but whoever he was he knew exactly what his audience wanted and gave it to them it spread like wildfire throughout Henry V’s realm. It’s a typical medieval carol with a jaunty dance tune that’s very singable and with choruses that could be belted out at full volume by the listeners. I’ve included the text within the player so that you can follow along if you’re so minded. Enjoy :-).
The Agincourt Carol: Deo gracias, Anglia, redde pro victoria!
Deo gracias, Anglia, redde pro victoria!
Owre Kynge went forth to Normandy
With grace and myght of chyvalry
Ther God for hym wrought mervelusly;
Wherfore Englonde may call and cry
He sette a sege, forsothe to say,
To Harflu towne with ryal aray;
That toune he wan and made afray
That Fraunce shal rewe tyl domesday.
Then went hym forth, owre king comely,
In Agincourt feld he faught manly;
Thorw grace of God most marvelusly,
He had both feld and victory.
Ther lordys, erles and barone
Were slayne and taken and that full soon,
And summe were broght into Lundone
With joye and blisse and gret renone.
Almighty God he keep owre kynge,
His peple, and his well-wyllynge,
And give them grace wythoute endyng;
Then may we call and savely syng:
Performers: Gothic Voices conducted by Christopher Page