This blog, written by Thomas E. Rutledge, focuses primarily on business entity law in Kentucky. Postings on contract law, contractual and statutory construction, and the entity law of other jurisdictions appear as well. There may as well be some random discussions of classical, medieval and renaissance history.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Saint Crispin’s Day
Crispin’s Day (600 Hundred Years Ago Today)
Today is the anniversary of the Battle of
Agincourt, taking place in 1415 (600 hundred years ago) between the forces of France and her various
allies and the invading English forces under the command of King Henry V.
Shakespeare, by having his character Henry V repeatedly refer to the day of
the battle as St. Crispin’s Day, otherwise saved this obscure saint from being
lost, save for experts in hagiography, to the mist of history.
The English forces, likely numbering in
the range of 7,000, were compelled to do battle with a numerically superior
French force likely numbering in excess of 20,000. All else being equal, the
English force should have expected to be annihilated. As is typical in the case
of significant historical events, however, all things were not equal. The
French and their allies were disorganized, and overall command of the
battlefield was never achieved.Rather,
individual nobles led their own contingents forward is a disorganized and
sometimes conflicting manner.The
terrain favored the English in several ways.The French “artillery,” crossbowmen (largely Pisan mercenaries) were not
effectively deployed, and they had the unenviable task of shooting uphill.That same terrain required the French forces,
both mounted and on foot, to attack uphill over a recently plowed field that,
consequently to the recent rain, was more mud than dirt. The French knights and
men at arms, slogging their way uphill, were a “target rich environment” for
the rain of arrows let loose by the English longbows; assuming Henry’s forces
numbered 7,000, likely 5,800 were longbowmen, each releasing four to six arrows
Another factor was that the very size of the French force worked to its
disadvantage in that those behind continued pressing forward, hoping for their
moment of glory, even while those at the front were being slaughtered. It was
not quite the situation suffered by the Romans at the hands of Hannibal at
Cannae, but then likely it was not hugely better.
While comparative casualty figures are
effectively impossible to ascertain, it is clear that the French were badly
mauled with significantly more casualties than the English. Further, a
significant number of French nobles fell in contrast to only two English
an excellent review of the battle, see Juliet Barker's Agincourt.
Today is also the anniversary of the
storied “charge of the light brigade” in the Crimean War (1854). That
particular engagement was, for the English forces, significantly less
invented by Shakespeare in Henry V, Scene iii, the St. Crispin’s Day
speech would immortalize Henry V:
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,